Apr 28

How About a Ladies’ Night?

I am proud of our ladies at Seven Oaks.  This past Friday they held their 10th annual Ladies’ Night.  Many churches have ladies’ days, which are very effective and have their place in the church.  But our ladies wanted to do something different ten years back.  So they started a ladies’ night.

Ladies love to get dressed up and go out for a night out!  Most women are busy with kids, grand-kids, house chores, and work.  The Ladies’ Night gives them a special night to come together, where they still have their Saturdays free for other obligations.  It is a night about ladies coming together for fellowship and to be treated to a special evening.

The auditorium transformed to a banquet hall.

Our ladies decorate the tables, provide a great meal with scrumptious desserts.  Our young ladies from the church serve the meal.  Men from the church help serve in the kitchen.  Then they enjoy an after dinner speaker.  We have had various speakers over the years.  This year they did a unique theme called, “Bloom Where You are Planted.”  With this theme they asked twelve different girls and ladies from our church in various stages of life to speak about how they can serve God at their current age.  It was reported to be the best ladies’ night yet!  You can listen to the audio at this link.  Many of the speakers had never spoken or taught ladies class in a church setting.  The night has served as a great outreach for our church family. We regularly have numerous area congregations represented and lots of visitors form the community.  Maybe your church may want to have a ladies’ night!

All the Speakers This Year

Amanda and Brooke – Both did a     wonderful job with their duties!!

Some of our young ladies serving.

 

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Apr 25

Don’t Let Satan Slow You Down!

by Christophe Libert at www.freeimages.com – Runners meeting

Sometimes, us as Christians, get too comfortable with sin being a part of our lives.  We allow it to hang around, rationalizing that the key is just not going fully into a life of sin.  We develop a thought in our minds  that the error is just falling away from the Lord and embracing sin.

What we may not consider is the effect sin is having upon our example for Christ.  Consider Hebrews 12:1-2:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The writer is encouraging Christians to run the race of faith with endurance.  Playing off of his race analogy he suggests that Christians should “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.”  He is warning us that sin can slow down our progress!  Yes, sin can cause us to quit the race and be disqualified, but we must realize it can also hinder us from being all we can be for Jesus! 

We must not let sin cling to us and weigh us down.  It harms our witness and discourages our service.  Christ has a great purpose and plan for our lives.  It is a shame when we let sin perpetually keep us from our full potential.  Satan may not have you soul, but he accomplishes at least part of his mission,  when he slows you down and mars the image of Christ within your life.  Let’s cast the sin off and run without restraint!

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Apr 20

Caleb Keeps Some Great Time While Leading His Song

You will have to ignore my loud voice at the start of this song, but this is so adorable of Caleb leading his song at Lads to Leaders this last weekend.  He has watched his brothers and sister move their arms at home and wants to be like them!

 

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Apr 18

Is he good or bad?

Moving Forwards 5 by svilen at free images.com

Amanda is teaching the kids about the Civil Rights movement and segregation in the South.  They are reading a historical fiction children’s book about Birmingham in 1963.  To accompany this study we watched a documentary yesterday made in 1997 called “4 Little Girls” about the 16th Street Baptist church of Birmingham bombing that killed four little girls.  As we were watching the documentary, Brooke and Landon, kept asking whether individuals in the show were good or bad?  In typical movies, especially children shows, the characters are easily distinguished as good or bad.  You have the hero and the villain.

Finally, I paused the movie, and with the help of Amanda, tried to explain that history and people can’t always be put into a category of good or bad.  That our history is not as clean and simple as fiction stories.  That the people did some bad things, but they also did some good things.

I get frustrated with our oversimplification of historical figures.  I am listening to a book now on Lee and Grant.  Recent history is wanting to make Lee and other Confederate leaders bad.  But history isn’t that simple.  We have to understand there is a bit of good and bad in all of us!

In fact, as I have been teaching the ladies’ class Hebrews 11 and studying these great characters of faith, i told them the story of us watching our documentary too.  You see Hebrews 11 contains Biblical heroes being praised for their faith, but many of them listed had noticeable flaws.  They weren’t all good, even though they made the good list!  In fact, the writer, who was writing for the purpose of encouraging Christians to persevere in the faith, focuses solely on the faithful acts of the saints he mentions.  He doesn’t talk about Abraham’s half-truths, Jacob’s treachery, Moses’ murder of the Egyptian, or Samson’s foolishness.  He talks about their faith!

This should give us hope.  We are not perfect either.  We are not all good, and we certainly are not all bad!  But being a Christian should mean living a life of faith.  Faith that perseveres and trusts in the promises. Faith that is accepted by the grace of God despite our flaws, failures, and down-right badness!  Let’s remember that God expects our faithfulness, not perfection; and let’s be merciful to others realizing they are not all bad either, just because they have some flaws!  

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Apr 13

One Big Thing the World Misses About God!

by juliaf from www.sxc.hu

We hear regularly about how God is so loving and patient.  In modern American Christianity, God is extolled for his great love, patience, and kindness.  His forgiveness and mercy are trumpeted from the water cooler to the pulpit.  But for the most part, people live like they want to live, indulging in selfishness and sin, all while depending on a loving God to forgive them in the end. They believe God knows their true heart and will take them home to heaven, after all who really believes in hell anyway.  So church attendance and involvement across our nation continue to slide.  Bible knowledge and serious obedience are eschewed for emotional experiences and feelings of the heart.

It seems to me that one big thing the world is currently missing about God is taught in Romans 2:4.  Listen to Paul’s words being used to convict his Jewish readers of their own self-righteousness.

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”  (Romans 2:4)

Paul said that we should not misunderstand God’s love!  God’s love isn’t so that we can just go on sinning and living like we want!  Later in Romans 6, he asks, “Should we continue in sin, so that grace may abound?”  He replies emphatically “By no means!”  God’s patience should cause us to repent!  His love and mercy, which is extended in Christ, should provoke us to holiness and righteousness.

It must hurt the very heart of God for him to consider his abundant love and mercy offered to mankind and poured out daily in his physical blessings, and yet mankind as a whole refuses to repent!  God calls us to change!  Jesus does accept us as we are, but he never intended us to stay as we are!  We are called to repent.  Repentance refers to an inward conviction to abstain from known sin.  It is a change of mind that results in a change of life.

The world wants a God of love and grace, but they don’t realize that acceptance and belief in such a God should lead them to repentance and holy living.  What about you?  Are you presuming on the goodness of God?

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Apr 03

Crippled by Satan

purchased / copyrighted photo

The woman had been stooped over for 18 years.  She did not have the ability to straighten herself up.  Imagine the discomfort and public shame this brought.  Likely her backbone vertebrae had become fused together.  But she caught the eye of Jesus.  He saw her, called her over to him, and spoke words of healing to her.  She received the Great Physician’s touch and immediately straightened up.  She glorified God (Luke 13:10-17)!

Later in his discussion with the Synagogue leader, Jesus says she had been bound by Satan for 18 years.  Satan had crippled her physically.  The term Luke uses to refer to her condition is a broad one meaning weakness, disability, or being without strength.  It is mostly used to refer to physical illness or just to the overall human predicament of being frail and weak.  We are all crippled!  Satan wants to bind us in his slavery.

Disabilities are a tool of Satan.  Satan bound this woman for 18 years.  Satan brings tremendous pain and suffering upon our world today.  When we are suffering with our own infirmities we ask “Why?”.  The answer is sometimes easy, but often it is more complicated or mysterious.  Satan is a part of the answer!  God gets blamed for far too much of the chaos Satan causes!  We should be mad at Satan!  We must realize he can use these disabilities to hold us in bondage.  We must not let Satan use our weaknesses.  He must not be allowed to turn our pain into his triumph.

Jesus wants to loose us from the bondage of Satan (Luke 13:10-17; John 8:31-36),  We must determine to allow our weaknesses to bring us closer to God.  Our weaknesses can either be used to bind us under the hand of Satan, or we can choose the freedom of Jesus.  God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).  May we be set free and glorify God with our lives!

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Mar 30

A Relationship with God Changes Everything!

Most folks don’t think of themselves as holy.  It is too much of a pure and sacred term for us sinful humans.  But God calls us to be holy in word and deed.¹  We are made holy through the cleansing blood of Jesus.  The term holy involves being distinctive and set apart from the world because of our relationship to God.  God makes things in relationship to him holy.  God is holy, and thus things which are close to God must be holy.²

A quick survey of the Bible shows how being in a relationship with God changes everything.  When the common becomes holy because of its relationship to God, nothing is the same.

  • The 7th Day was crowned holy because the Lord rested from His labors of creation and dedicated it as a day of rest for Israel under the old Law (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:8,11).
  • The desert ground became “holy ground” that caused Moses to remove his sandals because God was speaking from a burning bush (Ex. 3:1-5).
  • A forgotten people overcome by Egyptian slavery come out of bondage to receive a holy law on a holy mountain so they can offer holy sacrifices ordained by holy priests, so they can be a holy people.  The entire Mosiacal law and system was designed to remind Israel of their holy and distinctive status in the world.
  • The temple was ordinary wood, stone, and gold that became a holy place of worship.
  • Jesus came as the Holy One of Israel (Luke 4:34).  He healed the sick and forgave the sins of the repentant.  He took two pieces of scrap wood and some mangled thorns and made them sacred and holy for all time.  His empty tomb became holy.
  • The church was established as sinful men and women were able to become the holy nation of God (1 Pet. 2:9-10).  The church will be presented to God by Christ as “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
  • A man and woman exchange some vows and rings before witnesses and are united by God in holy matrimony. Marriage is holy because God decrees it sacred and unites two people together.

All of these examples through scripture show the simple true that a relationship with God changes everything.  God makes us holy!  But the most amazing part of this study is that we can be changed!  We can become holy because of our relationship with God.  We are ordinary.  We are sinful, but God can make us holy!  Paul says that he chose us that we should be “holy and blameless before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).  Because we have been changed to be holy, we must allow God’s cleansing to change everything about us.  We are to live holy, act holy, think holy, and thus be holy for our God is holy!

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¹  Eph. 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16

²  Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:15-16

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Mar 24

Christian Families and Youth Sports (pt. 3)

Part one in this series deal with the impact youth sports is having upon families and the church.  In part two I discussed highlights from Mike Matheny’s book on youth sports.  In this third and final post I desire to share some of my own suggestions for dealing with youth sports as a Christian parent.

Five principles Christian families can use to evaluate their involvement in youth sports.

  1. Prayerfully and thoughtfully consider all organized sports participation.  Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it is best for your family.  Just because your child wants to play doesn’t mean you should let them play.  Parents must be selective.  Families must set boundaries for themselves.  Before you sign up for the travel team or choose to play fall soccer, winter basketball,  spring soccer, and summer baseball all while the daughter plays soccer, volleyball, and takes piano you should consider the impact upon your family!
  2. Don’t forget the value of backyard fun.  Maybe the best thing you can do for your family is to say no to organized sports during certain seasons and focus on just letting the kids get outside and play.  More memories can be made with a family whiffle ball game than a summer full of t-ball!
  3. Always keep in mind our example for Christ, whether being a coach, referee, parent, or player.  As Christians we should not check our faith at the gym door!  We must remember we are reflecting Christ and the local church by our actions. When folks of the community see us acting a fool toward the referee or harshly berating our own child over a game, we hinder our witness for Christ.
  4. Remember the intended purpose of youth sports in seeking to raise your child. Seek to determine what you would like to accomplish with youth sports and seek to use them to mold your child.  Sports teach great lessons like humility, effort, teamwork, winning and losing with class, and anger management.  Choose to use sports to mold your child’s character, not just their skills!  Don’t get focused on pushing your child, so they will get a scholarship.  Approximately only 1% of  high school athletes will receive a Division 1 scholarship.¹  Your focus must be on character development.
  5. Use sports to teach respect and obedience to the coach and officials.  As a parent, we must resist the effort to regularly run down the coach and officials.  We must show respect for the officials and the coach through our own actions.  We cannot expect our kids to respect them, if we as parents don’t.

What more would you add for Christian families to consider?

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¹  https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/05/03/how-parents-are-ruining-youth- sports/vbRln8qYXkrrNFJcsuvNyM/story.html

 

 

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Mar 23

Christian Families and Youth Sports (pt. 2)

In part one I discussed the impact of youth sports upon families and how we must seek to manage our involvement with sports.  All of these thoughts I am sharing found their stimulus in Mike Matheny’s book The Matheny Manifesto.  Mike is the current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  The book was excellent.  It is an outgrowth of a viral letter he wrote to parents of a youth baseball team they were forming in the St. Louis area before he became manager.  Matheny is passionate about youth sports and shares some valuealbe insights in the book.  While I can’t do justice to the book in a short blog posts, I want to share with you some of the concepts I found insightful from the book.

  • You can read the original letter at his website.  It is a powerful read on this topic.
  • Parents are the problem with youth sports.  They have made the sports about their pride and their child’s accomplishments.  There is too much focus on attaining scholarships, specialized instructions, and expensive travel teams and tournaments.  On their team they asked parents to agree to be a silent supporter of their kids.  To cheer for them, but not to yell and scream instruction or criticism to players, coaches, or officials.  He feels kids often don’t want to play because of the actions of their parents.
  • Youth sports should be about the kids!  It should be about their skill and character development.  It is not about winning and losing, the coach’s record, or the parents living their dream.
  • Sports should be fun and should also include non-organized forms with parents and friends in the backyard.
  • Coaches should focus on the kids, not themselves!  They should always work to preserve the dignity of each player and the game.
  • Officials and coaches should be respected.  He was taught by his father, “the coach is always right, even when he is wrong.”  Referees are getting harder to come by today, because of the abuse they take.  Often with youth sports another kid only a few years older may be calling the game.  Coaches should respect officials and teach their players to not show disapproval or make gestures toward officials.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your kid quit.  Mike believes that letting your child walk away from the sport is often the best way to foster a true love of sports within them.
  • Understand the value in playing a variety of sports.  There is too much specialization in youth sports today.  He encourages kids to play a variety of sports. This also develops more skills and helps reduce injuries.
  • Some of the most entertaining chapters in the book had to do with his keys to success he tries to live by and teach to youth players.  These involve qualities like leadership, teamwork, faith, character, and humility.

I think Mike’s ideas need to be considered by Christian families today seeking to get the most out of youth sports.  Check out the book for yourself!

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Mar 21

Christian Families and Youth Sports (pt. 1)

I want to release three posts on the topic:

This one (part 1) on the importance of considering how we handle youth sports.

A second part sharing some highlights from Mike Matheny’s book on the topic.

And a third post with some suggestions I would like to make to families.  So join me in reading and considering these posts.  Feel free to share comments and feedback with me on the topic.


“Three out of four American families with school-aged children have at least one playing an organized sport–a total of about 45 million kids.”¹  ESPN in some data they collected said 21.5 million kids between the ages of 6-17 play on a team sport.²  Youth sports has changed drastically in the last 30 years.  It has gone from the driveway and local park to the travel teams and paid tournaments.  Youth sports is big money.

For Christians families this is one of the greatest challenges we face today.  Kids’ involvement in sports requires hours of time, sometimes significant amounts of money, and often time away from home. Youth sports puts pressure on family in several key areas.  Because of sports, marriages are often strained as parents have to divide and conquer to get the kids to all the practices and games.  Youth sports often stands in direct competition with the church for the time and affection of kids.  Kids struggle to attend Bible class or be involved in youth group activities because of their sports commitments.  It often can harm the peace and serenity of the home, because there is little time at home for a family to be together.

Christian parents can greatly harm their example for Christ and the church when they allow youth sports to push them to act inappropriately in public.  Youth sports can bring out anger and harsh words toward coaches, officials, and even our own children.  We can be influenced to miss worship services regularly and send the wrong message to our children about what should be our top priority.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know some of the problems.  I have seen sports break apart marriages, pull families away from the church, and cause kids to not develop their faith.  We have four children who have played sports recreational for six plus years.  I have coached numerous soccer and basketball teams.  We have played soccer, basketball, golf, and baseball.  I know what it is like to have practices on numerous nights of the week.  I have experience the emotions of being a coach and the frustration of being a parent.  It is a real challenge, because sports tug at our hearts!  There is much value in them, but they also can harm the family and endanger the souls of our family if we don’t keep them in check.

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¹ https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/05/03/how-parents-are-ruining-youth- sports/vbRln8qYXkrrNFJcsuvNyM/story.html

²  http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/9469252/hidden-demographics-youth-sports-espn-magazine

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