How Do You Spell “Family Night?”


God help me, I know of no other way.

F = Fun. That’s right. We’re going to have fun. Yay!

acrosticA = Adventure. Un huh. Working on it. Pray for my favor with a certain band of recruits I’m wearing down with pastoral guilt to coerce their participation.

M = Ministry. Hear about what God is doing in gospel work inside and outside the church.

I = Inspiration. We’ll do some singing and look into God’s Word for a bit.

L = Love. That’s what fellowship is all about – connecting and loving on one another.

Y = Yelling. Doesn’t every church member/business meeting have some of this? Just kidding. Couldn’t think of anything for the letter “Y”.


N = News. Updates on all kinds of things of interest to OGC peeps who want to be in the know. 

sam_chileI = Indigestion. Well, we are eating chili, aren’t we? Don’t forget the Beano. Can’t believe I wrote that.

G = Guidance.  Direction for where we hope to take these quarterly member meetings in the future for increasing ownership. You didn’t think I would leave that word out of this post, did you? No way.

H = Hospitality. Newcomers are WELCOME! We want you to get an up close and personal look at our church’s character and DNA.

T = Tales. Some of our covenant members will share true stories about the way God is working in their lives and using their gifts. Others of us will pray for them.


There you have it. That’s how I spell “Family Night.” This Sunday evening, February 22, 5 PM. Chili Cook Off in the fellowship hall followed by one of the coolest annual meetings you will ever experience. Childcare for all ages will be provided for the meeting portion of the evening.

Who cares about the Great American Race? That’s why God made DVRs. Just sayin.

Don’t miss FAMILY NIGHT at OGC!

The Joshua Place Playground Update

The Joshua Place

Good Friday. A day of remembrance. The day death died because of the death of the Son of God. I look forward with anticipation to worship this Sunday and remembering the hope of the resurrection from the dead.

Ironic to me that this Good Friday marked the three-month anniversary of a death we continue to mourn – our beloved Joshua. It seems fitting that I would mark that occasion with an encouraging update about our progress on a playground in his memory. Thank you for your patience, family, friends and fans of Josh alike, as wheels in churches tend to turn slowly and we at OGC can be no exception.

I am so very thrilled to report that to date we have received into the fund a whopping $18,192 dollars! God is so good. The budget for the project, even with us doing the “sweat equity,” is $25,000. Yes, safe, durable playgrounds are that pricey!

Last Monday night, our elders agreed on the following in terms of how to proceed from here:

  1. Opportunity for anyone to contribute to the fund will remain open until June 1.
  2. Our deacons will continue to do the prep work involved in getting our ducks in a row for building the playground.
  3. Construction of the project will likely occur in November of this year, after the hot weather breaks. Adequate notice will be given as to the times and dates so anyone who would like to help with the construction will be able to do so.
  4. Construction will be followed by a dedication service as the playground opens for use.

Would you pray with me for the remaining funds to come in? If you have yet to make a gift, you can do so by writing your check to OGC and indicating on the memo line your designation for the playground. My thanks to you in advance.

One reason for the delay in building the playground, other than the funds, is that starting April 20, after the Easter service, Nancy and I will be on sabbatical for two months. There simply wasn’t enough time to try and pull this thing off in the cool of the Spring. So we pushed things back. Again, I thank you for your patience.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me when I return in June or check in with the church office.

Making a Pro-Life Impact

Abortion Clinic

Last Saturday I participated in the sidewalk counseling ministry at the abortion clinic up the street. As you can see by the number of cars in the parking lot, “business” was way too good. The older I get and the longer I live the more convinced I become of the need for God’s people to be salt and light in the area of advocating life for the unborn.

Randy Alcorn prescribes the following to that end:

1. Pray regularly for prolife ministries, churches, mothers, and babies. If the darkness of child-killing is to be overcome, it will require spiritual warfare, fought with humble and persistent prayer (Ephesians 6:10–20).

2. Give regular visibility to the issue of abortion in conversations and in places such as blogs and social media. Scripture says to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves (Proverbs 31:8–9). It’s vitally important that we approach subjects such as abortion in a Christlike manner, full of grace and truth (see John 1:14).

3. Spearhead a pro-life ministry in your church, or find one in your area (visit and consider donating time, money, equipment, clothes, and professional skills.

Orlando Grace supports such a pro-life ministry in True Life Choice, a crisis pregnancy center. This Saturday they will conduct their annual “Walk for Life” to raise funds for their crucial ministry for women dealing with crisis pregnancies. Most of our folks will participate in the Lake Eola version, but I would encourage anyone who can to head out to either of the other venues in the city, if one or the other proves more convenient.

why-pro-life-147One other way to make a pro-life impact is to educate yourself on the topic of abortion. Alcorn has written and excellent book to that end called Why Pro-Life? We have copies in our resource center for only $2! This is a must read for anyone looking to do number two above when the opportunity arises.

Hope to see an army of supporters out walking for life this Saturday!

Reasons to Attend Our Annual Meeting

Gotta love church marquees (and yes, I spelled it wrong in the e-news today!)  Truth be told, attending a church business meeting might seem to many an unpleasant duty at best, a beastly punishment at worst.

May I suggest some things to give you hope that such won’t be the case this Sunday evening at 6 PM when we have our annual congregational meeting?  Let’s begin by dropping the word “business.” I prefer the word “member.” Romans 12:5 says that in the body of Christ we are “individually members one of another.” While we permit visitors to observe our normal member meetings, especially those exploring the possibility of joining with us, these occasions, especially the first one of the year, give those of us in covenant community at OGC the opportunity once again to get on the same page about the priorities of our mission as a body of believers.

And we have some exciting things to report! Deacon Paul Hunt will review the state of our church finances. It will blow you away how good God has been to us!  Elder Chuck Mitchell will cast a vision for the retirement of our mortgage debt so we can do even more ministry in the future. By the way, another benefit of member meetings is keeping leaders accountable. What we do in stewarding the resources God has entrusted to us has a direct impact on the welfare of each of our households. Please shoulder your share of this responsibility by participating if at all possible.

Finally we will hear from various ministry leaders about what God did in 2012 and their vision for 2013. God did some great things for which we want to give thanks. We also want to believe Him for more this year. If you aren’t yet plugged into a ministry at OGC, this will be a terrific way to explore options for the use of your gifts for the sake of the body. I too will share a brief “state of the church” assessment that I hope will encourage you, especially as we wait on God for the changes in our staff situation and our ongoing rebuilding of the walls. Please be in prayer for this Sunday evening. And remember, an hour long prayer time will take place at 4:45 PM in the conference room in preparation for our time together.

Special Guest at OGC

I am pleased to announce that our church will host this month’s gathering of the Spurgeon Fellowship of Florida. The meeting will take place on Thursday morning, January 10, at 10 AM in the fellowship hall. Spurgeon Fellowship is an association of like-minded pastors and churches which meets monthly for prayer, study, and fellowship around the gospel.

We are most fortunate to have as a guest speaker on this occasion, Dr. Sam Waldron. Dr. Waldron is the Academic Dean of the Midwest Center for Theological Studies and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Waldron is a prolific author, including a much beloved-by-me commentary on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Oh, and how could I forget? Dr. Waldron is one of the professors in the newly formed Nicole Institute of Baptist Studies at RTS Orlando.

He will speak on Phil. 2:1-11 and then take questions and share his answers. If anyone from OGC would like to join us for these two hours, you are most welcome!

The Explicit Gospel Tour

Always on the lookout for resources and opportunities to war against the dreadful disease that is gospel amnesia, I gladly commend to our people this event  billed as making the gospel clear for both the non-believer and the Christian.

On Saturday evening, April 21, at Crosspointe Church Orlando, Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor at the Village Church in Dallas Texas, will conclude his six-city tour with an evening service to share the gospel in a winsome and engaging manner, articulating the pertinence of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for both salvation and sanctification.

The purpose of this event is to make the gospel clear not only to nonbelievers, but also to those who have grown up in church their whole lives and aren’t seeing the staggering implications of the good news of grace. Also, Crossway Publishers will be promoting the release of Chandler’s new book, The Explicit Gospel along with other Christian books to help people know Jesus and make Him known.

You can learn more about the event and purchase tickets on line here.

This is a unique opportunity in our back yard. I trust many of our folks might take advantage of it and attend.

Please note: Shane and Shane will not perform at this particular event. Sorry!

Sacred Sending for the Sake of the Name

As we get ready to love on the Armands this Sunday evening in launching them overseas for the global cause of missions, I want to reinforce from the Scripture why I believe it matters that we do this in a first class, all-out way.

In the book of Third John, the apostle commends his beloved friend, Gaius for his gracious hospitality toward missionaries in his midst, but then adds this encouragement in v. 6 – You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

The Greek word for send in the New Testament conveys the idea of fitting out with the requisites for a journey. Titus 3:13 may be the clearest embellishment to this idea of what it means to send: Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. Literally, diligently or zealously send them on their way. To what extent? See that they lack nothing. I like the ESV’s way of putting it – Do your best. And I’ll tell you why.

Back at 3 John 6, the apostle exhorts, You will do well (that’s his way of saying please, kindly, – it was a common idiom of the day) to send them on their journey IN A MANNER WORTHY OF GOD. That is why I entitled this article Sacred Sending. How should we send forth missionaries to their next assignment? In a manner worthy of God. As befits servants of God. As if we were sending forth God Himself. The way we treat missionaries says something about the way we treat God Himself. It is no small matter to consider whether or not we will do our best when it comes to launching the Armands out for the sake of the name.

At the end of John Piper’s book, Let the Nations Be Glad, Tom Stellar writes about this phrase:

This elevates the importance of sending as high as can be imagined. It is a commandment of God (notice the “ought” of verse 8). The reason we must send them in a manner worthy of God is that they go out for the sake of the Name. The Name of God is at stake in how we treat our missionaries. God is glorified when we support them substantially with our prayers, our money, our time, and myriad other practical ways (notice the “whatever” in v. 5). God is not glorified when our missionaries are simply a name on the back of the church bulletin or a line item in the budget.

So, dear ones, won’t you join us for the celebration send off this Sunday night (see details further in the enews)? Won’t you prayerfully consider what you might give toward their transition needs? Although they have raised the full amount of $5000 toward these expenses as required by Wycliffe, that does not include, for some reason, their travel costs in terms of air fare and luggage fees. Those amount to about $3000. You may give on Sunday morning or that evening if you have yet to do so.

Let us pray together that through our generosity we will send them on their way in a manner worthy of God so that they lack nothing.

Why Celebrate Reformation Day?

Better known for Halloween in our culture, October 31 marks the anniversary of Martin Luther’s bold and courageous posting of his 95 theses on the Wittenburg Church door in 1517. The dominoes toppled from that point on culminating in what we know as the Protestant Reformation.

Last night folks from our church gathered for a family-friendly, interactive-learning, fun-filled and creative celebration of this oh-so-important date in church history. Many thanks to all who served to make the evening so memorable and worthwhile!

At the outset of the evening, I spoke briefly as to why I believe we simply must as a church shaped by reformed theology mark Reformation Day with some sort of observance and celebration. In a nutshell, it is because all that was recovered for God’s people in the radical departure from the doctrinal and ecclesiastical aberrations of Roman Catholicism.

We need only look at the five solas of the Reformation to summarize what Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Zwingly, et al managed with God’s help to restore to Christianity.

Sola Scriptura – scripture alone. We got the Bible back as the sole source of divine authority. No pope, no council, no confession, no creed can bind the conscience. Only God’s word can. Unless all of the above conform to holy scripture, we should bear them no heed.

Solus Christus – Christ alone. We got the gospel back. The real gospel. Instead of a Christ plus human effort – baptism, church attendance, indulgences, giving alms, etc., we saw recovered the only thing that will actually save lost sinners – the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Without the declaration of this precious truth,  a so-called gospel is no gospel, no good news at all.

Sola Gracia – grace alone. We got sovereign grace back. This recovery goes hand-in-glove with the previous one. The Reformation recovered the majesty of God in His sovereignty and the glory of His grace in that due to man’s sinful condition inherited from Adam leaving him unable to do anything on his own to remedy his condition, only by God’s electing, calling, and justifying of His own good pleasure is there hope for any member of the human race.

Sola Fide – faith alone. We got the chief article back. This became the rally cry of the Reformation. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Reformers never tired of declaring justification by this formula. Where would we be without the reformation restoring to us this precious truth: justification is the act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone?

Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be the glory. We got the centrality of God’s glory back. The Reformation returned us to Rom. 11:36. All things are from God and to God, especially our salvation, so we must cry to God alone be the glory.

To my grief I have gone far too many years in a near forty year walk with Christ ignoring Reformation Day. No longer. Two years and counting. I am committed to this observance for as many years as the Lord will allow me to live. If you sing things like Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling, I would urge you to do the same.

For a couple of excellent blog posts from others on this Reformation day click here and here.

A Theology of Horrible Things

Like the rest of you, I suspect, Nancy and I have remained glued to the TV the last twenty-four hours watching the horrific images coming out of Japan after the devastating earthquake hit yesterday afternoon. Not even one week’s vacation to rural NC will allow an entire escape from reality in our age of near instantaneous global communication.

In the interest of rest and ministering to Nan’s dear aging mother, I have kept blogging at arm’s length thus far. But catastrophic events like 8.9 magnitude earthquakes demand some kind of pastoral comment, particularly when one’s church hosts students from Japan at the same time their homeland gets rocked by creation groaning beneath the weight of the futility to which God has subjected it (see Romans passage below).

Rather than give my own take from the Scriptures for biblical perspective on the crisis and in the interest of preserving as much rest as we can summon from our week-long trip, I will turn to Dr. R. C. Sproul for his help. My mother-in-law happens to keep a copy of his book Now, That’s a Good Question! on one of her book shelves.

He answers the question Why does God let random shootings, fatal accidents, and other horrible things occur? this way:

Since we believe that God is the author of this planet and is sovereign over it, it’s inevitable that we ask where he is when these terrible things take place. I think the Bible answers that over and over again from different angles and in different ways. We find our first answer, of course, in the book of Genesis, in which we’re told of the fall of humanity. God’s immediate response to the transgression of the human race against his rule and authority was to curse the earth and human life. Death and suffering entered the world as a direct result of sin. We see the concrete manifestation of this in the realm of nature, where thorns become part of the garden and human life is now characterized by the sweat of the brow and the pain that attends even the birth of a baby. This illustrates the fact that the world in which we live is a place that is full of sorrows and tragedy. But we must never conclude that there’s a one-to-one correlation in this life between suffering and the guilt of the people on whom tragedies fall. If there were no sin in the world, there would be no suffering. There would be no fatal accidents, no random shootings. Because sin is present in the world, suffering is present in the world, but it doesn’t always work out that if you have five pounds of guilt, you’re going to get five pounds of suffering. That’s the perception that the book of Job labors to dispel, as does Jesus’ answer to the question about the man born blind ( John 9:1-11). On the other hand, the Bible makes it clear that God lets these things happen and in a certain sense ordains that they come to pass as part of the present situation that is under judgment. He has not removed death from this world. Whether it’s what we would consider an untimely death or a violent death, death is part of the nature of things. The only promise is that there will come a day when suffering will cease altogether. The disciples asked Jesus about similar instances—for example, the Galileans’ blood that was mingled with the sacrifices by Pilate or the eighteen people who were killed when a temple collapsed. The disciples asked how this could be. Jesus’ response was almost severe. He said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” again bringing the question back to the fact that moral wickedness makes it feasible for God to allow these kinds of dreadful things to take place in a fallen world.

As we engage various people about the situation in Japan, let’s watch for opportunities to bring, with sensitivity, a biblical worldview to bear on the conversation when the Lord opens the door for the same.

People may not like the answer, but the Word of God does speak to a theology of horrible things meant to lead ultimately to another theology, the good news of the gospel of Jesus, who will deliver creation from its groaning by making all things new, including us (Romans 8:19-24).

Wanted: Weekend Warriors

Don’t know any other way to characterize my weekend.

Today at 3 PM – Allmand/Taylor wedding.

Tomorrow at 8:30 AM – prayer on the property.

Tomorrow at 9:30 AM – adult equipping hour teaching – So Many Questions: How to Answer Common Questions about Christianity.

Tomorrow at 10:45 AM – worship service preaching – Faith’s Ultimate Display (Part Two), from John 12:1-11.

Tomorrow at 6 PM – annual congregational meeting – state of the church at OGC.

Have already scheduled a complete meltdown for Monday.

Anyone care to join the fray?