Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Reward of Serving

It is rewarding to see the outcome of hard work.  Last Saturday and Sunday were amazing.  The Body of Christ worked together through each person’s giftedness and served our community in the name of Jesus.  The Pumpkin Patch has become a well-oiled machine that flawlessly came together after months of planning and preparation.  Over a thousand guests got to experience the love of Christ through your hands and feet.  I want to give a big “Thank You” to each one who played a role in making the event first-class.  Several people came up to me throughout the event and thanked us for providing such a high-quality free event.  Some even mentioned that it has become a tradition for their family that they look forward to every year.

Sunday evening, we also kicked-off the Engage Bartlesville service.  There has been 10-12 people working for close to two years on providing such an opportunity to reach our community with the Gospel.  There have been a lot of changes to that vision during that time but to finally have our first service was a joy and a great victory.  Dozens of you took place in door to door outreach and the block parties leading up to this start.  It was not a large crowd, but six people walked into our facility where they were loved and provided spiritual and physical food. A fifth-grade boy and his mother were there because of relationships they had made at one of our block parties.  As the fifth grader was making his way to class, he told one of our members that it was the first time he had ever been to a church. He had a great time and left excited to come back next week.

We had around 30 volunteers and their children that were in the building serving.  Each person added so much to the service.  Having several church members sitting around the tables with our guest was one of the reasons that every guest left having a positive experience.  Having our own church children here made the atmosphere so much more fun for that fifth grader who had a positive first experience in a church.  The many volunteers who helped set up, greet and cook helped spread the load around so that it was not overwhelming on any individual. Did we need 30 volunteers?  Yes!  Each one played an important part.  If you came to help, thank you!  If you would like to help in the future, we need you.  Come and experience the joy of serving our community in the name of Jesus.  Serving others in the name of Jesus is always rewarding.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Look to Past or Future?

Is it better to look to the past or the future?  The future is always
uncertain.  It requires faith and a little imagination.  The past is certain
but cannot be changed or duplicated.  The past is important.  It has shaped
us into who we are today.  The future is important.  It is coming. We can
pretend it is not coming or do what we can to be prepared for whatever may
come our way.  We cannot change the past and we cannot guarantee the future,
but we can live today with purpose that is grounded in the past and is
impacting the future.

We live in a difficult time in the life of the church in America.  The
church of the recent past was a time of growth, revival and cultural impact.
The church of the future looks segmented, rejected and culturally
irrelevant.  It can leave us scared, confused and pessimistic.  However, we
cannot return to the past.  We cannot stop the future.  What we can control
is how we live right now.  The question for us is "are we faithful?"  What
are we doing today that honors the great cloud of witnesses that came before
us and impacts our future in a way that brings glory to God.

It is my desire to lead us into the future with confidence.  We may not be
able to measure success in the same way that it was measured in previous
decades, but we can be found faithful.  Engage Bartlesville is an attempt
for us to impact the lostness that exists around us.  We cannot hide in our
facilities while our neighbors walk in darkness.  We will continually find
ways to intentionally impact our world with the Gospel.  It is the same
calling of our past and it will continue to be the same calling in our
future.  Until Jesus returns, we must engage those around us with the Gospel
of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Pray for Malawi Team

On Monday, six team members will embark on a mission trip to Malawi.  Please pray for us on our journey.  Lonnie Hoelscher will be leading four of the team members to minister in Kalulu.  Eight years ago, we walked into the Kalulu area of villages and presented the Gospel to those who had never heard.  When we left the country, they went through a gas shortage and no one was able to check on the church for almost a year.  When we returned, we found around 200 people continuing to meet for worship and Bible study. Since then we have started many churches in that village.  The church leaders will be taught and encouraged.  The team will also be witnessing in areas that still need to hear the Gospel.

Artie Hudson and I will spend our time in Dwambazi and Dwangwa the first villages Bro. Paul ministered to on his first Malawi trip over 20 years ago.  Charles asked us to come and encourage these churches and let them know that we still care about them.  We will be teaching church members in these churches.

Please pray for:
            Team Members:
·     Michael Vallandingham
·     Lonnie Hoelscher
·     Artie Hudson
·     Jonathan Long
·     Daryl Thomas
·     Rosemanne Park
Local Leaders:
·     Charles Malekano
·     Godfrey Frackson
Our Flights:  Safety, On Time, Ability to Rest
Entering and exiting Malawi and South Africa without delays.
Churches we are ministering to.
The lost we are witnessing to.
Health of team members.
Manna Feeding Centers
Safety traveling around the country.

Thank you for your prayers!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

4 More Weeks

We are just four weeks away from our launch of Engage Bartlesville.  The time is flying by and before we know it, we will be greeting guests coming into our building for a casual worship service followed by a free meal. We had our second outreach event Sunday night where 32 adults and 12 children engaged Rolling Hills Apartment with a block party.  We served popcorn, cotton candy, and bottled water to several of the residents while they played yard games and jumped in the bounce house.  It was not a large turnout but almost all who came out and joined us were very interested in the new worship service.  We met some great new people and made some new friends. Pray those seeds continue to grow.

It has been our plan all along to go knock on doors this Sunday night with those who can make it, despite it being Labor Day weekend.  However, after some discussion we have decided to take the week off. Despite the probability of there being many people not home and those that are not appreciating an interruption in the middle of the Sooners season opener, it is our last Sunday night to get a break before we are serving others every week.  Enjoy the night off and let’s get ready for three weeks of pushing hard preparing for The Pumpkin Patch and Engage Bartlesville.

On September 8 we will do another block party at The Willows on Madison.  We will meet at the church at 5:00, load up and head that way.  We expect this to have a large turnout.  After we get set up, we will do as we did this last week and send out those who are willing to go knock on doors around the complex.  We need others making popcorn and cotton candy while the rest work on building relationships with those who come to have fun. 

September 15- Door-to-door
September 22- Block Party at The Village (East of Town on Nowata Rd.) (270 units)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Great Start!

What a great start to our outreach for Engage Bartlesville.  Our first of six outreach events leading up to our kickoff is complete. Thank you to everyone who took the leap of faith and went out for door to door outreach.  You exceeded my expectations in every respect.  Twenty-one adults and a few children went and knocked on over 200 homes and had several great conversations.  We had a few of those dreaded homes that did not want us there but for the most part we found people willing to hear about the Pumpkin Patch and the Engage Bartlesville worship service.   Several shared prayer requests and we even had some who asked for a reminder to be sent to them before the events.  The only negative on the night was that I did not assign big enough areas to cover so we were done pretty quick.  That is easily fixed.  But overall it was a great start.  I know God will bless our efforts.

This Sunday evening will be our first block party.  We will meet at the church at 5:00 and head to Rolling Hills Apartments on Nowata Rd. We will have a bounce house, yard games, and give away popcorn, cotton candy and water.  This is more than just an opportunity to let people have fun.  It is an opportunity for us to visit with the people of the apartment complex and get to know them.  It is through relationship that the Gospel is heard the clearest.  It is my prayer that through these relationships we will see people comfortable enough to attend and have their lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus.  Come be a part of this great outreach event.  Your presence is important.

Not only will it be of help for you to join in these outreach opportunities, but we need people to start stepping up to volunteer for our Sunday evening Engage Bartlesville worship services which begin September 29.  Our push right now is for people to take a rotation on cooking the meal which will be provided following our service starting around 5:00.  If you would like to take a week please talk with my wife, Tara.  We also need greeters and security people every evening.  It is our desire to have enough greeters that we have people helping in the parking lots and even standing at the street with signs welcoming people as they arrive.  We will be using an electronic check-in system for children and preschool children. We will need people helping that process.  Talk to Chantel Gray if those areas interest you.  Ryan Forrest is working on building the worship team including musicians and A/V people.  If that is something that interests, you please let him know.

Most importantly we need people praying.  The enemy does not like us getting outside the walls of our building and engaging the people within our community.  He is attacking us on many fronts.  These issues are not physical, they are spiritual.  Spiritual battles must be fought spiritually.  Please pray earnestly to our God for his protection on us as we run toward the gates of hell with the Gospel.  We had a great start but let us press on and run the race with endurance.  It surely is a marathon and not a sprint.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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 and our children before you and are asking for your wisdom to be upon us.  You have placed the desire to learn inside us as we strive to live in the world around us.  We ask for understanding of your Word so we can build upon your Truth.

As we send our children back to school, we pray for your hand to be upon them.  Place them in situations with great Christian influencers around them who will point them to you.  Help them find good Christian friends, as you gave Daniel, in whom they can stand firm together in the faith.  Help them be positive influences upon those who do not know you and not allow the negative pressures to cause them to make poor choices.  Help them to become strong readers so they can understand your Word. Give them great understanding of math and science so they can see your hand around us.  Protect them from the teachings of secular humanism that take you out of the equation.  May our children find you and your truth in all they learn.

Protect our children from the evils around them.  Our world continues to spin out of control with violence finding its way into the schools of our nation.  Give our schools your supernatural protection.  May any malicious plans be seen before they are enacted.  Protect the hearts of our children from the growing effects of the sexual revolution.  

We also lift up the Christian educators who have influence on our children.  Give them boldness to stand for you.  Let them shine as a bright light in the midst of darkness.  Give them wisdom that can be passed to our children. Give them discernment to see the needs of our children and to know when they need to provide encouragement or discipline.  Raise up Christian school board members and administrators who will protect the rights of the educators and allow the influence of the Church to be upon our children.  May your presence be manifested through the lives of the adults who have an important hand in raising our children.

Thank you for the grace that was demonstrated on the cross for us.  Thank you for your Spirit who empowers us. 

It is in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord that we pray these things.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Engage Bartlesville is Coming!

As we talked around the table Sunday evening planning the final stages of Engage Bartlesville someone said, “it is finally going to happen.”  It has been a difficult journey over the last several months, but our first Engage Bartlesville worship service is coming.  We have twisted and turned around so many curves, detours and road blocks but the time is finally here.  The next six weeks are imperative to the success of the launch so let me explain Engage Bartlesville and our plan to kick off strong.

Engage Bartlesville is a worship service designed specifically to reach the unchurched.  It will be Sundays at 4:00 with a free meal following.  Our first service will be September 29, the day following the Pumpkin Patch. We will provide childcare for birth through 4-year-olds and have a special class for K-5thgraders taught by our youth (with Lucas’ oversight).  We will meet in the chapel around the tables for both the worship time and meal. There will be a 15-minute small group time following the 45-minute service for questions and discussion concerning the evangelistic message.  The meal will be served following the small group time.

In order to invite people to Engage Bartlesville, we will spend the six Sunday nights before the first service (starting August 18) engaging the people in the neighborhoods around our church.  On August 18, September 1, and September 8 at 6:00 we will be going door-to-door meeting people in some specific targeted neighborhoods.  On August 25, September 8, and September 22 we will be doing block parties at three area apartment complexes.  We will meet at the church at 5:00 on these nights.  We will take a bounce house and provide popcorn and cotton candy.  It will be a great opportunity to meet people living in those apartments and invite them to Engage Bartlesville. One of these apartment complexes has over 200 family units.

The time is finally here. These last six weeks are very important if we are going to see people come and be a part of this special worship service.  Please be praying daily as the enemy wants to keep shutting doors in our path.  The more people we have going door-to-door the more people we can meet and invite to be a part of Engage Bartlesville.  Let’s work together in a strong, unified way as the body of Christ and watch God work miracles in the lives of those who hear the Gospel.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Bye, Bye, Summer!

It’s been fun, but summer is quickly coming to a close.  Camps are now behind us and school starts in three weeks.  I am excited about some big things that are happening in the fall.  I believe that we are in store for one of the best times of our church in the nine years I have been your pastor.  We ended AWANA last year with great growth and a big turn out for awards night.  We had some of our best attendance in awhile for worship during June. Our new deacons are going through training and will add a level of foundation for our church that we have been missing in recent years.  Finances have kept up through the summer in what traditionally is a lean time.  The chapel has been remodeled and looks amazing while providing more space for us to fellowship together as a church.  The stage is set for us to have a fruitful fall.

Adding to these things is Engage Bartlesville.  The church voted to make our Sunday nights evangelistic in focus by providing a worship service on Sunday evenings called Engage Bartlesville that is focused on reaching the unchurched in our neighborhood.  A free meal will be served as we strive to reach those that have been difficult for us to reach in the past.  We will provide many opportunities for evangelism on Sunday evenings by having people volunteer to help with this service or go into our neighborhood and share the gospel. I’m excited to see how God is going to use this time.

There is one thing that is keeping us from being successful in any of these ministries, volunteers. We must have volunteers in order to be the church God wants us to be.  We are in desperate need of volunteers on Sunday morning in our preschool and children’s areas.  As of Sunday we were still 10 volunteers short in our rotation for the preschool area alone.  We need help for Worship Kid and AWANA as well.  If you can give 30 minutes on a Wednesday evening in AWANA to help children learn memory verses, let us know.  If you can give us one Sunday every month or even every other month, please let us know. 

If you would like to volunteer to help with Engage Bartlesville,  we have a place for you.  We need people willing to canvass the neighborhoods starting in August.  We need greeters, security, children teachers, small group leaders, band members, technology gurus, and many others to make these services the best they can be.  Please talk to our ministry leaders about these needs or sign up on the table in the hallway.  We are going to have a great year.  Be a part of it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Sunday night is our Quarterly Ministry Celebration.  It is a great time to get reports from all our team leaders and learn about the exciting things God is doing in our church.  We will continue our Christmas in July theme with the meal which is sure to cool us off (at least in our imagination) during this summer heat.  The fellowship with our church family is a great reason for us to get together.  It will be a fun evening.

One of the items we will discuss during our business session is turning our Sunday evening time into a weekly outreach event.  If you did not hear my message on this a few weeks ago you can hear it at https://youtu.be/dhLmbFunYTI.  We would offer a late afternoon or early evening worship service that is preceded by a free meal.  The worship service would take place in the chapel around the tables and provide a relaxed environment for us to communicate the Gospel.  We will be targeting those living in poverty on the east side of Bartlesville but will also use it as a way to reach all unchurched in our community. If you have any questions concerning this before Sunday evening please email me, soonerpastor@me.com, or give me a call,  918-333-2181.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Choose a Side

Elijah found himself in a complete cultural revolution.  The people of God preferred to worship Baal but still hung on to some of the traditions of worshiping Yahweh.  Elijah was seen as a troublemaker by the people, even by Ahab, King of Israel.  The people ignored Elijah’s calls of repentance and his warnings of judgment.  So, Elijah called for a great demonstration of God’s power at Mount Carmel.  450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah gathered to take on the lonely troublemaker, Elijah.  As they gathered Elijah addressed the great crowd who came to witness this momentous event.  He said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21).  Elijah then challenges the Baal religious leaders to call on Baal to consume the altar with fire.  They could not.  Elijah then had them pour water on the altar and he called to God and fire consumed the altar.

We find ourselves in a similar cultural dilemma.  As our culture increasingly becomes secular, many in the church try to hold on to both their Christian traditions and the new secular world-view that has little room for God and no room for God’s Word.  When Elijah confronted God’s people all he received was silent stares. In the same way those within the church remain silent to the calls from faithful pastors to return to God’s Word and stand on his truth.  What America needs is repentance that begins in the church pews.  We must choose which side of the line we will stand.  You cannot serve two masters.  Who is your Lord?  Who do you choose to follow?

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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Joy in the Morning

As the Sun began to rise on the day following the longest Sabbath of their life, it was time for Jesus’ followers to go and prepare the body for burial.  Because of the Sabbath very little had been done when Jesus died.  He had been wrapped and laid in a tomb with 75 pounds of spices by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea not far from Golgotha where he was crucified.  None of the others had time to be part of the burial because of the Sabbath that began at sundown.  As some of the women walked to the tomb bringing their own spices for Jesus, they wondered who would help them roll the stone out of the way so they could perform their act of love to the one they gave up all to follow.  The disciples obviously were not in a hurry to see what was left of their Rabi.  It had a been a tough three days and they had scattered in fear.  

When they came to the tomb, they found that the tomb was empty.  Assuming that Jesus’ body had been stolen she ran and found Peter and John and told them what she had seen.  They ran to the tomb and John arrived first.  He waits for Peter who walks into the tomb first. What he sees appears to just be a side note in the Scriptures yet so profound.  He sees the linen cloths lying where Jesus had been and the head covering folded and lying to the side.  Peter believed what Mary had told him and they left.  But it must have been confusing as to why the cloths were left.

People who move a dead body do not unwrap it first. They definitely do not take care about how the linens were laid.  How clear it must have become when Jesus appeared to them that evening in the upper room.  What they saw was how the linen cloths are laid when someone is raised from the dead. It all makes sense when you can see the whole picture.

There are a lot of things God does that are not understood until more is revealed.  Then those details God has left behind become reassurance of his working all along in our life.  It seems to be the end, yet the excitement was soon to begin.  God is working around you to accomplish his plan. Embrace it and trust him through it. It ends with life and life more abundant.  There may be pain for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Jesus’ Example

Jesus told his disciples that he did not come to be served but to serve.  That is a fascinating statement to me.  He was God.  He sacrificed so much to become man for the purpose of dying on the cross for our mistakes. He performed many miracles and taught the multitudes amazing truth concerning the Kingdom of God.  Yet, he did not set around lazily and expect everyone to cater to his every need.  Serving others was his natural way of relating to the people around him.

The disciples were products of their culture and they had humbly left behind careers and family to make Jesus their Rabi.  Because of this they were never comfortable with Jesus humbling himself in such a way. As they entered into the Upper Room to prepare to take the Passover Meal Jesus wrapped a towel around his waste and washed their feet.  They were not comfortable at first but gave in to Jesus’ insistence.

With such a beautiful expression of submission and a life long example of sacrifice that ended with the greatest sacrifice on the cross, how could we not be people who serve others.  Paul tells us in Philippians 2 to have the same attitude as Christ who humbled himself to the point of death.  Let us not be guilty of using those around us to make our lives easier.  Let us sacrifice our own rights and comforts in order to serve them in the name of Jesus.  We bear his name.  Let us follow his example.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Helping the Sent

God has called all of us to make disciples to the ends of the earth.  Though we all have the same calling, he has given more specific callings to each of us on what our part for reaching the world for Christ is.  Not everyone is able to take a couple of weeks in order to go to another country and share Christ.  Some are called to help train those who are called.  Some are called to pray for those who are going.  Some are called to raise awareness of needs.  Some are called to help pay the expenses of those who are called to go.

God has called us to share Christ with the people of Malawi.  This on-going partnership with the churches of Malawi has been rewarding.  Just in the last seven years we have seen over 20 new churches started through the obedience of Eastern Heights.  There are thousands of new believers attending these churches every week because of the sacrifices of our church members.  Our continued support of Manna Ministries not only provides support for these new churches, but it feeds around 200 orphans and widows every day who would be starving without our support.

We are taking another team to Malawi for the purpose of strengthening these churches and helping to plant new churches.  God has assembled a team from other churches in our association to meet the needs of this great ministry.  At this time there are two from Eastern Heights who will be going on this mission.  Daryl Thomas and I will represent Eastern Heights in this important trip.  I would love to be able to take every single one of you with us.  That obviously is not possible.  Instead, would you be willing to do your part in helping us as we prepare?  We need your prayer.  The enemy will attack our lives as we move closer to the time we leave.  We also need your financial support.  Because of budget cuts this year we do not have money in the budget to help cover these expenses.  We step out in faith because we are called to go.  We know God will provide the finances needed because he always provides for those he has called.  Would you consider joining us on this mission through giving financially? Together we can continue the great ministry to the starving people of Malawi.

To give go to CLICK HERE and choose "Malawi Mission Trip" Fund.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Out of Control

Driving on ice is not fun! I saw a crazy video of cars on an icy road all sliding down a hill and piling up next to each other at the bottom. Those that live up north love to make fun of us in this part of the world about how we drive in winter weather. What many of them do not understand is the difference between driving on snow and driving on ice.  There is no driving expert in the world that can control a car on ice because it takes at least some traction for a car to stay in control.  A professional driver in a well-equipped four-wheel drive is not going to have any more control than a sixteen year old in a sports car.  The only solution to traction on ice is putting something on the tires, like a chain or spikes, that dig into the ice to create traction.  Without it a car will lose control and damage everything around it.

A tongue that is not under control has the same affects.  When we do not think before we speak or speak in anger we become like a car on the ice.  It goes wherever it pleases and takes out everything in its path.  It is our responsibility as believers to make sure we give our tongue traction.  We cannot control it in our own power.  We control it by putting the word of God in our heart and living it through the power of the Spirit. God’s word will serve as the spikes against the ice to give us the traction we need to control that which seems impossible to control. Without it our tongues become a dangerous weapon in the hands of a child.

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. - James 3:7-1

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Place to Belong

LifeGroups are where you find a place to belong within our church.  These relationships are critical in spiritual growth through encouragement and accountability.  It is in these small groups that you will find strength when you go through times of difficulty and trials in your life. Jesus modeled this for us with his twelve disciples as they helped each other navigate a difficult journey that led to the cross and then the explosion of the early church across the Roman Empire.

The significance of these small groups has been especially evident over the last few months as we have had several church members experience serious medical issues.  It has been an encouragement to see LifeGroups minister to members as they have gone through these significant struggles.  LifeGroups do much more than just teach the Gospel. They live the Gospel through community. Visiting, preparing food, sending cards, and praying for them was a great encouragement to them as well as their caretakers.  It has been a blessing to me when I go to visit someone to hear the names of those from their LifeGroups who have called and been by to see them.  It always is shared with a smile on their face to know that people care.

If you are not involved in a LifeGroup let me encourage you to make it a priority over the next couple weeks to find a class where you can connect with other believers in a more intimate way.  If you do not know which group would be best for you, please visit with me or Brian Buford. We can help guide you to find a place where you can belong.  No matter your age or stage of life, there are people meeting together who are going through similar experiences who would love to have you join them on the journey of life.  Do more than just attend church.  Find a place to belong.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Listening to God

Samuel was just a boy when he heard God speak for the first time.  He was lying in bed when he heard his name and assuming it was Eli in the other room, he ran in to see what he needed.  When he came to Eli the second time, Eli told him to respond “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  The third time Samuel responds to God as he was told, and God declares to him a prophecy of judgment that was to come upon Eli and his sons.

Do you ever have trouble discerning God’s will?  One of the reasons we struggle is we do not recognize God’s voice.  The absolute clearest way that God speaks to us is through His Word.  Do not miss the general call of God that he gives to all of us through His Word. Does God want you to witness to your neighbor today?  Of course, he has already made that clear in his Word.  Does God want you to be financially responsible with the resources he has entrusted you with?  Definitely, he makes that clear.  Does he want you to be active in a local church?  He has already called us to.  There are many things that God has made clear in his Word.  In these instances, you do not have to wait around for God to supernaturally give you some clear direction.

God also gives us specific callings.  God called me to be a pastor when I was 17 years old.  He made it clear to me as I sought his will for my life that it was what he wanted from me.  He calls us all to special places of services.  These callings are always consistent with the general call from His Word.  We must be listening through prayer, meditation and the studying of Scripture to know the specifics of his calling.  What God wants us to do is already clear.  Seek God for the answers to how and when.  If those answers are not clear the answer should be to use what you know and go now.  Do not use the excuse of waiting for God when it comes to obeying the commands he has already made clear.  Let your response to God’s Word be “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Spiritual State of the Union

Last night was The State of the Union Address by President Trump.  It is the opportunity for the president to push his agenda on a large stage with the ears of millions of Americans, powerful politicians, and citizens of other countries around the world.  He laid out the health of our nation and how to fix our problems.  Politics can be a picture of the spiritual state of our nation as well.  In a democracy politics are not the answer to our problems but a symptom of our problems.

Paul tells us that our battle is a spiritual battle and our enemy is Satan.  (Ephesians 6:10-12).  The spiritual state of our nation can be seen in the legislation being passed around the country.  We have a state that has legalized late term abortions.  We are now killing babies that could easily survive outside the womb of their mother.  We have legalized same sex marriage.  We do not allow the Bible to be read in public school nor prayer at our events.  Public universities have become enemies of Christian children.J

The list of spiritual struggles in our nation could go on and on.  We could talk about crime, the ending of the traditional family, crimes against children, foster care, and so much more.  With the spiritual state of our nation on a decline, what is the answer? The answer is only found when we fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons.  We should not take a step in the morning away from our bed without putting this armor on which includes God’s Word and prayer.  When God’s people pray God hears.  The hope for America is another great awakening.  America needs Jesus.  

Ephesians 6:13-18 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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Serve Together

There is joy in serving the Lord together in a local church.  Serving together helps us fulfill the calling God places on the local church.  Jesus’ example to us was one of serving, not being served. He deserved to be worshiped and yet he made himself of no reputation in order to be a servant.  If our place within the local church is nothing more than coming to a location in order to be served by others, we are completely missing the purpose God has for us.  Leaders in the church are called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12).  It is our goal to equip you so you can serve joyfully within the church.

Sunday is our ministry fair. It is a way for us to communicate the areas of service that are available in our church.  Please take the time to look around the room and see the exciting areas our church is serving.  We cannot accomplish the ministries of the church without your help. Each one of us must use our spiritual gifts to strengthen the body of Christ.  This is your opportunity.  When you combine your spiritual gifts with the ministry in which you are zealous you will find fulfillment in service.

Let me draw attention to some important areas of service in which we need help.  
·     Preschool: We have divided the preschool leader responsibilities into three coordinator positions.  Preschool is an essential ministry of our church as we teach the children but also provide a safe place for parents to leave their children so they can learn. See the Children’s Ministry table to read these job descriptions.  We also need people to serve on the rotation for extended session.
·     Vacation Bible School: It is time to start preparing for VBS June 10-14.  This is our most important children’s outreach event every year.  There is a place for everyone to serve.
·     Malawi: If you would like to go on the Malawi mission trip this year, please sign up and get more information on the Mission Team table.  The trip is tentatively set for September 10-20 with a cost around $3500 (airfare at time of purchase determines exact price).
·     Engage Church: Engage Church is a new church we are planting targeting those in poverty on the westside of Bartlesville.  Our launch goal is Easter Sunday, April 21. If you would like to help with canvassing the neighborhood or to volunteer on Sunday afternoons to help with the mission, please see the Mission Team table.
·     Pumpkin Patch: We are looking for people to serve on the Pumpkin Patch steering Team.  Please see the Mission Team table to sign up.