In the Wilderness

I really appreciated David’s thoughts a couple weeks ago from the book of Numbers. It reminded me of a recent article by Wes McAdams who preaches for the Church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, Texas and is one of the teachers this year at the Affirming the Faith Seminar in Oklahoma City. Wes is reading though each book of the Bible in one sitting and sharing his ideas after each reading. Here is what he shared about the big ideas he learned from reading the book of Numbers.     – Brian
 
We call it “Numbers,” but the Jews call it, “In the Wilderness.” I much prefer their title. The title “Numbers,” makes it sound like the book is just about the censuses that were taken; it is so much more than that. As you know, I am reading each book of the Bible in one sitting. Here are a few of my thoughts after reading the book of Numbers. (Click here to continue reading.)


Proverbs

If you are not here regularly on Wednesday nights or you are part of another class, you might not know that our adult auditorium class has been studying themes in the book of Proverbs from a study called “Practical Proverbs” by Scott Franks.  The book is filled with short sayings that are long on wisdom. Wisdom is described in the Bible Knowledge Commentary as “having the ability to cope with life in a God-honoring way.” That is something we should all be striving to do. Since we’ve reached the halfway point in our study, so I’ll catch you up on what we have learned so far about doing that.

 

 

Trust

It is essential that followers of God learn to trust Him in all things. There are lots of situations in life that cause fear and uncertainty. We can trust God in the midst of those times. That trust begins with the healthy fear and respect of God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

 

Honesty

Most of us have learned many times in life how lies intended to make things easier usually make things more complicated and hurt people in the process. God desires that we be honest with each other and with Him. “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” (Proverbs 12:22)

 

Gossip

There are few sins that are as entrenched in our culture and in the church as gossip. The listening is every bit as harmful as the talking. Roddy Chestnut came up with this helpful reminder about choosing our words wisely: THINK. Is it True? Will it Help? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Proverbs 26:20)

 

Friendship

God who is part of a community designed us to live in the same way. The friends we choose can help us in life and can help us grow closer to Him. We can do the same for those friends. Conversely the wrong friends can lead in the wrong direction. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17).

 

Money

There are things money can do and things it cannot do. We know that when we stop to think about it, but we spend a lot of our time and effort trying to use money the wrong way. We must always place God above money in our lives. “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” (Proverbs 23:4-5)

 

– Brian



Finish

This week I have been reading Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff. In his research for the book, he found that 92% of people with goals that are never finished. One of the greatest reasons that projects are left undone, rooms are left unorganized, gym memberships are unused and Bible reading plans do not make it through this month is perfectionism. Acuff explains in the book that the worst day in trying to achieve a goal is “the day after perfect.”

Bob wants to improve his prayer life in 2018 by getting up 15 minutes earlier every day and spending that time in prayer. After several weeks of doing well, he has a late night followed by too many hits of the snooze button. That morning starts late and the prayer is missed. When the next day rolls around, the streak has been broken, Perfectionism says to Bob, “What’s the point now?” Statistically, 92% of people will give up on the goal that day, because perfect is no longer possible. We miss the point when we do that. If we are people who believe we should pray more, read scripture more, be better encouragers or be more positive, we cannot allow the first misstep to end the mission. If Bob goes back to praying the next morning, wouldn’t 364 days or even 350 days of morning prayer in 2018 with the occasional late night or missed alarm be better than the 30 something days so far?

Acuff suggests a few things that might help us finish.

  1. If you have trouble finishing, admit that your current plan is not working. It’s amazing how often we do the same things expecting different results to happen.
  2. Cut your goal in half. If you have a tendency to give up, make a smaller goal that’s more attainable. If you want to lose 20 pounds, start with a goal of 10. If you have struggled with reading the entire Bible in a year, try reading the New Testament this year. For many people doing either of those things would be an accomplishment that would better their lives. If the goal was 20 pounds or the reading entire Bible in 2018, and they lost 10 pounds or only read the New Testament; most people would believe they failed.
  3. If it is not kind of goal that can be cut in half, try doubling the amount of time you have to reach the goal. If the goal is accomplished in two months instead of one, the goal is still accomplished. If we give up on day 30, we missed the opportunity.
  4. Set reasonable, attainable goals. I will not be running a marathon tomorrow. If for some crazy reason I decided that I wanted to run one, I would start by walking more. Eventually I would sign up for a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon. Assuming I survived all of those, I would eventually have one of those 26.2 stickers on the back of my car.

 

When I think of the perfectionism that Acuff describes in the book, I am reminded of Paul’s words about the law and grace in Romans 5:20-21, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The perfection of the old covenant seems unattainable, so God provides us with grace. He knows that sin will work its way into our lives but that we do not have to allow it to be our master. Like Paul describes later in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, we can finish the race. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 

 

– Brian



Thankful

As I sit at my computer this morning thinking about what to write, one word keeps coming to mind: THANKFUL. It has been one month since I stood at the pulpit for the first time as your minister, and I am thankful for this church.

I am thankful that a couple months ago a group of you spent hours preparing a house for our family. Cabinets were cleaned, walls were painted and repairs were made. I am thankful that when that old house has problems, and I send a text to Butch; those problems are taken care of. And Butch is probably thankful that those texts are coming less frequently. J  I am thankful that when I walk into our pantry to see what there is to eat, I see shelves that are full of the things we were pounded with a few weeks ago.

I am thankful each week when I meet with our elders to be reminded that we have God honoring leaders who are shepherding this church. I am thankful to see the ways that our deacons are serving this church. I am thankful each day for the work that David and John are doing with our campus and youth ministries and other work in the church that is outside their specific roles. I am thankful for what Paula and Dana do in the office to make everyone else’s efforts go further and more smoothly.

I am thankful to have attended Bible classes at Southwest taught by five different people and to have been blessed by what each of those teachers had prepared. I am thankful to see how Jean, Juanita and Bobbye serve the people at Brookdale each week. I am thankful for the work that is done each month for our community at the Yellow House and for how well the crews there work together. I am thankful that whenever a need arises there are people here who rise to the occasion.

I am thankful that as we looked at our budget recently we saw so many good things that are being done in the kingdom because of your generosity. I am thankful for the worship we share together each week. I am thankful for the songs we sing, the prayers we pray and the time we spend remembering the sacrifice Jesus made. I am thankful for the encouragement you give and the way you have welcomed our family into the family at Southwest. I am thankful for this church and the community we now call home.

I could go on and on, but most of all I am thankful for the God we serve and His love for us. Let’s daily show those around us how thankful we are for Him. 

– Brian
 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)



Taste and See

Last Friday morning I woke up to see that I had missed a call just after 5:00 a.m. Shortly after noticing that I received a second call. Both calls were from old friends I had not seen in several years. Those kinds of early morning calls do not usually bring news you want to hear, and this one was no different. My youth minister and friend, Ed McGaughy, had passed away. After our worship service Sunday evening, I drove to Mobile, Alabama for his memorial service. I hope you will be encouraged by learning a little more about him.

I first met Ed when I was a teenager. I could not tell you exactly where we first connected, because he was involved in so many things that I was a part of. Before he was in youth ministry, Ed and his brother, David, helped out with our high school band. Ed and his wife, Cathy, directed the Vacation Bible School at one of the local churches. At a church of 275 members, they grew the VBS attendance to over 600 kids. When I was in high school, Ed managed a patio furniture and mattress store where one of my good friends was the delivery guy. I would spend many afternoons and summers at the store, helping out with deliveries, playing cards and mostly…laughing. No matter the setting, Ed was always the loudest guy in the room, and he had a laugh that was infectious. Since hearing of his death last week, I’ve thought several times about Ed’s laugh.

While he ran the patio furniture store, Ed also became the part-time youth minster at the church I attended. For the last two years of high school I spent most of my Sunday evenings after worship at Ed and Cathy’s house. We ate, sang, talked about God and life, played cards and did a whole lot of laughing. He later went into youth ministry full time and blessed more teens in the same way. At his memorial service on Monday, I heard so many stories from people who had that same experience. All of us had a few more shared thoughts.

Ed loved God. So many conversations with Ed would come back to how great our God is and how He works in our lives. Ed loved his kids. He had four sons. When he and Cathy opened their home to group after group of teenagers on Sunday evenings, he would disappear from the card game, discussion or movie for a few minutes. We soon realized he was with his kids praying with them and getting them ready for bed. He never missed out on that. Ed loved his wife. Early in marriage, he and Cathy had a severe car accident where she nearly died and had a lengthy recovery process. He was by her side every step of the way. Later in life when Ed’s health began to decline, she was there for him. In the years between they modeled a Christian marriage to all of us who knew them. Most of all they helped us see God more clearly.

Ed’s favorite verse, Psalm 34:8, was shared at the service: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” He lived a life that taught us what that looks like. I was reminded this week how each of us can have the influence to show others that we believe the Lord is good. Let’s all take refuge in Him, so the world around us can see Him more clearly.
 
– Brian


Dangerous Unselfishness

Last Monday, our nation took time to recognize the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For 13 years, I lived 150 miles from where he marched in Selma and for the next 17 years I lived 100 miles from where he was killed in Memphis. Regardless of what people may think about the man, his methods or his politics, for many he symbolizes the desire for unity, service and concern for our fellow man. You have probably heard his “I Have a Dream” speech. Below is a section of another speech he gave the day before his assassination.

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the ‘I’ into the ‘thou,’ and to be concerned about his brother.”

That kind of concern for brothers is something the young church at the end of Acts 2 places a lot of importance on. They learned together. They prayed together. They shared what they had. They took care of one another’s needs. Their number grew as a result.

So many of the things that God asks of us involve how we treat each other. “Honor your father and mother. Turn the other cheek. Forgive. Value others above yourselves. Love your neighbor.”

To be followers of Christ we have to see every person we encounter as a valuable creation of the Father. Each person is someone that He wants to bring closer to Him. It is up to us to show them His love. It’s not always easy, and it might be a little uncomfortable. Maybe we all should develop that same kind of dangerous unselfishness that Dr. King spoke about.
 
– Brian