Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Avoid the Traps of Success Part 3: The Recognition Trap

Gideon's success was astounding. Moving from fearful farmer to mighty warrior, he brought an end to pagan worship in Israel and defeated the Midianite army but his story does not have a happy ending.

"No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them." (Judges 8:33-35)

Gideon fell into the recognition trap. He took the gold earrings and had an ephod (a ceremonial garment) made as a memorial for this high achievement in life. He did not want to be forgotten.

In Genesis we learn of a group who wanted to be remembered. They tried to build a monument but God confused their language and scattered them. God does not share His glory!

Gideon demonstration that he had more money than he needed by commissioning this ephod made from the spoils of war. Some will use acts of conspicuous consumption for recognition – expensive cars, homes, jewelry. Some people will go into debt to show pretend wealth.

He was a hometown hero and put the ephod on the altar he built to the LORD. There are no stories of Gideon beyond this point. He would settle into a life of comfort and bask in the memories of past victories.

The choices Gideon made following his victory deviated from God's path only a little bit but the deviation put Israel on a path that took them far from God and, 40 years later, they had forgotten Gideon and his family.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to Avoid the Traps of Success Part 2: The Entitlement Trap

Our response to success can impact our future blessings. After refusing to be the king, Gideon decided he was entitled to a reward. He said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (Judges 8:24)

It was the least they could do to honor their hero. He had risked everything in his defeat of the enemy and was entitled.

It is not unusual for a person to benefit from their success – a parking spot near the door, a corner office, first class travel – one is entitled to such perks.

However, sometimes the perks that come with success can send the wrong message. The former head of a missions group refused to enter a limo that had been sent to pick him up at the airport. “The people who give sacrificially to support missions may get the wrong impression,” he said.

The head of another missions agency got into hot water over the price of his office furniture.

Gideon gave glory to God but this desire for a big payday was a step in the wrong direction.

John Delorean was the automotive genius responsible for the Firebird, the GTO and the Grand Prix. He capitalized on his fame and talent to start Delorean Motor Cars but went bankrupt. He thought he could apply his superior business skills to traffic drugs but wound up buying drugs from undercover cops. A sense of entitlement doesn't always land you in jail but it does cause people to believe that they are above the law; or at least believe that the rules don't apply to them.

David thought he was entitled to Bathsheba. Bill Clinton thought he was entitled to Monica Lewinski. The poor feel entitled to what the rich have and the rich feel entitled to the poor.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Avoid the Traps of Success Part 1: The Celebrity Trap

Gideon's success was astounding. He became the mighty warrior God called him to be. He brought an end to pagan worship and defeated the Midianite army, executed its evil leaders.

The Israelites said to Gideon, 'Rule over us -- you, your son and your grandson -- because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.’” (Judges 8:22)

The Israelites now wanted Gideon to be their king. He seemed the perfect choice. He had not only delivered them in a miraculous battle, but God spoke to him. A king would make them like the other nations.

Like the Israelites, we can be tempted to seek powerful people to lead us. If we had the right pastor or music leader, we could be like the mega-churches; If we elected the right politician we can put our nation back on track; If we could lead a celebrity to faith in Christ, the world would notice. We shine a spotlight on our Christian celebrities, put them on magazine covers, pay them lots of money, and then expect them to be humble. Why are we surprised when Christian celebrities fall?

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Gideon avoided the celebrity trap. The Israelites saw Gideon as savior but Gideon saw the Lord as Savior and told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23)

We don’t need great men. We need a great relationship with a great God. Jesus chose 12 without a single celebrity in the bunch. The result was that the gospel was received by 3000 in one day and spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. 

Part 3 - The Recognition Trap

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bus Ministry is Still an Effective Church Growth Tool

In the 1970's bus ministry was used by churches across the nation to reach children for Jesus. The largest Sunday school in America, FBC Hammond, Indiana, had a bus ministry that had 1,000 workers using 230 buses to bring as many as 10,000 people to church every Sunday.

Baptist Temple's bus ministry was launched with the purchase of a 1970 blue Chevrolet van to pick up Sunday school students from East Terrace and Victoria Courts. In 1971 a used Dodge school bus was added to the fleet followed by a used Chevrolet school bus in 1972. This soul-winning ministry resulted in a record 151 baptisms in 1972. The previous high mark was 121 in 1933. A record number of new members was also set in 1972.

The first drivers were Jimmy Walker, Ed Flynn, David Evans and Arland Ames. Walker drove for 35 years and participated in many aspects of the ministry including evangelistic visitation, phone calls, follow-up and training.

Steve Grinnell became part of the bus ministry in the 1980s. During those years two buses picked up student as far south as Military Dr., north to MLK, east to WW White and west to Roosevelt. Grinnell remembers a big operation involving phone calls and visitation.

Ernest Dominguez was one of the children who rode the van to Baptist Temple Sunday School. As he got older he strayed away from church but, when God began to speak to his heart, he returned to the place where he first heard the gospel. Dominguez was baptized on Easter Sunday 2013.

Bus ministry is still used as an evangelistic tool by many churches today. In 2001, FBC Hammond still had a fleet of over 200 buses in operation.

Outreach to children is a vital ministry for a soul-wining church. Most Christians become followers of Christ as children. Furthermore, the fastest way to reach families is by ministering to children.

Check out this resource: The Bus Ministry Manual

Then the master told his servant,
"Go out to the roads and country lanes
and compel them to come in,
so that my house will be full."
Luke 14:23 (NIV)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Baptist Temple Recognizes Three Deacons Emeritus

Guest blog by Robert Newman 

In the last three years that I spent as deacon chairman of Baptist Temple Church, it has been my honor and privilege to serve with many wonderful men of God. Three of these men have been named Deacon Emeritus of Baptist Temple. This honor is bestowed on a deacon by the deacon body in recognition of long and distinguished service to our church.

Deacons already recognized as Deacon Emeritus include: Max Brunnemann, Jack Shelton, Melvin Williams, Leroy Klima, and Jerry Shelton. The deacon body of Baptist Temple Church is pleased to add three more names to this list: Weldon Frazelle, Carl Gerold, and James Walker.
Carl Gerold has been chairman of the Building and Landscape Action Team for many years. He is not the type to sit back and make plans, you will see him painting or repairing or doing anything that he feels needs to be done for the upkeep of our church. Many times, this is a thankless task, but he gets out there and does what he feels called to do.

Weldon Frazelle owned his own restaurant at one time, but still loved to volunteer his services as a cook to Baptist Temple when he was needed. In addition to cooking, Weldon loved to work outdoors. No matter how hot it was, you would see Weldon mowing the grass or working on the landscape of our church. None of this was done for recognition, it was done because Weldon felt that this was his call to service.

James Walker gave of his time in many areas. For many years he drove the van to pick up children who had no other way to come to church simply because he had a love for children. He was very talented, especially in woodworking, so it was not unusual for someone from VBS to call and ask him to make things for VBS. He made a beautiful wooden cross for the church, and an intricate calendar that is still in use by his Sunday School class. Jimmy also loved to sing in the choir. He was very faithful, and was up there singing whether he felt good or not.

Weldon and James were recognized posthumously.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dealing with Setbacks

The devil often counterattacks after a spiritual victory. God used Gideon and 300 men to defeat the Midianite's 135,000 but Gideon was going to face some setbacks.

Sometimes, friends, family and fellow believers will allow themselves to be used by the devil to discourage and bring division in the body of Christ. They gossip and complain as if your good fortune takes something away from them.

The Ephraimites criticized Gideon after his triumph. They complained that he did not include them in the spoils of victory. In the same way, some churches suffer from people with divisive attitudes. They want to have their own way and lose sight of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The devil’s best strategy is disunity and division.

Ephraim allowed jealousy to cloud their judgment. They were embittered and put their own interests above the greater good of God's people. Some folks can get so wrapped up in their own problems that they do not take time to consider Jesus' Great Commission and Great Commandment.

We will not always see things eye-to-eye. Disagreements occur from time to time and feelings are hurt. It happens in the best of families. Learn to put away your anger and jealousy. Replace them compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, even as God has done so with you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Never forget where the true battle is and the true enemy. Our battle is not with people, but with our own selfish human nature, with the world and with the devil. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father, but is from the world." (I John 2:15-16)

Our weapons are spiritual. Gossip and deceitful scheming will fail. God fights our battles. We need not fight and bicker in anger but submit to God's will.

Monday, February 09, 2015

When Less is More

Spiritual Warfare requires dependence on God and the use of spiritual weapons

The Midianites had been raiding Israel at harvest time for 7 years. God's chosen champion, Gideon, gathered an army of 32,000 but God only needed a few good men.

The first cut involved those who lacked courage, All who were afraid were allowed to go home. Only 10,000 stayed. After a second cut, only 300 remained.

God did not choose the best warriors for his dream team. They weren't going to fight. God needed few courageous men who would follow His instructions.

God would use spiritual weapons in this battle. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The 300 soldiers were divided into 3 groups and surrounded the Midianite Camp. Each had a trumpet in one hand and a clay pitcher in the other. Inside each pitcher was a torch. An army usually had one trumpet and torch per 100 men.

While the enemy slept, Israel shouted, “The sword of the Lord and Gideon.” They blasted their trumpets, broke the pottery, and surrounded the camp with flaming torches. The enemy thought they were surrounded by 30,000 fighting men, panicked and fled.

Gideon did not suffer any losses. God has our back. Jesus said, “ In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

God Always Wins

Michael slays the dragon. Raphael

God uses our enemies to accomplish His will. In Judges we learn that God would use the nations around Israel to test them. Whenever Israel fell into sin, God allowed an enemy to chastise them. When they cried out to God, they were delivered by a champion. One of those champions, Samson, was self-centered and cavorted with the women of Israel's oppressors. Yet, God used him to accomplish His will, despite Samson's lack of cooperation.

The Jews' exile to Babylon was a sad event for Israel but it put Jewish houses of worship in places where the gospel would one day be preached. The Roman empire provided safe roads and a common language (Greek) to help spread the gospel. The expulsion of the Christians from Jerusalem increased the speed at which the gospel spread.

Not all things are good but the Bible assures us that “all things work together for good for those that love God.” (Romans 8:28)

In every church you will find destructive people who have an agenda driven by something other than the gospel. These are the weeds that Jesus said the enemy sows among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the goats that will one day be separated from the sheep (Matthew 25:31-46). In his book, “Well-Intentioned Dragons” Marshall Shelley writes:

Within the church, they are often sincere, well-meaning saints, but they leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t consider themselves difficult people. They don’t sit up nights thinking of ways to be nasty. Often they are pillars of the community – talented, strong personalities, deservingly respected – but for some reason, they undermine the ministry of the church. They are not naturally rebellious or pathological; they are loyal church members, convinced they’re serving God, but they wind up doing more harm than good.”

People wonder why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people. There is no answer to this except that God allows things to happen to accomplish his perfect will.

After Job had lost everything in a test of this faith, he declared:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Monday, February 02, 2015

Overcoming low self-esteem

Gideon overcame his weak self image to become a champion for God. He was the youngest son, of the poorest family, of the weakest tribe in Israel.. He was fearful. For seven years the Midianites would attack the Israelites and steal their crops. He suffered from low self-esteem but Gideon was valuable to God.

God called Gideon a mighty warrior but his faith was weak. He needs proof, so God patiently works to grow Gideon’s faith. God will encounter people in unbelief and lift them to a new level of service. A man told Jesus, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

John Wesley said, "Use what faith you have and God will give you more faith."

God is faithful to help you grow even when you feel like you have no faith at all. He grew Gideon’s faith by making him use the faith he already had.

Gideon would defeat Israel's enemies and bring 40 years of peace.

God has the big plan. He leads us along step by step. He knows us and our capabilities. He knows when we need reassurance and signs. Jesus didn’t call the disciples to turn the world upside down, change the Roman empire forever and die as martyrs, He simply said follow me and led them along step by step.

He starts us out in small ways that are close to home. I think we often fail to accomplish great things for God because we fail to be obedient in the small things.

You may think that you are a nobody but you are valuable to God . Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? …

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? …

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:26-33)