Monday, March 07, 2022

Set apart and prepared for ministry


 By faith
Moses’ parents hid him
for three months
after he was born,
because they saw
he was no ordinary child,
and they were not afraid
of the king’s edict.
Hebrews 11:23


Moses' ministry preparation had been put in motion centuries before his birth. His ancestor Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. God provided opportunities for him to rise through the ranks until he became second only to Pharaoh and administered Egypt's food distribution program. (Genesis 39-47)

A worldwide famine caused Joseph's father and his entire clan to emigrate to Egypt, where they were welcomed by Joseph and Pharaoh. He told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20.)

The Hebrews (Joseph's people) prospered and grew in number, while maintaining their language, culture and religion. A change in government led to the Hebrews becoming slaves. Their continued growth led Pharaoh to order the death of all male children at birth. When the midwives did not comply with his decree, Pharaoh ordered all male babies to be drowned.

“By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23.)

Then, they placed Moses in an ark and floated him down the river where Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him. Knowing the child to be a Hebrew, she ignored Pharaoh's decree and adopted him. Moses' sister Miriam had secretly followed and offered to find a Hebrew wet nurse for the infant. Thus Moses’ mother was the one who nursed him. She would return the child once it was weaned but, for two or three years, Moses was nursed by his mother. She sang lullabies and told him stories that planted the seeds of faith in him. Paul reminded Timothy that his faith was first kindled by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5.) The Bible tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6.)

Following his early education in the faith at his mother's knee, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22.)

God had plans for Moses to lead, govern and give laws to a nation. Towards that end, the first 40 years of his life were spent in the courts of Pharaoh but the Bible tells us, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Hebrews 11:24.)

Moses thought he could help his people by his own power, prestige, and position but God had another plan. Moses murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave and had to flee to the desert. This brought about the next phase of Moses education.

In the desert, Moses became accustomed to hardship and poverty, learning how to live in want as well as how to live with plenty. Those whom God intends to exalt he will make humble first (1 Peter 5:6.)

His life in Egypt made him as a scholar, a gentleman, a statesman, and a soldier. Moses now learned about quiet deliberation and patience. He would come to know what its like to live close to God through the solitude of a shepherd’s life.

Moses needed to learn that it would be God who would deliver the Hebrews. God did not need Moses' military powers. He had to be weak and humble enough for God to use.

God is in control. He chose the date and place of your birth according with the mission he desires for you to accomplish. God uses the experiences of your life to prepare you for the challenges ahead. His timing is perfect.

Regardless of who you are or where you have been God desires to do great things through you. It can be difficult to understand or see the role that God has called you to but, if you remain faithful, it will eventually become clear.

Our past does not disqualify us from God’s service. There are no wasted experiences. God will take our past mistakes and use them to prepare us for what He intends to accomplish through us. God give us the ability to rise above our past and to accomplish great things for Him.

There is not a minute when God is not present. He is present in the birth of Moses. He is present in his Mother and sister and the woman who rescued him from the water.

Moses' biography reminds us that even in the darkest of times, God has a plan. The Hebrews were slaves under a cruel and corrupt leader at the time of the birth of Moses. At the darkest moment, God was already at work. God has a plan for you. God has a plan for His church. God has a plan for your community. No matter how dark the days or how confusing the world is, God has a plan. 

For we are His creation,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared ahead of time
so that we should walk in them
Ephesians 2:10

Monday, February 28, 2022

Inconvenient Children

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people:
Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile,
but let every girl live.”
Exodus 1:22

Jacob and his clan moved to Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan. Over time they became enslaved by the Egyptians and were forced into labor, making bricks for Egypt's building projects. The Hebrew slaves grew in numbers to a point that Pharaoh feared an uprising (Exodus 1:10.) As a population control measure, Pharaoh ordered that all male Hebrew children be killed at birth (Exodus 1:16, 22.)

This was not the only time in the Bible when inconvenient children were destroyed. When King Herod learned that a child was born who was destined to be King of the Jews, he set out to kill him. Failing to locate the child, he ordered the slaughter of all the boys aged two and under in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18.)

Moses was spared by the midwives and “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict (Hebrews 11:23.”) Moses was a special child, destined by God for a unique role in history but isn't every child special?

The Bible tells us that “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them (Psalm 127:3-5.”) Yet, some find children an inconvenience. From 1980-2015 China enacted a one child policy that led to forced contraception, abortions and the abandonment of baby girls.

In the infamous 1982 case of Baby Doe, a child was born with Down syndrome and a blocked esophagus. The parents refused to allow the surgery that would have corrected the blockage. They allowed their baby to starve to death. The law and the hospital let this happen. He was allowed to die because he was considered defective and inconvenient. Ultrasounds and amniocentesis are routinely used today to detect congenital anomalies. An abortion is recommended if the child does not fit the “quality of life” model of our society.

A little over 20 years ago, a woman discovered that the child she was carrying would be be born with limb anomalies. She refused an abortion and raised her son (and his brother) as a single mom. The boy required multiple surgeries and greater care than would have been typically required. He grew up to be a handsome young man; a college graduate with a career in information technology who drives customized van.

Not all stories have such a heroic plot. Children are valued because they carry the image of God, not because of what they can contribute to society. A man I met told me of his four beautiful children. They were smart, athletic and talented. He was proud of them but it was his fifth child that taught him about love. She was born with Down syndrome and would never be the things his other children were. He realized that part of his love for the older kids lay in pride and their accomplishments. The youngest he loved unconditionally. He considered her a gift from God

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Baptist Temple Year in Review: 2021

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. 
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

The author of Hebrews encourages us to remember the Old Testament saints, a great cloud of witnesses who remind us of God's faithfulness. They overcame challenges, discovered opportunities and carried out God's plan for their time. In our fellowship hall there is a painting called “A Great Crowd of Witnesses.” Painted in 1980, it's a montage of Baptist Temple's past leaders and a further reminder of God's faithfulness.

As I look back on the 110th year of Baptist Temple, I am amazed by the fact that this church has ministered through two world wars (and five smaller ones), two global pandemics, a world's fair and the Great Depression. Buildings were built, remodeled and repurposed. There have been thousands of baptisms and generations of people learning and practicing biblical truth. The hungry were fed, the naked were clothed, and the afflicted were comforted. Through it all the congregations of Baptist Temple overcame challenges, discovered opportunities and carried out God's plan for their time.

The year 2021 began with a backward glance as we celebrated Jonathan Clark's 20th year at Baptist Temple. Beginning as Minister of Music, he was promoted, first, to Associate Pastor and, then, to Executive Pastor. Jonathan has proven to be a man for all seasons as he has grown and adapted to the changing needs of Baptist Temple.

In February, we continued our long-standing tradition of helping in the development of ministers. To that end, we licensed Nathan and Alison Clark, Mateo Beltran and Anna Cortinas to the gospel ministry. The Clarks are part of the No Place Left evangelism network and are missionaries in residence, Mateo has been named an outreach minister, and Anna served as a pastoral ministries intern as she finished the Master of Theology degree at Dallas Baptist University.

Disciple making was enhanced this year as doors opened at the Crosspointe rehab centers, which allowed us to hold Bible study at both the men's and the women's facilities. Furthermore, Sunday school returned to the BT Campus. This created a learning environment that builds community and accelerates spiritual formation.

February was, also, the month of the big freeze that caused damage throughout the BT campus; especially in the Fritz building. Repairs and improvements continued throughout the year thanks to grants, gifts and skilled workers who gave their time and talents. We replaced some of our windows and covered others up, we replaced the Brunnemann Building access ramp, freshened up some spaces, restored the Fritz building and repaired parts of the air conditioning system.

Although many non-profit organizations and churches downsized or shut down in the wake of COVID-19, Family Deaf Church, Sunny Slope Baptist Church, New Direction, and Rise Above continue to meet on campus. The Message and Life Change Church adapted to off campus models. Jubilee Academy and Funeral Caring are still here and the Early Learning Center is stronger than ever. The Ceramics ministry was the only one to return to the Fritz in 2021.

A new addition to the BT Campus family is Care Warriors. This non-profit group helps teens and young adults with developmental disabilities to develop life skills that lead to greater Independence.

Our hunger fighting efforts were enhanced by large and timely food drives from Woodland Baptist Church, Fellowship of San Antonio and Jubilee Academy, as well as grants from the Texas Baptists and the San Antonio Baptist Association. We were able to provide groceries for 1001 families, representing 3626 individuals. Our free community meals are also back, creating more opportunities for connection and relationship building.

The COVID situation limited the number of church mission teams traveling this summer. Only two came. In the Spring, the Crusader Choir from Christian Heritage Academy performed three concerts and did some yard work in the community. In June, First Baptist Church of Tulsa brought a team to conduct VBS in the park and for the early learning center. They also did a lot of light construction work.

VBS returned this year after it was canceled in 2020. Although the numbers were smaller than in the past, it was still a great victory. First, we did it. Second, the children learned biblical truth while having fun. Third, we had a great number of volunteers. We were hampered by our inability to do children's outreach this year but I expect next year to be better.

Outreach efforts included an outdoor concert sponsored by Rise Above Ministries and featuring the bands Filthy Rags and Becoming Sons and worship concerts featuring Westward Road and Simply Blessed. Our worship attendance has remained steady for the year at 30% below our pre-COVID average. The worship concerts provided opportunities to invite new people and present the gospel through music and testimony.

Our biggest event was the Trek or Treat jointly sponsored by the BT Early Learning Center and Jubilee Academy. It was a highly attended event designed to introduce new families to the services we offer. Many new families learned about our services.

The year 2021 was a year of rehabilitation. We moved forward with an abundance of faith, trusting God for the results. I am confident for the future. We must heed the words of the passage we are focused on this morning.
  • We must throw off everything that hinders. Our ministry focus must be on those events that have the biggest impact for making disciples. 
  • We must run the race marked out for us. We are not running the race that other churches are running. We are not running yesterday's race. We must be like the people of Issachar who understood the times and knew what to do.
  • We must keep our eyes upon Jesus. Not on the news, not on the politicians, certainly not on social media. We need to see where God is at work and join him.