Monday, April 28, 2014

Acts of love result in changed lives

After a month of experiencing God's love in practical ways, a couple committed themselves to Christ and church membership. It began last month when someone dropped off some groceries during our food pantry registration day saying, “You're going to need this.”

A little while later, a couple comes to register for the food distribution that would occur later that week. Because their need was immediate, they received the groceries that had been unexpectedly delivered. If that food had not been dropped off, we would not have been able to provide immediate assistance.

Follow-up ministry uncovered some other needs that we could help address. The man is a disabled war vet who is now battling cancer. We continue to minister to their physical and spiritual needs.

There are many love stories like this at Baptist Temple. Earlier this month a church member donated a broken lawn mower. One of our deacons fixed it and gave it to a woman in need. Not a day goes by when one of our deacons is not serving a widow or single mom in our church family. When you include our Sunday school teachers and other workers, acts of love roll out from the Baptist Temple campus and reach out to the edges of our county.

Volunteers from the community and other churches help us serve our neighbors in many ways including providing clothes for our thrift shop, distributing food and more. Partnerships with businesses, churches, non-profits and government agencies have exponentially expanded our reach. Their donations help to become a channel of God's blessing. 

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James 2:26

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Renewed Hope and a New Mission

On Easter morning a group of women showed an extraordinary level of devotion and service to Jesus. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome acted out of selfless service. Like Jesus, they were looking to serve not to be served. The women who went to the tomb expected nothing in return. Jesus was dead and buried. The promised Kingdom collapsed. There was nothing left to do but one last act of service for the Jesus they loved so much

The norm seems to be that people shop for a church where they can have their needs met. They want to be fed rather than to feed. Jesus was surrounded by people who wanted healing or to see a miracle. 

The women were part of a radical change. They religious establishment did not want change. Jesus' closest followers were happy with the way things were but God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Christ death and resurrection brought change that shook Heaven and Earth.

Because of His sacrifice we pass from death to life. It’s called new birth and it happens by letting Jesus into your life. The resurrection means that you can be a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

They left with a new mission. They expected a stone but found an empty tomb. The women were told to go and tell. They had a new life and a new mission. GO and tell.

At the end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus commanded, “GO and make disciples.”

Have you been born again? Are you a new creation? Are you ready then to GO and TELL.

How can they call on the one they have not believed in
and how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard. How beautiful are he feet of those who bring good news. (Romans 10:14 )

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Four Easy Steps for Inviting People to Church

The Apostle Andrew was a quiet guy. We don’t read much about him in the Bible. The few times he is mentioned, it's because he is bringing someone to Jesus. Andrew brought a boy to Jesus who was willing to share his lunch (John 6:5-13). It was the boy who provided the bread and fish and it was Jesus who blessed and multiplied them but, if Andrew hadn't brought the boy to Jesus, there would be no miraculous feeding of the 5000.

Some Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus approached the Apostle Phillip (John 12:20-22). Unsure of what to do, Phillip consulted Andrew. Andrew knew to take them to Jesus.

The first person Andrew took to Jesus was his brother Simon Peter (John 1:40-42). Without Andrew there would not have been Peter's great sermon that led 3000 people to faith in Acts 2.

Like Andrew, you can impact the Kingdom of God by bringing people to Jesus. Numerous surveys agree that 3 out of 4 people came to church for the first time because someone invited them. On the other hand, fewer than half of regular church attendees have invited anyone to church in the past year. Another important fact is 40% of San Antonio claim no religious affiliation.

Four easy steps for inviting people to church.

1. IDENTIFY 4 people that you want to bring to church.
  • Choose people who are currently far from God. Perhaps they used to go attend church or have never been but, today, they are far from God.
  • Choose people with whom you have a relationship.
  • Choose people who are open to spiritual matters. People who have asked for your prayers or spoke with you about faith.

2. INTERCEDE – pray for them 4 times a week.
  • Pray that the God will open the eyes of their hearts.
  • Pray that they will recognize their need for forgiveness.
  • Pray that any spiritual confusion be removed.

3. INVEST in their lives.
  • Find ways to spend time with each person.
  • Have lunch or coffee, go shopping, or engage in a hobby together.
  • Find a way to be of service. Perhaps you can baby sit, mow their lawn or bring a meal.

4. INVITE them to 4 events at church.
  • Sunday worship is a good choice, especially at Easter, but other events may be better.
  • Children’s programs or adult recreation programs.
  • Opportunities to serve others.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Spending time with Riff Raff

A neighbor once complained that our food pantry was attracting riff raff. That made me smile. It reminded me of the time that Jesus was accused of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

It was true. One Jesus disciples, Levi, was a tax collector. They were considered as undesirable as prostitutes and thieves. They were excluded from religious services and social events. Their testimony was not valid in court.

Upon accepting Jesus' call, Levi threw a big party for his fellow tax collectors and friends. He wanted them to meet Jesus and the Apostles. His friends would have been outsiders but they all needed Jesus.

Levi had only been a believer for a short time but he is so concerned about the condition of his tax-collecting buddies that he takes a risk and throws an evangelistic party. The veteran spiritual leaders – highly educated, thoroughly trained, well-seasoned – missed the entire point of what Levi and Jesus were doing at this party.

Levi demonstrated the relational concept of soul winning. Like Levi we each have a circle of friends and acquaintances whom we can invite them to a church event that they might find interesting.

Would you dedicate Friday nights to Jesus? Plan a night of board games and snacks and invite an unchurched family so you can get to know them. Include another Christian family. As you spend time together and as God leads, you can move conversations deeper into personal matters, and finally into spiritual matters.

Create opportunities to hang out with unchurched people by becoming involved in community groups, school organizations and local politics.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity.
Colossians 4:5

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Remember the Poor

photo by Dorthea Lang
Every time I serve communion I read Paul's warning, “...whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27)

This verse and the call to self-examination that follows are used as opportunities to recommit ourselves to the Christian life; to confess our sins to the Lord and be refreshed and renewed in our faith. On the other hand, the context of the passage indicates more.

Paul opens this passage by rebuking the Corinthians for the careless attitude they displayed in regards to the Lord's Supper. The practice in that day was to gather for a communal meal but, rather than share, some overindulged while others went hungry. (1 Corinthians 11:21)

Paul explains that their error was in failing to take the Body of Christ into account. (1 Corinthians 11:29) In other words, they were ignoring the poor in their midst. This error interfered with their ability to worship and disrupted the unity of the Corinthian church.

We are reminded by this passage to remember the poor among us. Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard, recently asked, “If Baptists are such a big deal in Texas, why are we so behind other states in compassion?” (my paraphrase of his question).

Texas is leading the US in hunger and lack of access to health care. How can that be? Didn't Jesus say he came to proclaim good news to the poor?

As followers of Jesus Christ we must be mindful of the poor in our midst. When we gather to worship, let us celebrate a week of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

The King will reply,
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Adapt Your Evangelism Style to the Situation

I once had an encounter with a Jehovah's Witness on a city street in New Orleans. She approached me with marked up New World Translation of the Bible. I saw this as a rare opportunity to present her with the gospel and win her over to Christ.

I had tremendous confidence in my ability to do this. I had just finished my Evangelism class at New Orleans with an A. I was polished and ready.

I began to counter the teachings of her faith with what the Bible taught but she countered every argument I made. It seems she was as well-trained as I, so I decided to pull out my fool-proof, guaranteed-to-work tactic. I shared my testimony.

One's personal testimony is a powerful soul-winning tool. It communicates on a very human level. It is hard to argue against because it is personal. It gets the point across by explaining how you discovered your need for Christ and how your life is better now.

It didn't work. She walked away from the gospel and I did not become a Jehovah's Witness.

I did however have an opportunity to exercise three of the six evangelism styles that Bill Hybels identified in his book, Becoming a Contagious Christian. I demonstrated the confrontational style by engaging her in dialog and openly declaring my faith. Although the confrontational approach brings mind knocking on doors and asking, “Are you ready to die?” it does not have to be obnoxious.

I moved from the confrontational approach to the intellectual approach when I engaged in a theological debate. This style requires knowledge of the Bible and doctrinal strength.

When I realized I was not making progress, I moved to the testimonial style. I gave my salvation testimony but you can also give a testimony about how God helped you through a specific problem. This is particularly effective if the other person can directly relate to your story.

The Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Although each of have a preferred style it is possible and necessary to adjust our approach to the situation in which we find ourselves.