Below is our archive of public news and announcements.

From the desk of Steve Patton

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” -Luke 17:15

Ten lepers healed. Ten rejoicing at their healing. Yet only one returns to thank Jesus. His return to Jesus prompts three disconcerting questions from the Lord. “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Is Jesus showing signs of egotism here? Why would He demand that these others return to personally thank Him? Does He reflect a childish need for praise and recognition?
The lepers had done what Jesus commanded. They obeyed by going to show themselves to the priest and were cleansed on their way. Wasn’t their obedience enough? These ten had received something they in no way deserved. Their healing should have created a deeply heartfelt gratitude toward Jesus.
Gratitude is “a knowing awareness that we are the recipients of goodness.” Gratefulness should be a joyful inevitability in a world created and sustained by God. The immediate reaction of these men should have been to seek out Jesus and, like the one Samaritan, throw themselves at his feet. 
We will celebrate this week as families a national day of thanksgiving. It is certainly not inappropriate to do so. However, every day our heart should overflow in gratitude and praise of our Lord who has done all for us. As Paul wrote, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). Maintain an “attitude of gratitude” daily. It will transform how you live your life.

From the desk of Taylor Pickup

Sin is the transgression or violation of God’s will. But often a word like “sin” can lose its impact because we hear it and use it so often. People who worship and study the Bible on a regular basis are continually exposed to the concept of sin. Consequently, the idea of sin may not always have a strong effect on us. This isn’t necessarily a flaw in our character, but simply the result of our human minds becoming accustomed to whatever we experience, even very serious and somber things. 

When I have found myself reacting this way toward sin, it has been helpful for me to consider sinfulness from the perspective of God as a loving father. Matthew 26:39 says, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was asking His Father to change His mind. Jesus didn’t want to experience this “cup,” the horrific death that the Father had predetermined. But the Father’s answer was clear. His son's death must happen in order to defeat sin.  

Imagine an enemy so horrible that you would have your own child killed to defeat it. Can we even imagine an enemy like that? Would we ever act nonchalantly or callous in regard to that enemy? Of course not. That enemy was the reason our child died. From God’s perspective, “sin” is the reason His son suffered and died. Perhaps this can help us appreciate the wretchedness of sin, and glorify God because He has freed us from it.  

The Enormity of the Problem by Joshua Creel

    Recently the news has been filled with accounts of how several Hollywood producers and actors have abused and assaulted young actresses and actors over the last several years. As these reports have become more numerous many others have shared their accounts of enduring sexual assault on social media, always using the accompanying hashtag, #MeToo. The goal of the social media campaign is two-fold: 1) raise awareness of just how enormous a problem sexual assault is in our culture, and 2) let the victims know that they do not stand alone, that there are many others who've endured the same and stand ready to help them recover.
    Understand, I have no desire to trivialize this issue in any way. Our culture has long fostered negative and harmful attitudes toward women and it is good that this issue has come to the forefront, even if I have little hope of our culture changing its attitude and stopping the hyper-sexualization of our youth. No, this issue mustn't be trivialized or ignored.
    But what I want us to consider as a church is the true enormity of the problem. We are situated in a world, in a country, in a city, in a community in the clutches of the evil one (1John 5.19). Darkness surrounds us on all sides, death continues to make men and women its captives. The enormity of the problem cannot be exaggerated, nor forgotten by those who once "walked according to the course of this world..." (Ephesians 2.2). And if we recognize the enormity of the problem, then we will reach out to the lost from a position of empathy rather than superiority. We who have been rescued from death by the love and mercy of God (Ephesians 2.4) are now in position to extend the gospel to others in need, to let them know we've experienced death and can show them the way to life. #UsToo 

Working Toward Persecution...and Heaven by Steve Patton

I was looking at the Beatitudes this week and the progression of these statements (Matt. 5:1-12). Jesus turns the world’s idea of success upside down in these paradoxical statements. As he does so, he leads you through the transformation required to be a citizen of His kingdom. Note the progression.
First, I must recognize that my spirit is poor - in complete poverty and in need of the Savior. Then, I must mourn for my sins, experiencing godly sorrow in order to be blessed. I must then learn the self-control that meekness describes and have a heart that now hungers and thirsts for righteousness. My changed heart no longer is full of deceit or hypocrisy but is pure and sincere, ready to see God. Then I am ready to be the Lord’s peacemaker - one who makes peace by sharing the gospel of peace with a world at war with souls. Having progressed through all these changes, what awaits me must surely be a life of honor and respect from all who know me, right? Nope. The result, as stated in the last beatitudes is this: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake… when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” That is what becoming a true citizen of the Kingdom will bring. You will no longer fit in. You will no longer join them in “the same flood of debauchery, and they will malign you” (1 Pet. 4.4). In many ways, your problems will multiply. So why be a Kingdom citizen? “…for great is your reward in heaven” (5:10). Though you will find comfort, mercy, and fulfillment among the other things listed, the thing that matters the most is heaven. He wants you “to see God.” The kingdom life is the best life, not because it makes things better here. It makes things wonderful for eternity. Choose the Kingdom life. It prepares you to live with God.


Getting Stuck in the Past by Steve Patton

“But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid…” (Ezra 3:12).
    I am old enough now to be able to bore my grandchildren with stories about the “good old days.” It can be easy to start thinking everything was better back then. That was part of the problem of those in our text. As the foundation was being laid to rebuild the temple, there were older Israelites who remembered the “good old days” of Solomon’s Temple and all its grandeur. They wept and yearned for the past. It would never be as good as it used to be (in their eyes). 
    We do the same, even in the Lord’s work. We begin to idealize a certain time in the past where we think everything was just so much better than today. We begin to think if we could just go back and do everything just like we did then, everything could be like it used to be (or at least how we “remember” it).
    I am fully in favor of going back to the first century and following the New Testament pattern in all doctrinal matters. But applications are different in different cultures. Today is not 40 years ago and some things that worked then may not work today. Some things that work today may not have worked then. (Years ago they held tent meetings in new neighborhoods. You think we should try that today in New Tampa?)  We need to always be flexible about the application of biblical instruction in each generation. We do not need to be wedded to traditions. Let’s not spend all of our time pining about the “good old days” in the kingdom and live in the here and now, and work in the present world. Let’s plan for the future, not live in the past.

From the desk of Taylor Pickup

In Acts 16-18, we read of Paul and his companions taking the gospel into the regions of Macedonia and Achaea, places that had never before heard the good news of Jesus. It is interesting to look at the reactions of the people in those areas when Paul preached to them. In Philippi, Paul was beaten, put in stocks, and imprisoned. In Thessalonica, an angry mob slandered Paul to the governing officials. In Berea, enemies from the previous city showed up and turned the crowds against Paul. In Athens, Paul was mocked for his teachings. In Corinth, Paul was scoffed at and hated. From these details alone, it would seem like the gospel was failing. 
But in the midst of all the opposition, Paul also found people who accepted the message of Christ. In Philippi, Lydia and the jailer were saved, along with their respective households. In Thessalonica, some Jews and many devout Greeks were saved. In Berea, many Jews and many Greeks of high standing were saved. In Athens, some of the crowd wanted to learn more about Jesus, and several people of noble status were saved. In Corinth, many people were saved, including the ruler of the synagogue and his family. 
No matter how discouraging it is when our efforts are opposed and people reject the gospel, the message of Jesus is powerful and can break through callous hearts. Like Paul, there may be opposition, but it’s all worth it if we can help someone come to the Lord and accept Him as their King.  

2017 Bible Reading Plan

Commit to spending some time each week in 2017 paying attention to the message of the prophets! Download the Bible reading schedule here. This week's reading is Lamentations 1-5.


From the desk of Joshua Creel

It's Not A Sin If You Don't Act?
Being tempted isn't a sin. I've said that many times to many people. I've said it to people who were struggling with sin, seeking to encourage them that not acting on the temptation is itself a victory. And this is true... in part. After all, we know our Savior was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4.15). Being tempted isn't a sin.
However, we might have mistakenly lumped temptation in with desire. Temptation arises from an external stimulus and seeks to arouse our desire. And when our desire is sufficiently enticed, we sin (James 1.14-15). So, it's not just the actions that are wrong, but the condition of our heart which make those actions possible. This was Jesus' point in the sermon on the mount when He emphasized that true righteousness warns against more than the actions of murder and adultery, but must govern the hatred and lust within (Matthew 5.21-28). It is why He said our sinful actions proceed from the heart (Matthew 15.19).
We cannot prevent temptation from coming our way; the world is filled with them. But our aim is to condition our hearts so that not only do we refrain from acting on temptation, our hearts don't even desire to act! Then we will truly be "pure in heart" and have the hope of seeing God (Matthew 5.8).