Tuesday, April 04, 2017

What if worship is about God and not about us?

Everyone has a preference for what worship ought to be. There are preferences in music, preaching, programs, time, and length. There is probably a church out there that will satisfy your individual taste. But what satisfies God? What if worship is about God and not about us?

The Temple represented the presence of God. Its leaders fiercely defended the traditions that governed the rituals and sacrifices connected with Temple worship. Jesus told them that their rigid adherence to tradition was keeping people from God. In fact, he called these “holy” men “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)

At this holiest time of the year, Passover, Jesus cleared the crowded Temple in a spectacular way. There were animals running amok, coins rolling on the ground, merchants scrambling in every direction, people screaming, people laughing, a crowd gathering... Jesus definitely got everyone's attention. (John 2:13-25)

Jesus brought needed change to worship. He was the one that the prophets foretold, the Word made flesh. The Temple once contained God's presence but, now, Jesus was the presence of God. Fully God and fully man, his death paid for our sin, his resurrection brought us eternal life. This made it possible for God to be present in his people through the Holy Spirit. The church is who we are not where we go.

Many people today look for churches where their needs will be met. They want a certain style of music, programs for their kids, and to be around people who look like them. But Jesus said that we should be like him. He came to serve not to have his needs met. (Mark 10:45)

True worship moves us beyond our comfort zones. Jesus turns over the tables of our complacency, scatters the coins of self-interest, and chases away the animals of our preconceived notions. It takes us beyond what we believe to be the minimum requirements. Let's open our hearts to what God wants from us that we may be transformed.

We have 52 Sundays to gather together for worship. How many will you skip because of something more important? What things in your life take precedent over worshiping God?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

From Prison to Praise

Armando took some wrong turns in life and wound up doing 17 years in prison. Gangs, drugs and violence were destroying his body and soul. It was at what he remembers as the lowest point in his life that his brother led him to Jesus through the ministry of Outcry in the Barrio. Today he lives out the words found in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “The old has gone, the new has come...”

He has been a servant of the Lord for 12 years and started Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry (IMM) to bring the gospel to others who are on the path to destruction. Twice a month he preaches at prisons in Hondo and Cuero. Armando feels a call to minister to people behind bars and the families they have left behind.

His wife, Rosalinda, serves alongside him as a leader in IMM. She began her ministry caring for women coming out of a life on the streets. Her assignments ranged from cooking and cleaning to street evangelism and leading Bible studies. Rosalinda is a member of Kairos Prison Ministry, serving at the women’s prison in Lockhart.

I met them last both last year when they attended a lecture I was giving on church marketing at Baptist University of the Americas (BUA). They had some questions about organizing and leading their motorcycle ministry. They also were interested in the ministries of Baptist Temple. Armando lived near Baptist Temple as a child and remembers the generosity we showed his family in those days. He felt that the ministry of BT meshes well with that of IMM and started working with us right away. In the last few months he has led a memorial service, a blessing of the bikes and brought a large number of volunteers for our hunger fighting efforts.

I recently received a letter from a man who will soon be released from incarceration in Hondo. He grew up in our neighborhood and remembers driving past Baptist Temple many times. He became a Christian last year and is part of a discipleship program inside the prison walls. He will be released in a few months and wants to find a church to help him in his walk with Christ. He came across some information about our church through a series of circumstances that were sparked by IMM. The Acostas will help us to disciple this man and others like him who have been born again.

Armando and Rosalinda will serve in the outreach ministries of Baptist Temple as we follow our Lord's command to “Go to the highways, and the hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house may be full...” (Luke 14:23). Their primary ministry will through Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry which will become another of the BT Campus' numerous outreach arms.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Set Aside to Serve

On Sunday we will ordain nine women to the ministry of deacon. Each one has been serving faithfully in that capacity as the wife of a deacon and has earned the honor of having the title for themselves.

The word that is translated “deacon” in the Bible is the Greek word diakonos and is better translated servant. In Acts 6, where the deacon ministry is introduced to the church, variations of diakinos are translated “food distribution,” “waiter,” and “ministry.” The role of the deacon is clearly one of service; in keeping with the example of our Lord who “came not to be served (diakoneo) but to serve (diakoneo).” (Mark 10:45)

Women have served as deacons since the start of the of the church. In Romans 6:1, Paul commends sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchrea. The Roman governor, Pliny, sent a letter to the Emperor Trajan in the First Century about the arrest and torture of two maidens who were deacons in order to gain information about the church. Early church document outlined the role of women deacons in the baptism and discipleship of female converts. One of the founders of the Baptist movement, John Smyth, wrote about the authority of the local church to ordain female deacons.

Women deacons are usually found in churches where the role of deacon is that of service and support rather than acting as church management. In our male dominated society it is difficult to see a woman as capable of leadership. It was less than 100 years ago that women in the US were first allowed to vote in national elections.

The society Jesus was born into was even more patriarchal than ours. Therefore, it's important to note that he first revealed himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman and that women were the first to see his resurrected body. From the widow's offering to the jar of expensive perfume, women were frequently the heroes in Jesus' stories.

We are blessed with a significant number of men and women who have tender hearts and a love for Jesus and his church. The people of Baptist Temple are well served by our deacons.