Thursday, December 9, 2010

Commissioned for Christmas

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

One of my students is singing a song by Casting Crowns which has been ringing through my ears this morning. God is with us! Many times in the business of this season we get so obsessed with the decorations and presents and family and schedule and…… did I get the cookies out of the oven and who did I forget out of all the cousins! Remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season is important, but even more important at this time of year is that Jesus is not just a baby in a manger. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the Hope for all Nations. He has promised to be with us as we celebrate His love with family and presents and cookies. He has promised that if we seek Him this season, He will show up and He wants to do a work in you today.

Sierra Stephanoff

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank God it is Thanksgiving!

Aren’t you glad it is Thanksgiving? I mean, if we jump back a couple hundred years we wouldn’t have NFL football, the Macy’s Parade, or Black Friday. If we were celebrating Thanksgiving in the 16th century (reported to have been the earliest evidence of the occasion being celebrated in St. Augustine, Florida) or in the 19th century (when the holiday began to be regularly celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November in the US) we might not have had so many distractions, and would have had less, so we would be more thankful. The Encyclopedia Britannica claims that the Turkey Day in the US and Canada is secular in nature today although it has “religious origins”. I suspect that they are correct. I don’t like it but I am not na├»ve. I am aware of the many distractions that can hinder people from the “thankful” part of Thanksgiving and the “who are we thankful to” part of Thanksgiving. I am aware of the “curse of the abundance” that can make us feel self-sufficient and less willing to recognize Divine Sovereignty. I am aware that the world has no interest in recognizing the Almighty but reserves greater admiration for parades that end with Santa, Lions and Cowboys on the gridiron, and contributing to retail financial health.

But we are in the world but not of this world. Which means we are thankful to the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of life and the Giver of all good gifts while rooting on our favorite team, seeing floating Snoopy and waking up at 2am for “the deal that will never be here ever again”. We are a peculiar people. We choose to not just recognize but to adore and express our gratitude toward God.

So I thank God for Thanksgiving. You and I join a long line of believers through the centuries who are caused to pause for a day and reflect on His goodness. We then join a great cloud of witnesses each Sunday celebrating a “mini-thanksgiving” (minus the cranberry sauce and football and turkey-induced nap). Finally, we can wake each morning like many that have gone before us and like many around the globe today with gratitude in our hearts and thanksgiving on our lips!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Scream at the TV for your team, clap for the 3-story Barney in Manhattan, shop till you drop and all the while give thanks to God for all things!

Pastor David

Friday, October 22, 2010

Holy Blessings!

1 peter 4:14-16

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Recently I have been taking some flak for being a Christian and living in a Christian relationship. People who are in the world don’t get it! How could you dedicate your life to something you can’t see? How could you set boundaries in your life, on your habits, and in your relationship? Doesn’t is inconvenience you? It seems like such a hassle!

The answer is yes, of course. It is hard to walk a Christian life! No one said it would be easy. It’s not fun to be made fun of for the choices you make, and it is not easy to commit to boundaries.

But, can I tell you how much fun it is when God says, “I see you, my dear one. Guess what I have in store for you!”

Today for instance things are just going really well. I got to have a conversation with a friend that I have been praying for for a while. I got to share my faith in a real way and God answered a big prayer for me. Even though my trials are still there and there is always going to be a mountain, God is allowing me to climb. I have the blessed assurance that He has my back the whole way. He is faithful ALWAYS. He desires to bless me!

Praise you and you alone God!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ballparks and Bratwurst

The baseball playoffs are upon us! I love baseball! There are so many "seasons" within a season of baseball: spring training, pre-All-Star game, post-All-Star game, post season. And there are many senses of baseball: the smell of fresh cut grass, the look of a good ballpark, the taste of a stadium brat. In fact, I can "taste" baseball through every aspect of the game....ok, ok, I know enough of the baseball talk, right? Well, I also love the "taste" of other areas of life. Like ....Missions. Missions? Yes... a Taste of Missions is when you experience what God is doing through His people throughout the world. The living out of the Gospel can be seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted... yes, tasted... both globally and locally.

Sunday night the 10th of October is the annual Taste of Missions event at Orange Friends Church. We will have the privilege of tasting missions through meeting missionaries that live out the Gospel in many cultures and context. If you come to this event you can literally "taste" missions. There will be a huge table of food representing many of the mission fields that will be represented at this event.

So come on out Sunday night. Doors open at 5:30pm and we will wrap-up around 8:00pm. Come taste what God is doing in Ohio, Haiti, India, Romania, and much more. I hope you come and watch some amazing missionaries and experience a belly full of God working in our world!


Pastor David

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God of Provision, Protection, and Direction

Genesis 26:24
That night the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham."

At school this week we are talking about the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). I had been through these books over and over again but each time I find a new jewel of knowledge. God is constantly showing me more and more about His character and how He arranges history for His glory and better yet arranges MY history to glorify Him.

Throughout Genesis, God is constantly reminding His followers of their history and how He has provided in the past and will provide in the future. Abraham had to trust God through impossible circumstances for an extremely long time, though humiliation, and against all odds. God promised him descendants even when there was no foreseeable way for this to happen. Finally when Abraham acknowledged Him and believed what God had promised, He brought it to pass. God said I will provide, I will protect you and your family, and look out here to the land I will give you. Abraham trusted Him and it was “credited to him as righteousness.” God is Truly a God of Provision, Protection and Direction!

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all endured great trials and had to wait to see what God had promised come to pass. God always comes through! IN HIS WAY. IN HIS TIME.

This week I am learning about how God is always faithful and if we trust in Him, He lets us in on it. I encourage you to dig deep into our rich history of God’s faithfulness this week!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be Fruity

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

Have you ever seen those “hybrid” trees that produce apples, pears, peaches, etc., all at the same time? That is amazing. I have never grown them myself… in fact, I am a little bit of a skeptic. But I am still amazed at how they can get a tree to produce something it is not normally supposed to produce. Ultimately, the “laws of nature” rule the day… an apple tree produces apples and a pear tree produces pears. The pear tree does not say ‘Oh my, I produced a pear! AHHHH!’ The apple tree does not produce bananas in frustration! At their core, a pear tree is a pear tree and an apple tree is an apple tree! This is not very profound, but why do we as Christians seem to struggle in producing the fruit of the Spirit when it should start at our very core?

Lesson #1 is this…. Be who God has planted you to be. This means putting off the “old man” and taking on the new. Walk in the Spirit – which is to say – walk in who you have been created to be in Christ.

Lesson #2… Being more loving, joyful, peaceful, etc., is less about trying harder and more about connecting with the source of all life… Jesus Christ. That is not to say that we need to “work out our salvation”, but we should rest in His sustaining power and stop striving.

Like an onion, there are many more layers to this. Maybe the simple lesson for today is to allow fruit to grow out of your core. If you do not like the type of fruit your life is producing, allow the Holy Spirit to renew your core.

Have a fruitful day!

Pastor David

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tiny Church

Psalm 46:10 (New International Version)

10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

I wanted to share with you my second favorite part of my vacation to Arizona. The first of course was when Andrew proposed! But before that, my future Mother and Father-in-law took us to one of the smallest churches in the United States. Along US 95 there is a tiny church built by a farmer in honor of his wife. The sign on the outside of the church reads “Stop, Rest, Worship”. The church was about 7’ by 12’ with pews and a small pulpit. On the pulpit was a sign-in book. People from all over had written in prayers for healing and words of encouragement for weary travelers.

God’s presence was in this tiny church. As you enter, you can almost feel the stories of the people who wrote in the sign-in book and the prayers that had been lifted up there. I was encouraged by the simplicity of this church. There wasn’t a great deal of detail put into the construction of this building, but God showed up there!

Where is your Tiny Church? Is there a sacred place you have set aside to reconnect with God on a daily basis? I encourage you this week to find a quiet place where you can be still and listen to the whisper of the Heart of God.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Casting Your Cares

When I was a kid, my family and I went camper shopping. We searched for hours for the perfect pop-up camper. We walked into one and I got super excited. I brought my sisters in and showed them what I had found. This pop up camper had a paper towel holder built into the kitchen! Something so insignificant to most people, but since we didn’t have one at home, for some reason it made this camper THE ONE!! My parents eventually bought it for other reasons, but they still remind me about the time I got so excited about the paper towel holder.

This story although silly, says a lot about who I am. For some reason it’s the little things in life that get me the most excited, especially when God comes though on those little things to make something perfect just for me. The things in life that most people find insignificant, God brings to my attention and whispers in my ear, “that was just for you”. This not only brightens my day, but increases my faith. God loves me for me and created me so He could share His love with me.

Last night I had a terrible anxiety dream about the wedding. Nothing was done and we were hours away from the ceremony. I woke up to the sound of my cell phone going off. It was my sister, so honestly I pushed ignore and went back to sleep. I couldn’t fall back to sleep though, so I called her back. She wanted to know if we could get together to go over wedding details and she wanted me to make a list of ways she could help. She also reminded me that I’m not alone in this and not to stress out. This made my day! God really does care about everything in my life and desires all of us to cast our cares upon Him.

Psalm 55

22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious today, I encourage you to read the rest of Psalm 55. God really does care about the things in your life, as big or as small as they are; He desires for you to fully rely on Him.

Sierra Hanna
Orange Friends Church
Director of Worship Ministries

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of... our Birthright!

As a citizen of the USA we have certain rights and privileges… Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We have the freedom to speak out, carry a gun, to worship whoever we want or no one at all, gather with others without an oppressive government coming in and arresting us…. These are our rights because we were born citizens of the USA. Some of my dear friends enjoy many of these privileges as a visitor to this nation. Some of my friends have gone through the legal process to become a citizen of this great nation and enjoy all the full rights of a natural born citizen.

Citizenship in God’s economy is not naturally born but it is supernaturally given. We cannot visit the kingdom of God for a short time to enjoy its rights and privileges and then return to our natural land. We do not need to get a temporary stay, wait 7 years, jump through hoops, and say a pledge or go through a swearing in ceremony for this supernatural citizenship.

In the Old Testament we read about the Patriarchs (Genesis 12-50) and the “birthright blessing” the father would impart to his firstborn son. In a similar way our heavenly Father has imparted a “birthright blessing” that we cannot obtain on our own effort. This is a blessing of provision, of spiritual victory and of relational healing and peace.

What is our birthright?

1. God created us and knows us. Psalm 139:13-16

2. God loves us. Psalm 139: 17-18, John 3:16

3. God has a plan for you. Jeremiah 29: 11-14

4. We must respond to our birthright. Jeremiah 29:12-14, Proverbs 3:5-6, John 3:16

In light of this, we must recognize that we are in this world with an illegal status. Spiritual amnesty is the only answer for us. As a result, after we have accepted unearned favor into citizenship with all its rights and privileges we walk in a way that exemplifies a grateful citizen of the ultimate “land of the free and home of the brave”!

In His Grip,

Pastor David

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bringing Life into Focus

I love to make fun of TV commercials. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I like to watch sports. The TV commercials are hilarious. Recently there was a product being advertised where there were five women around a rhino with blindfolds on. Each one can only feel what is in front of them and it was ridiculous. Then when the blindfolds were taken off, they said with a sigh and a giggle, “ooo, It’s a rhino.” I, on the other hand, would most likely have had another reaction involving screaming and running in the opposite direction.

I guess God uses everything around to try and teach me because it came to mind while I was praying this week. The enemy would love to keep your eyes only focused on the one thing that is in front of you and distract you from God’s bigger, better plan.

Genesis 15 talks about the covenant between Abraham and God. God knew that Abraham had no descendants and knew that it was a big deal in Abraham’s life. But, even as big as the problem was, God’s promise was bigger! “Look up at the heaven’s and count the stars, if indeed you can count them, so shall your offspring be.”

God made the impossible possible for Abraham because he was faithful and believed. In my life, I need a constant reminder of God’s bigger plan, the blessing he has given me, and the promises he has already put into action.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Come join us Sunday morning as we continue exploring just how big and awesome our God is, and how he has been in control from the beginning.

Sierra Hanna
Orange Friends Church
Director of Worship Ministries

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Time is running out... what then?

4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
Psalm 39:4-5

Our Days are numbered… 3 people die every second in the world…180 die every minute…11,000 die every hour…250,000 people go to heaven or hell everyday!

People have been thinking of what happens after this life since the beginning of time. In light of this, there are a lot of misunderstandings and fears that people carry. Well, there is no need for ignorance or anxiety.

“There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of 'Heaven' ridiculous by saying they do not want to 'spend eternity playing harps'. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Bible provides for us enough information to form a good theology of Heaven and the “after-life”. What does the future hold? (use the following as a Bible study or small group lesson on Heaven)

1. Our Final Destination

a. New Heaven and New Earth and New Jerusalem –Revelation 21:1-8

b. Three Parts but One unit. A coming together…

i. Ephesians 1:10 “to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”

ii. The ultimate GoalRedemption

iii. God with Man= He will come to us and dwell with us!

2. A Physical and Spiritual Reality

“Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” CS Lewis

a. New Glorified Bodies- Romans 6:5, Philippians 3:21, John 5:28-29

b. Restored Eden- Genesis 2:9, Rev. 2:7, 22:2

c. Revelation 21:1-8… This is Physical and Spiritual!!!!

3. An immediate and intermediate place upon our death…

a. Luke 23:43- the thief on the cross

b. Philippians 1:23-“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;…”

c. 2 Corinthians 5:8- We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

4. Here Comes the Judge

“Christians who did the most for the present world are those who thought the most of the next.” CS Lewis

1st … A Judgment of Faith (Salvation)- Revelation 20:11-13

2nd … A Judgment of Works – For those whose names are in the Lambs Book of Life…Romans 14:10-12, II Corinthians 5:10, I Corinthians 3:10-14

There you go… all cleared up! J

Well, maybe not, but I hope this little study helps you become more informed and more curious about where we will spend eternity.

See ya on the other side!!!

Pastor David