Saturday, May 31, 2008

Asking new questions

Many of you probably get the 'Ogletown Oracle,' our church's newsletter. However, for those of you who don't receive it, here is my last column (yes, I am a columnist!).

Asking new questions. Adjusting my perspective. Realigning my passion. It seems that is what I have been doing in my quiet times with the Lord and conversations with people. I am glad that God doesn’t allow us to get stagnant in our lives, but continually pushes us to grow in grace and our knowledge of Him.

I have been challenged by the prospects of the future of OBC. God has done great things in our church over the years, especially in the last few months. I sense when I talk to so many at OBC an expectancy as to what the future might hold. Could God work here in even greater ways? I believe the answer is “YES,” and with that, I wanted to share some new things I am considering. I have replaced a few questions (that I have thought about and been asked before concerning the church) with what I believe to be better questions.

For instance, what often goes through our mind at this stage in the life of our church is “What can we as a church do with all the space that we have now?” We opened up nearly 46,000 square feet a few weeks ago! Amazing potential. And yet I have been led to ask a new question: “How can we share the gospel with our community, regardless of our facility?” Using the space God has given us will surely follow in our answer to that question. Truly, our desire to share the gospel should fuel the use of our time, space, and resources as a church. Living the gospel goes beyond the 4 walls here, even if the 4 walls just got bigger.

Another question we are tempted to answer is “How can we get people to come to Ogletown?” But, we can ask a better question: “How can Ogletown be mobilized to be the body of Christ in our community?” We often ask God to make a bridge for us into the community where we live. But, we may often fail to see that God expects US to walk across that bridge looking for lost sheep, rather than the lost sheep to wander across that bridge and find us.

I believe with all my heart that for Ogletown to be the church God intended us to be, we need to be walking across some bridges, leveraging our relationships, thinking through the 168 hours we have each week, loving our neighbors, and sacrificing our lives for His glory. I cannot imagine anything that would please Him more.

Asking, adjusting and realigning! That's what I'm doing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Coming this summer to OBC

I am looking forward to my first summer in DE for many reasons. I was reminded of one of those reasons today. Stan and I met with Cody Whitaker (a NAMB missionary to Delaware, and part of the OBC family) and two guys from Biltmore Baptist in Asheville, NC.

This July a team of 100+ people from their church (made up mostly of students and some adults) will make their way to our area to serve in Baltimore, Wilmington, and Newark. We will be hosting them at the Ogletown Exchange. It was great to hear the heart of each of these guys as they were planning and strategizing on how to show and share the love of Christ in tangible ways.

What excites me most is that OBC will have an opportunity to partner with them. They will travel hundreds of miles to serve with us because they realize that the gospel should compel us to love God and love our neighbor.

I cannot wait to share some of the details of the partnership, but trust me, I believe that our community and our church will never be the same!

Old or new

As I read this from John Stott, who wrote the following in 1973, I couldn't help but think of a couple of book titles that I have seen in fairly recent days (one is A New Kind of Christian and the other is Revolution. The quote is lengthy, but interesting and insightful.

This kind of summons [to continue in things that had been learned] is not infrequently heard in the pages of the New Testament. It is specially relevant whenever innovators arise in the church, 'radicals' who claim to be progressive and who repudiate everything which savors the traditional. It has perhaps never been more needed than today when men boast of inventing a 'new Christianity' with a 'new theology and 'new morality,' all of which betoken a 'new reformation'. To be sure, the church of every generation must seek to translate the faith into the contemporary idiom, to relate the unchanging word to the changing world. But a translation is a rendering of the same message into another language; it is not a fresh composition. Yet this is what some modern radicals are doing, setting forth concepts of God and of Christ which Jesus and his apostles would not have recognized as their own. In such a situation we may perhaps be forgiven if, borrowing the Lord's own words, we say to them: 'no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, 'the old is better' (Lk. 5:39). The apostles themselves constantly warned their readers of newfangled ideas and called them back to the original apostolic message. Thus John declares that 'anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God' and exhorts his flock 'let what you heard in the beginning abide in you', for then they would 'abide in the Son and in the Father' (2 Jn. 9; 1 Jn. 2:24). Similarly here Paul enjoins Timothy to abide in what he has learned. In each of these verses the Greek verb is the same. Timothy has learned things and now firmly believed them. All right. Now he must continue in these things with steadfastness and not allow anyone to shift him from his ground.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am not famous, but...

I am not famous, but I know people who are! Seriously, two OBC'ers were in the newspaper today.
Are these people awesome or what? I can't help but feel privileged to be their pastor, and I am glad they represent Christ in their lives.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The pages are Roman numerals

You know that a book promises to be good when you are quoting out of the introduction and preface. I hadn't even made it to Arabic numerals, when I ran across this statement.
At its core, it is not the number of activities a church is involved in that defines success, but whether those activities result in accomplishing God's mission for His church.
The quote is from Shaped by God's Heart by Milfred Minatrea. It is on page xvi.


This morning I had an epiphany (that was the word of the day, that I was supposed to slip in at some point!). I realized how privileged I am to have the opportunity to study God's Word in preparation for teaching His people.

It is a great privilege that I take with a great deal of responsibility. I have been asking God to guide my time of study. I have tried to pray with more faith and intensity asking God to hear from Him as to the needs of Ogletown. I want to please Christ with my preaching, but I also want Him to be pleased with my preparation.

God is so good to take less-than-adequate ministers (i.e. pastors, small group leaders, Bible study leaders, etc.), and still bless their attempts at communicating and explaining His Word.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What a great day! Has it been 7 years?

I am not sure my wife reads every blog post I write. Surely, you are shocked that she would not hang on every word! But, today marks our 7th year anniversary! What a day that was! It seems like yesterday.

Many men have surely married great women, but to my knowledge, none has been so fortunate to have such a caring friend, wife, and mother to their children!

Love you Shawna!

Follow closely

I read this in 2 Timothy 3...

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings.
I began to wonder, is there anyone who has been that close to me? Is there anyone who I have influenced in that capacity to the point where they have seen my life firsthand?

Surely, God could use such relationships for His glory!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Means of grace

I mentioned last week in my message, that the means of God's grace to people is often other people. Sometimes, that is a family member, but many times it is a 'family member' in the sense of a brother or sister in Christ.

This week, I have received God's grace through people.
  • They have gently corrected me, which I needed.
  • They have encouraged me through telling me specific evidences of God's grace in my life.
  • They have helped me understand Scripture better.
  • They have pressed me on to lead OBC to be more like Christ.
  • They have shared meals with me.
  • They have prayed with me and for me.
For these and so many reasons, I want people to be in close relationships with the people of God. I want that for our church, but I also want it for the people of the Newark area. God designed us for community with each other, and I can't help but believe that the people who are not walking with Christ in the context of a community of faith are missing something very special that God has for them.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Image bearers

For a few weeks on Sunday morning, I talked about how we are made in the image of God. I also mentioned that Christians are being restored into that image through the work of the Spirit of Christ in us. A church member sent me this quote from a devotional by Sam Storms who quotes Johnathan Edwards. Got all that? Here is the quote!

Meditate deeply on Jonathan Edwards' comments concerning God's design in our redemption:

"It was a great design of God to advance all the elect to an exceeding pitch of glory, such as eye has not seen. He intended to bring them to perfect excellency and beauty in his image and in holiness which is the proper beauty of spiritual beings, and to advance ‘em to a glorious degree of honor and also to an ineffable pitch of pleasure and joy." In all this, says Edwards, "God designed to accomplish the glory of the blessed Trinity in an exceeding degree" (A History of the Work of Redemption, Yale:125).

An ineffable pitch of pleasure and joy in God! This is his design for you, forever, for his glory. Amen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I never thought of that before

I was preparing for Sunday's message reading through 2 Timothy 1, and something dawned on me. As many times as I have read that book of the Bible, I had never really thought of how God uses the 'weak' things in this world to blow the mind of the 'wise.' What do I mean? I realized that this book, one of the 66 books that the church has recognized down through the ages was not written by a preacher in his office, or a king on his throne, or a scholar at his desk. It was written by a prisoner in jail awaiting execution. We get to overhear his words to his most trusted protege, all the while knowing his time on earth is limited.

God says he uses 'jars of clay' to contain the most precious things. Surely the writing of 2 Timothy has to be an example of that. It seems like a miracle that we would have the privilege of reading the last words of the greatest missionary other than Christ. How awesome is God in the ways he blessed people by giving them His Word for their lives.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Good reminders

As great as our celebration was this past week, I have been reminded that it was like a...
  • Commencement service, actually commencing our activities and ministries, not completing them.
  • Wedding, now the marriage comes.
Sunday, I plan on sharing some new and exciting initiatives that will be launched at OBC with the goal of sharing Christ's love with our community.

Still processing a great day

It has been great to be a part of the OBC family lately. Yesterday, was a humbling and exciting day all rolled up into one. Some highlights...
  • Roaming the halls seeing everyone talking and enjoying each other's company.
  • Seeing the choir come in and fill the risers, and seeing the joy as they sang about our great God.
  • Listening to the band prepare our hearts for worship.
  • Looking out at the entire OBC family in 1 place (not in 3 services). I think there were close to 1000 people there (I am giving the credit to our new assoc. pastor).
  • Seeing the joy on everyone's faces.
  • Having the privilege of being the one to speak on behalf of the church recognizing the architect, builders, and especially our expansion team.
  • Watching the video reminding our church of its past and its future.
  • Being able to share from Luke 15.
  • Calling Jim T.'s wife Nancy instead of Delores. Way to go, Curtis!
  • Sweating like crazy. The room was hot, and the preacher went too long. :-)
  • Meeting MANY family and friends of the OBC members.
  • Having Stan close us in prayer.
  • The Chick-Fil-A brownies as we exited.
  • Singing "God of Justice" and listening as we passionately reminded ourselves that "We Must Go."
  • Reaching our goal (2000+ pairs of socks, nearly 1000 pairs of underwear, and 100+ t-shirts) for the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington.
Many more things about the day will stand out in my mind, but these are a few.

Any others come to mind? Post a comment.