This will be our last in-person gathering for a while, but don’t worry, we’ll continue to worship with our primary small groups AKA our families. This week, we’ll be sending out all kinds of cool resources for you to use in worship and videoing another worship service.
DAY 1 – GAL 3.13-26 – PRAY FOR CHANCES TO LOVE
DAY 2 – 1 COR 13 – PRAY FOR HOW TO GIVE REAL AGAPE LOVE
DAY 3 – 1 JOHN 3:11-18 – PRAY AGAINST APATHY
DAY 4 – 1 JOHN 4:7-21 – PRAY FOR AN INTIMATE CHURCH FAMILY
DAY 5 – PROVERBS 19:22 – PRAY FOR RIGOROUS HONESTY
- What are the fruit of the Spirit? How does love fulfill all commands? Can you love without serving? Why is love listed first? How would love preclude the works of the flesh? How would love create the other fruit? How are the other fruit necessary for love?
- What is LOVE? Where do we learn to love? Is love an emotion? Are there different kinds of love? If so, what kind is this? What makes you feel most loved? How do you try to love people? How do you show your love?
- How does 1 Cor 13 define a successful life? How do Americans tend to define success? What’s the difference? Can you be really religious without being good at love? How hard to people try? Are you better at religious show or love?
- What do verses 4-8 teach you about love? Replace the word love with your name and reread it. How did that sound? Are you characterized by by love according to this text? What attributes of love do you most lack?
- What did John learn about love from Jesus? What does it mean to hate someone? Why is hatred equal to murder? Who do you hate or resent? What would it take to love and forgive them?
- Where does 1 John 3:16 teach us love? Who would you die for? Does Jesus really expect us to be willing to die for church members? How is this different than we usually think about church? How does your love measure against 1 John 3:17-18? Do you have pity or suspicion for needy people?
- How can we fight against the cliché in 1 John 4? Who initiates the love in 1 John 4:7-12? Do you initiate love like that towards others? Who keeps loving even when the recipient rejects it? Do you persist in loving difficult people?
- Christians are supposed to love supernaturally, more than anywhere else on the planet. Do they? Have you ever felt more love, acceptance, belonging, care elsewhere (perhaps in a club, sports team, bar)? Why? Why are churches not known for our love?
- What is one thing you could do to make Oakland a more radically loving place? What is one thing Oakland could do collectively?
- According to Prov 19:22, what is the basis of all love? Is it possible to be love and lie? Why would we? How do lies, even small ones, destroy intimacy?
We are working to improve the Audio feed for the coming weeks. Thank you for your patience as we all worship together.
Loving God and Loving People are not optional even during an epidemic,
Many of you are looking for ways to help your neighbors and friends during this time. If you are still willing to run errands for people you could post it on your neighborhood social media page. You could take prayer requests on the same page. Perhaps you could circulate a card like this on mailboxes with your name and contact information.
Other ways to help:
- Offer to babysit for friends or family who must still work.
- Buy gift cards to small businesses trading cash now for services later.
- Pray. Pray. Pray.
DAY 1 – GAL 3.13-26 – PRAY FOR EASY REJOICING
DAY 2 – NEH 8 – PRAY FOR HOW TO PARTY
DAY 3 – ISAIAH 35 – PRAY FOR EXUBERANCE
DAY 4 – 1 CHRON 16 – PRAY FOR UNRESTRAINED PRAISE
DAY 5 – PHIL 4 – PRAY FOR CONTENTMENT
- What are the fruit of the Spirit? What is the freedom of Gal 5? Who is more joyful than liberated people? What have you been liberated from? What has God saved you from? Are you as grateful as a freed slave or rescued P.O.W.? Spend time pondering this freedom until you find joy.
- What is Joy? What does it mean to Rejoice? Is Joy an emotion? If so, is it fair for God to command us to feel certain emotions? If not, what is it? Can I rejoice even when I don’t feel like it? Can I practice Joy even when I am not “happy”?
- Who is the most fun person you know? The person that you enjoy being with the most? That is the easiest to laugh with and makes you want to dance? How can you learn from them?
- How do the people initially respond to the reading of God’s Word in Nehemiah 8? Why are they crying? Happy tears, overwhelmed, conviction? Have you ever cried in worship/prayer or have you muted all your emotions in church?
- What does God want his people to do in Nehemiah 8? What would this look like at Oakland? What would this look like in your personal devotions? How could you party like the Hebrews? Would you? Why or why not?
- What kind of joy does Isaiah 35? When does Isaiah expect this kind of joy to come? How does Jesus open the doorway to this kind of Joyful behavior?
- What barriers stand in the way of our exuberance? Why stops us from acting more joyfully? What attitudes or fears or sins?
- Why are the people so excited in 1 Chronicles 16? Why are the excited about the ark? How do they show it? Where is the ark now? Where is the Holy Presence now? Does this amaze and excite you like David? Why or why not?
- How does singing coach us towards joy? What other actions make us more likely to rejoice? To laugh and release good endorphins?
- Entitlement and familiarity destroy joy. How have you found the 6 days of fasting and 1 feast day rhythm helping you enjoy and appreciate things in new ways?
- What does Phil 4 teach us about joy? What doe Paul know about joy that you don’t? What is the difference between his mental health and emotional stability compared to yours? Why do think this is?
Pardon the quality, we were live streaming with little notice and experience.
Think of the times we party. Now think of the times we absolutely lose our mind in celebration. When Carolina wins a National Title, there is a riot on Franklin Street with trash fires and flipped cars. When Duke wins, students dance around huge bonfires built from all the wooden benches on campus. When Philly wins a Super Bowl no one and no street lamp is safe. When the Allies defeated Germany and Japan, the streets flooded with strangers kissing and dancing together.
We party on Easter, because Easter is the greatest day in history.
Greater than National Championships or even National Victories. Jesus defeated more than Germany, he defeated the actual Axis of Evil. Jesus stomped out more than the Blue Devils, he crushed the actual Devil. He defeated Death and Sin and Hell. All our enemies have been conquered and they now fight a retreating, losing, guerilla battle against God’s Elect.
We party because Jesus wins. The day Jesus died was the worst day in history – God came close enough for us to hug him or hurt him, and we nailed him to a tree, and yet we now call the day “Good Friday” and wear miniature versions of the torture device as jewelry. Why? Because God transformed the worst moment in human history into the best moment – the moment our salvation was accomplished and our sin – the very sin of nailing Jesus – was forgiven.
Easter proves it. Our sin is forgiven, our sentence served, our debt is paid and the empty tomb proves the super abundance of God’s provision. Sin does not win. The devil will not win in your life or your marriage. Brokenness is not final. Pain is not pointless. All crosses, both the ones we suffer and the ones we built, will end in resurrection. That is the point of our art projects, which transform trash into treasure. We built beauty from all recycled materials to remind us that our brokenness too will be transformed.
So we party. And maybe, must one day, our children, our youth, and ourselves will wake up after years away from church, in the midst of immense spiritual agony, and remember a little brick church that parties every Easter, because Jesus is alive, and there is hope for all broken people. Our children may not remember Sunday School lessons or sermons, but hopefully they remember art projects and shouts of victory.
Party on Children. Party on.
The following is from the February 2019 Acorn.
My December was overwhelmed with a single thought and a single life changing encounter. You’ve heard it before, but do you really believe them?
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE WITH GOD.
THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.
The Monday after we canceled church for snow, I ran into Joe David, Joy, and Brittany at Ugly Mug Coffee Shop. Joy and Brittany are both educators, so our conversation turned to difficult children in school.
As a special needs teacher, Brittany explained how she’s learned to love difficult children even when they hurt her, push her away, and curse her. She’s seen that if she can love them more than they fight her, love will change them, soften them, and transform them. Love will overcome their fear, anger, and poor coping mechanisms.
Love that loves even when I fight back. Love that keeps loving even when it is rejected. Love that keeps coming even if it involves being rejected, despised, and injured. Love that risks rejection for the sake of redemption. THAT SOUNDS LIKE JESUS DOESN’T IT?!
In the church, we call that kind of undeserved, unconditional love, “GRACE, AMAZING GRACE,” and we are given grace upon grace in Jesus who chases us down while we kick, bite, scream, pout, and crucify to get our own way.
Brittany has learned to replicate Jesus’ grace even though she’s only been following Jesus in church for a little over a year. It’s so cool, how the Holy Spirit has been teaching her GRACE and using her to give GRACE for years. Grace before I know what Grace is, is called “Prevenient Grace” by theologians.
Brittany told me about this specific boy who cusses her and attacks her and other kids when he doesn’t get his way. Still, her relentless GRACE is changing him. Then she said, “It just makes me so sad, cause you know he’s learned that behavior from somewhere. Gotta be from mom and dad cause he’s not learning it at school.”
And my heart broke. It broke because you’ve taught me to empathize like Jesus rather than judge like the old me always did.
I almost cried as I said, “Brittany, I’m so thankful God put you in that little boy’s life to GRACE him as he learns a different way to communicate and a different way to get his needs met. But what about his mom and dad. Where do they learn this stuff? That boy can go to school and be changed by GRACE, but what about his mom and dad, where can they go to learn how to communicate, to love, to forgive, to be moms and dads, to be husbands, and to adult? Where they can go even where they’ll be GRACED and LOVED even while they still cuss and fight back and resent? Where can they go? Where will they learn how to love and be loved?”
Joe and Joy and Brittany all looked at each other trying to think about where in this world grown people can go to learn honesty, integrity, spirituality, forgiveness, gentleness, love, joy, peace, self-control. Where can they go to be liberated from harmful habits and unhelpful coping mechanisms? Where can their character defects be removed and lives redeemed?
There are only 2 places I can think of, and the second grew out of the first. The Second is Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step Groups like it.
The first is the Church. A place for difficult people to be loved over and over again. Even when they try to push us away, we keep loving them. Even when they curse us, we bless. Even when they sin, we forgive. A place where train wrecks are welcome and loved even as they are transformed. A place where the only requirement is a desire to know God and let God change you. A desire not a dress code or decorum or diploma or accomplishment is the only requirement. A mustard seed of faith in God and hope for healing.
The Church is the only such place. The Church is the only hope for such families and such people. They didn’t learn it from their parents, they didn’t learn it in the Army, or on the job. They won’t learn grace and be transformed by grace by watching TV or going to counseling, but by following Jesus with other sinners. The church is the only place where the transformative power of grace can reach them FOR FREE. The only place so wonderfully, gracefully stubborn enough to put up with difficult, needy people until God’s love transforms them.
It is the only hope for them because it is the only hope for me.
It is the only hope for them because it is the only hope for me. I am one of those unlovely people who came into a church with a pile of regret and a suitcase of resentments. I owned suits and spoke refined English, but I was full of deceit, cowardice, people-pleasing, selfishness, and fear not to mention covetousness, lust, and anger. Where am I going to learn to trust Jesus not just with my eternal salvation, but my daily life and my inner character. Where am I going to learn gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, empathy, and grace? Friends, the only hope for my marriage, for my parenting, for my character defects, for my past sins, for my future failures is a real connection with Jesus and Jesus’ people because I cannot figure out how to follow Jesus without you. You are the ones teaching me how to listen to my wife, to settle disagreements civility, to subjugate my wants to others’ needs, and so much more.
the only hope for my marriage, for my parenting, for my character defects, for my past sins, for my future failures is a real connection with Jesus and Jesus’ people because I cannot figure out how to follow Jesus without you.
Church is where the prideful learn humility, where the vindictive learn forgiveness, where the greedy learn generosity. This is where the person with no friends learns to make friends, the person who has never been loved learns to be loved, the person who’s always right learns to be a sinner, the person who’s never been good enough learns to belong, the person with cancer learns to persevere, the person with an unplanned child learns to parent, where emotionally absent dads learn to be present, where the spoiled learn to serve, where the shy learn to talk to strangers, and where the blabbermouths learn to shut up.
The encounter reinvigorated my whole ministry. It reminded me and convinced me practically.
Anything is possible at Oakland, because anything is possible with God.
Oakland is the hope of the world.
In God’s Church, in Oakland, transformation is always possible. No one is too far gone to repent, too unlovely to be loved, too broken to be mended, too rebellious to be the prodigal, too drunk to get sober, too sick to get healed, too lost to be found, too addicted to be liberated, too deceived to get honest, too cynical to meet Jesus, because OAKLAND is a place to meet Jesus and learn to follow him, because Oakland is a place where the grace of God must be as tangible and visible as the wind in the trees and the sun on our skin. If we always point to Jesus and love one another like Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
We are the hope of the world. Not government, not PBS, not better education, not better rules. ONLY JESUS AND HIS CHURCH. Only the church. Only the church can teach people not to blame, hide, lie, or practice self-righteousness, but to surrender their wills and lives to the care of God, who has proved his love by sending Jesus to save us.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
This devotional was written for Oakland's Family Advent Workbook. The hope is that our children couldn't think about the Grinch without thinking about Jesus. We don't want to reject all the secular trappings outright, we want to trace them to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and reign.
Find time to read or watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as a family. Then take some time, maybe over cookies and milk or hot cocoa to chat about Jesus.
How did The Grinch remind you of Jesus or a Bible story?
Why did the Grinch hate Christmas?
Why did the Grinch do mean things?
Why do you do mean things sometimes?
What does the Grinch expect to happen when the Whos wake up?
What actually happens?
How does the singing affect the Grinch? Why?
Have you ever seen someone celebrate/sing even when bad things happen?
What does the Grinch do when his heart changes?
What does the Grinch learn about Christmas?
What is Christmas all about to you?
Every good story is good because it echoes the one great story of God’s rescuing love in Jesus that changes our hearts. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch hates Christmas because his heart is 2 sizes too small. A bad heart leads to bad actions (stealing Christmas) and even delights in the pain caused by bad actions. This gives us a picture of Sin. Sin is a heart problem, a heart that is all about me and what I want. All the bad things we call “sins” are really symptoms of Sin, the heart condition. We all need Jesus to change our hearts.
When the Grinch steal Christmas, he expects the Whos to cry and boo-hoo, but instead they sing. The still celebrate Christmas because, “Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”
All who have come to know the true meaning of Christmas can celebrate even when bad things happen. Even when bad things happen, Christians can celebrate because God is good, and at Christmas God sent his son to rescue us. Even if we have no presents under the tree, we can celebrate the present given on a tree – Jesus on a cross.
When people see us celebrate Jesus at Christmas more than the lights, ribbons, bows, and boxes, they will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and their hearts will change like the Grinch’s heart changed. Especially, when we invite them into our celebrations.