Monday, March 31, 2014

Indifference

And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

The soldiers at the foot of the cross were at the scene of the most significant event in all of history, but they missed it. They were close to the cross, but far from Christ.

Familiarity made them indifferent. Soldiers performed many crucifixions. It was just another day at the office. Has familiarity caused the cross to lose it's impact today? We see crosses everywhere; on top of buildings, on tomb stones, tee shirts, on our jewelry. Given enough time, everything will be taken for granted; no matter how valuable.

We took the old rugged cross and polished it to make it shiny turning an instrument of execution into a fashion statement. However, displaying the cross is not the same as being transformed by it.

Materialism made them indifferent. The soldiers wanted Jesus’ clothes. It was part of their benefit package. There is nothing wrong with working and making a living but the soldiers were so busy gambling for Jesus' clothes that they never looked up to see the savior of the world.

Busyness made them indifferent. The soldiers were too busy to notice whom they were crucifying. We can be close to the cross but too busy to notice. Even good deeds become bad if they distract us from God. Jesus told of man who was beaten, robbed and left naked and unconscious by the road. Two ministers passed by the man without rendering aid. They were busy.

People who get used to going through the motions of serving God can fall asleep spiritually.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Baptist Temple Demonstrates a Serving Attitude

In the same way, let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Bill Hybels identified six evangelism styles; confrontational, intellectual, testimonial, interpersonal, invitational, and serving. A quick survey during a session of Becoming a Contagious Christian revealed that a majority of Baptist Temple Church members preferred the serving style of evangelism.

While the discovery was a pleasant surprise, it was already evident in the variety of community services we provide. We have developed a servant culture at Baptist Temple that attracts others with a servant heart.

People with a servant heart show love through action more than words. They take to heart Jesus teaching about serving him by serving others. They will attach value to even menial tasks. Jesus said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

Steve Sjogren wrote, in Conspiracy of Kindness, “A can of coke and the power of the Holy Spirit can open a person's heart.”

Kindness evangelism is simply giving someone a token gift or doing a service in the name of Jesus. Steve Sjogren says, “Kindness Evangelism is demonstrating the kindness of God by offering to do some act of humble service with no strings attached.”

Jesus said, “…Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Unexpected Cross


Simon was in Jerusalem for Passover. He traveled a long way to fulfill lifetime dream but things did not turn out the way he expected. “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear [Jesus'] cross.” (Mark 15:21)

Jesus was exhausted and the soldiers had the right to compel anyone to carry a load for a mile. Simon just happened to be in the right place at the right time. God had a divine appointment with Simon that day.

Simon's divine appointment had an eternal impact. Until that moment Simon had just been a nameless bystander but, once he carried Christ’s cross, his life changed. We can never encounter the cross and remain unchanged. If we accept Christ, we are transformed, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Simon of Cyrene's encounter with Jesus transformed him and his family. Mark names Simon's sons, Alexander and Rufus, because they were known to early readers of his gospel. Paul gives a shout out to Rufus in his letter to the Romans, “Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” (Romans 16:13)

Simon took the Gospel back to Cyrene where he led both his family and the Jewish community to Christ. Lucius of Cyrene was one of the founders of the church in Antioch. (Acts 13:1)

Like Simon, you might encounter God unexpectedly. Most things we long for never happen but the greatest joys can come unexpectedly and, sometimes, disguised as hardship.

When Simon took up the cross, he left a legacy for the church. Simon was changed forever by one simple act. Join Simon in carrying the cross of Christ.

Friday, March 21, 2014

They Love the Sin but Hate the Sinner

Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps died yesterday. He was the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas; the one that held demonstrations at the funerals of soldiers. He was infamous for hateful signs rejoicing in the death of soldiers and others believing that all violent deaths were signs of God's judgment on America.

Although Phelps has died, hate is still alive. While most people disagree with Phelps views, many agree with his methods. On Twitter this week (#FredPhelps) I have seen many tweets celebrating his death; some tweets contained weird homoerotic fantasies about Phelps. He makes people who don't believe in Hell wish it existed. The most amazing irony is that some are calling for a demonstration at Phelps funeral.

Really? It's like, “Hey Fred, thanks for the idea.”

The hate words are not directed in support of gay rights nor against freedom of speech. They are personal against Phelps. It is hatred of an enemy.

Christian leaders are, on the other hand, calling for prayers for the family and restraint from hatred.

It comes down to who you want to follow. Is it Jesus who said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:43-48)

On the other hand, you can do it Fred Phelps' way.

Fred Phelps is dead but Satan reminds us that Hate is alive and well.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dan Trevino Joins the Baptist Temple Team

Dan Trevino
The Reverend Doctor Dan Trevino started serving Baptist Temple as Associate Pastor earlier this week. Trevino recently left his position at Harlandale Baptist Church after 11 years of faithful service.

A native of San Antonio, Trevino earned a BS from Howard Payne University and an MSW from Our Lady of the Lake University. Furthermore, he earned both a Master's and a Doctor of Theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary.

Trevino worked for Baptist Child and Family Services for many years in a variety of progressive roles working his way up from house parent to campus administrator and serving as interim president.

God has used his combined experience and training in both the pastoral and social service worlds to lead churches in serving their surrounding communities. His expertise has been much sought after by Texas Baptists where Trevino serves on the Texas Christian Life Commission Board of Consultants. He also served on the boards of the Christian Women's/Christian Men's Job Corps and Zephyr Baptist Encampment.

At Baptist Temple, Trevino's primary role will be to administer our food programs and hunger ministries, especially our relationship with the San Antonio Food Bank. Trevino will continue and expand the work started by Joe Guinn in developing our church as a Community Partner site. This will enable us to directly enroll members of our community in government programs for which they qualify. Our goal is to be a place where we can help people with both their physical and spiritual needs.

Trevino will lead a multifaceted approach to the issues of nutrition and food insecurity that include a food pantry, emergency food supply, weekend food packs for children at risk and free or reduced breakfast and lunch for children throughout the year. Last year, in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank, we distributed over 17,000 lbs. of groceries per month to our neighbors. Our participation in summer feeding program, which began in 2009, will expand to multiple sites this year.

Baptist Temple is part of a family of urban churches and non-profits that share a campus to show God's love to our community in practical ways.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More Than Green Beer and Shamrocks

Kiss me, I'm Irish!”

Today everyone is Irish. People all over America will dress in green, watch parades, drink green beer and eat cabbage to celebrate Irish heritage but there’s more to Saint Patrick than that. Did you know that the patron saint of Ireland is not Irish?

Patrick was born and raised in 5th Century England but was taken into slavery by Irish raiders at age 16. He cried out to God in despair, remembering scripture he'd learned in childhood: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." (Psalm 50:15)

After six years of captivity, he escaped to Normandy, where he studied 12 years for the ministry. Patrick felt a call to return to Ireland and teach the good news of Jesus Christ to the people who had kidnapped and enslaved him. He was the first person in 400 years to preach the gospel outside the Roman Empire.

Patrick did not hesitate to follow God’s call, though he lacked the backing of both the church and his family. He paid for his voyage by selling his inheritance.

Patrick faced strong opposition from the Druid priests, who practiced magic and served as advisers to the Irish chieftains. He wrote that he lived "in the midst of pagan barbarians, worshipers of idols, and of unclean things… Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere."

Patrick’s enjoyed a successful ministry in Ireland. He multiplied his impact by leading the chieftains to faith first. Patrick was then trusted by the chieftain's with the education of their children, instead of the druids, creating the first generation of Irish Christian ministers.

Patrick strongly felt God's presence. Visions had helped him escape captivity and brought him back as a missionary. It wasn't intellectual arguments that he brought to the Irish; it was the reality and power of the living God. He understood that the Druid priests worshiped the principalities and powers of which the Apostle Paul warned. He taught them to pray to a more powerful Power; the God who delivered him and continued to protect him.

Patrick’s was in his seventies when he died. In thirty years of ministry he converted Ireland. The slave trade and human sacrifice was eliminated, Christianity was established, and the monasteries that he left behind would preserve Western teaching during the Dark Ages.

For more information read:


Confession of St. Patrick

Friday, March 14, 2014

Soul Winning Power


Jesus promised us Holy Spirit power to be his witnesses. Holy Spirit power filled the Apostle Peter as he preached a sermon that led 3000 to faith in Jesus. Holy Spirit power filled the early Christians so that new believers were created DAILY.

Holy Spirit power is unleashed through prayer. Jesus' followers were gathered in prayer before the Holy Spirit came down and unleashed miraculous power that led so many to faith. We need to pray for those whom we know are not believers. Pray that God reveal Himself to them the way He did at Pentecost.

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)

Let us pray that God will stir our hearts and send us into the harvest field to share our faith with others.

Holy Spirit power is unleashed when we give others our time. Jesus gave people time. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Jesus taught him that a person had to be born again. He was a teacher but did not understand this basic spiritual teaching. Jesus was patient and taught the teacher.

Jesus spoke to people at their point of need. To a woman getting water he spoke about living water. Jesus told a rich young man to give it all up.

Give people your time and talk about their interests. They will ask questions, so, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Holy Spirit power is unleashed through service. Jesus showed his love for the world by being servant. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and sought after people in society's margins. When we serve others as Jesus did, we put our love into action and open hearts to the gospel.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Serving the real needs of other people creates opportunities to talk to them about their spiritual needs that they may not even realize they have. 


 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mocking Jesus


Jesus was turned over to the soldiers to be beaten and whipped. This was great sport for the soldiers who were allowed to do with the convict as they pleased. They dressed Jesus in a fake royal robe and forced a crown of thorns upon his head. “Hail, King of the Jews,” they would say as they struck him and spat on him.

The soldiers did not mock Jesus for what he did. He never spoke against the government nor called for riots or protests. Instead, he demonstrated compassion and concern for the poor and forgiveness to all who repented. He was mocked for the darkness revealed in their souls. They refused light, preferring to remain in darkness.

People still mock Jesus. “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. (2 Peter 3:3)

The rich and famous continue to indulge in depravity and mock God. Justin Beiber's wild rampage is just one example among so many. Jesus is mocked on TV, in songs comedy routines and political speeches.

Jesus shows us how to respond. He did not retaliate when false charges were brought against him. He knew what was coming and he warned his disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.” (Mark 10:33-34)

Jesus used the hatred, the mockery, and the cruelty to bring God's will.

In America, the First Amendment allows you to speak your mind; even if your mind is full of immoral thoughts and blasphemy. On the other hand, God's Word is working against the mockers: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

God can turn mockers into missionaries. A man named Saul of Tarsus persecuted the early church. A visit from Jesus turned persecutor Saul into Paul the missionary. He tells us in Romans 12:17-21, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”


Friday, March 07, 2014

Three Reasons Why We Should Share Our Faith

First, there is an abundance of grace. We will never run out. God's love for us is not diminished when he loves others. In fact, the only way to grow in love is to share it. There’s plenty of God’s grace; plenty of his favor; plenty of his love. The Bible tells us that “...to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) 

In fact, Jesus said he came to bring us abundant life. The joy this produces ought to be spilling over in your life and pour out on those with whom you come into contact.

Second, we are part of God's plan for spreading the gospel. Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8

Your personality, talents, and abilities combine with your environment to create a unique way of sharing the gospel. God creates divine appointments that put you in contact with persons in need. Most people come to Christ because of someone they know rather than a pastor or TV preacher. The gospel's message is simple and Jesus promised us Holy Spirit power.  

Third, people are ready to respond to the gospel. More ready than we think. God is working in people's hearts. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and calls people to salvation. People are about religion, both the big picture and your personal thoughts. They don't like to be cornered or harassed but are willing to talk with friends about faith.

I will be teaching Becoming a Contagious Christian at Baptist Temple starting March 9. Classes will be Sunday's at 9:30 with a second opportunity on Wednesday evenings beginning March 12. Learn to communicate your faith in a style that fits you.


Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What shall I do about Jesus?


Many people were forced to make choices one fateful day in Jerusalem. Some bad choices were made. What choice would you have made? “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked. (Mark 15:12)

The religious establishment saw Jesus was disrupting their way of doing things. His views were a threat to political stability and the Pharisees control over religious opinion. They chose POWER instead of the PRINCE of PEACE.

The crowd was fickle. Once they backed Jesus but now they turn against him. Public opinion is easily swayed by those who know how to manipulate it. The crowd chose POPULAR OPINION instead of the PRINCE OF PEACE.

Only the Roman's had authority to carry out a death sentence, so, it was up to the governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate tried repeatedly to avoid making a decision. He knew he was being set up but Pilate washed his hands and convicted Jesus to death. Pilate will forever be remembered because he gave in to the pressures surrounding him. He was not strong enough to stand up for what was right. He did not want to get on the bad side of the Jewish leaders. He chose POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY instead of the PRINCE OF PEACE.

What will you do about Jesus?

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve....
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15

Monday, March 03, 2014

Five years at Baptist Temple

Yesterday, I celebrated 5 years as pastor of Baptist Temple Church. This is a significant milestone. A LifeWay Research poll found the average pastoral tenure is currently 3.6 years. When I entered the ministry in 1982 it was widely believed that the average pastoral tenure was 1.5 years.

Further research indicates that churches tend to experience success when a pastor sticks around. George Barna writes: "...studies consistently show that pastors experience their most productive and influential ministry in years 5 through 14 of their pastorate. (The Second Coming of the Church)" It is encouraging to know that our best years lie ahead.

There are five factors that lead to longer pastoral tenures.

  1. Church size. Pastors of larger churches (250 and up) have a longer tenure. Larger churches can be more selective in hiring a pastor. On the other hand, smaller churches can be more selective as well. Simple criminal and financial background checks are now very affordable. Churches that lack experienced interviewers can lean on denominational leadership or sister churches.
  2. Home ownership. Parsonage life made it easy for pastors to move. A pastor facing pressure could easily move on to another church which provided a parsonage. Home ownership allows a pastor to set down roots. This forces pastors to work through issues from which they might have run away.
  3. Personal growth. A pastor ought to be well-read, continue his education, network and grow. It is in a church's best interest to provide funds for this. A pastor who is exposed to new ideas and challenged by peers will be refreshed and lead his church to deeper expressions of faith.
  4. Loving the pastor. I feel very cared for and appreciated by my church. I receive kind words, encouragement and support. Conflict and a lack of support will cause pastors to seek another position. Some will leave the ministry.
  5. Picking the right battles. A pastor must discern between those things that can and should be changed, and things best left alone. Patience and a loving attitude will trump energy and political maneuvering. A pastor must, also, protect the church from those who would destroy it from the inside.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Second Chances


Following Jesus is a decision to be made today and everyday, not a historical event from your past. You are either drawing closer to him or you are pulling away. If you drift far enough away, you can suddenly find yourself denying him, even if it was never your intent to do so.

The Apostle Peter had been following Jesus closely but, now that Jesus has been arrested, he keeps his distance; staying close to the enemy's fire. Not wanting to be identified as a follower of Christ, he hangs out where there are no disciples and tries to fit in with the crowd.

Peter's spiritual collapse reached a peak with his appalling three denials of Jesus. However, his failure wasn't final. God’s love is not dependent on our performance or success. After Jesus' resurrection, he seeks out Peter and asks him three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-19)

Jesus provided Peter with an opportunity to reaffirm his loyalty and commitment to him. We want to condemn Peter but Jesus gives him another chance. Peter is a changed man. He soon preaches a powerful sermon and 3000 souls are saved.

He no longer hides his faith from the authorities. Instead, he tells them, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

No matter how you have failed; no matter what sin you have allowed into your life, the Savior who died for you still loves you. Maybe you feel that, because of something you have done or experienced, you are counted out. Listen to the voice of Jesus who asking, “Do you love me?”

Yet to all who did receive him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12