Mission or Outrage?

In his book, Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at Its Worst, Ed Stetzer challenges followers of Christ not only to rise above the ever-lowering moral and ethical standards of the world we live in, but also to be aware of the attitude we might have towards those who celebrate those lower standards. The reason he gives for this challenge is simple: “You can’t hate people and engage them with the gospel at the same time. You can’t war with people and show the love of Jesus. You can’t be both outraged and on mission.”
 
When we bring outrage to the forefront and let it guide our thinking, we are in danger of allowing the same kind of ungodliness that upsets us in others to take root in our own lives. It forces us to categorize people and base their worth on that category. It’s the same kind of thing the Pharisees did when they talked about sinners and tax collectors. How might that look in 2022?
 
“In the age of outrage, we are perpetually encouraged to view others purely in categories of friend or foe. Are they on my side or are they against me? Do they like my politics and politicians? Endorse my worldview? Embrace my ideology? Outrage is a product of the flesh. It is selfish, divisive, wrathful, and chaotic. In some cases, outrage pretends to be righteous anger, but underneath the veneer, it is simply driven by our fleshly desires. In contrast, engaging the Spirit takes the focus off us (our tribe, our desires, our anger, our anxieties) and places it on God and his glory. When we experience forgiveness in Christ, God entirely transforms the way we see people and communities.”
 
Let’s strive to be transformed and see people the way that Jesus does. It can help us reach them for Him. That mission is too important to let outrage get in the way.
 
Brian
 
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:14-15


Hurry Up and Slow Down!

In 1925, about half of the homes in the United States had electricity. Edison had introduced the incandescent light bulb a little over 40 years earlier. Alarm clocks gained popularity during those years, although the snooze button did not come around until the 1950’s. As homes added these innovations, everything began to change. Before that, the average American got eleven hours of sleep. Now the average is seven. Although we sleep less, we still think we never have enough time. Thus we are constantly in a hurry. Corrie Ten Boom, who spent years in a Nazi prison camp during World War II, described this new problem this way, “If the devil can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” How can we live counter-culturally in a world that presses us to be in a hurry all the time?
 
In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer reminds that the antidote to hurry is found in the pages of scripture. There are four practices we can bring into our lives to live at the pace God designed for us.
 
  • Silence and Solitude – Mark 1:35, Luke 22:39 – How often do you have quiet time to yourself? If Jesus needed it, so do we.
  • Sabbath (Rest) – Exodus 31:13, Mark 2:27 – Did you know that the average American touches his or her phone over 2600 times per day? The times that we used to be at rest are now spent with screens. God rested and gave His people the gift to do the same.
  • Simplicity – Matthew 6:21, 2 Corinthians 1:12 – How many emails are in your inbox? How much stuff do we need? Could the stuff in your garage, shed or storage unit be used by someone else?
  • Slowing – Ephesians 4:2, 1 Corinthians 13:4 – Sometimes we can notice unnecessary hurry in the times we are impatient. In his book, Comer suggests intentionally choosing the longest checkout line at the grocery store. Who does that? People who are not in a hurry do. Once at the front of the line, you can be a blessing to the cashier who likely need some of that.
 
Eliminating hurry can help us be more ready to be present with God and others.
 
Brian


Authentic Living

For many Christians, there can be a disconnect between knowing and doing. We understand the right thing to do, but we do not always end up doing that thing. For others, they might even set out to do the wrong thing or have the wrong thoughts, while outwardly trying to portray a holy life. Jesus addresses this problem in the Sermon on the Mount.
 
On the day Jesus sat down to teach, the religious people of His time already knew the rules well. They placed a great deal of emphasis on following the rules, and some were quick to condemn those who did not. In their efforts many completely missed the intent of the rules and how much God cares about their interactions with one another. Jesus challenges their thinking each time He says, “You have heard that it was said…”
 
God’s desire for His people has always gone much deeper than following rules or changing actions. He wants our thoughts and hearts to be transformed. He wants us to live authentic lives that honor Him. We learn what those lives should look like through the example of Jesus and specifically through His teaching in Matthew 5-7. 
 
Brian
 
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24


Overcoming Overthinking

On Wednesday evenings, we have been studying people in scripture who have encounters with God. Each week we have talked about what we can learn about God through those encounters. In those stories, we can also see common issues that people have. In the stories we have covered so far, it seems that people struggle understanding themselves and the situations they face in the same way that God does. Because of how they perceive their abilities or the obstacles they face, they tend to overthink which leads to foolish actions.
 
In his book, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking, Jon Acuff explains that our false narratives about ourselves become like a soundtrack to our lives guiding us in the wrong direction. He encourages creating a new soundtrack. His begins this way, “I choose my thoughts. I know that doing my best starts with thinking my best. These thoughts will set the course for my actions.”
 
That concept of thoughts relating to actions is not new with Acuff. It is the same thing that Paul talked about in Philippians 2 when He said to have the same mind as Jesus, and it is the way that Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed. Jesus calls people blessed when their experiences do not sound at all like blessings. He teaches us that we can change how we think about things and about ourselves, and as a result we can live the kind of life He describes in the rest of the sermon. Doing right begins with thinking right. We truly are blessed!
 
Brian


It’s All About Jesus

 I always enjoy this time of year. I prefer cold to heat, although I am not a big fan of the extremes of either. I like to look at all the lights and decorations up around town. I like holiday traditions, meals and time together. There’s another reason I really enjoy this time of year though.
 
On Sunday mornings each December, we work our way back to one of the gospels to talk again about the life of Jesus. He is the reason for the bond we have together. His birth, life, death and resurrection give us hope. I love taking the opportunity to look at those stories again.
 
We will begin the Gospel of Matthew this Sunday, and that study will take us through April 2022. We have scripture journals for the Gospel of Matthew available, if you would like to follow along or take notes that way. Let’s all be reminded again what His life means to us and how important it is to be more like Him.
 
Brian
 
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:1-2


The Courage to Be Vulnerable

From the time I was fifteen years old until I began full-time ministry at age twenty-seven, I had jobs in a grocery store, a clothing store, a trophy shop, a bookstore, a gift shop, a patio furniture store, a large retailer and an insurance company. Finding a boss or supervisor in those jobs that I would describe as vulnerable was a rarity. They tended to create or accentuate existing barriers between themselves and their employees. It seemed as if they would view vulnerability as a weakness. Sure, there were exceptions to the rule, but the norm was more separation and less openness.
 
In the church, vulnerability is an asset. The people who make up the church that is described in the New Testament are involved in the lives of one another and allow others into theirs lives. They are not a group of people who catch up on quick, meaningless trivia every now and then. They even choose leaders from among themselves who are every bit as involved in the daily life of the group. Christians need that same quality today, but too often we tend to replace it with walls of privacy and self-sufficiency. We may even fear being vulnerable.
 
Brené Brown, a professor and researcher, once asked a group of special forces soldiers if they knew of a time when they had seen an act of courage from another soldier that did not include vulnerability. After moments of silence, one soldier answered, “No, ma’am. Three tours. I can’t think of a single act of courage that doesn’t require managing massive vulnerability.” And there it is. There are so many amazing stories of the courage of people in the military throughout history. We would never describe those as weakness. They are stories of bravery and strength. Vulnerability is something to be sought out and valued, not avoided at all costs. And if we are truly to follow the command to love one another, we cannot do that without being vulnerable.
 
Brian
 
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:11-12


Who Are You Going to Call?

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, who would you call? If you need help, who would you call? Maybe it’s a hypothetical situation today, but in September 2001 that question was very real for Mark Ashton-Smith. BBC News reported the story this way:
 
“When a Cambridge University lecturer’s kayak capsized in rough seas off the Isle of Wight in England he phoned his father in Dubai for help. As Mark Ashton-Smith clung helpless to his canoe he decided not to dial 999 (the British equivalent of dialing 911 in the U.S.) Mark Ashton-Smith did what he thought best. Instead he first called his sister in Cambridge and then his father 4,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates. Both then alerted the Solent coastguards to the drama unfolding less than a mile away from them. After clinging to his kayak for nearly an hour, the 33-year-old was winched to safety by helicopter.”
 
He called on family. He called on his father. It was likely the efforts of his father, Alan Pimm-Smith. Although he was far away training British troops in Dubai, he knew exactly what to do. The coast guard arrived less than 15 minutes after the phone call.
 
The key to getting the help we need is knowing who to call. Our father welcomes our call and is ready to listen, guide and help. Too often, we call everyone else we can think of first. As we study prayer this month, let’s be reminded that He should be our first call.
 
– Brian
 
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” – Luke 11:9-13


Prayer and the Nature of God

For those who have been part of the church for very long, there are probably people whose prayers you especially appreciate. During our years in Arkansas, I loved to see Charles Pittman step to the microphone to lead a prayer in the worship service. Mr. Pittman is a retired English professor, so it is no surprise that he has an eloquent way with words. More importantly, it is clear that he engages regularly in prayer. His words are those of someone very familiar with the One to whom he is speaking.
 
As we study prayer this month, we might think of people like that or about practical ways that we can improve our prayer habits. However it is likely that the most important things we can learn about prayer are not about us, but about God. In his book, The Doctrine of Prayer, T.W. Hunt describes why the nature of God should affect how we see prayer.
“Prayer can have no meaning unless it takes into account God’s total nature. He is holy; we come to Him on those grounds. He is love; we pray knowing that He is concerned about our needs. Because He is merciful, God understands and cares about human need. In most of the prayers of biblical characters, God took the initiative. The greatest saints have always known intuitively, from the depths of their spiritual nature, that God desires to provide for His own. God has chosen to relate Himself to us as a loving Father. He is also shepherd, keeper, refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1), and a sun and shield (Ps. 84:11).”
 
If Christians could remember that is the God who tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), frequent prayer might not be such a challenge. He truly loves us and cares for us. Let’s talk more to Him.
 
– Brian
 
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” – Psalm 103:8


30 Days of Prayer

On Sunday evenings during 2021, we have spent each month focusing on a different topic related to Christian living. In November, we will continue that pattern as we study about prayer. Although every day should be a day of prayer, I would encourage each of us to begin 30 days of prayer on Monday by praying about these specific topics each day during the month.   – Brian
 
 
 
 
 
 

Date

Prayer Focus

 

Date

Prayer Focus

11/1

Southwest Church

 

11/16

Our college students

11/2

Our Nation

 

11/17

Growing faith & Overcoming doubt

11/3

Our Community

 

11/18

The Church around the world

11/4

Our Schools, Teachers, Staff,
Students, Homeschool Families

 

11/19

People in need

11/5

Unity

 

11/20

Wisdom

11/6

People who are grieving

 

11/21

Neighbors

11/7

Opportunities to show love

 

11/22

Difficult people and relationships

11/8

God’s Glory

 

11/23

Local outreach

11/9

God’s Will

 

11/24

Our need and ability to forgive

11/10

Global Missions

 

11/25

Thanksgiving for God’s Provision

11/11

Veterans and Military

 

11/26

Contentment

11/12

Freedom from sin

 

11/27

Stronger Marriages

11/13

Widows and widowers

 

11/28

Boldness to share the gospel

11/14

Orphans

 

11/29

Opportunities to serve

11/15

Our families

 

11/30

Perseverance

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16b

 



Think About Yourself Instead of Others

That title probably got your attention, because on the surface it sounds like the opposite of what we usually think about the teachings of Jesus. However, it is an idea that has been on my mind during Jet’s Wednesday night class about serving. It is easy for us to let our critical thoughts about others change our attitudes about serving them. Jet has been challenging us (most recently from 2 Corinthians 10) to consider how we think about serving. Maybe our thoughts about others actually begin with us.
 
The book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, mentions several ways that it is important to think about ourselves rather than others. I want to share two of those with you. Both are built on scriptural principles.
 
“Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Do focus on what you can do right to help.”
Whether it is the teachings of Jesus about specks and beams or Paul’s description of Jesus emptying Himself and becoming a servant, this is how we should interact with those around us. There is enough negativity in the world without us adding to it. It is easy to find reasons to not serve others or why they might be undeserving, but we are called to something higher than that. We have to set aside our cynicism to see others as God’s loved creation.
 
“Don’t worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others.”
Where the first quote describes wrongdoing, this one deals with lack of action. It is not our responsibility to decide whether someone is acting in the way we think they should. In fact, the problem might even be that we are frustrated that they are not acting in the way that we think we should be acting ourselves. Instead, we should be both servant and example by following the lead of Jesus.
 
Brian
 
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12