Your Voice

Falling out of love with God or others

By Michael J. Brooks
Pastor, Siluria Baptist Church

Though Alcatraz Island was originally a lighthouse for San Francisco’s harbor, the island is better known as the most feared penal colony in American history. Inmates called it “The Rock,” and it was a foreboding place even for my wife and me to visit as tourists several years ago. 

The Apostle John was sent to the Alcatraz of his day. Patmos was a penal colony for the worst of Rome’s offenders. His crime? Being the apostle of love and preaching a gospel of peace. Tradition says John was pastor of the Ephesian church and constantly walked among the people exhorting them to love one another. He was the St. Valentine of the New Testament.

John wrote words from prison that still impact the world. The book of Revelation gave hope to believers suffering under Emperor Domitian and reminds modern believers that though evil exists, it won’t endure.

John began Revelation with seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey. He addressed the first letter to his former church at Ephesus. He commended them for their ministry, tenacity and commitment to the truth, but he also criticized the church for having “left your first love.” John didn’t explain whether this meant the church had lost their love for God or for one another. Either is sad.

If he meant the former, how strange it sounds that a congregation would serve God for any reason other than love for Him! Jesus warned in Matthew 6 that religious people could give money, pray and fast to earn the praise of others but in doing so forfeit the praise of God. We must be careful we don’t serve God in order to get praise and commendation. As the old hymn says, “winning the smile of God brings its delight.”

But could John have challenged the church because they fell out of love with one another? Sadly, this often happens in the body of Christ. Many have allowed a thoughtless word or deed to separate them from brothers and sisters in the faith and affect their relationship with the church.

Bill was once a parishioner. He stopped me one day to say he knew he wasn’t the Christian he should be because he hated a man in our church. “God won’t bless me until I deal with this, will he?” Bill asked.

This was what teenagers call a “no-brainer.” As John wrote in an earlier letter: How can you say you love God, whom you can’t see, if you hate your bother whom you know? (1 John 4:20). 

EDITOR’S NOTE — From Reflections, a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., www.siluriabaptist.com.

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Investing in teen girls

On Wednesday nights at 5:25 you can find me at my home church hanging out in our missions discipleship group for teenage girls called Acteens. What do you do in a missions group for girls on a Wednesday night? 

  • Acteens provides a safe place for girls to be authentic. This group provides a buffer for them to decompress before they head to youth worship. We explore struggles, celebrate successes or listen and watch as they form community.
  • Acteens introduces them to missions through Bible study, stories and projects. Girls are taught compassion for others and the need for every person to know Jesus. We pray for others, especially those who need a relationship with Jesus.

Acteens is one way Alabama WMU is committed to helping churches teach girls to live missionally. Call us at 800-264-1225, ext. 224, and let’s talk about how we can help you grow your teen girls to love Jesus and share that love with others. 

Alabama WMU also hosts an annual event in March called Complete, for girls in grades 7–12. Complete speaks to the heart of teen girls. To register visit AlabamaWMU.org/Complete.  

—Candace McIntosh

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If we are standing on a successful hilltop, we need to remember all the hard work it took to get there. Remember, and do it again and again, remembering what it takes to get to that sweet spot on that hilltop.

Billy Austin
Interim Director of Missions, Tuscaloosa Baptist Association

As you move about your circle of influence, be about loving people where they are and help move them a step closer in their understanding of who Christ is. Live in a culture and attitude of “we” instead of “me.”

Steve Thompson
BCMLink.org

It is impossible to truly give thanks and be angry at the same time. Trials are God’s training opportunities to see if you and I will quickly give thanks and turn the situation over to Him, so He can go about resolving the problem.

Dr. Bob Cosby
Birmingham, Ala.

It does not matter what we are going through or what decisions we have before us, God has it all under control.

Dan Harrison
Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala.

If God talks to your heart, listen to Him.

Glen Coffee Sr.
Co-author, “There’s More to Life than the Pursuit of Money”

As much as you may want someone to come into your life and love you and spend forever with you, there is someone who loves you 100 times more than a spouse ever could and quite literally wants to spend forever with you. God loves us so much that He was willing to send His only Son to the earth to be murdered so that we can live for eternity with Him. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life in a brutal, painful death so that we may have life. That is our epic love story. 

Jessica Ingram
The Rope blog, theropetab.wordpress.com

When I was asked to teach a women’s Sunday School class (ages 65 to 101), I felt overwhelmed. I did not see how I could ever “teach” them anything, but I stand amazed at what I have learned. Miss Madeline Sullivan (the previous teacher, now 101) and these other “prayer warriors” make such an effort to just get ready and come to church each Sunday. I am constantly inspired by their heroic effort, their caring spirit, their enduring love and their relentless prayer for others.  

Cinda Young Preuit
Enon Baptist Church, Danville, Ala.

The majority of Christians in the world are not wealthy, are often mistreated for their faith by family and friends, consistently face suffering, and do not have the means, both economic and social, to actually fight for justice. They long for a just home ruled by a just Father.

Justin Burkholder
www.LifeWayVoices.com

If you want to be successful in this culture (at most anything) …

  1. Show up early
  2. Do what you tell people you’ll do 
  3. Don’t play the victim
  4. Wake up early 
  5. Be kind
  6. Tell the truth 
  7. Don’t buy what you don’t need 
  8. Stay late
  9. Work hard
  10. Say you’re sorry

Try this; it works!

Dan Moran
Dan Moran Ministries, Birmingham, Ala.

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From the Twitterverse

@WilliamRDavis9
I receive my Alabama Baptist from the Galilee Baptist Church in New Hope Alabama thank you Galilee Baptist Church for my subscription to the Alabama Baptist a very insightful newspaper in the Christian Life.

@SophiaLeeHyun
Each time before I look at the news or view my Twitter feed, I feel like I need to brace myself for another reminder that the world is a horrible, evil place … and that God is still good, and He’s still sovereign. Amen.

@TGC
A true understanding of the gospel allows Christians to work for justice in the world in (ways) that does not undermine the centrality of the gospel.

@philwaldrep
Make it a point to invest in others’ lives — especially younger people. Though they may not tell you at the time, you are making a difference!

@DannyAkin
Those who are pro-life speak for those who cannot speak for themselves like the unborn, the poor, the widowed, the abused, the immigrant, the hurting and the needy (Prov 31:8–9). @ThabitiAnyabwil @CollegeSE @SEBTS #SEchapel

@LarryLNichols
The reason that I so regularly call upon my dearly beloved Brothers & Sisters in our precious LORD Christ Jesus to choose between being a PRAYER or a PLAYER when it comes to our personal relationship w/ GOD is because there is NO SUCH THING as “Hidden / Secret Sin!” GOD KNOWS ALL!

@cortgatliff
Peter Leithart on pastoral identity: “If the pastor is a specialist, he is a specialist in death, in actual physical death and in all the lesser shocks of death that flesh is heir to.”

@Ed_Newton
The Holy Spirit doesn’t just give you UNDERSTANDING on HOW to follow Jesus, but the Holy Spirit gives you the UNCTION to even WANT to follow Jesus.
#thevoicecbc

@judahsmith
What we do on Sunday absolutely doesn’t matter unless it meets us on Monday. Changes us on Monday. Transforms us on Monday.

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Letters to the Editor

Thank you for tackling the controversial tough cultural, social and political issues of our day. I look forward to your thematic approach featuring one of these issues weekly. So many times an article featured in TAB triggered additional research and prayer. 

As a Christian nation we are at a pivotal crossroads. Socialistic ideas, immoral practices, evil, corruption, fake news and sensationalism are rampant. Nevertheless I know I can expect TAB to address these concerns from a biblical perspective. 

Please do not be intimidated but continue to expose these issues and offer biblical solutions. 

Keep TAB strong and relevant in today’s world. God bless you in your endeavor.

Martha Chavers
Bethel Baptist Church, Dothan, Ala.

The new look and larger print is a great change to TAB! Thanks to all the folks involved in publishing this newspaper!

Kerry Sparks
Temple Hill Baptist Church, Empire, Ala.

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