By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Dwell on that which honors God, Reggie Bridges said in his 2022 Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting presidential address, Nov. 15, held in the Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria.
Drawing from Philippians 4:8-9, Bridges, pastor, Temple Baptist Church, Ruston, urged messengers to allow their minds to dwell on the praise of God, allow their feet to follow in the paths of God and let their hearts dwell on the peace of God.
“I don’t believe in the power of positive thinking, but I do believe in the power of praiseworthy thinking,” Bridges said. “We need to think Christianly and allow our hearts and minds to dwell on the praise of God.”
Bridges said in the 175 years the LBC has been in existence, many faithful Louisiana Baptists have walked down a path that exemplified a Christ-centered life. He encouraged messengers to follow their example.
“I want to encourage you to keep dwelling on the path of God and his truth,” he said. “If we abandon God’s truth, we abandon God; and if we abandon God, we abandon life and hope.”
Bridges cautioned messengers to be mindful of anxiety that can impact their ministry negatively.
“If our minds are right and our feet are right, then our hearts are right,” he said. “And we have the peace of God.”
Thomas Strong, pastor, Metairie Baptist Church, and professor, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said Christ followers must be mindful of two hinderances for dwelling with God: busyness and pride.
He said pastors and ministry leaders need to just slow down and spend time with God.
“If we’re not careful we become so consumed in doing good stuff that we forget that God really just wants to spend time with us,” Strong said, basing his first Bible study on Mark 3:13. He also urged that “the priorities of our lives — before we try to preach or do ministry” have to reflect that “God just wants us to be with Him.”
Strong reminded messengers that when they stop and spend quality time with God, they realize He is the one who gives them life and a purpose.
“The God who created the universe — the God who really knows you and me — this is the God who just wants to be with us,” he said. “He just wants to spend time with us. The truth is He doesn’t need us. But isn’t it amazing that He desires for us to be in a relationship with Him?”
In his second Bible study, Strong cautioned messengers about comparing themselves to others and being self-righteous, using the examples of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.
“If we’re not careful, we allow what other people think to control our lives,” he said. “And you and I both know that once you start down that path if you don’t let God change your course you’re going to go into a bankrupt situation before it’s over.”
Chad Gilbert, pastor, First Baptist Church, New Orleans, while presenting the Convention message, urged messengers not to give up.
Citing 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Gilbert challenged Louisiana Baptists to persevere in preaching Christ.
“There will not be a moment in Heaven when we will look back and say it wasn’t worth it,” he said. “We will be so absorbed in the view of His glory.
“We must preach Christ because we are not the only ones who ought to catch that view,” Gilbert explained. “We want to be the ones who lead others to it.”
He also pleaded for a collective focus on the Gospel.
“It’s the one message you and I are called to proclaim,” Gilbert implored. “Let’s not get distracted.”
Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, thanked Louisiana Baptists for their continued partnership in advancing the Gospel.
He said because of their giving to the Cooperative Program, 26 new missionaries recently were commissioned to join a force of 3,500 International Mission Board missionaries, and 750,000 meals were provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
“You have seen what hurricanes do,” he said. “You know the impact disaster relief makes. It’s made possible through the Cooperative Program.”
He encouraged Louisiana Baptists to participate in next year’s SBC Annual Meeting, scheduled June 13-14 in New Orleans. Howe said between 12,000-15,000 messengers are expected to register.
“Thank you for your gifts through the Cooperative Program,” he said. “I invite you to join us in June in New Orleans.”
Ben Mandrell, CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources, called Louisiana Baptists to speak the truth in love and provoke one another to love and good deeds.
Referencing Hebrews 10, Mandrell said strong and mighty Christians draw near to Christ in prayer, hold onto hope in Christ and provoke one another in love and good deeds.
“It’s kindness that truly leads us to repentance,” Mandrell said. “And it’s kindness that truly leads people into our churches.”