Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Steve Patton
Did Jesus Really Do That?
The Theme of our Vacation Bible School
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” - John 20:30,31
We had one of our most successful Vacation Bible Schools ever! Attendance ran as high as 201 (twice!). The teaching and room preparation was amazing. Tommy Peeler did an outstanding job teaching the adult class. It was a profitable week.
The teaching plan was to impress upon our children the wonder of Jesus' miracles. I am sure they got the message. I was most impressed with Tommy Peeler’s excellent lessons that emphasized the same miracles our children were studying. It helped me focus again upon the same thing - the wonder of these great miracles.
In preparation for the Wednesday evening adult class, I had opportunity to spend a few hours restudying the resurrection of Lazarus. Such a powerful miracle seen by so many eyewitnesses (including His enemies) can hardly be questioned. It set the stage for the resurrection of the one who would be raised never to die again. It would be Jesus’ resurrection that would give us an even greater hope. Lazarus would die again. But we will not. When we are raised we will live forever!
Let us never read the miracles of Jesus without considering the unlimited power of God - a God who continually works on our behalf every day. The Gospels keep ever before us the God who came in the flesh and was proved to be the Son of God with power (Acts 10:48), and now sits at the Father’s right hand as our mediator before the throne. God is an awesome God and we can be thankful He used that great miraculous power for our benefit and to reserve for us “the hope of glory.”
From the desk of Steve Patton
"and they spoke the word of God with boldness." - Acts 4:31
Peter and John had just returned to their brethren after the Jewish Sanhedrin threatened them to cease speaking in the name of Jesus. After praying together, the Holy Spirit confirmed His presence with them and they were all encouraged to be bold in preaching Jesus, even in the face of government opposition. The very next day all the apostles are beaten and charged to stop preaching Jesus. But Luke writes, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (5:42).
This past week we celebrated the great freedoms we enjoy in our country. Freedom of religion is confirmed in our constitution. We continue to have great liberty to speak the Word of God. Times are changing but you and I can still speak about Jesus throughout our city. Yet do we fear what others may do?
There is something I see in the hearts of those early Jerusalem Christians. It is a complete trust in their God. No matter what was done to them, they knew they were teaching what all the world needed to hear. Under threat of persecution they continued to preach. Even when their brother Stephen was stoned and they are all run out of Jerusalem “…they went everywhere preaching the Word” (8:4)
If we want to truly be the church of the first century we must boldly speak the Word of God to this generation. Salvation is found only in Jesus. Most will not listen but that does not matter. There are thousands in Tampa Bay that will. Fear no one in teaching the Gospel. If we will, then we can truly call ourselves New Testament Christians.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Our faith is in something that is “not seen.” We don't see God and we don't fully see the fulfillment of His promises. This idea may seem normal to us, but throughout history it's been difficult for people to worship and trust a being that they can't physically behold with their eyes. Consequently, man often begins to worship or glorify the physical creation that is seen instead of the Creator who is unseen.
It's not hard to find stories in the bible where people worship the physical creation. The golden calf (Exodus 32), the bronze serpent (Numbers 21; 2Kings 18:4), and Gideon’s ephod (Judges 8) are all examples. Even holy items like the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, and the temple were treated as though they possessed this holiness apart from God.
Today we continue to see people glorifying the physical creation instead of God. Why is this so prevalent? Why the desire to worship the physical? One reason is that it’s difficult to trust what we can’t see. It’s a challenge to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) There's always the temptation to make faith feel more real by focusing on an actual object we can behold. Seeing something gives us more confidence and assurance. That's not to say our faith is blind. There are many things that show us evidence of God’s existence, and there are many reliable reasons to believe the words of the Bible.
But the fact remains that we don't see God, at least not yet. And that presents the temptation to elevate and crave that which is visible. We must consider our actions and mentality toward material things, ensuring that our focus and trust are truly on God, who is holy.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
Perhaps the recent headlines that people are dying as they attempt to scale Mount Everest haven't been too surprising. After all, summiting the tallest peak on earth is filled with all kinds of peril. But it has been surprising to read that large crowds and long lines have contributed to the many fatalities on Everest this year. All the experts seem to agree that most of the climbers trying to scale the mountain are far too inexperienced for the task and should never have been allowed to make the attempt. In other words, Everest was meant for the elite few, not for the many.
In some ways the news from Everest reminds one of the myth of Icarus. Icarus, with his wings of feathers and wax constructed by his father, was warned against hubris: if he flew too close to the sun, it would be to his peril. Tragically, Icarus ignored the warning of his father and fell to his death. The point: men have no business ascending to such great heights!
David once asked the question, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?" (Psalm 24.3) Many in Israel would have replied "no one." It should have been impressed upon them that God was too holy for them to approach (Exodus 19). Surely man had no business trying to ascend to such lofty heights! But David answered his own query: "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully." (Psalm 24.4) David continued, saying that those who "seek Him" would receive "righteousness from the God of his salvation" (Psalm 24.5-6).
Both myth (Icarus) and human experience (Everest) warn us against trying to climb too high. But not God! He not only beckons us to ascend His holy hill, He is the one that makes the climb possible!
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
Here Jesus describes the tragic fate of those who will be cast out of his presence. There are a few things we should notice about these individuals. First, in saying “Lord, Lord” they are addressing Jesus in a respectful and fervent manner. Second, they’ve done a lot of good throughout their lives. Third, the repeated phrase “in your name” shows that they gave Jesus full credit and praise for the good they did.
All of these things are admirable. These people are respectful and fervent doers of good, who credit Jesus for the good works they accomplish. So, what's the problem? Jesus says these people failed to do “the will of my Father who is in heaven.” These individuals went about their lives with little concern for God’s laws. Therefore, Jesus calls them “workers of lawlessness.”
Many things can give us a false sense of spiritual comfort: Doing good deeds, speaking often of Jesus, attending worship services, refraining from wicked activities in which the world engages. But are we looking at God’s will and actually following it? We need to have the maturity to see past any pretense or false hope so that we can be the faithful servants God desires.
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.
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).