For those of you who were in the Assembly last Sunday you witnessed the sweet and tender farewell of Evan, Leslie, and Evalee Greathouse as they departed for a new calling in Tennessee. We are so thankful for their service to the body these last years and how they have blessed many of us. Leslie has one final blessing for MBC as they load the last box, close the trailer, and head east on I-20…
Evan and I began attending Midland Bible in July 2016. While our stint here may not have been very long, we quickly became part of the family and built intimate relationships that have shaped our lives forever.
When we first got involved, we had been struggling to grow our family for a couple of years. Without hesitation, Midland Bible encircled us with prayer, encouragement, and support. You welcomed us into your lives with open arms and open hearts.
Not long after finding out we were carrying our sweet Evalee, we suffered a job loss. Again, without delay, we were surrounded by helping hands as we navigated unemployment and job search. I believe, in all things, God works all things out for His good. It was at this point that I began serving Midland Bible on staff and an opportunity opened for Evan to serve The John 4:14 Foundation.
Midland Bible is our home. We have celebrated with you. We have wept with you. We’ve been broken, and we’ve been rebuilt. We’ve welcomed new people, and we’ve had to say goodbye to others we miss.
One thing has been consistent throughout our time. God is moving. We are excited to see where God takes Midland Bible in the next few years. The obedience we’ve seen from leadership and the body is incredible. Prayer is powerful, and God continues to provide.
As we continue our journey in Nashville, we leave you with these encouragements:
If you are new to Midland Bible or haven’t gotten involved with different ministries, find your place. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, it is amazing how God uses you and surrounds you with unconditional love.
If you are established and fully committed, invite others in, and be open to change. Open the doors wide as we grow and serve the Midland community.
Above all else, love one another. The Lord’s hand is upon us, and we cannot fail. Be amazed at his faithfulness and wait in hope for more than you can imagine.
Words fail to convey what this home means to us. God has used each of you to mold and shape our family. Thank you for sharing your lives with us and welcoming us into yours.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. Amen.
by Randy Sims, Executive Pastor
How long did it take you to be “in” at Midland Bible Church? To feel connected to MBC? To know you were home? Maybe a short time or maybe a while or maybe not yet. Whatever our answer, we have the opportunity to make it immediate for others. Imagine the most welcoming place you’ve ever been. Perhaps you are thinking of a resort hotel, cruise ship, upscale restaurant, or Disney park. A place that knew your name, your preferences, your reason for coming. A place that WOWed you from the moment you drove through the gate or walked through the door. Now envision MBC delivering such a welcome to our guests, our sometimers, and our church family every Sunday morning. This is the church home we all desire and this is the church home God desires for us.
To accomplish this for others we must first commit to practicing three attitudes that result in three actions that result in a strategy we call “aggressive hospitality.”
We love because he first loved us.
The guests are nervous, even scared, when they step out of their car and begin the walk of uncertainty toward the church doors. But so are we, in a way, as we catch sight of a new face heading our direction. With this stalemate of insecurity someone has to make the first move. This is our home so we act like it. We initiate conversation. We move toward them. We lean in to them with interest. We break the silence. WE INITIATE. It is our tendency to bunch up with others we know and leave the guests to find their “place” in the church. How long would a restaurant survive if the wait staff grouped in the corners of the dining area never engaging the customer? Not long indeed. So, to break the impasse, we have Connectors in the parking lot opening car doors, greeting families, high fiving students and children as they make their way to the Plaza, asking questions that communicate interest – “how is your weekend going?”, “is that a new car?”, “how did you hear about MBC?” and commenting on the beauty of their family, how nice they look, or the West Texas sunrise. Arriving through the door with their new best friend the guests are met with more Connectors (new new best friend) dispersed, making eye contact, smiling, moving toward them, ready to answer questions or find the answer, escorting them to children’s check-in, student ministry, or coffee, taking time to visit and continue aggressive hospitality. This happens so well and so fast, the guest is no longer aware of their initial concerns about visiting a new church as the Connector escorts them into the Sanctuary and to their seat, not to sit alone but with an Elder and his wife or Deacon and his wife who have taken the handoff of the now VIP guest. Here is where the guest not only meets someone else who is interested in them and their story but a perceived “insider” to MBC who invites them to lunch after the service.
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
To provide any hospitality, aggressive or not, a host must be able to discern and anticipate the needs of their guest. As the guests arrive we are reading faces, postures, and words. Has ‘good’ been done to them this week or ‘evil’? We are prepared to rejoice or mourn with them based upon the need of the moment. This only happens when initiative has been taken to ask questions. So we do. As we initiate, we are discerning by taking our questions to a place that is appropriate, deepening, and meaningful. Are we discerning grief, pain, distance? Or joy, excitement, anticipation? Whatever it is, we tailor our conversation to match what we have discerned.
For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
They need to know that they are going to meet Jesus in a real way today. They know this when they are greeted by Jesus and not Dave or Susan or Mike. Granted, this sounds a little ‘cheesy’ even trite. But when I’m full of me, that is all the guest gets. And I am guilty more than I’m not. However when I’m loaded with the Spirit, they get so much more and know that God is in the house. Our preparation for and delivery of manifesting Christ on Sunday morning matters because our hearts matter to the guests, and so do our faces.
When we invest our Sunday morning in creating a transcendent connecting experience for our guests, sometimers, and church family we will see more guest, fewer sometimers, and all will be “in” our church family.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
While the Bible is a timeless, inspirational documentation of man’s continuous communication with God–and God’s faithfulness in speaking to man–how often do we in the church today tend to give-up on prayer because we have serious doubt that our prayers even “connect” with the Lord, much less truly make any real difference? What can we do to experience an exciting and meaningful transformation of our heart towards “prayer”…from a Christian duty to a much-anticipated delight (Psalm 42:1-2)?
Is it possible for us to hear God speaking today, as the “pray-ers” in the Bible surely heard and responded to Him? How can we regain the real confidence God wants all His people to have in prayer? What is the “key” difference in Jesus’ prayer-life and so much of ours today? What was it that prompted Jesus’ disciples to ask Him to teach them only one thing: “how to pray” (Luke 11:1)?
What would it take for our church to see a greater move of God among the members and in the community? Of all the activities in our church, where does/should “corporate prayer” fit-in? What did Jesus mean when He said: “My house shall be called a House of Prayer…” (Matthew 21:13)? What is a “House of Prayer”? Is there a difference between a church with an active “prayer ministry” and what Jesus would call a biblical “House of Prayer”? How important is it that our church becomes a true “House of Prayer”? What “results” might we see in our church and city if we responded to Jesus’ expressed desire and became serious about ministering as a devoted and dynamic “House of Prayer”, as did the first-century church in the Book of Acts? Is our church willing to take that next step “in obedience” to discover God’s faithfulness?
Last Sunday, we embarked on our journey into Ephesians by reading through the letter written by Paul. For the next fourteen weeks, we are inviting you to join as we dive into scripture. We will have a PDF study that you may choose to go through individually, as a family, or with your small group.
To begin, take a moment to watch this video on the background and structure of Ephesians provided by The Bible Project:
Have you ever had a difficult time trying to study your Bible? Sometimes when you read, it seems as if the words come out and slap you in the face. Other times it’s more like a whole lot of jibberish.
You are not alone.
Much like studying any text, whether it be Emily Dickenson, C.S. Lewis, or the Bible, there are different windows to look through to see a different angle of the big picture. Three of the major windows for biblical study are conceptual, theological, and literary. Each tends to intertwine with the other.
Along with these approaches, we will provide questions and thoughts to consider each week before exploring together in Sunday service. You can find the study guides here on the website and in the Tumbleweed each week.
Let’s make a quick overview of each of these biblical study aspects.
A conceptual study is exactly as it sounds. It’s a look into the ideas and intentions of how the Christian life looks. “What does the Bible say I should do in ‘situation x?'” “What does it look like to love my neighbor?”
With a conceptual study, you are looking for the solution to a specific question. This practice helps attempt a quick answer; however, we must be aware there is a risk in interpreting scripture the way we would like to read it rather than what it truly intends. This also includes how we may have heard others explain the meaning.
A theological study asks the question, “What does this scripture tell me about who God is?”
We can view the big picture of God in most, if not any, scripture. Even in the shortest verse, “Jesus wept,” the word gives us the image of a Savior who feels deeply, as do we, in His image. Throughout the books of the Bible, we see God as Warrior, King, Lord, Lover, and Friend.
As you read, take a moment to ask what the words may be telling you about who God is. It may even stir other questions and curiosities.
There are many genres of literature in the Bible. Legal, narrative, poetic, romance, and tragedy, to name a few.
In Roy Zuck’s book, Basic Bible Interpretation, he says, “The more you know of the patterns, styles, and forms of the various units in a book of the Bible the more you will know of that book’s purpose and unique character, and the better you will understand it.”
Do you read a poem the same way you read a history book? Do you approach written law the same way you read a letter from a friend or mentor?
Without going into technical terminology, some aspects (but not all) to look for while reading are sentence structure, word or concept repetition, outline structure, and writing style.
Confused? Don’t worry. We’re only covering one letter. We will look at more apparent examples as we look at the book of Ephesians.
Begin every study with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the Word to you.
You may find it helpful to write down scripture that stands out to you whether it inspires encouragement or questions.
Not everyone studies the same way. Feel free to approach the study in a way that works for you and how God created you to learn and know Him.
Let’s jump in! If you haven’t done so, take eight minutes to watch the introduction video at the top of this page.
Are you interested in finding out more about baptism? You’re in the right spot. Scroll through to find the answers to many of the questions we receive.
A: Baptism is a response to your faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Peter reiterates Jesus in Acts 2:38 saying, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins.” Jesus has conquered sin and death for you; baptism is an opportunity to testify to the Gospel that has freed you.
A: Absolutely not. Paul is clear in his letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (v. 8-9) Salvation is freely given through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul extends further, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confessed, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10) The grace of Jesus Christ and grace alone saves us.
A: The Greek word for baptism is βαπτίζω (baptizo) meaning to immerse, submerge, or to make overwhelmed. We can see this illustrated in Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:16, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water…” In following Jesus, we are fully immersed in the water.
A: Following the examples, we are given in scripture, baptism always follows believing in Christ and repentance from sin. Since the christening you received came before a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, it is important that you be baptized after putting your faith in Him.
A: Baptism shows the world that you have given over your life to Jesus Christ. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” It indicates that you have died to self, been buried in Christ, and raised to a new life in Him. Baptism declares to the world that you are a new creation in Christ Jesus.
A: Rejoice in the salvation and freedom you have received through Christ Jesus. If you are not already involved in a community of believers, we urge you to find people to surround you with love and encouragement as you continue to walk in His footsteps. As Paul explains to the Ephesians, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” You will have spiritual highs and spiritual lows, but take heart, Jesus walks with you through it all. Look to Him and his word as you take each step through life. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
In 1 John 1:5-8, John writes:
This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
In these verses, we are called not to hide our sin in the darkness, but rather to bring our sin into the light. All through scripture, God is described as light and, by contrast, the enemy as darkness. Bringing our sin out of the darkness and into the light takes control away from the enemy and gives it to God. Confessing our sins to brothers or sisters in Christ is the best way to bring our sin into the light and out of the darkness. The enemy makes this very difficult. Our fear of shame, or judgment, or rejection is a powerful tool that the enemy uses to fester and grow our sin. By overcoming this fear and being vulnerable with other Christian believers, we take away the enemy’s stronghold and allow Jesus through the Spirit to work in us. How many times have you listened to someone’s testimony and felt the power of God pouring forth? God’s love and deliverance are potent forces that suppress the enemy’s schemes and let us be light in a dark world. If we live in the light, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with Christian brothers and sisters, bringing our sins out of the darkness and into the light, we unleash all of God’s power on our enemy.
What happens after Easter? We’ve had Ash Wednesday, 40 Days of Prayer, Palm Sunday, Seder, Tenebrae, and Easter Sunday, so now what? I guess we wait until Advent, right? What do we do for the next eight months?
Let’s change the question and ask, “How do we live in light of the resurrection?” What does it look like to live in the freedom of conquered sin and death? Here are three questions to contemplate as we live in celebration of our emancipation.
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…” (Romans 8:31-35 The Message)
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14)
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)
If you’ve ever seen me in sandals, you may have noticed the image of an acorn on my left instep. I’ve had many questions over the years about why I chose an acorn of all things. I’m not obsessed with fall and pumpkin spice lattes, and I’m not a tree hugger. (Though I’d like to think I’d make a reasonably decent hippie back in the day, but that’s neither here nor there.)
One day, back in college, I was sitting in my car by my apartment building. It was toward the end of my college career, and God seemed to be changing my future plans. I needed God to speak to me. I sat there with Bible in hand asking God to give me a heads up on what I needed to hear. I ended up playing a game of Bible Roulette. You know, when you pray, “O.K. God, send me where you want me,” and open up to a random page. God works in mysterious ways, though I can’t say this is always the most efficient way to hear God speak. Nevertheless, it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
This is where I opened:
“THE SPIRIT of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, to grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Aliens shall stand [ready] and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be called the priests of the Lord; people will speak of you as the ministers of our God. You shall eat the wealth of the nations, and the glory [once that of your captors] shall be yours. Instead of your [former] shame you shall have a twofold recompense; instead of dishonor and reproach [your people] shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double [what they had forfeited]; everlasting joy shall be theirs. For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong with violence or a burnt offering. And I will faithfully give them their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant or league with them. And their offspring shall be known among the nations and their descendants among the peoples. All who see them [in their prosperity] will recognize and acknowledge that they are the people whom the Lord has blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as [surely as] the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring forth, so [surely] the Lord God will cause rightness and justice and praise to spring forth before all the nations [through the self-fulfilling power of His word].” (Isaiah 61 AMPC)
It still gives me chills reading through these words. You see, ‘me’ is Jesus, but ‘me’ is also you and me. Jesus brings us hope, joy, beauty, and a spirit of praise that we may be oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord.
In return, we grow ‘by the power of His word’ and produce more, you guessed it, acorns! Christ living in us preaches the Gospel of good tidings. Through Him, we bind up the broken-hearted. We proclaim liberty both spiritually and physically by the power of Jesus Christ.
His Spirit gives us all different gifts, but several are intertwined. Evangelism can be seen in each of the gifts. Evangelism isn’t always preaching on the street corner; it’s being Jesus in whatever way a circumstance calls. It’s being Love. John 13:35 says that men and women will know we are Jesus’ disciples if we love one another. Love comes in the shape of serving, leading, praying, generosity, healing, perseverance, teaching, and so many others. It’s not a question of what you can do for God, but where is God and how can I serve what He is doing.
You may have heard the quote of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Put simply, live in a way that exudes Jesus. Be a walking billboard that makes people want to learn more about the love, hope, joy, and freedom that radiates from you.
Have hope that it’s the Spirit’s supernatural ability and not your own. You may have already preached the Gospel to others without realizing it. That’s the beauty of the Spirit living in you. Ask God to make you aware of opportunities to show Christ to others—to plant seeds—and ask Him how best to go about it. It may be words, or it may be actions.
You’ve been gifted the opportunity to be a part in rebuilding what God initially intended His creation to be. You are an oak of righteousness planted by the Lord to spread His glory throughout eternity. Produce more acorns. As a believer, it’s in your nature.
In the fifth chapter of John, our Lord encounters a sick man at the Pool of Bethsaida. Knowing what needed to be done, Jesus poses a question that might seem absurd to some, “Do you want to get well?” but the Creator of the universe looks beyond appearances, beyond circumstances and beyond time.
Before our Savior ascended into Heaven, he told His disciples where He was going. To comfort them, He let them know that it was better if He left them because His departure would summon the arrival of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). The same power that Jesus displayed to calm the storm, feed the multitudes, and heal the sick would be available to each believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11, 31-32, 37). Jesus further declares that we will do even greater things than He had done (John 14:12-17). Really?! Greater evangelism? Greater prayer? Greater healing? Greater prophesying? Yes! All God’s promises are “Yes and Amen!” to His glory (2 Corinthians 1:20)
I know a remarkable woman who has dealt with chronic and acute pain and health issues for more than half her life. In the last thirty years, she has had over twenty operations and treatments. She has taken numerous supplements and medications. She has been on prayer lists around the world, and the elders of her church have prayed over her. Five years ago, she was given a medical pump that intermittently releases pain medication to relieve the pain in her spine. No treatment has fully relieved her pain.
So I ask myself, “Doesn’t God care? Is He even listening? Can’t He still heal?”
Some declare that the “age of miracles” has passed. Perhaps, but the “age of Jesus” has not, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13). There is no shadow of change with God (James 1:17). The Holy Spirit gives to each believer at least one spiritual gift (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11), and that is not a stripped-down, economy model gift. It is the power of God made manifest in us as we use that gift to enable, encourage, energize, and edify the body of Christ (the Church) and to glorify God.
So why isn’t my wife healed? Sometimes God heals our bodies, other times our minds or our emotions. Sometimes He supplies the grace to endure. Sometimes He speaks to us through our infirmities.
Walking in the flesh (apart from God) we can do nothing (John 5:30a, John 15:5). Yet, we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 15:57). Praise be to God that He has not left us nor forsaken us, for He has blessed us with a family, the Church, of whom Jesus Christ is the head, and we are all ministers to each other and the world!
We do believe that God still speaks. He still heals. He continues to turn men’s hearts from stone to flesh. We are thankful for the Lord’s adequate and even abundant provisions and blessings to His children.