Poinsettias in Honor and Memory

Every Advent, our Sanctuary is decorated with dozens of Poinsettias given in honor or in memory of our loved ones. 

Here is this year's list:

Bonnie Adams                                             

In honor of Keli, Dell, Cristy & Rett Adams   

In honor of Vernie Mae Adams

In memory of  Matthew & Judy Hair

In memory of Donald & Ethelene Matthews

 

Keli Adams

In honor of Keli, Dell, Cristy & Rett Adams

In honor of E. O. & Bonnie Adams

In honor of Dylan Drayton

In memory of Odell Adams

In memory Aubrey Wilford

In memory of Dakota Morgan

 

Rudy & Pat Baker

In memory of Peggy Bjorling

In memory of Jimmy & Lula Bass

In memory of Floyd & Mozelle Braswell

 

Larry & Pat Barbour

In honor of our children

In honor of our grandchildren

In memory of our parents

In memory of Pat’s sister, Willa Mae & brother, Kenneth

 

Gloria Barnes

In honor of my children & grandchildren

In memory of Earl Barnes

 

Jimmy & Elaine Benson

In honor  of Lessie Blackmon

In memory of Theron Blackmon

In memory of Edna & Judson Benson

 

Dennis & Norma Blackmon

In honor of Lessie Blackmon

In honor of Dennis Blackmon Jr. & Sondie      Niehaus

In honor of Steven, Jeannie, Jacob & Carly Barefoot

In memory of Theron Blackmon

In memory of Buck & Louise Allen

In memory of Daniel Lee Allen

 

Richard & Margaret Boyd

In memory of Rev. & Mrs. Dalton Honeycutt

In memory of Richard & Doris Boyd

 

Tammy Boyd & Family

In honor of Bessie Pronier

 

Rob, Beth, Robin & Reece Braswell

In memory of EB & Mary Ellen Wallace

In memory of LP & Ada Braswell

 

Kate Dulmaine

In memory of Suzanne Nagle

 

Melinda Garvin

In memory of Mr. & Mrs. W. A. Montgomery

In memory of Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Garvin

 

James & Michelle Gillis & Girls

In memory of Dell Stephenson

 

Russ & Betty Gowin

In memory of Linda Weeks

In memory of Glenda Germann

In memory of Helen Lambert

In memory of Juanita Jackson

In memory of Paul Gardner

In memory of Tom Gardner

 

Donna Kelly & Wells Hayes

In memory of Mr. & Mrs. W. K. Huggins

In memory of Sgt. Emmanuel Pickett, Iraq ‘08

 

Liam & Sam Leonard

In memory of Betty Ann Hedrick

In memory of Roy Leonard

 

Beth McGee,  Kolby & Josey

In honor of Vernie Mae Adams

 

Cindy Miller

In memory of Jean Holt, Beck & John Cashion

 

The Partins

In honor of Kirby & Betty Hill

In honor of Luther Partin

In memory of Shadrick & Cleo Phillips

In memory of Evelyn Partin

 

Mike & Becky Stancil

In honor of our children

In honor of our grandchildren

In memory of Floyd & Mozelle Braswell

In memory of Rayford & Margilene Stancil

 

Jim & Pat Tabler

In memory of Pat’s sister, Betty L. Intemann

In memory of Jim’s sister, Lee T. Dougherty

 

 Lanny & Helen Thomas

In honor of Jamie, Christy, Preston & Abby

Thomas

In memory of Joe & Jean Thomas

In memory of Jim & Betty Stephens

 

Wanda Watkins

In honor of Ed & Shirley Watkins

 

Don & Mary Williford

In honor of Ed & Deborah Williford, Josh & Jamie

In memory of our parents

Milton & Velma Johnson

Jamie & Ruby Williford

In memory of Don’s sister, Sonja Yarborough

 

Ed & Deborah Williford

In honor of Don & Mary Williford

In memory of Ralph & Gerri Durrette

 

Preston & Fannie Lou Woods

In honor of Ashley, Chad, & Megan Massengill

 

The Wright, Thompson & Dalton Families

In honor of our families and friends

In memory of William Wright

In memory of Nancy Bolger Thompson

In memory of Shirley Thompson

Family Advent Devotional

Download a Family/Kid Advent Devotional Book

Hey Gang,
So I’ve never found anything quite like this. It is an Advent Devotional Book for families with young kids. If you have young ones and you’re trying to find a way to teach them the Christmas Story and get them asking good God questions, this might be helpful. If you have one of those chocolate Christmas countdown calendars, maybe you can read this before you open the chocolates and then discuss the questions while you enjoy them!!

It was designed and written by the church I attended in college, Lake Forest Church. I’d recommend printing it out and stapling it together, since the layout is all wonky in PDF view.

Merry Christmas!

Here is what Mike, their Pastor had to say about the book on his awesome blog:

Last Sunday we handed out a daily Advent devotional at the Kidtropolis check-in stations and I offer it today for your use.  It is primarily geared for parent(s) to lead their child(ren) through, as a user-friendly way to be in God’s Word daily and focus on Jesus this December.  But I am using it as my daily devotions this season personally, and want to invite you to as well.

The authors of this devotional guide are Aron Gibson (our kick tail WestLakeForest pastor) and Tracy Grubbs (our self-named ‘Creative Arts Chick’ at LFC – I allow people to write their own job titles). There are two things I like most about it:

  1. It models for us that our daily engagement with God’s Word doesn’t have to be exhaustive, long, or exhausting to be meaningful.  Sometimes a brief focus and prayer over a single verse has more sticking power for the day, and in the heart, than reading a whole chapter. And that can be done in a few focused minutes.
  2. They chose an Ignatian approach to a family devotional, by making one simple statement about each Bible reading, then posing a question or two.  Parents, this is tutoring you in how to be a ‘spiritual director,’ or shepherd, to your child.  Use the questions as starting points, let your child and yourself explore them, and gently turn them to consider God’s presence in their lives that day.

I’m asking the LORD to gift me with a more child-like heart this Advent season as I follow this guide.  Thank you Aron and Tracy.

You can download the LFC Advent Family Devotion here. Note: Because of how the booklets are set up for our printer, this download will not have the dates in order. You’ll just have added family bonding time searching for the dates as a first step 🙂 (also we will have a few more to handout in Kidtropolis this Sunday)

DEVOTION: on bruised reeds and smoldering wicks

The following is from Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite preachers. He is rifting off a verse we read this past week, Matthew 12:20:

Evening, July 19

Go To Morning Reading

“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”Matthew 12:20

What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax? reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed. Then look at the smoking flax—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant’s breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, “The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break.” Some of God’s children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza’s gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows—weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus—so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.

Daniel 9 – Because God is Good, not because we are sorry.

Daniel 9.9

Daniel 9: 1-19 is one of my absolute favorite passages this morning, probably because it is the passage I am reading. It is heart-wrenching to watch as Daniel realizes his and all of Israel’s bad decisions and unfaithful living. It is humbling to watch Daniel realize that he and his country men are in a profound way, the source of all the suffering they now encounter. That they sinned against the Lord, they abandoned his ways and and ignored his servants. Notice how he comes to this realization; through searching the Scriptures. He was studying the Scriptures and that is how he saw for the first time the reality of his situation. Apart from Scripture we are blind to God’s goodness and our own failures.

But what is more amazing, is that Daniel does not believe they can be sorry enough to merit forgiveness and restoration. His sorrow is genuine, because he does not believe it is the deciding factor in his restoration. When we’re sorry to get God to improve our lives, we’re not sorry, we’re manipulative. And manipulating God is just another attempt to be God over God. Instead, Daniel depends wholly on God’s goodness to incline God to forgive. It is because God is Good, not because we are sorry, that God works good from bad, and redemption from rebellion. Praise God for that.

TODAY: There is an example to follow: Daniel. I should search the scriptures and repent.

So I will continue to read Scripture everyday in hopes that God will reveal my reality and his will. I will repent on my account and my church and my country. I will remind myself again and again that God is good, and it is because he is absolutely righteous and faithful that I can pray for help and I can approach him in trouble I create and trouble I suffer. I acknowledge today that God’s ways are best and intended to save me from avoidable calamity.

Blank Check Disciples

On Sunday, I said that being a follower of Jesus is about putting a BLANK CHECK in front of Jesus. Faith in Jesus, means I offer all I have and all I am to him, to be used by him to build his Kingdom by reconnecting people with God, redeeming broken lives, and rescuing lost souls. As a follower of Jesus, I will go where he sends me and do what he asks of me even if it costs me my money, my time, my house, my relationships, etc. I trust him to save me after death, and to lead me during life. He gets it all.

I stole the phrase “Blank Check” from David Platt, but another famous Christian, John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) used this prayer to present his blank check before God. I invite you to pray it, if you are sincere in your faith.

WesleyCovenantPrayer

I Prayed Wrong, and Here’s My New 9:38 Prayer

If you don't feel like reading the whole thing, skip to the big words at the end for my conclusion and your assignment.

Today as I reread Matthew 9:35-38, it hit me that I have been praying incorrectly and even disobediently. For the better part of my time at Oakland Presbyterian Church, I’ve been praying that God will send us the people who need to hear each sermon. I drive around Cleveland and pray for each subdivision as I pass, “Lord, I pray for Summerset Place. I ask you to reveal yourself there, to work in the hearts and minds of families there, to bring them to Christ. I pray you will use Oakland to shine a light in that place. I claim it for you, as part of your Kingdom, that should and will recognize you as Lord and Savior.”

Not that there is anything wrong with praying for lost people or praying for hurting people or asking the Lord for opportunities to share the gospel and alleviate suffering. We should pray for those things, and even more so, do those things. Still, in Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus says plainly, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Matthew 9.38What does Jesus plainly, explicitly tell me to pray for? For people to come or for atheists to become believers? No, he says, “Ask the Lord to send out workers into his harvest.” Jesus says that the harvest is already full, and yet I have spent the majority of my time praying for the harvest to come. Jesus tells me to pray God will send workers into the field.

Honestly, I have not been praying this way. I’ve been living as if we’re mid-summer and the harvest is dubious, and so I’ve been praying for a harvest that might fail. But Jesus (Thank God for those 2 Words) assures me that the harvest is PLENTIFUL and more than the workers can handle.

The Harvest exists. It is here. It is real. It is not in doubt. God has provided a HUGE Harvest. It is not a few people, it is more than every existing church in Cleveland can hold. God has people ready to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has people ripe for faith.  But there are two potential problems we must combat in prayer:

  1. Not enough harvesters – we need more workers, more laborers that know how to harvest, that know how to share the gospel, that know how to make disciples who make disciples, that know who to tell if a person is ripe for faith in Jesus, that know how to delicately “pick” people. We need more laborers, not more hard work, but more laborers. Pray to God to send out skillful Laborers.
  2. Harvesters Not IN the field – I worry that there are harvesters, but they are sitting in the shade resting or in the barn tinkering. They are inside the house watching football. They are too distracted and comfortable and busy. We need harvesters IN THE HARVEST FIELD. Harvest is a hectic time, running wide open to collect as much fruit as we can before it spoils. It is not time to be doing maintenance or optional upgrades. It is not time to paint the barn or build barns or order materials for next year. During harvest only harvest essential tasks are done; only mission-critical tasks are done. Jesus needs more people IN THE FIELD. Actually harvesting. Pray to God to SEND OUT harvesters INTO THE FIELD. Send them out. Send them into the field. If you ran a farm at harvest and your workers where anywhere but in the field harvesting, you'd kick their butts into gear, or you'd fire and replace them with actual laborers.

MAN, IT HITS ME THAT I’VE BEEN ASKING GOD TO BRING THE HARVEST INTO THE BARN, WHEN I’VE BEEN EXPRESSLY COMMANDED TO ASK GOD TO SEND LABORERS OUT TO THE HARVEST FIELD. I'VE BEEN PRAYING FOR GOD TO BRING PEOPLE IN, WHEN GOD WANTS TO SEND PEOPLE OUT.

                  APPLICATION: I ask you to join me in this plan. Let's set 2 alarms for every day this week. One at 9:38AM and one at 9:38PM (because it is Matthew 9:38). When that alarm goes off in the morning and night I will pray not for what I want to pray, but for what Jesus has told me to pray. I "ask the Lord of the Harvest to send workers out into the harvest field."
                  PRAYER: Lord of the Harvest, we beg you to send out workers into your harvest field. Send out men and women skillful at identifying ripe harvest fields and harvesting men and women for your kingdom. Send out men and women willing to work hard and tirelessly to collect the hearts you’ve already won. Lord, don’t make us watch, we want to participate, make us harvesters and send us out into your mission field, that we can celebrate your bounty. AMEN.

Thanks for a Year, Oakland

THANK YOU.

IMG_1415Dear Oakland,

Sunday marked one year of journeying towards Jesus together. Thank you for honoring me with a reception, kind words, and a new fishing rod. I will enjoy the memory every time I use the rod to hook into a big ol’ lunker or plate filler. Your words of encouragement are invaluable to me as I hold myself to high standards and big dreams, which the Devil will often use as clubs to beat my spirits. Your cards, notes, handshakes, smiles give me courage.

As awesome as those are, I am even more thankful for the last year. You all have welcomed me not just with words but with flexibility and patience. As I learn to preach every single week from the Scriptures you have been patient with my tinkering. You have let me experiment with topical preaching series and book-studies. You have been extremely patient with the length of service and the order of its components. You participate when I try out new things like a Sunday Wedding, an Easter Art Project, or a Footwashing Service. For those things I am truly thankful and perpetually humbled. I don’t take those things for granted, and due to countless conversation with colleagues, I understand just how rare a congregation we are.

I love your hunger for the Word of God, your commitment to Cleveland Community, and your hope for God to use us. I love the way you love my family and help raise my boy. It is my great dream that everyone that comes into Oakland experiences what I have experienced. Those are the things God will use to make more and better disciples of Jesus here in Cleveland.

Oakland is not about me. We, all of the members of Oakland, are the ministers of Oakland. You have a gift and a calling just as I do, and I pray that every single member of Oakland is able to do ministry somewhere. May we each continue to have the calloused hands and soft hearts that come from following Jesus.

May God grant us His vision for Oakland, and may we continue to have the courage to follow His lead. I am so excited to see where Oakland is going, and even more so, to be on this wild ride with you all. Here’s to many more.

 

For the King,
Andrew David Ruth
Pastor, Oakland Presbyterian Church

CS LEWIS - Far better ahead

A Call to Fast

Today at worship, Pastor Andrew called for a day of prayer and fasting to ask God to send us a worship leader and to use Oakland to do something amazing in Cleveland. Specifically, we’re asking all who are able are asked to fast from dinner on Sunday (7/5) to dinner on Monday (7/6). Those available are invited to an impromptu time of worship tomorrow night at 6PM, where we will break our fast with leftover pancakes and sausages. If you cannot make it, simply enjoy dinner tomorrow night with extra gratitude.

Strictly speaking that means not eating at breakfast and lunch tomorrow, though you may drink, in order to make time for prayer and scripture study. Remember the goal is not to “obey the rules” but to increase my mindfulness of God and my attentiveness to his plans. So those who cannot fast or choose not to, may choose some other way to encourage themselves to pray more throughout the day, such as eating simple meals, wearing a rubber band on their wrist, setting hourly timers on their phones, etc.

Fasting is not as common as it once was and so can be little known and often misunderstood. So let me finish this post with a few quick tips and then a link to a sermon I preached a while back on fasting.

Quick Tips:
1. The goal is Jesus – we do not fast to punish ourselves or to earn God’s favor. We fast because we need Jesus more than food, and this reminds us of that. 

2. Let hunger be a call to prayer – every time you feel hungry, start to pray. At meal times, when you would be eating, find some quiet space to read the Bible and pray. I find it especially helpful to write my prayers as letters to God, so that my hands are busy and my mind is focused (cause hunger can be a distraction). Pray specifically for a worship leader at Oakland, the Leaders at Oakland, Pastor Andrew, pray for families you know at Oakland, pray for members of your family, pray for people in your neighborhood, pray for neighborhoods, schools, and other churches in Cleveland by name. Pray for our nation. Ask God to use Oakland to increase our love for Jesus and Jesus’ fame in Cleveland. 

3. Fasting, doesn’t change God, it makes us more sensitive to God. So while praying spend sometime in silence listening to God. Sometimes I close my eyes and just listen to the sounds around me, the pictures in my head, and the words I just read in the Bible. It is amazing what will stand out. If you get distracted easily, try “spiritual doodling.”

4. Drink water and juice or gatorade through the day. I find these taste better, when I am fasting.

If you want more information about what Fasting is and isn’t, how to do it and why we do it, HERE is a sermon I preached a few years ago. If you want even more information about this and other spiritual disciplines, I strongly recommend Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline (it is AWESOME).

How To Use This Book

Learning to use the Bible is not a intuitive thing. Something as basic as finding a passage from a given reference is a skill we use in no other area of life. At Oakland, there are people from all different backgrounds and upbringings, so we don’t assume anyone knows the basics of navigating the Bible. Therefore we have created this simple beginning guide for spiritual explorers hoping to study the Bible for the first times. Enjoy and feel free to share. A PDF of the same image is available HERE.

HowToUseThisBook Copy