Monday, January 27, 2020

Five essential elements of Bible engagement

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light for my path.
Psalm 119:105

Bible engagement is a key element to spiritual success because it is the primary way God speaks to us. The five letters in the word HEART can help us to remember the essential elements of Bible engagement. 

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJ

Hearing is the easiest way to get God’s word. Faith Comes by Hearing provided free downloads of the Bible in the MP3 format.

Examine (read)
“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 NIV

Hearing is a passive way of getting God’s word. We only remember 5 – 10% of what we hear. Reading is more effective.

The habit of daily Bible reading will help you to grow spiritually in a way nothing else will. If you read three chapters of the Bible a day and five chapters on Sunday you will read through the whole Bible in a year. That should take about 15 to 20 minutes a day. If you miss a day don’t panic. You wouldn’t quit eating if you missed a meal.

You can download a Bible reading plan here.

Analyze (study)
“But the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and gladly listened to the message. They searched the Scriptures day by day to check up on Paul and Silas' statements to see if they were really so.”
Acts 17:11 TLB

Studying is more than reading. It involves writing down notes and using other study sources. Bible study allows you to feed yourself. One of the signs of Christian maturity is that you no longer need someone to feed you. You can feed yourself and others.

Remember (memorize)
“Obey me and live! Guard my words as your most precious possession. Write them down, and also keep them deep within your heart.” Proverbs 7:2 TLB

You can only remember 5 – 10% of what you hear and up to 30% of what you study but you will remember 100% of what you memorize.

Think (meditate)
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 NIV

Reading and memorizing scripture can become mechanical. Even Bible study can become nothing more than an academic exercise. Meditation can make the Word of God a part of your life.

View a video of “Get a Strong Grasp on the Bible.”

MasterLife: Developing a Rich Personal Relationship with the Master

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

Friday, January 24, 2020

Plugging into Jesus: Part 2

This is to my Father’s glory,
that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves
to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Remaining fully charged (spirit-filled) will make you spiritually successful. First, being plugged into Jesus helps you to see God's work. God is at work all around us, all the time, and He wants you to join Him in His work. He created us for good works which He prepared in advance. (Ephesians 2:10)

Second, being plugged into Jesus will allow you to produce much fruit. This phrase is often connected with soul-winning (leading people into a saving relationship with Christ.) This is certainly in keeping with Jesus' Great Commission to us, “Go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
This phrase is also connected to spiritual fruit as listed in Galatians: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Jesus said that every tree is known by its fruit. (Luke 6:44) A fig tree cannot grow apples. An apple tree cannot grow figs. The Jesus vine produces Jesus fruit. If this does not describe you, you don't have a strong connection to the source of spiritual power.

Third, if you stay plugged into Jesus, ask and it will be done for you.

Fourth, bearing fruit brings glory to God and marks you as a disciple of Jesus.

If you want fruit in your life; if you want to grow your faith and deepen your relationship with God, you must remain plugged into Jesus. He is the true vine. You are just a branch. Apart from the vine you cannot grow nor bear fruit.

View a video of “Plugging into Jesus.

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Plugging into Jesus: Part 1

I am the vine;
you are the branches.
If you remain in me 
and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me 
you can do nothing.
John 15:5

The prophet Isaiah wrote “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel (Isaiah 5:7)” but when Israel fell out of favor with God, the prophet Hosea declared, “Israel is an empty vine (Hosea 10:1).”

A vine with no fruit is not of any value. Israel was disqualified and spiritually powerless.

Jesus declared that He was the true vine (John 15:1). In the same way that the vine brings water and life to the branches, Jesus brings LIVING WATER and spiritual power to us. He alone is the source of salvation and reconciliation to God. To be filled with the Spirit, we need to drink daily of His living water.

We can plug in to Jesus daily through a Quiet Time.

A quiet time (or devotions) is a regular appointment that we keep with God that allows us to block out other distractions and focus on our connection with Jesus through practices like prayer and Bible reading. A quiet time establishes a rhythm in our life that keeps us more mindful of God’s presence and builds spiritual strength.

For physical training is of some value,
but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

How to have a successful quiet time.
  1. Have a consistent schedule (morning, evening, lunch)
  2. Include Bible reading' even if its just a passage. This is the clearest way God speaks to us.
  3. Pray. Focus more on listening for God's voice than on asking for things.
  4. Keep a journal. Write the Bible verses you read and what God is telling you. Write your prayer requests and God's answers.
How do you plug into Jesus?

View a video of “Plugging into Jesus."

This is part of the sermon series “How To Be Spiritually Successful.” It is based on the Masterlife study “The Disciple's Cross.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Baptist Temple Expands Care Through Stephen Ministry

Eighteen members of Baptist Temple Church, San Antonio were commissioned as Stephen Ministers this Sunday, January 19. A Stephen Minister provides one-on-one distinctively Christian care to hurting people in and around the congregation. While they are not therapists nor lay counselors, they do receive 50 hours of initial training followed by peer supervision and continuing education.

Stephen Ministry will strengthen our church by providing direct care to people going through a difficult time. I have heard too many stories of hurting people who felt abandoned by their church.
A Stephen Minister would meet with this hurting person for an hour a week; providing a listening ear and shoulder to cry on for as long as it takes.

Furthermore, our church is strengthened by training and deploying church members to apply their spiritual gifts in service to our Lord. Both the care giver and the care receiver grow in faith as a result.

Stephen Minister Rosalinda Acosta said, “The Stephen Ministry training was so incredibly intense while, at the same time moving. The presence of God was so strong at times. I could feel the Lord impressing into my spirit that the main element, the main purpose of a Stephen Minister is to show the love of God to those in a dark and lonely place, a place of despair, confusion and perhaps helplessness.”

A phrase often heard in Stephen Ministry is, “We are the care givers, God is the cure giver.”

Stephen Ministers do not “fix” people. They listen without judgment and maintain strict confidentiality. Even the fact that someone has a Stephen Minister is confidential. Their training includes listening, feelings and confidentiality. Through reading, lectures, case studies and role playing, Stephen Ministers learn how to help people in specific situations. These include divorce, terminal illness, grief, and childbirth.

Newly commissioned Stephen Ministers (L to R) Tracy Zayasbazan, Lin Leeth, Ernest Cruz, Ernest Alvarez, Charlotte Cruz, Bertha Alvarez, Dan Cruz, Steve Grinnell, Clinton Blumberg, Melissa Baxter, Linda Grinnell, Muriel Persky, Vernon Liverette, Rosalinda Acosta, Richard Good, Karen Newman, Armando Acosta and Robert Newman.

Stephen Ministers are found in over 13,000 churches representing 183 denominations. Texas, at 1042, is the state with the largest number of Stephen Ministry churches.

Baptist Temple is part of a family of seven churches and twelve service organizations sharing a campus to meet the physical and spiritual needs of our community.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Make Disciples!

Make disciples are the two most important words in the Great Commission. Make Disciples will be our spiritual battle cry, our focus, our hashtag. We will make decisions at Baptist Temple by asking, “How will this help us make disciples?”

We have been successful at creating a model that made our facilities sustainable and relevant to our community. We have been successful in building a hub of services to meet the physical and spiritual needs of hundreds of people each day. We now have to sharpen our focus to Make Disciples.

The spiritual formation of our members is the place to start. We will strengthen Sunday School through evaluating our current program, making adjustments, recruiting new teachers and providing training. We will provide discipleship and leadership training at all levels.

 Our 18 newly commissioned Stephen Ministers will Make Disciples by helping both members and people outside the church who are going through difficult times. Helping them to draw on spiritual resources to gain strength.

Our goal is to double our worship attendance in the next two years. We will sharply focus our resources to this end.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Multi-site and multi-church can help keep kingdom properties in the kingdom.

Despite some mega meltdowns, the multi-site church movement is still growing. Much like a franchise, consistency is maintained through centralized leadership that, often, selects the worship song and a popular teacher via video.

There are different ways to do multi-site. A church might acquire nearby suburban churches that are experiencing decline, hold satellite services in a movie theater, a jail or apartment building.

Thom Rainer's recent podcast, “Why the Intersection of the Multi-site Movement and the Replanting Movement Is So Powerful,” makes a good case for megachurches moving into church properties that have disbanded or decide to be replanted. Kingdom properties remain in the kingdom. This is particularly vital in downtown areas, where property values are high and a gospel witness is needed.

A different strategy is the multi-church strategy where multiple congregations meet in the same building, sharing expenses and maximizing the use of kingdom properties. Both these strategies work but instead of an either/or choice, it can be a both/and.

For a church that already shares space, adding a service from a multi-site church as another option is not a stretch. For a multi-site church, the host church can become a mission point. Along with a worship service for members of the multi-site church who live in the area, there is, also, an opportunity to provide benevolence ministry in under-resourced areas. The pastor of the host church can serve as the campus pastor.

Of course, egos are always a problem but not just on the part of pastors. Strong lay leaders are reluctant to relinquish control. Pride, however, is not one of the fruits of the spirit and is contrary to the kingdom attitude required to advance the gospel. Humility is needed if we are to maintain a presence in the inner-city and preserve valuable kingdom real estate.