In That I Rejoice

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Philippians 1:12-18
 
Paul wrote those words while imprisoned because of the gospel. As we look at Acts 4 this week, we find Peter and John in custody for the same reason. Being imprisoned because of the gospel likely seems to us like something that happens in other times and in other places. We have a freedom to talk about Jesus that they could not have imagined.
 
What would people think 500 years from now if they learned that imprisonment for the gospel was a real fear for the first century church and that Christians in America could speak freely about Christ in 2019? Which group would they think would speak more boldly? I know what my answer would be.
 
They were willing to risk everything, because being witnesses of Christ was the most important task they had. How can we capture the boldness of people like Paul, Peter and John? Paul gives us the answer to that question in Philippians 1.
  • Perspective. Paul knows that his mission of spreading the gospel may be enhanced because of his imprisonment. What most would think is a negative becomes good.
  • Example. He realizes that his example will encourage others to share the good news. Now instead of adding to the church, the numbers begin to multiply.
  • Purpose. He is “put here” for the gospel. Do we believe God uses our circumstances today to further His story?
  • Attitude. Paul cannot control his freedom. He cannot control how people respond to his message. He can control his own attitude, and he chooses to rejoice.
Let’s all be witnesses of Jesus this week!
 
– Brian


2019 Summer Series

Date Topic Speaker From
June 5, 2019 God Is a Consuming Fire Daniel Ingram Altus, OK
June 12, 2019 God Is Merciful Dave Mellor Benton, Arkansas
June 19, 2019 God Is God Danny Stewart Sulphur, OK
June 26, 2019 God Is Our Refuge Buster Sides Blanchard, OK
July 3, 2019 Singing Night  
July 10, 2019 The Greatest Story (VBS Week) Wayne Roberts Oklahoma City, OK
July 17, 2019 God Is Holy Layne Heitz Durant, OK
July 24, 2019 God Is Love Nathan Mellor Oklahoma City, OK
July 31, 2019 God Is Faithful Howard Norton Searcy, Arkansas
August 7, 2019 God Is Righteous Randy Johns Paris, Texas
August 14, 2019 God Is Our Father Troy Rogers Lawton, OK
August 21, 2019 God Is With Us Robert Prater Tulsa, Oklahoma
August 28, 2019 God Is a Giver Wendell Ingram Wapanucka, OK


What Shall We Do?

One morning almost 20 years ago I put the key in my truck to start it, and nothing happened. After jump-starting it, I went to the auto parts store to have the battery tested. It was good, and the symptom did not sound like an issue with the starter; so I was convinced that the problem must be with the alternator. I spent almost $200 on a new one. I’m not a professional mechanic by any means, but this looked like a fairly simple task. I worked that Saturday morning taking out the old one and putting in the new one. Once everything was in place and connected, the truck started on the first turn of the key. I took the old alternator back to the parts store to get my core deposit back. When I got into the truck to drive back home, it wouldn’t start again. After looking over the battery connections, I noticed a problem. The battery terminal (that metal piece that connects the hot wire to the battery) was cracked and making a bad connection. It couldn’t be that simple, could it? I spent $2 and five minutes replacing it. The truck started every time I turned the key. I spent the rest of the afternoon removing the new alternator, reinstalling the old one and feeling a little silly.
 
In Acts 2, the people are faced with the undeniable truth that they were wrong about Jesus and had played a role in the murder of the Messiah. Accepting those facts had to be tough. Admitting that they did not know where to go next may have been even tougher. That brought them to the most important question they would ever ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” They knew they had messed up, but they still had hope that their relationship with God did not need to end there.
 
Peter’s response was clear: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It couldn’t be that simple, could it? Could the very people who played a part in the death of their Savior find forgiveness and be made new? The gospel answers that question with a resounding, “Yes.” This is where the change in life begins. The Christian walk begins with one simple step that changes everything. Often we think of baptism as a final step to salvation. In Acts 2 we see it as one of the first steps in walking with God.
 
– Brian
 
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.          Acts 2:37-38


We Are All Witnesses

In 2007, Nike began a campaign featuring a young basketball star, LeBron James. The tagline of the campaign was, “We are all witnesses.” The press release stated: “Nike announced the introduction of a new Witness integrated marketing campaign celebrating superstar LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and his rise to prominence as he makes the first NBA Finals appearance of his career. The expanded campaign includes digital, print and television advertising and grassroots marketing. The Witness campaign pays tribute to James and acknowledges the legions of fans worldwide who are “witnessing” his greatness, power, athleticism and beautiful style of play.” (Cleveland Leader, 6-6-07) Nike was banking on the fact that they had the next player who would change basketball.
 
In Acts 1, the disciples are given the task to be witnesses, but this group of people are witnesses to something much more important than basketball. Jesus asks his disciples to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Since He would be leaving Earth and ascending to heaven in the next verse, it would now be up to them to share the good news. They would be the ones to help this new church grow.
 
Now that we have finished Luke’s gospel, we will move on to his second volume: the book of Acts. We will spend the next few months looking at the first half of the book of Acts together. We will see the beginning of the church and how his disciples took on this mission. We will see that church grow and spread across the world. I pray through it all that we will be reminded that we are all to be witnesses today. We should be working every day to continue that mission that began in Acts 1:8 to take his story to the ends of the Earth and even to our neighbors here in Pontotoc County.
 
Brian


Risen

Jesus tried to tell them so many times. He said it in many places, in different ways and to various groups of people. It was one of the most important things that was going to happen, but they just did not get the message. Then He was taken from them, mocked, tried, beaten and killed. The One who led them was ripped away. Then Sunday came.
In Luke 24 they went to the tomb only to find it empty. It was there they met angels who said almost matter-of-factly, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you.” And they remembered. Now it all began to make sense. Tearing down the temple and rebuilding it. The Son of Man being delivered and raised again. It seemed too good to be true, but He is truth. There is no single event that carries greater power and hope than the resurrection. That is why we celebrate it this Sunday and every day. He has risen, and because of that we can share in the resurrection. – Brian
 
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.          1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)


It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

This week we will spend our morning worship time focused on the arrest, trials and death of Jesus. To His followers, it must have seemed like the darkest days imaginable. It had to feel like a resounding defeat. Of course, we know the rest of the story. The cross is a pivotal moment in the mission of Jesus, but that moment is not the end.
 
In 2001 I first read these thoughts from S.M. Lockridge about the despair of Friday and the hope that comes with Sunday. I believe he captures the feelings of those days well. Don’t lose hope. It’s only Friday. Sunday’s coming! – Brian
 
 
It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know that Sunday’s a comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know that Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary, His blood dripping, His body stumbling, and his spirit’s burdened. But you see it’s only Friday; Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning, and evil’s grinning.
 
It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross, and then they raise him up next to criminals.
 
It’s Friday. But let me tell you something: Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning what has happened to their King, and the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don’t know it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross feeling forsaken by his Father, left alone and dying. Can nobody save him? It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields His spirit.
 
It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered, and Satan’s just a laughin’.
 
It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard, and a rock is rolled into place.
 
But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’!
 
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18


Healthy Hermeneutics

Last week Jeff finished a series on difficult scriptures in the Sunday auditorium Bible class. The topic of hermeneutics—how we read and interpret scripture—came up each week in his class. I’d like to share the following article from Dan Williams, Vice President of Church Relations at Harding University. He emphasizes the importance of our view of scripture in churches of Christ. – Brian
 
We in the churches of Christ are a back-to-the-Bible group. Studying God’s Word has always been central to our identity, and for generations we have been known for producing “book, chapter, and verse” for our practices. We have a high view of Scripture for at least three reasons:
 
First, the Bible is the authoritative record of God’s revelation to humans. “Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but MEN SPOKE FROM GOD as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). When Jesus, in the first century, promised the apostles in John 14 that they would receive the Holy Spirit, He was also indirectly assuring us in the twenty-first century that when we today read the writings of the apostles, we are receiving a message from God Himself. When Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is God-breathed” he is very directly telling us that to hear the Bible is to hear the voice of God!
 
Second, we have always had a high view of Scripture because we have a LOW view of human traditions. We are the heirs of the Restoration Movement in America; a movement that arose on the American frontier in reaction to denominational divisiveness and sectarian squabbling. Our goal from the very beginning has been to practice undenominational Christianity. You hear a lot today about nondenominational churches, but the churches of Christ are the original American undenominational church! In order to free men and women from the oppression of man-made ecclesiastical rules and regulations, and to provide a common ground on which all believers could unite, men like Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander, John Smith and many others urged people to lay aside human creeds and uninspired laws and return to the pattern of first-century Christianity. It was their dream that if we followed the Bible only we could be Christians only.
 
Third, and most importantly, the Bible is precious to us because it leads us to Jesus. ALL of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, have one central focus: they are intended to bring us God’s fullest revelation of all, Jesus, His incarnate Son. In Luke 24 the resurrected Lord rebuked two of his disciples for their failure to discern the prophecies of his death and resurrection. Verse 27 says, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in ALL the Scriptures concerning himself.” From the opening verses of Genesis through the last chapter of Revelation, the grand theme of the Scriptures is that God was working out his plan for our salvation through Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah.
 
So respecting the authority of God’s Word is engrained in our identity – and serious Bible study has always been a part of who we are. I pray that such will always be the case.
 
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11


Up To Jerusalem

Jesus has been moving toward Jerusalem for His entire life. Of course we know that He has been to Jerusalem before. He went there with His family as a child, and there are several stories in the Bible about things He did there during His ministry. But when He told His disciples in Luke 18 that they were going “up to Jerusalem,” that phrase took on a different meaning. Everything in His life on Earth was leading to what was about to happen. Even as Jesus explained it to them again, they still did not know exactly what He meant. But He knew.
 
Jesus knew all along what that journey toward Jerusalem would mean for Him. His disciples did not yet realize that it would also change their lives forever. Following Jesus had not always been easy, but it was about to get substantially more difficult. As a result, many of His followers would leave. However those who stayed would grow in faith and boldness and would continue to live out the teachings of Jesus while telling His story. The Southwest Church of Christ is here because they followed the command of Jesus to “Go and make disciples.” Those disciples made more disciples who in turn made more for generations until the disciples here at Southwest came along. Since we continue to fill that role here in Ada, we might ask ourselves the question, “What does a disciple look like?” If that’s who we are, it should be unmistakable to people around us.
 
In his book, D2: Becoming a Devoted Follower of Christ, Phil McKinney answers the question of what a disciple looks like with these characteristics:
  • A disciple is committed. (2 Corinthians 5:15)
  • A disciple is obedient. (1 John 5:1-5)
  • A disciple is a lifelong learner. (Proverbs 9:9-10)
  • A disciple is a fruit bearer. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • A disciple is devoted to prayer and practices. (Luke 11:1-4)
  • A disciple is shaped by the Word. (Acts 17:11)
  • A disciple is a servant. (Acts 6:1-4)
  • A disciple is a witness. (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • A disciple is a cheerful giver. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
  • A disciple is faithful. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
As we strive to be better disciples and to fulfill the great commission to make more disciples, let’s consider what that looks like and how we can continue to grow in these areas.
 
– Brian
 
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (Isaiah 52:7)


Underdogs

Bracket photo courtesy of ESPN

It’s that time of year. Daylight saving time, spring break, March madness and bracketology are here. If you are not familiar with the word “bracketology,” it refers to the strategy basketball fans use to fill out their NCAA tournament brackets in hopes of picking the winners. Personally, I do not pay a lot of attention to college basketball until this time of year. Most years I will fill out a bracket, and I find myself watching the games. One of the best things about the tournament is that any one of the sixty eight teams could win. Sure the odds are stacked against most of them, but it’s still possible. Most years a 12th or 13th seeded team will beat a 4th or 5th seeded team. People love the underdog stories. As I write this on Thursday a team I thought would win its first two games is already out, and an underdog I thought would win lost at the buzzer. There goes my bracket (as it does every year). Regardless I still love to see the small schools compete with the powerhouses.
 
The underdog stories we find in scripture are so much greater than the best March Madness games. Jacob went from being the younger brother to being the father of the tribes of Israel. Joseph went from slave to second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. Moses went from spending years on the run to leading Israel to freedom. Gideon went from fearful separating wheat to become a victorious warrior. David went from being the overlooked son to defeating a giant to becoming king over Israel. Rahab went from prostitute to saving the spies to the genealogy of the Savior. Repeatedly in the Bible no one could imagine the way these lives would change and the things they would do. Well, there is One who could imagine it. God authors an amazing story that includes each of these stories. It also includes ours.
 
The God that did these things created us in His image to do things He has designed us to do. When we cheer the underdog story, God is well aware of what those people can accomplish as He works through them. When we lack confidence in our own abilities, God has full confidence in His. He will work out His plan with us as He has countless times before. When we look to the end of the story we know He will be victorious, and we know that He wants His people to be there with Him.
 
Brian
 
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31


Sanctified

Sanctified is one of those Bible words that gets thrown around quite a bit but is used in many ways beyond the scriptural idea. At the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church at Corinth referring to them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus.” To be sanctified basically means to be set apart for a purpose.
 
In his book, Possessed By God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness, David Peterson asserts that sanctification is not a one time event but is something that is ongoing. He writes that, “Sanctification is a state in which believers find themselves because of the work of Christ and the operation of His Spirit in their lives. They are called to remain in that state by living in correspondence to their given holiness.” For the Christian, Peterson lists four characteristics of a sanctified life.
 
  • “Our essential identity as Christians is formed by Christ and the gospel, not by our own personalities, backgrounds or achievements.” Our identity is first and foremost Christian. All other identifiers are lesser priorities.
  • “Although God calls upon us to express the fact that we have been sanctified by the way we live, our standing with Him does not depend on the degree to which we live up to His expectations.” We cannot do enough to earn His love. His love is freely given. Obviously His desire for us is sin-free lives, but He stands ready to forgive when we repent for falling short of that goal.
  • “We must continue to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ.” That great command to love our neighbors as ourselves demands that we love ourselves to begin with. God sees us as His children created in His image. We need to see the same.
  • “What will it meant to view one another as those already sanctified in Christ? When we overwhelm people with conditions they must fulfill to prove that they are making progress as Christians, we distort the gospel.” It is easy for us to decide the way others should live and where they are falling short. Jesus reminds us to check our own eyes before focusing on theirs. God works in each of our lives in different ways and in different timing.
 
Continue to live a life that is sanctified in Christ and to let the light of that sanctified life shine brightly. People will be drawn to Him.
 
Brian