Remember Your One

In 2020, I first asked you the question, “Who’s your one?” We talked about it from time to time, had a box full of names in the foyer, prayed for people by name and saw some of our ones visit and even be baptized into Christ. Most weeks the question has remained on the back page of our bulletin. Since we have added new faces over the years, and some of us just need a reminder; I thought it might be a good time to explain again what the question is about and why it matters.
If you were to ask other Christians to tell you the story of how they came to follow Christ, you might occasionally find someone who was invited to a gospel meeting or answered a knock on their door from a stranger there to talk about Jesus. The vast majority of people will tell you about a person or people that they know. It’s usually a friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker who introduced them to the gospel or lived in such a way to start the conversation. Each of us has a person in our lives who needs to know Jesus. We are the people who could be part of that person’s story of coming to know Him. That person is our one. For those of us who already thought of that one in 2020, let’s keep praying and looking for opportunities. For the rest of you, who’s your one? How can we be more intentional about reaching our ones?
In his book, Everyday Evangelism, Randy Becton offers some advice on how we can become better witnesses for Jesus in our daily lives.
  • Make a list of people in your circle of influence for whom you will pray.
  • Seek to model a Christ-honoring life before them.
  • As you interact with them, attempt to understand their world—their hopes, frustrations and fears.
  • Build friendships with them and the significant people in their lives—especially their family.
  • Watch for opportunities to serve the people and their families for whom you are praying.
  • Seize every opportunity to tell the story of what Jesus has done for you and for them.
God loves you, and God loves your one.

Thinking About God

On Sunday evenings this year we are looking at several topics dealing with aspects of theology. For the first five weeks, we talked about the church and its mission. We have asked and answered the question, “Who are we and what are we here for?” Starting this Sunday evening, we will spend several weeks talking about who God is and who He is not. When I consider this topic, I am reminded of a quote from A.W. Tozer that I heard several years ago. “What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What comes to mind when you think about God?
In his book, In the Great Stream: Imagining Churches of Christ in the Christian Tradition, Leonard Allen shares research from Christian Smith about how some view God in our current times.
“In his extensive study of youth and religion, Smith concluded that MTD (moralistic therapeutic deism)–with it’s range of variations–tends to be the operative religion of American young people in the twenty-first century. This new reduced Christianity has three features: it is
Moralistic–God wants be to be a good person.
Therapeutic–God or religion should help me feel good.
Deistic–God is a concept to adorn our lives but not an agent who really does anything.”
In a world where far too many people think of God this way (even many who are Christians), it is incredibly important that we understand who He really is. If we have that understanding, we can help others see that the MTD version of Christianity falls short of the God we serve. He is so much more.

– Brian


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!