Devotional for August 14, 2017

Psalm 28:1 Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.

David is in distress and desires that God will hear his prayer. David’s concern is that God will distinguish him from those who do not honor Him. David points to several pieces of evidence that distinguish him from those who do not honor God: praising God in worship, dealing honestly with neighbors, and living a life consistent with God’s work in the world, and God’s justice and mercy. It is interesting that the theme of loving God, loving neighbor, and obedience show up in this psalm. This is a recurrent theme throughout Scripture.

Consistent with the sermon on Sunday, David is calling out to God to save him. The idea that God does not hear our prayers leaves us in no better position than those who do not love God and neighbor. But David is confident that God has heard his cry for mercy. God’s mercy is ultimately demonstrated in the person Jesus Christ. Our hope for mercy comes through the grace of God in Jesus. And because of the work of God in Christ we can have even more confidence that God hears our prayers. We have Jesus who intercedes with God on our behalf.

Today we can call out to God with the confidence that He hears us and is working for our good.

Lord, I thank you that you hear me. I thank You that you are a merciful God who delivers me, a strong God who protects me, and a wise God who guides me.

LIFE Groups at Ocoee Oaks

On September 10, our Sunday morning schedule will change to include time for small group meeting between the Sunday morning worship services. Our new Sunday morning schedule will be:

8:30 - 9:30 Traditional Worship

9:45 - 10:45 LIFE Groups

11:00 - 12:15 Contemporary Worship

LIFE Groups is the terminology we will use for our small group ministry. What follows is an explanation of the LIFE Group concept.

The twin goals of all the we do in Church is to love God and love people. As we do these two things, Jesus tells us that we can begin to live life the way God has always intended for His creatures to live it: abundantly. Jesus told His followers that His primary mission was to make it possible for us to live life the way God designed and destined us to live when He said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10b).”

Love God

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-38).”

First and foremost, the life of a Christian is about loving God. The mature Christian worships God daily, moment by moment. Scripture tells us repeatedly that the love of God is characterized by obedience to God. We gather in small groups to encourage one another to love God and open ourselves to God's transforming grace so that we can live consistently with God's design for our lives.

Investigate Our Faith

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).”

Bible study is very important. The Scripture tells us that in the beginning was the Word (of God) and that the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus. So, learning the ways of Jesus as described in the Bible is paramount to our process of becoming fully formed followers of Jesus. It is also helpful to read about Christian history and theology. In our context, as United Methodists, it is important that we read John Wesley and other leaders who have formed our theological understandings. Scripture is our primary source of knowledge about God, but we need to engage past and current Christian thinkers as conversation partners who can help us come to a greater understanding of God and God's world.

Fellowship with Followers

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin 1 John 1:7).”

The type of relationships described in the Bible are of a very different character than most of us typically experience. As Christians, we share a faith, a mission, and values. The basis of our fellowship is our being of one body with Christ and sharing in the one Spirit of God. Jesus has brought us into the family of God, so that we are brothers and sisters in God's family. In God's family, there is the possibility of deep trust, knowing, acceptance, and forgiveness that is offered nowhere else.

Engage the Community

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).”

The goal of church-community engagement is to make disciples. While there are many different strategies for making disciples, the most effective strategies always follow the example of Jesus in service to others. While we are serving others food, we tell them about Jesus’ love. While painting a house, we model Jesus’ love. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we are living Jesus’ love with the hope that God's love will flow through us so that everyone we encounter will respond to the grace of God by joining us on the journey toward Christlikeness.

LIFE Groups and Community

The purpose of the church is to love God and love people. As we do these two things, we engage in the process of intentional disciple-making. That task is best accomplished together. My hope is that we have more people in LIFE Groups at Ocoee Oaks than we have attending worship each week. I hope that these groups give life to us a church and as individuals and that through them we become more and more of who God has called us to be.

#BGGFGG

Devotional for August 7, 2017

Holy Dissatisfaction

IMG_4328.JPG

Psalm 17:15, As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.

I don't know about you, but I find it so very easy to seek satisfaction in places other than in God. I find it easy to seek satisfaction in accomplishment, in family, and in consumption. But ultimately, all these fail me. I never seem to accomplish all I have planned. Family life, while full of satisfaction is sometimes filled with losses that temper that satisfaction. I buy things that I think will meets need only to be disappointed.

I have to admit also that I am frequently dissatisfied with God. I hope that it is a holy dissatisfaction. It is a born out of a desire to have more of God in my life, to be filled more completely by His Holy Spirit. Ultimately, only this holy dissatisfaction can lead to being satisfied in God.

Father God, as I awaken to this new day, awaken me to Your presence with me, so that I can seek my satisfaction in You alone. 

 #BGGFGG

LIFE Groups at Ocoee Oaks

The Church Council voted last week to change the times for Sunday morning services. Beginning Sunday, September 10, 2017 our Sunday morning schedule will be as follows:

8:30-9:30 Traditional Worship

9:45-10:45 LIFE Groups

11:00-12:15 Contemporary Worship

While this change in Sunday morning schedule will no doubt be an adjustment for our church, I am excited about the possibilities that present themselves for increasing our ability to make disciples on Sunday morning. In order to begin the process of developing leadership and organizing small groups, we will have an organizational meeting on Sunday, August 13 at 2:00. Everyone is invited to this meeting; however, if you are considering leading a small group, this meeting is required. At this meeting, we will address issues such as the number of leaders we will need, leader qualifications and commitment, meeting locations, types of small groups, and small group leadership covenant, etc. I will also be discussing the structure of our discipleship program and how small groups fit into our disciple-making mission.

For the time being, I will serve as coordinator of our small group ministries, but I will want to hand this responsibility to a volunteer coordinator as soon as possible. I will be actively looking for, and developing, a volunteer Coordinator for Adult Discipleship who will assume this role as soon as possible.

On September 10 at 9:45, we will begin having LIFE Groups. The intention of LIFE Groups is to give life to all those who attend the groups, and to our church (see John 10:10). LIFE is an acronym that stands for

  • Love God
  • Investigate our Faith
  • Fellowship with Believers
  • Engage our Community

All our small groups will have elements of each of these areas, though some areas may be emphasized more than others. For instance, each LIFE group is expected to engage in service to the community as an act of love for our neighbor; however, that LIFE group’s primary purpose may be Bible study. The overarching purpose of LIFE groups is to make disciples. The primary goal for all LIFE Groups is the transformation of every participant into the likeness of Christ.

LIFE Groups may meet at any time, but I am excited that everyone will have the opportunity to meet on Sunday beginning in September.

 Everyone is invited to the organizational meeting next Sunday, August 13 at 2:00, but if you want to lead a LIFE Group, your attendance is required. If you want to lead a LIFE Group, but are unable to attend the organizational meeting, please let me know as soon as possible, so that we can schedule an alternate time to meet.

Revised Common Lectionary

light

I am very excited to announce that beginning August 6, 2017, we will begin building our teaching ministry at Ocoee Oaks around the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). I also want to share that I have a hidden talent that you are not aware of: I can read minds. Right now you're thinking, “What is the Revised Common Lectionary?” I'm right, huh?

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is a guide for churches that leads a congregation through all the major themes of the Bible in a three-year cycle. It has been adopted widely by many churches in many denominations, including the United Methodist Church, as a means of exposing congregants to the widest breadth of Scripture in a systematic way. If you would like more information about the RCL, click here. This is a great source for information about the RCL.

To link to the Revised Common Lectionary, click here. By saving this webpage in your browser’s bookmarks, you will be able to go directly to the Sunday readings for each week. By using the navigation bar on the left of the linked page, you can find the lectionary readings for as long as three years into the future (currently until Advent 2019).

How will we be using the RCL at Ocoee Oaks?

First, my sermons on Sunday will be based primarily on the Gospel readings for each week. I may draw from another reading, but I will let everyone know in advance if I choose to focus on another passage. Some of the readings may be used as responsive readings or read at other times during a service of worship. Beginning the first Sunday in August, we will begin in Matthew 14 and continue in the Gospel of Matthew until the end of the church year. Advent begins Sunday, December 3, 2017 and marks the beginning of the new church year and we move to the Gospel of Mark for Advent.

Second, we will be using the RCL Daily Readings developed by the same group that developed the RCL as our church-wide Bible reading plan. What I really like about the reading plan is that the readings for Monday through Wednesday look back to the previous Sunday’s sermon and can be used to reflect more deeply on the weekly theme. The readings for Thursday through Saturday look forward to the theme that will be introduced in the sermon on following Sunday.

Third, on Wednesday nights, we will go a little deeper into the theme for the week that I developed in my sermon on Sunday. We will use the secondary texts to take a deeper dive into the Word of God. We will also draw from the Daily Readings to aid our understanding and deepen our discussion.

How can I receive the Daily Readings?

There are three ways to receive the Daily Readings:

1.      The easiest way to stay up-to-date with the Scriptures we are using for Sunday and throughout the week is by embedding the schedule in your calendar if you use Outlook, Google, etc. To get the link click here. Copy and paste the second link into your calendar application, and you should be good to go. Directions specific to your calendar application can be found below links to the calendars. There are two methods to import the lectionary into your calendar; I suggest using the subscription method, but read the instructions to make the choice that's right for you.

2.      Go to the RCL Website: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/daily.php?year=A. This link will change at the beginning of Advent (December 3, 2017) as we move to Year B of the cycle.

3.      We will have hard copies in the Church Office. Or we can email you the PDF file to print at home.

4.      Finally, all this information will be linked on the church website by clicking here.

How can I receive the Weekly Lections?

There are also several ways to receive the weekly lections (Scriptures for the Sunday sermon):

1.      If you embedded the daily readings in your calendar, the weekly readings for Sunday are already in your calendar. Voila! You’re done.

2.      You can go to the RCL website by clicking here. Bookmark the page in your browser.

3.      The lection (Scripture passages) for the upcoming Sunday will be in the bulletin and in the weekly newsletter.

4.      Hard copies will be available in the church office as well as in PDF form for home printing.

I hope that you will appreciate how tightly knit this approach to the use of Scripture in our church will be. Everything is woven together and the depth and breadth of our exposure to Scripture over time will be increased exponentially. I am excited about all the possibilities this approach to Scripture offers. I am especially excited about the conversations that will develop as a result of our shared journey through Scripture together.