Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Do You Want For Christmas?

Every year we are asked the same question, right? “What do you want for Christmas?” Well, when you are young, that is easy! I knew the question was coming so I had the JCPenney catalog (or any toy ads I could get my hands on) all marked up with the best options. Circling toys in the catalog was almost as fun as getting the marked item! As we get older, and perhaps wiser, we don’t mark up the ads. We may have one or two things that we mention to our loved ones, but most of us are pretty content with whatever we open up on Christmas morning. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting gifts. :) I just have found that my favorite things about Christmas are the people. I enjoy being with friends and family. I love seeing my kids and nieces and nephew open gifts and experience true excitement and awe. I love gathering with my church family for worship and singing Silent Night while lighting candles. Shared experiences are what mean so much. This is what symbolizes and celebrates the greatest gift of all. This Christmas Eve let us gather, once again, to celebrate the coming of God in flesh...together. This will be a cherished gift to one another this holiday season. That is my answer to the question.

Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

Pastor David


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thankful Heart

Recently, I heard the interview of a highly successful college quarterback who happens to be a Christ follower. The radio host said he noticed that the athlete thanks God each time they score and each time they win a big game. The interviewer went on to ask this football player if that isn't wrong because God doesn't care who wins. The response of this young man was wonderful. He simply said, “We thank God when we win and we thank God when we lose. He is still God in both circumstances.” 

It sounds as if this All-American Quarterback, who claims that his faith is first in his life, has been reading and chooses to live out the true meaning of Philippians 4:12-13.

12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV) 

These are “Thankful Heart” verses. Win or lose, rich or poor, blessings or curses…I can do all things in Christ! I am thankful, appreciative, and generous with my praise no matter what!

The opposite of thankfulness shows through complaint and pessimism. Everyone on earth can be thankful for something. But, think about it…everyone on earth can be pessimistic and complain about something, as well! It comes down to where our heart is and who has mastery of our heart. Our quarterback friend testifies that, even after poor play and bad games, his heart will overflow in thankfulness. 

We, too, are given the privilege of thankfulness. But this cannot be faked! Allow the Holy Spirit to transform your heart. Ask Him to give you a thankful heart that overflows in optimism and grateful words of praise. 

Thanksgiving is a day of worship. What will you do, practically, to treat it as such?

Have a great week.

Pastor David

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Right the Ship!

Do you know what I am thankful for? I am thankful that the words of Jesus were preserved. Through them we have light, life, and guidance. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit continues this work of life-giving enlightenment. In so doing, God sets right what is so easily distorted, co-opted, and/or largely ignored.

This was, and is, the case for the Sabbath…a day “set apart” as Holy and “blessed” (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). The religious leaders in first century Israel had distorted the Sabbath through legalistic beliefs and teachings. Jesus had to “right the ship” of the Sabbath because it was listing (leaning) hard and taking on water. Jesus reminded the people (and us) that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

The challenge for us is to continue the work of Christ through Holy Spirit empowered lives to set aside as Holy this blessed day. Setting this day aside serves as a conduit for the transformational and spiritually formative power of the Holy Spirit to flow. 

So, resolve to rest, recreate, and reflect on this special day. Resolve to stop doing work. In so doing, you are allowing growth to happen, you are honoring God, and you are symbolically celebrating the key doctrines of redemption and restoration. 

Right the ship through allowing this holy and blessed day to be a blessing to you and to God.

Pastor David


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rise, Depart, Pray

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, ESV) 

According to the late Dallas Willard, spiritual formation “…is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as the spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ.” This week, let’s focus on the continual practice of prayer as an exercise of spiritual formation.

Take a few deliberate moments to meditate upon Mark 1:35. Jesus rose early, departed where He was staying, placed Himself in a desolate place, and prayed. Very simply, we should imitate this pattern as we seek transformation of our inmost being. This model exhibits separation from all distractions so as to focus completely on God. Separate with time. Separate with location. Separate for maximum hearing ability. For when we can hear more clearly, we can be spiritually formed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Try it. Start as soon as you can. Look at your next 24 hours. Set an appointment with God - and keep it. He longs to be with you. After you have done this, begin a habit - go for a week. Then, string a month of days together that are spent with God. Before you know it, you will be practicing the presence of God through deliberately practiced spiritually formative habits. Not only will you have a deliberate time, but this will spill over into your entire life. You will begin seeing your ability to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, ESV).

Rise, Depart, Pray… He is waiting to meet with you in the secret place.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My History, But His-Story

I love history! There is something about the “what ifs” that stirs up curiosity, wonder, and debate within me. What if Christopher Columbus never found someone to finance his explorations? What if General Lee was able to take Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg? What if Adolf Hitler waited to defeat the British before attacking Russia? Maybe the world would be completely different. Or maybe it would be exactly the same. We will never know because history takes care of the outcome of all events. My personal history is the same. There are so many “what ifs”. I am sure we can all say the same thing about our own personal lives.

The most important aspect of my history was when I decided to give my life to Jesus. I don’t have a date or a time, but I do remember the moment. I would guess that I was around 6 to 8 years old. Every night my mother would put me to bed and encourage me to “ask Jesus to come into my heart”. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I made sure to make that part of my prayer. One night, however, I felt Him come into my life. I felt an immense joy take hold of me. I couldn't wait to get up the next morning to tell my mother. From that moment on, I have had a strong desire to live my life for Christ. Although I never left Him, I did venture away from Him from time to time. When I was in my early 20’s, I re-dedicated myself to His will and from that I have grown and grown. I seek Him daily. He has forgiven me of my sins. He carries me during times of trouble, and He rejoices with me through the celebrations. He is everything!

So, my personal history may not be written in a text book or discussed in a college classroom, but it is extremely important to me. And I will never second-guess the “what ifs” when it comes to the commitment I made so many years ago. Not only do I have history with Christ, but I have a wealth of promise for the future.

Chuck Pickering
Elder of Spiritual Life

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No Buyer's Remorse!

I recently went car shopping. I always get an uncomfortable feeling as the car salesman approaches me. It is that feeling of the fear of commitment. The fear of saying or doing something that would commit me to something I was not quite ready to sign on the dotted line for. I like to think through a major purchase. Spontaneity has gotten me in trouble in the past and I try to learn from those mistakes. Buyer's remorse. Maybe you are like me. “Don’t push me to do anything!” Right?

Commitment is a struggle for many people in many areas of life. For some, the mere mention of “Church Membership” causes apprehension and anxiety, and for others, the result is apathy and a half-hearted response. I would like to challenge every regular attendee, everyone who calls Orange Friends Church ‘home’, and all who have ‘landed’ in relationship with one another at OFC to a commitment in covenant with one another. I hope that six weeks of processing the Marks of Membership have helped you to “Re-Member” what being a committed part of the local body of believers entails. You have not been “pushed”, “coerced”, or “manipulated”. Over the last several weeks you have been biblically informed, spiritually encouraged, and lovingly exhorted to sign on the dotted line and make your commitment official. This is a call to not only “buy”, but “drive”. Be a transformed, growing, engaged, generous, and accountable member of the body of Christ! There is no room for dead, non-committal, here-today-gone-tomorrow body parts!

This Sunday we will complete our Re-Member series with a celebration service reviewing and committing to the 5 Marks of Membership. Whether you are a member in an official capacity, a committed regular attender, or intend to officially join in the near future, this Sunday is for you, for me, and for us to celebrate together! ...All in!...No fear, no regrets, no buyer's remorse!

See you Sunday,
May God richly bless you,
May God richly bless Orange Friends Church!

Pastor David


Friday, October 25, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 5, Day 3

Day Three: Membership Mark #5 - Accountability

Read: Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 13:17

Reflect:

1)     Which of the following is NOT true according to Hebrews 13:17?

a.     We should obey spiritual leaders
b.    Leaders in the church are accountable to God
c.     Followers can influence the joy and sorrow of a spiritual leader
d.    Leaders are free from any accountability



2)     List the blessings of the spiritual leaders in your life. Spend time in thankfulness before God for the people who have given you spiritual leadership as you have followed Christ.




3)     Have you inadvertently and / or purposely resisted spiritual leadership? Let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart on this issue. Confess, repent, and seek reconciliation where needed. Allow the healing of Christ to flood your heart.




To Memorize:

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”


Hebrews 13:17 (NLT)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 5, Day 2

Day Two: Membership Mark #5 - Accountability

Read: Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 13:17

Reflect:

1)    Ephesians 5:21 says, “…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Although this passage is talking about family relationships, it applies to all relationships. What does mutual submission look like in your mind?




2)     T/F Submission to others is an act of worship before Christ.




3)     How have you been blessed by mutual submission in the church? When is your next opportunity for “mutual submission”? Pray for the wisdom and strength to submit to one another out of an act of worship to Christ Jesus. Write your reflections below:




To Memorize:

“…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Ephesians 5:21 (NLT)


Monday, October 21, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 5, Day 1

Re-Member: “Accountable” (October 21 – October 27)

Day One:

We are in a time of crisis. This is a crisis of leadership. Some leaders are corrupt, selfish, and morally bankrupt. We have been let down by politicians, community leaders, and yes, even spiritual leaders.

While this may all be true, I believe the primary crisis is not those who have let us down, led us astray, and allow selfish ambition to win the day. We have a crisis in “followership”. It is easy in our world today to criticize, second guess, and question authority. In sports, referees and officials are disrespected. In the political arena, those we send to Washington DC are demonized by talking heads and pundits. Unfortunately, our spiritual leaders are often treated with the same contempt or, at best, treated with “concern”.

I recognize my role as a spiritual leader carries a specific “slant” on this topic, but before I took a Lead Pastor role, I noticed a regular crisis in “followership” in the church. It would concern me when friends and acquaintances would come to me with a “concern” about a Pastor or Elder in the Church. I often would walk away from those conversations with the thought, “We are called to be in submission to somebody! Why can we not trust the spiritual leaders in our lives? Even with all their imperfections!”

The writer of Hebrews knew that leadership is tough and that “followership” is not easy either. This week we will look at being accountable in the church. What does this entail? How is it a blessing? Memorize and meditate upon Hebrews 13:17. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you a better follower for the glory of God and the building up of His Church.


- Pastor David

Friday, October 18, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 4, Day 3

Day Three: Membership Mark #4- Generosity

Read: Acts 11:29; II Corinthians 9:7

Reflect:

1)     According to Acts 11:29, the disciples (followers of Jesus) determined to do what?

a.     Give out of what was left at the end of the month
b.    Give only to what moved their heart
c.     Give to the need in Judea, each according to ability
d.    See what everyone else was giving then give (maybe)


2)   What is the biggest obstacle for you in living a generous life? Stop now and give God all your obstacles, fears, and concerns. Write down what God is doing in your heart.




3)    List below the blessings you have seen at Orange Friends as a result of obedient cheerful generosity of others or yourself:



To Memorize:

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’”
II Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Generosity Superstars!

I love the post-game interviews after a victory when the sideline reporter goes to the “Star” of the game and asks a question like, “You broke a record tonight (or you are the MVP of the game), how do you feel about being so awesome?!” Well, they may not put it that way, but you get the picture. Then the player replies humbly, “I don’t care about all of that. I am just so glad we got the win. I am also proud of our team. We worked together to win this game.” This kind of response reminds me of how critical a team mindset is in the body of Christ. We can do more together than we can separate. As a church family, we are in the midst of an exercise in discipleship. Yes, a practice in followership of Jesus. The Pony Express Stewardship Campaign is so much more than a “fundraiser”. It is an act of corporate discipleship! We, the local church family of Orange Friends Church, are unifying around public proclamation and commitment to faithful generosity to the glory of God and the building up of His Church!

So, some may be able to go to certain “stars” and ask, “How does it feel to give so much? You sure are special! You are a super-giver!” To which the response will be, “I don’t care about all of that! I am just excited that our victory is in Christ Jesus! We worked together as a team to glorify God in generous giving!” Every one of us on the Orange Friends Church Team has a role to play in this victorious march for Jesus Christ!

As the saddle bags pass through your household, intently seek the Lord on what He would have you to give. God will use your generosity, and the generosity of our team to accomplish much more than we can ask or imagine in our community and world!

If you have further questions about being a generous disciple of Christ in every aspect of your life or if you have specific questions about the Pony Express campaign, please feel free to contact me directly or someone from the Stewardship Team.

As a side note - please, help our Pony Express keep moving. If the saddle bags are “hung up” at your homestead, move them along so our Stewardship Team can announce to the church family the final results soon!

Your partner in generosity,
Pastor David


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 4, Day 2

Day Two: Membership Mark #4 - Generosity

Read: Deuteronomy 16:17; Malachi 3:10

Reflect:

1)    In Deuteronomy 16:17, the people were asked to worship through giving. Read the verses just before this. What is the context? What do you learn from this? (Let God speak to your head and heart specifically)



2)     God is commanding His people to do what in Malachi 3:10?

a.    Give to God and He will make you hit the Lottery
b.    Bring in a full 10%, test God, see His blessing
c.     Rob God. He isn't looking!



3)    After reading Malachi 3:8-10, how is God speaking to your spirit about your personal care for what He has given you? Write down what the Holy Spirit is asking you to do in response.



  
To Memorize:

“All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 16:17 (NLT)


Monday, October 14, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 4, Day 1

Re-Member: “Generous” (October 14 – October 20)

Day One:

One of the most exciting aspects of body life and being a Christ follower is the opportunity for generosity. This is one of the most tangible ways we see partnership with God. This partnership is a point where God entrusts to us the care-taking responsibilities for what He created, gifted, and owns. Your time, talents, and treasures are actually not yours! That is the incredible blessing! It all belongs to God, but He has such a love for us that He gives us the privilege of stewardship.

We trip up when we claim possession and control. This comes out in greed, stinginess, and covetousness. The fruit of this negative mindset is worry, discontentedness, and selfish behavior towards others. On the other hand, the life of generosity springs from an abundance mentality and leads to life!

As a member of the body of Christ we have this privilege of generous living. Giving away what God owns to His glory and the building up of the Church. The crazy thing is… we never lack in what is good, right, and blessed. With this spiritual lifestyle, eternal riches come into focus and temporal things of this world begin to blur into insignificance!

The body of Christ, His Church, is His primary chosen vehicle for generosity in all things. This is where ministry is envisioned and disseminated. This is the channel by which the good news of Jesus Christ is incarnationally applied to the world around us in missional action!

This week, memorize and meditate upon I Timothy 6:17-19:

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

- Pastor David


Friday, October 11, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 3, Day 3

Day Three: Membership Mark #3 - Engaged

Read: I Timothy 4:14-15; Hebrews 10:24-25

Reflect:

1)     I Timothy 4:14-15 encourages us to:

a.     Practice your gifts regularly
b.    Do not neglect the gift you have
c.     Immerse yourself in your gifts
d.    All of the above



2)     How has God specifically gifted you? What specific ministries has He called you to? What does it mean to neglect or disengage from these gifts and calling?




To Memorize:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Help Wanted: Apply Within

Help Wanted: Must be willing to work 24/7; must have Master's Degrees in Counseling, Business, Education, Sociology, Public Affairs, and Social Work; must always be encouraging and upbeat; must be a self-starter and able to motivate others; must be able to solve everyone’s problems; must be the perfect spouse and parent; must be willing to be everyone’s best friend. A valid driver’s license is required.

So, who’s ready to apply? No one? These are some pretty particular demands. But aren't they what we often, and maybe without intention, expect of our pastors? Have you ever considered what it might be like to be a pastor? Even for a week? I believe that we do not truly appreciate something until we can truly understand its value. This holds true with our pastor. The poet Judy Crowe writes,

Have you ever walked in our Pastor's shoes, 
And gone where his feet have trod? 
Have you ever thought of what he means to us, 
And on your knees, given thanks to God?
Have you ever told him thank you, 
For being there, when times are tough, 
For comforting words and fervent prayers 
When trials come and the storms of life are rough?
He answers our calls in the middle of the night 
And tells us not to worry, for he will be there. 
He gives up his comfort of quiet rest 
And comes with prayers of comfort to share.
(From “Our Pastor”)

So this Pastor Appreciation Month, don’t only thank Pastor David and his family for answering our “Help Wanted” ad, but take a moment to think about the requirements of this position. Let’s make it our responsibility to pray for them, care for them, encourage them, love them, and appreciate them.

Yours In Christ,
Chuck and Julie Pickering


Re-Member Devotions: Week 3, Day 2

Day Two: Membership Mark #3- Engaged

Read: Acts 2:42-47; I Corinthians 12

Reflect:

1)     According to Acts 2:42, the believers devoted themselves to what 4 things?

a.     _____________________________________
b.    _____________________________________
c.     _____________________________________
d.    _____________________________________



2)     T/F The believers came together and shared generously with one another.
T/F They were engaged in worship in the temple and meeting in homes
T/F Many people left the church because they weren’t being “fed” spiritually by the church




3)     Based on Acts 2:42-47, how would you define “Purposeful Engagement” as a member of the body of Christ? In light of your definition, jot down a few personal goals for purposeful engagement as a member of the body of Christ.






To Memorize:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 2:42 (ESV)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 3, Day 1

Re-Member: “Engaged” (October 7 – October 13)

Day One:

There is a form of cheating that we rarely hear about in sports today. We rarely hear about it, yet players and coaches will still implement this taboo in arenas and fields throughout the world. This act of cheating is often known as “laying down”, “dogging it”, and “taking a dive” (among other terms). The infraction is purposeful disengagement. This is more than straight out quitting in a competition. It is the deceptive use of less than full engagement either for advantage or ill will. When it is not purposeful, it may be due to laziness, apathy, or fatigue.

Members of a team count on one another as they all strive toward a goal greater than themselves. When a teammate is disingenuous with their responsibility, the entire team suffers. The body of Christ is made up of people who are called to be active, engaged, invested teammates. We are to always ask what God would have us to do or to be in order reach the goal that is greater than whom we are individually.

There is no room for inactive teammates. Can any of us imagine standing next to a teammate on the field or court as they just stand there “dogging it” or “taking a dive”? Once again, the imagery of the body and all the parts works perfectly. Paul spends a good amount of time unpacking the idea of how every person in the church has a role to play just as every part of the human body has a key role to play. We wish for every body part to engage when called upon. God wishes for every member of the Church to be engaged in the purposes He has called us to.

Purposeful engagement is our call. Memorize and meditate upon Hebrews 10:24-25 with this call in mind:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”


- Pastor David

Friday, October 4, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 2, Day 3

Day Three: Membership Mark #2- Spiritual Growth

Read: Ephesians 4:15-16; I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18

Reflect:

1)     According to II Peter 3:18, we should grow in ….?

a.     The grace and knowledge of Jesus
b.    Our understanding of rules and regulations of the church
c.     Our ability to see sin more clearly in others
d.    The willingness to serve and give financially



2)     How have you grown spiritually since following Christ? In what ways has Orange Friends been a part of this growth? Reflect and respond in thanksgiving to God.




To Memorize:

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
II Peter 3:18 (ESV)


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 2, Day 2

Day Two: Membership Mark #2 - Spiritual Growth

Read: Ephesians 4:15-16; I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18

Reflect:

1)     Fill in the Blanks: Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)

“Rather, speaking the truth in _____________, we are to _______________ in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is ____________________, when each part is working properly, makes the body __________________ so that it builds itself up in love.”



2)     According to I Peter 2:2 we should…?

a.     Act like a baby, crying whenever we don’t get our way
b.    Always drink whole milk because it is healthier
c.     Long for pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation
d.    Seek salvation through drinking milk



3)     List and reflect on 2 to 3 things that you regularly practice so you may grow up in salvation:





To Memorize:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—.”


I Peter 2:2 (ESV)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Re-Member Devotions: Week 2, Day 1

Re-Member: “Growing” (September 30 – October 6)

Day One:

We expect growth. We expect growth in the economy. We expect growth when we plant a garden. We expect growth physically. We also should expect spiritual growth.

Stagnation and decline / death are the alternatives to growth. Therefore, we expect growth. I am so grateful for the imagery of the body that scriptures use to help us better understand this thing called the church. The body needs every member to grow...otherwise, stagnation and decline shows sickness, disease, and the whole body struggles. As members of the body of Christ, we seek continual growth individually. As each of us seek spiritual growth, the whole body is healthier!

In addition, when we seek to give to others for their benefit, the body thrives in health and vitality!

This week, meditate on and memorize I Corinthians 12:7:

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

We are not only given the Holy Spirit for our own growth, but for the common good. Seek the Spirit, yield to the Spirit, expect growth. In turn, seek to encourage and build up others with the growth you experience for the common good.
 - Pastor David