Pastor's Perspective, September 2018

Pastor’s Perspective, Rest and Be Restored

Pastor’s Perspective, Rest and Be Restored

By: Andrew Bates

Dry. Dry can be a good thing when you’re dealing with laundry or freshly mopped floors, but when it pertains to your spiritual walk with Christ, dry is not ideal. Scratch that — dry is downright dangerous.

A couple of years ago I was experiencing a very spiritually dry time in my life and the sad thing is that I knew it but couldn’t do anything about it. I was striving so hard to please God and to put in extra hours at my church, so much so that I actually planned to skip out on a family vacation to Navarre Beach, Florida, to stay at the church and “work.” Needless to say, neither my wife nor my family was very pleased, but I thought it was what I needed to do. I needed to work my way out of dryness.

After an event on the Wednesday night of vacation week, my assistant looked at me and boldly said something to me I will never forget: “You’re never going to work your way into pleasing God. Go love your wife.” So needless to say I jumped in my truck, packed a bag, and drove through the night to the beach.

When I arrived, the sun was just starting to rise. I knew my wife would not be awake yet, so instead of banging on the condo window and scaring everyone inside, I grabbed my bible and walked down to the beach. To say I was tired would be an understatement, and not just from the drive. I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted. So before I dove into Scripture, I prayed, “God, I am so tired. I am tired of being tired. Please renew me.”

I then opened my bible to Isaiah 40 and read verses 29-31: “He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” (HCSB)

As soon as I finished reading that passage, I looked out over the water and noticed a very large boat I had apparently overlooked before. As I began to study the boat, I realized it had a large pipe connected to it that ran all the way to the shore, where it was pumping in new sand to restore the beach.

At that moment, it hit me. I needed to be restored. I needed God to restore my strength. But the thing was, He didn’t need my help to do it. All I needed to do was be like the beach. I needed to slow down, stop my fighting, stop working and worrying myself thin, and simply rest in who He was and who I was in Him. Dry could not fix dry, but if I rested in the One who gives life, then I would be restored.

I think too often in life we respond a lot like I did in this story. We feel the pressure. We feel the need to grow. We feel the tension of the oncoming dryness. But instead of resting in God, and allowing Him to renew us in the way that only He can, we want to try to work and transform ourselves. It’s in our nature to be “fixers” and overcome our own shortcomings, but the gospel of Jesus teaches us that we are fully incapable of overcoming these obstacles. He’s the only one who can do that for us, and thankfully, He loved us enough to come and overcome all of our trials and struggles for us. It is with this heart Jesus said the words of Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (HCSB)

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, dry, or overrun with the treadmill of life, rest in Jesus. Trust in the one who has overcome the world.

Andrew Bates is the Teaching/Site Pastor at Chapel in the Oaks in Baton Rouge. With his wife Emily, he “invests in people’s lives”— opening up their home for meals and fellowship, discipling younger believers, engaging people where they are in life, and attempting to bring a smile to everyone they meet. He can be reached at

June 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Pastor’s Perspective, Abundant Life Church rebuilds after the flood

Back Home in the Dome

Abundant Life Church Rebuilds After the Flood

Pastor Greg and Christian Beatty with their children Kate and Tyler

Church members were heartbroken when they found the flood’s devastation

A man looks at a timeline of Abundant Life Church during the church’s rededication service on Sunday, March 11.

The members of Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs had plenty to celebrate on March 11. Not only was it the church’s 38th anniversary, but it was also a day of rebirth for a congregation whose campus had been devastated by the Great Flood of August 2016. As 700 churchgoers greeted each other at the re-dedication service, it was hard to imagine the 18-month journey that had led them here.

In the days after the flood, church members were shocked by the damage to their campus, which covers more than 12 acres and housed 10 buildings. “Everything was destroyed. Most of our buildings took on about four feet of water,” said Pastor Greg Beatty. “But our sanctuary, which we call the Dome, took on seven. We were heartbroken, and I’ll be honest – I had no idea what we were going to do.”

He knew what they would not do, however.

“We never once thought of giving up,” he said. “It was never an option. We moved our services to the Outreach Center and that’s where we worshipped for a year and a half. We knew we would rebuild and sure enough, from the very beginning, our church family started volunteering to help in any way they could.”

It was an overwhelming task – gutting, cleaning, pulling up carpets, tearing down sheetrock. And it went on for nearly a year. Then the rebuilding began. Luckily, many church members and volunteers donated their skills, from carpentry to painting to construction.

Kevin Kron, a 20-year ALC member and owner of Kron Enterprises, served as project manager for the reconstruction. “There were a lot of people with different skill sets who were used for God’s glory during that time,” Kron said. “It was stressful and it was a chore to stay coordinated, but God continued to meet our needs and bless us with volunteers.”

Family Pastor Miranda McGraw was also instrumental in the rebuilding of the church. She remembers incredible offerings of time and talent. “People we didn’t even know came to help,” she said. “All in all, we had more than 300 volunteers from nine states. And our church family really stepped up in a big way through fundraising and financial donations. We were really blessed. They believed in this church and they really came together.”

When all was said and done, the flood had caused $3.2 million in damage, and five of the 10 buildings had to be torn down. But the reconstruction allowed church leaders to make improvements and add new features.

The 65,000-square-foot sanctuary has a brand new look that includes theater-style seating, new carpet and furniture, a larger stage, a 40-foot TV screen, sound panels, and brand-new lights, instruments and sound equipment. In addition, 30 offices, meeting rooms and bathrooms were remodeled, and the children’s church area was expanded.

Beatty credits Kron and McGraw with making an impossible dream become a reality. They, in turn, credit their pastor for showing strong leadership and keeping the church family focused during a difficult time.

“We were able to accomplish something amazing,” Beatty said, “and I believe it was due to a unity of vision on the part of our members. I was just amazed at the generosity of people. By God’s grace we were able to overcome … and by his grace, we will continue to move forward … stronger than ever.”

Abundant Life Church is located at 206 Edgewood Drive in Denham Springs. For more information, visit or call           (225) 933-0065.

Kids enjoy being back in their church home.
Back home in the Dome!
Congregation happy to praise and worship!
May 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Who Do Others Say You Are?

Who Do Others Say You Are?

by Rev. David Melville

Pastors make certain their parishioners are familiar with the day Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) But I take the question further and include you and me in the equation. Who do others say you are? Are they accurate in their assessment? We can fool others, we can even fool ourselves, but we can’t fool God. God will know come Judgment Day.

I hope others see Christ in you. I hope you identify clearly with the Risen Christ. “Easter People” should be more than students, disciples, fans or even experts on Jesus. “Easter People” should stand out as identifying as closely with Christ as possible. Indeed, in our baptism we are said to go into the waters (die) and rise out of the waters (live) … with Christ. To be a Christian is to receive a new identity; in baptism we put on Christ.

We all wear many hats, and we can have more than one personality. (Just don’t have too many!) Most people have more than one talent, and more than one thing we’re good at. But in the end, one description about us should stand out above the others: did we deny self for Christ (Mark 8:34-35), and were we in the world, but not of the world? We are to be set apart; we are even to be, if necessary, peculiar.

Don’t we all know people who seem to be at one with Christ … or pretty darn close? There is just something about them; that “something” about them is explained as living Christ-like through the power of the Holy Spirit. To offer one example, Baton Rouge businessman Bill Peters, in my view, is identified with Christ. He was when I met him at the LSU Baptist Student Union nearly 50 years ago, and I saw the same identity when I re-connected with him after moving back to Baton Rouge in 2014. He is set apart.

Perhaps other national newspapers do likewise, but I do know that the New York Times presents selected obituaries in the form of what basically is a lengthy news article, with a headline summing up how the deceased was known to the world. A several-decades-old life is summed up in a headline. My obituary won’t make the New York Times, and whatever newspaper I wind up in will simply print what my family pays them to print. But every once in awhile I like to imagine what one-liner would be attached if I were eulogized in the good old New York Times! I invite you to do the same. Decide how you want to be identified and work every day to live according to that identity. At a minimum, be identified as very loving and as a person who was somehow in the world, but not of the world.

It is sad, frustrating and amazing to read an obituary of a Christian and never read a reference to church affiliation or the importance of Christ in the dearly departed’s life. It seems this is the case with increasing frequency. We learn about a man’s hobbies, favorite sports teams, that he was the life of the party, and that he loved his grandchildren very much. These identities are all fine if they are secondary to his love for and his identity with Jesus. But you have to wonder if church or spirituality is not even mentioned …

In the Broadway production of Les Miserables, the main character, Jean Valjean, is a convicted felon who turns his life around and becomes a Christ-like figure. But in one song, he asks, “Who am I?” and realizes that to some, he will always be identified as “#24601,” his prison number … even though he had become much, much more.

My nonprofit, Christ in the City, will present Aaron Beam at an ethics luncheon on Wednesday, May 2 at the De La Ronde Ballroom in downtown Baton Rouge. Aaron served prison time for corporate fraud, and in his efforts to help businesspeople attending his speeches, he always reminds them that, “Though I stopped my fraud and paid my debt to society, and am trying to do some good things now, I will always be a convicted felon.”

But Aaron Beam is much, much more.

For tickets, call (225) 397-6393.

April 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Pastor’s Perspective: Forgiveness, Healing, and the Resurrection by Rev. Charles DeGravelles

Forgiveness, Healing and the Resurrection
By the Rev. Charles deGravelles

Charles DeGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church.

People are crammed into every corner of the room. They spill through the open door into the street. Some have pushed into the crowded room only to listen and be lifted in spirit; after all, the Teacher’s words make all things seem possible. But by now, everyone has heard that the Master can, with a word or a touch, cure any condition or infirmity, and many have come with a secret prayer for healing—for themselves or someone they love. Among those on the street is a paralyzed man who nurtures in his heart such a hope. The two friends who carry him on a stretcher, determined to make this happen, somehow get him onto the roof and, after removing some of the thatching, lower him to the feet of Jesus.

The paralyzed man, his friends, and all who have watched this astonishing sight are disappointed by what Jesus says: “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Where is the healing in this, they think? Others are offended: “Only God can forgive sins. Does this man think he is God?” (Luke 5:18-25.)

As always, Jesus’ words are a lesson about the Kingdom of God and what it takes to live in it. Forgiveness, the Master is teaching, is an indispensable part of the true healing required to live in God’s Kingdom. It is a deep healing of the soul that transcends the physical. He teaches this lesson over and over again. His answer to Peter’s question – how many times should we forgive – may seem cryptic, “seventy times seven, but what he means is we should forgive a limitless number of times. In the parable Jesus uses to explain this difficult lesson, a king generously forgives the great debt of a man who then refuses to forgive a much lesser debt owed to him (Matthew 18:21-35). The point? God, who sees and loves us as we are, forgives our innumerable shortcomings and expects us to do the same with one another. Lest we think Jesus is exaggerating the importance of forgiveness, among his dying words on the cross are forgiveness for those who condemned, tortured and killed him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34).

In over twenty-five years of ministry—in prisons and in the “free” world—I’ve witnessed the pain, turmoil and despair that we can cause one another, and I’ve also seen many times, even in the most extreme situations, the miracle of healing that forgiveness brings. I’ve experienced it in my own life and that of my family.

Some denominations, including my own, use the season of Lent these days before Easter as a time for deep reflection and self-sacrifice. For some, it is a time of “giving up” something that, in however small a way, reminds us of what Jesus suffered and gave up for us. As we walk with Jesus through his most difficult days, we may want to reflect on where, in our own lives, forgiveness may be called for. Instead of (or, if you like, in addition to) making a vow to give up chocolate or soft drinks or meat, why not make an honest assessment of your shortcomings that may have caused others pain, and also the resentments, angers, or grudges towards others that you are carrying. Ask for God’s forgiveness and for help in forgiving others. The resurrection of Easter will be for you, as it was for the paralyzed man who picked up his mat and walked, a time of healing and new life.

Charles deGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church. A long-time prison minister, he helped found The Chapel of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal congregation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and was a spiritual mentor to a death row inmate there. He is a graphic artist, composer and writer whose biography of the LSU football legend, Billy Cannon: A Long, Long Run (LSU Press), won the Louisiana Library Association best book of 2015. He and his wife, Angela, are the proud parents of three and grandparents of two.

March 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Reflection Makes Our Lives Much Fuller

Reflection Makes Our Lives Much Fuller

by Bruce Lininger, Ph. D.

Our lives in 2018 don’t offer us much time for reflection, as information and choices come at us so quickly, we can barely grasp the blessings of any given moment. Change is the one thing we can count on, and we best get used to the reality of it. We often miss essential aspects in our lives because of changes, and without reflection, we suffer in intimacy (with God and others), grief (essential in the midst of change), and leadership essentials. 

Call it a “cultural faux pas” not making commitments for the sake of keeping our options open, but we miss out on the depth of emotion and health available to us in any given situation. Reflection is an essential aspect when dealing with the need for anchors in our lives. As Andy Stanley states, “We as Christians are at our best when we are personally growing in our intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.” This balance of intimacy is impossible without the discipline of reflection.

The Apostle Paul shared in Romans 6 that one must know, consider and present yourself “dead to sin and alive unto Christ.” The difficulty I have found of late is that we conservative Christians take such joy in knowledge of theology, God, and the Bible, that we have the opposite impact God desires in our life — reflection leading to intimacy with Him. I may think I am succeeding in life, achieving such lofty outcomes, and even have all the outward markings of winning at life, but with this speeding chase of life, lived without the practice of reflection, we risk the symptoms of shallowness in all our relationships, knowing about, but never truly knowing or being known.

Working in two environments, one as a hospice chaplain and the other as a missionary to the business community, I find that reflection is also essential when dealing with people experiencing grief. Reflection is the pathway to walk beside grief, which wears many varieties and covers. Grief is individual, yet organizational, and is experienced in so many ways. It is most obvious when we lose a loved one, but in the marketplace, the grief in success is the same as grief in tragedy. Both involve change from what was, to the new normal of what now is. Without reflection, grief will disable you, whether in loss or in plenty; however one handles transitions often determines the joy we experience in life. Grief demands to be experienced, and as Kubler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief” recommends, take time to grieve (reflection), even in your triumphs. 

I have heard the word “leadership” defined as taking initiative for the good of another. But without reflection upon your overarching “why,” you miss what is meant for good. God calls us to be intentional, to take the lead for the good of others. Interacting with people, I find leadership lived out through Paul’s reflection in I Corinthians 16 … “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.”

Whatever experiences you find yourself in, the lowest of lows, or in a thriving environment experiencing growth, be prepared to practice the discipline of reflection — to know who you are, who you aren’t, and who you need. Practice healthy “self-care” and embrace intimacy and the emotions that flow from it, and ask the Lord to teach you what its source is. Lead yourself first.

BRCLM Image Gruce Lininger

Bruce Lininger is a graduate if Louisiana Tech, Dallas Seminary, and Trinity University, with over 30 years of ministry experience in churches and non-profits. In his 29th year of marriage to Sharon, they are parents of four grown children. Currently he serves on staff with The Navigators through NavWorkplace, and as chaplain with Bridgeway Hospice

December 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Light Dispels Darkness


Light Dispels Darkness ​

by Kevin McKee

A few years ago my wife bought me a Christmas gift that I’ve really enjoyed. I like to think of it as my “spy watch.” Actually, it is a Swiss Army watch. It has a button on the side that when pushed, floods the dark watch face with a blue light. Cool, right? When pushed three times, there is a small red light embedded in the face of the dark watch that blinks. This is so that the watch can be found in the dark. But I have to remember to make it flash before I take it off in the dark!

However, the light I use and enjoy more than all these is the one that illuminates when I press the button twice. When I do this, an exterior light – an LED light becomes a bright light that I can use as a small flashlight. This little LED light shines with unusual brightness. L – light, E – emitting, D – diode. I use it daily when I’m walking outside or inside a dark room or hallway.

Jesus said he was the light of the world (John 9:5). The Bible also says that he is the True Light coming into the world and giving light to all who believe in him (John 1:9). Jesus is the light that dispels darkness and overcomes spiritual darkness (John 1:5). The little LED light on my watch reminds me that just a little light dispels darkness.

But Jesus isn’t the only light. So are his followers. Christians are designed to be bright LED lights, shining brightly! L-light, E – emitting, D – disciples, if you will.

Jesus said, “ You are the light of the world. ” (Matt 5:14a, ESV). He was speaking to a crowd about life lived under the righteous rule of God as they followed him. But Jesus, knowing the human condition, didn’t stop with a statement, but followed it with an observation I believe can also be cautionary. “ A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14b-16).

The Christians of Baton Rouge must find new ways to shine into our community. We face real challenges in our city. There are tensions in our city. Our murder rate is much too high. One way that I and others have found to be very helpful is for Christians to partner together from across the city, especially across racial lines. Such partnerships have allowed us to put our “LED” light on a stand, casting light more broadly. We at The Chapel have enjoyed a great praying partnership and serving together with Pastor Donald Hunter and New Beginning Baptist Church and Dr. Rene Brown and Mt. Zion First Baptist Church.

If  you have questions about how to start and maintain such a light-shining partnership, please email me at If more such partnerships and relationships existed within our community, we would shine more brightly and the citizens of Baton Rouge would see our good works and give glory to the Father in heaven. It will take all of us to come together in small and large ways to shine as brightly as we can – find a buddy, come together and be a community of L – light, E- emitting D – disciples. U

bigKevin's McKee 2015

Kevin McKee holds a bs from LsU, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological seminary, and a D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological seminary. He has worked in churches in Texas, Colorado, and Louisiana (mostly at The Chapel on the Campus) as a youth pastor, college pastor, singles pastor, and teaching pastor. He is now the senior pastor at The Chapel, mainly at the LsU campus Location. His ministry has taken him all over the world, including Haiti, Dominican republic, Mexico, romania, brazil, China, Prague, and Africa. He and his wife Mary have four children.

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November 2017, Pastor's Perspective

What is Gratitude?



is Gratitude?

by Whitney Alexander

On May 31, my life changed forever . . . in an instant. Driving to New Orleans to prepare three couples for marriage, I dozed off for a moment and an angel of the Lord woke me to see the back of an 18-wheeler within inches of my car. I pulled the steering wheel to the right and prayed instantly, “Dear God, please help me,” and He immediately did. God spared my life and I would begin to receive His gracious blessings.

I crashed into the right side of the truck, peeling the left side of my car, while breaking several bones in my shoulder, hip, pelvis and knee. After the car came to rest in the grass on the side of the interstate, within minutes, a Good Samaritan pulled me gently from the wrecked vehicle and an ambulance took me to a hospital in Baton Rouge.

The first person I saw in the emergency room was a young man whose wedding I had performed a few years earlier. He held my hand and promised me it was going to be okay. The next moment I saw another friend and then a doctor who reassured me, telling me to go back to sleep.

For the next 20 weeks, my family was reminded of the goodness of gratitude. We have been prayed for by thousands of people, many of whom we have never met. My recovery has been because of the prayers of the saints from all over the world. We have recognized that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. The Good Samaritan, people who stopped to help move my body from the wrecked vehicle, doctors, nurses, radiologists, numerous physical and occupational therapists, hundreds of friends who stopped by the hospital, a band of brothers who stayed with me for 40 nights in the hospital (you know who you are), and hundreds of meals, cards, and texts kept us from sinking into despair. We are deeply thankful for the acts of love given to our family.

Our family sees this time as an emotional relationship-strengthening opportunity because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people. Many of our family and friends came to assist my wife Phyllis immediately after the accident. This emotional support was key to our stability and welfare during the trauma of the first few hours.

As the outpouring of love and gifts overwhelmed us, I wondered why we received such an outpouring. I read His word often and realized the Lord’s people are generous and keep giving because of their deep abiding relationship with Jesus. One of our closest friends whispered to me, “Everyone loves your family and wants to support you in this difficult moment.”

As we enter into the Thanksgiving season, may we practice being gracious to our friends and especially our families. Gratitude brings us happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and is good for our bodies. Grateful people sleep better – and if you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep. Gratitude strengthens relationships, and I believe it promotes forgiveness. The past five months have taught me so much about being gracious and thankful for every person in my life.

My favorite Scripture is Ephesians 3:20: “ Now to Him who is able to do abundantly more than we can ever begin to ask or imagine through the power at work in us.” God has worked through so many. My family is thankful for the aweinspiring love and support we’ve received in the past few months.

whitney alexander600

Whitney Alexander has been an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church since 1999. He began working with missions in 2012. born and raised in new orleans, he was involved with youth ministry and Young Life for 35 years. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA in December of 2014. He and his wife, Phyllis, have two sons, Andrew and Patrick.

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Pastor's Perspective, Septermber 2017

The Patience to Lead


The Patience

to Lead

by Sandra Pate

In 2017, it is challenging to find examples of great leadership. Yet despite all the political turmoil, racial division and intolerance towards the message of the Gospel, we just witnessed amazing Christians pulling together to rescue others and patiently taking time to stop and inspire the people around them with the love of God in the aftermath of devastating hurricanes.

Because of the scope of the storm and torrential rains that came with Hurricane Harvey, the scale of the rescue and recovery efforts is overwhelming. Fortunately, thousands of people demonstrated personal leadership and both the courage and compassion to fill in the gaps. Neighbors, volunteers, first responders, law enforcement, the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard led the charge. What great examples of putting into action the Christian values upon which the United States of America is based. The stories of need and the responses to them should remind all of us of what unites rather than divides us. What better time for everyone who calls on the name of Jesus to rise and lead?

Sincere and authentic leadership in action requires patience. The Bible shows us that Jesus took time to recruit disciples and to prepare them for the turmoil and tribulations to come. Then he patiently went about the work he was sent to do. Devoting quality time to develop others is an important task. It is impossible to do everything yourself, but when you hand off responsibilities, you need to make sure they are handed to a capable, talented and motivated disciple. You want to work with others who are generous with their ideas, time and talent. Taking time to teach, encourage and inspire your team will reap benefits that go far beyond the tasks at hand.

With patience, Jesus worked through disbelief, betrayal, neglect, rejection, spiritual blindness, persecution and death. He demonstrated gratitude by always acknowledging his Father in prayer. He also focused his time and attention to teach the truth and to stay the course for his assignment. Imagine what it took to face the ultimate sacrifice of his life on the cross so He could save all who confess him as Christ and believe in their heart that he was raised from the dead. Jesus encourages our hearts by telling us that “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” – John 14:12.

We all desire miracles in our lives. As we lead others to Christ, the patience to demonstrate his love is part of every decision we face. History proves that great leaders literally love the people they lead. Make peace with that. Decisions are not necessarily made by the best person, the smartest person, or the right person. Salvation decisions are made because of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and not because of our own human intellect and abilities. To think like a fisher of the souls of men, do not look for logic, rationality, or sanity. My prayer is that you will have the patience to trust GOD to provide more than you have and when you think you have given all to serve others, you will be amazed to find you have even more!

Remember that patience is just faith in slow motion. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It requires much prayer to develop and grows in the presence of God. We must act with patience to not only love others, but to trust God and His promises to change the world in the name of Jesus “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

So, let’s stop wasting the time of our lives worrying about decisions that will not make a difference in the life of someone else. We cannot afford to get so lost in proving how smart and how right we are that we forget what we are here to do. We are here to demonstrate the patience it takes to love those who may seem unlovable so that they, too, can be saved. Let’s focus our time and energy on bringing more souls into the Kingdom of God and go beyond what we now see, think, and feel because nothing is too hard for GOD!

resSandra Pate

Sandra Pate, Creative Pastor at Church Point Ministries, is known for her straightforward approach to teaching the word of God and her passion to encourage creativity in others to win souls. She is a Christian media consultant and executive producer of “Pate Update,” a weekday television show that airs at 7 a.m. in Baton Rouge on the CW Network. Pate serves with her husband, Bishop Dwight Pate, founder and senior Pastor of Church Point Ministries. Together, they also travel the nation to lead revivals in inner city America. They have one son, two daughters and three grandchildren.

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Pastor's Perspective, Septermber 2017

Christ Calls Us to be Kind


Christ Calls

Us to be Kind

by Paul Downing

“Be kind and tenderhearted to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32a BSB)

A few years ago, my younger daughter, Heather, hurt her back and needed someone to cover her lunch shift on a Saturday at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. After striking out with her co-workers, she asked her brother, Paul Jr., who had previously worked at the same establishment, to cover her shift

Paul worked the three-hour shift in place of his sister and then went to his own job. This in itself is kind, but that’s not all of it. When Heather’s boss started to pay Paul for his three hours of work plus tips, Paul asked him to give it to Heather. That’s both kind and tenderhearted.

I would have to say that those two words best describe my youngest child and only son. He is kind and tenderhearted. He once spent his school lunch hour weeping and praying for one of his friends after his friend’s parents divorced.

Paul has worked since the summer before his sophomore year in high school. In his senior year he saved his money and bought a cool looking, but very expensive, full-length leather jacket. His best friend really liked it so Paul would let him wear it often. But Paul took on a second job on weekends, saved that money, and bought his friend a leather jacket just like his for Christmas. One year he saved his tip money and bought a trampoline for our back yard so his young cousins wouldn’t be bored when they came to the big Downing clan get-togethers at our house. So, I guess I’d have to add a third word to describe my son – generous.

But the distinguishing characteristic of true generosity is humility. Jesus said that the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is giving (Mt. 6:3). The only reason I know about the above incidents is that someone other than Paul, usually the beneficiaries, told me about them. Heather wouldn’t have known why her paycheck showed Saturday hours if her boss hadn’t told her of Paul’s request to give her the money. He never talks about his acts of kindness; he just does them. He does them with generosity and humility because he has a tender heart.

Paul was a little slow to develop physically, somewhat socially awkward early on, and teased unmercifully in middle school and early high school. He didn’t start coming into his own, so to speak, until just before his junior year in high school. He grew to be big, strong and good-looking. But instead of becoming a bully and treating others as he had been treated, he became an example and treated others as he would want to be treated – with kindness, tenderheartedness and generosity.

Notice Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind and tenderhearted.” There is a world of difference in doing random acts of kindness and having a kind heart. One can do kind acts without necessarily being a kind person. Christ calls us to develop kindness of character. Then, instead of our acts of kindness being random, they’ll be the consistent and natural overflow of our hearts. That consistency is what I’ve observed in my son. He is now serving in the U.S. Navy. I am very proud of him. And when it comes to being kind and tenderhearted, he is the man I want to become.

photo.paul downing

Paul and his wife, Danni, grew up in baton rouge. they married in 1979 and have three grown children. Paul began his ministry as a Christian Counselor/Life Coach in 1985 in opelika, AL. He also served as a pastor there for 10 years before moving back to Louisiana in 2005 and becoming an associate pastor at Fellowship Church in Zachary. Paul is committed to helping people know God, understand His Word, and improve the quality of their lives. Check out his daily devotional Facebook page: Daybreak Devotions with Paul Downing .

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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August 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Surrender and Be Free


Surrender and Be Free

by Pastor Robert Maxie

And after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ – Matthew 4:2-4

One of the hardest things to do is to admit that we have failed or that we are powerless to do something. We see it as weakness to admit that we are being whipped, but admitting that there is an area in our life where we have lost control is the first step at gaining it back.

For years, I have had the honor of working with people battling all manners of addictions. I currently work as an addiction counselor at a hospital here in Baton Rouge, and I have found that counseling in the secular community can be a bit different than dealing with addictions through pastoral counseling. Sometimes I feel that I am walking a thin line between what the church believes about addiction and what my profession teaches. Even with the many differences, I believe there is one thing every person dealing with hurt, habits or hang-ups must deal with to be successful in either arena – the issue of self-control.

Self-control is the restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires. The word itself implies that we alone can control or fix ourselves, but when we look through the scriptures we find that God himself is the originator of self-control. In the book of Timothy, the Bible tells us that God created and gifted every believer with the capacity to control oneself. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Why is it then that so many people struggle with self-control? We tend to focus on those who have a drug or alcohol problem, but what about those who have problems controlling their anger, who lash out at their loved ones only to say sorry over and over again? If we are honest, many of us have areas in our lives where we lack self-control (our “thorn” in the flesh), but I am persuaded that victory over those issues is found in Jesus.

Jesus is our ultimate example of self-control. The book of Matthew tells us that after fasting for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn rocks into bread. Personally, there are many things I don’t like in this world and one of them is being hungry, so it is a good possibility that I would have turned those rocks into a turkey sub.

Can you imagine having the power to do anything you want and you haven’t eaten in 40 days! Most of us would have given in, but Jesus shows us how to deal with temptation and the concept of delayed gratification, and he does it by the word of God. When faced with temptation, Jesus turned to God’s word. When feeling weak and hungry, Jesus turns to God and in this, we find the answer to the problem. We must understand that self-control comes from within, that it is only found when we submit our entire lives under the power of the Holy Spirit, the power greater than ourselves!

The first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are called the surrender steps. They are the most important steps because in them, we find that we are living in self-will, trying to will ourselves clean. The problem is when I attempt to use my willpower to fix a spiritual problem, then I am trying to do it alone and without God.

When I give up on my will, I gain the grace to do what I could not do on my own because self-control is from God. It is a fruit or gift that I get to exercise when I am in God’s will. My will led me to destruction and I will never trust my will again. Through surrender to God’s will, we find freedom and the power of self-control.


Pastor Robert Maxie served 16 years in the US Navy, completing nine deployments, including three in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He currently serves as Director of Crossroads Recovery Ministry and as a Christian counselor at Heartsease Family Church. He and his wife, Aminga, have six children and one grandson. The family attends Heartsease Family Church pastored by Philip Pimlott.

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July 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Expressions of God’s Goodness


Expressions of God’s Goodness

by Rev. Ashley Freeman


Before I began seminary, I was involved with a prison ministry. This ministry takes place over a weekend. The days are long, starting at 7 a.m. and not ending until 9 p.m. The agenda for the weekend is packed, start to finish. It consists of talks, followed by small group discussions that center on God’s goodness and love for the 42 incarcerated participants. The team that makes these weekends possible consists of 45 people from the “free world” and 30 inmates, or “inside helpers” who have previously attended one of the weekend events and continue to demonstrate service and leadership within the walls of the prison.

During one particular weekend, between talks, while the participants were outside in a large tent having group discussions, I was sitting by myself in the chapel. It was springtime so everything was blooming and the air was full of pollen. As a result, I was suffering from a terrible sinus headache — one of those right behind your eyes, which makes you feel like your eyes could pop out at any moment. As a visitor inside the prison, I was not allowed to bring any medication in and the dose from earlier in the morning was wearing off. Instead, I asked that the lights be turned off for a moment. I just sat there with my head down and my eyes closed, wondering if I was going to be able to make it until the end of our activities.

While I sat there, one of the inside helpers asked, “What is wrong?”

I responded, “Hey, it’s no big deal, I simply have a headache.”

“Well in that case, I am going to say a prayer for you,” he replied.

Before he began praying, he motioned for the other three inside helpers, who were working to set the chapel up for the next activity, to come and pray with him. There we were, me sitting in a chair and these four inmates standing over me, laying their hands on my head and shoulders.

I found myself lost in the words of the prayer, and to this day, I have no idea how long the prayer was. While he was praying, unseen by me, others began to quietly join the circle. By the time he had finished, I was surrounded by the entire group — 44 men from the free world and 72 prisoners. When the leader finished praying, the group’s resounding “Amen” startled and surprised me. This act of service and kindness was completely unexpected and it changed the tone of the rest of the weekend.

Reflecting upon these events, a few things have emerged for me. First, the Book of Genesis, after six days of creation, reads: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen 1:31) God’s creation is rooted in God’s goodness. As the author of the Acts of the Apostle writes, “in [God] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) This was certainly true for me that spring day inside the chapel surrounded by prisoners. The goodness of God is not limited to our particular religious views, political opinions or any other notion we may have. The goodness and love of God is the underpinning for the whole of creation and is often encountered in unexpected and surprising ways.

Second, one of the primary ways in which we encounter and participate with God’s goodness and love is by serving others. This also was true that day in the chapel. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” (Eph 3:7)  Like Paul, the prisoner’s willingness to be a servant allowed him to receive God’s grace, which empowered him and everyone present to experience God’s goodness and love in a powerful way.

This experience, along with others, has taught me that when we are willing to be servants first, we are swept up into the work that God is doing — allowing us not only to experience the goodness and love of God but also empowering us to be that which we were created to be —  expressions of God’s goodness and love in the world.


The Rev. Ashley Freeman lives in Zachary, La. with his wife Annie and their three children, where he is the rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church. He attended Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, where he graduated in 2015. Ashley grew up in Fairhope, Alabama and was active with the Kairos Prison Ministry while living there, from 2007-2012.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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June 2017, Pastor's Perspective

A New Breath of Life


A New Breath of Life

by Mark Lubbock

One of the things that breathes life into me is conversation with folks who see from a point of view that differs from mine.

Listening to them explain life as they see it helps me get out of my own head and begin to once again embrace and enjoy the diversity of God’s creation.

Not long ago I visited a technology retailer for information on a product I owned. The young lady who waited on me was clearly more drawn towards talking with fellow employees than serving customers. She glanced at the Christian shirt I was wearing so she could make some guesses of her own about me. Initially she was distant, businesslike, and seemed a bit disinterested in her work. I felt like I was just another customer she needed to get out the door. So I started a conversation, taking this as an opportunity to learn a little about her. Stating that I use my device in ministry, I paused and asked if she had any thoughts on spirituality. She was quick to reply that organized religion is a major problem in our country and she wants nothing to do with it. Nodding my head to indicate I am listening, I followed up by asking what works for her in place of organized religion. Her reply was along the lines of “I believe in God and don’t need church. I have my own private spiritual life.”

No surprise there of course, since this is a common theme with folks who are not interested in traditional church. What I saw as she shared though, was a
hint of thinly veiled anger. Not directed towards me, but seeming to arise from the thoughts going through her mind as she formed her statement about church.

As I listened to her sometimes harsh criticisms of religion, she started to relax that professional mask, allowing me to see the real person. The more I listened with interest, the more she opened up (versus rebutting her comments and telling her my thoughts.) When it became clear that I was not taking any ‘sides’ in the topic, but just wanted to hear her thoughts, we were able to finally have a true discussion.

What developed was a simple conversation where I spoke of how my life was measurably better due to my relationship with Jesus, and she spoke of wounds she received from the “Church.” At the end of my transaction and the conclusion of our conversation, I asked if I could pray for her before leaving. Her head snapped back for just a second and her eyes watered a little. She simply nodded her head “yes” indicating my prayer for her was welcomed. I thanked God for the meeting and for the chance to get to know her, asking for grace and blessings upon her life. The prayer was closed with a request that Jesus would touch her heart with a sign of love and favor, easing any pain and bringing her peaceful joy. By then the waterworks were in full display. As I left, I continued the prayer asking God to lead her to a church environment where His love is LIVED OUT DAILY.

Clearly, the church universal has not successfully communicated Jesus to this
young  woman, which leads me to think about “outcomes.” Most churches want to reach outside their walls and touch lives with Jesus. Yet few ever bother to measure the effectiveness of the routine life of the church. How would you assess the outcome of your church in reaching the lost, the lonely, the hurting?

I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit offers frequent course corrections all along the journey of life. As we seek to draw close personally to Jesus, I know we’ll also encounter opportunities to look at others through His eyes and allow him to use our hands to share His love.


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Mark just celebrated 20 years of marriage with his bride Vickie Lubbock. He served as a pastor with the United Methodist Church for over 15 years before coming on staff with the General Commission on United Methodist Men where he currently serves as Deployed Staff. He was the first pastor in the nation to become a “Certified Men’s Ministry Specialist” through the GCUMM and Vanderbilt University. Mark sits as the C.E.o. of the regional non-profit men’s ministry “Gulf South Men” headquartered in Baton Rouge, serving Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Gulf South Men supports churches and men’s groups in making disciples of Jesus through coaching, events, training, studies and small group formation. Mark is the Regional Director for “Iron Sharpens Iron” which is the nation’s largest ministry to men through regional equipping men’s conferences. Mark formerly served as Regional Director with Promise Keepers supporting regional conferences.

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May 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Long-Suffering A Fruit of the Spirit that Builds Character



A Fruit of the Spirit

that Builds Character

by Rusty Domingue

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23)

When reading this scripture, I noticed that just two of the nine fruits of the Spirit are somewhat negative: long-suffering and self-control. I believe that we should pay special attention to these two fruits of the Spirit because they reveal a lot about our character.

Exodus 34:6-7 says “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (NKJV).

God is a God of great character, and to become more like Him, we must also be a people of great character. Long-suffering is a powerful fruit of the Spirit because it says so much about our ability to withstand trials and testing. Long-suffering produces a patient endurance in our lives, which is where character is developed.  One of the greatest things a person can have is character and integrity.

Forty years ago, I discovered this principle the hard way. Playing football at LSU in the 70’s, I found myself in serious trouble due to a lack of character. Not realizing that God had a purpose for my life, it took a long time and a lot of heartache for God to develop character in me. Raised in a home that had a lot of drinking and partying, I was not exposed to a lot of good character and integrity. After the Nebraska game in Tiger Stadium where we tied them 6-6, I went out partying and acting crazy, got drunk and got into a fight where I stabbed a man.

From that point on, God had my attention and that is when I turned my heart to Christ at Chapel on the Campus at LSU. Still facing a trial and jail time, God started working on the inside of me. Long-suffering was one of the fruits that God began to develop in my life. Forty years later I realize that God is the One who is long-suffering. There was so much that needed to be worked out in me besides what I faced with the law. After the trial, in which I was convicted of attempted manslaughter and was facing jail time, the Lord really had me.

Unable to go anywhere or do anything, I started reading my Bible. The Bible came alive to me for the first time.  Someone told me to start with the gospel of John and when I got to John 15:7, a light came on. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (NKJV). I started declaring this verse and praying that God would release me from jail. Six months later, the police came in late one night and said, “Rusty Domingue, you are the only one free to go.”

Rejoicing as I left, I said, “God, I will go wherever you send me.” I didn’t really understand what I was praying then, but looking back, I am in awe of what all the Lord has done. It really is a miracle. I went back and got my degree from LSU and then went to Dallas, TX to get a two-year practical theology degree. After that, Dr. Jere Melilli from Christian Life Fellowship called me and asked me to be the youth pastor. The next 13 years at Christian Life is where the Lord began to really deal with me in long-suffering. I realized that God sent me to Christian Life to work on my own heart and character through pastoring people.

In 1995, I moved with my wife and two children to Nairobi, Kenya to be missionaries. We worked for a church called Nairobi Lighthouse and what an incredible experience that was. Today I’m a full-time missionary evangelist. I have had the opportunity to work on projects such as the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Sri Lanka and have helped with starting churches in India. We are also getting ready to finish a church building that we started in 1985. God has done incredible things and has been faithful every step of the way.

As you walk with God, He will use things in your life to produce the fruit of long-suffering. As we allow Him to teach us and mold us, we will walk in a grace towards others that allows us to see people the way the Lord sees them. Ephesians 4:1-2 says, “Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love.” (NKJV). Let the Lord mold you today through patient endurance and long-suffering so that you may become more like Him. God has a plan for your life!

Russell “Rusty” Domingue was born in 1954 to French parents, Mr. & Mrs. Freddie Domingue. Raised with his older brother, Joe, in Port Arthur, Texas, the Domingues were Catholic, though not devout. Having few interests, Rusty’s brother who played baseball for the Farm Team of the Houston Astros, encouraged the younger Domingue to play football. Recalling being angry for most of his adolescent life, Rusty played football for Thomas Jefferson High School with an intensity and skill that led LSU in Baton Rouge to recruit him to the Fighting Tiger Team on scholarship in 1973. Rusty’s testimony of the success he enjoyed through football at LSU and his later conviction in 1976 of attempted manslaughter and immediate conversion, is one of god’s undeniable grace and Love. after serving a miraculously short six month prison term, he was released and soon after moved to Dallas, Texas, where he attended Bible School. in 1983, the Lord led Rusty back to Baton Rouge again…but this time to Christian Life Fellowship where he served as associate Pastor along with Dr. Jere D. Mellili, Pastor. in addition, he served as Spiritual Life Director for Christian Life academy, coached the school’s football team, led a daily intercessory Prayer group at 6:30 AM, and held a College group on LSU campus called Living Waters Fellowship where many of the students are now in full time ministry. He also led the missions program for the church leading teams to India, Peru and Africa to build churches and help the poor. He moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 1995 with his wife and two kids to be missionaries. They worked on the Hatti earthquake, Sri Lanka tsunami and built over 30 homes. The 6’1” and 210 lb. former linebacker is today fighting spiritual warfare – not blocker – and is saving souls-not games!
Russell “Rusty” Domingue

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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