Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
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.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Sometimes we may think, “If someone really wants to know about God, they’ll ask. They know I’m a religious person, so I’ll just wait until they bring up spiritual matters.” But is this how the scriptures describe the attitude of a disciple of Christ?
Peter said, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Peter said "proclaim." Our purpose as a “chosen race” is to “proclaim the excellencies” of God. Proclaiming something doesn’t mean to simply acknowledge it. It means to announce it. A proclamation is when news is publicly declared. Announcements from a king were proclaimed throughout the land.
God’s chosen race must be constantly proclaiming how amazing it is that we have been redeemed from the death in which we were formerly held captive. We do that when we are assembled together, but we should also be proclaiming Christ as we go out among the people of this world.
This world is a dark place, and yet Jesus has been granted all authority over it. When saints "proclaim the excellencies" of the Lord Almighty, the darkness of the world is flooded with glorious light. Consider ways that you can shine God's light into the lives of those around you.
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.
Knowledge Gives Comfort by Steve Patton
Our reading this week (John 13-16) includes Jesus' discourse to the twelve the night of His betrayal. They no doubt found His words confusing and disconcerting. He tells them one of them will betray Him and that He must go away; that whoever kills them will think they are offering a service to God. Obviously they will not understand all He is saying until Pentecost and after (Jn 16:25). But Jesus does not leave them without words of comfort and encouragement: “...even as I have loved you” (13:34); “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you (14:18); “Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be fearful” (14:27), and many more words of comfort.
Jesus is not only instructing the twelve, He is encouraging them, giving them hope. His words were meant to strengthen their resolve and let them know He would never leave them alone. What comfort His words must have given to them.
When we are tried, discouraged and downcast, we must turn to God’s Word for comfort and encouragement. Paul was encouraged in such times by the Lord’s words to Him in Corinth (1 Cor. 18:9,10). We must do the same. God’s Word is an instruction book. Jesus confirmed to His apostles that night the Spirit would guide them into all truth (16:13). But it will also lift us up, encourage us, and give us hope. Seek comfort in God’s Word. Let it be an important part of your daily life. Then, and only then, will you understand Paul’s statement: “Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:18).
From the desk of Steve Patton
Passover - A Testimony to the Deity of Christ
"And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you." - Exodus 12:15
The Israelites prepare to leave Egypt by the mighty hand of God. But first, God instructs them to kill a lamb, take the blood and smear it on the doorposts of their home. God's promise: "...and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." Although all Egypt suffers the loss of their firstborn that night, God spares the Israelites through the blood of a Lamb.
John the Baptizer announced Jesus to the world with the words, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Paul makes clear that, just as the Passover lamb spared the physical lives of the Israelites in Egypt, we are eternally saved by the blood of The Lamb: "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood." -Romans 3:25.
Twelve hundred years before Jesus walked this earth, God showed in a figure how He would save mankind in His Son. Jesus' fulfillment of this figurative prediction corroborates this truth: The Bible is truly God's Word. These is no other explanation for such foreshadowing, not only in this one event, but in hundreds of other Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ. Fulfilled prophecy is one of the most powerful testimonies to the divine inspiration of scripture. Only an all powerful, all knowing God could accomplish the fulfillment of essentially all the Old Testament in one man, the God/man, Jesus of Nazareth - the Christ. This is the weekend on which many Jews still celebrate the Passover although they do not recognize its fulfillment in Jesus. Let us always remember that Jesus is our Passover, the one who died for the sins of the world. And it was so signified over 3000 years ago in Egypt by our God.
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).