This Sunday, January 5, at OGC


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?

Family Meeting Summary

I meant to do this post last week as a follow up to our our congregational meeting of 6/23/13. Best laid plans. Better late than never.

If you missed the meeting for whatever reason, here is a summary of what we covered:

Budget Update
Presently we are are roughly $35,000 down relative to what we had budgeted and forecasted for giving for the year-to-date.  The good news is that we are mindful of these things and in terms of what we have spent year-to- date we are only $4,000 behind giving.  That said, it is never our desire to be behind in giving relative to the budget and certainly not our desire to be behind relative to our actual expenses.  Please remember our church in all your giving and be mindful of us during all your summer travel plans. I am pleased to report that yesterday’s giving met our weekly budget requirements, even with a special love offering for Greg and Christina. Thanks be to God. Still, we will continue to watch carefully the numbers . If necessary, we will take a hard look at where we can cut the budget. We will keep you posted.

Capital Campaign Update
Our three-year capital campaign, which came to an end in May, was a huge success!  94% of what was pledged was received ($224k received of $239k pledged).  In addition, the efforts to receive outside funds and non-pledged monies was also fruitful, yielding $117k in additional monies to retire our debt.  63% of all pledged givers gave at least 75% of what they pledged and many gave 100% or more of their pledged gift.  A huge thank you to all the people that gave sacrificially above and beyond their tithe to help in this fashion. Leadership plans to bring a proposal to us in the future for debt retirement, but we are waiting a bit on that so as not to be a church always in capital campaign mode that wears people out.
Worship Music Transition Update
As the elders faced the prospect of losing Greg from the mix, several considerations came into play. Given a variety of factors affecting the possible folks within the body who might have assumed responsibility for this important ministry and the budget constraints, it became clear to us that Susan Woods was God’s provision for the role. For this we remain very grateful. That being said, we recognize that change brings challenges. We ask that we all be patient with the process. Also, we have built into the transition feedback loops so as to ensure regular evaluation about how things are going. Part of that includes an option for Susan to withdrawal at the three-month mark, if the fit proves unacceptable for her and her family. Furthermore we recognize that we have a need for more musicians to join the mix, particularly at guitar and in leading. We are working on trying to pull others into the team. Finally, we exhort all of us to embrace the opportunity for maintaining a peacemaking ethic in the way we navigate dealing with what arguably can prove pretty tricky for churches. Music preferences often vary greatly in any congregation. We have an opportunity to defer to one another. Let us speak the truth in love as we engage one another in conversation about things. Please refrain from jumping to conclusions about any matters pertaining to the transition. If you have a comment or question, please address them to your elder. We will be glad to help in any way we can. A meeting of the worship team itself has been called for July 13 where I and another elder will meet with the members to discuss the process and pray together for God’s favor. I made this statement in that meeting and I want to repeat it here. I am almost as interested in the success of this transition as I am in what will be revealed in our hearts by the way we deal with it. I constantly battle making my ministry an idol. I want things to go well. When we hit turbulence, my reactions sometimes reveal my demanding, sinful heart. I/we need to be vigilant over our hearts as we seek to come together as a church to see what God has in mind for our worship and music ministry in the days ahead.
So on all three counts – the operational budget, debt retirement, and our music transition, please join me in praying for God’s favor, wisdom, and direction. Many thanks.

Christmas Shoeboxes for Marines in Afghanistan

We are preparing a large package made up of individual shoeboxes to be sent to our own Daniel Pilling’s marine unit in Afghanistan on Monday, November 26.

Items needed include: small paperback Bibles, paperback Christian books such as Pilgrim’s Progress, Slim Jim snacks (jerky), sunflower seeds, nuts, non-perishable snacks, hand warmer packs, Chap Stick, lotion, shaving cream, disposable razors, toothbrushes, deodorant, toothpaste, Q-tips, hard candy, personal cards/thank you’s to the servicemen, and any other small items that will fit in a shoebox.

Plastic shoebox size boxes are preferred.

Bring donations this Sunday and next, or deliver to the church (be sure to call ahead to see if someone is on site).

Questions, contact Bob Travelstead,, 407-767-0617.

Another Financial Update

As with last week, we asked the deacons to tabulate the offering from Christmas Day so as to keep the body informed about our progress to close the 2011 budget year with a strong finish.

The total for our general fund giving  for 12/25 was $6083.

While that is about $1000 below our weekly budget needs, I consider it a strong offering for a holiday Sunday where attendance was significantly less than usual given the traveling of so many of our folks. Call me a glass half-full kind of pastor, if you like.

Also, not reflected in both this amount and the previous week’s accounting are any gifts that have come in through the mail. Teddie stopped the daily mail delivery during her two week vacation so we will not have an idea of where we actually finished until she returns to the office next week.

Please remember that you can still make a yearend gift if God so leads. As long as it is postmarked on or before December 31, it will still be credited to this fiscal year.

Thanks again on behalf of the elders and deacons for your faithful stewardship as covenant members at OGC!

Brief Financial Update

With Teddie out of the office for two weeks of vacation here at the end of the year, we won’t deposit offerings from last Sunday or this Sunday until the first week of January 2012. However we didn’t want to fail to report giving in light of our yearend ask letter that went out a few weeks ago.

The totals from December 18th’s offering were:

General Fund:  $9,031.75
Building Fund:  $6,245.00

Praise God for His faithfulness through the generous giving of His people! We continue to make progress by God’s grace in lowering our budget deficit numbers.

We will not collect an offering on Christmas Eve this Saturday night, but we will have the offering as usual during our Christmas Day service at 10:45 AM on Sunday.

Also, please remember that yearend gifts sent via mail must be postmarked by December 31, 2011 to count for this budget year.

Finally, please continue to pray for God’s provision as we believe Him for a strong finish financially in 2011.

Making Much of Missions at Advent

I find myself often praying portions of Philippians 2:5-11 with folks during this Christmas season.

Where would we be if the Son of God had not counted equality with God a thing to be grasped and had abhorred the virgin’s womb? Lost – eternally, horribly, hellishly lost.

But the news is good! He humbled himself, took on the form of a bondservant, became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. None of which He could have accomplished if He hadn’t come. None of which He could have accomplished if the Father hadn’t sent Him.

No gospel-motivated missionary on the planet fails to get the significance of this. They have gone to the ends of the earth because the Father sent the Son to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). That means, for me and for my house, among other things, that we must remember missions and missionaries during the Advent season.

One way we have sought to do that practically, along with the partnership of our OGC growth group, is to collaborate together to send a Christmas care package to the Valiquette family serving in Salerno, Italy with the Acts 29 Network in church planting.

Last Tuesday evening our group gathered around a bunch of gifts we had purchased and wrote Christmas cards to Jutty, Abbey, and the children in an effort to remind them they have a sending church at home that loves them and supports them in their gospel endeavors.

Whether you do something on your own or in cooperation with a group, before the season completely escapes you, might you also take some initiative as a sender to bless a goer on some field, whether an OGC missionary or not?

If you choose to go the care package route, here is some helpful counsel I found online for your consideration:

Ask the missionary before sending your care package. This is important for a few different reasons.  First, there are some things for which the missionary may end up having to pay a duty or other tax.  Second, if the missionary is in a sensitive location, they may prefer certain things to be delivered to a different address (to be hand-carried in).  And finally, you may be sending the missionary something which they can already get in country.  We were once sent toothpaste and a large box of tissues – both of which are in abundance where we were.  Try to find out from the missionary what items they really can’t get where they are.  Trust me, most will not be shy about telling someone what they really want if they are asked!

One other thought. These days finances seem to constrain a great deal. You may not find yourself in a position to do anything that costs you money. But don’t let that rule you out in terms of making some gesture to encourage someone on the mission field. Send a note, write an email, but connect in some way.

Let them know you care about their/your cause and that this Christmas you praise God they have gone to where they have gone in the name of the Sent One who came for the lost.

Faith’s Ultimate Display (Part Two)

Today’s message from John 12:1-11 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I closed the sermon:

So, do we get it? Compared to Mary we have so much more to go on this side of the cross! If we do get it, if we understand the truth of what Jesus has done and it grips us such that we believe in Him as the Messiah, our Savior, it will lead to commitment marked like hers with even extravagant devotion – intensely personal, financially sacrificial, extremely deferential, publically unconventional, and spiritually insightful attachment.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, said this:

There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.

Let everything else go, but maintain your personal relationship to Jesus at all costs.

Why Giving Makes Sense at Christmas & Always

Last night’s Christmas Eve message from 2 Cor. 8:1-9 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is the quote from Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) with which I closed the sermon:

And shall we not pause and bestow a thought of admiration and gratitude upon Him, who was constrained to stand in our place of degradation and woe, that we might stand in His place of righteousness and glory? What wondrous love! what stupendous grace! That He should have been willing to have taken upon Him our sin, and curse, and woe! The exchange to Him how humiliating! He could only raise us by Himself stooping. He could only emancipate us by wearing our chain. He could only deliver us from death by Himself dying. He could only invest us with the spotless robe of His pure righteousness by wrapping around Himself the leprous mantle of our sin and curse. Oh, how precious ought He to be to every believing heart! What affection, what service, what sacrifice, what devotion, He deserves at our hands! Lord, incline my heart to yield itself supremely to You!

May the Lord do a deep work in all our hearts toward the end of our sacrificial giving in all aspects of our lives because we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Giving Thanks Like a Healed Leper Should

I mentioned yesterday that next Sunday, Lord willing, we will receive a love offering, above and beyond our regular giving, for the Nettles as they finish their journey with us at the end of this month.

As I think about our stewardship of this important act of thanks for all these dear ones have done in our midst over the last several years, this story in Luke 17:11-19 comes to mind:

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Baffling, isn’t it? Ten lepers get made whole from their dreaded disease and yet only one bothers to return thanks. And Jesus made a point of noting the shame of it by asking, Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?

Matthew Henry comments:

How poor we are in our returns: “Where are the nine? Why did not they return to give thanks?’ ’ This intimates that ingratitude is a very common sin. Of the many that receive mercy from God, there are but few, very few, that return to give thanks in a right manner (scarcely one in ten), that render according to the benefit done to them.

I realize, of course, that the context speaks to the realities of our salvation and the need to give thanks to God for His mercy in cleansing us from the leprosy of sin by the blood of Christ on the cross. But surely we may make application on a broader scale, including honoring and esteeming servants like Clay and Megan who have given of themselves to us so generously at OGC.

So as I exhorted on Sunday, I exhort again. Please prayerfully consider what God might have you give toward this love offering for these dear ones as they head off to St. Augustine. A special envelope will be included in the bulletin this Sunday in which you may enclose your gift. If you know that you will be away this Sunday and unable to attend OGC as usual and would still like to give, please send your gift duly designated to the church office and we will include it in the total.

Let us be like the one and give thanks like healed lepers should and may God save us from the all too common sin of ingratitude.