Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunday's Coming

God will walk with us in our time of trial and make us more like Jesus.
Jesus was arrested while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. The religious establishment sent an armed guard, led by Judas, at night and took him into custody. (Mark 14:43)

Jesus was betrayed by his friends. Not just Judas but by the rest of the disciples as well. Peter, James and John could not stay awake and pray with him. (Mark 14:37) They had promised to endure to the end but now they run in panic. (Mark 14:50)

Jesus was betrayed by society. The religious establishment was supposed to be on the lookout for messiah but did not recognize him when he came. Roman law was supposed to protect Jesus from corrupt local politicians but political expediency led Pilate to condemn a man he declared to be innocent. The crowd that once shouted Hosanna now shouted “Crucify him!”

Jesus was alone, abandoned and surrounded by his enemies but God promises to be with us even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23:4) Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted. He was tortured to death and buried. But that was Friday and Sunday was coming. What Satan meant for evil God used to bring our Salvation and on the 3rd day Jesus rose from the grave.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned. (Genesis 37:26-27) That was his Friday but Sunday was coming. He rose to be 2nd in command of Egypt. (Genesis 41:40) What his brothers meant for evil God used to save Israel.

Are you going through a valley? Are you experiencing a Friday? Well, Sunday's coming!

What others may see as evil, God can use for good. Every tear, every pain, every sorrow can be used to help you become more like Jesus. He will give you Gold for your Ashes.

Weeping may endure for a night
but joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Praying Under Pressure

Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane shows how to respond to anxiety and stay within God's will. Jesus was under great pressure. He said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34)

Have you ever experienced that level of stress; waiting for the results of a medical test or facing the aftermath of a life changing event? Physical symptoms include loss of sleep, weakness, and inability to concentrate. Stress can ruin your day.

Anticipation – even with an assured outcome – brings stress. Jesus was distressed even though he knew he would rise in 3 days. He turned to our heavenly Father in prayer.

This was not a casual chat with God about a concern or desire. It wasn’t a polished, formal prayer. It follows the pattern of laments in the Psalms when one would pour out emotions and complaints. It’s the prayer we pray when we’ve run out of options; with our lives turned upside down and headed in a bad direction.

Jesus cried out “Abba, Father...” (Mark 14:36)

This is an informal way of addressing one's father. It isn’t a sign of disrespect, but of trust that God hears and cares. Some might think it a little disrespectful to address Our Father Who Art in Heaven as “daddy” but, when we are in a Gethsemane-like experience, we need to pray as a child to a loving father.

We’re so used to “doing” things to solve our problems that prayer seems a waste of time. Praying doesn’t often look like its doing anything but we need to wait on God. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Jesus was strengthened by supernatural power. Three times Jesus asked the Father to find another way for Him to do His mission but he ended His prayer: “Yet, not what I will, but as You will." (Mark 14:36)

Jesus submits entirely to the Father’s will. Luke tells us that an angel from heaven strengthened Jesus. (Luke 22:43) For every Gethsemane there is an angel to come along side and strengthen us. God sent ravens to feed Elijah. He provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. He will take care of you.

If you're going through a Gethsemane experience, you can still experience God's presence and comfort. Prayer will transform our pain into spiritual growth through supernatural strength.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Children Eating Garbage

San Antonio pastor, Dan Trevino, was surprised to find two boys in his church's dumpster. He had arrived at the church at dawn one Saturday to prepare breakfast for his men's group. The two boy's had sneaked out of their home before their parents awoke in search of something to eat. They were hungry and had no food in their home. Pastor Dan brought them inside to enjoy a hot and wholesome breakfast.

Children who live in poverty are able to get free breakfast and lunch at school but are on their own for the weekend. For many, these school meals are the only nutritious meals they are sure to receive. Some will go hungry over the weekend.

Baptist Temple's backpack program provides nutritious snacks to children at risk to be hungry over the weekend. Children identified selected by school staff, discreetly receive the snacks every Friday.

During the summer, we provide free lunch to children in our community, a large percentage of whom are on the free or reduced lunch program in their schools.

Texas is the second hungriest state in the US. One out of six people in San Antonio struggle to afford food.

Last year, Baptist Temple distributed more than 200,000 pounds of food; providing groceries to over 200 families per month in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank, the San Antonio Baptist Association and the Texas Hunger Offering.

Baptist Temple works with the Texas Hunger Initiative to seek a long-term solution to food insecurity in San Antonio.

Your contributions help Baptist Temple continue to fight hunger in our community.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Spy v. Spy

This part of Mark’s gospel reads like a spy novel.

The religious establishment is plotting to murder Jesus. They liked things the way they used to be and did not care that God had a better way. Judas was their inside man. One of the closest to Jesus told the enemy where he could be found. He walked up to Jesus in the darkness and marked him for death with a kiss.

Jesus' people are everywhere. Remember the ones who gave the Apostles the donkey colt? They heard the right phrase and provided Jesus' ride into Jerusalem. (Mark 11:1-6)

Jesus told the Apostles to look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. They would get the location for the evening's passover observance from him. This would have been an uncommon site, as getting of water was considered woman’s work but, in the hustle and bustle of passover, no one would have paid much attention to the man carrying water. On the other hand, for the Apostles, it was a secret sign.

God often works behind the scenes. Rahab was an innkeeper in the city of Jericho. She had heard about God and the miraculous delivery of His people from slavery in Egypt and decided to protect Israel's spies and advance God's agenda. (Joshua 2)

History is often remembered through the stories of kings and generals but God's story is told through faithful followers that are unimportant to the world.

There are infiltrators who live among us as normal people. They are loyal to another country and are ready to attack when orders are given. They have the capacity to do great damage because they act like everyone else; they talk the talk and walk the walk. Like Judas, they strike without warning.

One the other hand, even the schemes of the enemy can serve God's purposes. Judas was a key figure in the story of redemption. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery but God used that event to save the people of Israel. The communist's expelled European missionaries from China but the church continued to grow.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Blind Ambition

Mark 14:10-11 

Even among Jesus' closest followers there was an unbeliever. The infamy of Judas betrayal made his name synonymous with treason. It did not have to be this way. 

Judas had great potential and an opportunity to go down in history alongside Peter, John and the others. There was nothing in his character that alerted the other apostles about the duplicity in his heart. He was the treasurer (John 12:6); a position of great trust in any organization. 

Judas was destroyed by ambition. He lusted after power and stole from the apostles treasury (John 12:6) but it was for more than money that he betrayed Jesus. Judas had political aspirations. He sought a king not a savior. Many still make the same error today. We hear the same voice but some fail to understand the heart of the gospel is peace; that the abundant life has nothing to do with wealth and power. 

When Judas understood that Jesus was not preaching revolution, he tried to force his own plan into effect. Perhaps, he expected a violent uprising to save Jesus. Maybe, he believed he would replace Jesus and be the next leader. Sometimes, when we come to Jesus with our own desires and ambitions, our personal agendas end up overshadowing the gospel. Judas used his association with Jesus and the disciples for personal gain and demonstrated a total disregard for their safety. He misunderstood Christ's mission and even opposed the worship of Christ by others (John 12:4-5). 

 Throughout his ministry, Jesus warned about the deception that eventually destroyed Judas. Jesus warned that there would be wolves in sheep clothing (Matthew 7:15). He explained that weeds would grow alongside the good wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). Jesus preached about those who claimed to perform God-honoring works, but He said of them, "I never knew you." (Matthew 7:21-23

Just as Judas could be so close to Jesus and never change his heart, people can be in church their whole lives and never become true followers of Christ. Judas is a startling example that is possible to know about Jesus but be one of His sheep who know His voice. 

 Judas' blind ambition led to his suicide. He was overcome with anguish over his horrible deed. Rejecting Jesus always leaves us condemned; by our own consciences and by God-- for the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)