BLOG – The Cure for Fear of Poverty, Being Duped, and Death

On Sunday, I said there are 3 main fears that keep us from feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and visiting the imprisoned as Jesus commands us to do in Matthew 25 –

  • Fear of Poverty – we’re afraid if we’re generous we’ll end up broke.
  • Fear of Being Duped – we’re afraid people will manipulate us and take advantage of our generosity.
  • Fear of Death – we’re afraid we’ll be put in dangerous situations around contagious sick people or dangerous convicts in prison.

The cure for our fears is not guilt or command, but faith, which is why we’re so often told, “Do not be afraid,” throughout the Scriptures. What will take away your fears and mine and free us to live truly generous lives?

            Jesus gave up glory in Heaven and become completely destitute, was taken advantage of and betrayed by those he tried to help, and finally was killed. He too was afraid of those things, but for the sake of save you, blessing you, and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven, was courageous and faithful through his fears. When you see him do that for you, our hearts are transformed to do the same for others. We are given courage to act in spite of our fears.

            Further, when we are faithful and obedient to bless, give, serve, feed, visit, etc. we find that Jesus is faithful and trustworthy – Jesus keeps his promise and our faith grows again, rereleasing us to serve.

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).

Weekly Bible Reading Plan – April 26 – May 3

Snow Globe Kingdom Week 2 Reading Plan - 4.26-5.3

 Questions to Guide You:
  1. Reading Matthew 1:18-25 for the second time, what stands out?
  2. “Jesus” is the Greek version of the Hebrew “Joshua,” which means “God Saves.” From Deut 31 and Josh 1, how is Jesus like Joshua?
  3. Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, where does Jesus lead us?
  4. Why do think Moses and God tell Joshua to be “strong and courageous” so many times?
  5. Where are places you need to be “strong and courageous” to follow your Joshua/Jesus?
  6. What does the child in Isaiah 9 accomplish? How has Jesus increased your Joy (v3)? What burdens do you need Jesus to lift off you (v4)? Can you let Jesus fight your battles from now on (v5)?
  7. What are his names? Think through them slowly. What do they each mean and why are they good news?
  8. In Is 11, what “Spirits” will Jesus, the “shoot of Jesse” possess? As followers of Jesus, how should these characterize us?
  9. What will the “Shoot of Jesse” (Jesus) accomplish? Good news?

For a printer-friendly copy of this reading plan, including sample questions to augment your study of Scripture, Download the PDF


Music for the Resurrection

There are somethings you can sing that you can't say. There are other things that you can play that you can't sing. As Darrell Scott sings, "I've been singing about things I should be telling to my shrink, and to my shrink I've been singing Kumbaya."
It's strange and yet true that somehow the meter, rhyme-schemes, and brevity of poetry allow it to say more than pages and pages of prose. So when we come to Church, we assume the music will teach us and shape us and spark us in ways that 30 minutes of preaching never could. Try using evolution to explain that! 
So following Easter, I wanted to let music help us think through the Resurrection. These songs vary in style but all share the same subject matter so check it out. 

Christ is Risen

I love the celebration of this song, especially the bridge, "Oh Death, where is your sting? Oh Hell, where is your victory?"  I particulary love the spoken word in this video. The poem is beautiful in its bleak assessment of Death and of its exhilarating conclusion about Jesus.

Buried in the Grave

I'm in love with All Sons and Daughters. I love their simple arrangements of a guitar, a piano, and (often) a cello. This song is beautiful and haunting in the ways it imagines the disciples' shattered experience of the cross. "There was a day we held our breath,/ and felt the sting of bitter death,/ when all our hopes were buried in the grave.// Our eyes awake, our hearts were torn,/ between our faith and what we knew/ before our King was buried in the grave.// Grace was in the tension of everything we'd lost/ Standing empty handed, shattered by the cross."

Death in His Grave

This song is written by a North Carolinian with incredible worship impulses. He and his church went into a Nightly Revival that lasted months, and so many of these songs were composed spontaneously as he searched for new songs to play. I love the theology of this song, and again the bridge hammers it home, "He has defeated,/ Death and seated/ Us above the Fall.// In desparate places/ He paid our wages/ Once and once for all!"

Spiritual Gift Assessments

In Creole dialect, they have a word, lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap), which means something extra beyond what you paid for. It’s usually a little extra soup in the pot or a little extra grain in the bag, but it is always gratuitous, gracious, extra.

Consider this blog a little lagniappe regarding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, also known as Spiritual Gifts, or the Gifts of the Body or Gifts for Ministry, or Charismata in Greek. On Sunday, February 15, 2015, I preached a sermon entitled “The Way of Jesus - I am Called to Serve," because all of Jesus' followers are called to serve his Church. 

DSC_2970Oakland is awesome at serving. It is one of our collective, corporate strengths, and I celebrate it weekly. Still, I want every one of our servants to serve in ways that give them life, that fill them with joy, and that fulfill real needs in the Church and community. I want you to crave opportunities to use your gifts to bless people. You are called to serve not as a warm body in a bureaucracy, but as a gifted member of God’s family.

When I am operating within my primary gifts of Knowledge, Teaching, and Preaching, it feels like someone plugged me into the wall. It feels like I’m finally doing what I was made to do – to show people how every aspect of life is informed and reformed by Jesus. 

Like I said on Sunday, the chief of all charismata is “eternal life through Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:23). The Holy Spirit applies Christ’s finished, saving work on the Cross to each of us. In plain English that means the Holy Spirit gives us credit for everything Christ has, including a perfect life and a perfect relationship with God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a tangible proof of this gift, the Holy Spirit gives individuals particular gifts. In that sermon, I spoke specifically about the gifts named in Romans 12:4-8, but there are plenty of other gifts named in the Bible, especially 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 and 12:28.

To give you an idea of what gifts are possible, and begin the process of serving with your gifts for your joy and the community’s benefit, I suggest a Spiritual Gift Assessment. There is no science to finding your gift, and a one-size-fits-all test is certainly not failproof, but Spiritual Gift Assessments provide great starting points for discovering your God-given gifts. They cause you to think about the things you do instinctively and joyfully. Our gifts often feel “natural” or like “the obvious right thing to do,” so we can take them for granted.


For years, I have used this Spiritual Gift Assessment published by Lifeway. It is not perfect, but is a trustworthy tool to start discernment. It includes brief descriptions of each gift, and even suggestions for places to serve. It is a Self-Scored Survey in PDF format, so it is great for pencil-and-paper kind of folk.


If you’re more of a “let the computer do the math” kind of person, then I recently discovered and tried out 2 other tests at As cheesy as the name sounds, they provide more than adequate descriptions of each gift, and the survey is full of refreshingly normal questions.

You are welcome to take and compare both tests. As you seek to find your gifts and seek to implement them in service, I’d love to chat personally. If you’d like some help, call the office to set up a chance to chat.

SERMON: The Way of Jesus (Part 6) – I am Called to SERVE

The Way of Jesus (Part 6): I am Called to SERVE
You don't volunteer at your church, any more than you babysit your own kids.

Pastor Andrew Ruth
February 15, 2015
Romans 12:4-8
Luke 22:24-30
There are dozens of Spiritual Gifts named in the Bible, but this sermon specifically discusses the following gifts named in Romans 12:4-8.







"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." — Frederick Buechner


1.) Start to identify your unique Spiritual Gifts.
Start by completing this simple assessment, and then find a time to talk to Pastor Andrew or a Spiritual Mentor.
2.) Research the needs around you - at Oakland and in Cleveland.
Your gift was given to meet real needs.


Weekly Reading Plan

This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan.  Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to GIVE, so this week we will be reading about honor God with our money using this WEEK 7 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.

 TheWayOfJesus-I am called to - Week 7 Reading Slide

SERMON: The Way of Jesus (Part 4) – I am Called to WORSHIP

The Way of Jesus (Part 4): I am called to WORSHIP

Pastor Andrew Ruth
February 1, 2015
Isaiah 44:6-22
Romans 12:1-2
John 4:1-26


I worship whatever my life revolves around.


I worship whatever my happiness and depression hinge upon.


I worship whatever I build my life upon.

Weekly Reading Plan

This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan.  Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to MATURE, so this week we will be reading about maturity and spiritual growth using this WEEK 5 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.

 TheWayOfJesus-I am called to - Week 5 Reading Slide

SERMON: The Way of Jesus – I am called to FISH


The Way of Jesus: I am called to FISH - Making More and Better Disciples

Pastor Andrew Ruth
January 18, 2015
Matthew 28:16-20

Further Reading Suggestions for this sermon:

Born to Reproduce

This sermon by Dawson Trotman is essential reading/listening for anyone wanting to "make more and better disciples." It is short, challenging, and FREE.

More Info

Master Plan of Evangelism

This is the most helpful and Biblically insightful HOW-TO guide for evangelism I've ever seen. Consider it assigned reading for those desperate to figure disciple-making out.

More Info

The Celtic Way of Evangelism

Put this 3rd on your list. It is a fascinating study of the way St. Patrick converted the Pagan Celts to Christianity, and how we as 21st century Christians could do the same to pagan Americans.

More Info

Weekly Reading Plan

This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan.  Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to LOVE, so this week we will be reading about love, using this WEEK 3 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.

TheWayOfJesus-I am called to - Week 3 Readings Only

Wednesdays – Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

 Oakland is hosting the FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY!

Wednesday Nights @ 7:00PM – January 14 – March 18

Free Childcare Provided.

Cost: $93 per couple, which includes all books, materials, and a lifetime membership to the F.P.U.

REGISTER ONLINE or call the office, 919-934-5476 to reserve your spot today.

Still trying to decide if the Financial Peace University is for you, check out this preview: