Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Training is Hard!

As I have kicked off my training for the half marathon, I have heard lots of crazy responses.  My favorite is the quote from Proverbs 28, “Only the wicked run when no one is chasing them.”  I remind myself often what Paul says, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8).  Training for a marathon is hard work and requires crazy discipline like waking up early and running when the weather is not perfect.  You do not accidently wake up one day ready to run 13.1 miles.  Training in godliness is the same.  It requires hard work and discipline.  You will not wake up one day and accidently find yourself living in godliness.

This week we are offering some new ways to help you train in godliness.  LifeGroups Is a great way to train with a team.  You will study the Word of God and learn ways to apply it to your life while you are in community with a small group of other believers going through a similar stage of life with you.  Wednesday nights we provide verse by verse Bible study as well as OASIS which is a support group for parents.  

I am very excited to kick off an eight-week discipleship class called Multiplication 101 starting Sunday night. In this study we will learn how to share the Gospel, the seven basic commands of Christ, and how to teach these commands to others.  I have had many requests for such a class after the sermon I preached a few weeks ago on the importance of multiplication through discipleship.  If you have not watched that message you can find it in the archived messages on our website or YouTube channel.  Look for Multiplication Through Discipleship- July 15, 2018.  

Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy but rewarding.  Let us get this training started together.  Make it a priority for you and your family this Fall.  Be intentional.  It will not happen by accident. Together we can train for godliness “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13).

Multiplication Through Discipleship

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

First Day of School

I lived in the same small town from the time I was one until I was sixteen.  That means I went to the same school with the same small-town friends from Kindergarten through 10thGrade.  I really do not remember much about my first day of Kindergarten, but I will never forget the first day of my 11thGrade year in a new school in a new town.  We had been in McAlester since June and I got to know several youth from the church through the numerous summer activities.  I even made some good friends who I loved being around.  I was pretty confident, though a little nervous, on my first day in the large 5A high school.  I survived getting to the right classes with the correct text books for my morning classes.  Then came lunch.  I knew that the guys I knew the best had an earlier lunch time than me but surely I would find some other church friends in the cafeteria somewhere.

In Wewoka we had open campus for lunch.  I had not eaten in a cafeteria since my 8thgrade year.  In Wewoka there was one line where everyone received the same meal. As I walked into the new cafeteria I found several lines serving different options.  Everyone in the room seemed to know exactly what they needed to do. I picked a line blindly and got my food. I had not spotted anyone in the room I knew.  I walked over to a table and sat down to eat.  I ate by myself that day.  It was not the way I planned on spending my first day in a new school.

As I was putting up my tray I had several people walk up to me and invite me to sit with them the next day. I also found some people from church that told me where they sit.  It was the only day I ate alone but that half hour lunch will never be forgotten.  I guarantee you I have seen people eating alone differently since that day.

School starts back in a few days.  Parents are usually thrilled to get their kids back into a routine.  Many of our students are excited to see their friends and find out who their new teacher will be.  However, there are many students who find the first day of school terrifying.  Many of our students are starting new schools and some may not know anyone where they will be attending.  Let us be sure to pray for our students as they walk into their new classrooms. Pray for them to find friends. Pray for them to find an environment where they are comfortable to learn.  And pray that they will be a Christian witness to the students around them. May each of them have a positive first day of school they will never forget. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

God Doesn't Need Money

God does not need our money. He tells us, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills, I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.” (Psalm 50:10-11).  Psalm 50 is a beautiful description of what God desires from us.  In verse 14 he says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High.”  What he desires from us is our heart.  A heart that worships him and keeps our word of devotion to him as our Lord.  However, when God gets our heart and devotion he will have our possessions and he will receive our gifts as a sacrifice of praise. To not give is to keep for yourself what is not yours (Malachi 3:8).  But before we give we must examine our hearts and make sure it is out of our love for God. He desires our heart first.

Giving is how God calls us to partner together in ministry.  Giving of our first-fruits is how God has called ministry to be funded from the beginning.  Paul tells us, “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).  This verse specifically speaks of funding for ministers, but I think the principal applies to the funding of all ministry.  It is our faithful giving that is used to fulfill the ministry of the church, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry.” (Ephesians 4:12)

We are having a difficult financial year.  This struggle directly affects our ability to engage Bartlesville and the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.  Our largest outreach event, the Pumpkin Patch, is coming up.  This outreach event and others are going to suffer without your faithful contributions.  Search your heart, worship God, and give out of your love for him.  He doesn’t need our money, but he has chosen to fund his ministries through the gifts of those who love him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Let the Children Come

The society in Malawi treat their children more like children would have been treated in Jesus’ day than the way we treat our children in America.  In America we chase our children from one event to another. We make sure they get nice things and that they receive a quality education.  We schedule our lives around our children and their activities.  This is not the case in Malawi.  Children are allowed to do their own thing as long as they do not get in the way of adults.  Older children spend more time raising younger children than the parents do. Education is not important, so few go to school.  They are just tolerated until they get old enough to contribute to the family by helping with the family plot of land. 

Jesus often went against the culture.  He spoke to women and Samaritans.  He touched the unclean.  He spent time with tax collectors.  None of these things were acceptable for Jewish men, especially religious leaders. One day when the sick were being brought to him to be healed, people began to bring their children to Jesus so he could touch them.  The disciples rebuked those in line with their children.  Jesus heard them and said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14)

Jesus went against culture to show love to those who were considered a burden.  In our culture we value our own children.  We treat them as royalty.  However, many times we view other people’s children as a burden. Humbling ourselves to love the children who do not respect us the way our children do is sometimes difficult. I’m sure that the children brought to Jesus were not well-behaved angels.  Yet, he loved them and used them to illustrate a child-like faith.

On Monday we begin Vacation Bible School (VBS).  It is our opportunity as a church to love children the way Jesus loved them.  Pray for our workers as well as each child that God brings into our care.  We have a great opportunity this year to have foster families not associated with our church coming for training.  We will get the privilege of loving these children who come from difficult places. Pray for wisdom as we minister to each child.  Pray for our workers to have wisdom in presenting the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word.  We all have a responsibility to help children come to Jesus.  Find your place and let’s show the love of Jesus Christ with arms wide open.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Critical Day for Southern Baptists

I am at least a fourth generation Southern Baptist.  I just enrolled Jonathan as a third-generation Southern Baptist seminary student.  I am proud of what Southern Baptists have accomplished for the glory of God.  We are not perfect, but we have chosen to work together as autonomous Baptist churches in order to be the largest missionary sending organization as well as provide high quality seminary education to our pastors and staff.  The Cooperative Program has served us well in raising funds for our great organizations, so our missionaries and other leaders can invest in the work at hand instead of raising their own funds.  The Baptist Faith and Message has been our confession of faith providing a foundation for conservative, biblical doctrine while uniting the varying cultures found throughout our denomination.

For these reasons my heart hurts when I see negative headlines that threaten to undermine what we have accomplished.  The headlines in national news agencies have been about the failure of our leaders and not the work we are accomplishing for Christ’s sake all around the world.  Specifically, Paige Patterson, a leader in the Conservative Resurgence that happened 30 years ago and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been making national headlines of late. His counsel to women in abused relationships, his inappropriate remarks about a teenage girl’s physical appearance, as well as the alleged covering up of sexual abuse to women on his campus has led many people to ask for his resignation.  A special called meeting of the Board of Trustees for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on May 22 resulted not in his resignation, nor his termination, but rather he was given a new title (President Emeritus), promised financial compensation for his new position, and will be honored as the first Theologian in Residence, where he will live in a currently being constructed home on campus.

Dr. Patterson has done a lot to help us hold firm to our conservative convictions while most main-line denominations turned to liberalism, but these current accusations should not be ignored.  If there was enough evidence to remove him as president, he should not be allowed to remain on campus. The actions by Southwestern’s Board of Trustees, has made all Southern Baptists appear insensitive to women’s issues.  It came with no apology nor clarifications on why he was given a new title, compensation and housing.  On top of this, Dr. Patterson holds the honor of preaching the annual sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas in a couple of weeks.  This convention holds great importance for the future of our denomination.  Thirty years after the Conservative Resurgence we return to the same city with a new challenge.  I believe what happens in Dallas will propel us into the future or divide us into irrelevancy. Let us pray for our leaders during this critical time.

Lucas and I have decided we need to be in Dallas for the convention.  We will have to miss the Tuesday night of VBS in order to accomplish this.  We wrestled with this decision knowing that VBS is an important ministry of our church. Please pray for us and our convention as we look to unify around the Gospel. May our current generation not be the last to experience a relevant, biblically conservative, powerful Southern Baptist Convention.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thank you, Carrie and Jenifer!

Our exemplary ministries only exist because of the great leaders we have leading them.  Our children’s ministry over the last few years is a great example of what we can accomplish with great leaders and faithful volunteers sacrificially giving of themselves to provide our children with quality programs that point to Jesus.  Carrie Hugeback and Jenifer Miller have served our children faithfully and these ministries have succeeded because of them.  Carrie and Jenifer are stepping down from their leadership role. Be sure and say “thank you” to them for the sacrifices they have made for our children.  Their leadership will be missed.

Our children’s ministry team is the largest team in our church.  They are responsible for birth through 5thgraders including LifeGroups, Extended Session, Worship Kids, AWANA, VBS and so much more.  This team organizes dozens of volunteers who rotate through the various programs.  We believe that it is our responsibility to not just provide childcare but to take seriously the task of raising the next generation of church leaders. Our children’s ministry is the place to bring your children if you want them to love the Bible and live according to its teaching.

We are excited for our new Children’s Team Leaders.  Dwayne and Cassie Conner have agreed to take over this huge responsibility.  Pray for them as they transition to this new role. I believe that they are uniquely gifted and qualified to step into this position.  However, their success will be determined by the many volunteers who step up to help them.  We currently have openings in our Sunday morning children areas from LifeGroup Leaders to extended session workers.  Let Dwayne and Cassie know if you are interested in investing in the lives of our children.  With great leaders and faithful volunteers we will continue to make a significant impact in the children God entrusts to us.