Beirut Baptism

IMG_8011This blog post is from a friend of mine who serves as a missionary in Beirut, Lebanon.  Her name has been changed for her own protection.

Here in Lebanon and in all of the Middle East, your religion is considered as more of a family or genetic characteristic. The mindset is that you are born a Muslim or a Christian. You can’t or shouldn’t change that just as much as you can’t or shouldn’t change your race or your family. This comes from the Koran which states that the son of a Muslim father is a Muslim.
Your religion is a legal matter here…it determines who and where you can marry and where you can own property and do business. It is listed as one of the characteristics on your driver’s license or government ID.
So…when you put baptism in the equation as a sacrament of the church that is a confirmation in most churches that you are indeed a Christian and a public statement that you are a part of the Church-body as a whole and even the local body of believers….it has not just the spiritual ramifications that it has for us in the US but here it has real political, legal and social ramifications. (Interestingly enough, quite like the early church.) The main resistance to conversion when ministering to Muslims here is not saying the sinner’s prayer or confessing Jesus….it is church membership and baptism because this is what would change their life in terms of their family, legal status and social status.
Ruth is a young woman who came to the church about a year and a half ago. She is Jordanian and a year before coming, really escaping, to Lebanon, she accepted Christ through a Christian television program. For a year she lived as secret Christian. About half way through that year, her husband discovered her secret and began to beat her everyday and make her say Muslim prayers. Finally, as she realized her life was in danger, she fled her home for Lebanon. She was forced by her husband to leave behind her 3-year-old son.
Upon arriving in Lebanon, she came to the church seeking refuge. One of the first things she did was remove her headscarf and ask where she could throw it away. The main thing she desired was to know more about the word and to be baptized.  During her year as a secret Christian, she said that she would literally have dreams of being baptized. She said that she read about it in the Word and longed for the day when she could publicly and boldly show her love for the Lord in this way. She knew that for her culture this would be an undeniable way of identifying with Christ and it would be a sign from which she could not turn back.
She was so excited on the day of her baptism…the time had finally come. She shared her story with the congregation and was baptized during the service. Ruth said that it was such a great fulfillment of her dreams from when she first became a Christian and that she felt a new level of boldness in her relationship with Christ and her authority in Christ. She was now known as a Christian publicly with all of the joys and risks that entails as a converted Muslim.
Shortly after being baptized, Ruth was sent to jail as her husband sent word from Jordan that she had converted and was running from him. Through the help of Christians here and favor with the government she has been released. She has now applied for asylum and we believe she is being relocated by the United Nations. She is no longer able to contact us at the church as the procedure is to give her a new identity and passport documents because her life is endangered. (Similar to a witness protection program)

It is so easy for us in the United States to take baptism for granted. We don’t have the threat of jail, persecution or death. But Ruth’s story is just one of thousands, where Christian converts risk their lives to follow in obedience the command of the Word to be baptized and to identify publicly with the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wind Farms


Wind farms like these are on the rise around the world and are now used to produce almost 3% of the world’s energy usage.  You may have seen a similar farm in your travels.

Have you ever wondered how these windmills are able to capture the wind’s energy?  Here’s a brief explanation:  A wind turbine blade works like an airplane wing.  Blowing air passes around both sides of the uniquely shaped blade.  The uneven pressure around the blade then causes it to spin.  The blades are attached to a shaft, which turns about 18 revolutions per minute, which doesn’t seem like much at first.  However, the shaft is connected to a series of gears, which increases the movement to about 1800 revolutions per minute.  At that speed, a generator can produce a lot of electricity as long as the wind is consistent.

Recently, when I was thinking about wind farms, tithing came to mind.  This may seem strange so I’ll explain myself.  People often think that they can’t give much money, so why should they even bother tithing.  Like the large shaft that only turns 18 times a minute, they think that their gift is not making much of a difference.  Fortunately, God blesses the offerings given by individuals and allows the church to connect it with the gifts of others, multiplying it in various ways that is then able to produce amazing results.

The secret is faithful and consistent giving.

Start – A Message For The Celebration Church Family


Leonardo da Vinci once said, I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Being willing is not enough, we must do.  His words make a lot of sense.  When the time is right, we must take action.  Doing so is more important than understanding while doing nothing.

With this in mind, how are we supposed to respond to atrocious problems that exist both around the world and across the street?  How do we respond to the thousands of people still living in tent cities in Port au Prince, Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake?  What can we do about the problem of modern day slavery and sex trafficking in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America?  How can we end hunger in the United States?  These problems are daunting and seem impossible.

I’m convinced that the only way to make a difference in this world is by starting.  It’s like the old saying:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. 

In 1989, a group of people saw the need for a new type of church in the New Orleans region.  They felt led by the Lord to be a church that would not only change the lives of its members, but that would impact the city of New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana, and the rest of the world for Jesus Christ.  They weren’t sure how to start, but as a first step, they called a young man named Dennis Watson to be their pastor.  Celebration Church was born.

In 2005, just a few days after finalizing a merger with Crescent City Baptist Church, the members of Celebration Church were faced with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  With a loss of at 60% of the congregation, it was tempting for everyone to sit back and lick their wounds.  However, with a hurting city before them, the pastors, staff, and members of Celebration Church worked diligently to connect with other ministries and organizations around the world in order to minister to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Sitting still was not an option.  It was time to start doing something. 

Now, in 2013, through the Accomplish the Vision Campaign, the daunting task of beginning the first Celebration Church Life Transformation Center lies before us.  After much prayer, we believe that our work needs to be stationed in the New Orleans 9th Ward.  We also believe that God wants us to establish a presence in this area by the end of December.  Once again, we are at a crossroads.  Once again, it’s time for us to take a step of faith.  Once again, it’s time for us to start.

Won’t you join us in facing this challenge?  You can do so in three ways:

  1. Pray.  Ask God to give the leaders of our church wisdom in strategizing the development of the Life Transformation Center.  Also, pray that God would financially bless the Accomplish the Vision Campaign.
  2. Serve.  If God is leading you to be a part of our first Life Transformation Center, you are invited to our strategic planning meeting this Saturday morning at 10 AM at the Metairie Campus Club 56 Room.
  3. Give.  Continue to give faithfully to the Accomplish the Vision Campaign.  All money received from the campaign will go to further the work of Jesus through the projects set forth by the Accomplish the Vision Campaign.


How Freddy Got Albert To Read


His name was Albert.  He was 11 years old and lived with his mother in the New Orleans 9th Ward.  Freddy was 22 years old and had been married less than a month when he and his wife moved into a mission center down the street from Albert’s home.  When Freddy first met Albert, their conversation went something like this:

Freddy:  Hey, Albert.  I’m Freddy.

Albert:  Yeah.

Freddy:  Your mom asked me to tutor you in reading.

Albert:  I don’t want your help.

Freddy:  Okay.

Albert:  I’m serious.

Freddy:  All right.  What are we supposed to do with our time then?

Albert:  Not my problem.

Freddy:  Well, is it ok with you if we don’t do tutoring?

Albert:  Yeah.

Freddy:  Good.  Want to hear a story?

Albert:  No.

Freddy:  Great, let me tell you one.  It’s about eating worms.

Albert:  Worms?

Freddy:  Yeah, this boy made a bet that he could eat some worms with some friends, I think.  I can’t remember exactly.  Anyway, he cooked the worms so they wouldn’t taste so bad.

Albert:  How did he cook them?

Freddy:  He may have fried them.  Maybe, I can’t remember.

Albert:  You mean you started telling me a story that you don’t remember.

Freddy:  I guess so.  Sorry about that.  It’s in that book there on the shelf.

Albert:  Go get it.

Freddy got the book from the shelf and together they spent the next few weeks reading How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.  In the first session, Freddy read everything to Albert.  On the second session, Freddy asked Albert to help him read because his voice was tired, but he could still help with the big words.  After four weeks, Albert and Freddy finished the book.  Over the course of the summer, they read three books together.

The True Yet Sad Story of the Great 4th of July Search For McDonald’s Ice Cream


Over the years, whenever my wife and I want ice cream from McDonald’s, something will inevitably be wrong with the soft serve machine.  Today, the 4th of July (a day when I really wanted ice cream) proved to be no exception:

McDonald’s #1 

Me:  (Walks up to Counter) Happy 4th of July!

McDonald’s Worker #1 – What?

Me:  Happy 4th of July!

McDonald’s Worker #1 – Ok.  Can I take your order?

Me:  Yes, two ice cream cones please.

McDonald’s Worker #1 – The ice cream machine is being cleaned.

Me:  Will it be a long time?

McDonald’s Worker #1 – Yes, a very long time.

McDonald’s #2

Me:  (Pulls up to drive through speaker with hopeful wife) 

McDonald’s Worker #2  (Over intercom) Can I take your order?

Me:  Yes, two ice cream cones please.

McDonald’s Worker #2 – “Our ice cream machine ain’t working right now.”

Wife:  You’ve got to be kidding.  Let’s just give up.

Me:  Never.  This is a mission.

McDonald’s #3

Me:  (Pulls up to drive through speaker) How many is this?

Wife:  Three. 

McDonald’s Worker #3 (Over intercom) Take your order?

Me:  Yes, two ice cream cones please.

McDonald’s Worker #3 – “The soft serve machine is broken.”

Me:  Really?  This is the third McDonald’s we’ve been to in the last fifteen minutes.  Are they all on schedule to be broken today on the 4th of July?

McDonald’s Worker #3 – I don’t know.  That machine breaks down all the time.

McDonald’s #4

Me:  (Pulls up to drive through speaker) How…

Wife:  (Interrupts) Four. 

McDonald’s Worker #4 – Can I take your order?

Me:  Yes, two ice cream cones please.

(Extremely Long Pause) 

McDonald’s Worker #4 – Is that all?

Me:  Yes.  (withheld jubilation)

McDonald’s Worker #4 – “$2.16.  Pull around.”

Me:  Success.

Wife:  (Rolls her eyes)

(Hallelujah Chorus plays loudly in car)

Born to Run? – Beginning Week #9 of 10k Trainer App


Christopher McDougall, in Born to Run, observed the following:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

I wonder the gazelles or the lions trained to run using the 10k trainer app that I’m using.  I doubt it, because they’re running to survive and not for fitness sake.  Today, as I finished up Week #8 in my program, I was supposed to run for 30 minutes or 3 miles plus 10 minutes of warm up and cool down.  I did it, but I thought I was going to pass out.  I keep hearing that there’s a magical moment when runner’s euphoria comes over you.  I’ve felt some satisfaction in the completion of a run, but the only euphoria I’ve felt is when I get to stop.

I’m supposed to start my 9th week of the program this week.  The workout for the first day lasts 54 minutes.  I’m supposed to have a simple 5 minute warmup, run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute, then repeat the last two 3 more times before walking for a 5 minute cool down.  I’m not looking forward to this because of two facts about running:  It stinks and I hate it.

I’ll let you know if my feelings change.