Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shamgar's Three Steps to Victory

Shamgar's story is brief – one verse – but that's all he needs to teach us that God's champions start where they are, use what they have and do what they can.

Shamgar started where he was.
He was a farmer, not a soldier. He wasn’t even armed properly. These were a difficult days for Israel. They were, once again, under the thumb of another nation. The streets were abandoned and village life ceased. (Judges 5:6)

These desperate circumstances motivated Shamgar to act even though his people had no weapons. (Judges 5:8) He didn’t wait for better circumstances or greater resources to act. He started where he was.

Shamgar used what he had.
An oxgoad is a farm tool. It was a stick with a metal point on one end to keep the oxen moving and a paddle on the other end to clean debris from the plow.

We don’t need a lot of things that we think we need in to be successful. You may be lacking money, education, health, skill or opportunity but you can start where you are and use what you have. Put God first in your life and all the rest will be added.

Instead of focusing on what he lacked, Shamgar used what he had.

Shamgar did what he could.
He was not a ruler. He did lead an army. He was a local hero and an extraordinary warrior. The 600 Philistines he killed with his oxgoad would not have freed Israel but it was a significant contribution.

The Kingdom of God is seen in countless small acts. Jesus taught us that even a cup of cold water given in His name is significant. (Mark 9:41)

Because Shamgar did what he could, "He too saved Israel."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Baptist Temple during the Great Depression

photo by Dorthea Lang
The era of the Great Depression (1930-41) was a time of tremendous ministry growth for Baptist Temple under the leadership of Pastor Jessie Yelvington. San Antonio's population was growing and so was the church. Sunday school enrollment was over one thousand in 1929 and a new education building was needed. The three story building (today known as building 2) cost $55,000. Sunday school attendance on day the building was dedicated (October 5, 1930) set a record at 1221.

As the number of homeless grew, a tent city emerged on an empty field at the east end of Drexel Avenue; the current location of the Rosemont Apartments. It was one of the many “Hoovervilles” where the homeless gathered during that era. From 1929 to 1932 Baptist Temple provided food and clothing to this transient community. Records from those years show members with “tent city” as their home address.

Baptist Temple's Vine Street Mission (402 Vine St.) was, also, a front-line ministry during the Great Depression. Alfred Brown led a team of workers who maintained a soup kitchen and offered worship on Sundays. Canned food and staples were also distributed. The building was sold in 1948 to fund the start of Highland Hills Baptist Church.

Yelvington left Baptist Temple in March 1938 to accept a position as evangelist for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. At thirteen years and seven months, he had the longest tenure to date of any pastor at Baptist Temple. During his tenure membership had grown to 2079, Sunday school enrollment was 1750 and Sunday school average attendance was 882; all record numbers. The 120 baptisms recorded that year were one shy of the record set in 1933.

Among the people joining Baptist Temple during this time was Country Music Hall of Fame member, Ernest Tubb, who was part of the Baptist Temple family from 1934 to 39, while we worked as a singer at KONO-AM radio. 

Love your neighbor as yourself
Matthew 22:39

Monday, August 25, 2014

God's Champions Overcome Their Weakness and Seize the Day

What some may view as a handicap can become a strength in God's hands. In fact, God’s ability to use us should raise our expectations.  
Ehud was unable to use his right hand. So, he could not be a soldier and would not be seen as a threat by the Moabite warlord Eglon. Eglon (who was the original Jabba the Hutt) had taken over Israel.

Although, he was disabled, Ehud creatively used what God had given him. He would be the one bringing the required payment of protection money to Eglon, so he made a dagger that would be concealed on his right thigh. He knew they would not search a cripple very closely. He would get Eglon alone, kill him and escape before his guards could react.

Ehud could have dwelt on his disability and doubted his value to God. He could have passed on the opportunity of taking the tribute to Eglon. Instead, he trusted God and seized the opportunity.

Two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa during the early 20th Century. One sent a telegram home that said: “Get me home. Nobody here has shoes.”

The other’s telegram said: “Send me all of the shoes you can. Nobody here has shoes.”

No matter how weak or limited we might feel, we are capable of great things for God. What brings victory in our lives, allows us to serve and be used by God, is neither our own strength nor our list of credentials. It is our faith in God through Christ.

You can be a spiritual champion like Ehud if you are ready to act when God presents an opportunity, even if you have to act alone. Someone has to be first.

You have to be courageous. Ehud was willing to do a scary thing. God's will can take us out of our comfort zone and turn our weakness into strength.

You have to be a leader: Victory was not complete until Ehud got others involved. He rallied his countrymen and completed the defeat of the Moabites.

Be a spiritual champion in your generation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Highland Park Community Assistance Network

Pastor Dan Trevino got us off to a good start 
with a hearty breakfast;  assisted by
 his son Eli and Leroy and Vivian Reed.
Baptist Temple is preparing to take ministry to the next level. We offer many opportunities for people to improve their spiritual, emotional, financial and physical health. This is the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us. Along with our traditional church ministries we offer nutrition and fitness classes, quality education for babies through 8th grade, food and clothing ministries and so much more. We are assisted in these endeavors by a family of churches, non-profits and government agencies.

God has opened some doors that will allow us to help people on a deeper level. We will be able to address the underlying issues that cause people to be in poverty. Most importantly, we will work with people on a personal level. This will naturally create opportunities to share the gospel.

When I first came to BT I saw the potential of the Brunnemann Building as a center for community ministry but the task seemed daunting. Instead, we began a modest clothing ministry and mobile food pantry at the Fritz building. The success of the ministry became a catalyst for the restoration and naming of the Brunnemann Building.

The full potential of the Brunnemann Building will soon be realized as we create a permanent food pantry in the back half of the building. Also included will be a space for talking one-on-one with clients in a private setting.

The heart of our system will be a mentoring-based, client choice food pantry. Client choice means that people will select the items that they want from our store. It will be a shopping experience that preserves the dignity of our clients and reduces both waste and abuse.

The mentoring portion is the key factor of the program. It allows us to partner with our clients in developing a proactive plan to become self-sufficient. Mentoring is mandatory for continued access to our food pantry. Clients earn points for every thing they do to improve their lives. This includes attending classes, worship and volunteering.

Another important piece of this program is the Christian Women's Job Corps. This program equips women for life and employment. We will be able to leverage our daycare, kitchen and office to provide on the job training that will give our clients the skills they need to get a job. This program will launch in January 2015.

Our bottom line will be people completely transformed by the power of the gospel. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

A Christian's health, finances and relationships ought to reflect the power of the Holy Spirit. The church needs to teach people how to make that happen.

Join us in this task. You can volunteer short-term or long-term. You can contribute finances or material goods. Be a part of transforming lives.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We Need a Hero Today

During a time when Israel was oppressed by a thug whose name meant “double wicked darkness,” God sent a hero to deliver them.

This hero, Othniel, had a solid pedigree. His relative, Caleb, was one of 12 spies sent by Moses into the Promised Land. Ten of the spies were afraid but "Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, 'We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it'" (Numbers 13:30).

However, it was the Spirit of God that brought Othniel's victory rather than his DNA or military prowess. He was one of only 18 individuals in the Old Testament who had the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit came on Othniel, he conquered the enemy. When the Spirit came on the apostles at Pentecost, they turned the world upside down.

Today, this Holy Spirit filling is promised to every believer. Paul told us to be "filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:18).

The Holy Spirit give us power to conquer any enemy. The Holy Spirit equips us for spiritual battle against relationship problems, addictions and the temptations that afflict us. The Holy Spirit allows God to use us in ways that we can hardly imagine.

We need heroes like Othneil today in our churches and our communities around the world. Christians are oppressed in Iraq and other countries; people oppress each other in our own nation. While, we do not need to be delivered from the King of Mesopotamia, we have our own “double wicked darkness” to contend with.

Sin is at the heart of suffering and oppression and the Holy Spirit is the cure. You can be a hero to someone by showing them God's love in your word's and actions.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Interacting with the Community

I spent the day yesterday at the Brunnemann Bldg. It houses our thrift shop and will soon be the headquarters of our Community Assistance Network.

We set up tables outside to display the physical manifestations of the support of our friends for our ministry. We usually sell clothes at bargain prices. Some are dropped off by church members, some by other churches, some by people in our community and a large amount by Carl and Gerald Willis who recover unsold items from estate sales throughout the county.

We often get non-clothes items that are difficult to store and must be moved fast. We held a sidewalk sale to find new homes for these treasures. The amount of money raised was not record-setting but it is multiplied by the fact that the San Antonio Food Bank provides food for us at 15 cents a pound (often less) to feed the hungry.

Another benefit was a good opportunity for me to soak in some sunshine and breath fresh air. A big plus was interacting with church volunteers and our community. I also had three conferences with people who are important supporters of our ministry. My apologies for my divided attention but I hope you saw the tremendous potential for changing lives that our network of ministries provides.

One woman took advantage of our 10 cent T-shirts. She bought 60. Although she was a food pantry client, she wanted to purchase these Ts to hand out to the laborers who worshiped at her church. They could not afford clean clothes.

A couple swept up a large number of items. They were priced to move and will move to an area where they will yield a profit. In this case we are fueling the economy.

A more savvy buyer picked numerous choice items. She would resell them at a boutique. Again, a boost to the local economy.

Several teachers picked up some treasures from our bounty of books. Many parents did as well.

One family moved here from Kentucky and were rebuilding the knick-knacks that make a house a home.

This was a day of victory:
  1. Many people found treasures for a bargain.
  2. We kept a large number of items out of our landfills
  3. Many people turned their trash into treasure
  4. All the profits will help the folks we serve break the bonds of physical and spiritual poverty.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the success:
  1. Those who gave items
  2. Those who gathered them.
  3. Those who set up yesterday.
  4. Those who enjoyed the heat and ministered to our neighbors.
  5. Those helped put stuff back.
  6. AND ESPECIALLY those who said LET'S DO THIS AGAIN : )

The bottom line is not the dollars raised ($285) but the number of people blessed (no way to count)

If this story has blessed you Let Me Know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Accountability Mixed with Grace

A few days before Christmas one year, I delivered children's gifts to a family who had requested help. These families, I was told, were unable to provide gifts for their children. I did not know the children but purchased age and gender appropriate gifts and wrapped in bright paper.

I placed the gifts under the tree with the many other gifts already there. Although I did not know this families circumstances; I did walk away with the feeling that a lack of Christmas presents was not their problem.

I was recently told of a woman who converted a spare bedroom into a large pantry that included a freezer filled with turkeys. The room served as a clandestine convenience store for her neighbors. She patiently waited in food pantry lines to restock her shelves. “You can't steal what's free,” she probably reasoned.

Stories like these can be discouraging. We want to help those in need but we don't want to facilitate abuse. We want to empower rather than enable.

Familiarity is one factor that limits abuse. The Bible tells us that the early church would support members in need. Familiarity made this easier. There were no strangers in the early church. If a person lied, they were easily caught.

When churches help their own (as we see in the book of Acts), the results both honor God and lead to spiritual fulfillment. Sadly, churches can wind up enabling people in their deceit in a rush to bring help.

The Bible teaches us three important principles:
  1. We identify with Jesus when we serve the poor
We must use discernment to determine when and how to act. Discernment allows us to mix grace with accountability; a formula that leads to spiritual success for both the helper and the person receiving aid.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Gentle Answer Turns Away Wrath

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Angry words and actions find their way into the church just like anywhere else. The angry person could be member of the church or a stranger. Angry situations can quickly escalate into violence, even, homicide. There are some steps that church leaders can take to calm angry people and protect the flock.

The first step is to calm yourself. Take a deep breath. Don't let the other person get under your skin. You need to be calm to properly assess the situation.

Choose your battles wisely. It is not necessary to address every perceived wrong. Let minor things slide. Will your actions advance the gospel? God calls us to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly.

Be respectful at all times. Don't respond with anger or sarcasm. Speak softly, using I rather than you statements. Avoid judgments, accusations and absolutes.

Don't let your body language reveal your tension. Uncross your arms, relax and avoid gestures that may be seen as aggressive.

Let the other person speak first and listen to what the other person is saying. They might rant for a few minutes and get what they need to say off their chest. A person is more ready to listen when his rage is spent. Make sure they know you understand. Use active listening techniques to clarify what you’ve heard.

Stay focused on what you want to happen. Don't get caught up in side issues. Ask for what you need in clear and non-accusatory manner. Let the person have the last word. They will probably leave as soon as they had their say.

You can protect yourself from a violent assault by maintaining distance. You can also create a barrier by sitting down across a table. The act of sitting also helps to calm things.

Never touch an angry person! This can quickly turn an emotional situation into a physical one.

If you feel that a person is out of control or bent on violence, call 911. A person who is impaired by drugs, alcohol or mental illness can be unpredictable and beyond the capacity of a non-professional to handle. However, your calm demeanor can help prevent an escalation.

Most cases involving anger are minor issues that can be quickly resolved by listening and staying calm.