Letters For the Church

Last week we began a new series about the Pastoral Epistles on Sunday mornings. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus are referred to this way, because they are written by Paul to ministers in the church. Most of us are not full time ministers, but there is still a great deal to learn from these letters. For that reason, I like to think of them as letters for the church. I would encourage you in the coming weeks to read each of these letters. They are short enough that it can easily be done in one sitting. When reading the letters this way we can often see things we haven’t noticed, and we are much more aware of context.
 
Wes McAdams, Preaching Minister at the church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, has written a series of articles about what he learned by reading the Bible one book at a time. His thoughts about these letters for the church give insight to our study.
Paul’s three short letters to his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus, might be compared to locker room speeches or a commanding officer trying to inspire his troops. In these three letters, Paul describes the type of work these young ministers ought to be doing. I noticed that there are at least three areas Paul focused on when he described the duty of these ministers.
 
The Minister’s “Charge”
One of the recurring words, especially in Paul’s letters to Timothy, is the word “charge.” Paul had “charged” both of these young ministers to do a job. He had entrusted them with great responsibility. Timothy had been sent to work with the Ephesus church and Titus with various churches on the island of Crete. Like soldiers sent on a mission, these were their marching orders.
 
Be A Teacher
The primary area of responsibility on which Paul told Timothy and Titus to focus was teaching. Both communities with which these men were working were plagued with false teachers. So the church in both communities needed men who would devote themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”
 
Be A Leader
I find it undeniably true that Timothy and Titus were entrusted with positions of leadership. Like a chain of command, Paul gave marching orders to these two men and they were expected to turn around and command, charge, and entrust various responsibilities to other Christians in their local communities.
 
 
It would be easy for people to dismiss these things as instructions for leaders, rather than a charge to all Christians. However as we study through these books, we will learn that there is instruction for all of us to be the church that God designed.
 
Brian
 
You can read Wes’ full post at Radically Christian.


School Days

The week has finally arrived. Some dread it. Some are excited about it. It’s time for our students, teachers, staff and administrators to head back to school. Because school starts at different times in different places, I have already seen people sharing their first day of school pictures for the last week and a half. In our church family some of us will be taking the first day of school picture for the first time as a child heads off to preschool or kindergarten. Some families like ours will be taking the last first day of school picture for a child starting his senior year. For many of our families, those pictures are just wonderful memories. Like the song says, “Time is filled with swift transition.”
 
There are lots of reasons to get excited about the first day of school. We get to see friends after the summer break. The rhythm of having a schedule returns. There are more things to learn, sports to play, instruments to master and projects to be done. And wouldn’t many of us who have finished school welcome recess or naptime back into our daily schedules?
 
One of the best things about the return to school is the opportunity for a fresh start. If the last school year did not end the way we hoped, we can change that beginning this week. We can get up earlier, study harder, be more organized, listen better and make new friends. One of the amazing things God created us with is the ability to change and better ourselves. Who we surround ourselves with has an impact on how this year will go. What can we do to make this school year better than the last one?
 
Dan Williams, Vice President for Church Relations at Harding University, believes the answer to that question is found in four principles about how we choose friends in Proverbs 1:10-19.
 
  1. ASSOCIATION (Proverbs 1:10): “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Sometimes when we are not even doing things wrong, we find ourselves in the midst of people who are. As a result people get the wrong impression about us. Choose friends wisely.
  2. CONTAGION (Proverbs 1:11-14): “Throw in your lot among us.” As Christians we want to have an influence on those around us. If we are not careful, we may be influenced negatively instead.
  3. SEPARATION (Proverbs 1:15-16): “My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths.” Sometimes we have to separate ourselves from people or situations to be the people God wants us to be.
  4. DESTINATION (Proverbs 1:17-19): Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” We go into this school year and our lives with a destination in mind. Are we surrounding ourselves with others who are heading in the same direction?
 
Brian


Not Yet

Every time I read the first half of the book of Acts, I am amazed by the transformation of the apostle Peter. The apostle who denied Jesus after his arrest becomes one of the boldest witnesses for Christ. He is not intimidated by threats, beatings or imprisonment. He just keeps telling the story of Jesus.
 
According to historical tradition, Peter was killed around 68 A.D. Although he was to be crucified, he did not consider himself worthy to be killed in the same way his savior had been. He asked instead to be crucified upside-down. Peter seems so far removed from that moment when the rooster crowed.
 
Following the execution of James at the beginning of Acts 12, Peter might have thought his time was about to be up. Each time he was taken into custody, he had to know that authorities were growing more tired of him and his influence for Christ. This time it was Herod who seemed ready to conduct a show trial that would lead to his death. Herod thought that Peter’s execution would gain favor with the people. But that wasn’t God’s plan. He was not finished with Peter yet. God still had work for him to do.
 
While he was well guarded in prison awaiting his trial, an angel appeared to free him. Herod planned to be rid of him the next day, but God had something else in mind. It’s often during those times that we think we have control, or we are sure how things are going to turn out that God moves and reminds everyone who is really in control. Whether we are struggling with what seems to be an impossible situation or timing that we just cannot explain, sometimes God is waiting to reveal himself. Peter was learning something that Paul would write about later in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Whatever was going to happen in that jail cell, Peter was ready for the next step. This time, that step was to freedom and many more years to live for Christ.
 
 
Brian


Hang On

Each week our announcements and prayer list are filled with people who are facing difficulties in life. We are surrounded by loss, illness and other challenges. I hope you will be encouraged by this article from Scott Franks, Preaching Minister at the Burnt Hickory Church of Christ. It is a great reminder to trust in God and His love for us. – Brian
 
Has God asked something of you that seems unfair? Overwhelming? Impossible? You’re not the first to think so. I imagine Noah felt the same. Imagine processing this message from God: • I’m going to wipe all life off the face of the earth. • You are a farmer, but spend the next hundred years building a massive ship while enduring the questions and ridicule of your neighbors. • Two of every kind of bird and livestock and wild animal will miraculously show up here and you will have to keep them alive. • Everything will start over with you.
 


Fast-Food Christianity

As we have been looking at the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, we have seen a transformation happening in the lives of the followers of Jesus. The measure of the Spirit given to the twelve apostles can easily explain how different they are from the apostles we learned about in the gospels. For the newly converted Christians, the transformation seems to be directly related to what they spend their time doing. At the end of chapters 2 and 4, they are unified in worship and sharing life together. Their walk with God extends far beyond the first day of the week. Unfortunately this kind of daily practice of Christianity does not take root in many churchgoers in our world today.
 
In his book, D2: Becoming a Devoted Follower of Christ, Phil McKinney believes this is a product of our consumer culture. He describes it as “Fast-Food Christianity.” It resembles the fast-food experience in a number of ways.
  • Replacement of responsibility: Someone else can do the work while the fast-food Christian enjoys the benefits.
  • Choices: The fast-food Christian can choose the church and the level of involvement.
  • Cheap: It will only cost what the fast-food Christian is willing to pay.
  • Service with no strings attached: The fast-food Christian doesn’t have to make long-term relationships and can frequently make complaints without helping with solutions.
  • Quick: The fast-food Christian wants everything done quickly. Sermons need to be short. There shouldn’t be too many songs. If there’s a problem, it needs to be corrected quickly.
  • Drive-through service: At its core, the fast-food experience is a transaction. Fast-food Christianity can be the same. Get in and out of the building as quickly as possible on a Sunday morning, and repeat the next week.
 
Just the brief contact with the word of God and good people would probably make the fast-food Christian’s life better than it would be otherwise, but that person is missing out on so much of what God has in mind for us. And believe it or not, the church is missing out on the transformed version of that same person. McKinney says that God’s call to discipleship is the opposite of Fast-Food Christianity.
  • Responsibility – Galatians 2:20
  • Costly – Luke 14:25-33
  • Only one choice – John 14:6
  • Service with strings attached – 1 John 3:16-19
  • Slow and sometimes painful – Hebrews 11:32-40
  • Commitment – Luke 9:23-26
 
Here at Southwest there are many opportunities to serve and get more involved as we grow as His disciples. Even beyond the ministries here, let’s never be content with less than the work God made us to do. We are His disciples all day, every day.
 
Brian
 
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:9
 


Storyline

In the end of Acts 6 and all of Acts 7, we find the account of Stephen. He is first introduced as one of the seven who serve the needs of the church, but it is very clear that he took the command to be a witness to heart. When he is questioned by the high priest about the charge of blasphemy against him, Stephen answers by telling the gospel. He does not begin with the manger in Bethlehem. He does not start by telling them about how the Spirit descended like a dove at the baptism of Jesus. He does not introduce his story with the first miracle, the last supper, the crucifixion or the resurrection. Stephen begins by talking about Abraham. Why Abraham?
 
There is the initial answer that since he is defending himself before a Jewish high priest, Abraham would be an obvious, familiar point of connection. I believe there is more to it than that. As we read stories in the Old Testament that remind us of our childhood Bible classes or Vacation Bible School, we sometimes lose sight of the connectedness of each person in scripture. They all play a part in the story that God had in mind before time began. The first chapter of Matthew serves in part to bridge those Old Testament stories and the arrival of Jesus. Stephen reminds his accusers (and us) of that storyline in Acts 7. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David were all part of the story that would lead to the Messiah. Stephen’s accusers had missed the climax of the story because they were too caught up in the history that led to it. Stephen understood that it all fit together.
 
The true beauty of God’s story is that it is ongoing. Because of His great love, He invites us to be part of that story. The church today continues to give the same witness that Stephen did in Acts 7. We know the good news that not only did Jesus come to earth in the beginning of the gospels. It was the Father’s plan all along that He would come so that we could be with Him. Each of the people Stephen mentions are part of that plan. Although the Bible is a collection of many stories, the amazing story of God and His love for His people is woven through all of those individual stories.
 
Let’s not forget as we look at those old, familiar stories that they were all part of God’s great plan to draw His people back to Him. It is a desire important enough for Him to send His son for us.
 
Brian
 
 
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6


Facing Your Lions

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I want to share a letter with you that was written by Wes McAdams, Preaching Minister for the church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, Texas, to his sons when they were younger. These Biblical truths are timeless lessons for Christian men. – Brian
 
Dear Boys,
 
I would like to tell you a story about a young shepherd named David. One day David was out quietly watching over his father’s sheep. Suddenly he heard a rustling in the grass—a ferocious lion appeared. With lightening fast speed, the lion snatched up a lamb and held him firmly in his jaws of death. The lion, with the struggling lamb in his mouth, retreated from the pasture to enjoy his prey. David wasted no time; in a moment he caught up to the lion. Without hesitation he attacked the hungry cat, caught him by his beard, and killed him (1 Samuel 18:34-36).
I think it is important that you know this story for several reasons… (Click here to continue reading at RadicallyChristian.com)
 
 


Summertime

Summertime has a different rhythm than the rest of the year. It is a welcome change for many, but it is still a bit of an adjustment. Summertime in church life is different as well. We have occasional Sundays where the crowd might be sparse, because many went on vacation at the same time. Some of our regular church calendar is a little less full as well. We get to enjoy lessons from some different faces on Wednesday evenings, and ministers all over this part of the country have the opportunity to speak to different groups. For these and many other reasons, I enjoy the summer.
 
As I write this article, I am in Searcy, Arkansas, where I spoke this week to the congregation I worked with for almost 14 years. It is always good to reconnect with friends and to share something from God’s word. During this trip, I was flooded with memories of youth ministry. Although the rhythm of summer takes on a slower pace with a sparse calendar in other areas, that is not the case in youth ministry. The youth ministry summer calendar is full of camps, trips, devotionals, service projects and much more. I was asked this week if I ever miss it. There are parts of it that I really do miss, but even thinking about the pace of summer makes me a little exhausted.
 
I hope you realize how blessed we are at Southwest to have John and Jessica doing all the things they do, and I hope you will do whatever you can to help them as they bless our teens. Whether you are young or old, there are things you can do to make this summer a good one for our youth ministry at Southwest.
  • Pray for John and Jessica. You might even let them know that you are praying and ask them if there are specific things you can pray about.
  • Pray for our teens. Summer can be a great time of growth. Pray for those opportunities. Pray for their safety during increased travels. Go to God on their behalf.
  • Volunteer. There is always a need for chaperones, drivers, teachers, people to host or cook for events and various other things. Ask John how you could be of service.
  • Encourage. Encourage. Encourage. We can’t do this enough everywhere in life. This is no different. Our teens, parents and leaders can all use positive words.
 
As busy as those summers were, I can think of time after time where God made an impact on people during those times. It was in the midst of plans that went off without a hitch and times where thing were changing so quickly it was hard to keep up. God was working through it all. I can’t wait to see what He does this summer.
 
Brian
 
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12


In That I Rejoice

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Philippians 1:12-18
 
Paul wrote those words while imprisoned because of the gospel. As we look at Acts 4 this week, we find Peter and John in custody for the same reason. Being imprisoned because of the gospel likely seems to us like something that happens in other times and in other places. We have a freedom to talk about Jesus that they could not have imagined.
 
What would people think 500 years from now if they learned that imprisonment for the gospel was a real fear for the first century church and that Christians in America could speak freely about Christ in 2019? Which group would they think would speak more boldly? I know what my answer would be.
 
They were willing to risk everything, because being witnesses of Christ was the most important task they had. How can we capture the boldness of people like Paul, Peter and John? Paul gives us the answer to that question in Philippians 1.
  • Perspective. Paul knows that his mission of spreading the gospel may be enhanced because of his imprisonment. What most would think is a negative becomes good.
  • Example. He realizes that his example will encourage others to share the good news. Now instead of adding to the church, the numbers begin to multiply.
  • Purpose. He is “put here” for the gospel. Do we believe God uses our circumstances today to further His story?
  • Attitude. Paul cannot control his freedom. He cannot control how people respond to his message. He can control his own attitude, and he chooses to rejoice.
Let’s all be witnesses of Jesus this week!
 
– Brian


2019 Summer Series

Date Topic Speaker From
June 5, 2019 God Is a Consuming Fire Daniel Ingram Altus, OK
June 12, 2019 God Is Merciful Dave Mellor Benton, Arkansas
June 19, 2019 God Is God Danny Stewart Sulphur, OK
June 26, 2019 God Is Our Refuge Buster Sides Blanchard, OK
July 3, 2019 Singing Night  
July 10, 2019 The Greatest Story (VBS Week) Wayne Roberts Oklahoma City, OK
July 17, 2019 God Is Holy Layne Heitz Durant, OK
July 24, 2019 God Is Love Nathan Mellor Oklahoma City, OK
July 31, 2019 God Is Faithful Howard Norton Searcy, Arkansas
August 7, 2019 God Is Righteous Randy Johns Paris, Texas
August 14, 2019 God Is Our Father Troy Rogers Lawton, OK
August 21, 2019 God Is With Us Robert Prater Tulsa, Oklahoma
August 28, 2019 God Is a Giver Wendell Ingram Wapanucka, OK