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)