Where Was This When We Were Raising Kids?

We start a new round of Equipping Hour classes this Sunday. I’m excited about all four offerings.

I get to teach another newcomers class. You can read my blog post about that here.

James Harvey will tackle the church history elective. I expect that will be a rich journey through the ages of God’s work among His people.

Pastor Mike and Ben Hamilton will lead the evangelism and mercy ministry class, always a gospel-shaped, practical treatment of our calling to bend the gospel outwards as followers of Jesus.

For our parents, we have Chuck and Pam Mitchell facilitating the Paul Tripp DVD curriculum entitled Getting to the Heart of Parenting. I was moved by the video promo shown on Sunday and included it at the top of this post for any who missed it. May I strongly encourage our Dads and Moms to take advantage of this unique teaching content? How I wish I had thought and acted in these categories when Nancy and I were bringing up our sons.

Hope to see as many of you as possible this Sunday, April 26, at 9:30 AM!

Up Next from the Pulpit


peace_making_church_sm

With the Gospel of John in the rear view mirror, the question comes “What’s next at Orlando Grace?” In the short term, as I mentioned in last Sunday’s message (listen here), I will tackle a topical series called “The Peacemaking Church: Striving for Excellence in Preserving Unity in the Body of Christ.” We’ll look at passages that suggest the best church fight we will ever have is the one we never actually experience. I hope to kick things up a notch or two in the quest for a culture of peace at OGC.

Come the New Year I hope to plunge headlong into the book of Genesis for the next expository series. Now I know what some of people are thinking. If John with its twenty-one chapters took as long as it did, how in the world will he ever finish the fifty chapters of Genesis before he starts using a walker? Good question. Let me remind you that most of the first book of the Bible is narrative in nature. One can make much faster tracks in that genre than in didactic portions. Anyway, I plan to try to move at a quicker pace just as I did in my series from First Samuel back before John.

I would very much appreciate prayer for these preaching endeavors that God would give me favor in doing my best to present myself as a workman who does not need to be ashamed handling accurately the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

The 10:45 AM Sunday Challenge

Clocks

Let me own up front that I am a punctuality freak. I hate to be late for anything.

So I am trying to check my idolatry/control issues up front in raising this question: could more of us church folk strive to be seated for worship at the very latest by the appointed starting time?

I get how hard this is. In our case, fifteen minutes is too little time between hours. Fellowship goes on in the lobby. Community takes place. There are no easy solutions.

But I want to suggest that the values gained by making the transition into the service in a punctual fashion outweigh those lost by doing so.

First, the missional value. Most new people will go right to a seat rather than linger in the lobby. Scanning the room for unfamiliar faces and greeting them has a powerful impact for the gospel.

Second, the community value. I know it’s tempting to think so, but announcements aren’t throw away time in a worship service. Important details about how we engage as members and do mission in our city get covered then.

Third, the worship value. Getting the heart in the right place before corporate worship takes at least a little focus time. Once the service is over, we can go hard after people. Before the service, going hard after God in preparation is a must. One reason why we do a call to worship song at 10:45 is to help with this challenge. Next time you hear that cue, please consider it a nudge to shift gears toward the welfare of the whole not just the individual. Better yet, be mindful of the time and take a seat before that cue.

We pastors everywhere thank you church goers for giving this some prayerful thought.

January 12, 2014 at OGC

front-prayer

Big day tomorrow!

Note: it’s a name tag Sunday. Grab one on your way in and help make community easier for all.

8:30 AM – Prayer time in the conference room. Always up for newcomers to help us with intercession.

9:30 AM – Equipping Hour for all ages. Adult discipleship classes include Reformed Theology, New Testament, and Biblical Finances.

10:45 AM – Worship Service. I’m preaching on 1 Thess. 5:16-18, a message called “The Jewelry of Grace.” I plan to focus on v. 17 and what it means to pray without ceasing. Here’s how Charles Spurge0n tied joy, prayer, and giving thanks together:

When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude. When we joy in God for what we have, and believingly pray to him for more, then our souls thank him both in the enjoyment of what we have, and in the prospect of what is yet to come. Those three texts are three companion pictures, representing the life of a true Christian, the central sketch is the connecting link between those on either side. These three precepts are an ornament of grace to every believer’s neck, wear them every one of you, for glory and for beauty; “Rejoice evermore;” “Pray without ceasing;” “in everything give thanks.”

At the end of the service we will receive twelve new members into the body. Be sure to greet them in the receiving line after the service and join us for a reception in the fellowship hall.

6:00 PM – Concert of Prayer in the conference room. We will resume our monthly times of intercession. Special emphasis on Japan given the Homestay ministry coming up next month.

Looking forward to a great Lord’s Day with God’s people!

This Sunday, January 5, at OGC

sunday

Just a few thoughts about this Sunday, January 5, at OGC:

One, back to the regular schedule. Prayer at 8:30 AM, Equipping Hour for adults and Sunday School for kids at 9:30 AM, and worship service at 10:45 AM.

Two, three new EH adult discipleship classes start including Reformed Theology (W1), New Testament (W5), and Biblical Finance (F4). Praise Factory and Big Questions and Answers for kids resume as well. Nursery care as usual.

Three, worship service starts with a John Piper sermon jam at about 10:41 AM. Yes, you read that right.  A video sermon jam. You won’t want to miss that. Be on time! Don’t know what a sermon jam is? Come and find out.

Four, I will preach my first of two New Year’s messages from Mark 12:18-27. The title of the message is “What Would Jesus Ask?” My apologies to our friends with the WWJD movement. Pray with me for the Lord to show up with power. Every message from God’s word matters, but these pacesetting messages at the beginning of every year have the potential to influence us in unusual ways as we set priorities anew and afresh.

Five, the Lord’s Supper will follow the message. Be sure to prepare your heart.

Should be a great day by God’s grace.

On a different note, our year end giving was strong! God is good through the faithfulness of His people. We made up the shortfall on actual expenses and a bit of the overall budget. Specific numbers will come later. Thank you for your generosity.

This morning I began my day reviewing one of the most powerful promises in the Bible (Romans 8:31-32, ESV). I commend it to you for shaping your thoughts as another year begins: 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 

God has already done the harder thing. He has given you His Son. What can you possibly imagine does not fall under the comprehensive promise umbrella of His “all things” for you in 2014?

How to Pray in Light of Abortion

Another Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is upon us tomorrow.

If you wish to meditate in advance on my text for the sermon, please see Genesis 9:1-7. The title of the sermon is Why God’s Blessing Means Making Babies Not Murdering Them.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to know how to pray redemptively in light of the scourge of abortion beyond the obvious.

Scotty Smith, pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, a frequent blogger for the Gospel Coalition, posted a helpful piece entitled A Prayer of Advocacy for Unborn Children. In it he expresses the following concerns and requests:

  1. For the courage and compassion to live as faithful advocates for human life.
  2. For the gospel compassion necessary to care for the women and men whose stories are marked by abortion – either as victims or agents.
  3. For wisdom to know how to love and serve those who have had to give up their children before birth to the heartbreak of miscarriage and stillbirth.
  4. For grace to open our hearts and homes to the millions of orphaned children who have made it safely into the world – that our zeal against abortion be matched by our zeal for adoption.

To read his entire prayer, which I wholeheartedly commend to you, click here.

Piper Passion 2013 Disclaimer & OGC Equipping Hour

Wondering how those two things connect?

Let me explain. Pastor John Piper spoke in Atlanta this week at Passion 2013 just as he always does. His message was vintage Piper – a call to Christian hedonism from Hebrews 10, 11, & 12.

The next day, Louie Giglio, Passion’s host, gave a Piper disclaimer during the announcement time. He recalled at the first Passion so many years ago how Piper spoke on the deep things of God in that unique and challenging way he typically does. He told us after that first message somebody came to him and said something to the effect of “All that stuff Piper said last night went right over our heads.” To which Giglio replied, “Isn’t that great!” He then went on to exhort the 60,000 plus of us in the Georgia Dome not to settle for the trend today in some teaching to dumb down the great mysteries of the sovereign God by putting them on the lower shelf. Rather he would have us reach high for those same things with careful, rigorous thought through teaching like Piper’s that fosters it. It was a good, solid word for all to hear.

Now for my connection to our equipping hour. Tomorrow we start a new quarter in our discipleship scope and sequence during the 9:30 hour with three offerings that will challenge us to reach high for the mysteries of God and His word. Scott Devor will teach Systematic Theology Two – Spirit, Church, and Last Things. Will Powell will tackle Old Testament 1 – Creation to United Kingdom. And Ted Herrbach will lead an extremely practical class called How to Study the Bible. I guarantee you, without apology, that these offerings will stimulate us with careful, rigorous thought as we pursue the deep mysteries of God, His Word, and His church.

Here’s one very practical way that we get to love God with all our mind (Luke 10:27).

Hope to see you in one of these classes tomorrow morning as we go deeper by reaching higher.

Sanctity of Life & Population Control

Tomorrow is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. I have given over the pulpit to David Wooten, my friend, new member at OGC, and staff member at Embrace By Grace, a Christian adoption ministry in Casselberry. I look forward to what my brother will bring from the word in Genesis tomorrow on the subject of being made in the image of God.

I find it a bit ironic that Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, always the third Sunday of January from year to year, coincides with my neighborhood book club on Monday where we will discuss Peter Hessler’s intriguing work River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. The book documents Hessler’s two year stint with the Peace Corps in the city of Fuling, China, teaching English in the local university. The book started slow for me but gradually picked up with the author’s descriptive abilities in writing and the various subjects upon which he touched.

Among them in China, of course, was the matter of the government policy prohibiting the citizens from having more than one child. To exceed that limit, according to Hessler, invites stiff consequences of various kinds. He writes:

The going rate for a second child was More than ten thousand yuan, at least in the countryside close to the college. In the city it was rare that anybody got to the point where she paid this fine–if a woman was pregnant with her second child, she would be threatened with the loss of her job. . . . and having a second child could result in a woman’s being forced to undergo sterilization surgery (p. 261).

Knowing the bent of some of my neighbors, I anticipate that this subject will come up in our discussion. In the interest of preparing for the conversation, I did a bit of research on the question of population control and came across this excellent article entitled, Population Growth as Blessing or Blight. In it E. Calvin Beisner dismisses some of the emotional rhetoric surrounding the controversy with statistical evaluation, biblical exegesis, and sound ethical argumentation. For example, he contends:

People are not machines; they cannot be programmed and expected to behave as ordered. They have imagination, hopes and fears, emotions, volitions, and goals. These and many other determinants of human action change relative to a constantly changing environment. Begetting and bearing babies are human actions, and like all other human actions they are determined by humans’ constantly changing hopes, fears, goals, and choices. In a world in which so many things change so rapidly, it is intellectual suicide for anyone to pretend to predict with accuracy and reliability what large numbers of people will do over long periods of time.

To read the entire article click here.

Tomorrow as we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day may we celebrate the God who made us in Him image AND told us to be fruitful and multiply WITHOUT entertaining fears that somehow obeying God will jeopardize the planet. It never has been the case and never will be.

Thanksgiving Sharing Service

The sharing of many of our people in our thanksgiving service for their gratitude to God in easy and hard providences alike this year is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

As was copied in our bulletin this morning, here is the Puritan Valley of Vision prayer for praise and thanksgiving:

O MY GOD,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unseal,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing sense to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrow and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou are to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

May God grant us grace to give praise and thanks of similar substance this Thursday and every day.

WTLN Interview with Pastor Curt

For one of their recent Church-of-the-Week programs, WTLN, 950 AM, Orlando, chose to feature, as they have done in the past, Orlando Grace. They aired a message from The Graces of Gospel-Shaped Community series called The Grace of Clothing with Humility from 1 Peter 4:19-5:7. You can listen to the audio of that message here.

Before broadcasting the message, they played a recording of an interview with me about my ministry and the ministry of our church. If you missed that program the afternoon of October 30, you can listen to the interview audio here.

My thanks to Bill Rhoden of the radio station for his kindness in making the copy available to us at OGC.