Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Time for Hope

I consider that our present sufferings
are not worth comparing with
the glory that will be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18

Hope will enable a person to survive even the most terrible of circumstances. This was psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl's conclusion after observing the behavior of fellow concentration camp prisoners (Man's Search for Meaning.) He learned that, when a prisoner had lost hope, he chain-smoked all his cigarettes and would soon die. Prisoners who held on to the hope of a better tomorrow would cut their cigarettes in half and ration them.

Hope can be the difference between life and death. A boy had been badly burned in a horrible accident. His teacher came for a visit after a few days with some school work. She didn't want him to fall behind. Sadly, she didn't feel she accomplished anything. The boy was distracted by the pain; his senses dulled by medication but she tried.

When she returned the next day a nurse asked, "What did you do to that boy? We’ve been worried about him, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live."

The boy explained that he had given up until the teacher arrived. "They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"

Hope makes a difference in the quality of our lives. In 1981, millionaire industrialist, Eugene Lang, guaranteed a college education to a group of NYC sixth graders. These students were given hope and broke the curse of generational poverty that could have been their destiny. Forty-eight of the 51 graduated from high school. The usual graduation rate for that district was less than 50%. Moreover, the success of these children expanded that hope to others, as rich philanthropists throughout America duplicated Lang's program.

Hope is not the same as optimism or positive thinking. When adversity strikes we need a hope we can trust. Some will buy a lottery tickets hoping that they will win. Most know that they will not and that the odds are against them but they buy tickets anyway, hoping that they will cash in big someday. Some just hope that whatever comes is better than what is happening today. They simply endure the present.

Hope in God is more of a process for living than an answer to a problem. True hope, anchored in the gospel, will open our lives to a future that greater than the solution to a specific problem. Instead of a way out of our difficulty, we are open to a future filled with possibilities, regardless of circumstances. True hope will not let despair over a problem contaminate all that is good in your life.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Monday, March 23, 2020

Responding to a disruptive pandemic

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and 
wept when we remembered Zion 
Psalm 137:1

To better understand and respond to the disruption to society that the Coronavirus has created we can turn to the Bible and study the Babylonian Captivity.

It was the end of worship as they knew it. The Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled to Babylon. No more sacrifices at the Temple; the Priests and Levites were left without jobs. It was no longer business as usual but God's people adapted.

Synagogues were organized for prayer and teaching of the Scriptures. The Scriptures became the authoritative and central to worship. They were transcribed using the Hebrew alphabet we know today and men were taught to read it. Scribes and scholars (teacher of the Law) emerged as leaders. When a remnant returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple, the majority remained scattered around the world.

God used these events to shape the world into Jesus which was born. Jews who were able to read the Scriptures were scattered throughout the known world and gathered in synagogues. In Luke 4:16 we read, “He [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read.”

Paul would go from synagogue to synagogue preaching the gospel. In Acts 17:11 we learn, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

This terrible disruption in the nation of Israel prepared a people who were living in darkness to see a great light. Is the disruption we are experiencing now preparing us for a great movement of God. Is this the beginning or a warning to prepare.

The church has made use of new technologies as they have arrived including printing, radio, telephone, TV, cable, computers and the internet. Technology is moving faster than ever but churches are adapting unevenly. This month churches are using a variety of methods to hold worship services. While the quick action is remarkable, it is possible that the answer goes beyond moving our worship online.

One of the Seven Trends for Churches in 2020 reported by church consultant and author, Thom Rainer, is that worship service size preference is shrinking, Gone are the days of large worship venues. The preferred number is 300 and existing large venues may experience financial strain in the next few decades.

Also, it seems that many people prefer to worship at a time other than Sunday at 11 o'clock. People want options. In the near future, large churches will offer multiple services in smaller sanctuaries.

Baptist Temple has been ahead of the curve with these trends, offering seven worship opportunities on Sunday for groups ranging in size from 150 to 15. During the week an elementary/middle school and an early learning center use our facilities along with numerous service organizations. We have become a vital hub to our community by ministering to both spiritual and physical needs and, by sharing our facilities, we have multiplied ministry while dividing costs.

The world has changed and we need to be prayerfully preparing our next steps. Even if things were to return to they way we were before, we cannot ignore what God has revealed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

BAPTIST TEMPLE STATEMENT ON COVID-19


Archangel Michael slays Satan
For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love 
and of a sound mind. 
2 Timothy 1:7 

We face a serious crisis. This is a time for the church to step up to take the lead in caring and fighting fear. We are either an important part of society or we are irrelevant.

Last week, many churches canceled public worship. Some moved to a video model. Yet, people still crowded into restaurants, bars, stores and theaters.

This week, many more churches are canceling events and public worship indefinitely. We have been told that this emergency will last until August. The CDC recommended bans on all groups over ten. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has declared a state of emergency and prohibits gatherings over 50. Churches are exempt from this prohibition; as are restaurants, stores, the airport, hospitals, shelters and the jail. These are considered necessary gatherings.

There are some churches who don't consider public worship necessary in this emergency. Baptist Temple is not one of them. I received a call last week from a friend who attended a megachurch that had opted for online worship only. He is not comfortable with that and asked if we were having public worship. We were. He came with his family. He is in an at-risk category but he was going to worship somewhere.

We decided to close our early learning center out an “abundance of caution.” It was a mistake. I received an email from a colleague the day we closed asking about open child-care centers. There was a looming crisis in our hospitals due to the absence of essential staff who had to stay home to care for their children. We decided to reopen after a few days of training, cleaning and new protocols. We are accepting new children and will be at full capacity. Our early learning center decided to step up and serve in this time of need.

Baptist Temple will step up and serve in this time of need. We will gather together for worship this Sunday as will many other churches. If you are sick, please stay home. If you are at risk do as you feel appropriate. You will not be judged either way. Invite people without a place of worship. They can visit with us until their churches reopen.

We will be serving a free community meal on Wednesday nights at five. The thrift store and food pantry will remain open. There will be ceramics on Monday. Sunday School will also continue.

Baptist Temple has weathered the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression. We laid the cornerstone of our sanctuary days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. God put us here for a time like this. 

No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. 
Psalm 91:10




Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Servant Spotlight: Jessica French-Scheffield

Personable, perky and passionate about teaching; “I knew I wanted to be teacher since the fourth grade,” said Jessica French-Scheffield who was recently hired as the Baptist Temple Early Learning Center's Curriculum Coordinator. She wants to teach young children the tools they will need to succeed in school and society.

She discovered her love for teaching when she helped a fellow fourth grader correctly pronounce “photosynthesis.” It gave her a sense of accomplishment she still feels when helping someone learn.

She was impressed by Baptist Temple's impact on the community, particularly the inclusive playground, and is eager to be a part of our family of organizations that are bringing needed services to an under-resourced area. Our impact will be magnified as she helps us achieve Texas Rising Star (TSR) certification. A TSR school goes beyond minimum standards to provide a higher quality of teaching that goes well beyond babysitting. There are only two such early learning centers in our zip code.

Her first challenges are to be fully staffed with teachers trained in lesson planning and to make make lesson planning resources readily available. She, also, want to digitize the office and reduce the amount of paper that needs to be tracked.

Jessica graduated from Texas State and seeks to excel at everything she undertakes, which led to her earning a black belt in the Korean martial art form, Kuk Sool Won. She is equal parts computer savvy, success driven and people person; a combination that will lead us to better meeting the needs of our community.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Disruptive Prayer

Only 30% of American churches are growing and thousands close every year. We are losing ground and prayer is the answer said Dr. Darrell Horn at yesterday's SABA Live event, Disruptive Corporate Prayer.

Disruptive prayer shakes things up. It moves us beyond business as usual. There are countless testimonies about revivals being sparked by prayer, beginning with Acts chapter two and continuing with two Great Awakenings, Azuza Street and more. One very good book about this subject is Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. Cymbala tells how prayer propelled an inner city gathering of twenty into a downtown megachurch. Who wouldn't want to be part of a movement like that.

I came to the conference for the same reason I read and re-read the book. I want to experience similar results. I was looking for techniques, ideas, perhaps a program that would be easily implemented.

I didn't find one. Instead I learned that prayer is more than a program. Success is not, necessarily, measured in number of worshipers but in spiritual growth, which is difficult to quantify, and community impact. Are we to assume that a church that prays but fails to grow is praying wrong? Perhaps, prayer is more about worship than results.

Prayer permeates the Baptist Temple Campus. There are a lot of individual, small group and larger group prayers; some formal, much informal. To see the impact of prayer, we must watch for and celebrate God's answers. Often the answers are small and subtle, coming from unexpected directions, but small things add up to big impact.

Our prayer early on, as our attendance and finances dwindled and building maintenance continued to be deferred, was that God would preserve our building as a witness of His love for our community. When we shared our building with other churches and service organizations, God provided the resources needed to not just survive but to thrive and expand. Nearly 1000 people are on our campus on an average week. Our impact is greater than that.

Our prayer now is that we excel at making disciples.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

4 keys to knowing God's will

Do not be foolish,
understand the Lord’s will. 
Ephesians 5:17

Knowing and doing God's will is an essential part of being a spiritually successful Christian. 

First, to know God’s will we start with an attitude of trust. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

Most of God's will involves that which applies to every believer. These are his standing orders. They are found in the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the Bible. We ought to begin there. If we are not faithful in these areas we cannot expect to be able to understand His specific will on a certain issue. This attitude of trust also involves our ultimate intent. Why ask if we are not going to obey? 

Second, to know God’s will we must seek Him through the Bible. “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may he thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

This requires devotional reading, deep study and reflection. Tap into the timeless principles of God's Word to understand how it applies directly to our situation. 

Third, to know God’s will we must seek Him through prayer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) 

The Holy Spirit impresses us with wisdom, insight, understanding, and discernment. He also gives us inner peace about our decisions. However, we must be tuned into God, to be sensitive to His subtle messages and nudges. 

Fourth, to know God’s will we must seek wise counsel. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) 

Guidance can come from parents, teachers, pastors, and friends. It is important that we verify our impressions by insuring that other believers concur. We need to be spiritually accountable to others, who in turn offer guidance as we struggle with the path ahead. This is why Christianity is not experienced alone.

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”


GET THE BOOK:

Friday, February 21, 2020

Showing God's Love

Who sinned,” the disciples asked Jesus upon encountering a man who'd been blind from birth, “this man or his parents?” (John 9:1-2)

It is commonly believed that one's physical state is a sign of God's judgment. A cousin of the tendency to “blame the victim.”

While we often want to debate the reasons for suffering and pain, Jesus cut the debate off abruptly. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

Jesus saw this man's disability as an opportunity to show God's love by healing him. Jesus wants us to show God's love to those who suffer. In fact, he closely identifies with the suffering.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me...’ ‘...Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-36

Spiritually successful Christians serve others. In this way, we show God's love in practical ways. When we encounter a person in physical or spiritual pain, our first instinct ought to be to offer love and help. We must act quickly or lose opportunities. Hurting people will withdraw from church if they feel unloved. Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

View a video of “Sharing God's Love

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

GET THE BOOK:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Meeting 4 needs are central to disciple making

Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) teaches four important needs that are met during the disciple making process.*

First, she needed SUSTENANCE. She came to the well seeking water. A person's felt-needs are a powerful attracting force. The Samaritan woman went to where the water was. Hungry people come to food pantries. Other felt-needs are social, educational, health, status, etc. A church can attract people by meeting some of these needs or, like Jesus, place themselves where these needs are being met; or both.

Second, she a needed SUPPORT. She needed a friend. She came to the well at noon to draw water, avoiding the judgmental stares of the town women. Imagine sitting alone in the school cafeteria at lunch or hiding in the bathroom to avoid the other children. Social isolation is a cruel burden.

Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman across barriers of class, religion and ethnicity. We can build relationships with the people whose needs are being met by social ministry programs. They need kindness and friendship. Jesus identified closely with people in need. He said when we minister to them we minister to him.

Third, she needed SALVATION. Jesus turned the conversation to spiritual things by speaking about living water. We need to verbally tell people about Jesus. That is the most important part of the disciple making process. We all have physical and social needs but our need for salvation is paramount. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Fourth, she needed SIGNIFICANCE. Having found her Savior, she left her jar of water behind and returned to the town to tell others about Jesus. She had a new purpose. She started out seeking to meet a physical need and left having had a greater need fulfilled.

Nothing can bring more significance to our lives than serving our Lord. We are called to bring relief to the suffering, relationships to the lonely, redemption to the lost and inviting to them to join in the work of the gospel.

*Based on a sermon by Craig Christina, Associate Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Be Like Andrew

Andrew was a quiet guy. We don’t read much about him in the Bible. He was at all of the gatherings of the 12 but rarely spoke. The few times Andrew is mentioned in the Bible it's because he brought people to Jesus.

Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. When he heard John declare that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” he brought his brother, Peter, to meet Jesus. Later, Peter would preach a sermon that led 3000 to faith in Jesus.

Andrew brought a boy to Jesus who was willing to share his lunch. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, prayed, and fed 5000. (John 6:5-13) He, also, brought some Greeks to Jesus. (John 12:20-23)

Like Andrew, you can have a powerful impact just by inviting people. A 2019 Lifeway study in showed that a little over half of church attenders had not shared their faith in the last six months but the same number had invited someone to church in the same time frame. The fact that most people will go to a church for the first time because they were invited by someone they know, makes this very encouraging.

There are several factors that will improve the receptiveness of your invitation:

Relationships

Andrew went to his brother first. People close to you respect your opinion. They are your friends because you have things in common. You will know when to invite and to what events. Folks are more likely to come to a special event than to an average Sunday service.

On the other hand, a person may be going through a tough time and have a heart ready for God. People are more ready for Jesus than we think.

Volunteering

Andrew found a boy who was willing to serve. There are people who are not yet ready for worship or traditional Bible study might enjoy serving in a food pantry or work day. A woman went to serve in New Orleans with a group from her company, following Hurricane Katrina. She enjoyed the experience so much that she went back with a friend's church group the following year. She was amazed by the contrast between the two experiences. She witnessed Christian faith in action.

Cultural Curiosity

Andrew learned of some Greeks who wanted to learn more about Jesus. International students and immigrants are curious about all things American. They will be curious about American forms of Christianity. Christmas and Easter are holidays that are both Christian and American and a great opportunity to invite folks to a church service that explains their origins.

Bible discussion or discovery classes may be attractive to Americans who grew up in non Christian homes.

Food, Fun and Fellowship

People who have objections about church still like to eat. Invite them to a non-churchy event involving food. Invite other Christians, as well, to build a comfortable familiarity. Discomfort with the unknown is a barrier to the gospel that can be overcome with genuine friendship.


This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

GET THE BOOK:

Monday, February 10, 2020

Melissa Baxter becomes the first female Deacon Chair of Baptist Temple

After serving a year as Deacon Chair Elect, Melissa Baxter became the first female Deacon Chair in the 109 year history of Baptist Temple. Ordained a deacon in 2018 at Baptist Temple, she is the third of five generations whose faith was formed at Baptist Temple. Melissa has been active in Baptist Temple life for many years and currently serves as an adult Sunday school teacher and has completed 50 hours of Stephen Ministry training.

She is relieving Ernest Cruz, who had served multiple terms as Deacon Chair. Ernest was raised in a Christian home and was ordained a deacon at Baptist Temple in 2010 and has competed 50 hours of Stephen Ministry training. He will serve for a year as Past Deacon Chair on the Deacon Leadership Team.

Steven Grinnell has been elected as Deacon Chair Elect. He, too, has completed 50 hours of Stephen Ministry training and will serve on the Deacon Leadership Team. He will take over as Deacon Chair in 2021.

The Deacon Leadership Team helps to coordinate Baptist Temple's deacon ministry.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Three reasons for Christian community

“Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another –
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25 NIV

 Spiritually successful Christians understand that fellowship is essential for spiritual growth. The word usually translated “fellowship” in the New Testament is the Greek word koinonia (koy-nohn-ee'-ah.) It carries the idea of partnership, sharing and community. Here are three reasons why Christians should need community.
 

 COMMUNITY PROVIDES ENCOURAGEMENT 

"And let us consider how we may
spur one another on
toward love and good deeds." 
Hebrews 10:24 NIV 
 
The early church met daily in the temple courts and ate together in their homes experiencing the energy of public worship and the intimacy of small gathering. The second chapter of Acts begins with the believers gathered together in one place. The Holy Spirit comes upon them and the chapter ends with multiple gatherings of Christians.

The church assembled, whether it is a megachurch of thousands or a house church of a dozen, is the place where we grow in our faith. It is where our faith moves from the theoretical to the practical. Our burdens are divided and our joys are multiplied.
COMMUNITY PROVIDES FOR MUTUAL CARE

"There were no needy persons among them.
For from time to time those who owned land or houses
 sold them,  brought the money from the sales
   and put it at the apostles’ feet,
and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”  
Acts 4:33-34 NIV  

When the primary bread winner of a family losses their job, disaster looms over the horizon. In a short time the family can find themselves homeless. One Sunday school class took quick action when a member lost his job. Their department, which was made up of three classes, conducted a garage sale and raised thousands of dollars. A powerful bond was created between those who participated & the couple that benefited and they had a good time. 

There are no lone ranger Christians. There are at least 58 different teachings in the New Testament that cannot be followed unless you are a part of a group of believers. Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

THERE IS POWER IN COMMUNITY 


"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth
agree about anything you ask for 
it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”  
Matthew 18:49 NIV 

When Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel (Acts 4), the believers gathered for mutual support and to pray . Once again, God's power was displayed. The house shook, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly under the threat of arrest.

One of my colleagues learned that his downtown Chicago church was to be the target of a disruptive protest by a coalition of left-wing groups. He decided to continue with Wednesday night prayer meeting as the hostile crowd gathered and chanted across the street.

Suddenly, busloads of Christians from other downtown churches started arriving. They lined the sidewalk between the church and the protesters and began to sing songs of faith. They choir continued to grow and soon the sound of praise drowned out the voices of hate. The discouraged protesters quietly exited.

View a video of Fellowship Is Essential for Spiritual Growth. 


GET THE BOOK:
MasterLife: Developing a Rich Personal Relationship with the Master

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Unleashing the power of God

Become stronger with this simple exercise
We read a remarkable account in Genesis where Abraham bargains with God over the fate of the city of Sodom. Abraham was deeply concerned beacause his nephew, Lot, lives in Sodom.. He interceded passionately, appealing to God's mercy. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis18:25)

Part of the power in prayer is that, like Abraham, we know that God will deal with us through his mercy and grace.

Abraham's approach is humble. “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis18:27)

This brings to mind the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee, being of one of the religious elite, reminded God about his good works and reputation. The Tax Collector confessed his unworthiness. Jesus said of the tax collector, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Abraham's pleas were humble but persistent. He started haggling at fifty and got down to ten. If ten righteous people were found in Sodom, the city would be spared. Jesus taught us about the effectiveness of persistent prayer in the parables of the Persistent Widow and the Persistent Neighbor. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Anything big enough to worry about is big enough to pray about. Paul wrote, :Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Prayer focuses the power of God like a magnifying glass focuses the sun’s power. Abraham's prayer focused God's power on one family. Sodom was not spared (there were not ten righteous there) but God remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the disaster that overthrew the cities. (Genesis 19:29)
Another great example of the focusing of God’s power is found in Acts 4. Peter and John were in jail for preaching the gospel. God's people prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-35)

The results:
  1. The place where they were meeting was shaken.
  2. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
  3. All the believers were one in heart and mind.
  4. They shared everything they had.
  5. The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power.
  6. Much grace was upon them all.
  7. There were no needy persons among them.


GET THE BOOK:

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

Monday, January 27, 2020

Five essential elements of Bible engagement

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light for my path.
Psalm 119:105

Bible engagement is a key element to spiritual success because it is the primary way God speaks to us. The five letters in the word HEART can help us to remember the essential elements of Bible engagement. 

Hear
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJ


Hearing is the easiest way to get God’s word. Faith Comes by Hearing provided free downloads of the Bible in the MP3 format.

Examine (read)
“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 NIV
 

Hearing is a passive way of getting God’s word. We only remember 5 – 10% of what we hear. Reading is more effective.

The habit of daily Bible reading will help you to grow spiritually in a way nothing else will. If you read three chapters of the Bible a day and five chapters on Sunday you will read through the whole Bible in a year. That should take about 15 to 20 minutes a day. If you miss a day don’t panic. You wouldn’t quit eating if you missed a meal.


You can download a Bible reading plan here.
 

Analyze (study)
“But the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and gladly listened to the message. They searched the Scriptures day by day to check up on Paul and Silas' statements to see if they were really so.”
Acts 17:11 TLB

Studying is more than reading. It involves writing down notes and using other study sources. Bible study allows you to feed yourself. One of the signs of Christian maturity is that you no longer need someone to feed you. You can feed yourself and others.

Remember (memorize)
“Obey me and live! Guard my words as your most precious possession. Write them down, and also keep them deep within your heart.” Proverbs 7:2 TLB

You can only remember 5 – 10% of what you hear and up to 30% of what you study but you will remember 100% of what you memorize.

Think (meditate)
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 NIV

Reading and memorizing scripture can become mechanical. Even Bible study can become nothing more than an academic exercise. Meditation can make the Word of God a part of your life.

View a video of “Get a Strong Grasp on the Bible.”


GET THE BOOK:
MasterLife: Developing a Rich Personal Relationship with the Master

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”



Friday, January 24, 2020

Plugging into Jesus: Part 2

This is to my Father’s glory,
that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves
to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Remaining fully charged (spirit-filled) will make you spiritually successful. First, being plugged into Jesus helps you to see God's work. God is at work all around us, all the time, and He wants you to join Him in His work. He created us for good works which He prepared in advance. (Ephesians 2:10)

Second, being plugged into Jesus will allow you to produce much fruit. This phrase is often connected with soul-winning (leading people into a saving relationship with Christ.) This is certainly in keeping with Jesus' Great Commission to us, “Go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
This phrase is also connected to spiritual fruit as listed in Galatians: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Jesus said that every tree is known by its fruit. (Luke 6:44) A fig tree cannot grow apples. An apple tree cannot grow figs. The Jesus vine produces Jesus fruit. If this does not describe you, you don't have a strong connection to the source of spiritual power.

Third, if you stay plugged into Jesus, ask and it will be done for you.

Fourth, bearing fruit brings glory to God and marks you as a disciple of Jesus.

If you want fruit in your life; if you want to grow your faith and deepen your relationship with God, you must remain plugged into Jesus. He is the true vine. You are just a branch. Apart from the vine you cannot grow nor bear fruit.

View a video of “Plugging into Jesus.

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”