Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
71%. That's the percentage of young Americans who, according to 2017 Pentagon data, are ineligible to join the military. 71% are ineligible due to three main factors: obesity, lack of a high school diploma, or they have a criminal record. And this isn't only a problem for the military, but as Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson relates, "It's an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn't eligible for many jobs either." According to one report, 52% of employers in Pennsylvania "find it challenging to hire people with adequate skills, training or education."
And this is probably no surprise, but the military (along with many employers) is placing the blame on poor education. Not just poor education in elementary, middle and high schools, but the lack of education very early in a child's life. In their opinion, most young people are not being prepared early in their lives, thus they are failing to be productive members of society later.
The Lord declared that the Law was for the good of His people (Deuteronomy 10.13). That was primarily true because following the Law would allow the people to be holy and thus in a relationship with God (cf. Leviticus 11.45) The Israelites were to instruct their children in the Law so that they too could be in a relationship with their Lord (Deuteronomy 6.4-9). But there were "secondary goods" found in the Law. Following the Law would teach young Israelites the importance of respecting authority (Exodus 20.12), the value of hard work (Exodus 20.9), and the necessity of caring for those less fortunate (Leviticus 25.35). In short, the Law equipped people with the skills to be fully profitable members of society.
God's laws remain for our good, both eternally and for the present.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
The chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus. Their reason was simple. Lazarus’ resurrection was causing people to believe in Jesus. He had been raised from the dead, which was serving as a testimony to the power and authority of Jesus (John 12:10-11).
The fact that someone returned from death is amazing, but so is the effect that this miracle had on others. It pointed people toward their Savior, their King. Jesus knew this would happen. Before Lazarus had even died, Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Jesus knew that giving life back to Lazarus would cause others to seek the Life-giver Himself. This was why the enemies of Jesus targeted Lazarus. He was an enormous obstacle for those who wanted to refute and destroy Jesus.
We are very similar to Lazarus. When we turned our lives to Christ, we died in the water of baptism and God resurrected us out of the water as a new person. This also points toward our future literal resurrection (Rom. 6:1-14).
However, this new life God promises us can cause others to hate us. Like Lazarus, the glory that our resurrection brings to Jesus goes against what many people believe and want. Jesus told His apostles, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John15:20)
But if through Jesus we have conquered sin and death, then there’s nothing to fear from men who become our enemies. If we become a target of mockery, hatred, or violence, then we’re experiencing what Jesus Himself experienced. We can even boldly die for the sake of Christ because God raised Him from the dead and therefore has the power to raise us too.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Moses sent 12 spies into the land of Canaan (Num. 13-14). God commanded this to happen so that the Israelites could know about the land and the inhabitants they would have to face. These spies spent 40 days traveling undetected through enemy territory, an impressive task itself. Afterward they came back and reported all that they had witnessed.
All the spies agreed that the land of Canaan was a great land. They also agreed that the inhabitants of the land were a mighty military force and that the cities there were huge and well-fortified. However, the disagreement between the spies concerned God. Could God actually give Israel victory over these mighty Canaanites? Could He really give Israel this land that He had promised Abraham? Two spies said yes, but the rest of Israel said no.
In this event we can see a situation that is strikingly parallel to our own lives. Israel was freed from the bondage of Egypt, chosen to be a holy nation in a covenant relationship with God, and told that God would give them a home where they could dwell in God’s presence. Likewise, Christians have been freed from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:6-7), chosen as a holy nation in a covenant relationship with God (1st Pet. 2:9-10), and promised a home to dwell together in God’s presence (Rev. 21:2-3).
But like the Israelites, there are big and mighty challenges we must face before we can receive that home. The story of the 12 spies shows us that turning back to our enslavement is not the answer. It will only disqualify us from the gracious home that God will grant us. We must boldly endure the seemingly insurmountable challenges, knowing that it is God who conquers. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”
From the desk of Steve Patton
"...knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." -2 Timothy 3:14-15
Wednesday my annual payment for the Booneville, Tennessee Cemetery Trust is due. The trust was started 46 years ago by my uncle Truman. The trust maintains one of the most beautiful little cemeteries I have ever seen. The payment has caused me to reflect upon my heritage, especially in the Lord. Booneville is the home of my mother’s family. My parents are buried there. Her parents are buried there. Many of my relatives’s graves are also there. And most all of them were New Testament Christians. Whenever I am in the area I usually go by and walk the graveyard, to enjoy the idyllic setting and reflect. My family heritage in Christ goes back a ways. My grandmother Ashby converted my grandfather early in their marriage. My relatives were significant influences, not only in the Booneville church of Christ, but at New Herman, Mulberry, Flat Creek, and others. I could trace other early influences in my father’s family in Texas.
I had the good fortune to have a family that set a great example, and parents who instilled in me, from a very early age, a love for Jesus and a respect for His Word and His Ways. I cherish that heritage and believe it was a tremendous advantage for me. Uncle Truman and Betty, Aunt Hart, Uncle Joe Hart, and so many more are vivid in my memory, including their maturity and faithfulness.
I think of them, not only this week, but often, remembering sitting in the pews of those little churches and seeing their example that I remember to this day.
Always be thankful if you share this blessing. It has, in no way, proven to be a disadvantage to me in my discipleship. I am grateful to have this heritage. The faith of my fathers is a treasure that will always be mine.
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.
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.
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).