Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Steve Patton
Making God In Our Image
“Up, make us gods who shall go before us.” - Exodus 32:1
Pagans constantly surrounded the Israelites. It was easy to observe the pagans’ licentious worship. The carnal nature of such practices would appeal to anyone’s lustful desires. And if they worshipped their gods in such immoral ways, it is not hard to imagine the immoral character of their daily lives.
When the Israelites left Egypt it is clear many of them practiced idolatry. The first two of the Ten Commandments are about false gods and their images. Even when they are about to enter the promised land, Joshua told them, “Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:14). They desired to worship and live like their pagan neighbors. So, in the absence of Moses at Sinai, they made an idol, worshipped it, and “sat down to eat and rose up to play” (Exo. 32:6).
Some scholars suggest they did not cease Yahweh worship. Rather they made a representation of Him they could see and then began to worship Him as they had worshipped idols in Egypt. If so, that sounds a lot like what we often do today.
How often do we remake Yahweh into a God that suits us? We may not turn to immorality but we begin to rationalize ways for God to approve what we want to do. We justify keeping the money when the cashier give us too much change. We justify dressing immodestly by saying it’s not as bad as the world dresses. We justify little lies in business. We become servants of mammon and no longer faithfully serve the God who saved us. After all, we don’t murder, rob, do drugs, get drunk, or practice immorality. Our God will still accept us.
We can’t remake God into our image. We are made in His. Do not let an ungodly world influence you to rationalize sin in your life. Hear Joshua when he said, “…Choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
From the desk of Steve Patton
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” - Romans 1:16
The good news about Jesus has always had its detractors and enemies. There has been no point in history when it could be said the majority of earth’s population were Christians. But there have been times and places where Christians were at least tolerated and even respected. Their influence in the community was significant. Their principles were held as ideals for which all should strive.
It used to be that way in our country. It was the country of my youth. But we live in a very different country now. Christianity is belittled instead of respected. God’s Word is scorned and discounted as fables and not relevant to our time. Talking to others about Jesus may even be considered harassment. Christian principles and ideals no longer hold sway in our world.
But remember, neither did they in Paul’s time. Rather, Christians were persecuted and even executed. Paul was imprisoned on many occasions and historical tradition says all but one of the apostles died a martyr’s death. For them, sharing Jesus could be a life threatening act.
This makes Paul’s above statement all the more remarkable. Despite the danger of being a Christian, Paul says he will never be ashamed of the gospel. His life was given fully to proclaiming it despite threats, personal injury and imprisonment. He told the Ephesian elders, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” He cared nothing for his own life. He cared only for the souls of others.
It is not easy to proclaim Jesus today. It can mean ridicule, mocking and estrangement from friends, associates, and even family. Yet we must not shirk this responsibility, this opportunity, to save a soul from hell. Our hearts must be set on saving the lost. It is an essential part of having the heart of Jesus.
From the desk of Steve Patton
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5,6)
Our daily words and behavior are constantly observed by the world. We must reflect a persona that will influence for good and lead them to Christ. He must be seen in us (2:6).
Paul is urging the Colossians to pay heed to the words we use and how we say them. It can make all the difference in opening doors to teach those around us. Words with “grace” are words spoken pleasantly, gracefully. We answer others with a pleasant attitude and with well chosen words. The wise man said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (25:11). These words must also be “seasoned with salt.” Your answers must be well thought out, lasting, and relevant to the questions asked. These attitudes are essential in reaching the lost.
Paul's words are also wise words to remember in any conversation with the lost or the saved. No matter how upsetting another’s words may be, we must maintain our composure and wisely choose our words. Jesus would expect no less.
Our country’s public discourse is becoming confrontational and bitter. Maybe I should say more so. We can easily be drawn into manifesting ungodly attitudes that are unbecoming for a servant of Jesus. We may be passionate concerning matters about which we hold strong convictions. The world may anger us. However, we are never justified in lashing out at others with ungodly words or attitudes. We must always speak with graciousness and with well thought out words. And we must not be drawn into conversations that will only put up roadblocks in reaching others with the gospel. Remember everyone is a prospect. Look at everyone, including your brethren, as people who deserve to see our Christlike attitudes, who hear words that are chosen carefully and with wisdom. Such is especially needed in this time. Let the world see you are always a Christian. And let that be reflected in your words and your attitudes when with them. It will maintain peace with your brethren and open doors to teach the lost.
From the desk of Steve Patton
"He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matt 27.43)
You may recognize these words of those mocking Jesus at the cross. It is a cruel taunt. It implies that if God loved Jesus, He certainly would spare Him from such suffering and pain, especially if He is the Son of God. They may not have realized it, but they are using almost the exact argument critics of Jehovah have used throughout history: “If God is a loving God, why would He let good people suffer?”
The taunting words above are prophesied in Psalm 22: “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (22:8). This amazing psalm prophesies in detail the manner of Jesus’ death and its circumstances. But it does not answer the universal question concerning why a loving God allows suffering.
The scriptures never give a full answer to that question. I believe it is beyond our ability to comprehend. Yet God does not leave us hopeless.
Psalm 22 pictures one who does not comprehend why God would seem to forsake his disciple in his time of suffering. He cries for an answer. But the writer does not lose faith in God. He says he will still praise God among His people and call on all who fear Him to praise Him. He believes God hears his cry and will comfort. But still, there is no explanation for the suffering.
What God does is show He understands. Even more, through Jesus, He was touched with the feelings of our infirmities, tempted in every way as we are (Heb. 5:14,15). He even learned the meaning of obedience while suffering (Heb. 5:7,8), and taught us to be patient through it all.
The enemies of Jesus had no understanding of all of God’s ways. Neither do we. When your suffering and pain comes, just remember that Jesus has also walked that path and will not allow you to walk it alone.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
In asserting his integrity, Job proclaimed that “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman." (Job 31.1 NLT) I have no doubt it was a battle for Job to keep his covenant at various points in his life, and if it was a struggle for him in his culture, what does that mean for us living in a culture that embraces lust and impurity? For many the battles are intense and frequent, but the covenant is worth making and keeping.
Let's not mince words: pornography is an absolute scourge on our society. Not only does it violate the will of God (Matthew 5.27-28) making profane what God has made a blessing in marriage (Hebrews 13.4), but it has severely damaged the attitudes men and women have towards the opposite sex and about themselves. Men and women, created in the image of God, are objectified and degraded.The battle against pornography is one that must be fought; it's a battle we must win.
We want to provide some help for those engaged in this struggle, to help them make and keep their covenant. We've invited Stephen Rouse to speak for us on Saturday, September 14. Stephen is very open about his own past struggles, so he will not only explain the severity of the issue, but will also focus on how God can help us be victorious. There will be 3 sessions, each with a follow-up Q&A:
10am - The Poison of Pornography
11am - Short-term Battle Strategies
Noon - break for lunch
1:30pm - Long-term Battle Strategies & Proactive Prevention
One note to parents: I believe you can benefit from this material, whether your kids are in elementary, middle, high school or college. But this material is NOT intended for young ears, so please plan accordingly.
Please pray for this effort and for those engaged in battle. Pray for victory.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
According to Genesis 1, man was created to rule over the world. But tragically, man sinned and brought on the consequence of death. Since death overpowers man, death replaced man as ruler of the world (Rom 5:17).
For much of human existence, death ruled the world. And it wasn’t a secret. A man could always look around and see death taking away someone. That very man himself would eventually be taken away by death.
As we look around today, it may appear that death still reigns over us. After all, people still pass away all the time. Sometimes it’s our own loved ones that pass away. Upon seeing this, we may be tempted to conclude that nothing has changed since Adam sinned. Death reigned over Adam and death still reigns over us today, right?
But we know this isn’t true. It may look true in certain circumstances. It may feel true during the times we’re staring death in the face. But one thing indicates that it just isn’t true, and that death cannot still be reigning over man: Jesus rose from the dead. This moment, this event in history, is when Jesus conquered death. Consequently, Jesus now rules and death is subservient.
So, where does our hope lie? In Jesus. Where does our comfort come from during times of mourning? From Jesus. Why are we confident that death does not truly have power over us? Because of Jesus. We who are in Christ are united with the one who killed the power of death itself.
“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:21-26)
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).