Tuesday, April 04, 2017

What if worship is about God and not about us?

Everyone has a preference for what worship ought to be. There are preferences in music, preaching, programs, time, and length. There is probably a church out there that will satisfy your individual taste. But what satisfies God? What if worship is about God and not about us?

The Temple represented the presence of God. Its leaders fiercely defended the traditions that governed the rituals and sacrifices connected with Temple worship. Jesus told them that their rigid adherence to tradition was keeping people from God. In fact, he called these “holy” men “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)

At this holiest time of the year, Passover, Jesus cleared the crowded Temple in a spectacular way. There were animals running amok, coins rolling on the ground, merchants scrambling in every direction, people screaming, people laughing, a crowd gathering... Jesus definitely got everyone's attention. (John 2:13-25)

Jesus brought needed change to worship. He was the one that the prophets foretold, the Word made flesh. The Temple once contained God's presence but, now, Jesus was the presence of God. Fully God and fully man, his death paid for our sin, his resurrection brought us eternal life. This made it possible for God to be present in his people through the Holy Spirit. The church is who we are not where we go.

Many people today look for churches where their needs will be met. They want a certain style of music, programs for their kids, and to be around people who look like them. But Jesus said that we should be like him. He came to serve not to have his needs met. (Mark 10:45)

True worship moves us beyond our comfort zones. Jesus turns over the tables of our complacency, scatters the coins of self-interest, and chases away the animals of our preconceived notions. It takes us beyond what we believe to be the minimum requirements. Let's open our hearts to what God wants from us that we may be transformed.

We have 52 Sundays to gather together for worship. How many will you skip because of something more important? What things in your life take precedent over worshiping God?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

From Prison to Praise

Armando took some wrong turns in life and wound up doing 17 years in prison. Gangs, drugs and violence were destroying his body and soul. It was at what he remembers as the lowest point in his life that his brother led him to Jesus through the ministry of Outcry in the Barrio. Today he lives out the words found in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “The old has gone, the new has come...”

He has been a servant of the Lord for 12 years and started Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry (IMM) to bring the gospel to others who are on the path to destruction. Twice a month he preaches at prisons in Hondo and Cuero. Armando feels a call to minister to people behind bars and the families they have left behind.


His wife, Rosalinda, serves alongside him as a leader in IMM. She began her ministry caring for women coming out of a life on the streets. Her assignments ranged from cooking and cleaning to street evangelism and leading Bible studies. Rosalinda is a member of Kairos Prison Ministry, serving at the women’s prison in Lockhart.


I met them last both last year when they attended a lecture I was giving on church marketing at Baptist University of the Americas (BUA). They had some questions about organizing and leading their motorcycle ministry. They also were interested in the ministries of Baptist Temple. Armando lived near Baptist Temple as a child and remembers the generosity we showed his family in those days. He felt that the ministry of BT meshes well with that of IMM and started working with us right away. In the last few months he has led a memorial service, a blessing of the bikes and brought a large number of volunteers for our hunger fighting efforts.


I recently received a letter from a man who will soon be released from incarceration in Hondo. He grew up in our neighborhood and remembers driving past Baptist Temple many times. He became a Christian last year and is part of a discipleship program inside the prison walls. He will be released in a few months and wants to find a church to help him in his walk with Christ. He came across some information about our church through a series of circumstances that were sparked by IMM. The Acostas will help us to disciple this man and others like him who have been born again.


Armando and Rosalinda will serve in the outreach ministries of Baptist Temple as we follow our Lord's command to “Go to the highways, and the hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house may be full...” (Luke 14:23). Their primary ministry will through Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry which will become another of the BT Campus' numerous outreach arms.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Set Aside to Serve

On Sunday we will ordain nine women to the ministry of deacon. Each one has been serving faithfully in that capacity as the wife of a deacon and has earned the honor of having the title for themselves.

The word that is translated “deacon” in the Bible is the Greek word diakonos and is better translated servant. In Acts 6, where the deacon ministry is introduced to the church, variations of diakinos are translated “food distribution,” “waiter,” and “ministry.” The role of the deacon is clearly one of service; in keeping with the example of our Lord who “came not to be served (diakoneo) but to serve (diakoneo).” (Mark 10:45)

Women have served as deacons since the start of the of the church. In Romans 6:1, Paul commends sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchrea. The Roman governor, Pliny, sent a letter to the Emperor Trajan in the First Century about the arrest and torture of two maidens who were deacons in order to gain information about the church. Early church document outlined the role of women deacons in the baptism and discipleship of female converts. One of the founders of the Baptist movement, John Smyth, wrote about the authority of the local church to ordain female deacons.

Women deacons are usually found in churches where the role of deacon is that of service and support rather than acting as church management. In our male dominated society it is difficult to see a woman as capable of leadership. It was less than 100 years ago that women in the US were first allowed to vote in national elections.

The society Jesus was born into was even more patriarchal than ours. Therefore, it's important to note that he first revealed himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman and that women were the first to see his resurrected body. From the widow's offering to the jar of expensive perfume, women were frequently the heroes in Jesus' stories.

We are blessed with a significant number of men and women who have tender hearts and a love for Jesus and his church. The people of Baptist Temple are well served by our deacons.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Day at the Food Pantry

Clients who come to us looking for food are struggling with a variety of issues. Some are visible and some are hidden from the casual observer. Mental and emotional disabilities, problems at home, chronic illness or just plain hard times, whatever the struggle, it drove them to seek help.

One young, very petite, woman told me she was being treated for chronic depression. She was a victim of domestic violence who had recently moved out of a shelter and into a subsidized apartment. Last week four teen girls attacked and robbed her, leaving fearful and alienated.

An older woman had been recently widowed. She used her husband's modest life insurance to purchase a mobile home. It turned out to be a bad deal. When she fell through the rotting floor, she had to move out. The San Antonio Housing Authority was able to place her in an apartment but she was left with nothing.

One of our regulars came in and loaded up on cookies and soda. He struggles with addiction and says the sugar helps him with his cravings.

A new client found herself needing help with food after her mother recently suffered a stroke. She heads a household of seven that includes a disabled brother and two disabled children. She is familiar with the help that is available to her and has filled out all the applications but, in the meantime, she lacks food and other needed items. We were able to supply her with groceries and medical equipment.

Along with help for physical needs, we pray with our clients and offer community through free meals, small group Bible studies, recreation and worship. God sent these people to us so we can show His love to them. In a world of hardship and sorrow we can be an oasis of hope and comfort.

It takes a lot of folks doing a lot of things to make it work. We are always looking for new workers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Baptist Temple Year in Review: 2016


It was another year of blessings for the ministries that share the Baptist Temple Campus. We are blessed to now have six congregations meeting on the BT campus. Community Bible Church of Highland Park joined our family of churches in May. In the Fall, Weapons of Deliverance and Sunny Slope Baptist Church started worshiping at our location. Together we baptized 36 people last year.

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL involved the four churches on campus at the time and a mission team from Houston; a total of 96 workers. Our enrollment was 153 and 32 decisions were recorded, leading to many of our baptisms.

WORSHIP events this year included an Easter Sunrise service and the musical presentation “Champion of Love.” In May we concluded “BELIEVE,” a 30 week sermon series and Bible study in conjunction with 14 San Antonio Area churches. During Advent we celebrated the Hanging of the Green (with CBC Highland Park and Family Deaf Church), Christmas Eve (with CBC Highland Park) and a memorial service for people in our community who lost a loved one this past year (with Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry).

FELLOWSHIP opportunities abounded for all ages. The children and youth went on a variety of field trips; and our senior adults enjoyed monthly luncheons. There were church-wide fellowships as well, including a Valentine's lunch, and banquets in the Spring and Fall. In June we enjoyed a campus-wide picnic at Roosevelt Park.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH included our annual Fall Fest and National Night Out events. Our first Back to School Health Fair attracted 488 people. A total of 19 churches, businesses and community groups participated to provide food, games, health screenings, vaccines, school supplies and fresh produce.

Another first this year was our community Christmas party. Snacks, make and take crafts, games and Christmas carols made this an event that we look forward to repeating.

FIGHTING HUNGER remains our most visible ministry. We collected and distributed nearly 80,000 lbs of food. (That's 30,000 more than last year.) This includes groceries for 6300 people; 1800 received individual ministry through our client choice food pantry.

We provided 75,469 meals to our community through our Wednesday night dinners, summer feeding and other venues. This included 151 breakfasts, 1628 lunches, 3550 dinners and 9140 snacks.

FACILITY IMPROVEMENTS are a continuing effort on the BT Campus. Some major improvements came as result of a contract between Parent-Child Incorporated and our Early Learning Center. This includes a new freezer, new ovens, playground equipment, classroom furniture and security cameras. Additional security cameras were added by Highland Park Gifted and Talented Academy.

Another big improvement involved boosting our wireless internet capacity to reach more areas of our campus. This was made possible in partnership with CBC Highland Park.

THREE NEW PARTNERS came to the BT campus this year in addition to the three new churches. The Christian Women's Job Corps Job helps us to provide job readiness training. San Antonio Sports brought the Fit Family Challenge to our campus, with an average participation of 58 per week. Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry came alongside to enhance and expand our evangelistic efforts.

We hosted 9 MISSION TEAMS from as far away as Connecticut and South Dakota. They ministered all around San Antonio including the Rosemont Apartments and Habitat for Humanity houses.

Each year God provides the workers, leaders and physical resources to meet the changing needs of the community that surrounds us. Our impact has drawn the notice of local government leaders in 2016 leading to campus visits from state representatives Diego M. Bernal (District 123) and John Lujan III (District 118) and Mayor Ivy Taylor. I believe that there are greater things to come in 2017.

Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
Pioneer Missionary William Carey