Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We have reached a new low in public discourse

We have gone from attacking a politician's ideas, to attacking the politicians. Now we attack the people who voted for the politician.

We are becoming increasingly polarized. People on opposing sides of issues have taken irrevocable stands. We have moved from arguing a position to attacking people who disagree with us. Now we launch preemptive accusations based on what we assume others might say. Are we losing our minds?

Social media has magnified the hate. We post things we probably would not say to someone's face. Can you imagine explaining to a time traveler from the sixties that we have a device that we can hold in the palm of our hand and access all the knowledge in the world but we use it to insult strangers. We have lost our minds!

A person who identifies as a follower of Christ should not be a participant in such hate-inspired, soul- destroying acts. The Bible teaches, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:9-12)

A favorite song of mine is “They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love
Peter Scholtes (1968)

Are you known as Christian by your love? Or do the words you type betray your true nature? Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Jesus said that being a peacemaker is a mark of His followers. (Matthew 5:9) Does that describe you? Or do you forward emails and share Facebook posts that make others angry?

Before we speak or post Christians ought to be mindful of our call to glorify God and bear witness to His love.

Before we speak or post Christians ought to be mindful that our words can spark a fire strong enough to burn a forest. (James 3:5)

Before we speak or post Christians ought to be mindful that a gentle word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

Before we speak or post Christians ought to be mindful that on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. (Matthew 12:36)

Before we speak or post Christians ought to be mindful that Jesus said, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).”

Saturday, July 08, 2017

God expects us to do ministry to the level of one percent.

Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep (Luke 15:4-7.) When he noticed that one was missing, he left the 99 as he went to search for the one lost sheep. We can pick up two quick applications for ministry in the church.
  1. Usually, only a small part of the flock is suffering at one time. The 99 were fine and did not need close attention.
  2. Although only one out of 100 was lost, the shepherd focused his attention on that one sheep. God expects us to do ministry to the level of one percent.
That level of ministry is impossible for one person to carry out alone. Moses tried to do that. Exodus 18 describes a long line of people waiting all day to see Moses. The people's needs were not being met and Moses was wearing himself out. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had a better way. He suggested that trustworthy leaders be selected for every 10 families, along with higher level leaders for groups of 50, 100, and 1000.

Centuries later the early church would face a dispute over the distribution of food. The Apostles were called in to rule on the matter. They decided on a shared ministry plan. They would focus on the ministry of prayer and the Word and seven spiritually mature leaders would take care of the ministry to widows (Acts 6.)

These three stories teach us about the community of God's people. Churches usually use Sunday school and other small group meetings to maintain community. Other methods include service and social groups. These groups help folks minister to one another in good times and bad.

Another level of care comes through deacon ministry. Each deacon has a number of families for which to provide pastoral care. Some of these folks are no longer able to attend church but are still part of our spiritual family. Some are not yet strongly connected to the church but they, too, are part of our flock. This ministry of community is an important part of church life. It is the thread that ties the worship, teaching, serving and giving together. We cannot neglect it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Are you ready to fight hunger?

According to a recent CNN report, there are 13.1 million children in America who are food insecure. They are not sure when their next meal will be; they don't get enough to eat; and the food they do get is often of poor nutritional quality. On the other hand, the US is not only the world's leading exporter of food but, also, we throw away 40% of our food (enough to feed 25 million people.)

There is plenty of food in the US and, locally, The San Antonio Food Bank has demonstrated a phenomenal ability to collect and redistribute surplus food to over 500 agencies. The problem seems to be distribution. We need to get food into the mouths of the hungry.

There are many theories regarding the causes of poverty but I like what the Bible has to say, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11 NIV)

I know that I don't have the ability to end poverty but I know I can feed some hungry people right now.

Baptist Temple operates a client choice pantry 3 days a week for 3 hours each day. People in need of assistance come in and visit with a volunteer who helps them through the process and determines if there are other needs for which we can provide guidance and resources. In addition to food, we also have used clothes and other items available. We, also, frequently offer classes in health, finances, nutrition and gardening. Can you give a few hours a week or a month so that we can help more people?

Being open an afternoon or evening each week and on Saturday each month will help us serve the working poor. If you want to organize a crew, we will need five people to run a shift for three hours. Once a week, once a month, once in a while... whatever time you have to give will be appreciated.

Contact me at rev.jorge@yahoo.com if you'd like to help us fight hunger.