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.
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.
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


Prayer Focus



Prayer Focus


Southwest Church



Our college students


Our Nation



Growing faith & Overcoming doubt


Our Community



The Church around the world


Our Schools, Teachers, Staff,
Students, Homeschool Families



People in need







People who are grieving





Opportunities to show love



Difficult people and relationships


God’s Glory



Local outreach


God’s Will



Our need and ability to forgive


Global Missions



Thanksgiving for God’s Provision


Veterans and Military





Freedom from sin



Stronger Marriages


Widows and widowers



Boldness to share the gospel





Opportunities to serve


Our families




“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.
“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

People or Objects

If you missed the final lesson of our summer series Wednesday night, you really missed out. Wayne Roberts shared and excellent lesson from John 9 that was summed up with the idea that if we want people to see Jesus in us, then we need to see people the way Jesus sees people. It sounded so simple when Wayne said it, but it might be one of our greatest challenges as Christians.
In the book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, there is an illustration where a passenger boarded a plane with open seating (think Southwest Airlines) and three seats on either side of the aisle. He found a window seat in the middle of the plane, put his open briefcase on the middle seat and opened a newspaper to read. As people made their way down the aisle, he looked over the top of his paper while trying to make sure the seat next to him looked as unappealing as possible. He wanted the extra space. Another time he found himself on another flight where he and his wife were unable to sit together. A woman offered to trade seats with one of them, giving up having her own extra space with an open seat next to her, so they could sit together. Most people who have flown have been in both positions and very quickly forget what it is like to be on the other side of the equation. The book describes the principle this way:
“Whatever I might be ‘doing’ on the surface, I’m being one of two fundamental ways when I’m doing it. Either I’m seeing others straightforwardly as they are–as people like me who have needs and desires as legitimate as my own–or I’m not. One way, I experience myself as a person among people. The other way, I experience myself as the person among objects.”
Jesus sees people as people, not objects. The blind man in John 9 experienced that in a miraculous way. We can help people experience it in everyday ways if we will see them the way that Jesus does. We can be more like Him, and others can see Him too.
– Brian

To Tell the Truth

The television show, To Tell The Truth, began airing in the mid 1950s and has experienced several reinventions through the years. It features three people who each claim to be a specific person with a talent, career or unusual identity. Celebrity panelists take turns asking questions before deciding which is the real person. Those claiming to be the true person are usually able to answer every question that comes their way. Some might think it’s amazing how well they are able to lie, but for many of us it’s something we see all too frequently in real life. It’s hard to know who to believe.
The people that James wrote to lived in a similar world. In James 5:12 we have one of the most direct parallels between James and the Sermon on the Mount: “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” Although some will focus on the part about oaths, at its core it is a command about being truthful. For Christians, truth should permeate our words.
In their book, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, Glen Stassen and David Gushee look at ethics through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount. They believe that two important themes are introduced in the section that James references from Matthew 5. First, “the truth is not simply something that is believed or spoken, but instead a way of being.” This is why an oath is not necessary. If it was, we would need one each time we begin to speak. Second, “one’s commitment to the truth is verified by deeds.” That sounds like what James wrote in chapter 2 or what Jesus taught about our fruit. Our thoughts, words and actions are connected.
We should always seek to live truthful and trustworthy lives in our words and actions as we follow the one who is Truth incarnate. It will help our world see Him more clearly.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Back to School

We are in the midst of an exciting for many families here at Southwest. Teachers and school staff are preparing classrooms and lessons. For some parents, you will be sending a child to school for that first day of kindergarten. For lots of our families, it’s another year of the annual cycle between summer vacations and the return to routine. Some will be taking that first day of school picture for the last time as kids enter their senior year. We have college students heading to Ada while others will say goodbye to kids who are heading off to college. In life we are continually growing. Throughout scripture we see stories of people who grow in their faith, and we are given instruction and examples along the way to learn how to grow ourselves. There is a good foundation for our growth and learning in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Said another way, integrate God and His word into daily life. As He becomes more a part of our regular experiences and conversations, we will continue to grow in Him. As we begin another school year, let’s see it as another opportunity to grow.
Whether you are at one of these stages or if those stages are memories to you, our church family walks alongside you as we all grow in life together.

Preacher Training Camp 2021

For two decades, the Lewisville Church of Christ has hosted a week-long preacher training camp for teens. This year, six students from Southwest went to spend the week learning about how to study, prepare and deliver thoughts from God’s word. I got to hear several lessons on the final day of camp, and it was a blessing to see how our guys and those attending from other congregations grew during the week. It is unlikely that everyone who attends the camp will go into full-time ministry, but what they have learned will help them to serve in the church for years to come. I am thankful for their willingness to be used by God in this way, and for Thorin and the other ministers that guided them through the week.

This Sunday they will share their lessons from camp with us. Come and be encouraged and challenged by their thoughts from God’s word.