Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Why did God give us elders? We may not think of the elders as something that we’ve been given, but the Bible says that Jesus “gave the…shepherds…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Paul told the elders at Ephesus, “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Yes, we appoint men to the role of an elder, but the Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who makes these men our overseers.
God has given us nine elders here within our church. The term “shepherd” is used in scripture to describe these men. A literal shepherd is someone who personally cares for the sheep. He is among them, watching them, ensuring that their needs are met, and protecting them from any dangers that may harm them. This is how the Bible describes the role of an elder, and this is what our own elders do for us.
I think about the overseers we have among our group here at University, and I am confident that they're fulfilling Peter’s instructions: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” As followers of Christ, we should all humbly submit to their leadership, trusting in their oversight, thanking them for their service and praising God for transforming and crafting these men to be the shepherds they are.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)
Paul’s words to the Philippian church provide a wonderful goal for us. He will go on to describe the attitude of Jesus, who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:8). When a church has the “same mind” and “same love,” humbling themselves as obedient imitators of Christ, that church becomes a powerful force. That church radiates light that can be seen all over the world. Paul said that although we live in a “crooked and twisted generation,” we “shine as lights in the world”(2:15). This was God’s plan for His people, and we are blessed to be part of it.
Our congregation here in the University area is a powerful force. God has cleansed us and brought us together as His holy people. I constantly see righteousness radiating from this group. I constantly see this group bringing light to the darkness around them, to the people who are walking in darkness. When I look at the brethren here, I see people “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil.1:27). Praise God that He has given us such a strong family. Praise God that He guides us, sustains us, and protects us. Praise God that He has tied us together by the sacrifice of His Son. Praise God.
Coming & Going by Joshua Creel
Today, young men and women from across the country (and perhaps other parts of the world) are in our assembly. I'm personally aware of some who've come from as far away as Seattle, WA... 3,100 miles away! It's an exciting time for the congregation as we see many familiar faces and are introduced to new ones. It's an uplifting experience because these aren't just college students, they're brothers and sisters in Christ.
Also today, Steve Patton leaves on a month long mission trip. He will spend two weeks in Ethiopia (over 7,700 miles away) and another two weeks in the Seychelles (over 9,200 miles away)! He will see many familiar faces as well as many new ones. He will be spending time with people from very different cultures. But most importantly, he will be spending time with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Long ago, God promised to Abraham that in him "all the families of the earth would be blessed" (Genesis 12.3). Many years later, Isaiah the prophet foretold that the nations would stream to God's Kingdom (Isaiah 2.3). In Christ, the promise made to Abraham has been realized and the prophesy of Isaiah fulfilled (Galatians 3.27-29). And one day, the nations will bring their glory into the everlasting presence of God (Revelation 21.26). Today, whether you're coming or going, you're part of something special.
From the desk of Steve Patton
"...when I go to Spain...I hope to visit you when I pass through and that you will help me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while." (Romans 15.24)
Paul was looking forward to visiting the brethren in the capital city of the Roman Empire. No doubt it would be a great experience. But, for Paul, it was only a "layover" for his ultimate destination. He wanted to go as far west as anyone could go at that time - Spain - the end of the world. Paul wrote a few verses earlier, "I desire to preach where Christ has not been named." Paul wanted "to make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). There was no boundary for him. I know a friend who once jokingly said "I will go anywhere to preach the Gospel - as long as it is south of Nashville, north of Mobile, west of Atlanta, and east of the Mississippi." He jokingly expresses the heart of too many evangelists. In some ways I have felt I was not fit to spend years overseas preaching. It takes a very special person with a specific mindset and a deep faith to do that. I didn't have it. But other opportunities have been presented to be an influence overseas. The Lord has opened doors for me to preach in several European countries and, for the last 16 years, in Ethiopia and the island nation of the Seychelles. It has been a life changing experience. Amazing brethren are found far from my native South.
But I could not go without the help of brethren who are willing to "help me on my journey there." You have done and continue to do that for me. You have a part in the amazing work your Ethiopian and Seychellois brethren are doing. I leave next weekend for a month long trip to these countries. Having other preachers at University has facilitated my ability to do this (including past trips with our own Bob Owen). But it is "not that I seek for the gift, but for the fruit that increases to your account" (Philippians 4:17). The greatest blessing accrues to the giver (Acts 20:35). I am grateful God gives us this opportunity to be so blessed. Pray for the success of our work and our safety as I travel with Bob's son, Scott Owen. I will be remembering you and the great blessing you are in this work.
"Take heed unto thyself" by Joshua Creel
In 1 Timothy 4.16 Paul exhorted Timothy to "take heed unto thyself" (KJV), or "pay close attention to yourself" (NASB). In making application, one brother once wrote, "we should take heed lest we become self-righteous (Luke 18.9-14)... We should take heed unto ourselves lest we become self-complacent (Rev. 3.1,2)... We should take heed unto ourselves lest we become self-conceited. Many were (James 4.6; Proverbs 6.16)... We should take heed unto ourselves lest we become self-indulgent. Are we always interested in what we desire and what we like? One of the real graces of true Christianity is self-denial (2 Peter 1.5,6). We should take heed unto ourselves lest we be self-willed. One of the real attributes of real Christianity is self-sacrifice (2 Cor. 8.5)."
I took those words from a collection of sermons by Curtis Flatt. For many years brother Flatt was a fixture in north Alabama as a gospel preacher. He was also the brother-in-law of sister Arie Brannon. He went on to his reward this past week, having lived 96 years. Both Steve Patton and myself have fond memories of brother Flatt, an extremely kind man who took time to encourage us "younger" preachers.
In a world where youth is king, I thank our Father for "older" brothers and sisters. By their actions and their words, they teach us how to follow our God. And they continue to instruct us even in death (Hebrews 11.4).
From the desk of Steve Patton
"From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God" (Rev. 4:5)
When the Lord God appears to man, scripture records an overwhelming scene of awe and terror. Great prophets pass out and fall down as dead. The Israelites were terrified at the foot of Mt. Sinai by the lightning flashes, peals of thunder, and the trumpeting voice of God. Few things strike fear in our hearts like the flash and pop of a lightning strike and the imminent rolling thunder that shakes the house.
Last Monday night Pam and I were landing at the Tampa airport during an awesome and dazzling display of lightning that surrounded us. The flashes were unending. It was a sight to behold. (In fact major damage was inflicted here at the church building.) One cannot help but think of passages that describe the the Son of Man coming in judgement: "For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day" (Lk. 17:24).
How can we not be overwhelmed by the presence of Almighty God? All things are from Him, for Him and to Him (Rom. 11:33). Why would anyone want to rebel against Him? Why would anyone deny His very existence? One day - "...the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God" (1 Thess. 4:16)
When you see the mighty lightning flashes and hear the earthshaking thunder, think about the return of our Lord. Let nature itself testify to the greatness and power of our God. Judgement is coming. See that you do not refuse Him...for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:25,29).
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).