Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
While He was still speaking to the people, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, asking to speak to Him. But He replied to the man who told Him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'” (Matthew 12:46-50)
It may seem like Jesus was acting in a dismissive or disrespectful way toward His mother and brothers, but His words weren’t directed to them. His mother and brothers were still outside, so Jesus’ words were meant for those inside who were listening to Him. But just what exactly was Jesus trying to convey to His audience on this occasion?
Jesus motioned toward His disciples and then claimed they were His relatives. In other words, Jesus said that those who follow God are considered part of His family. What an honor that the son of God would think of His disciples that way. Since we are also Jesus’ disciples, what an honor that He would think of us that way!
God created marriage. God created childbirth. God created family. We see these things back in Genesis. And the concept of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters is the way Jesus Himself expressed the love, the bond, the fellowship, and the commitment He has with His people.
If you are disciple of Jesus, then Jesus considers you part of His family. That status defines who we are. Stop and thank God for this gracious gift.
Differing with my Brother by Steve Patton
I am in Kenny Embry's and Jerry Elmore's class on Acts and Relationships.
Last Wednesday Jerry taught an excellent class about a relationship with a brother with whom I have a difference. Important lessons can be gained about learning to accept one another even when we may have some personal differences. (Jerry based the class on Acts 15 - Paul and Barnabas' sharp disagreement about John Mark). Jerry’s class got me to thinking.
Remaining united is going to depend so much upon the attitudes of those involved, especially my own. When there are differences with a brother, the first thing I must do to work on the problem is to look at myself. That is not what we usually do. It is always the other persons’s fault and we become intolerant and unforgiving. Paul taught a completely different attitude - "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph. 4:31,32)
Manifesting the right attitudes in contentious times requires a decision of the will to override my emotions and behave as the Lord wants.
Do you do that when you differ with a brother? I can guarantee if you will, most problems will evaporate and relationships can be restored. And do not wait on the other guy to start showing the right attitude. Let it start with you. Your humble, patient, and forgiving attitude will change both hearts. You may not come to full agreement on the matter, but unity will not be broken and God will be honored and glorified. And thanks, Jerry, for evoking further study on my part. That's what good teachers do.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)
It’s easy to speed through these attributes and think, “Peter is basically saying I should be righteous. Got it.” But Peter lists these qualities so that we’ll specifically meditate on them and then pursue them. That requires time and deliberate action. Simply being in a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean we’re automatically doing anything to glorify our King or produce righteousness. That only comes by focusing on this list of qualities, pursuing them, and continuing to increase in them.
Peter goes on to say, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs.8) Why is it that some Christians (including us) are stagnant and unproductive at times? Peter says it's because we aren’t dedicated to these qualities. But if we decide to make them a priority, they become a safeguard against spiritual sloth and change us into active fruit-bearing members of God’s kingdom.
“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (vs. 10)
What can you do to increase in your knowledge? Or in your self-control? Or in your brotherly affection? According to Peter, practicing those things will make you invincible.
God's Blessings Upon the Wicked by Steve Patton
"For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” - Matthew 5:45
We may not think about the wicked receiving blessings from God. However, Jesus uses God’s practice of blessing the wicked as an example for His disciples to follow. Jesus’ statement occurs in the context of the exhortation to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He says those who will be “Sons of your Father who is in Heaven” will follow the Father’s example in returning blessing for cursing.
The wicked benefit from God’s material blessings daily. They may not acknowledge it or even understand it, but they do. It is our heavenly Father teaching us a valuable lesson about how we treat those who Paul calls “enemies of God” (Rom. 5:10). People who hate God, even refuse to admit His existence, should receive kind treatment from us. It is what distinguishes us from them. We have come to know the love of Christ who died for us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5:8). So we love our enemies and even pray for them. And we ask God to forgive them just as our Lord did while dying in agony at His enemies' hands (Lk. 23:34). We must follow our Lord’s example in overcoming hatred in our heart by willing ourselves to show love for those who oppose God. It will be one of your finest hours and your Father in Heaven will be glorified.
Tragic Irony by Joshua Creel
I noticed some irony in our Scripture reading this week. One of the false accusations made against Stephen was that he was speaking "against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us" (Acts 6.13-14). But in his defense, Stephen emphasized that that even though Moses was guided by the Lord's Angel, their fathers "were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt" (Acts 7.39) and had continued in their obstinacy by persecuting all of the prophets (vs. 52). And by rejecting Jesus, his accusers were continuing to resist the Holy Spirit (vs. 51). They accused Stephen of rejecting God's will, but it was they who had rejected Him.
It's not just irony when we commit the very sins we point out in others, it's tragedy. Paul spoke of those who knew God's will, considered themselves guides to the blind, but then committed the very sins they had pointed out in others (Romans 2.17-23). The tragic reality was that they were dishonoring God, leading others to blaspheme Him (Romans 2.24-25).
We can easily rail against the callousness, immorality and selfishness rampant in our society. Truly, we live in a sin-sick world, a world that needs us to light the way to Christ. But we must first examine ourselves to make sure we love others as ourselves, pursue purity and accept the role of servant. It would be tragic irony for us to accuse the world of the very sins we commit.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
Having high aspirations can be either a positive trait or a character flaw. A person aspiring to some government office might do so out of a personal quest for power (bad), or because they earnestly desire to serve their community and/or country (good). A person might aspire to grow their business out of greed (bad), or because they wish to provide for their own families and the families of those who work for them (good). The same is true for citizens of Christ's Kingdom. One might aspire to greatness to gratify his pride (Matthew 20.25), or because he desires to serve others, which is true greatness (vss. 26-27). Aspirations can be either positive or negative.
Paul began his instructions to Timothy regarding elders with this "trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do" (1 Timothy 3.1). Tragically, over the years there have been men who aspired to the eldership so they could lord their authority over the flock (1 Peter 5.3; cf. 3 John 9). But there have been far more who aspired to the office out of an unselfish desire to "care for the church of God" (1 Timothy 3.5).
So, please permit me to give a little honor to our elders who "rule well" (cf. 1 Timothy 5.17). My family has been privileged to work and worship with the University congregation for over 5 years now, and during that time we have been under the care of good shepherds. Each of them aspired to the office out of a desire to care for the Lord's people. And each of them has borne the tremendous weight of that care. Join me in thanking them for their tireless work and in thanking God who gave us men who would watch over our souls (Hebrews 13.17).
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).