Vision Articles

Below are the full texts to the cover articles from our newsletters. Enjoy!

The Spirit of Our Deeds

By Bob Debolt April 2023

The Lord Jesus stated a very important truth when he said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16, NIV)

I have peach trees side by side with pear trees. Yet, I never pick pears from peach trees nor peaches from pear trees. I know them by their fruit. Grapes and ivy grow side by side, but the ivy never produces grapes. The nature of the two are as different as nourishment and poison. The point of this truth is the spirit in a person’s heart. The deeds of a person come from the spirit in his/her heart. We must have the Holy Spirit to produce fruit of the Spirit.

The self-centered heart produces selfish fruit. It is not capable of producing God-honoring behavior (see Romans 8:5-15.) We must repent of self in love for Jesus Christ in order to have the Holy Spirit indwell our hearts. The reality of godly fruitfulness flows from the Spirit that indwells in us. A person who has never repented of self rule cannot do the will of the Father in producing the fruit of Christ-likeness. Why? Because the flavor of self is in his/her works.

You and I are God’s garden. In Christ we are seeded with the Holy Spirit to produce good fruit. Our fruit should taste good to God and His people. God recognizes mixed fruit. The mixed fruit of good and evil is not consistent with the nature of God.

The spirit in our hearts produces the fruit of our actions. We must discern whether our actions come from a spirit of selfishness or from the Holy Spirit. We must discern whether our actions are godly or selfish. There is no place for fruit flies in the garden of God.

In Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit! The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25-26)


Jesus said, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20)



By Shayne Looper, March 2023

I let the church know through my annual report to the congregation and during a Sunday morning service that I will be ending my tenure as Lockwood’s senior pastor later this year. I was careful to explain that God has directed me to finish up the work that I’ve been given to do. I made it clear that I am not leaving because I am unhappy or because I have something better to do. (The fact is, Karen and I do not know what God has for us next.)

Even though I explained this, I have heard since that I am leaving: (1) because of health issues; (2) because the elders are pushing me out; (3) because COVID and other stressors have discouraged me; and (4) because Karen and I want to move to Texas to live near our son Joel and his family.

None of that is correct. (1) It is true I have been having some issues with my heart (A-fib), but these began after I announced that I am leaving, and I am working with the doctor to manage them. (2) The elders have been encouraging to me and, though I had already told them that I was in the wrap-up period of ministry here, were surprised that it was happening this year. (3) The last couple of years, with COVID and other stressors, have been difficult, but I have never been more hopeful or happy. (4) We would enjoy going to Texas to spend a little time with Joel’s family, but we have no intention of moving there.

Over the course of the past year, I became convinced that the Lord was telling me to finish up the work. This knowledge came in stages, principally through my daily and monthly prayer times, and it was very clear. Karen and I prayed over this many times and I have listened to what others in the church had to say before I spoke to the elders and the congregation.

I do not know why the Lord is transitioning us out of leadership here at Lockwood, but I have no doubt that he has good things planned for our church in the days to come. I also have no doubt that if God’s people will pray, he will show us the leader he has called for the next phase of Lockwood’s good work. But we must pray. I am challenging you to pray weekly for God to call and reveal the next person he has for the lead pastor role. Please let me know if you have accepted this challenge.

We will be establishing a process for discerning God’s will regarding our next pastor. This will include two special days of prayer in the coming months. We will also be appointing a team to search for and interview potential pastors.

I was recently told that the average church’s attendance drops 11 percent when their senior pastor leaves (though it often rebounds in the first couple of years of the new pastor’s tenure). My goal is that Lockwood will have grown by 11 percent by the time I leave. When the next pastor steps into the pulpit for the first time, I want him to be surrounded by a hopeful, enthusiastic church family.

What can you do to make this transition a positive, encouraging time? First, don’t complain! People who complain suck the life out of a church. Second, don’t worry! Instead, entrust the church to God and expect good things. Third, up your game by getting more involved. Join a Bible study, enlist for the Care Ministry Team, become a greeter or coffee time worker, attend family ministry events. There are many other ways to be involved – just read the bulletin! Start inviting family, friends, and neighbors to come to church with you.

I was encouraged recently when Eric Mullins told me the following story. He was deeply disheartened by the news that Karen and I would be leaving, and he thought briefly of leaving himself. But the Lord spoke to him and told him not to leave but to lean in – to get more involved. I hope you will do what Eric intends to do: Lean in.

I was visiting with Ross Byers shortly before he died. Ross was a member at Lockwood for close to 60 years. He told me that when our former pastor Pete Woods left, he despaired: “Well never find anyone as good as Pete!” But then Steve Runyon stepped into the senior pastor role and, to Ross’s surprise, “things were even better.” Steve remained one of Ross’s dear friends for life. But then Steve left, and Ross despaired. “We’ll never find anyone as good as Steve!” But then Shayne Looper came and, to Ross’s surprise, “things were even better.” I would not dare to compare myself to Steve or Pete, but I will say that Lockwood has enjoyed God’s blessing under all three pastors. And sometime soon God will bring another pastor to Lockwood and may everyone agree: “Things are even better.”

Praying the Scriptures

By Kevin Looper, January 2023

Reading the Bible and praying are not easy habits to start or maintain. Most Christians stumble over the same kinds of problems. They try to read the Bible, but they don’t understand it. They quickly lose focus and forget what they have read. Some parts of the Bible are notoriously difficult to apply to real life. And many feel that they don’t have the time or mental space to sit and read.

Prayer is not exactly hard, but how does a person spend longer than five minutes in prayer at a time? What if you run out of things to pray about or your prayers end up sounding the same? How do you “talk with God” when it seems like you are the one doing all the talking? And how do you know if you are even praying for the right things?

There is a simple solution to these problems—pray about what you read in the Bible. There are several reasons why this method of praying the Scriptures will make our prayer life better and our Bible reading more beneficial. [Many of these are adapted from Donald Whitney’s book “Pray the Bible”]

  1. It is easy to become self-focused in your prayers. But when you pray the Bible, your prayers become more about God than about you.
  2. When you pray through the Bible, you never run out of things to talk to God about. Every verse can become a new prayer request!
  3. Praying the Scriptures will help to make your prayers feel less like a monologue and more like a conversation. We listen to God in his Word and respond back in prayer.
  4. The text of Scripture guides you in prayer so that you can stay focused. Even if your mind starts to wander, going to the next verse will help you to refocus.
  5. This method helps you to think more deeply about the Word, apply it, and remember it.
  6. When you pray the Bible, you know you are praying according to God’s will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)
  7. Praying this way will help you to pray for things and people you might not usually pray for, as you are led by the Holy Spirit. Praying the Bible will help you to pray in new ways!

So how do you start praying through the Bible? Begin with a small passage of Scripture that is already familiar. Before you start reading, ask God to speak to you through His Word. Make sure that you intend to believe and obey what you read!

Read the passage slowly, meditating on each verse. As you finish a verse, talk with God about what you just read. If you are confused, ask God for insight. If the verse contains a command or a warning, apply it to your own life first before thinking about other people.

At the end of your reading, take time to worship, give thanks, and confess. If your time is limited, remember that it is better to pray carefully through a few verses than to rush through a whole chapter. Praying through the Bible takes mental effort and a willing heart, but God blesses people who faithfully seek Him through prayer and in the Word.


Safe And Sound

By Shayne Looper, November 2022

Throughout its history, the Christian church has faced challenges to its understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. These challenges have usually come from within the church, rather than from without. They have been difficult and sometimes divisive, but they have forced the church to think deeply about what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.

Such challenges have been, as Russ Sprinkle recently put it, “the impetus for initiating, codifying, and revising many if not all of the foundational creeds.” These creeds, which declare who the church believes in, and the confessions, which declare what the church believes about him, are the church’s historic statements of faith.

Recently, we’ve experienced our own doctrinal controversy around the intersection of grace and human responsibility. The controversy centered on issues like the Holy Spirit’s conviction, the believer’s repentance, and the relevance of the “Great Commission.” These are big issues and are hard to get a handle on. A thought experiment might help.

Imagine taking the cruise of a lifetime – an eastern Mediterranean, Greek Islands tour – and being stranded at sea by a catastrophic guidance system failure. The ship still possesses motive power – the engines continue to function – but the captain cannot take her where she needs to go.

The executives at the cruise line decide to tow the ship, passengers and all, to the nearest port rather than try to debark passengers onto smaller crafts at sea. The ship is towed safely into port where the passengers debark and wait for repairs to be completed.

This ship is now safe – it is in port and securely docked – but it is it not yet sound. Repairs must be made before the craft is seaworthy. It cannot be trusted to carry passengers.

This, in a slightly updated form, is the same illustration that the early twentieth century theologian A. H. Strong borrowed from a now unknown source to express different aspects of God’s work in people’s lives. God intends to make people both “safe” (secure in heaven) and “sound” (useful on earth). The first is realized through justification, the second through sanctification.

Theologically speaking, both “safe” and “sound” are included in what the Bible calls “salvation.” When Christians fail to acknowledge the importance of both, they become unbalanced and fall prey to harmful theologies that hobble the church and impede its members from experiencing the satisfying and empowering life God intended.

There are groups within the American church today that focus heavily on the “safe” aspect of salvation. In some of these circles, the “sound” aspect of salvation has been disregarded or even discarded altogether.

There are also, and have always been, groups that stress the “sound” aspect of salvation almost to the exclusion of the “safe” aspect. They seem to think that people will only be safe when they are sound – when repairs are completed – perhaps by their own agency.

At Lockwood, we teach “safe” and “sound” and find the resources for both in God’s grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.

'What Were You Thinking'

By Don Baad, October 2022

Has anyone ever said that to you? The statement usually follows an act that the questioner finds incredibly inept. Often the implication is that the person wasn’t thinking at all! Or, at the very least, the person wasn’t thinking correctly.

But that really raises the question of whether a person can act without consciously thinking about their specific act? Certainly. Throughout our days we carry out activities that we have learned by habit and no longer specifically think about. Baring illness or injury, we don’t have to think about how to walk or feed ourselves. We learned those things when we were toddlers.

A similar thing can happen with our values and attitudes toward life. They have been formed throughout our lives by thoughts and processes of which we may not even be aware. They form our frame of reference. So, when we act based on our frame of reference, it may appear we are acting without thinking, but in reality, there are factors ingrained in our thinking that guide us—perhaps unconsciously.

Sometimes those thoughts need reexamining. The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” (Eph 4:17-NIV) When something is futile, it is ineffective and unproductive. And the implication is that this is the natural state of human thinking.

But changing our thinking is not as simple as it might sound. We may not even be aware of some thoughts that form our frame of reference. In other cases, we find that we are unable to control what we think about. Especially when thoughts involve strong emotions such as fear, grief or depression, we cannot simply turn them off. We do not have that level of control. However, we can control what we feed our minds and that will lead to control of our thoughts. Paul told the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col 3:2-NIV) And to the Philippians he wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8-NIV)

The change will not be immediate. It will be a growth process. For the growth process to continue and reach maturity, we will need to be disciplined and consistent about feeding our minds good things like God’s Word. And of course, we will need to stop feeding our minds things that would counteract the good things.

Eventually, we may be able to join what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5-NIV)

Then the question will change from “What were you thinking?” to “What are you thinking?” 


By Rev. Michael Arnold, August 2022

As I thought and prayed about this article, I looked at John 8:31-32 where Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." My thoughts and aim were to remember those who sacrificed for our freedom. Thus understanding that freedom is not free. Our freedom that we celebrate with fireworks, picnics, and fun in the sun on the 4th of July came with many men and women giving the ultimate price through the years. They laid down their lives in battle to protect our freedom.

That thought would lead us into the ultimate freedom… freedom from our sin through Jesus Christ. It came with the sacrifice of blood from the perfect Lamb of God. It was Jesus who willingly laid down his life for our spiritual freedom. PTL! Amen. John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 10:17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

In my research I read many entries of heroic sacrifices on the battlefields, thinking I would contrast their sacrifices with the sacrifice of Jesus. In so doing I came upon a story about a young boy named Billy in one of the many bloody battles of the civil war. The story so moved me that I changed my original aim so I could share.

Billy was a young farm boy from Ohio. He served in the infantry with the Ohio volunteers. One early morning they were ordered to advance. The objective was to overtake a Confederate artillery battery. They advanced and then retreated because the artillery fire was too intense. Then they were ordered to advance again and retreated again several times throughout the day. Men being mutilated by cannon fire and an onslaught of musket fire. Billy seeing his fellow soldiers falling on his left and right kept advancing to no avail.

When night came the wounded included young Billy. His face was ashen pale, his limbs limp and lifeless, yet he was mumbling something so profound that his doctor stopped and listen. He was praying the simple prayer of his childhood.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake,

I pray Thee Lord my soul to take;

And this I ask for Jesus sake.”

Billy knew he was about to die, but he knew and believed he had hope through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… FREEDOM! I ask you to ponder the cost! I ask you to remember the cost. I ask you to share what that cost is all about with your loved ones. Billy did. In his last breath he told the doctor that his mother taught him that prayer when he was a little boy. Billy said, “I believe it and I hold on to it every night I pray.” So simple, the prayer of childhood carried into the prayer of manhood, giving hope and comfort in time of sacrifice.

Learn to Love the Truth

By Bob Debolt, June 2022

Have you ever been hurt by a trick? Before I was 4 years old, I was tricked into a trap that could have led to my death. The Lord warns us about tricking children, causing them to falter in their trust. (Matthew 18:6).

Deception is not a joke! It is an act of evil. The serpent Satan tricked Eve and that deception ended in death (Genesis 3:4-6). “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” James 1:16. James explains the progression of evil deception in James 1:13-16.

  1. There is a deceptive lie.
  2. There is the enticement of temptation.
  3. Then the desire builds, blinding us to the truth.
  4. We yield to the temptation followed by disobedience to God.
  5. The end result is death (Romans 6:23).

Humbly ask the Lord to deliver you from these deceptive tricks. There are many deception sin society today. Jesus called people who defied the truth “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:31-41). “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). The god of deception blinds the minds of people from the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). When God says, “You shall not”, God knows that Satan’s tricks devastate humanity. Believe God and do not be led astray. When people are deceived by alcohol (Proverbs 20:1) or sex outside of marriage (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) or by drugs (2 Peter 2:17-19), they are not wise.

God sent his Son Jesus Christ to free us from deception (John 8:36). Love the truth and do not live in deception (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The Lord Jesus Christ loves you and offers His Spirit of truth (John 3:16, John 10:10). In Him there is no deception (Titus 1:1-2). Pray that God will free you and guide you into all truth (John 16:13).

The Past Few years;

By Pastor Shayne Looper, May 2022

The past few years have been challenging for churches, including ours. We have had differences of opinion over holding in-person services, masking, applying for PPP monies, reinitiating Sunday School, moving youth group indoors, and many other challenges have taken a toll.

I remember one Sunday morning, just after the conclusion of the sermon, I was remonstrated over LCC’s lack of compassion. Our failure to require people to wear masks to all services was a sure sign, these dear and earnest friends told me, of our indifference toward people’s wellbeing. As the conversation went on, I couldn’t help but glance up at a person (equally dear and earnest) in the auditorium who had only days before reproved me over the lack of faith we demonstrated by asking people to wear masks in our early service for two weeks during a spike in the virus.

People have left Lockwood because we were incautious and unloving and because we were too cautious and untrusting. Those people were dear to me. And to you.

We have endured COVID, as difficult as that has been. Our financial needs, while daunting, have been met. God continues to use Lockwood for his kingdom. But things have remained challenging.

A theological debate has recently stirred us up. If the result of that stirring is that we are blended together, we will emerge stronger. If it separates us, like egg whites from the yolk, we will be lessened. Our goal in this, as in COVID, is to be faithful to the Lord while keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.


To that end, the elders developed a process for responding to this dispute. We wanted to be transparent in our approach, biblical in our decisions, and gracious in our manner. We are currently implementing the following steps:

  • 1. We have called for a day of prayer on Sunday, April 24th, including a corporate gathering.
  • 2. Since the congregation had been called on to rebuke the elders for their decision (that ideas presented in a Sunday School class did not rise to the level of false teaching), we reported to the church the congregation’s response: The overwhelming majority who contacted the elders supported their decision.
  • 3. We reaffirmed the decision already reached that the teaching did not rise to the level of “false teaching” by biblical standards.
  • 4. We are now beginning work on a written statement expressing what will (and will not) be taught at Lockwood regarding the areas of controversy: (1) Confession of sin and the conviction of the Spirit; (2) Repentance (what it is and what it entails); and (3) the Great Commission (its place in the church today). We will prepare this statement carefully and biblically.
  • 5. We have asked both parties involved to refrain from discussing this further with the church personally or through written word in a way that might spread strife (Titus 3:10).
  • 6. We will create a process by which a decision from the elders can be appealed.
  • 7. We will mail a letter restating these steps and including the statement referred to above.
  • 8. We will hold an elders’ meeting in May to which anyone may come, ask questions, express opinions, or pray with us for the church.

When, in the nearly two-thousand-year history of the church, there have been theological debates (and there have been many), God’s people have searched the Scriptures more diligently, sought God more earnestly in prayer, and experienced his grace and leading more clearly than before.

May that be our experience too. I invite you to join us in prayer and in searching the Scriptures. God will bless our efforts to honor him and will set the stage for a new era of effective ministry to Jesus Christ.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed, communicated, and offered guidance and support. Be encouraged! Good things are ahead.