Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Anticipate Jesus!

We have learned through the years that the anticipation of children can drive you absolutely crazy. It is good for them to have things they are looking forward to but if you tell them too many months out of something really exciting, they will ask questions about it every day.  Sometimes it is just better for the sanity of all to keep those things a secret until closer to the event.  However, don’t forget, anticipation is part of the fun.  We shouldn’t take all the anticipation away. They will miss some of the magic if they find out where you are going when you walk through the gates at Disney World.

One of the ways the church has changed today compared to my childhood has to do with the anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ.  It was announced immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).  Three times at the end of Revelation Jesus declares “I am coming soon.”  He makes it clear that we will not know the time but that we are to always to be ready and not to allow it to be a surprise.  I believe that for many in the church today if Jesus was to return today it would be a surprise.

The problem with the lack of anticipation is that with it comes apathy.  We become apathetic to living holy lives.  We become apathetic to sharing the Gospel (we have plenty of time). We get apathetic with our church attendance.  It affects every area of our life.  Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming like a thief!  Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15).  I think all of us could use a little more anticipation in our life.  Jesus is coming!  Be alert!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Summer to Grow

Research has shown that children who do not read in the summer can lose two to three months of reading skills.  Kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency.  If this is true of reading, it is safe to say it affects student’s spiritual growth as well.  Taking the summer off from church as a family has a negative impact on the spiritual development of your children.  Summer is fun and provides many opportunities for us to travel and experience things that are difficult during the school year.  It also takes us out of our routines and makes it easier to stay up late and not get up at a regular time in the morning.  So, on the Sundays we are home it is more difficult to get everyone around and make it to LifeGroups and worship.  Make sure that you provide spiritual development as part of your summer activities and you will see your children grow closer to Christ this summer.

We slow down for the summer to give our volunteers who work diligently throughout the school year time to rest. But we also provide many opportunities to help your children grow closer to Christ in the summer.  Monday, we start Vacation Bible School.  It is an intense five days for your children to study God’s Word as they have fun with their friends. Make it a priority for your children and bring their friends with you.  You will be surprised how much they learn.  For children who have finished third through fifth grade, we have children’s camp July 24-27.  Pay attention to our calendar for the summer and you will see many activities on Wednesday night that your children will not want to miss.

The same is true for our youth.  Encourage your teenagers to get away from the tv and video games and participate in the many activities designed for them.  A variety of locations and activities are planned for Wednesday evenings and there are many opportunities for them to serve.  Falls Creek is July 22-27 where they will gather with thousands of teenagers across Oklahoma and surrounding states to have their faith strengthened and build a spiritual foundation that will serve them as they become young adults. It was through summer youth activities that I grew the most spiritually as a teenager and I am sure that your teenagers will as well.  

Parents, let us do our part in making sure that our children are closer to Christ in August than they are right now.  The only way that will happen is for them to be participating on a regular basis in the life of the church.  Have a great summer!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Uncertain Path of Foster Care

When we step out in obedience to God’s call, we find ourselves on a path with many surprises. Seldom does the path turn out exactly as we perceived when we submitted to God’s call.  Eight years ago, Tara and I knew that God had a new path for us as it related to our family.  We began the process of adoption through DHS.  We wanted to provide a forever home for children in need.  Doing foster care was not in our plans and we would passionately tell people that we could never send kids home, but we could provide a forever home for those awaiting adoption.  We could not have dreamed that we would spend the next seven years fostering eleven different children.  It was not the path that we thought but it did get us to the destination.

On Wednesday we finalized adoption for Hannah Lee Vallandingham.  She is our fourth child to provide a forever home.  With this adoption we end a chapter in our life that has consumed us over the last few years.  We have closed our home as a foster home and get to focus on these four beautiful children that have become our own.  God has grown our faith in amazing ways over the last few years and we are excited to embrace this new chapter of our life.

We want to personally thank Eastern Heights Baptist Church for your amazing support through this journey. We could not have done it without you. Your love for these children was more than we ever thought possible.  Not once have I seen any of the foster children in our church get treated differently than other children in our ministry.  Children from hard places can be a big challenge and you embraced each of them by showing them the love of Jesus.  You helped us financially when we received new placements who came with nothing. You provided childcare when emergencies arose.  And you understood when the demands of home kept me from other activities around the church.  Thank you!

Though we are beginning a new chapter for our family, foster care will continue to be a big part of our life.  We will continue to provide support for foster families in our church and across our state. God has given us the experience and heart to pour into these families and encourage them through the difficult journey.  It was not the path we thought we were on, but we would do it all over again knowing the destination was worth the sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

VBS Time!

VBS Time!

In a church world that has changed so dramatically over the last 50 years, there is one ministry that has stayed constant and remains the most evangelistic outreach ministry for Southern Baptists.  That is Vacation Bible School (VBS).  More people accept Christ through VBS than any other yearly event we do.  VBS began after the Civil War and saw continual growth over the decades that followed.  One thing they all had in common was the desire to reach children with the Gospel of Jesus Christ during the summer when they had so much free-time and parents were looking for something to do with their children.  Despite the number of churches offering VBS is declining, it is still the most evangelistic program in the churches that chose to invest the money, resources and volunteers to make it happen.

VBS is a tough week for our volunteers.  Most of our volunteers work all day and then come straight to the church.  Others will spend most of the day preparing so that when everyone arrives things run smoothly.  Cassie and other children leaders have been preparing for months recruiting, learning and stocking supplies.  I just want to say, “it is worth it!”  Keep up the good work.  We will be showing the love of Jesus to children whose destiny is at stake.  Thirty years ago, we needed to see someone saved by 18 for the greatest opportunity to reach them.  Today that number is down to 12.  The state of the church for the next generation is at stake.  Continue to run with endurance.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Thank you!

VBS is June 10-14 at 6:00 nightly.  A meal is provided at 5:15. Preregister for VBS at the event table or call the office.  The more that preregister the easier opening night will be for our volunteers.  Please pray for God to use VBS to reach many children with the Gospel.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Faithful with Facilitites

Throughout our current sermon series on Faithfulness, we are learning that there are many things that God has placed us as stewards over.  I am not going to be able to hit every one of them on Sunday mornings, but I have tried to hit some significant areas.  One such issue that that God has placed in our stewardship is our church facility.  Many times, we mistakenly call the building the “church”.  However, the church is made up of the people who have covenanted together to serve each other and the community.  The building is the home base in which we launch our ministry to the world.  The church cannot be taken away by tornado or fire. We exist as a church beyond where we meet together.  The building is temporary whereas the church is eternal.

The facility we meet in may not be as important as the church itself, but it is a great ministry tool that God has provided us in order to fulfill our vision.  We can do more because it has been provided for us. The Parable of the Stewards should be applied to this resource as it is to the others we have looked at.  We must use this resource to fulfill the work of the Master.  We must not protect it from use but take the risk in order to multiply the work of the church.

A few years ago, we started a capital campaign to raise funds for the upkeep of this great facility. Since the launch of that campaign we have raised over $80,000 and completed many projects like upgrading the worship center lighting, sound system, video projectors, and adding a baptistry.  We have carpeted the hallways and painted on the west end of our facility. These have proven to be great additions as we continue the ministry of the local church.

We have come a long way but are not finished with the needs.  In order to complete our original goal, we still need to complete some important projects.  We have finish carpentry work that is needed in the baptistry area.  We need to put new commercial vinyl flooring in the chapel. We need to finish painting the hallways on the east side of our building.  We need flooring and painting in all of our classrooms including the parlor.  There is also a need for new furniture and decorations for all the commons areas.  We are only $2500 away from being able to complete the flooring in chapel.  It is our goal to have it installed in July, so it is ready for our Fall activities.  We will then be about $20,000 away from completing these goals as we strive to be good stewards of this great resource God has entrusted to us.

If you can help financially with this need, please mark your envelope “It is Time Capital Campaign” or give online at https://my.simplegive.com/dl/?uid=east1331134 and choose “It is Time Capital Campaign”. Thank you for helping us be good stewards of this invaluable resource.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Surrender of a Mother

One of the most amazing mothers in Scripture is Hannah, the mother of Samuel.  She had prayed for years for God to bless her with a son.  After years of praying and being tormented by her husband’s other wife, who was able to have children, she made a vow to God that if she could have a son he would be given to God.  God miraculously gave her a child and when he had been weaned, she brought him to the temple and left him there to be raised by Eli, the High Priest.  That which she had been praying for she gave up and left as a gift to God.  Samuel became a great prophet who God used during a difficult time for the people of Israel.

God does not ask us to bring our children and leave them in the same literal way (I have enough children, thank you), but we are to dedicate them for God’s use in much the same way.  Children are a gift from the Lord, so being a mother is a gift from the Lord.  He entrusts mothers with children for a time.  With it comes the responsibility to raise children to love the Lord.  We may not be asked to literally take our children to the temple and walk away but we are to lay them at the feet of Jesus every single day.  

Being a mother is a difficult yet rewarding journey.  Pray for your children and raise them to be used by the Lord in special ways.  Lay them at the feet of Jesus every day as those who God has entrusted with you for just a short time.  And may they someday raise up like the children of the mother in Proverbs 31 and call you “blessed.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Deacon Update

In the early weeks of the early church there arose some conflict between the Hellenists and the Hebrews. The Hellenist widows were not receiving their daily distribution of food.  The Apostles knew that their responsibility was in studying and teaching Scripture and refereeing the feeding of widows would be a distraction of that priority.  They asked the Hellenists to pick seven men from among themselves to help with the duty of serving the widows.  These seven Hellenists were “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” (Acts 6:3).  The Apostles laid hands on them and prayed.

It appears that this is the beginning of the office that will become known as deacon.  Deacon means servant but do not miss the bigger role that these men played within the church.  They were men of high character and integrity.  In fact, one of the men, Stephen, was a great preacher and worker of signs.  He was arrested and became the first martyr.  Their role ultimately was in serving the church and protecting the unity of the church. They made it possible for the Apostles to spend their time in God’s Word

We have been in the process of electing new deacons for our church.  This has been an exciting and encouraging journey getting to interview the men nominated.  Five of these men were presented to the church at our last Quarterly Ministry Celebration and were approved to begin the training process.  We are still in the process of interviews and may have more to present to the church in the coming weeks.  These men play an important role in helping the pastor serve those in need within our church as well as protect the unity among our people. The five deacons approved by the church are Ryan Bennett, D’Wayne Conner, Steven Davis, Daryl Thomas and Steve Warehime. They will join the deacons over the next six months and then be presented to the church for ordination.  Please pray for these men as they transition into this new role.

Anticipate Jesus!

We have learned through the years that the anticipation of children can drive you absolutely crazy.   It is good for them to have things the...