Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Presentation for Hebrews 8

A Hidden Plan, Hebrews 8

Modern Orphans of Oklahoma

Last week I had lunch with a group of church leaders around Tulsa to talk about how the church can help take care of the orphans that find themselves in foster care. For years the church has allowed the state to take care of this responsibility. Yes, we have had our children’s home, but it just met the needs of those children who fall through the cracks of the state program. The most common response from Christians is to adopt children internationally and to send money to help orphans in poor countries of the world. Those are great things but why are we closing our eyes to the need in our own backyard?

Not only has the church failed to help the state, the state has failed to reach out to the church for support. The state has struggled for years to have enough foster homes. It has struggled to have enough employees. It has struggled to have volunteers in shelters. Because of these struggles the children who find themselves in foster care, seldom because of any fault of their own, are the ones who suffer. Last Wednesday night there were 58 children in the shelter in Tulsa because they did not have enough families to place them. Finally, the state is asking the church for help.

The State of Oklahoma is partnering with communities of faith through the 111 project (www.111project.org). The needs are endless. There is a need for foster families, respite care providers, volunteers to help with paperwork in the DHS office, and for those who can support those who commit to be foster families. I believe there is a place for all of us. Will you pray about how God can use you to help with this serious problem?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rent or Own?

Dan T. Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-a, posted on his blog this week about the importance of taking ownership and pride in the things in your life. He mentioned he heard someone say, “You know, no one washes a rental car. You have to own it to care that much…” What a true statement. I always thought that was the best part of renting a car. Someone else is responsible to clean it up and make sure that the maintenance is taken care of. I never check the sticker to see if the rental needs an oil change. I use it and then take it back.

What an interesting thought as it pertains to the church. Do you see the church as someone else’s or your own? I was visiting with a pastor friend of mine recently about training new church members. He said that he calls his class “Ownership Class”. He does not want just members but owners. Membership is what you have at a country club. Those types of people come into the church wanting to be served. They make a mess and expect someone else to clean it up. They are more concerned about being comfortable than helping others to feel comfortable. He is after owners. It is the owner who invests in the organization. It is the owner who cleans up after themselves and everyone else. The owner is invested in the overall success of the organization. May God bless us at Eastern Heights as we develop our membership to take ownership in the ministry of our church.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Inwardly Obsessed Church

It is easy for a church to forget its purpose and begin to believe that everything is about them. An inwardly focused church is a place that is comfortable for its members. Every decision that is made focuses on ways to make the church better suited for those who have already been reached. It is concerned about what happens on the inside of its walls and not concerned about what is going on outside the walls. Becoming inwardly focused is a trap laid out by Satan and swallowed by many churches. The goals of a church that falls in this trap have to do with budget, facilities and programs. Anything that happens that takes away from the comfort of the membership is pushed aside and rejected. More money is spent on flowers and fellowship than on taking the gospel to the lost world. More time is invested in internal programs that knocking on the doors of the community.

Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway, says that an inwardly obsessed church no longer is a Great Commission Congregation. He began a few years ago keeping a list of what he found in churches that are inwardly focused. He compiled a list of the top ten warning signs that a congregation is falling into this dangerous trap. He claims that if two or more of these are found in the church it is in danger. May we continually be on guard not to focus more on our self than on the task of taking the Gospel to the ends of the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

Top 10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church

1. Worship wars
2. Prolonged minutia meetings
3. Facility focus
4. Program driven
5. Inwardly focused budget
6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care
7. Attitudes of entitlement
8. Greater concern about change than the gospel
9. Anger and hostility
10. Evangelistic apathy

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hebrews 5:11-6:20 Presentation

Hebrews 5:11-6:20

Guest Post by Frank Hulse

Claim the High Ground

I volunteer in a local prison and teach various classes to men who have made a commitment to change, to improve their chances of success when they are paroled or discharged. I drove an hour today to reach the prison. Then I went through the security procedures only to find that my classroom was dark and my students were locked down. It was an unfortunate glitch. The men were getting TB tests and the staff had thought that they would be finished before I arrived. Bad timing, delays, etc. I walked back to the exit and left prison a free man. I could have been frustrated at the waste of time (an hour down and an hour back), the waste of gas, etc. But I was in no way frustrated or irritated.

God had given me a little extra time in my week to see His creation. On the drive over, I took a cross-country expedition, using a combination of county and ranch roads instead of the state highway. At one point I came around a curve and off to my right was a huge floral arrangement. There were tens of thousands of roses, all the same beautiful pink. The roses had been planted to decorate the fence line around a plain, tiny house. The house was long past its prime, but the roses were just hitting their stride. At some point they had taken on a life of their own; you could say they’d gone feral if they’d been a dog or a cat but I guess they just went wild. Amazing. My eyes were not capable of taking it all in but I had to keep going rather than be late at the prison gate. Now that class was cancelled I went back to Roselawn and stopped to let God lead…and He did. I could see where the roses had found purchase in a 12-15 foot tree and now were at the top of the tree. They were everywhere and had almost ‘become’ the tree. It was God’s Christmas tree in May.

At the low water bridge, I stopped, rolled down the window on my little red truck and turned off the ignition, so I could hear God’s orchestra, the little waterfall on the south side of the bridge. Bravo! This is Oklahoma. At every opportunity I waved a friendly hello to the other trucks coming my way. And when I passed the wild horse sanctuary, I saw that the entire herd had congregated on the tallest mound in the pasture. They claimed the high ground, just like the roses. God has always wanted the very best for us. He has made it clear that His plans are for good. So, when we have those little setbacks that leave us tense or frustrated, that’s an avenue for Satan to steal our joy and bring us down. I’m willing to paraphrase the Creator from time to time. For me, God says, “No way. Shake it off and step up. Claim the high ground.”

Finally, brothers, 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. Philippians 4:8

God be with you; grace be with you.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blind by the Best of Times

Despite the difficulties of the economic downturn, the United States of America is still the wealthiest country in the history of the world. In the midst of every trip I’ve taken internationally I have come to realize the great blessing of living in our great land. We are spoiled with simple luxuries like indoor plumbing. We are spoiled with not so simple luxuries like electricity, cable TV, and air-conditioning. God has truly blessed our land that is free to choose him and free to worship the one true God. Could it be that our blessed land, with all its wealth, has caused us to be blind to the lostness that exists around us? Have we gotten so comfortable with our surroundings that we fail to see the horrific tragedy of those around us dying without having their sins forgiven through Jesus Christ?

The nation of Israel was experiencing its best days since Solomon just before they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The prophet Amos gave them this warning, “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sounds of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (Amos 6:4-6, ESV). I believe that the message God wants to warn us with today is that in the midst of wealth we do not fail to grieve “over the ruin of the lost.” Do not let the luxury of living in the greatest Kingdom in the history of the world keep you from grieving the sins that separate this world from God.

God Provides

God provides in many different ways. I have been reading Ezra as part of my daily devotional time.     Ezra leads the people of Israel out o...