Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
God intended for Christians to work and worship together. One of the reasons for this is found in Paul's letter to the Philippians:
"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ." (Phil. 3:17-18)
Paul is saying that we need good spiritual role models, ones that demonstrate obedience to the Lord's teaching. He includes the tragic fact that many brethren had already left the Lord. They obviously hadn't imitated Paul's good example and were terrible role models for others.
We often think role models are for kids. But Paul wrote this letter to adults in Philippi. Growing up doesn't eliminate our need to follow the example of others. The Philippian Christians needed to watch and imitate faithful brethren, and we need to do the same thing today. This presents us with two goals:
1.) Look for faithful role models to imitate: Find brethren who follow the teaching of Christ, and let their positive example influence your character and actions.
2.) Be a faithful role model to others: Recognize that others are watching you. Be a positive example to them. Modeling Christ to others has an eternal effect.
From the desk of Steve Patton
"From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God" (Rev. 4:5)
When the Lord God appears to man, scripture records an overwhelming scene of awe and terror. Great prophets pass out and fall down as dead. The Israelites were terrified at the foot of Mt. Sinai by the lightning flashes, peals of thunder, and the trumpeting voice of God. Few things strike fear in our hearts like the flash and pop of a lightning strike and the imminent rolling thunder that shakes the house.
Last Monday night Pam and I were landing at the Tampa airport during an awesome and dazzling display of lightning that surrounded us. The flashes were unending. It was a sight to behold. (In fact major damage was inflicted here at the church building.) One cannot help but think of passages that describe the the Son of Man coming in judgement: "For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day" (Lk. 17:24).
How can we not be overwhelmed by the presence of Almighty God? All things are from Him, for Him and to Him (Rom. 11:33). Why would anyone want to rebel against Him? Why would anyone deny His very existence? One day - "...the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God" (1 Thess. 4:16)
When you see the mighty lightning flashes and hear the earthshaking thunder, think about the return of our Lord. Let nature itself testify to the greatness and power of our God. Judgement is coming. See that you do not refuse Him...for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:25,29).
Being a Spiritual Person by Steve Patton
I have preached some lessons over recent months about true spirituality. I have emphasized that true spirituality is about character, manner of life, and not about emotion. I believe Christians are emotional people but emotion is, in itself, not evidence of true spirituality. The text of Gal. 6:1 ("You who are spiritual") is actually a great one to look at because Paul describes many traits of a spiritual person. Here are some things that make one a spiritual person:
"Restore such a one..." Reach out to a brother in sin. Help to restore him (vs. 1). The more people involved, the greater chance of success.
"Bear one another's burdens..." Help others with their burdens (vs. 2). Few things will strengthen a burdened brother or sister like someone wanting to help with their struggle. Who do you know you can help? This is an evidence of great maturity.
"If anyone thinks he is something..." Be humble (vs. 3,4) - Keeping pride under control can be a real struggle for many. You are always more influential as a Christian when "you count others better than yourself" (Phil. 2:4).
"Each will have to bear his own load." Take personal responsibility (vs. 5) - Don't blame others for your failures. Take your sins to God. Admit them and seek to do better.
"Let one who is taught in the word share..." Support those who teach the Gospel (vs.6) - Honor those who teach you, even with financial support if needed. "If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?" (1 Cor. 9:11).
"...for whatever one sows,he shall also reap." Be a sower (vs. 7,8) - Sow good deeds. Faithfulness is a sign of maturity.
"Let us not grow weary of doing good..." Don't give up (vs. 9) - Keep doing good, even when discouraged.
"As we have opportunity, let us do good..." Do good to all people, especially fellow disciples (vs. 10).
Read this text. Grow in Christ so you can be seen as a truly spiritual person. God's family needs these kind of people. Learn to be one.
Good Fences Don't Make Good Brothers by Joshua Creel
In his poem, "Mending Wall", Robert Frost pictures two neighbors walking the line of their old stone fence, making repairs to the various holes and gaps as they go. It's a yearly task to mend the fence, but one questioned by the narrator. He cannot understand why a fence is needed. Neither party has cows, only trees on either side of the fence. So, he tells his neighbor, "My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines." The neighbor's only reply, "Good fences make good neighbors."
We recently installed a new fence in our backyard. We had several reasons for putting the fence up: to give us more privacy, to keep the dog in, to give our kids a place to play away from the eyes of strangers. The fence is a symbol for a lack of trust. Not that we completely mistrust our neighbors; we like them, they're good neighbors. But we don't trust them enough to completely respect our privacy, and we certainly don't trust the random person walking by. Good fences make good neighbors.
But "something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down." In other words, there's a part of us that wants to trust others, to live without our guard up. While that may not happen in our neighborhoods and communities, it should exist in the Kingdom. In Christ we are at peace, because He "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" (Eph. 2.14). In this Kingdom "nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war" (Isa. 2.4). In this Kingdom there should be trust because each is more concerned with the needs of others (Phil. 2.3-4). Good fences might make good neighbors, but they don't make good brothers.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
We can’t see Jesus, but we come together on a regular basis to learn about Him and worship Him. We gather and commemorate His death, understanding that He is among us. But we can’t see Him. By the authority of Jesus, we have been granted access to the Father. Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding on our behalf. But we aren’t able to see Him. He is the King of Heaven and Earth, the sustainer of all creation. But do our eyes behold Him? No.
Peter said, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8,9)
In order to believe in Jesus, you don’t have to see Him sitting next to you. In order to rejoice, you don’t have to lay your eyes on Jesus. We can have “inexpressible joy” without sight being part of the equation.
Why is this even important? Because we often enslave ourselves to the things we can see. Eve saw the fruit on the tree and ate it. Esau saw the red stew and surrendered his birthright. Saul saw the enemy army and offered an unlawful sacrifice. Sight is powerful, and it can affect our decisions.
Do we “walk by faith, not by sight”? (2 Cor. 5:70) As we're assembled together, do we really have the mindset that Jesus is among us? As we go about our lives, do we really act like spiritual warfare is happening all around us? As we live on this earth, do we really act like Jesus is the King who actually rules over all creation? Even though we can’t see Jesus now, we'll see Him one day. Until then, we can have great confidence in our invisible and Almighty King.
A Principled People by Joshua Creel
The ability to place a wager on any sporting event may be coming to a 7Eleven near you, if not to your iPhone. That's because this past week the Supreme Court, in essence, legalized sports gambling in any state which chooses to sanction the practice. The move has been cheered by many, but I fear that a now legal practice will only cause further harm to our society, for gambling exacts its greatest toll on the poorest in our communities. However, much like alcohol (and marijuana in a growing number of places), what is legal can be taxed, and sadly it seems that most governments are more concerned with their tax revenues than they are with the heavy tolls these vices inflict on society.
How is a Christian to respond to this issue? If our aim is to be guided by His word in all things, how can we know what to do when He doesn't specifically address a particular issue? This is where we must remember that we are not guided by commands alone, but by principles. As we are being remade in His image (Ephesians 4.24), the principles of who He is guide us into holy living and righteous choices. So, His warnings against covetousness (Eph. 5.5) should cause us to consider why we would wish to gamble. Is it just so we can have more? To gain for ourselves what belongs to others? Furthermore, God would have us use our material resources to benefit both our families (1 Timothy 5.8) and the less fortunate (1 Timothy 6.17-19). His purposes are incompatible with the reality of gambling in our country, a vice in which the poorest of our country waste close to 10% of their income. How can I be concerned for the poor while pocketing their money? We are a principled people, and those principles are what help us make these daily decisions. And those principles are what mold us in His image.
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).