No in-person meetings until December 6th.
Well, What are You?

Are you one of those “silly” maskers, or a crazed “conspiracy theorist” non-masker? Do you believe in science? Well, duh, everybody believes in science, right? But which of the multiple, mutually opposed scientific statements do you espouse about Covid? Herd immunity science? Chinese genocide science? Leftist agenda science? Vaccine research science? Medical community science? Wait, which medical community’s science?

Just for a moment, put all that junk on hold and consider what Jesus prayed for his people….. us. He prayed for us to be unified.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone (the apostles), but for those also who

believe in Me through their word (us); that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” John 17:20-21

Jesus did not pray to his father asking him to unite his children by making us all carbon copies of one another. He prayed for us to practice unity based on the sanctifying truth of his word (17:17).

If we had a divine word on Covid, you know we would go with it. Instead, we are challenged to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in the face of multiple Ramona/Corona/Pamona/Come-on-a story-lines presented by this temporary world of darkness.

I’m telling you to keep your focus on Jesus and the unity with your brothers & sisters for which Jesus prayed even as, no, especially as, they do things that you may think are dumb. Do this because #1) we can’t yet know which of us may be proven “dumber” than the other and #2) because regardless of our differences of opinion on temporal, therefore inconsequential issues, we all put our ultimate faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings.

That faith alone should be more of a unifier in our minds than anything else could prove worthy of division.

Think about it. If we’ve held firm on the word of God all these years and the devil has not been able to shake us, then he may try to come up with a different plan. What if this pandemic has at heart the intention of dividing God’s people? He already has everyone else. He doesn’t have us. Not yet.

What Have We Become?

Evil has shown itself and is waging a war against Christianity and the Gospel of Christ. This morning I saw a video of a man getting knocked out. It seems he was trying to protect others. Afterward, he had his head stomped on multiple times and then his phone was stolen from him as he lay there helpless. During the same incident, a person was stabbed and another 13 people were arrested. Yesterday, I saw a video of an older couple having large fireworks thrown at them while they ate a meal. This done for what they were wearing. In August, American flags and BIBLES were burned. These places and events may seem distant to us but believe me when I say that we could drive to these locations in one day if we wanted to.

This poison has infected human morals and decent goodness of the heart and tried to disguise itself as liberty and justice. Our daily diet seems to have become lies and selfishness, and needless violence from every side. The message is all about destroying the hope that is given to mankind, the hope that there is more than just this life!

I believe a fight has come to Christians that is no longer about a person’s politics but about a person’s soul. People in our country are searching for truth and the one community that has the answer for them has been overwhelmingly silent. Myself included. Brothers and sisters, this should not be!

Has the government become our God? Are we to listen or look to man for the truth and hope? “No one can serve two masters. ”{Matt 6:24} Perhaps, we are cowards, forgetting completely the beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ”{Matt 5:10} The Christian community can no longer stand by as God’s commands are broken in the streets of our nation.

There is an open attack on Christianity in this country. May the Lord give us the courage to stand for the truth of God and not man. May He let us be ever ready to have an answer and may the ONE TRUE GOD be the one that Christians put their hope in. Amen.

Two Homes, Countless Storms, One Rock

Two men were building homes. The first man was wise. He built his house upon a firm foundation, the rock. The second man was foolish. This man chose to build his house on an ever-changing foundation, the sand. At first, both homes seemed secure. The home on the sand may have even been more aesthetically pleasing. But then the storm came. The rain fell, the floods rose, and the winds slammed against both houses. The wise man’s house stood firm, unshaken by the elements. The foolish man’s houses fell, and mighty was its fall.

Through our lives, every one of us will face storms. Every one of us will face hardship and suffering. Our hopes, our dreams, our ideas, our entire beings will be tested by the storm. We don’t get to choose when the storms come or what kind of storms they will be, but we do get to choose where we will find shelter in the time of the storm. We do get to choose what kind of home we will build for ourselves.

The wise will build upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The wise will secure their homes to His words and teachings. The wise will trust the Son of God to hold them. The foolish will build upon the things of this world. The foolish will put their faith in things like their country, political party, families, education, or jobs. The foolish will cling to things that will always shift and change. Let us endure the storm with wisdom. Let us build our homes on the rock.

Natural Disasters

This last week, Central Oklahoma experienced a natural disaster. Do you ever wonder why natural disasters occur on earth? I mean, other than reasons science tells us about like soil erosion, seismic activity, tectonic movements, air pressure, and ocean currents; why do they happen? It may seem that, during these times, it’s easy to ask, “Where was God?”

We can be assured that God does use natural disasters to kill and maim indiscriminately and without warning (Sodom & Gomorrah, Nineveh). We have to remember the world we live in is a fallen world. In Genesis, the ground is cursed and will be hard to work because of man’s sin. In Isaiah 24:6, we are told the earth is cursed and humans must bear that guilt. Simply put, natural disasters are a result of our own sin and now all of humanity, for the rest of time, will deal with them on earth.

So, what do we do when they occur? There are many things we can do, but I want to focus on two. First, we need to seek our comfort in God, not blame Him. Isaiah 63:9, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” God does not like to see His people suffer. He is there in the natural disasters to help us, not hurt us.

Lastly, we have to help each other. Acts 11:21-30, “Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.” It is not about how or how much we help; the Christian example is to take action! I’m proud to say that I and much of the community have seen Choctaw Church of Christ do these very things!

So, why do natural disasters occur? So, we can shine the light of Christ and encourage each other.

Just Roses?

Literally hours before this photo was taken, this entire rose bush and each individual bloom was laying flat on the ground, not only covered, but encased in ice from a recent storm.

Have you ever looked closely at a rose? Have you noted the wonderful delicacy of each silky petal? What a marvel to me that such a fragile living thing could be held in ice, but afterwards be so perfectly and completely restored to its former beauty.

So it is with you and me as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who spoke the very first rose into existence, and he speaks new life into us with his word every day.

As his apostle wrote:

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18

Life may tend to bring us down, but God will always raise us up, especially at the last time. Never lose hope in him.

Tracers

Let's talk "tracers." Tracers are projectiles (bullets & cannon caliber ammunition) with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base. It ignites and burns very brightly when fired and makes the projectiles trajectory visible to the naked eye. They are usually loaded as the fifth round in a rapid shooting firearm like a machine gun. The path they leave can then help to point out where that ammunition is landing in relation to the target. They help the shooter to make adjustments in their aim, even without using the sights on the weapon.

So what, you say?

I wish to make the analogy of our words spoken to people, especially our brothers and sisters, are like tracers. Just like tracers, we need to monitor our words with the concern of where they are landing and their effect on others. The U.S. Army Ordnance states, "Tracers work both ways." They identify the weaponized person as well as their target. Once bullets are fired, they cannot be recalled and the tracers pinpoints their target. Accidental shootings can still injure, maim and kill a target - that is true, but the words we "shoot" from our mouths, more often than not, aren't accidental but are intentional.

And what do we use to fire these tracers? Most of the time it is disagreements of opinions. Remember that ordnance - tracers work both ways, let me add to that..."if that person is within range, SO ARE YOU." Your "tracers" may set you up as a "target."

Watch our words, just like tracers, they go to where they are aimed and that they don't make us a target for someone else's "tracers." (Matt. 12:37... "For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.")

Whose Money Is It?

It’s the Lord’s money, of course, as you already know! I thought this would be a good time to discuss the importance of being good stewards of our possessions. We recently had large expenses that were not budgeted for this year, but we were able to cover these without going into debt. This is thanks to our elders and our excellent money manager, Sarah Kriwanek! My job is to keep their success running smoothly and to be a good steward of our finances. I also want to be as transparent as we possibly can and show everyone how we were able to have the funds to do what we did this year. COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to reimagine the Children’s Education wing, but it also brought worry that our finances would be lacking. I was floored when our congregation and others actually gave MORE! I am always amazed at the giving of this congregation when we need it! Once the money is given to the church the elders, myself, and the Finance Committee (Jacob Falcon, Jake Anthony, Donnie Deatherage, James Kriwanek, Sarah Kriwanek and myself) have to make sure we spend the money wisely and also have enough saved up for emergencies and opportunities.

Just as the woman from Proverbs 31 was a wise steward by hard work and wise spending, so we must be. She minimized her expenses in order to save for unexpected needs. Following her example also allows us to give generously to those in need of help.

I want to commend the congregation on how we got to this point and how we were able to pay for all the unexpected expenses. Thank you for making my fiscal duty (and everyone else’s that helps me) easier!!

How to Get Myself into Trouble...

If you know me, you know I don’t believe in dress codes for the church…… buuuut the subject of what we wear in public is not quite so simple as to be dismissed in the name of being against a dress code.

Judging from passages that mention it (1st Timothy 2:9 & 1st Peter 3:3 for example), modesty in the first century and before seemed to be a matter of avoiding ostentation, that is the wearing or displaying of wealth on one’s person by way of fancy clothing, jewelry and even hairdos.

Today, with the abundance of suitable (no pun intended) clothing available to us, modesty has become more of a matter of keeping ourselves covered. Think about it; when you hear of someone being immodestly dressed, do you envision a person overdressed or underdressed?

Out of curiosity, I googled images of cheerleaders just to check something. Turns out, based on the huge preponderance of images, the female cheerleaders are often very scantily dressed while their male counterparts are fully clothed. You see a lot of legs, tummies, backs & shoulders displayed, but only those of the girls.

Whoa! Hold on, this is not a diatribe against cheerleaders or cheerleading. I am just trying to think through this thing about showing a certain amount of skin that even sports fans understand to be…. well…. provocative. But to what are we being provoked?

Shouldn’t we wonder…. why aren’t the male cheerleaders scantily clad like the girls? This has nothing to do with all men being dirty minded. If that were the problem, surely no young lady would ever dress like that in front of them.

Jesus warned men that looking on a woman to lust was adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). And yes, men, rather than women, tend to be the ones who struggle against lust. Is it a bit out of balance, however, to warn men about lusting, but then encourage young ladies to dress in a revealing manner?

I really like what someone very wisely wrote:

“When a woman veils her body in modest clothing, she is not hiding herself from

men. On the contrary, she is revealing her dignity to them”

What is modesty anyway, but the decision to behave in such a way so as not to call attention to ourselves. Modesty displays our desire to live together in peace and godliness while respecting both our own dignity, and that of others. May such modesty always be a part of who we are as God’s people.

Fishing

I love it. Line in the water, just waiting for the first stirring of a nibble. Then “BOOM!”, they bite hard, you set the hook and feel that life on the other end of the line as you reel him in. There is just nothing else like that kind of excitement.

Remember that time the apostles had fished all night and caught nothing (Luke 5:1-11)? Jesus told them to go out into the deep and let down their nets. Obeying him, they caught so many fish the nets were breaking and the boats sinking! But Jesus did not have the fish jump into the boat. They still had to be caught. Jesus told these men that from then on, instead of catching fish with nets, they would fish for people using the gospel.

Have you fished for anyone’s soul? Below are just a few samples of things to say that might get a “fish” interested. Actual fish take your bait to their doom, but those fortunate enough to get hooked by Jesus’ gospel are given everlasting life. You don’t have to be a theologian, just someone with the courage to fish. Do any of these sound like something you could try?

“How are you and the Lord doing these days?”

“What is your religious background?”

“Do you enjoy reading the Bible?”

“What do you think about Jesus?”

“I can’t wait for our next Bible class.”

“Why do you think there is so much religious division?”

“I am inviting you to come to church with me.”

“Do you own a Bible?”

“Sunday or Wednesday? Oh, I’m asking when you’d like to come to church with me.”

“Where do you go to church?”

“If you were to meet the Lord today, would you be ready?”

“Got a minute? I’d just like to tell you three things I love about the Lord’s church.”

“Do you believe that Jesus is coming back?”

“What do you believe is our purpose in life?”

“Here is a track/booklet/video I thought you would find interesting.”

These are just samples of how we might get a conversation started. Perhaps someone you know is just waiting to be asked. Will God bless our efforts to save others? Well, we know he can’t bless an effort we don’t make.

The Sin of Patriotism? Really?

The United States of America is not the church. We understand that, right? But is it wrong to love and honor America as our nation?

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore, it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
- Romans 13:1-7

Six times in this brief text, it is written that God establishes governments and that they are his servants. While none of them perfect, is it okay to celebrate the good?

Are you disloyal to Jesus if you pay $300.00 to go to a ball game and watch your favorite team while wearing a team shirt, sporting a team hat & waving a team flag?

If you gather with fellow school alums and sing your alma mater, have you transgressed in your loyalty to God? Who believes that?

Jesus gave thanks to his Father for a few loaves of bread and some fish. Should we not thank God profusely for our nation?

Should we not thank God for our constitution, that recognizes our God-given rights?

Should we not thank God that the constitution protects us from government oppression?

Should we not thank God for our military, who have kept us free?

Should we not thank God for our policemen & women who serve and protect us?

Should we not thank God for fire departments who stand ready to risk their lives for us?

Should we thank God for our national & collective prosperity, lifting us out of poverty?

Should we not thank God that we live in a nation to which oppressed and downtrodden people have longed to flee for countless decades?

No nation will ever be the church, but that was never God’s intention. My understanding of God's design for governments, however, compels me to see my country for what it is: a huge blessing from Him. If you are an American, hope you share this sentiment also.