Speaking from experience, both literally and figuratively, Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, advised a seminary audience what they should do amid the storms of life.
Storms will come to everyone, regardless of station in life, profession, or age.
"To be honest with you…my concern this morning is not that we have storms," Luter said April 17 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. "My concern this morning is not that we have troubles and trials and tribulations in life …. But my concern, Southeastern, is what do we do when the storm comes. How do we deal as pastors, as preachers, as professors, as denominational workers, as students — how do we deal with tough times in life?
"Many of us still do not know what to do when the storms of life are raging."
Luter examined the effects the storms of life have on believers and gave examples from his own ministry since August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.
Luter, who lost his home in the flooding caused by the storm, has been preaching to members of his congregation in New Orleans who are meeting at a sister Baptist church and to members now situated in Houston, Texas. Eighty percent of the church members remain displaced following the catastrophe, and the flood-damaged church facility in New Orleans has not been rebuilt yet.
"I have discovered that when storms come our way, faith is the first area that the enemy works on," Luter said.
Rough times often seem unexplainable, and believers' first reaction is to rail out at God, Luter said, noting that it's during those times when Christians have to obey God, let go of the branch they are hanging on to, and just trust Him.
"Every now and then, for whatever the reason, God will allow you and I to get in a situation where He says, 'Let go of the branch,'" Luter said. "Oh, my brothers and my sisters, faith is the first area that the enemy works on because if you don't have faith, you're in fear, and fear is of the enemy."
Luter voiced three words about Jesus Christ to the seminarians that he said they should never forget when the storms of life come: His promises, presence, and power.
Reading from Mark 4:35-41, Luter said that Jesus, just like He did with the disciples in the boat before the storm, promises His followers that they are going to the other side.
Jesus stayed with the disciples, just as His presence remains with believers today.
And Jesus showed His power over the storm many years ago, Luter said, and He continues to do so today.
NOBTS Post Katrina: A Miracle!
by Michael McCormack
Though many question marks still dot the city of New Orleans and its recovery, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley's State of the Seminary address April 12 pointed confidently to God's provision and providence, which continue now twenty months after Hurricane Katrina.
Kelley said there was much information to report about the seminary but that his address was just as much a testimony to God's faithfulness. His address was delivered during the seminary's board of trustees meeting.
"I feel as though any telling of where we are and how we are doing is really more of a president's testimony regarding the all-sufficient grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Kelley said.
Kelley first pointed to the ways that all-sufficient grace has brought the seminary to where it now stands.
"We are more than 90 percent done with the basic restoration process," he said. "At every possible point, we have attempted to improve as we repair. The campus has never been more beautiful, and it is steadily becoming more functional and complete."
What's more, he said, student enrollment has mirrored infrastructure recovery.
"Most schools in town are running about 50 to 75 percent of their pre-Katrina numbers," he said. "We are doing better than that."
In April 2006, main campus student enrollment was at 1,575. Presently, Kelley reported, close to 1,600 students are based in New Orleans.
"It looks like we will finish the year within four hundred of our all-time record enrollment," he said. "God is calling out the called to come to New Orleans to prepare for ministry."
Kelley reported that God has continued to provide for the monetary needs to the seminary. Kelley projected the eventual cost of Hurricane Katrina recovery for the seminary to be $55 million or more.
"With insurance, the gifts of Southern Baptists and others, and untold volunteer labor, we are down to looking for the last $1.2 million of that amount," Kelley said. "This is a miracle!"