Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Proverbial Sharing

Our Men's Group is studying Proverbs on Tuesday mornings. It's a great time of fellowship and learning together. We are as "iron sharpening iron" and it's something that I personally look forward to every week.

I thought that I'd share a little bit (just a small portion) of what we talked about this morning. Maybe you will be encouraged to open the Word and do a little study yourself.

We are in Proverbs chapter 4 right now. In verses 18-19, there is a contrast given about light & dark. The life of a true believer is like the dawn of a morning. The light increases. It begins as a faint glow on the horizon and then proceeds to the full light of the noonday. 1 John 1:5 says that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. Light exposes and darkness covers. Throughout scripture we see this truth over and over again. Take time and look at these passages: Romans 13:12-14, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:8-17, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-9, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 1:5-7 & 2:9-11.

As we went over these, many men shared about the light and darkness that we see in everyday struggles. One of the things that most impacted me was that scripture from Ephesians 5:8 that says, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." It doesn't say that we were once in the darkness, it says that we were darkness! We are called to be the children of light, the ones that shine Jesus to all that we come in contact with.

In Matthew 5 (Jesus' Sermon on the Mount) Jesus told us to be salt and light. In that context we think of light being evangelism and that we are to let our light shine to the unbelievers, which is true. But we are also called to expose the darkness around us by confronting sin, being a conscience in our community & by helping brothers and sisters that fall back into the darkness of sin and the world of the "Prince of Darkness".

I always say that nothing good happens after dark. If you are going to break in and steal, it's going to happen at night in the covering of darkness and not in broad daylight. If you cheat on your spouse it's always in covering of darkness so no one will know. As you sin, you don't tout it and brag about it, but you try to conceal and hide it and put it out of sight into the darkness. As God changes your life and your heart, you will find that His exposure of your sin and self to light will keep you on the narrow path that leads to life. And over time, you will enjoy the light of salvation even more.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Closing Program and Carnival

Just wanted to say a couple things about the closing program and carnival from Friday night. It was awesome!!! Amanda and Carina did a great job. The volunteers were great and the kids were wonderful. That's one of the best closing programs I've ever been too. Great job team!

After the program everyone was invited to the OAC dining room to have some ice cream. Then it was off to the carnival! We had cotton candy, balloons, several carnival style games, moonwalks, lots of prizes and candy. It was really fun for us and the girls. The weather couldn't have been nicer. It was a nice northerly breeze, not a convection over wind like we've had lately. The temperature was in the low 80's. The clouds in the west blocked out the direct sunlight. It was near perfect. Praise God for His provision for everything. It was truly a great family night. My girls had a blast and are still talking about it. It was great to mix and mingle with people you know and get to know some new families too. It looked like everyone there was appreciative and having a good time. Again, it was just a really great night. Thanks to everyone, and the Main ONE, who made it possible!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Secret to Golf

I think that I've finally figured out the secret to a great golf game. For many years, people have tried to figure out the secret to getting that little white ball into that cup. I've had the great joy of playing a couple of rounds here lately and I think that I've figured out the secret to it all: consistency.

When you watch players on the PGA Tour, what they possess that you and I don't have a lot of is consistency. If you can learn to be consistent with your clubs, then your game will massively improve. When you are consistent with your clubs, how your strike the ball, where you line up, how you swing and place the ball, then you are at the top of your game. I love to golf and I've hit a 91, 96, and 92 my last 3 times out. Maybe we're starting to see a little consistency.

The worse part of golf is when you don't play for a while. You kind of have to relearn your feel and how you swing and hit. You feel off-kilter and out of touch with everything.

The same is so true in the Christian life. When you quit reading God's Word everyday, when you quit praying, and when you quit attending church regularly and doing the things in the Christian walk that you know that you need to be doing, you feel off-kilter and out of touch. You will not perform well in the Christian life if you have no consistency to your walk. You must do the daily work and work hard at it, just like you would for any sport.

If you've ever sat back and watched someone succeed and do well in their Christian faith, know that it didn't happen overnight. It was because of a personal pattern of consistency in the spiritual disciplines that they could be all that God wanted them to be. If you see people that God uses is great ways and you want the same, it all starts with some consistency in your walk. Then you are allowing God to pour into you and use you to His fullest intent. (Ephesians 2:10 "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.")

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

VBS Excitement

Our Vacation Bible School is this week. My girls are so excited and have been for about 2 weeks prior. In my family, my wife has spent a couple of weeks coming up here everyday for planning, cutting, gluing, decorating, making copies and such for our VBS. The girls and I "help" of course and it's great. The girls are so excited every night as they get to learn Bible stories, experience recreation, do neat crafts that reinforce lessons, get to meet and learn from missionaries, and get to be with many friends and volunteers from our church family. It's a great week and I'm so happy that my girls are excited about it.

Tonight I saw a whole lot of kids really excited to be here. They are learning and growing in the Lord. This is when a church is at its best, when we're serving the community and each other through discipleship and ministry that plant eternal seeds in the hearts of hearers. Those kids are the hearers this week. I'm just glad to be a part of what God is doing.

Thanks to God for His blessings and provision and thanks to all of the faithful servants who get their hands dirty by serving the "least of these" in His name!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quit Blaming the Devil

I deal with people and their sin all of the time. It kind of comes with the line of work I'm in. I'm seeing a pattern that seems to be bugging me more and more in recent days. There are a lot of people who blame the devil for their sin. Though the devil is the author of sin and evil, we does not force us as humans to commit the act. The act of giving in to the temptation is ours. It's our sin because it was our choice. So many people say that the devil is destroying my marriage or the devil is why I'm losing my job or the devil is why I bad things are happening to me. Let's be honest. It is you and I who make our sinful choices and it's you and I who are paying the price for some of the choices we make. We have to take ownership of our own sin and repent.

I have a guy here at Oakwood who didn't file his taxes for a little over 7 years. He owed around $35,000 to the government. When he became a Christian, repented of his ways, got baptized and began living a real Christian life, he prayed & wished that God would fix the tax situation. Unfortunately, he still owed the government $35,000. He still had to make payments and over the next 7 years till he paid all of the taxes and penalties back.

Here's the point. The devil didn't make him do it. He made a choice to not pay his taxes just like he made a choice to pay his taxes back. The devil didn't make him owe the government money. He made that choice. I'm sure that the devil had something to do with the opportunity to sin, but the sinful choice was his own. We must get out of blaming the devil for things (I think that we're giving him a little too much credit) and take responsibility for what our actions and decisions produce. Only in that will we experience true repentance, freedom, and redemption.

It's time to own up and quit playing the blame game.

The next time you are faced with that temptation, you know, the one that the devil throws at you the most, remember that giving in is your choosing and not his. And remember what the Word of God says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

The good choice or bad choice is up to you. You own it. It's yours. Now go do something about it!

Keep the faith & live the faith!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pursuit or Not Pursuit

If you are reading this, I'd love to get your feedback. Just leave a comment. It's quick, easy, and you can stay anonymous of you must.

I was in K-Mart tonight looking for a sprinkler. I have a couple of places in my yard where the sprinklers don't get very well. Anyway, Amy and I ran into some friends that we hadn't seen in a while. They are in ministry like we are. As we all started discussing life, church (it always comes up), and kids, the guy I was talking to said something very interesting. We were talking about church growth and churches gaining new members. While we were talking about churches strategizing to get new people, we started talking about pursuit. So many churches pursue people. And he said that you never read about Jesus and the disciples pursuing anyone. In fact, they ran more people off than came to repentance sometimes.

The conversation then went toward churches bending and trying hard to win new members so they can boast of their attendance rolls rather than making fully-devoted disciples of Jesus. He then kind of challenged me in my thinking. If a church had 100% sold-out disciples, then it would always be a growing church because disciples, truly dedicated followers of Jesus, always share their faith.

My philosophy has always been to do my job and let God bring the growth. If He wants the church to be 1,000 in weekend services, He'll make it happen. Our job is simply faithfulness in our areas of calling and to bring others along in the faith with us.

I'd love to hear any feedback that any has as you read this. Should we pursue and try to woo people to our church? Or should we not pursue and just preach, teach, edify, challenge, and grow people in the Lord? Are we called to go after prospective members or let them come to us? I'm not talking about not reaching the lost. I'm talking more about people who are saved and church shopping. I'll be interested to see your comments. Just click on the "comments" link below and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Not Blogging So Much & a Proud Daddy

I do have to say to my readers that I'm terribly sorry for not writing more than I have been. It's just been really busy and as I look down my list of ministry priorities, my blog gets put on the back burner from time to time. There is so much I could write about that's happened since my last blog, but I decided to start current and try to stay current and not back track too much.

I got to go to church camp with Madalyn this week. This was her first time to church camp as an actual camper (she's been a couple times as a P.K.) and I was thrilled to be able to share this experience with her. She made me so proud in so many ways that I can't even begin to express it all. I had a couple of sponsors from other churches tell me how well behaved she was, how she participated in Bible lessons, helped others, did her memory work, and was truly a blessing to everyone. That made daddy very proud.

I got to see her heart first hand on the first day of camp. We split into family groups. Each camper had to pick a partner so you could have at least one friend in every group. There were 3 girls from Oakwood of course and Maddy was the one who was left out. My heart broke for her, but she handled it like a champ and made friends with another girl who was by herself. Madalyn did a great job being positive and grateful even in these circumstances. Again, daddy was so proud of her.

After camp we talked about it all and she had the best time. She can't wait to go back next year, she said. It was a good little camp for her. I'm glad that she felt like she had a positive experience and wants to go back again.

VBS is next week and we're all gearing up for a great week. I'll be working 24-7 for the next 10 days or so. I'll try to keep up with blogging a little more. Be patient with this pastor and remember that God's not finished with me either. Keep the faith & live the faith!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Mid-Year Update

I am humbled and excited to be a part of what God is doing at Oakwood. I was curious to see statistically where we were at in decisions for the year. I had Nancy pull the decisions stats and this is what we found:
59 decisions so far this year.
33 new members have joined the church.
19 have come to salvation and been baptized.
We've had many come for repentance and rededication.

As God works it should excite each and every one of us. We are followers of the Way and anytime someone comes to Him or comes back to Him, we should rejoice. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 15 (Eric's paraphrase) "There is more rejoicing in heaven over 1 sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need more repentance.

Rejoice in the Lord for He is good. Thank Him for His mighty works. Pray and ask Him how you can be a part of the body and advance the Gospel. Then get out there and be the salt and light.