Why These Guys?

Last Sunday morning, we looked at Luke’s account of the calling of the apostles of Jesus. Every time I consider these twelve men, I think of how differently I would have chosen them. I have always thought to myself that Jesus knew what He was doing and saw things in these men that I did not. After all, to Israel Saul looked much more like a king than David did. God saw something else. What had not occurred to me until recently is that whether Jesus saw something in them or not, He was not alone in the choice of who or how many. It was the Father’s plan. Henry and Richard Blackaby point this out in their book, Spiritual Leadership.
“Scripture says Jesus spent an entire night praying before he singled out his disciples. (Luke 6:12-13) On the night of his crucifixion, Jesus reiterated that the Father had chosen the disciples. (John 17:6-7) Jesus did not choose twelve disciples as a matter of strategy. Nor was twelve an optimum number Jesus calculated for pedagogical reasons. He had a dozen disciples for one reason only: that’s how many his Father gave him. Would Jesus have included Judas if he were simply implementing a discipleship strategy designed to multiply his efforts? No. Judas was given to Jesus as a part of God the Father’s redemptive plan. According to Jesus, even the teaching he gave his disciples came from the Father (John 6:49–50; 14:10; 15:15; 17:8).”
Jesus prays all night before calling the disciples and thanks the Father for them on the night He is crucified. Jesus is an example to us in many ways. Here we can see from His example that the Father’s plan should always be above our own.
– Brian
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”  – Luke 6:12-13

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.”   – John 17:6-7


Church Family

This week I read an interview about how churches often struggle to work within an increasingly secular culture. One statement made by Canadian theology scholar Geoffrey Ready really stuck out to me.
“People are now finding genuine spiritual connections and answers to big questions in places like SoulCycle and CrossFit, in maker groups and arts groups, in social justice movements, and so forth. That’s where they’re turning for their major life moments—births and deaths, or when somebody gets cancer and they want to raise money or get support. Traditionally, before the last few centuries, this happened in Christian churches, in communities formed in and around the kingdom of God breaking into this world. Somehow, for a considerable period of time now, we’ve been missing that sense of embodied, deeply interconnected human community.”
I’ll have to admit that I recoiled a little when I read that. First I wanted to deny it could be true. Although it might be less prominent in a place like Ada, it is becoming a more normal thing. I wanted to think of all the cultural things I might blame for it. At the same time, I can think of the gradual move in this direction. People have sought connection in coffee shops, diners and clubs for years.
Don’t get me wrong. Connections in those places and organizations are fine, but they are not a substitute for the church. God’s design for His people—His FAMILY—has always been the church. The big joys and sorrows in life are shared in the church. The difficult questions and doubts are wrestled with in the church. We learn more about Him and grow closer to Him in the church. Church is not the building, the program or the event. We are family.
– Brian


“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” – Acts 4:32a


How Does This Happen?

During my recent tour of historical sites and museums related to the civil rights movement, a question echoed in my mind several times: “How does this happen?” Of course that question brought up others. How do people see other groups as less than human? Why are there not more people who stand against injustice? As uncomfortable as that era of history might be to consider, there are many more like it. How does this happen?
The New Testament (especially Paul’s letters) would tell us that root of the problem is sin. More specifically, the problem is putting anything or anyone else in the place of God. In his book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, Thaddeus Williams relates the problem of injustice in our world to Paul’s words from the first chapter of Romans.
“He does not merely note that humanity is ‘full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, [and] maliciousness,’ (verse 29) then blame all that injustice on society and dream up a utopian political solution the way Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels did. Paul does not look at the bad fruit on the human tree and then suggest replanting it in the different soil of some new political ideology. Paul knows that the human tree is so hopelessly sick that whatever soil you plant it in, toxic fruit will form. No amount of political revolution, social engineering, or policy tweaking will stop envy, strife, deceit, and maliciousness from sprouting out of our sick hearts. Why were all the utopias of the modern era doomed to fail? Because the evil did not originate in politics, society, or the economy. It is expressed there, but evil originates in human hearts that ‘exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.’ This, then, is how Paul adds deeper hues to our picture of injustice. Look deep enough underneath any horizontal human-against-human injustice and you will always find a vertical human-against-God injustice, a refusal to give the Creator the worship only the Creator is due. All injustice is a violation of the first commandment.”
God’s place in our lives is above everything and everyone else, including ourselves. Living with that in mind can help us see people as bearers of His image. We honor Him by loving them.
– Brian

“You shall have no other gods before me.”   – Exodus 20:3


EEM 30 Days of Prayer

Each fall we have a contribution for EEM’s Million Dollar Sunday. It is their largest fundraising effort of the year in their effort to print and distribute Bibles to people in more than 30 nations. In 2021, Southwest gave $20,139, which provided 4027 Bibles!
As we prepare for this year’s Million Dollar Sunday, we will begin 30 Days of Prayer on September 18 for the countries where these Bibles will be given. There are prayer guides with a schedule and information about each country available in the foyer. You can also follow along on our social media pages. We will begin today by praying for the people of Albania. On Sunday evening, October 9, Lanny Tucker from EEM will be here to talk about the work they are doing to share the good news. Our Million Dollar Sunday contribution will be on Sunday, October 16. We will complete our 30 Days of Prayer the following day. Let’s make this our best year yet!

Righteousness and Justice

As we talked about last Sunday, the ideas of righteousness and justice are intertwined in scripture. In fact, in the New Testament both of the English words come from the same Greek root. They are translated interchangeably depending on the context. Based on this connection, it would stand to reason that any followers of Christ who believe that righteousness is important should also place a great value on justice. In their book, The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance, Hoang and Johnson explain how this relates to God and people in both positive and negative ways.
“The two greatest commandments identified by Jesus—to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself—are the flip side of the two most prevalent sins throughout Scripture: idolatry and injustice. Failing to love God leads to idolatry, while failing to love others leads to injustice. Another way of putting this is to say that the call to love God and love our neighbors is a call to righteousness and justice.”
Based on that idea, it would stand to reason that any followers of Christ who want to avoid idolatry should also believe that it is important to avoid injustice. We live in a world that celebrates and even encourages idolatry. Injustices are all around us. Many of us have experienced them, although we may tend to minimize the ones we do not see as important or that do not affect us directly. God wants us to be concerned about all idolatry and injustice. He wants us to work actively to correct them and to instead promote righteousness and justice. Let’s join Him in that work.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” – Romans 3:21-25

Thank You!

As I write this on Thursday, VBS is about to get started. It is always an exciting, tiring time filled with lots of activity. In the midst of all that, kids will have the opportunity to learn more about God and how much He loves them. It is a blessing for our church to be part of that process, but it could not happen without the efforts of many people.
We are thankful for everyone who helped with VBS this year. Whether you planned, decorated, taught, cleaned up or served in some other way, your work is appreciated. Your efforts impact lives in ways you may not even realize.

As You Go

Identity is a popular topic in our society. There are frequent debates about what defines who we are and what things are the most important. As Christians we often boil things down to a list of things we do, but being a follower of Jesus has always been something that should change our identity. In his book, A Door Set Open: Grounding Change In Mission and Hope, Peter Steinke writes about how easy it can be for congregations and individuals to lose sight of their mission. That mission is core to identity.

“In In his classic study, Transforming Mission, missiologist David Bosch reported that the Bible passage called the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18–20, was not understood to be primarily about mission until the early nineteenth century. Before then, the verses were read as part of the rite of baptism. Biblical scholarship has revealed that the mandate ‘Go!’ is not in the original Greek. It is a participle—’going.’ The translation would be ‘as you go.’ Theologian David Augsburger notes how broad the mission is with this simple change of ‘as you go’: ‘As you live, as you go about your daily work, as you move to new settings for service, as you join or create new communities of discipleship, as you fulfill your vocation as a follower of Jesus— you shall be witnesses. This is not a sales strategy. This is not a mandate for mass media. This is not a method for achieving church growth. This is a call to authentic, faithful witness in all of life.’”

Basically, the great commission is not only a command to keep. It is a way to live. Doing these things “as you go” echoes what the Israelites learned all the way back in Deuteronomy 6:7. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Making disciples is not only what we do. It is who we are all the time.


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)


Out of Brokenness and Into Unity

In Galatians 3:28, Paul tells the Galatian church that they are now “all one in Christ Jesus.” For the Galatians who struggle with bringing together in one church people with very different backgrounds, that seems to be a challenge. In his book, Participating in God’s Life, Leonard Allen describes what is happening in Galatia as part of God’s greater work in the world to move people “out of brokenness and into unity.” It is the direction that God has been leading people toward since early in the book of Genesis. Allen continues:
One episode in particular emphasizes a shift in direction or a new momentum in God’s plan. From the story of the Tower of Babel we learn that when humans, acting out of pride, seek to unify themselves, they are scattered and their languages are confused. With this in mind, jump ahead several thousand years to Pentecost. Here we see the coming together of many nationalities to hear God’s Word preached by Peter. But the results of Babel make this impossible—how can these diverse people understand the unifying message of Peter? Quite simply, God intervenes and allows the Apostles to speak in languages that everyone present can understand.
The structure is the exact opposite of Babel’s: at Babel a unified humanity comes together to celebrate its own unity and is scattered by God; at Pentecost fragmented humanity comes together to hear from God and God makes that word available to everyone in their own language. The result is that unity, though not achieved, is given. The sign of this new unity is that many diverse people are baptized into one, unified name of Christ Jesus. Babel is reversed and continues to be reversed each time God remakes very different people into brothers and sisters.
Through the power of the Spirit on Pentecost, God overcomes the brokenness of the world. The unifying story of Jesus that was told then day still heals broken lives today!

Fear and Joy

There is so much happening in the last chapters of Matthew, that it is easy to miss little details along the way. In the resurrection account that we looked at last week, one verse hit me differently than it has in the past. The women make the difficult walk to the tomb and are shocked to find it empty. Instead an angel is there with the standard angel message not to fear and another message that changes everything: “He is not here. He is risen.” They are told to take that message to the disciples, then verse 8 gives us insight into what those women were feeling. “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”
Fear and joy: that is an interesting combination. It will be a combination felt by the followers of Jesus over the coming days as they learn of the resurrection and encounter Him in person. Before that, they are likely in a time of despair as it seems their world has fallen apart. They probably do not know where to go, what to do or who to follow. Then Jesus shows up and changes everything. Again. What seemed impossible was possible because of the power of the resurrection. It offered those disciples who had run away the chance to begin again. That new beginning brought great joy and at least a little fear.
God also gives us the opportunity to begin again. Our reaction to that news might be the same as theirs: fear and joy. We are joyful to put the past behind us. We are joyful to know that failures and mistakes do not have to be permanent. We might also be fearful because that takes away the excuses about why we cannot do it. With His help we are able to change our actions and attitudes. He is able to change our hearts. When we follow His message to not fear, we can have the joy He promises.
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23


One of the amazing things about scripture is that we can read it countless times and still find new things that we have not noticed in previous readings. Even if we are familiar with the stories of Jesus in one of the gospels, we might miss repeating words, phrases and organizational or structural elements. One of those easy-to-overlook phrases in the gospel of Matthew is “when Jesus finished.” Guided by the Spirit, Matthew uses this phrase five times to transition between the teachings of Jesus and the next part of the story.
  • Matthew 7:28 – “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching.” Here Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount and begins a series of miracles.
  • Matthew 11:1 – “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” After preparing and sending out the 12, Jesus teaches throughout the area, primarily through a series of parables.
  • Matthew 13:53 – “And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there.” Following two chapters of teaching, Jesus spends the next five chapters moving between miracles and interactions with the Pharisees.
  • Matthew 19:1 – “Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.” Jesus teaches about eternity and His purpose as He moves toward the beginning of His final week.
  • Matthew 26:1 – “When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’” After two chapters talking about the destruction of the temple, His return and the judgment, Jesus will be betrayed, tried, beaten, executed and buried.
Matthew 27 seems like a final ending, but we know that in the tomb Jesus had not finished. He would rise again. His resurrection provides an opportunity for transition for all of us.