Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wise Enough to Follow

There is a lot that we do not know about the wise men who came from the east to worship Jesus. Much of the story is a mystery that has been expanded upon through cultural studies and speculation.  Despite what our traditions and songs teach us we do not know the number of wise men who came, the country they came from, the mode of transportation or if the star guided them on the entire trip.  What we know is that they came from the east to find the Christ because they had seen “his star”.  After they spoke to Herod the star appeared again to guide them directly to the place Jesus was staying.  God used two means to guide them to Jesus.  He used the star that was a sign to them and then used scripture, through Herod. 

God used the star and his Word to guide them to the one who would become the light of the world. Jesus became to us the light that shows us the way to God.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).  And Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).  We must decide if we will accept the light or reject the light. The wise men followed the light all the way to Jesus.  All of scripture points us to Jesus.  But accepting that journey is in our hands.  Will you be wise and follow the light?

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet 
and a light to my path. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Slow Down and Look Around

The road construction crews have tried everything through the years to get people to slow down and pay attention when they are going through work zones.  The road construction on the Turner Turnpike has been one of the worst areas I’ve ever traveled through.  It is narrow in places and has tons of truck traffic.  The speed limit in places if 55 and it is not unusual to have people drive past me that are going over 70.  I see why if you’re trying to keep your employees safe you resort to all kinds of signs like “Beware, Walking Dead” or “Slow Down, My Daddy Works Here”.  My favorite is “$10,000 fine for hitting workers”.  Surely people really don’t value $10,000 more than someone’s life.  It is amazing the things that distract us from paying attention to the danger that is around us.  Smart phones have made it that much worse.  We need to slow down and look around.

We need to slow down and look around in every area of our life.  Our culture has become so busy that we run from place to place with our head down and a goal we are accomplishing.  Sitting and relaxing is not something we value in our society.  Who has time to sit on the porch and drink a cup of hot chocolate?  Who has time to stop and visit with friends that we randomly bump into while out shopping?  December seems to make it that much worse.  We pack so much into our crazy lives that the best we can hope for is surviving, much less actually enjoying it.

This curse affects us at church.  We hope that the events we have scheduled in our church for December are times for us to slow down and look around.  Our LifeGroup Christmas parties have that very goal in mind.  It is a great place to be with your friends and just enjoy being in each other’s company.  Every Sunday morning is designed to be a time for you to lay aside the burdens of life and just fellowship with your Savior.  Our candle light service on December 23 will be another laid back time for us to sing, fellowship and just stop.  We need each other.  We need friends.  In the midst of this busy time of year be sure to slow down and look around.  You may be missing something.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Coca-Cola Christmas

The international success of Coca-Cola is a phenomenon that started with a small entrepreneur in Atlanta selling an average of nine drinks a day the first year to over 1.9 billion drinks per day today with a market value of $180 billion.  This success was built upon marketing.  An advertising theme that started in 1929, “The Pause That Refreshes”, became the foundation for advertising ever since.  The idea of stopping and enjoying a Coke has served the company well.  They believe that they are selling so much more than just something to drink.  The company believes they are selling happiness. They have invested heavily in promoting the idea of happiness.  In 2009 their advertising campaign, “Open Happiness”, built upon this legacy. (www.worldofcoca-cola.com)

It is interesting that part of the success of Coca-Cola comes from selling happiness.  As Christians we understand that true happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ.  True happiness is not found pausing to take a drink of a Coke.  True happiness is found in pausing and trusting our Savior.  Pause, be still, and find peace in your life through Jesus Christ.  The things of this world are fleeting and always let us down, but the things of God are eternal.

We want to provide a time for you to pause this Christmas.  My family and I would like to invite you to our home Sunday evening, December 9, from 5-8 as we celebrate with a Coca-Cola themed Christmas.  This is our Christmas gift to our church family and friends.  It is come-and-go so even if you just have a couple of minutes stop by and have a Coke and some Christmas treats.  It is our prayer that you and your family find true happiness in Jesus Christ as you celebrate this Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Word Became Flesh

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:1-2, 14).

The truth of the incarnation, God becoming man, is one of the most remarkable in all of Scripture. The God who created us, the God who holds the world together, the God who forms us in the womb and provides for our every need stepped out of heaven to become man.  He emptied himself and became a slave (Philippines 2:7).  He even died a horrendous death.  He did all of that for us.  It is impossible for us to ever understand the depths of that sacrifice.  For God to step out of heaven and enter the womb is beyond human comprehension.  The magnitude of God’s love for us is staggering. The sacrificial love of God for man is the story of Christmas.

There was a time when I believed that the Christmas season was a time of holy bliss for most people in our culture.  I saw those who didn’t find the joy in Christmas as not only being a small minority but obviously having some issues that they needed to resolve before God.  I have learned through years of ministry that I was naïve and had watched too many Christmas movies.  The reality is Christmas is a difficult time of year for many. It is financially taxing.  It brings up memories of those who we miss greatly.  It even magnifies instead of hide family tensions.  

For these reasons it is important we remember the true reason for the celebration of Christmas. It is a time to celebrate the first step toward the cross.  Jesus came to a fallen world in order to give it hope.  Whether Christmas is a time of great celebration and joy or a difficult time that adds to the pains of life, remember that Jesus stepped out of heaven and took on flesh because he loves you.  He wants to provide hope in you that goes beyond the current condition of your emotions.  He cares about what you are going through.  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Children Matter to God

My love for children is no secret.  To see children running around the church brings joy to my heart.  Jesus broke cultural barriers by allowing children to approach him.  He healed children and even multiplied the meal of a child to feed the multitude. For their culture, children ranked with the Samaritans, Gentiles and tax collectors.  Yet, Jesus made them a focus of his ministry.  For us, children are the future of the church.  Churches without children are on a countdown to death. Those who do not grow up in church are far less likely to find salvation through Jesus Christ.  Churches that do not train children well will not have young adults.  For these reasons, our ability to do children’s ministry well is imperative to our health as a church.

It is because of our volunteers that we are able to have such excellent ministries to our children. Without these volunteers we would not be a church full of the laughter and excitement of children.  Without these volunteers, parents would not put their trust in us to train their children in righteousness.  We work hard to provide a safe, friendly and Bible focused ministry. We could throw all the children in one room and try to entertain them, but we understand that God has given us the responsibility to teach them the Gospel.  Small groups and age appropriate literature help us take full advantage of the limited time we have to influence them.  This means we are always needing more volunteers.  Your willingness to volunteer in our preschool and children’s areas is imperative to the success of our ministries to these precious children.

Jennifer Hines has served faithfully the last few years as the director of our nursery and preschool area. She has recently submitted her resignation effective the first of the year.  She has worked hard to keep the area staffed and that safeguards in place to make sure our youngest children are well loved.  We are currently looking for a new coordinator in this area.  If you are interested, please visit with me, Jennifer, D’Wayne, or Cassie.  Coordinating volunteers is not the easiest job.  However, it is extremely important if we are going to be faithful with those God entrusts to us.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Do Elections Matter?

This week we had a midterm election that was so intense over 100 million people turned out to vote. It took me 30 minutes to get through the line when I went to vote at a time that is usually pretty light.  The bitter divide in our country was in full display.  With the results, the American discord will be on overdrive in Washington with a divided congress and a controversial president. It is great to live in a country where revolt happens at the polls instead of the battlefield, however the conflict is still real. But one thing is for sure, God sits on his throne today as he has since the day he created this world.

If God still sits on his throne does it matter what happens in an election?  It definitely matters.  God is working out his plan in this world and one day it will culminate with the coming of Christ and a new heaven and new earth.  However, as he tarries to return we live with the consequences of political battles and the decisions our political leaders make. In America, it begins with elections.  Those who are elected we must submit to as those who are ruling for God (Romans 13). We must elect men and women to represent us in government who will guide the direction of our nation in a way that brings honor to God.

The decisions of those in political authority affect the church in many ways.  We must continually pray for our political leaders because it affects our ability to share Christ with those around us.  Paul told Timothy, “I urge that supplications prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). 

Now that the election is over we live with the results.  The job of the church is not to sit around and worry about what decisions will be made. We are not to sit around and cling to the play-by-play of the fight that will be on display in Washington.  We are to take advantage of the freedom and peace we have in America to take the name of Jesus to the people in our nation and all around the world.  The only answer for the divide in America is Jesus.  The elections mattered.  But more importantly we need to not miss the opportunity that was granted to us as citizens of this great nation.  With freedom comes great responsibility.  How are you using it? 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why Am I a Pastor?

When I was 17 years old I had a plan for my life. I had a career goal and knew the college I wanted to attend to accomplish that goal. Yet, God began to convict me that it was one area of my life that I was not surrendering to him. That summer that conviction grew as God began to make clear he wanted me to be a pastor. The conviction continued to grow and after a week of Falls Creek where I kept trying to bargain with God to get out of it, I surrendered my life to be a pastor.

Since that day I have had no desire to be anything except a pastor. I love my calling and believe that God has gifted me in unique ways to accomplish the calling. I was never a great student but I worked myself through college and seminary in order to have the skills to be the best pastor I can be. I have been working in ministry for 25 years and cannot imagine my life doing anything else.

Thank you for all the appreciation you showed me and my family in October. I would be a pastor without appreciation, however your love and encouragement make the calling a joy. It is not an easy calling, but is fulfilling. I love being your pastor. I love our church. You are our friends and family. God has given us the privilege to serve you for over eight years and we hope he allows us to stay here for many more. Thank you again for your love and support.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Stewards of People

Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48).  God has blessed us with so much and we must be faithful with everything he has placed in our hands.  This is found in many areas of our life.  We are called to be faithful with our possessions. We are called to be faithful with our time.  We are called to be faithful with our spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10).  We are even called to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1).  As parents we must be good stewards of our children.  As business owners we should be good stewards with our company and the employees who work for us.  Paul said, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)

There is also another area we must be good stewards.  That is being good stewards of those who God has put around us who need to hear the Gospel.  God said, “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way… his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezekiel 3:18). Sharing with people their need of salvation through Jesus Christ is our responsibility.  “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).  We have been sent (Matthew 28:18-20).  We must share the good news of Jesus Christ.

We have an opportunity Sunday night to be good stewards of the over 1200 people God brought to our Pumpkin Patch.  We were able to present the Gospel to most of those who came that day.  We now need to check back in with them and see how they are doing.  The number of people that need to be contacted is overwhelming.  But with your help we will prove to be good stewards with those God brought under our care.  We will contact by phone, text, email and home visits.  Bring your cell phones, laptops, tablets and cars so we can multiply our efforts.  You can choose the types of contacts you prefer.  There will be sample scripts you can use to help you know what to say. Help us share the love of Jesus with those we’ve been given the responsibility.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

More Than Business

When we went through the process of restructuring our church a few years ago the Restructuring Team worked to help the church become more efficient and effective.  One of the areas we knew needed to improve was getting more people to have a voice.  At the time, very few people were attending our business meetings and important information was not being communicated well.  There was a disconnect between our committees and the ministry going on in the church.  Switching from a committee structure to a team structure meant team leaders would be given more responsibility and it could have easily meant even fewer people having a voice.  We needed congregational accountability and better communication.  That is how we came up with the idea of doing a Quarterly Ministry Celebration (QMC).

The QMC serves three purposes.  The first is it provides a time of fellowship for us.  We have a meal together and spend time just relaxing and having a good time together.  The second purpose is to provide our team leaders the opportunity to communicate what is going on in their area of responsibility and what their needs are.  It is a time to celebrate all the good things that God is doing through our ministry teams as well as communicate what needs these ministries have.  The third purpose is to provide accountability.  We are a congregational church.  It is the responsibility of the church to provide accountability to its leaders.  Our Stewardship Team and our Ministry Team provide minutes of their meetings as well as a list of those serving.  We want to be open about decisions that have been made and give the church the opportunity to question those decisions.

I have come to look forward to the QMC.  I believe it has served us well.  Our attendance for these is three to four times more than what we were having at our business meetings.  They are fun and an encouragement to those who serve our church faithfully.  I believe those who attend leave encouraged about what God is doing and have more confidence in the direction of our church. I want to invite you to join us Sunday night at 6:00 for our QMC.  I am excited about the Italian themed pot-luck.  I am also excited for you to hear from our Ministry Team Leaders.  God has given us great leaders who need our support.  It is not just a business meeting.  It is a celebration.

Galatians 6:9, And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Manna Ministries Update

As I prepare to present the Manna Ministry Report for our associational annual meeting, I decided it would be a good idea to give an update of our progress.  

Manna Ministries is now incorporated in Malawi and is responsible for church planting and the feeding centers.  With the help of our partner, SOZO Ministries, we are now operating on a $80,000 a year budget providing many of our partners, including Charles and Rose, with a monthly salary.  We also have a plan to buy a 50-80-acre farm which will be used commercially to provide the monetary resources to help Manna Ministries become self-sustaining in the next 5 years.  We have begun the training for our four leaders on how to run such a farm through another ministry in Malawi that specializes in this type of farm.  We thought we found the piece of land, but that purchase fell through.  Please pray for us as we take this important step in the long-term stability of these ministries.  

Some of the other accomplishments over the last year include rebuilding Grace Feeding Center that was destroyed by a storm, buying new property for the location of that feeding center, finishing Zikomo, and buying some additional farming land next to Zikomo that will provide vegetables year-round for all three feeding centers.

Manna Ministries operates three feeding centers that feed around 200 orphans and widows daily.  Two of these feeding centers we started over the last few years in memory of those in our association who supported this ministry, including Zikomo Feeding Center that we started in memory of Bro. Paul Koonce and the Hope Feeding Center in memory of Carol Robbins.  We need $2000 a month over the next few years in order to continue our commitment.  We have a plan, but in the meantime, we need churches and individuals to continue to support these ministries.  We are currently $1000 a month short in meeting these needs.  We need additional churches to step up and help this legacy ministry.  We have partnered with our association to support these ministries.  If you are interested in helping with this monthly need or would like to give toward the purchase of the land for the new farm please talk to me about the best ways to give.  Thank you for your continued support and prayer for this important ministry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Changing Technology

It is mind blowing how much technology has changed just in my lifetime.  When I was a freshman in high school I learned to type using an electric typewriter.  My junior year of high school we moved to McAlester where I took a computer class in a computer lab where we learned how to write a paper using Word Perfect 5.0. We had to memorize all the commands to know how to format all the different aspects of writing.  It was not until I went to college that I had the opportunity to get on the internet for the first time.  I remember sitting down at the computer, excited to try out this new technology.  I turned on the computer and listened to the modem connect.  I then sat motionless wondering what I was supposed to do with it. I searched a few things and left thinking surely there was more to it than that.

Obviously, the internet has revolutionized the world in which we live.  For most of us we cannot imagine our life without it.  We carry continual access in our pocket.  It is how we connect with family and friends. It is how we get directions and decide where to shop.  Our culture has so learned to rely on it we would be lost if it was to disappear. Encyclopedias, maps, phone books, mailing letters and so much more has disappeared from our culture because of the use of the internet.

Because of the internet’s dominance in our society we must understand the implications it has on the church.  We have been able to use the internet to live stream our worship service, communicate with volunteers, advertise to prospects, promote events, make announcements and numerous other services in an inexpensive, effective way that would not have been possible a few years ago. We continue to learn new ways to use it to help us engage Bartlesville and the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

One of the ways we have been working to stay up to date in our use of the internet is through our website. Research shows that seven out of ten guests view the website before they attend the church for the first time. Thanks to the hard work of Lucas, we are excited to introduce our new, updated website.  We want it to be the best first impression of our church it can be. Soon our current web address will be connected to our new site but until then check it out at www.ehbc.net.  I believe this is a great way for us to continue to use new technology to communicate about our church and what makes us unique right here in Bartlesville.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It is All His

One of the most exciting days as an adult came the day we moved into a home we owned.  Most of our married life we lived in church owned parsonages.  We had mostly good experiences in these homes but there was something different about living in a home that we owned.  With it came new responsibilities like maintenance but also the freedom to make decisions without worrying about upsetting church members.  Mowing your own grass, for some reason, is just a little more satisfying. 

As followers of Jesus Christ, what does it mean to own something? Everything we have belongs to God. As followers of Jesus we surrender every area of our life, including our stuff, to him.   So, in reality we are just the stewards entrusted with the responsibility of using our stuff for him.  We own things for his glory. How we use our possessions and resources matter. He has given the responsibility of using these things as he has called us.

There are a few areas where God has been specific of what he requires.  He calls us to worship him and support his ministry through tithes and offerings.  A tithe is 10% of our first fruits and an offering is that which we give above our tithe. All that we have should be used for his glory.  This is just that which he asks of us to support the church.  God has made it clear in his word that our failure to be obedient in this area is robbing from him. (Malachi 3:8-10).  We are called to be responsible with all he has entrusted to us.

The church also has a very important responsibility to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us through obedient saints.  I am proud to be part of a body of believers who sacrifice for the ministries of this church.  I am also proud to be part of a church who has been faithful to use wisely those sacrifices.  We may be having a difficult financial year, but we do not have to be in a panic because of how the church has been faithful through past years.  We have made sure to carry an emergency fund to help us through down years.  Thank you, Stewardship Team, for taking your job seriously.  They will make adjustments for next year’s budget but rest assured, they are doing what is necessary to continue ministry, so we can bring glory to God.  Let us all remain faithful with what God has given us and we will continue to bring glory to God as we engage Bartlesville and the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Pumpkin Patch Time!

It is time for our largest outreach event of the year. It is time for The Pumpkin Patch! The last three years have exceeded our expectations and I am certain the same will be true for this year as well. Last year we had over 1000 people come through. What a great opportunity God has given us to share the Gospel by showing the love of Christ to our community. 

In order for this event to be a success we need you. There are several ways you can participate. As you are probably aware, we are in the midst of a difficult financial year. We even talked about not doing this event because of it. However, we decided to cut our event budget in a few areas and also ask for donations to help offset the cost. If you are in the position to give a gift above and beyond your monthly tithe, please designate your check or envelope “Pumpkin Patch”. 

We also need you to sign up to help in an area the day of the event. We will need several to help with set up and tear down and we have several areas that need manned during the event. It takes 80-100 volunteers to pull this off. It is literally a church-wide effort. We have places your whole family can serve together. If you are a guest who has been attending, we would love to have you serve alongside us. Sign up lists will be passed around Sunday morning. Please help us make this outreach event a big success. 

Anytime we strive to be light in the darkness we can expect spiritual opposition. Because of this, prayer is an important part of the event. Please pray for those who come to the event. Pray that we are faithful to share the love of Christ with each one. Pray that we connect with families that need a church home. We are working to be even more intentional in connecting those who come to our church. Pray for these conversations to point to Jesus. Pray for our volunteers to be healthy and focused on the purpose of engaging our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Dressed and Ready

Mornings are fun in a house with four children eight and under.  It doesn’t help that Tara and I are not morning people.  We hit snooze way too many times and then jump out of bed to quickly dress and feed the kids to get them to their places on time.  Dressing a two-year-old who is still half asleep and wanting you to leave them alone is a skill set we are not born with. I think putting clothes on an octopus would be easier.  Some mornings I think it would be easier to just pick him up with what he has on and throw him in the car.  This, however, is not a socially acceptable answer to our problems.  We expect to have people dressed appropriately before leaving the house. (Well, unless you are heading to Wal-Mart.  That’s a different story.)

There is one aspect of dressing that many miss every morning.  That is the need for us to prepare ourselves spiritually for the day that lies ahead.  Unless we are prepared spiritually we will find ourselves in situations in which we are not prepared.  This will lead to poor choices or inappropriate responses.  Paul tells us that every day we must put on the full armor of God.  We are not fully dressed for the day until we have taken the time to be spiritually dressed, ready to take on the spiritual warfare that wages on around us.

Paul says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Dream, Obstacles, Success

Paul saw a very common trend as he started churches across the Roman Empire.  He would start with the dream of a church in a given city. He would engage that city with the Gospel, starting with the Jews, yet quickly spreading to the Gentiles willing to hear.  There would be great excitement and a movement would arise.  Obstacles, usually in the way of influential Jewish leaders, would surface that would lead to revolt and in many cases the removal of Paul from the city.  However, a remnant would remain in that city sharing the Gospel with others and a strong church would begin to take shape.  Many of these churches like the ones in Ephesus and Corinth became strong churches that lasted for generations.

Most churches start under similar situations.  Eastern Heights was no different.  Money was given, and a dream established in the 1950’s for First Baptist to start a church on the east side of Bartlesville.  However, it took over ten years before,  in 1968 a mission was established that became Eastern Heights Baptist Church.  It took the persistence of key leaders like Bro. Ibach to keep the dream alive and start the movement to get the church started.

Though our dream of ministering to the west side is different in some ways, we can expect that starting Engage Church will find many challenges before we see a movement begin to take hold.  Ministering to those in poverty has many challenges in its own right.  Our partnership with Hope Clinic is key and will help legitimize our heart for them.  Being in a place that is easily accessed by them is also fundamental.  We have yet to find a good lead on a location to start the church.  Another important part of the process is finding people who want to be part of the startup who fit the demographics we are trying to reach. I am encouraged by the number of church members ready to engage the west side, but we need to begin identifying those we can target more like those we want to reach. I have yet to even mention the funding necessary to have a location and outreach resources.

Pray for our leadership team as we continue to face these challenges.  We know that the process is not going to be easy.  We know that discouragement will come more often than victory.  I am confident that God gave this dream and is guiding the process.  May we go through the slow grind, so we can experience the movement that is sure to come.  Paul has set for us a great example.

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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bartlesville to the World

In Acts 2 we see the power of the Holy Spirit come upon the disciples.  It was a physical and spiritual event as they heard with their ears and saw with their eyes.  Immediately they left the Upper Room and the 120 disciples went to the streets to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  There were 3,000 people saved that day in the streets of Jerusalem.  The multitude that had gathered for Pentecost from all over the known world experienced the miracle of tongues, each one hearing in their own native language.  Many of them returned home spreading the name of Jesus all around the world.

Why did they start in Jerusalem?  Because that is where they were.  Jesus had commanded them to start in Jerusalem because that was the place he commanded them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).  It was from Jerusalem that the name of Jesus spread to Judea, Samaria and the world.

It is our calling as Eastern Heights Baptist Church to follow the same command that Jesus gave the disciples 2000 years ago.  We are called to start right where we are in Bartlesville Oklahoma and take the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth.  We plan our mission opportunities to accomplish just that.  Our new ministry to the west side of Bartlesville will help us better than ever share the name of Jesus with those living in our backyard.  Through Bounce and Bethel Builders we have teams taking the name of Jesus to our Judea and Samaria.  We also have a team heading to Malawi to continue to strengthen the over twenty churches we have planted over the last six years and plant new churches in villages that have yet to hear the good news of Jesus.

Join us May 30 at 6:00 in the Worship Center as we come together as a church in prayer.  The disciples spent a week in prayer preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the opportunity to preach the name of Jesus.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit and the calling given to us through Jesus.  Let us come together in prayer and ask God to supernaturally multiply our efforts as we start in Bartlesville and take the name of Jesus to the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Sacrifice of Mothers

Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood the sacrifice of being a mother.  It was directly related to her obedience to follow God’s plan for her life. She risked losing her fiancé and alienation from society.  Her reputation was hurt as she faced the accusations from her peers.  Being a mother is all about sacrifice.  It is impossible to be a good mother without a continual denying of self for the sake of the children.  No matter the age of the children a mother continually makes decisions to put the need of the children ahead of their own.  It is a sacrifice of time, peace, money and freedom.

The Proverbs 31 woman is a beautiful picture of the sacrifice of a woman who runs her household well.  She sacrifices so her husband has honor within the community.  She sacrifices to provide for the needs of the family.  She sacrifices to provide food and clothing for her children. Her clothes may be worn but she is covered in strength and dignity.  When others are at rest she is running strong.  Being a mother is not easy, but in the end…

28          Her children rise up and call her blessed; 
her husband also, and he praises her: 
29          “Many women have done excellently, 
but you surpass them all.” 
30          Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, 
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
          (Proverbs 31:28-30)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Summer of Prayer

Prayer is so much more than just a way to provide God with our list of wants.  Prayer is our way of participating in the spiritual battle that is being waged against this world.  God wants to hear our needs as we surrender them to him, however, if your prayer life only consists of praying for the sick and needy you are missing a powerful element of prayer.  We need to be praying for the spiritual condition of our city and world.  We need to be praying for opportunities to share the gospel and lives to be changed.  The early church found this kind of power in their prayer and we can to.

Paul called on the church at Colossae to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”  Paul knew that their prayer would help him find an open door to share the Gospel and help him to be clear with his ability to communicate the Gospel.

Summer is quickly approaching and some of our most evangelistic events will soon be in session. We need to be in prayer for God to open doors for the word and for those teaching to be clear in communicating the Gospel.  Pray for VBS, Falls Creek, Super Summer, Malawi, Bounce and Children’s Camp.  We will also have a special prayer service for us as we kick off our summer.  Wednesday night, May 30, we will have a prayer walk in the Worship Center where we will be praying for these events as well as having the Lord’s Supper.  Put it on your calendar.  Those living in darkness are worth it. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We Can Serve Without You?

I read an article about an Indonesian tribe known as “the fish people”. They are unique because they are able to hold their breath underwater for 13 minutes and reach depths of 230 feet without any diving gear. After a group of scientists began examining the tribe they discovered that their spleen is twice as large as normal. The large spleen gives the tribe the ability to go longer without oxygen as well as protect the body from the pressure of deep diving. 

It seems remarkable that an organ that we can live without can help someone do such an incredible and seemingly impossiblefeat. I believe such is the case with the Body of Christ. Paul used the human body to describe the church with all its different parts. The body can live without certain parts but it will never be able to accomplish its greatest potential. These “fish people” would never go to the depths of the sea without their spleen and we will never live up to our full potential as a church without you doing your part. 

Sunday is our ministry fair. It is an opportunity for all of us to learn about the many ministries of Eastern Heights and find our part in the Body of Christ. Can we exist as a church without you?  Yes. But we will never do the extraordinary things God desires from us without all of us serving where God has called and gifted us. When we all find the place that matches ourspiritual gifts and passions we will accomplish so much more together than we could ever accomplish without you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Safety First

The fallen world we live in takes shape in many ways.  Darkness has attacked light since the creation of the world.  We see it when Cain killed Abel and we continue to see it today.  This hit home for many of us when First Baptist Church of Sutherland Texas was attacked by a lone gunman during their morning worship service killing 26 people.  The small community church suffered the most tragic of events that shocked the nation.

Sutherland is one of many events we have seen over the last few years that has caused churches to rethink security.  Not only do we have the Sunday morning worship service where we gather in one large room, our office staff is here every day ministering to the many people who come to the church for various needs.  Because of these things we have updated our security system and have instituted a Safety Team to help us prevent such a tragedy from happening here. We have changed the locks on the doors and installed an electronic entrance system.  We also have new monitored HD surveillance and security system.  

The Safety Team will be working to keep us secure during church-wide activities and worship.  The outside doors will be locked after worship begins.  The Safety Team will be patrolling to let in those who arrive late.  Inconvenient? Yes, but we hope that the security it provides outweighs the inconvenience it causes.  We are doing all we can to insure a safe environment for your family to worship God in a fallen world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

“So the Poor Have Hope”


For those who have never found themselves in a desperate place it may be hard to identify with those living in poverty.  Money talks in America and for many they do not see the way out of the trap of generational poverty.  Most feel as if they cannot receive justice and that the system is rigged for their failure.  God spoke to the plight of the poor throughout the Bible.  In Job it says, “But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth and from the hand of the mighty.  So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth.” (Job 5:15-16)

God put on our heart as a church a few years ago to find ways to reach those living on the west side of Bartlesville.  Though poverty exists in all areas of Bartlesville, we knew that God was opening the doors for us to make a difference there.  We partnered with Virginia Avenue Baptist Church to do our Back to School Bash in their neighborhood and then the following year at Kane Elementary School.  God used these ministries to share the love of Jesus with many families outside of those we have traditionally been able to reach.

Over the last few months God has again put the west side of Bartlesville on my heart.  I have a vision of having an off-campus worship service which targets those living in poverty.  Through prayer and discussion with other ministries we have been given the opportunity to partner with Hope Clinic to target their 1200 patients and offer them a place to worship designed specifically to fit their needs.  Part of this vision is for Hope Clinic to provide a free lunch on Sunday followed by a worship service where they can feel loved and appreciated.  The best we can tell, there is not another ministry in Bartlesville offering a free meal on Sunday.  We will be able to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of those who often feel out of place in a traditional church setting.

Sunday night during our Quarterly Ministry Celebration we will have time for discussion as we determine if we are led as a church to take this step of faith.  There are a lot of questions that we do not know answers to and possibly even questions we do not know to ask.  We need to pray and seek God’s will.  If we believe this is what God is leading us to do, we will have lots of details to begin to put together.  We need a location.  We need finances.  We need a start date.  We need volunteers.  We need equipment.  However, if this is what God is leading us to do he will supply abundantly for our needs.  Be here Sunday night at 6:00 as we take the next step of this journey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Empty


Empty.  Most things we do not want to be empty.  It’s never good when you get in the car and the fuel gauge shows empty.  Coffee drinkers never want to find their cup empty.  When a teenager’s stomach is empty, watch out!  We do not like being around those who have an empty heart or give empty promises.  That word is almost always associated with things that are negative.

That was certainly the case for the disciples on the first Easter.  When they arrived at the tomb they found it empty.  Their first thought was not the resurrection.  Their first thought was that someone had stolen Jesus’ body.  It took both the words of an angel and the appearance of Jesus to convince them that the empty tomb was the greatest thing that had ever happened.  The empty tomb was the result of Jesus conquering death.  The movement that they had given everything for was not over but just beginning.

When your life feels empty Jesus is there to turn it into victory.  When we are weak, He is strong.  The truth is, in our own power and strength we are empty.  Our own righteousness is polluted and leaves us empty.  We have sinned and fail to live up to the standards of Jesus Christ.  When we stand before God in judgement we will be empty unless we have accepted the gift of Jesus.  Through Jesus there is victory.  We will have victory over death because our Savior had victory over the death.  “The empty tomb is there to prove our Savior lives.”  We celebrate because the tomb is empty.

A Prayer for Back-to-School

Our Father, I humbly come before you our Creator and source of Truth.  You alone give wisdom and understanding so we submit ourselves a...