Weekly Bible Reading Plan – July 24-31 – One Church One Mission

The center column holds the main text for each day, while the right column includes secondary texts.

Basic Tips:1.) Use a translation you can understand. If new to the Bible, try the NIrV or The Message, which are both available online. 2.) Use a kids Bible with kids. 3.) Keep a pencil and notebook around to write down questions, observations, and conclusions. 4.) Have fun. Use your imagination and your brain.

Matt 18.10-14 - Reading Plan -  July 24-31.2016 - A Beautiful Mess - One Church One Mission

Questions to Guide You:

In this series, “A Beautiful Mess”, we learn the Church is a beautiful mess full of people that are simultaneously sinners and saints. We learn that the most common reasons people give up on church are the very reason church works. Jesus wasn’t surprised by any of these.

This week, we’ll hear from our Mission Team during service.

  • Prov 31 mentions “those who cannot speak for themselves” and the “poor and needy”. Who do you think that refers to in our day and time? How can we speak for them and defend their rights?
  • Isaiah 58 is a long sermon about proper religious life. Isaiah is indicting the people for doing a bunch of religious stuff but not prioritizing the poor. Is 58:10 is his summary. How can you and we better shine?
  • Try to pray 1 Thess 3:12-13 in your own words as a prayer for you and for Oakland. Why is it so important for love to increase and overflow? Who do you think “each other” and “everyone else” refers? How is this overflowing love connected to a strengthened heart?
  • Try to rewrite 2 Thess 1:11-12 as a prayer for yourself and for Oakland. What is Paul praying for the church in Thessalonica? What does it mean that God would bring to fruition our every desire for goodness and deed prompted by faith?
  • What is the eternal encouragement and good hope 2 Thess 2:16-17 mentions, and how does Jesus and God our Father personally encourage us? How has God encouraged you in every good deed and word?

If you are new to reading the Bible and would benefit from a brief orientation, download this How To Use This Book. If you want dig a deeper into the Bible, download this Guide to Inductive Bible Study.

A Bit More about A Beautiful Mess (Part 2) – When the Church Sweats the Small Stuff

Here are a few more thoughts that didn’t make the sermon, and a few resources to help you understand this “Varsity” Christian topic, which I struggled to articulate well. Hopefully these 3 resources will help you understand what we're talking about when we talk about adiophora, Christian Liberty, and Christian Responsibility. 

FIRST RESOURCES:

  1. 4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty by Ligonier Ministries

    This is a short article to give a "How to Decide" guidance. 

  2. What is Christian Liberty? by John MacArthur

    This is a longer sermon outline based on Galatians 5. It is really thorough and helpful. 

  3. On Christian Liberty by Martin Luther

    This is a classic book. It is very short and anybody can read it. I have read it multiple times. 

Now for some more of Andrew's Thoughts...

christian-liberty-is-freedom-from-sin-not-freedom-to-sin-quote-1Last week, July 10, 2016, I preached on Matthew 17, and we learned from Jesus’ response to the 2-Drachma Temple Tax. We learned that just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do something. We learned that Jesus sets us free to do all kinds of things that at one time were sins, like eating pork, shrimp, rare meat, working on the Sabbath, eating with Gentiles, etc. 

We are freed from these things, because all of them were shadows, types, and pre-figurations of Jesus the Messiah. We don’t have to sacrifice animals because Jesus is our sacrifice. We don’t have to pay atonement money because Jesus has paid our ransom. We don’t have to sit at home on the Sabbath, because Jesus gives us the rest from works and good deeds that the Sabbath previewed. We don’t have to perform our ceremonial washings because Jesus has cleansed us. We don’t have to bow to priests because Jesus has made us all priests.

AND YET, just because I don’t HAVE TO do any of those things, or conversely, just because some things are not expressly forbidden by the scriptures, that DOES NOT mean we SHOULD DO any of those things. The Scripture doesn't specifically address things like alcohol, dancing, eating meat or blood sausage, go to the bar, do yoga, wear yoga pants or speedos, visit non-christian religious sites, etc. and so there are faithful men and women who believe some or all of those things are sin and some believe they are all fair game based on principles such as modesty, moderation, simplicity, idolatry, or the Old Testament.  We are free do do those things because of Jesus, but still, Jesus says we have a responsibility to our fellow believers. So that if something I do that is not in and of itself a sin (like dancing) causing a fellow believer to disbelieve the gospel or to actually sin (living promiscuously) then I SHOULD NOT do that thing out of love for my neighbor.

So we learned that were the Bible is specifically silent (and the Bible is clear many, many places) there will be differing views on what things are and are not sins within a Church. Moreover, we learned that there are times, when we should not make a fuss about something that is negotiable or debatable, just as Jesus paid the tax, though he did not have to. We also learned that there would be times when the Church would fight over petty, non-Scriptural issues, and where we will hurt one another by refusing to submit our opinion to another person’s need.

This is really good news! Sure differing opinions, preferences, and debates makes church messy. Quite frankly, petty arguments are notorious for destroying churches or at least splitting it over and over again. BUT IT IS A BEAUTIFUL MESS. AN AWESOME THING GOD USES TO TEACH US HOLINESS. WE COULD NOT  LEARN OR GROW APART FROM THIS BEAUTIFUL MESS. Here are two ways a church full of differences of opinion and unnecessary arguments are beneficial to our spiritual growth:

  • We need other people to help us figure out how to exercise our Christian Liberty with Freedom. Since this is not a list of do's and don'ts, we have to learn the hard work of case by case decisions. We have to learn to apply principles rather than obey rules. Derek Webb talks about that a lot in his song, "A NEW LAW". You frankly cannot learn to responsibility exercise your Christian freedom without the help of other believers. Without others to help you, you will use your Christian freedom to "indulge the flesh" (Gal 5:13), happily sinning while believing your innocent. 
  • Where else do we learn to work together, to submit our preferences and opinions to other people’s needs and hurts when the investment and stakes are high. 

It hit me this week as I listened to someone lament, “I’m never buying property with friends again.” I realized that this is common counsel, “Don’t go into business with friends. Don’t buy property with friends. Unless you’re ready to loss those friends.” Other than husbands and wives people rarely have to make big investment decisions, decorating decisions, style decisions, and usage decisions together. As any newlyweds will tell you it's hard enough to get used to doing this with one other person with the guarantee of forever, it seems impossible to do so with voluntary friends. 

In general, our society believes that it is not possible to work these things out because too much is at stake, AND YET, in church we do something more complex TOGETHER. Think about it. If we think of the church in secular terms, then as a church: We own property together. We run an organization (technically a corporation). We lead a worldwide evangelism campaign. We run a social welfare organization (Mission and Outreach Committee). We craft a movement. We run a school and a one day a week nursery. Plus we put on a "performance" every week. ALL WITH 200 equal partners, we call brothers and sisters; with people we must love.

If two families or even two siblings can’t successfully own one beach house, can you imagine the complexity, humility, other-serving-sacrifice required to BE CHURCH with 200 other people with their own investment, buy-in, opinions, hopes, ideas, and backgrounds?

WhatAreTheEssentialsIt’s going to be tough at times from the normal property disputes about paint and carpet to the larger worship-style conflicts to the mission focuses to protests over church “power” structures. The Scriptures leave us free to faithfully choose different answers to all those questions, and yet only in church must we learn to think for the youngest believers and the outsiders. Only in church do I sacrifice my long held opinions and preferences to the needs of those who don’t yet know the truth or understand it’s full implications. So every decision about adiaphora stuff from interior decor to guitars versus organs to the food pantry versus the tutoring program is an opportunity for me to ask, "Is this a non-negotiable or are these 2 faithful ways to serve God? AND will a public dispute attract people to Jesus or push them away? Which of these two options will help people believe Jesus is the Christ?" 

So sure, Church is a mess, but a in a world where friends are told not to buy property together or start enterprises together it is a counter-cultural BEAUTIFUL MESS! In a world were people cannot make cooperations work on a small scale, or governments on a big scale, the Church is place we learn a different way. Thank God for this Beautiful Mess. 

A Beautiful Mess Series Slide

Weekly Bible Reading Plan – July 17 – 24

The center column holds the main text for each day, while the right column includes secondary texts.

Basic Tips:1.) Use a translation you can understand. If new to the Bible, try the NIrV or The Message, which are both available online. 2.) Use a kids Bible with kids. 3.) Keep a pencil and notebook around to write down questions, observations, and conclusions. 4.) Have fun. Use your imagination and your brain.

Matt 18.6-9 - Reading Plan -  July 17-24.2016 - A Beautiful Mess - Stumbling Church

Questions to Guide You:

In this series, “A Beautiful Mess”, we learn the Church is a beautiful mess full of people that are simultaneously sinners and saints. We learn that the most common reasons people give up on church are the very reason church works. Jesus wasn’t surprised by any of these. This week, we’ll see that our selfish sin, even secret sin has community consequences.

  • Matt 18 started with the self-promoting question, “Who is the greatest?” and now turns to the dangers of self-pleasuring. In Matt 17, we talked about things that are not sins, but might cause others to sin (like drinking, attire, and dance). Here we’re talking about things that are sin (lust, drunkenness, adultery, etc), and cause others to sin too.
  • How can we cause others to sin? How can we put a stumbling block before them?
  • How does my sin, even secret sin, affect and infect others? What sins have you committed this week that involved others or led others astray?
  • What does Paul say should happen to those who lead others astray?
  • In Gen 20, 2 Sam 11, and 2 Kings 21 ask, “How does _____ sin? How does it affect/infect others? Why does he sin? Have you ever sinned for the same reasons? What would have happened if he acted from faith instead of fear? How does each sin replace God with something/someone else, and how is God the better option for protection, pleasure, or provision?
  • Rev 2 is two letters to churches? What is God concerned about in each church? What does he ask? What does he threaten? What does he promise?
  • How does Church community show us our sins and consequences? How is that good news for our spiritual growth? If you never saw the affect of your sin on others would you ever quit? Likewise, if there were no consequences or punishments, what sins would commit? That is why we need the church and more so repentance and Jesus.
  • What does our potential to trip others say about our potential to grow others? How does church help us mentor and influence others?

If you are new to reading the Bible and would benefit from a brief orientation, download this How To Use This Book. If you want dig a deeper into the Bible, download this Guide to Inductive Bible Study.

An Introduction to Baptism – An Outline

I'm preparing to counsel another family before the Baptism of their children, and so I figured I'd share on here the three documents I give every family I counsel. Baptism is one of 2 sacraments (The Lord's Supper is the other). For something to be a sacrament, it must have been instituted and commanded by Jesus in the Scriptures. Many other practices are beneficial, but these two actions are special, and visualize the gospel in a unique way. 

baptism

An Intro to Baptism – An Outline of Scripture

This document traces what the Scriptures say about Baptism and boils it down to three main points about water. 

1.) We use water for washing - so in baptism we celebrate that all our sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. 
2.) We use water for burial (either to prepare or burial at sea) - so in baptism we celebrate that we have died with Christ and been raised to new life. We are new creatures, the old is gone and the new has come. 
3.) Water breaks during childbirth - We are reborn or born again when we put our faith in Jesus, and when a baby is born they become part of a new family connected to people they did not choose. So too in baptism we are made part of God's family the church, called to love these people as family. 

Baptism – An Intro

Baptism by Francis Schaeffer

This document helps explain and reproof mainly commonly held misconceptions about infant baptism. Francis Schaeffer, one of the leading evangelical preachers of the last 100 years, argues that Infant Baptism is Biblical.  I find it especially important for families who grew up in churches that believe baptism is only for believing adults and by total immersion. 

Baptism, by Francis Schaeffer BLANK

The Baptism Service Outline

Lastly, I give each family a copy of a Baptism Service, so they can see the questions they will be asked and answered. 

Baptism of __________

Weekly Bible Reading Plan – July 10-17

The center column holds the main text for each day, while the right column includes secondary texts.

Basic Tips:1.) Use a translation you can understand. If new to the Bible, try the NIrV or The Message, which are both available online. 2.) Use a kids Bible with kids. 3.) Keep a pencil and notebook around to write down questions, observations, and conclusions. 4.) Have fun. Use your imagination and your brain.

Matt 18.1-5 - Reading Plan -  July 10-17.2016 - A Beautiful Mess - Ego Church

Questions to Guide You:

In this series, “A Beautiful Mess”, we learn the Church is a beautiful mess full of people that are simultaneously sinners and saints – creating joy and disappointment. And we learn that the most common reasons people give up on church are the very reason church works. Jesus wasn’t surprised by any of these. This week, we’ll see that sometimes the Churches fight of position, prestige, and greatness.

  • Matt 18:1-5 is a corrective teaching. What is Jesus correcting in the disciples? What are the disciples asking? How does Jesus unend their thinking?
  • What does it mean to be child-like? Is Jesus encouraging us to be “childish”? How is spiritual maturity like a child?
  • When have you seen churches fight over “greatest-ness” (childishness)? When have you seen “Childlike-ness”?
  • What does the Proverb tell us about pride and arrogance?
  • What does it mean to “humble thyself”?
  • Try to transform Psalm 131 into a prayer in your own words? Try to imagine the scenario described in the Psalm? When has the Psalm been most true of you?
  • Why does James tell us to turn our laughter to mourning? And our joy to gloom? How does the presence of God do that, and then how does it lift us up higher than we were?
  • Isaiah 2 promises that the Lord’s Presence and Glory will displace our pride and our idols. How does this help us understand what it means to be humble or humbled? How does God’s glory put us back in right perspective?
  • Luke 1 is the Magnificat, what is Mary celebrating? How is her song connected to our reading in Matt?
  • 1 Cor 13 is famous but not often examined. How is love the cure for the disciples? What is the loving opposite of pride and self-seeking?

If you are new to reading the Bible and would benefit from a brief orientation, download this How To Use This Book. If you want dig a deeper into the Bible, download this Guide to Inductive Bible Study.

SERMON – Our P.S.A.L.M. – Just ONE MORE

 

 Our P.S.A.L.M. - M. is for Just ONE MORE

Preached by Andrew Ruth
Pastor Andrew Ruth preached this sermon on June 29, 2016 at Oakland Presbyterian Church. It is part of a 6 part sermon series called, "Our P.S.A.L.M - Oakland's Core Values." We abbreviate the values with the acronym P.S.A.L.M. because they are our worship of God in action. P. = “We Prize Presence.” S. = “We Serve Hard.” A. = “We’re Always Growing.” L. = “We Leave Legacy.” M. reminds us that we are all about ONE MORE. We always want to reach ONE MORE person, family, and neighborhood, and we reach them one at a time. That every single, individual person matters to God and so they do to us, one at a time. www.oaklandpresbyterianchurch.org

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A Sermon for Vacationers – “Work and Rest” by Timothy Keller

Most of you know that I went on vacation with my family earlier this month, and it was great. I needed a week out of the pulpit to recharge and to study God's word without the immediate need to teach it, when all I was doing was enjoying it. I loved getting to witness the beauty of God's creation first hand in fish, otters, sea turtles, a manta ray, dolphins, and birds, birds, birds. 

Still, I know that I often idolize vacations. I look to them like a week of salvation, a week that will fix every problem, that will calm all my anxieties, that will restore my soul, that will restore my sanity, that will rejuvenate my sagging will, and will automatically make me more joyful and content. But like all idols, Vacations are a great thing, but they make terrible gods. I still remember my first vacation after becoming pastor at Oakland. I expected a week at the beach to do all I listed and more. I looked to it for salvation from compassion fatigue and mental fatigue and faith fatigue. I went on vacation like a worshipper travels to a shrine, and I found a dead god. I spent little time in prayer that week and littler time in the Bible. I wanted to completely disconnect, and in so doing, I willfully disconnected myself from God. 

I came back more exhausted, more overwhelmed, more baffled, and more desperate for rest than I did when I went. My vacation was actually vacuum. And I have heard many of you say some form of the sentence, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation." Sometimes your joking about doing too much on vacation, but I still cannot help wonder if it is indicative, that we as Americans (and especially country music listeners) are prone to idolize Vacations. 

This summer, I tried something different. I went on vacation in much the same spot - tired. But I intentionally tried to stay connected to God, to rest in God, to rest in his unchanging assurances. I did take a break from heavy reading or spiritual self-help books or church-development books. I did let myself sit and listen to conversations or silence rather than try to think of the next right question a real pastor would ask. But I didn't disconnect from God like last time. I didn't look to food, sun, and saltwater to fix me, but I thanked God for each of them, and I spent a lot of time just trying to be awe-filled in this awesome universe. 

I got back and listened to this sermon, and I think it summed up much of what I was trying to practice. Maybe as you go on vacation it will help you to find retreat rather than idolatry. 

 

 

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