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.         


VBS 2021

As I write this, our Vacation Bible School is about to begin. At least the part the kids see is about to begin. There has already been a lot of work planning, decorating and preparing. Right now there are people in the kitchen getting a meal ready. VBS was another thing that we missed out on in 2020, and it is encouraging to see its return. If you are reading this on Sunday, VBS is finished and the building is probably back to normal. Although I’ll have to admit that I wouldn’t mind if there was a boat on the stage and a whale (or big fish) in the hallway for a little longer.

The story of Jonah is another of those Old Testament stories that seems like it’s for kids because there are sailors, a ship, adventure and a whale (big fish). There is actually a lot in the story for us adults too. There are ungodly sailors who turn toward God, there’s an evil city that turns around and a reluctant preacher that turns bitter. Through it all the constant is God and his love for all of them. It’s always good to be reminded of God’s love and mercy for the sailors, the city, the preacher and us.

So thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s VBS possible. God wants His message proclaimed in our city as well, and you were a part of doing that this week.


“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” – Jonah 3:10


Making the Invitation Inviting

I have been reading a chapter of Mike Ireland’s book, The Gift of Ministry, each morning in the office. Each chapter is about four pages and has some practical encouragement or ideas about life as a minister. Last week one of the topics dealt with our tradition of having an invitation near the end of our services.
“Does every sermon need to close with an invitation? There are certain traditions that accompany the action of ‘extending the invitation.’ For example, any reference to the ‘invitation song’ we are about to sing will immediately send an energy across the auditorium. People who before were sitting tranquilly in their pew suddenly begin moving as if they were gathering up their belongings to catch the last bus of the day. If nothing else, church folks are always ready to sing the song that signals an end to the sermon.”
He also wrote about how some churches no longer offer the invitation. The reason is simple: it is often an invitation that goes unanswered. Rather than the intended outcome of people coming to recommit their lives to Christ or ask for prayer, it is just a time for the preacher to stand there waiting awkwardly. That first step into the aisle is incredibly difficult for most people. Now that our services are live streamed, it is even more so. Still we keep inviting.
Beginning this Sunday, we will offer another way for anyone who would like to respond to the invitation. I will be in the front of the auditorium with one of our elders as usual, but another of our elders and his wife will also be in the classroom at the southwest corner of the building. Our hope is that this will provide another option for anyone who would like to respond in a more private setting. Both options will be available each time we offer the invitation. “Hear the invitation; come whosoever will.”

Give Me Liberty

Since it is the fourth of July weekend, you might have already finished the rest of that phrase in your mind: “or give me death.” Those defiant words of Patrick Henry helped shape a nation and its leaders. As much as we value liberty in our country, we are even more thankful for the liberty that God gives. In our study of the book of James both last week and this week, James mentions the “law of liberty.” God offers us freedom from sin and death, but that freedom was never intended to create an “anything goes” way of life. In the midst of that discussion of liberty, James emphasizes the importance of our actions matching our beliefs. He reminds us that our actions toward others are incredibly important in the eyes of the God who frees us.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus also talks about freedom when He says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If we want to live lives that are truly free of sin and death, we will choose in our freedom to follow Jesus and to recognize His truth. In our independence, we actually become dependent on the God who loves us and set us free.
Happy Dependence Day does not quite have the same ring to it, but it is something that followers of Jesus can celebrate every day. We depend on God. Paul captures that concept very well in 2 Corinthians 3:4-5, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” We are not self-sufficient. We know that in His perfect love, God provides for us and also frees us. That is true freedom.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23