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Spare Change - July 2021

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I am writing this article right in the middle of the VBS week.  This week is often full of long days and short nights.  There isn’t much rest to be had but there is other nourishment that we get along the way to keep us going.  Things like serving the Lord, discipling children, connecting with families, sharing the gospel, and fellowshipping with other volunteers are just a few of the spiritually nourishing things that help us endure.  While it is a crazy, busy week it is also a very special week.  Children get to hear the life changing truth of the gospel and that is what it is all about.

VBS is totally worth all the manpower and resources that we put into it.  Last year, even during the Covid year, we were able to pull off VBS and 16 children became followers of Jesus.  That just blows my mind! Our church was faithful to do VBS and God, out of His abundant mercy, saved 16 children.  Again, this is what it is all about.  This year we have many more children which means we have an even greater potential for gospel impact.  We are praying that God would do an amazing work through the gospel presentation and our Bible study leaders.  By now you know the results of VBS, and I hope that together we are praising and thanking God for the children He has saved!

The other aspect of VBS that encourages me so much is our volunteers that work tirelessly to make VBS happen.  We have 90 volunteers this year!  90 adults and teenagers that invest a week of their life in this kingdom work.  Many of them work all day, rush to the church and find the energy to lead and teach the children.  I am always amazed by their dedication.  People always ask me if I feel stressed and overwhelmed and honestly I can say, "No", because we have such great volunteers.  VBS at Oakhill is a fun and enjoyable experience because we all share the load.

If you are a volunteer, I want to say with all sincerity, THANK YOU!  There is nothing I could do or say that would be enough, but I know you don’t do it for the praise, you do it because you love the Lord and want to serve Him.   You have blessed your church and community with your service, and I pray the Lord will bless you as well.

I also want to say a thank you to the church at large.  There are many of you that are not able to help with VBS but you lift us up in prayer leading up to VBS and each night of VBS.  I know God hears your prayers and we are blessed because of them.  There are also many that give financially to the ministry of the church.  VBS costs money, that is the bottom line, but we never have to worry because our church gives to the budget and takes care of that need without even a thought.  It is a blessing to be a part of such a supportive church.  You do not balk when we take over the church for a week, put out decorations, take over your Life Group class.  You allow us to do all of this because you love the Lord and want to serve Him.  To all of you that silently support through prayer, giving financially, and giving us space, we say thank you!  You share in the blessing that God brings to our church!

We leave VBS physically tired but spiritually full!  We know God loves to work through His faithful people that want to serve Him with a pure heart.  That is the exact thing we have at Oakhill, faithful people!  Thank you for everything!  I am so blessed to be your Children’s Pastor!

 

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Spare Change - June 2021

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Understanding Freedom in Christ

Freedom is one of the most dearly held virtues for Americans.  We cherish our freedom and rightly so!  Our founding fathers wanted to make sure that everyone would have maximum freedom and rights without infringing on others rights.  I have a feeling that they drew from the idea of freedom in scripture.  Albeit, the freedom talked about in scripture is not a personal freedom but a spiritual one.  This spiritual freedom, found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, should be one of the most cherished values of all Christians.  I am sure we can all agree that it is important and we would all most likely affirm its value; however, many do not truly live the Christian life clinging to this truth.  How do I know that?  To understand that we need to turn to Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

The whole book of Galatians is a response to the infections of the Judaizers in the church at Galatia.  This group of people came after Paul had preached the gospel and wanted to add Jewish laws and customs to the Christian faith.  In essence, they were adding works to the gospel, which, as we know, makes the gospel not the gospel.  The gospel is only through faith in Jesus not by works of men.  Paul vehemently rebukes the church and the Judaizers.

His main concern is that the church is willing to be reenslaved under the law.  They once were under the law, meaning they were enslaved to it by their sin.  As we know there is no way for anyone to keep the law, therefore no one can obtain righteousness through it.  The law only leads to punishment, death, hell, and the grave.  Paul reminds them they are free from all of that.  They have been freed by the gospel to live as free people.  So they must stand firm against anything that is not the gospel, especially those that wanted to enslave them with the law or works.

That was great for the church back in the day but what does that have to do with us today?  Do we still struggle with this?  Philip Graham Ryken says, “We often do the same thing.  We forget that Christianity is a form of liberty and not slavery.  We reduce faith in Christ to a list of rules or traditions.  We evaluate our spiritual standing by what we do for God, rather than by what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  In truth, we are all recovering Pharisees, in constant danger of forgetting to live only by faith and choosing instead to go right back under the law.”

If we live by our works, we will die by our works!  The only way to true salvation is faith in Jesus Christ which in turn helps us to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh.  Paul reminds the church they do not need to worry about an outward showing of the faith, they must be concerned about the inward heart.  When we become a believer, God writes His law on our hearts, meaning we live by the Spirit.  The Spirit works righteousness into our hearts and it flows out of us.  So in essence we do righteous things and display holiness in our lives.  The difference is the gospel has produced that in us rather than us trying to produce it ourselves.  Galatians 5:22 reminds us that the Spirit bears good and righteous fruit in our lives.  When we live by the Spirit these things will come out of us and the law will be of no consequence to us.

The point in all of this is to walk by the Spirit which means we are anchored to the gospel.  For whatever reason Christians have always had the tendency to drift away from the truth of the gospel.  It has happened for thousands of years and if we are not anchored to it we will drift as well.  Think about a boat on a lake.  Even the calmest lake has a pull to it and eventually a boat will drift from the shore; but if that boat is anchored at the dock it cannot drift.  It might try to pull away but it is always brought back by a secure chain.  For the Christian we are that boat, always being pulled away from the dock, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must have a thick, heavy chain made from the Word of God to keep us anchored to that dock.  We must constantly stay in God’s word, going back to these truths, like our freedom in Christ.  We need to be reminded that we were not saved by our works, rather through faith in Jesus.  When we are anchored to this truth we can never drift away.

If there is any encouragement that I can leave you with it would be to keep your focus on Jesus Christ.  Take your focus off yourself, off your works, off your righteousness, because you have none, and look to Jesus. You cannot go wrong doing that!  And then you will truly understand freedom in Christ!

 

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