Last Sunday, February 23, was an historic day in the life of our church. There was a positive, energetic and prayer-filled spirit. There was a strong attendance for our very first 10 o’clock worship service. The new monitors worked like they were supposed to, Dr. David Willets brought an excellent message, and the new Pastors’ Class was well received. Our 11:15 Sunday School hour more than doubled our Bible Study attendance. The Monte Los Olivos congregation filled the two center sections of the Sanctuary for their 11:15 worship service. About 40 children and teenagers were welcomed to their new Sunday School classrooms. To God be the Glory.
In 2012, by faith, we invited GracePoint Church to minister with us. The People’s Pantry was relocated to our building and our Clothes Closet ministry was reestablished. Last year we began a deeper Wednesday evening ministry with the Pantry and our neighbors. Ben Shepard offered to provide a Wednesday evening meal for anyone who participated in the Pantry ministry. The effort has expanded with a number of faithful workers coming along side to help with the meal for our neighbors. We work together delivering Meals on Wheels, singing in the choir and worshiping together. On Wednesday evenings Monte Los Olivos has added a 7:00 p.m. Prayer Service, and Youth and Children’s Bible programs. Great things He has done.
There continues to be lots of preparation work behind the scenes to allow God to use our church to proclaim a greater witness to our community. By intention there are three things that we are not doing: 1) we are not merging churches; 2) we are not combining budgets; 3) we are not changing any church names. We are networking together. We are working alongside each other to promote our common ministries and mission efforts. We are launching more intentional discipleship training and evangelistic efforts across the congregations and into our neighborhood. So loved He the world that He gave us His Son.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
When I was in the seventh grade I was introduced to the Baptist Study Course Book. Our family had moved from the Methodist church into Baptist life—baptism by immersion for all. We became wholeheartedly Baptist. Soon I was attending something called Training Union. This, I later discovered, was the discipleship and leadership training program for all believers. We each received little hard-covered gray books of our very own. Most of them were overviews of the various books of the Bible, with questions to be answered at the end of each chapter. All of the Study Course books were written by prominent pastors or seminary professors. Some of these books covered Baptist distinctives, beliefs, and church life. For many years I dutifully wrote out my answers to each question. By the time I was 14 years old I was being asked to help teach Royal Ambassadors, and then a Fifth Grade boys Sunday School class.
We usually held one church-wide study course per year, followed by quarterly studies in Training Union. In Oklahoma the thousands of teenagers who attended the Falls Creek Assembly each summer also studied these topics. In the seventies the Falls Creek books included the new songs of the times and were paperbacks with psychedelic covers designed to make them look “hip,” and all of the young people received official credit for completing the book. But many complained, adults included, that study courses were a lot like school work and participation went the way of Training Union. What remained became the January Bible Study, an annual opportunity to delve Biblically deeper together as a congregation.
Church-wide discipleship and leader development, I believe, have suffered from the loss of these deeper studies. Historically Baptists have turned discipleship and deeper Bible study over to the Sunday School, which is now going the way of Training Union for most church members. I encourage you to consider connecting to consistent study of God’s Word.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Grow Biblically deeper. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
PS If you live in the area, I encourage you to participate in our Winter Bible Study on The Beatitudes of Jesus this week led by an outstanding teacher of God’s Word, Dr. Wendell Lang. Braden Park Baptist Church, 5th Street and Yale, Tulsa, Ok. Sunday January 13, 10:50 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday evenings, January 14 and 15, at 6:45 p.m.
Sixteen tons and what do you get? Anyone born before 1955 can tell you the answer to that question. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of the song “Sixteen Tons” sold two million copies in less than two months! Americans identified with the tale of a coal miner so deep in debt that he could not afford to die. You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store. . .
When I was in college I served a church that was built for the employees of a lumber mill. It was named for the mill owner who also had built all of the workers’ little houses. The company store sold all of the groceries, dry goods and liquor the people wanted. The costs were deducted from their paychecks, and so was their rent. They could also get paycheck loans and advances. The railroad tracks divided the company town racially so there was a black church and a white church. Yet most of these same people tithed, so their church could have a fulltime pastor and part-time music/youth director. They gave to missions, paid their utilities, bought Sunday School literature for everyone, mailed out a newsletter and had wonderful potluck dinners.
Sometimes we forget that the good old days were a whole lot like today, only with less stuff and quaint technology. The preachers warned against a growing materialism that was leading us down a path of greed, selfishness and heartache. Today will be the good old days of our grandchildren. What life lessons are they learning? What examples of Christian commitment do they see? When the pressures of money, work or family seem to drown us in the depths of stress, to whom do you owe your very soul?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be a role model. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
You know that Scripture verse that says, “Consider the lilies of the field how they toil not…”—How come that doesn’t happen in my backyard? We have been working in the flowerbeds around our house. We pulled weeds and grass, planted begonias and marigolds, took pity on the lovely winter pansies and let them stay in full bloom until the heat takes over for good. With much help from our son-in-law, we mulched the six beds and two large flower pots. Our little vegetable garden has the two items I can usually grow: tomatoes and onions. Maybe next year I will add something daring like bell peppers. But if I want tomatoes in July, I must plant them by late April. This year we had some interesting weather, so it was mid-May by the time our tomatoes were planted. Now all I have left is to plant this year’s Easter lilies so they can blossom next spring.
It is the growing season. The grass needs mowing, pollen is blowing, and my eyes keep watering. Beauty is all around us. A large toad lives in my vegetable garden and a smaller one lives out in the front yard. I’ve gone to no expense on insect control. Most nights the neighborhood opossum is digging in the flowerbeds looking for grub worms, and now the community ducks have learned to recognize my car, expecting more birdseed in the dish out back. We have a nest of red finches hatching in the birdhouse on the patio. They do not like us to linger too long outside.
It is the growing season for Christians and churches as well. Easter, Mother’s Day and soon Vacation Bible School all represent the spring/summertime opportunities to work the soil, plant new seed, nurture tender lives, protect the fruit and prepare for the harvest. But there is much for the gardeners to do. How is your garden doing?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Help grow your church. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I’ve gotten used to free access to the internet. I like the idea of being able to find the information that I need almost anywhere. So I have become aware of the places that provide free internet access to their patrons. In that process, I have discovered a growing divide among our area eating establishments.
Some restaurants are taking an inclusive view by allowing everyone access to the internet, whether on their laptop computers or cell phones, versus the other point of view. Virtually all coffee shops now provide free internet access. All of the major casual dining restaurants, like McAlister’s, Burger King, etc. seem to provide it. Yet there is this other more exclusive view.
One neighborhood restaurant owner tells me he does not want his customers surfing the web and drinking coffee. He wants them to buy their meal, eat it and make way for the next person. He is about selling meals rather than providing work/play space for people. He also believes his customers do not want internet access. Maybe he is right. Other managers tell me they would rather have people walk in and see lots of activity at the tables. They feel it makes their place look more friendly, busy and alive. They are selling “meals plus” for their customers. Maybe they are on to something.
I eat out often, so I am always confronted by these two views. Include or exclude those who want to multitask during lunch. I find that I am choosing the more inclusive places, whether I use the free internet or not. I like the idea of places where people can experience more than just a good meal or a good cup of coffee. This also applies to ideas about church. Are we providing church plus?
Some people will self-exclude, expressing their preference for something else, just like picking a restaurant or listening to a certain style of music. In the church, though, we need to allow people multiple opportunities to grow spiritually and serve faithfully. If church is just about getting customers in and out of the building on Sunday mornings, then church has become an exclusive preference for some and a barrier to Christ for others.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Take down a barrier. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
While going through a drawer, Dorothy found a booklet of household hints and cooking advice. This booklet probably belonged to Dorothy’s mother and was compiled by someone in Austria. There is a disclaimer to the effect that the compiler does not want to be sued for “any possible damage or injury resulting from use of these ‘secrets’ whatsoever.” Here are a few examples of household hints from the good old days:
• Bottles can be cleaned thoroughly by adding pieces of raw potato, crushed egg shells, or coarse sand to a baking soda solution in the bottles and shaking them.
• New iron pots and pans should not be used before having been washed in lukewarm water to which a little sulfuric acid has been added. This solution may remain for a few hours, but should be very carefully washed and rinsed out.
• Curdled milk will turn smooth if boiled once more after adding one or two pinches of potash.
• To keep cherries until Christmas, pick cherries with gloved hands, place in a new stone crock which should be closed with a pig’s bladder.
I would rather be living in today’s world than in any other of the “good old days.” I do know some people who seem to want their lives to be like a Graceland—just like it was when Elvis lived there. Some people would like their church to zip back in time to the good old days. Take a reality check on the good old church of yesterday. The youth group from 1967 is entering their sixties. The church of today must answer the call of today. That call is not found in the good old days—unless we still store some potash and pig bladders in the pantry.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Embrace today’s church. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
P.S. I did find one helpful hint for today’s penny pincher: Leftover coffee or tea can be frozen in ice-cube trays. Later these cubes make delicious iced coffee or tea. Now all I need is to find where I put those ice cube trays.
The last church where I served on staff during my college days was located in a sleepy little town just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The decades-old church had recently completed a modern new sanctuary. It was built mostly in the round, with the pulpit located directly under the skylight in the middle of the roof. The church roof was circular and pointed to the sky. The church owned the attached community cemetery. Life was peaceful but things were changing.
It was the late 1960s. Birmingham had experienced a number of dramatic racial incidents. This little community consisted of people living mostly on small farms and in semi-rural homes. Because people had started to move from the city to this town, the church felt it could afford a new church building. The schools started to grow but the new families continued to drive back to their churches. All of the new people in town and the cultural changes that were happening created a general uneasiness. The pastor, staff and deacons met one night to talk about this.
The problem seemed to be that people were buying old houses and spending a lot of money to fix them up, or they were tearing down the old places and building new ones, then leaving town on Sundays and not supporting the local church (namely theirs). The discussion seemed to be along the lines of: we need these new people to come join our church so they can give us the money we need to pay the mortgage. The pastor had a solution that most in the room agreed with: “What we need is another Great Depression that will bring people back to God!”
Flash forward over forty years. Today that church finds itself in a highly desirable suburb of Birmingham with great access to freeways and shopping malls. Praying for another great depression and enlisting new members to help pay the bills, though, has proven to be a poor strategy. The church with the cemetery stayed inwardly focused and sits almost forgotten by its community. Outreach and witnessing to the un-churched is not about fundraising. It’s about a life changing through Jesus.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be someone’s life-changing witness. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.