Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
Backward or Forward? Which Way Do You Look? by Steve Patton
"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13,14)
It can be so hard to put the past behind us. Sometimes it is hard because they were such great times. Good memories flood our mind we may want to live in the past. For others the past is hard to forget because of pain, suffering and sorrow, or poor choices and sinful actions of which we are ashamed. They weigh upon our mind as we think, "If only..." They can affect our view of the future and how we live our lives.
This is why Paul's exhortation is so important for us as Christians. God provides for us a means of putting our past behind us. He gives us something no one else can provide - forgiveness. No one had worse things in his past than Paul. Christians were executed because of his work. Yet, though he believed he had been chief of sinners, he could move on from his past and look only to today and what lies ahead.
How blessed we are to have such a loving and merciful God - one who not only forgives, but promises encouragement and support. Paul never really "forgot" his past, but it no longer controlled his life. He moved on.
"...and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (2 Tim. 1:14)
As the new year begins I urge you to look forward. Know God is with you and cares for you. 2018 can be a really good year for you. God will help make it so.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Proverbs 28:26 is a challenging passage: “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” This proverb is declaring that I’m a fool if I think my own thoughts and judgments are a source of security. It’s stating the stupidity of trusting in the reasoning that has come from my own brain. This proverb isn’t necessarily hard to understand, but it’s definitely hard to acknowledge and accept. Sure, it’s easy to accept when referring to someone else, but it’s extremely difficult when I am the subject.
All of us think that our own wisdom is wise. All of us have judged that our own judgments are good judgments. All of us view our views as the views that others should view too. But God has said that wisdom isn’t found in your head. It’s found in God and what He has revealed. This proverb is telling us to walk, not according to our own minds, but according to real wisdom. If we do that, we will be delivered.
We must make it a priority to pour through God’s word and seek for wisdom. It may feel and seem like we already know what to do because our own brain feels and seems reliable. But God has warned us not to be fools. Just as many of us are so thankful that our parents gave us wisdom and instruction, we should be so grateful to God for revealing to us His wisdom. He has given wisdom to us simply because He is our loving Father.
The Draw of Home by Joshua Creel
Home has a distinct draw on each of us. Each Fall our college students arrive excited to be away from home, but by the end of the semester they can't wait to return home! I always enjoy visiting with other saints when I'm away in a meeting, but home is never far from my thoughts and I'm always ready to return to my family. The draw of home can be particularly strong this time of year. Parents are trying to spend less time at work and more time at home with their children. Gatherings with immediate and extended families are being planned. The draw of home prompts us to get in our cars and drive for hours, board planes and fly across the country, or in some cases to just walk down the street.
Do you ever consider that Jesus felt the draw of home too? We understand from the Scriptures that He willingly left heaven to come to earth (cf. Philippians 2.6-7; John 1.14). We know that He came to do the will of His Father and to bring glory to His name (John 17.5). But we can also know that He longed to be with the Father again: "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was," (John 17.6). The Father would glorify Him, even though the pain and agony of the cross would come first.
Jesus told His disciple, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16.28). He also told them why He was going back to the Father: "In My Father's house are many dwelling places... I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14.2). He was returning home in order to prepare our eternal home.
The draw of home is there. Don't you feel it?
From the desk of Steve Patton
"Henceforth, let no man trouble me; for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus." -Gal. 6.17
Paul was condemning those who demanded circumcision of new Gentile Christians. He argued neither circumcision nor uncircumcision meant anything but becoming a new creation (in Christ). If any marks mattered, Paul could point to the scars on his body, the result of years of persecution. These he said are true “marks of Jesus.”
I have thought about what Paul must have looked like by the last years of his life. According to his own account he had been beaten with 40 lashes (save one) on five different occasions; beaten with rods three times; stoned and left for dead; shipwrecked three times; he had often known hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness; he had lived in constant peril from his enemies. He also mentions his “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” that caused him pain until the day he was executed. All these must have “branded” his body greatly. By the end of his life he had to be a physically broken man. If anyone knew what it meant to suffer for the cause, it was the apostle Paul.
So what do we give up for the Lord? To what scars on your body can you point and say, “That is from being persecuted for my Lord!” What harrowing account can you give of your life being in danger for being a Christian? When have you been in want of life’s basic necessities because you were serving the Lord? I think all of us have a pretty short list.
I am embarrassed about the ease of my life in Christ. Brethren have been so good to me. The world has not really persecuted me for my convictions. My work in the gospel has mostly had free course in this world. Satan is truly at work against me but my body is not scarred and broken. My physical life is not in tatters. I am not complaining but I do wonder if I pushed the envelope as much as I should have.
It is good for each of us to evaluate our level of commitment and sacrifice to our Lord. Are we ready to face ridicule and rejection or are we afraid of we might get a little pinprick from Satan? Let’s look to 2018 as a year of conviction and sacrifice - whatever it takes to do more for the Kingdom. As Paul said, “I press on.” I pray God will give us some challenges to our faith that we might grow in His service.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Sin is the transgression or violation of God’s will. But often a word like “sin” can lose its impact because we hear it and use it so often. People who worship and study the Bible on a regular basis are continually exposed to the concept of sin. Consequently, the idea of sin may not always have a strong effect on us. This isn’t necessarily a flaw in our character, but simply the result of our human minds becoming accustomed to whatever we experience, even very serious and somber things.
When I have found myself reacting this way toward sin, it has been helpful for me to consider sinfulness from the perspective of God as a loving father. Matthew 26:39 says, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was asking His Father to change His mind. Jesus didn’t want to experience this “cup,” the horrific death that the Father had predetermined. But the Father’s answer was clear. His son's death must happen in order to defeat sin.
Imagine an enemy so horrible that you would have your own child killed to defeat it. Can we even imagine an enemy like that? Would we ever act nonchalantly or callous in regard to that enemy? Of course not. That enemy was the reason our child died. From God’s perspective, “sin” is the reason His son suffered and died. Perhaps this can help us appreciate the wretchedness of sin, and glorify God because He has freed us from it.
The Enormity of the Problem by Joshua Creel
Recently the news has been filled with accounts of how several Hollywood producers and actors have abused and assaulted young actresses and actors over the last several years. As these reports have become more numerous many others have shared their accounts of enduring sexual assault on social media, always using the accompanying hashtag, #MeToo. The goal of the social media campaign is two-fold: 1) raise awareness of just how enormous a problem sexual assault is in our culture, and 2) let the victims know that they do not stand alone, that there are many others who've endured the same and stand ready to help them recover.
Understand, I have no desire to trivialize this issue in any way. Our culture has long fostered negative and harmful attitudes toward women and it is good that this issue has come to the forefront, even if I have little hope of our culture changing its attitude and stopping the hyper-sexualization of our youth. No, this issue mustn't be trivialized or ignored.
But what I want us to consider as a church is the true enormity of the problem. We are situated in a world, in a country, in a city, in a community in the clutches of the evil one (1John 5.19). Darkness surrounds us on all sides, death continues to make men and women its captives. The enormity of the problem cannot be exaggerated, nor forgotten by those who once "walked according to the course of this world..." (Ephesians 2.2). And if we recognize the enormity of the problem, then we will reach out to the lost from a position of empathy rather than superiority. We who have been rescued from death by the love and mercy of God (Ephesians 2.4) are now in position to extend the gospel to others in need, to let them know we've experienced death and can show them the way to life. #UsToo
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).