Sunday, December 13, 2020
This tragic story is actually one of Joy. An angel said “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Some mistake happiness for joy but JOY is greater than happiness. The Bible mentions "joy" or "rejoicing" 330 times. But it only mentions "happiness" 26 times. Happiness depends upon what happens to you. So, if all the circumstances are right, then you can be happy. But joy comes from inside.
Paul says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control." (Galatians 5:22)
Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in your life. If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then this fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.
Jesus taught us joy can be experienced despite our circumstances. On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus is in the upper room with His apostles. Gethsemane, the arrest & trial are coming. Soon He will be nailed to a cross, and He will die. On the last night of His life, facing the cross, Jesus talks about love & joy, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you & that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)
The Bible points to the source of our joy, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross & scorned its shame." (Hebrews 12:2)
Paul writes, "Therefore we don’t lose heart. Though outwardly we waste away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light & momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Joy is the evidence of God’s presence in your life. It turns pain into victory
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Hope is the theme of the First Sunday of Advent. The prophet Isaiah told his divided nation, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
Israel to the north would be crushed by the Assyrians; the people were scattered. To the South, Judah would be carried away to Babylon; their Temple destroyed but Isaiah told them of the promised Messiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
America has faced gloomy times before. Each time we bounced back stronger than before. The Civil War killed more soldiers than WWI and WWII combined. In the aftermath, slavery was abolished and the reunited nation became the world's strongest economy. We emerged from the Great Depression and WWII as a global economic and political leader.
By the grace of God we have survived pandemics, terrorist attacks, riots, economic downturns and more but the ups and downs of America are but a flash in the pan in the history of God's work with humanity. God is in control and is moving towards an end where he will be glorified.
My hope this First Sunday of Advent echoes the words of Paul: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
In 100 AD there were 25,000 Christians in the world. By 310, there were 20 million. Christianity became the dominant religion of Rome even though they were largely an underground without political power or centralized structure. Somehow they managed to turn a hostile government to their favor.
Fast forward to the 20th Century. Mao Zedong wants to purge China of all Western influence, including Christianity. He deported foreign missionaries and ministers, took ceased all church property, killed all senior leaders and outlawed church gatherings. At this time the church had been well-established in China with two million members. When contact with the Western world was re-established in the 80's the Chinese church had grown to 60 million. At the dawn of the 21st Century membership grew to 80 million.
Like the early church, they lacked professional clergy, formal training and centralized organization. Also, like the early church, they operated underground moving person to person. Neither movement tried to enact legislation that required nonbelievers to behave like Christians. Neither movement tried to gain political power
In his book, “The Forgotten Ways,” Alan Hirsh observes that revivals begin on the fringes of society among the poor and marginalized. It seldom (if at all) starts at the center. In fact, when the institutional church begins its inevitable decline, there is usually a vibrant grass-roots movement forming.
The established church in America wants to reach the middle class, family values types; the “soccer moms.” Most churches are competing for this segment. The result is that only 18% of the US population attend church. What about the other 82%? What about the 40% of San Antonians who claim no religious belief; the “nones?”
The contemporary church growth movement sought to make it easy for people to go to church. Recommendations included sticking to your own people group, using music that appeals to your demographic, parking lot attendants, and excellent children & youth programs. No cross bearing nor sacrifice. Forty years later, church attendance decline continues.
George Barna predicts, in “Revolution,” that the church will lose 50% of its attendance in the first quarter of the 21st Century. COVID-19 may have accelerated and increased the decline. In 2008, The Christian Century (5/6/08) reported that 3700 churches close every year. These tend to be inner city and rural churches but also include failed new church starts.
Hirsh recommends reseeding an established church with new, grass-roots folks who will respect the needs of the old guard. Perhaps several new church starts and/or parachurch groups can share space paying rent to help with the utilities and maintenance.
Frank Tillapaugh, in “Unleashing the Church,” states that we need a marriage between the established church and the parachurch. I would replace the term “parachurch” with any organization that is doing Kingdom work, even those that don't identify as faith-based.
We need to get back to the methodology that helped the early church, the 20th Century Chinese church, and many others to become disciple making machines. There is no short cut; no easy way. There is only people who know going to people who need to know Jesus.
Monday, August 31, 2020
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things,you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:14-17 (NIV)
In John 13 we read that Jesus washed the disciple's feet. An unpleasant but ordinary task usually performed by a servant. Jesus set the example for all of us who call ourselves His followers. Churches that practice foot washing today have turned into a religious ritual that could be missing the point. The story below is a demonstration of humility and service that illustrates Jesus' point. It is taken from the journal of one of our deacons.
A day of ministry…
About 3:45 pm I got a call from a disabled woman. She thinks she might have a dead rat in her house. My husband and I arrived at 4:30 pm. When we walked in the door we could smell the dead rat, plus lots of dog feces in 2 of the 3 bedrooms.
My husband picked up the glue trap in the bedroom (with dead rat attached,) disposed of it and, then, picked up all the dog feces in the house.
I talked with the disabled woman while picking up lots of trash in the floor of her bedroom and put her mattress cover in the washing machine, while my husband mopped the 2 dog-poop rooms, the bathroom, and the hallway.
I pulled the kitchen trash bag out the container, which smelled like dead rat. I looked in and there was a rat in the bottom of the container – I screamed! Then my husband looked inside discovered two rats in there – a dead one, and a live one that was eating the dead rat’s head. He took the container outside, killed the live one, and threw them both away. I washed out the kitchen trash can.
Next, we mopped the bedroom because there was a trail of diarrhea on the floor. I sat and listened to the woman while my husband washed her dishes.
I put out a fresh bowl of water for her dogs, swept up all the rat feces in the kitchen floor, then mopped it.
We went to the corner store to get her some Gatorade and, then, moved her laundry from the washer to the dryer.
After dinner at Whataburger, we went to Walmart to buy a 2 weeks supply of Gatorade and more rat traps for the woman we are helping (she always gives me her debit card when I shop for her). When we delivered it to her house, I got the sheets and mattress pad out of the dryer and made her bed while my husband set out 8 rat traps in the house.
I think we left her house around 8:30 pm.
Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto
one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40 (KJV)
Note: This disabled woman is currently undergoing chemotherapy. She is unable to walk her dogs and, so, they often do their business inside but they are her only companions. Baptist Temple is seeking ways to help her in her time of need.
Monday, August 24, 2020
Just about every church, denomination and business wrote a 2020 vision statement at the turn of the century. What could be more poetic? I'm sure the plans included growth, efficiency and technology upgrades but no one planned for a future that included the COVID-19 plague, rioting and a nation divided politically.
God created the world and on the sixth day. He looked around and said it was good. He'd created humanity in His own image and told them. “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
He had one rule and the first humans broke it. As a result a curse fell on them and all creation. War, disease, pestilence, violence and exploitation would become the way of the land. (Genesis 3)
Later we are reminded that humanity was created in the image of God but Adam “had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.” (Genesis 5:3)
Evil multiplied and filled the earth. God regretted creating humanity and destroyed it in a flood but Noah found favor and was saved with his family along with a remnant of all creation. (Genesis 6:11-14)
Thoughts of the end of the world proliferate at times like this. The world seems to be ripe for Christ's return. We hear of wars and rumors of wars, hunger, natural disasters, immorality... It sure feels like the end is near.
After Jesus' resurrection, the disciples gathered around the risen, triumphant savior and asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
God's plan has always involved blessing humanity. Following the flood, he declared again that humans were made in God's image and issued a new order to multiply. (Genesis 9:6-7) When called Abraham, God said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
When become followers of Christ we become new creations (born again.) God reconciles us to Himself through Jesus Christ and turns over to us this ministry of reconciling the world to Him. We are Christ's ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
In times like these we a-re called to continue to be Jesus' witnesses, obeying his call to “make disciples.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32 NIV
“The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11 NIV
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 NIV
“He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” Luke 8:5-8 NIV
“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:10-15 NIV
“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35 NIV
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4 NIV
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2 NIV
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6 NIV