WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Serving the Lord is directly tied to a joy-filled life of thanksgiving, a pastor of one of America’s fastest-growing churches told 193 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary graduates May 20.
“Do you realize that if you don’t know how to serve the Lord, you’re never really going to be glad?” said Charles Lowery, senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church, Albuquerque, N.M.
Presenting the familiar Psalm 100 with its initial “Serve the Lord with gladness,” Lowery asked how a Christian can joyfully serve the Lord “in a day like today.”
Summing it up in one word — “Thanks” — Lowery offered an acrostic for the answer to every person’s question involving Christian service:
— T stands for “think”: “Whatever you think is what you’re going to feel,” he said, describing how a trained person encounters a snake and feels no fear, while an untrained person would probably feel panic. “The Bible says the key to life, to joy, is renewing your mind,” Lowery said, and a person’s life can be transformed by the way he chooses to think about what he sees and experiences.
— H stands for “horizon”: “Look at the long-term view instead of the short-term view, [and remember] in the end, you win. That makes all of the difference in the world,” Lowery said, using a videotaped Dallas Cowboys football game as an example. If Lowery should accidentally hear from someone what the final score was before he gets an opportunity to view the tape, then “it’s amazing the difference it makes in my attitude” when he sits down to view the tape, he said, because he already knows the ultimate outcome.
— A stands for “appreciate”: “Appreciate what you have,” he counseled. Since there is going to be something wrong with everything, “you might as well just accept it,” he said, while at the same time focusing on and appreciating the good in life. “It’s a matter of focus,” he said. “Focus on what God has done, not what he hasn’t done yet.”
— N stands for “now”: “Be thankful now,” Lowery said, specifically charging graduates not to wait to be thankful when they think their dreams of a big church or some other highly esteemed position might be accomplished.
— K stands for “know “: “Know what’s important in life,” Lowery said, citing three things that are important to all: faith, family and friends.
— S stands for “share”: “The key to life is understanding that what you have, you have to share with others,” he said, adding that sharing automatically is linked to another important “S” word: sacrifice. Giving should not come from a sense of obligation; it should come from a sense of celebration, Lowery said, as one considers how good God is and how good his plans are for his people.
Southeastern, in Wake Forest, N.C., conferred the following degrees on students representing 27 states from Maryland to New Mexico, as well as nine countries, including Romania: associate of divinity, 13; bachelor of arts in biblical studies, 31; master of arts in Christian education, 7; master of arts in church music, 1; master of arts in counseling ministry, 19; master of arts in intercultural studies, 9; master of divinity, 74; master of divinity with Christian education, 9; master of divinity with church music, 5; master of divinity with counseling ministry, 13; master of theology, 1; doctor of ministry, 7; and doctor of philosophy, 4.
Ph.D. graduates and their dissertations were James Alan Branch of Dallas, Ga., “The Challenge Posed by Autonomy in Medical Ethics;” Kenneth Donald Keathley, Patterson, Mo., “An Examination of the Influence of Vatican II on Clark Pinnock’s ‘Wider Hope’ for the Unevangelized;” Bruce Alva Little of Clemmons, N.C., “A Critical Analysis of Contemporary ‘Greater-Good’ Theodicies with Special Attention Given to Gratuitous Evil;” and Thomas Michael, Hyderabad, India, “Evangelistic Motifs in the Book of Revelation: A Critical Analysis of the Book of Revelation with Regard to its Various Evangelistic Motifs.”