FROM PARKWAY DRIVE TO COOPER!

It was a good work!  The gospel had been spreading and advancing.  Acts 11:21 tells us, “The Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”  A few verses later, it was at this church that disciples were first called Christians.  The last verses of the chapter illustrate the love flowing through the congregation, as they generously gathered a gift of help for the saints in Judea, who were going through a famine.  This church was a wonderful example to the entire brotherhood of peace in the midst of diversity.  They worked together in harmony, despite the fact most of them were Gentiles.  In Acts 13:1, it even appears one of their main leaders, Simeon, was an African.  The Antioch congegation had a lot going for it.  It was destined to become, for awhile, the largest assembly of God’s people, anywhere on earth.

Yet, in the midst of this success, Acts 13:2, the Holy Spirit tapped on the shoulders of Barnabas and Saul, saying He was calling them to another work.  Without hesitation, they made preparations to embark on what we sometimes call The First Missionary Journey.  Not only did the two of them exhibit this pioneering spirit, but the church backed them in the decision.  With prayer and fasting the brethren laid hands on them and sent them off.  The result, over the next chapters, was Christ’s kingdom in places it would not have been, otherwise.

In similar fashion, Melody and I are leaving Parkway Drive, today.  There is other work to be done and other places where we are more needed than in your midst.  As we depart we ask for the same prayers Barnabas and Saul received so many centuries ago.  We, in turn, will pray for you.  As the Antioch church continued to prosper in the absence of Barnabas and Saul, we pray the congregation here will also continue to move forward.  As we leave, we challenge all members to take just one step forward.  The hole left behind will quickly fill if each individual begins to do just one act of service you have not been doing before.  We love you!  May God bless Cooper and may God bless Parkway Drive!

— Monty Huffman

REVIVE US AGAIN!

Totally unacceptable! How sad to see such complacency among God’s people! Israel, though back from Babylonian captivity 90 years, now, had still not restored order. It took the labors of Haggai and Zachariah to even convince Judah to rebuild the temple, then they quit! So, God sent Ezra to put the priesthood in order, along with proper sacrifices and feast days. That done, they quit again! Now, the Lord was sending his servant, Nehemiah, as governor to finally build the walls of Jerusalem and set the gates. His leadership led not only to amazing building succes, but to further spiritual revival, as well.

Saints are still constantly in need of that kind of revival! Complacency is as much a temptation as in Bible times. It was great to have a Revival Sunday, this past weekend! Pray we may continue to have a visionary leadership that calls us ever onward. We must refuse to quit working! In Nehemiah‘s book, we read how the walls were completed in record fashion due to almost 100% participation from the people. Parkway has the same need, today! I encourage you to fill out the Involvement Form, handed out Sunday. Those who left early, get a form in the foyer, fill it out and get it back to the elders.

The Book of Nehemiah has one really sad verse. In 3:5, among the excitement and eager cooperation, we read how nobles from the city of Tekoa refused to put their shoulders to the work. Almost 2500 years later their memory is still emblazoned in infamy in the Word. I don’t want my name next to theirs. It is time to each do our part. Neh. 3:8 is another interesting verse. Hananiah, a perfume-maker by trade, became a wall-builder for the God! Four verses later, Shallum was building, helped by his daughters. Everyone, both men and women, old and young contributed to the project. In Neh. 3:30, Meshullam may not have been quite as youthful and vigorous as others, but scripture records how he did what he could. He “made repairs opposite his living quarters”. Even if I have to work from home, there is a place for me in the kingdom of the Lord. Let us all get busy! Lord, revive us again!

— Monty Huffman

BARKING AT TREES!

Though scarcely twelve inches tall and not even weighing that many pounds, in his eyes he is the mightiest hunter to ever stride the earth.  He is a dog.  His name is Moose and he lives at our house.  We regularly come home to a living room full of feathers.  The other day my wife had to wash the bed lenins because she awoke from a nap to find a dead rat lying beside her.  Ally cats all over town know better than to stray into our back yard.

What Moose likes to hunt best of all, however, are pesky squirrels.  He can’t stand to stay inside more than fifteen seconds before bounding out back, head raised high, eagle eyes scanning our pecan trees for any sign of movement.  You know when he has spotted one of the varmints by his frantic and at times seemingly incessant barking.  In fact, he often barks, squirrel or no squirrel.  His hunting philosophy seems to be, “If you bark at enough trees, sooner or later you will catch a squirrel!”

While the yapping can sometimes be annoying, I can’t help but admire his obvious devotion to the hunt.  That kind of dedication is something we could use in the church, today, when it comes to the search for souls.  The truth is we don’t win more people to the Lord, because our hearts are not in it.  We could use a few Mooses in our congregation.

One of our important purposes, as Christians, is to bring others into the fold.  This takes persistence!  In Luke 14:23, the master giving a banquet ordered his servants to go out and “compel” people to come in.  We may not want to be quite like little Johnny, who came home disheveled and bruised with a black eye.  Mom asked what happened.  He said he’d been convincing the neighbor, Billy, his religion was the right one.  While we can’t pummel people into the church, we need to be more aggressive.  Ezekiel was told to speak to Israel, “whether they listen or don’t listen”.  May the Lord grant us that kind of determination, this week, as we invite folks to our Revive Us Again Sunday.  Please join me as we get out and bark at a few trees!

– Monty Huffman

THE GRACE OF GIVING

Grace and peace to each of you, my brethren!  Melody and I missed being with you, Sunday.  We visited out at Cooper, a congregation going through a really rough time, needing encouragement in the worst way.  Among the blessings of being back at Parkway, that evening, was to see the offering figure on the board up front.  What a shot in the arm!  Now, I know part of that total resulted from a special gift from a family, who have a warm love for our congregation.  But, even aside from that, the liberality of our own membership was good!  I’m reminded of II Corinthians 8:7, where Paul challenged that church with the words, “see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”  I’m proud to see that sweet grace in our midst as well!

Giving is a beautiful thing!  As the Apostle continues to write the Corinthians, he describes giving as “proof of your love”, 8:24, toward both God and his people.  Through this grace we “honor the Lord”, 8:19.  As we sow generously, 9:6, it is promised we will also “reap generously”.  Later, in 9:11, we are told that, as we contribute, God increases our means that in the future we might do even more.  Paul goes on to point out how our generosity not only supplies the needs of God’s people, but results in thanksgiving being offered to the Lord.  It is in giving we best show gratitude to God for “his indescribable gift”, 9:15.  By this grace, we become imitators of Jesus, who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”, 8:9.  Thank God for the liberal spirit at Parkway Drive.

May this kind of spirit become more and more a part of our lives!  Also, even as we drop an offering in the collection plate, may we remember God wants more from us than a mere donation of money.  In II Corinthians 8:5, the passage we have been examining, Paul bragged on the Macedonian brethren, how they not only contributed beyond their means but “they gave themselves first to the Lord”.  Now, that’s the gift God wants most of all!  May we each excel in the grace of giving!

— Monty Huffman

AN ORCHESTRA FOR GOD!

What a huge contrast! I have driven students, before, who spend the whole time being obnoxious and unruly. Even with a teacher on the bus to supposedly keep order, they never cease to threaten each other, cuss and say all kinds of ugly things about one another’s mamas. Never have I been so glad to say goodbye to a group of young people.

Orchestra field trips, however, are the total opposite. Their training to work together to create harmony at the music competitions seems to spill over into their everyday life. They understand what it means to be assigned a seat and stay there. They know when to make noise and when it is best to be silent. They understand the part they are to play and try to do it to the best of their ability. They know the rest of the group depends on them and refuse to let each other down. I would drive kids like that anywhere!

God intended for his church to be a well-tuned orchestra. One translation of Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in harmony.” To achieve that harmony, I have to know to be quiet at proper times and make certain whatever sounds I do produce are beautiful. In God’s great orchestra hall there is a proper place to sit. I must find it and stay there. To make sweet music, I need to discover my part and learn to play it well.

Sadly, many Christians attend worship for years, but never find their role. They just sit! In school, the director would kick them out of the orchestra. At Parkway, we challenge you to be more than a mere sitter. Pick up an instrument and play it. You may not be very good at first, but you’ll learn. To help accomplish this, one thing the elders plan to do in the near future is pass around involvement sheets. Be thinking of what gifts you have and how they can be used in the congregation. Going on those field trips, the back half of the bus is packed with instruments. Everyone has one! Find yours and use it for God!

— Monty Huffman

GO FOR THE GOLD!

“I’m going for gold!” Reporters had asked the young Porto Rican about her Olympic expectations in women’s tennis. With number one seeded Serena Williams in the field, her optimistic answer caused amusement. In her brief carrier she had won only one insignificant tournament and now she was on the biggest stage of all. She’d be lucky to not come in last! Undaunted, young Monica Puig beat one opponent after the other, finally reaching the gold medal match. Still, no one gave her a chance. Her opponent was the world’s second ranked player. Besides, in all of history, no man or woman from her country ever won gold. It was hopeless! At least, that’s what everyone else thought. Why bother to show up for the match, but she did! And what a shock! With her tennis, she won the gold, then, with her tears of joy on the podium she won the hearts of the world.

We’ve watched many other winning gold, this past week. Hussein Bolt won an unprecedented third consecutive title in the men’s hundred yard dash. Michael Phelps increased his record total of Olympic gold medals. The U.S. women repeated as winners of the team gymnastics title.

It took a lot to win for these to win gold! First, they needed burning and unquenchable desire! Night and day, years on end, they thought and dreamed of winning gold. Next, they practiced extreme self-discipline, eating right foods, getting their rest, avoiding vices, even sacrificing time with family and friends in the drive to win. They sought out the best coaches and trainers. They worked hard, devoting countless hours and days to the pursuit of their goal.

Christians should have this same commitment, striving for our prize. I Cor. 9:25 mentioned the Olympics, almost 2000 years ago. Then, they awarded crowns to winners, rather than medals. Paul points out the Christian’s crown will far outlast any given at the Games. How you and I should want that crown! Refuse to lose! Dream! Work! Sacrifice! Like Monica Puig, never be satisfied just to be in the game, or even win bronze or silver. Go for the gold!

— Monty Huffman

PUTTING AWAY SIN!

I don’t know if they had wieners and marshmallows, but I do know a lot of money just went up in smoke!  If you do the calculation, it amounted to several million dollars!  No!  I’m not talking about something on the evening news.  This happened back in Acts 19:18-19, when Paul preached in the city of Ephesus.  Believers were so serious about becoming Christians, they publicly confessing their sins.  Then, those who had practiced magic began to bring their occult books.  The pile grew as others joined their act of true repentance.  Not only did these new disciples now have no need for these perverse books, they didn’t want anyone else using them either.  And so, the heap mounted higher.  Someone tallied the value of the books and the total reached 50,000 days’ wages.  Next, they lit a fire and watched them burn.

When I read that bible passage, I think about the Lord’s church, today.  Just how serious are you and I about being free of sin in our lives?  Jesus taught that if my best eye causes me to sin, I should gouge it out and throw it away.  Similarly, if my strongest hand causes me to sin, I should cut it off and throw it away.  He said, in Matthew 5:29-30, “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”  The more I understand how despicable sin really is in the eyes of God, the more drastic the measures I will take to be free of it in my life.

Sometime, read Numbers chapter 25.  God’s people, as a nation, had fallen into gross immorality.  A resulting plague from the Lord swept through the camp killing thousands.  To stop the plague, Moses told the tribal judges to put to death all the men who had joined in the sexual immorality.  Finally, Phinehas followed an Israelite man, who took a Midianite woman into his tent.  As the two of them lay together, he plunged his spear through both of their bodies and the plague ceased.

Is sin any less serious, today?  To what lengths should you and I go to be free of it?  May the Lord grant us strength as we strive to be a truly holy people!

— Monty Huffman

REMEMBERED!

Two thousand years have passed by and we’re still talking about her!  We don’t even know her name, for sure.  She may have even been a woman with a sinful reputation.  She did no miracle, nor did she offer any great teaching, just a simple act of love and service.  Yet, of this humble woman who anointed his head with perfume, Jesus, Matthew 26:13, said that wherever the gospel was preached throughout the world, what she had done would be remembered.

I was reminded of this unknown woman, last week, as my wife and I were in Kermit, Texas to hold a bilingual gospel meeting.  How sweet to embrace brethren who had been so dear to our hearts.  Children, little more than toddlers when we lived there, were now standing to take a lead in worship.  We truly enjoyed our time in their midst.

One special pleasure was talking with Stephanie Lara, at Sunday’s fellowship meal.  She asked, “Do you remember me?”  I didn‘t!  She continued, “You used to ride your bike past my house, on your way to the church building.  You would stop and encourage me and invite me to worship.”  It turns out, after Melody and I moved away, life got tough and she realized her neeed for God and a church home.  She remembered my invitations, began attending, was baptized, and now her children are growing up in the church.

Monday, Melody and I went out visiting.  It was suggested we visit a member, who now cleaned the building, whose name I didn’t recognize.  We reached their house and rang the doorbell.  A man opened the door. I got ready to explain who we were.  To my surprise, he cut me off saying, “Come in!”  We sat on the couch and he began to remind me how I used to come by his house and we would talk in the back yard.  I had a hard time remembering, but he didn’t!

Wednesday, I visited the jail with an elder.  Walking in the door we came face to face with a young inmate, who was a trustee.  He looked at me, smiled and called me by my first name.  I had no clue who he was, but he remembered help I had given his family nine years ago, when he was a kid.

The point is, Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Keep doing those good deeds, no matter how small!  You will be remembered!

SISTER GAZELLE

On the African grasslands live an amazing array of wildlife.  They have thundering elephants and towering giraffes.  We have all seen TV shows featuring ferocious leopards and lions.  There are wildebeest by the millions, along with the bad-natured cape buffalo and rhinoceros.  One of the most beautiful creatures, however, is the gazelle.  Although she is neither strong nor savage, running at 60mph with great 30-foot bounds, there is no more graceful animal on earth.

Acts 9:36-42 tells of a lovely sister in Christ, named after this marvelous creature.  Footnotes explain how “Tabitha” in Aramaic and “Dorcas” in Greek both mean “Gazelle”.  Amazingly, her quiet and gentle spirit reflected the nature of her namesake.  She was known for her sweetness and kindness toward others, especially widows.  Little wonder there was grief and mourning, in Joppa, when she passed.  They called for Peter and, again, it is little surprise God used the great Apostle to give her life again.  After all, the church has always needed members like this in every age.

The same holds true, today!  We are grateful for the loving service of several in our congregation, who make it their ministry to encourage the widows and aged in our midst.  May the Lord reward those who go out to The Plaza, week after week, to hold worship.  A group of our ladies meets regularly to go around singing a song, saying a prayer and leaving a small gift of kindness with the many who find themselves homebound.  Others, as individuals, make visits, call on the telephone and send cards.  The truth is, only God knows how much of this goes on at Parkway Drive.  And the promise of scripture is that He will reward!

If you are not already involved in this worthwhile ministry, add it to your list of things to do every week.  The early church, Acts 6, was characterized by their help to the poor, elderly and widowed.  James 1:27 teaches, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep one’s self from being polluted by the world.”  We don’t encourage a lot of animals in our church building, but we would just love to have the place full of gazelles!

— Monty Huffman

BEZALEL AND AHOLIAB’S HUGE PROBLEM!

If you don’t know who these guys are, open your bibles to Exodus 35:30ff.  They were the head-craftsmen put in charge of building the tabernacle, in the day of Moses.  To do their work, they depended upon the offerings and gifts of the Israelites.  Amazingly, their problem was not that the people were bringing too little.  They were bringing too much!  They had to be told to stop!

I was reminded of this bible story one night of VBS, when Debra found herself in a similar quandary.  “We have more cookies than we need” she said.  “I’m going to have to ask everyone to stop bringing them!”

This is a beautiful problem to have among God’s people.  We are grateful for the spirit of cooperation and generosity that exists, today, at Parkway Drive.  A big thank you to all who were involved in Vacation Bible School, whatever the service you rendered.  May the Lord richly repay you!

If you continue to read the account of the building of the tabernacle, you reach an interesting verse in Exodus 38:8.  The great bronze basin for the priests to wash in, before doing their spiritual duties, was made from the mirrors of women serving at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.  Service to God was obviously more important to these ladies than tending to their own personal beauty.  What a beautiful example of healthy priorities!  Another lesson from this which grabs my attention is that, even in Moses’ day, when the focus was on men, women were important servants in the Lord’s house.  How true this is in our congregation, today.  We’re thankful to our sisters who carry so much of the work load.  Where would we be without them?

Now, we’re on to the rest of the Summer season.  The Youth Group has a big trip planned for early July and Wednesday evening Summer Series continues.  May the Lord bless those of you who travel!  And may the Lord continue to bless the work here at home!

  • Monty Huffman