Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Lord of the Sabbath

Mark 2:23-28

The religious establishment believed that they could please God by developing and following a strict set of rules. This caused them to, not only, miss the true intent of God's law but, also, led to conflict with Jesus and his disciples. One clash occurred when the hungry disciples picked and ate some grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-24). Old Testament law prohibited working on the Sabbath but that did not extend to picking a handful of grain to satisfy immediate hunger.

The Pharisees were very religious people whose strong desire to keep the law led them to build a hedge around the law. Deciding that it was best to err on the side caution to prevent Sabbath breaking, They banned 1500 acts on the Sabbath.

Rules seem to make life easier but they short-circuit thinking and, sometimes, lead to bad decisions. A deacon told me that he had once approached a young man in church and told him to remove his ball cap or leave. The young man felt humiliated and left. The deacon later learned that the young man was undergoing treatment for cancer and had lost most of his hair. He regretted enforcing that rule.

Jesus taught that God's law must be applied with compassion and reminded the Pharisees that King David once took sacred bread that was to be eaten only by the priests and gave it to his men (I Samuel 21:1-6). David was justified because his need for food was greater than keeping the ceremonial law.

Meeting human need and compassion takes precedence over custom, ritual, ceremony and tradition. God says, "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6).

The Sabbath is God’s idea. God created everything in six days, and he rested on the seventh, and made it holy. (Genesis 2:2) God didn’t need to rest because he was tired. He rested because he was done.

Sabbath” means rest. God created us to need rest for our bodies and refreshment for our spirits every seven days. The Law prohibited menial work but the Pharisees prohibited all work; even good work. The Sabbath was not meant to restrict necessities. The Sabbath was made to serve man not for man to serve the day. (Mark 2:27) The day had become a burden instead of the blessing it was meant to be.

The wrong question to ask is “What is allowed or not allowed on the Sabbath? – Can you eat out? go to the movies? watch or play sports?”

That question makes Sabbath rules more important than the Sabbath itself. Don’t worship the day or “rules;” worship the Lord of the Sabbath.

The Lord of the Sabbath offers true rest to whosoever comes to Him.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Texas Hunger Initiative opens regional office at Baptist Temple

Adela Flores (L) and Sara Marple (R) of Baylor School of
Social Work's Texas Hunger Initiative in San Antonio.

Texas is the nation's second hungriest state. The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) seeks to make Texas food secure by 2015. Feed security simply means having access to three nutritious meals a day. In Texas 18.5 percent of households do not have reliable access to three meals a day, compared with 14.7 percent of U.S. households

THI was started in 2009 by the Baylor School of Social Work and the Christian Life Commission and was recently awarded a $3.5 million contract to accomplish their goal. This funding has enabled them to open 12 regional offices (including the one at Baptist Temple).

Adela Flores is the San Antonio Regional Director and is a graduate of University of Texas with a Master of Public Health Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Also on the team is Sara Marple, a recent graduate of Texas Christian University and a Americorps VISTA volunteer. Sara is the Food Planning Association Coordinator for San Antonio. Two other team members will soon be identified.

We welcome THI to the family of churches and non-profits working at Baptist Temple to show God's love in tangible ways to our community and the world.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Seeing potential when others see problems

Mark 2:13-17

Jesus called Levi, a tax collector, while teaching on the shore of Lake Galilee. Tax collectors were among the most undesirable people on the same level as prostitutes and thieves. They were not accepted in society and were excluded from all religious services. They were not considered truthful enough to appear as witnesses in court.

Jesus called a man no one else wanted. He saw Levi's humanity and potential and overlooked his faults and forgave his sins.

Levi was excited about his new life and threw a party in Jesus' honor, inviting his friends and co workers. The guest list was what we would expect from an outcast like Levi. There were other tax collectors, many of them were thieves. There were other “sinners”, too: robbers, prostitutes, drunkards, etc. Levi embodied the relational concept of soul winning. He reached out to the people he knew.

The religious establishment objected to Jesus' eating with these outcasts and questioned his character. There are still those among the religious establishment today with a critical spirit of others who don’t quite fit their expectations or traditions. The religious establishment missed Jesus in that day. They missed him during the Reformation, during the Jesus movement in the 70's and still miss him today. They control the things of the world but let the things of the Spirit slip through their hands.

Jesus was not a separatist. He associated with sinners and did not fear the venom of his critics. The question Jesus asked is not, “Are you good?” but, “Are you bad?” Jesus came to seek the lost.

We need to look at others through the eyes of Jesus. We need to see past people's problems and see their potential. Levi went from collecting money for Caesar to gathering in people for Jesus. He became a leader among Jesus’ followers and a powerful influence in spreading the Gospel throughout the world. 

Jesus said to them,  
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 
Mark 2:17 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Through the roof worship

Mark 2:1-12

It all began when a man with leprosy was healed by Jesus (Mark 1:40-45). This man went out spreading the news and it spread fast. He couldn't help himself. People kept asking, “Where's you leprosy?

Jesus would now draw a crowd wherever he went. Many, however, were motivated for selfish reasons. Some came for a cure and others out of curiosity. When Jesus returned to Capernaum, the crowd was so great that it was standing room only – outside the door (Mark 2:1-2).
Today there are churches with hundreds and even thousands in attendance. Just as in Jesus' day many go to church for self-centered reasons: personal blessings, programs, entertaining worship, etc. In this passage in Mark's gospel, the crowd prevented a man in need of healing from getting to Jesus. The people were there to have their own needs met and were unconcerned about others. The Christian satire website,, posted a fake news release about a mega-church that was downsizing. The fictional church sent a letter to Christians who attended the seeker service declaring that they needed to step up in their participation or worship somewhere else. They were being accused of being freeloaders standing in the way of evangelism.

This tongue-in-cheek look at church life points to the fact that people who wish to honor God make personal sacrifices for the gospel. Able-bodied followers of Christ ought to park in the far spaces so new comers will find a convenient spot. Space should be left in the back rows for people who arrive late or unsure of what the will encounter in the worship service. We need to always be alert to the need around us so we don't crowd out the people who need Jesus.

This paralyzed man had four friends willing to carry him to Jesus. They were determined. They had carried their friend this far and would not let the crowd deter them. They carried him to the roof, cut a hole and lowered him down while Jesus was preaching. They boldly believed that Jesus could help their friend and would not let anything stop them (Mark 2:3-4).

God needs people of faith and determination who will work together to bear another's burdens so that others may find the salvation and wholeness that only Jesus can provide. Do you want to be part of the crowd or do you want to be an agent of change; a soul winner?

Jesus saw the faith of the four friends and forgave the paralytics sins (Mark 2:5). No mention of the paralytic's faith is mentioned. The Bible teaches that Jesus is present whenever 2 or 3 gather in his name. Also, that the prayer of the righteous is effective, especially when two agree.

The power that transformed the paralytic is available to us today but we need the faith of the faithful four.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Loving the unlovable

Mark 1:40-42
 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. 

Leprosy was a particularly horrible disease in the Bible. There was visible deterioration and open sores and it was untreatable. Insult was added to injury as the leper was cast out of society; away from his home, his family and his friends. The the loneliness & isolation seem worse than the disease itself. The smell, the deformity and the fear of contamination made a leper untouchable and unlovable. In fact the very word leper is still synonymous with untouchable.

Unexpectedly, Jesus reaches out and touches the leper. We know that he could have healed the man without touching him. He healed the servant of a Roman officer and a Syrophoenician woman's daughter from a distance. Jesus' touch showed genuine love and may have been as important as healing for this leper. 

Jesus showed love to other untouchables including the woman at the well, tax collectors and those who were demon possessed. Jesus loved them all; reached out to them all.

Some of the unlovable people we encounter in our desire to minister to the community include those who look, dress and act differently than us. Then there are the immoral (especially those whose behavior we find particularly distasteful.) Also, there are some who just have poor manners. The latter also can appear ungrateful.
Ministry in the name of Jesus includes serving the unlovable, the untouchable and the ungrateful. Jesus said, “Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mt 20:28, TLB).

It is normal for Christians to serve those outside the church. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” (James 1:27, NIV).

Acts of kindness demonstrate God’s love in a practical way and builds bridges to the lost. Jesus identified devotion to him with service to others especially ministry to the least in society. That means giving to those who cannot give back. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5: 43, NIV).

Remember when you get tired of giving and not getting back and being the object of gossip by those you help; remember that when you love the unlovable, when help the ungrateful, when you pray for those who hurt you, you are most like Jesus.