Saturday, February 29, 2020

4 keys to knowing God's will

Do not be foolish,
understand the Lord’s will. 
Ephesians 5:17

Knowing and doing God's will is an essential part of being a spiritually successful Christian. 

First, to know God’s will we start with an attitude of trust. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

Most of God's will involves that which applies to every believer. These are his standing orders. They are found in the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the Bible. We ought to begin there. If we are not faithful in these areas we cannot expect to be able to understand His specific will on a certain issue. This attitude of trust also involves our ultimate intent. Why ask if we are not going to obey? 

Second, to know God’s will we must seek Him through the Bible. “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may he thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

This requires devotional reading, deep study and reflection. Tap into the timeless principles of God's Word to understand how it applies directly to our situation. 

Third, to know God’s will we must seek Him through prayer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) 

The Holy Spirit impresses us with wisdom, insight, understanding, and discernment. He also gives us inner peace about our decisions. However, we must be tuned into God, to be sensitive to His subtle messages and nudges. 

Fourth, to know God’s will we must seek wise counsel. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) 

Guidance can come from parents, teachers, pastors, and friends. It is important that we verify our impressions by insuring that other believers concur. We need to be spiritually accountable to others, who in turn offer guidance as we struggle with the path ahead. This is why Christianity is not experienced alone.

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


Friday, February 21, 2020

Showing God's Love

Who sinned,” the disciples asked Jesus upon encountering a man who'd been blind from birth, “this man or his parents?” (John 9:1-2)

It is commonly believed that one's physical state is a sign of God's judgment. A cousin of the tendency to “blame the victim.”

While we often want to debate the reasons for suffering and pain, Jesus cut the debate off abruptly. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

Jesus saw this man's disability as an opportunity to show God's love by healing him. Jesus wants us to show God's love to those who suffer. In fact, he closely identifies with the suffering.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me...’ ‘...Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-36

Spiritually successful Christians serve others. In this way, we show God's love in practical ways. When we encounter a person in physical or spiritual pain, our first instinct ought to be to offer love and help. We must act quickly or lose opportunities. Hurting people will withdraw from church if they feel unloved. Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

View a video of “Sharing God's Love

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


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Meeting 4 needs are central to disciple making

Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) teaches four important needs that are met during the disciple making process.*

First, she needed SUSTENANCE. She came to the well seeking water. A person's felt-needs are a powerful attracting force. The Samaritan woman went to where the water was. Hungry people come to food pantries. Other felt-needs are social, educational, health, status, etc. A church can attract people by meeting some of these needs or, like Jesus, place themselves where these needs are being met; or both.

Second, she a needed SUPPORT. She needed a friend. She came to the well at noon to draw water, avoiding the judgmental stares of the town women. Imagine sitting alone in the school cafeteria at lunch or hiding in the bathroom to avoid the other children. Social isolation is a cruel burden.

Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman across barriers of class, religion and ethnicity. We can build relationships with the people whose needs are being met by social ministry programs. They need kindness and friendship. Jesus identified closely with people in need. He said when we minister to them we minister to him.

Third, she needed SALVATION. Jesus turned the conversation to spiritual things by speaking about living water. We need to verbally tell people about Jesus. That is the most important part of the disciple making process. We all have physical and social needs but our need for salvation is paramount. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Fourth, she needed SIGNIFICANCE. Having found her Savior, she left her jar of water behind and returned to the town to tell others about Jesus. She had a new purpose. She started out seeking to meet a physical need and left having had a greater need fulfilled.

Nothing can bring more significance to our lives than serving our Lord. We are called to bring relief to the suffering, relationships to the lonely, redemption to the lost and inviting to them to join in the work of the gospel.

*Based on a sermon by Craig Christina, Associate Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Be Like Andrew

Andrew was a quiet guy. We don’t read much about him in the Bible. He was at all of the gatherings of the 12 but rarely spoke. The few times Andrew is mentioned in the Bible it's because he brought people to Jesus.

Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. When he heard John declare that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” he brought his brother, Peter, to meet Jesus. Later, Peter would preach a sermon that led 3000 to faith in Jesus.

Andrew brought a boy to Jesus who was willing to share his lunch. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, prayed, and fed 5000. (John 6:5-13) He, also, brought some Greeks to Jesus. (John 12:20-23)

Like Andrew, you can have a powerful impact just by inviting people. A 2019 Lifeway study in showed that a little over half of church attenders had not shared their faith in the last six months but the same number had invited someone to church in the same time frame. The fact that most people will go to a church for the first time because they were invited by someone they know, makes this very encouraging.

There are several factors that will improve the receptiveness of your invitation:


Andrew went to his brother first. People close to you respect your opinion. They are your friends because you have things in common. You will know when to invite and to what events. Folks are more likely to come to a special event than to an average Sunday service.

On the other hand, a person may be going through a tough time and have a heart ready for God. People are more ready for Jesus than we think.


Andrew found a boy who was willing to serve. There are people who are not yet ready for worship or traditional Bible study might enjoy serving in a food pantry or work day. A woman went to serve in New Orleans with a group from her company, following Hurricane Katrina. She enjoyed the experience so much that she went back with a friend's church group the following year. She was amazed by the contrast between the two experiences. She witnessed Christian faith in action.

Cultural Curiosity

Andrew learned of some Greeks who wanted to learn more about Jesus. International students and immigrants are curious about all things American. They will be curious about American forms of Christianity. Christmas and Easter are holidays that are both Christian and American and a great opportunity to invite folks to a church service that explains their origins.

Bible discussion or discovery classes may be attractive to Americans who grew up in non Christian homes.

Food, Fun and Fellowship

People who have objections about church still like to eat. Invite them to a non-churchy event involving food. Invite other Christians, as well, to build a comfortable familiarity. Discomfort with the unknown is a barrier to the gospel that can be overcome with genuine friendship.

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


Monday, February 10, 2020

Melissa Baxter becomes the first female Deacon Chair of Baptist Temple

After serving a year as Deacon Chair Elect, Melissa Baxter became the first female Deacon Chair in the 109 year history of Baptist Temple. Ordained a deacon in 2018 at Baptist Temple, she is the third of five generations whose faith was formed at Baptist Temple. Melissa has been active in Baptist Temple life for many years and currently serves as an adult Sunday school teacher and has completed 50 hours of Stephen Ministry training.

She is relieving Ernest Cruz, who had served multiple terms as Deacon Chair. Ernest was raised in a Christian home and was ordained a deacon at Baptist Temple in 2010 and has competed 50 hours of Stephen Ministry training. He will serve for a year as Past Deacon Chair on the Deacon Leadership Team.

Steven Grinnell has been elected as Deacon Chair Elect. He, too, has completed 50 hours of Stephen Ministry training and will serve on the Deacon Leadership Team. He will take over as Deacon Chair in 2021.

The Deacon Leadership Team helps to coordinate Baptist Temple's deacon ministry.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Three reasons for Christian community

“Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another –
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25 NIV

 Spiritually successful Christians understand that fellowship is essential for spiritual growth. The word usually translated “fellowship” in the New Testament is the Greek word koinonia (koy-nohn-ee'-ah.) It carries the idea of partnership, sharing and community. Here are three reasons why Christians should need community.


"And let us consider how we may
spur one another on
toward love and good deeds." 
Hebrews 10:24 NIV 

The early church met daily in the temple courts and ate together in their homes experiencing the energy of public worship and the intimacy of small gathering. The second chapter of Acts begins with the believers gathered together in one place. The Holy Spirit comes upon them and the chapter ends with multiple gatherings of Christians.

The church assembled, whether it is a megachurch of thousands or a house church of a dozen, is the place where we grow in our faith. It is where our faith moves from the theoretical to the practical. Our burdens are divided and our joys are multiplied.


"There were no needy persons among them.
For from time to time those who owned land or houses
 sold them,  brought the money from the sales
   and put it at the apostles’ feet,
and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”  
Acts 4:33-34 NIV  

When the primary bread winner of a family losses their job, disaster looms over the horizon. In a short time the family can find themselves homeless. One Sunday school class took quick action when a member lost his job. Their department, which was made up of three classes, conducted a garage sale and raised thousands of dollars. A powerful bond was created between those who participated & the couple that benefited and they had a good time. 

There are no lone ranger Christians. There are at least 58 different teachings in the New Testament that cannot be followed unless you are a part of a group of believers. Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)


"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth
agree about anything you ask for 
it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”  
Matthew 18:49 NIV 

When Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel (Acts 4), the believers gathered for mutual support and to pray . Once again, God's power was displayed. The house shook, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly under the threat of arrest.

One of my colleagues learned that his downtown Chicago church was to be the target of a disruptive protest by a coalition of left-wing groups. He decided to continue with Wednesday night prayer meeting as the hostile crowd gathered and chanted across the street.

Suddenly, busloads of Christians from other downtown churches started arriving. They lined the sidewalk between the church and the protesters and began to sing songs of faith. They choir continued to grow and soon the sound of praise drowned out the voices of hate. The discouraged protesters quietly exited.

View a video of Fellowship Is Essential for Spiritual Growth. 

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.”

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Unleashing the power of God

Become stronger with this simple exercise
We read a remarkable account in Genesis where Abraham bargains with God over the fate of the city of Sodom. Abraham was deeply concerned beacause his nephew, Lot, lives in Sodom.. He interceded passionately, appealing to God's mercy. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis18:25)

Part of the power in prayer is that, like Abraham, we know that God will deal with us through his mercy and grace.

Abraham's approach is humble. “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis18:27)

This brings to mind the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee, being of one of the religious elite, reminded God about his good works and reputation. The Tax Collector confessed his unworthiness. Jesus said of the tax collector, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Abraham's pleas were humble but persistent. He started haggling at fifty and got down to ten. If ten righteous people were found in Sodom, the city would be spared. Jesus taught us about the effectiveness of persistent prayer in the parables of the Persistent Widow and the Persistent Neighbor. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Anything big enough to worry about is big enough to pray about. Paul wrote, :Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Prayer focuses the power of God like a magnifying glass focuses the sun’s power. Abraham's prayer focused God's power on one family. Sodom was not spared (there were not ten righteous there) but God remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the disaster that overthrew the cities. (Genesis 19:29)
Another great example of the focusing of God’s power is found in Acts 4. Peter and John were in jail for preaching the gospel. God's people prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-35)

The results:
  1. The place where they were meeting was shaken.
  2. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
  3. All the believers were one in heart and mind.
  4. They shared everything they had.
  5. The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power.
  6. Much grace was upon them all.
  7. There were no needy persons among them.


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