Sunday, December 29, 2013

The End of the World

Mark 13

Remember when the world was going to end on December 2012?

Have you seen those National Geographic shows about Doomsday Preppers? Each show features people preparing to survive the end of the world. Each show presents a different scenario. Lot's of money and time are sacrificed on an altar of paranoia.

Our fascination with the end of the world makes us vulnerable to cults, charlatans and false prophets. It was only two years ago that Harold Camping convinced large numbers of people that the rapture would be May 21, 2011. Many of them quit their jobs and spent their savings.

Jesus warns us not to be fooled by signs and false prophets but, rather, to preach the gospel:Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” (Mark 13:4)

Wars, rumors of war and natural disasters are fuel for the doomsayers. Remember the media frenzy surrounding the Swine Flu? And the Asian Flu? And AIDS? And Herpes? The 1918 flu killed 100 million (6% of the world's population.) It was the worst medical holocaust in history but it wasn't the end.

In the midst of speaking about end-time scenarios, Jesus states that first the gospel must be preached. (Mark 13:10) Jesus reminds us to keep the main thing the main thing.

God will bring history to an end at a time and in a manner of His choosing. It is a day feared by some but welcomed by God's people. Jesus gives us words of encouragement. They are not meant to spark the imagination of false prophets nor create new theologies.

Jesus tells us that we are to first preach the gospel
  • even in times of tribulation from war, disease and disaster
  • even when the government turns against us
  • even though everyone hates you

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Victory Sunday


On December 10 Baptist Temple reached 102 years of ministry to our community. This past weekend we celebrated both our rich past and the bright future created by God's grace and the generosity of His people.

As of this point we have received $330,874 in pledges for our Heartstong for CHRIST campaign. Our first fruit offering was $44,477.83 plus an additional gift of stock valued at over $8000. More first fruit offering and pledge cards are coming in.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

This is a time for thanksgiving. I thank God for these buildings. Each one represents the faith of those who sacrificed time and treasure. Each represents hope for the future because churches never build according to current need. Each represents an answer to prayer that God would provide resources so His people might do His work.

God told King David, “You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name.” 1 Kings 8:18

Those that came before us did well to build Baptist Temple to lift up Jesus name. Today would not be possible if not been for those who went before us. We are building on their achievements and sacrifices.

I thank God for His people. God's people serve; following the example of our Lord who came to serve rather than to be served. God's people share; showing hospitality to the family of churches and non-profits that make their home on our campus and expand our ministry. God's people give. I thank God for generations of generosity at Baptist Temple.

This is a time of rejoicing; not only for what God has done in the past but for what He is doing in our day through our generation. Some had already written off Baptist Temple. They believed that the 100th anniversary was going to be a funeral service. Some were unsure that we would reach 100 years so a 95th anniversary was celebrated, just in case. Like so many churches around us BT was in decline.

I rejoice that God was not finished with us. These facilities were not built to be temporary. They were built to last into the future. They were remodeled for continued use. God sent partners, workers and money to make our campus buzz with activity all week. Baptisms and new members are filling our ranks and people outside our walls rejoice with us.

I rejoice that we listened to God, and stepped forward in faith. We did it together. This has been a time of growing closer together. During this campaign our older folk worked next to the younger ones; newer members worked alongside longtime members.

We stood firm and did not allow ourselves to be distracted by the Enemy's schemes. We resisted the Devil and he did flee from us. Instead, we gave ourselves fully to the work.

This is a time of anticipation. I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do through us in the future. God has given us the victory. Many will be blessed by your giving. Many more people will be fed and clothed. Many more children will learn about Jesus. Many people will be led to Christ. Heaven will join us in rejoicing!

God has allowed us to bless the future. The amount of money pledged will enable us to take the big leap forward we needed to stay on top of needed remodeling and repairs. It will enhance our current ministries and ensure ministry long into the future. If our Lord tarries I can see a new generation at our 150th anniversary stand up and call you blessed.

This is a day of thanksgiving for God's provision, of rejoicing for our obedience and of anticipation for what lies ahead.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Widow's Might


Jesus watches rich and poor present offerings to God. The rich were very generous. Their incomes and offerings were large. Poor people gave, too, but their contributions were not noticed. Everyone brought an offering as was expected.

The giving was public. They were pouring money into containers called “trumpets.” The coins made a constant clanging noise as they were cast into the containers. The clanking was an immediate reward for the giver; more coins made it louder. The clanking served as both a celebration of generosity and a reminder of responsibility.

There was a community expectation of support for God's work. The public giving created an atmosphere of accountability. The people lined up in a stewardship parade waiting their turn to give their offering.

A poor widow drops two of the smallest coins; their faint click is drowned out by the heavy clanking of more substantial coins made by the rich. She seems unnoticed but Jesus is so impressed that he says her offerings are more important that those made by men of wealth and prestige.

Jesus was impressed because she denied herself. She had two mites to give and could have kept one for herself. If she had only one coin then the decision would have been simple but she had two coins and the choice was greater. She gave both.

She surrendered all and trusted God for the care of her life. She knew that if she was to be assured of God’s care, she had to give all. Jesus said, “...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

Whether we are rich, poor or somewhere in between, Jesus looks at the size of our sacrifice more than the size of our gift.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Honoring God with our Best


When we give God the First Fruits of our labors he will reward us abundantly both spiritually and physically. The Bible challenges us saying, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)

A sacrificial first fruit offering demonstrates obedience to God. "Trust in the LORD" (v. 5), says the Bible. One of the principles of a first fruit offering is trust in the promise of a future harvest. The first fruit were just a taste of what lay in store at the end of the full in-gathering of the harvest. A first fruit offering represents a prayer to God for the future harvest.

It, also, tests our faith in God promise to bless our giving. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)

A sacrificial first fruit offering demonstrates our commitment to God. The passage continues: "in all thy ways acknowledge him"(v. 6). Giving your First Fruits means you are acknowledging God’s ownership of all you have. We sow seed and water but God provides the harvest. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father. (James 1:17)

Money is like a magnet. It pulls our hearts towards wherever we put it. When I give money to God it pulls me closer to Him. The Bible says, "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops" (v. 9)

God deserves the best part of our lives! God is honored by no less than our very best. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

In Malachi God chastised the people for giving inferior gifts. “ When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 1:8)

God is NOT an afterthought…
  • God desires our best when it comes to our worship.
  • God desires our best when it comes to our service.
  • God desires our best when it comes to our giving.

God deserves our First Fruits.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

How Far Are You from the Kingdom?


You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34

Jesus began at the level of commitment of each person he met. Often he would simply capture interest and create a desire to know more. Then, as people would continue to follow him, Jesus would slowly, gently define more clearly the kingdom of God and ask for a deeper commitment to it.

He didn't lay any heavy requirement on those early followers. At Jesus' first encounter with John and Andrew, he simply said, “Come and…see!” (John 1:39)

After three years of ministry, Jesus gave his ultimate challenge to the crowd: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark8:34)

Jesus was able to ask for that kind of commitment from the crowd only after demonstrating his love for them and earning their trust. To a stranger or first-time visitor at a church I believe Jesus would be more likely to say, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29)

Just as Jesus recognized different levels of spiritual development, we, too, must adjust our conversations to meet a person’s spiritual understanding. Matching our expectations to a person’s spiritual development. We are most effective when we work with people in whom God is already at work.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; 
nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 
 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)

Friday, November 29, 2013

What Your Heart Reveals

Mark 12:28-34
 

Blood tests can reveal the condition of your heart but your heart reveals the condition of your faith.

Your heart is important to God. Jesus once told a man that the greatest commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30)

The heart represents our moral choices and motivations. The Bible declares, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)

The heart reveals the truth. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:19)

The heart reveals our priorities. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The heart is also the source of our faith. “'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:8-10)

We must beware because the heart can deceive us. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

A bad heart can fail you when you need it. It can become numb and cynical and eventually cause your death. Because of this we need is a heart transplant from God. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)

Just a new physical heart allows you to do things you could not do before, a new spiritual heart will allow you to love God and put away shame, bitterness and deceit.
 

A new heart must be protected. The first heart transplant recipient lived 18 days. Since then we have learned how to take better care of a new heart. We must protect our hearts spiritually as well. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Jesus said that some hearts will reject His message; those hearts that are occupied with competing priorities. Prayer, worship and trust are the keys to loving God with all our heart. 


Blessed are the pure in heart because they will see God.
Matthew 5:8

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks is Good for You

Ephesians 5:19-20
 

A thankful attitude will make us happier, better witnesses of Christ’s love, and enhance our relationships. This is something to keep in mind on Thursday as we gather with our families. I hope that we will do more than overeat and watch football. Thanksgiving is a good holiday to turn us into grateful people. It is a good time to transform “stinkin' thinkin'” into an “attitude of gratitude.”

A thankful spirit will set you apart from the world; it makes us different. It will increase your personal happiness. Happiness is determined by our attitude not our circumstances. The apostle Paul wrote these words from prison: "Rejoice in the Lord always," he wrote, "and again I say it rejoice." (Philippians 4:4)
 

A thankful spirit will improve your witness for Christ. It is sad to see a negative, mean-spirited Christian; who see a glass as half empty, dirty and cracked.
 

When we are thankful, joyful, upbeat people, we attract the lost with our spirit of gratitude because the world is dark, depressing and ungrateful.
"Live such good lives among the pagans that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2:12
Imagine how much better our relationships would be if we expressed our thanks for each other from time to time; instead of picking at each other's faults. The apostle Paul expressed thanks in his letters in the Bible.
  • Rome: “First, I thank my God for all of you.” (Romans 1:8)
  • Corinth: “I always thank God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4)
  • Ephesus: “I have not stopped giving thanks for you; remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16)
  • Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)
  • Colossi, “I always thank God when I pray for you.” (Colossians 1:3)
 Paul let people know that he was thankful for them. Imagine how much better our churches and our relationships would be if we expressed our thanks for each other.
 

We can develop thanksgiving in our lives if we remember that everything we have is from God.: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

We can develop thanksgiving in our lives if we avoid complaining. Complaining amplifies frustration, spreads discontent and discord. “I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.” (Psalm 77:3)
 

Find something each day for which to be thankful. “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” (Ephesians 5:19

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Lost Decade

Guest blog by William Palmer
 

My Lost Decade is part of my personal testimony; it’s riddled with disobedience, and a great example of what not to do. My Lost Decade began when I went off to college. I all but severed my relationship with God. I stopped attending church, stopped reading the bible, didn’t attend bible study, and ultimately stopped having prayerful conversations talking with God.

But for over a decade, He never gave up on me, and I practically had to go out of my way to avoid the incredibly special people and amazing opportunities God threw at me.

 

One of my best friends in college was president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. For four years we hung out and studied together. My friend constantly invited me to Christian events, Bible studies…but I always seemed to have better things to do.
 

For about three years after college, I lived in a two family home, downstairs from a pastor! He did his job by inviting me into his home, to his church, to bible studies, and even said he was praying for me. And for three years I ignored him and threw God out of my house – quite literally. On one occasion, the pastor asked if I could please try to turn my stereo down on Friday nights because last week his group had to move their bible study to another location. 
 
Over the next three years, I found myself back in Texas and working in Houston. My boss at the time called me, “the homeless guy.” He was referring to the fact that I didn’t have a church home. I vividly remember one day coming into work and finding a care package sitting on my desk. Immediately, I recognized it as one of those packages I’d seen my boss gave out to homeless people at highway intersections. I remember eating the sandwich and drinking the bottle of water. And I remember tossing the Bible into the wastepaper basket next to my desk.


My boss also invited me to his church on several occasions, but I never went – again, I had had more important things to do. I found out later he’s an elder at church with a congregation of over 25,000.


My disobedience followed me to San Antonio, where a Baptist Temple deacon invited me to worship service on a few occasions.


I must really just be hard of hearing. Believe it or not, what finally got me through the doors of a church again, are the church’s ministries. It was the first Thursday of February, 2012. I was driving by Baptist Temple around 6:00 PM, and saw a line of people circling the building in the parking lot. I couldn’t believe it – it was the middle of the week – a Thursday evening, and the place was packed. I had to do a double take. I drove around the block, and saw signs for a daycare and charter school.


What got my attention was not hearsay and conjecture…it was not bumping into someone at the grocery store and listening to them talk at me about how great their church is, how many people attend, or how awesome the pastor’s message was last week. It was seeing the physical manifestation of God’s will at work: it was the church’s ministries in action. It told me that this place actually cares about the community, and cares about spreading God’s message. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was also a promise to me that any financial contribution I make to Baptist Temple will be put to good use obeying and spreading God’s word.

The stewardship portion of my message is pretty short and simple. It’s about putting needs ahead of wants. For the past few years, I’ve been saving for some home improvements. I’ve been wanting a new floor downstairs, and a new deck for the back yard. But my church home needs a new roof, so that will come first.


By now, Baptist Temple has heard about a dozen remarkable stewardship testimonies. I certainly don’t want to trivialize any of them – but hearing all these terrific stories of sacrifice can make it tempting to travel down that road of disobedience. For example, it might be easy to think about sitting the campaign out because the rest of your church family has your back. Well guess what? A dozen stewardship testimonies does not a campaign make. Each and every member of the church’s family, including probably some folks who aren’t, will be required to obey for this campaign to be successful. 


I’d like to leave you with two frames of references on obedience; two different perspectives.

My disobedience didn’t just suddenly fall by the wayside after My Lost Decade ended. It didn’t suddenly stop after I walked through Baptist Temple’s doors. I still sometimes head down the wrong path when I know another one is correct.

 

To give me inspiration to obey, I like to look to the book of Acts, and some of the things Paul went through as his personal transformation brought him from persecuting Christians in his early years, to becoming obedient to God’s word. It’s such an inspiration to hear how Paul ultimately ending up building the first Christian Church.
 

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. (Acts 13:45)

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison... (
Acts 16:22-23)
 
I’m not sure if you have ever – out of obedience to God’s word – been falsely accused of crimes by friends and neighbors, or been physically beaten and thrown into prison because you were obeying. If you have, I’d love to hear your story.

 

We have it relatively easy obeying God’s word today.
 

The second frame of reference I want to leave you with is called seeing the forest from the trees. The tree Paul planted when he built that first Christian Church grew big and strong, with deep roots. But I can’t even begin to wrap my tiny little brain around the forest created by Jesus Christ. I can’t begin to understand the weight of the sins of mankind throughout time, borne on the back of one man. Sins you and I haven’t even committed yet are paid for out of the obedience of one Man to His Father, and His Father keeping a promise you and me.

Please, I urge you just to keep those frames of reference in mind the next time you find it difficult to obey.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Why HeartStrong for CHRIST!?

Guest blog by John Richey

It takes money to do God’s work. You may have heard it said that the HeartStrong for Christ! campaign is about the giver, not the gift, and that is true. But it is also true that the giver needs to be open to God’s will and make the sacrifice and gift that God wants each of us to make. Whether it be the widow’s mite or King David’s treasure, God knows what is needed and how each one of us can help meet that need. Pray and be open to what He puts in your heart. Baptist Temple is part of God’s presence on earth. Our buildings help us to do God’s work in the lives of our congregation and community. They support many efforts, including worship services for four congregations, the thrift store, food pantry, ceramics, day care, vacation bible school, Fall Festival, and more. And with the proper facilities, there is even more that we can do for God and His people, such as adult education classes and job fairs. When Jesus did His miracles (feeding the hungry, healing the lame and blind, raising the dead) He met their physical needs. Next, He ministered to them and also to the people who witnessed the miracles, meeting their spiritual needs. Like Jesus, when we meet the physical needs of people, we open the door to talk about and then to meet their spiritual needs.

Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. … “Why?” declares the Lord Almighty, “Because of My house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” (Haggai 1:8-9)

Our buildings tell a story about our beliefs and commitment to God. Are they strong and impressive, or weak and run down? Our God is a mighty God, not weak and apologetic! Our buildings need to reflect His power and majesty, as shown by our trust in Him. Our buildings need repairs! We have four major connected buildings plus the Brunnemann and Fritz buildings across the street. The roofs and walls leak, more bathrooms are needed, the Baptistery leaks, the buildings and rooms need to be painted, doors and windows need to be replaced, better lighting and sound systems are needed, carpets need replacing, the organ needs repairs, air conditioners need repairs, ceiling tiles need to be replaced, we need improved access (walkways/sidewalks/ramps) to our buildings, and much more. Note the word “need.” Yes, as repairs are made, improvements will also be made, but these are not just a wish list of upgrades and improvements; our buildings truly need to be fixed. We are not trying to recreate the Notre Dame Cathedral; we just need the proper facilities to do God’s will and to meet the physical and spiritual needs of His people.

How much will these repairs cost? Of immediate importance is fixing leaks to prevent further damage. Current estimates show that fixing the roofs and walls may cost almost one-half million dollars ($500,000). The other repairs also need to be made, but can be delayed until additional money is available. Our regular budget can not meet these expenses. If we trust God to meet our eternal needs, then we must also trust Him to meet our daily needs. It is very important to continue our regular tithes and offerings, but each one of us needs to make additional, sacrificial giving to meet God’s plans for our buildings and what they can be used for. So that His Word can be heard here and His Name praised here, for His glory!

John Richey is pastor of Family Deaf Church, part of the family of churches and non-profit organizations working together to show God's love in practical ways to our community.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No One Can Serve Two Masters

Guest blog by Jonathan and Marina Clark

Jonathan:

We have been praying about how God might use us and our resources to be a part of His work here at Baptist Temple. We do not give to Baptist Temple, these buildings, not to lights or salaries but to God who gave us everything we have. Through study we have come to know that every stitch of clothing and every possession we have was always God’s, they do not belong to us.

The scripture says,
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

Our debts represent another master in our life and they frustrate the desire to give to God because ultimately they represent our own selfish desires in that they hinder us. Our ability to give is hindered by other masters.

When we married we had to combine our households and we ended up with an abundance of stuff that we would not let go. Consequently, our stuff has become another master.

Despite our mismanagement God continues to provide for all of our family’s needs. So we are recognizing that God is the one who has made it possible for us to give above and beyond our current tithes and offerings.

Marina:

This year, when we returned to school we were told that we would not only receive a raise they had originally considered but also 2% beyond that. During the same time our church began the Capital Campaign and challenged us to seek prayerfully the amount God was calling us to give over and beyond our tithe. While Jonathan and I were praying and discussing an amount we realized that I had not received a raise by chance. My raise happened just as the scripture says “for such a time as this” so we decided that the minimum amount we would give over the next 3 years was the amount of my increase that I received as a raise.

A portion of some unexpected return of moneys has provided us a way to make a first fruits offering as well.

God is helping us to sell off, throw away, and cast out the excessive possessions we have hung on to so long. Jesus said that, to whom much has been given much is required. He is already revealing ways that we could use these hindrances for His glory. Our marriage is being strengthened because He is creating a like mindedness about giving and providing freedom from oppressive masters as a result.

We challenge you to pray and see what God has blessed you with this year because He never gives without purpose.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows


The Herodians were supporters and beneficiaries of the government and gained benefit from the Roman taxes. On the other hand, the more religious Pharisees had a militant political wing who had protested and revolted against the tax – sometimes with violence. The Pharisees and the Herodians, were sworn enemies but, against Jesus, they become allies. Jesus was upsetting things, his actions were alarming and threatened the plans of both political groups.

They wanted Jesus to make a public statement that would make lose popularity: “should we pay taxes to the Romans?” (Mark 12:15)

By paying taxes to the Romans you were financially supporting the occupation but refusing to pay taxes could bring the death penalty. Religion and politics are always cultural hot buttons. Religious persons use politics to further their agendas and the politically motivated use religion to further theirs. Both groups were putting culture and politics on a higher level than God

Jesus said, “Show me the money.” (Mark 12:15)

Clearly, Jesus did not have a coin. He asked the people who seemed to be concerned to produce one. They were already making accommodations to their current reality.

Jesus argued that, since the coin belonged to Caesar, it was right to give it back to him. They complained about the taxes but not about the benefits.

At the same time, the Romans were neither the answer nor the primary problem in regards to personal and community sin. The Pharisees' and Herodians' allegiance was misplaced. One group worshiped the state; the other worshiped their religious system. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.” (Mark 12:17)

We must set Jesus as our priority over government and religion. You have heard it said, the two surest things in life are death and taxes but Jesus tells us that the surest thing in life is the power of the kingdom of God. It renders political rulers irrelevant in its wake. The empires of this world rise and fall but God’s kingdom wins in the end. It is to that Kingdom and its King that we belong.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gift Giving is One of My Love Languages

Linda loads groceries for food pantry.
Guest blog by Linda Grinnell

I learned about tithing and giving as a child, and gift-giving is one of my love languages – how I express love. I love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, mind, soul and might, so tithing or giving offerings and sacrificial gifts to God are not difficult for me.

Steve and I have been a part of Baptist Temple for almost 33 years. When we moved here from College Station, we felt this was where God wanted us. This is the church family with whom God would have us worship, study His Word, grow, and do ministry. We believe in what God is doing here and are committed to helping to make sure the Gospel continues to be preached and that people’s physical and spiritual needs are met. We wholeheartedly support the Heartstrong for CHRIST! campaign. Having celebrated BT’s centennial a couple of years ago, and learning about the diverse ways God has used this church to share His love in the past, we are excited about what God is doing here now and His plans for future ministry here. We must make sure the buildings and parking lots are maintained and repaired so that God can continue doing ministry in this location.

In 2003 Steve and I purchased a second house down the street from our home. We first rented it to our daughter, and later to our son. After our last renter moved out we began demolition of a bathroom and the kitchen with the plan to remodel the house, move into it, and then sell or rent the house in which we currently reside. Our plan for the “second house” – the one we decide to sell or rent, was going to be the source of money we would use to buy a new car and put the rest of the money in a retirement account.
 

Steve and I have been praying and discussing and praying some more about how we can give sacrificially in such a way that God will be pleased. We don’t make a lot of money – we are not rich monetarily – but during these past few years, when many people have lost homes to foreclosure, I have marveled at the way God has provided us with the resources to pay two mortgages and pay down (almost pay off completely) our credit card debt along with staying current on all the other bills – you know – groceries, utilities, etc. I believe God has provided and protected this investment, the second house, for the purpose of this campaign. We are not sure exactly how this is going to work out, but we have pledged what we believe to be an amount that we would have spent on a new car. This is a huge step of faith for both of us, but I am excitedly anticipating that Steve and I will experience multiple miracles to make this happen.

With regard to the First Fruits Offering – my first thoughts went to the account given in Exodus of a time when God instructed Moses on how to build a tabernacle (Exodus 35 and 36). I always thought it was so cool that people brought their jewelry (as well as other items) as an offering to the Lord for his Sanctuary. I don’t have a lot of gold, but I do have silver and turquoise jewelry that I would be honored to give as an offering to my God. As some of you know I’ve been showing my paintings and drawings this past year. I offered to God that if He will bring buyers for my art, I will give the money to Him for this campaign. Steve has sold a go-cart and will be selling a motorcycle as a part of our first fruits offering, and we have other items we are planning to sell. We are both so excited about God’s future plans for Baptist Temple!

God revealed Himself to me at a very early age, and as I grew, I learned about tithing and giving by watching my parents. I am grateful for God’s provision and protection throughout my life, and I am grateful for this opportunity to show that I am Heartstrong for Christ! by giving sacrificially to this stewardship enrichment campaign.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Resisting Mammon


“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)

Jesus' greatest competitor for our devotion is Mammon. More than merely money, Mammon is the personification of wealth; “the almighty dollar.” It is one of the principalities and powers about which Paul warns us. (Ephesians 6:12)

Mammon is the force behind greed, economic exploitation and injustice, uncontrolled debt and many other personal and social evils. Mammon is the God of Wall Street and global economics. Mammon is the driving force behind the decision-making process of many people. Mammon teaches that money is a sign of God’s blessing and poverty a sign of His displeasure.

Followers of Christ make economic decisions based on biblical principles. Placing God first in your life will have an impact on both your giving and how you spend the rest of your money. It will impact your work life, too.

Economists, politicians and individuals will say that the church should stay out of economics. It's complicated and has a life of its own. Jesus answer to the economists, politicians and businessmen who were exploiting the people was to knock over the money-changers' tables in the Temple court. In fact, the Bible speaks more about economics than any other topic. Jesus spoke about money more frequently than any other subject except the Kingdom of God.

If God is not in control of your finances then Mammon is. Jesus said you cannot serve both. This goes all the way back to the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Being wealthy is not evil. Abraham, Job and Solomon were wealthy. So were Nicodemus, Barnabas and Lydia. Jesus told stories that championed the clever use of money. At the same time he gave warnings such as, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

Jesus identified money as a root problem in both the rich young ruler and the rich man in the Lazarus story even though it seems that both earned their wealth honestly. The successful farmer who was going to build bigger barns gained his wealth through honest industry but Jesus called him a fool. (Luke 12:16-21)

Mammon is not content unless it takes over all other priorities. Even the very rich still want more. “For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).

You can resist Mammon's influence by following biblical principles including tithing, refusing to exploit others for financial gain, and considering the impact of your purchases on your finances. Practical measures include taking a financial management class based on biblical values and gaining a clear understanding on how money makes you feel.

Money under God's control leads to generosity and peace.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Generation to Generation

Guest blog by Devra Thomas

In many ways, Baptist Temple is my second home. My mom first brought my brothers and I to Baptist Temple when I was seven.

As a child and a young adult I remember always being involved. I remember attending Sunday School, Sunday evening worship and activities, Wednesday services, children’s choir and youth choir, performing musicals and at choir festivals, caroling at nursing homes, children’s camp, youth camp, Pre-Easter retreats, mission trip, lock-ins, Vacation Bible School, Fall Festivals and much, much more. Just about every weekend was filled with something to do at church. I guess you could say our church was alive very much the way it still is today and the way we need to ensure that it continues to be for generations to come.

So many people that helped teach me are still here today. This is the kind of dedication that really touches my heart. This is the kind of dedication I hope to show not only my children and grandchildren but, also, to your children and grandchildren. This is the dedication that I hope my children and grandchildren will show their children and grandchildren and so on and so on. But how are they to know if they only hear us talk about being committed to Christ? We need to be God’s people of action and not just words. SHOW God’s love and not just tell about it. In II Corinthians, Paul said that we prove our love for Him by our giving. How can we say we love Christ if we are not giving to meet the needs of His church? Because this building is HIS.

As someone who works quite a bit with our children, I see the hope that we instill in them and, through sharing God’s love, we fuel their desire to want to be more like Him. Our children are really motivated in learning to have hearts for Christ and in that same way, we should also be Heartstrong for CHRIST! Haggai 1:8 says “Go to the mountains, bring wood & rebuild the temple that I may be pleased with it & be glorified.”

I’ve heard several stories from other parents, and have a few of my own, where our kids have reminded us of what God says and what God wants from us. Our children get really excited about wanting to please God and SO SHOULD WE. We need to get excited about what the future holds for this building....Excited

I am still praying about what God would ultimately have me give and about things I don’t necessarily need and can do without. But, within my means, and the same holds true for you, no matter whether my amount matches up to be smaller or greater than yours, if we put God first and we are true to Him, He will put all of our amounts together to serve his purpose here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Honoring Veterans

Operation Iraqi Freedom 2005-06

The sacrifices made by our military are worthy of our honor but honoring veterans doesn’t always take extraordinary efforts. It can be as simple as respect, remember and repay.

David's mighty men honored their leader and future king with a daring raid behind enemy lines to collect water from a well. David returned the honor. “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” (2 Samuel 23:16-17)

David poured out the waster as an offering to God. He respected the risk taken by his mighty men. His act ensured that their valor would be remembered and payed the sacrifice forward.

Respect

My church gave me a small going-away party when I went to boot camp so many years ago. It was a sign of respect for this important right of passage. Today, when National Guard units deploy into war zones, they are honored both upon their departure and their return. Words cannot convey what I felt when, upon our re-entry to America, we were greeted by a line of senior veterans. They shook our hands and welcomed us home. Later, in the Atlanta airport, we were greeted by applause. I will never forget these simple acts of respect.

Remember

My church never forgot me while I was overseas. I received care packages and letters. My family was cared for. On the other hand, one woman told me that her church never once contacted her while she was deployed. She never forgave them.

Notes, care packages, church bulletins, and newsletters can be a comfort to a lonely service member, desperate for a reminder of home. Remember, also, the family left behind. A phone call to a lonely wife, an invitation to a meal, or an offer to take the kids for a while will mean a great deal. There is much that is missing from a family where one of the parents have been called to active service.

Repay

The cost of military service can be high. Some families have lost a member. Some soldiers have been severely wounded. All soldiers have had their lives disrupted. Education, careers and family are put on hold when duty calls.

After WWI discharged veterans got little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home, later, embittered, they marched on Washington to demand their due.

Following WWII the GI Bill transformed America by multiplying the number of educated Americans, populating our suburbs and creating new job opportunities. The GI Bill was one of the most successful piece of legislature in American history. Veteran’s benefits repay sacrifices that cannot be measured.

Let us respect, remember and repay our veterans and pray for the day when there will be no more war.

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Micah 4:3