WITH GOD: devotional series (pt 5)

PART FIVE - WITH GOD: devotional series 
By: Hillary Grantham

It’s fitting that we have been studying what God says about the tithe and becoming a generous people prior to studying ways to grow in intimacy with God.  Strategic? 

The law was given to God’s people to expose sin, give us a standard for righteous living, and ultimately provide a way for an unholy people to relate to a holy God.   The law wasn’t a harsh line drawn between us and our God, rather the law was an expression of God’s love towards us, His people.  The Law was given as an act to draw us in. The law had EVERYTHING to do with intimacy. 

It’s easy to read the truth of God’s word and conclude that the converse about God and His nature must also be true.  For example, if we consider the tithe and the blessing that comes with giving, it seems logical to conclude that if I struggle to give I will be cursed.  Fire-breathing wizard.   God is angry and I’m out.  Or, if God is silent, then I must have done something wrong and God is not pleased.  But what if intimacy with God has more to do with Him than it has to do with us?  What if it is more about God’s goodness than it is about our good behavior?   

It isn’t a stretch to arrive at the conclusion that my goodness directly parallels God’s closeness to me.  After all, even when God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were not allowed to go up on the mountain or even touch it’s boundaries or they were to be stoned to death or shot with arrows.  This doesn’t exactly sound like a well, thought-out introduction for a God that wants to dwell among His people.  The Israelites told Moses to just tell them what God says and they would listen, but they didn’t want God to speak directly to them.  He was too scary.  Moses could have a relationship with God for them and they would remain at a safe distance.  But that’s just it!  God wanted to restore His relationship with man.  And the law made a way that intimacy could be shared between man and the divine.  

In order to build intimacy in any relationship, there must first be trust.  Before we can move beyond the letter of the Law and experience the Spirit of the Law, we first have to trust that God is good and is capable of caring for all that concerns us.  And life has a way of testing this relatively simple concept.  Disappointments, tragedies, and failures all threaten to draw a line that separates and breeds distrust in God.

So back to Mt. Sinai, following a blood sacrifice, the covenant the Lord made with the Israelites was confirmed in giving them the Law.  God firmly established His promise that the Israelites would be His people and He would be their God.  Then Moses and the leaders of Israel went up the mountain and something surprising happened.  They saw the God of Israel and he did not destroy them! “In fact, they shared a meal together in God’s presence (Exodus 24:9-11).”  Incredible!  They saw God’s feet standing on “what seemed to be a pavement of brilliant sapphire, as clear as the heavens” and yet they ate chicken and potatoes with Him (or something like that).  

The marriage relationship is the most intimate relationship and the Bible speaks about our relationship with Christ being like this.  A marriage relationship based on distrust would be quickly identified as a dehumanizing and possibly even abusive relationship.  Yet we often approach our relationship with Jesus like someone in an abusive relationship.  We tend to approach God out of fear and rely on others to hear from God for us. 

Jesus called us his friends and desires that we respond to his love as a good friend or as a son to a father or as a bride to her groom.  Sonship is not achieved through ability or knowledge or even right behavior.  Son is a definition of relationship.   A bride is a definition of relationship.  Within the relationship between a son and father, a bride and a groom, we see how God wants to relate to us.  Can you imagine loving your children only when they were obedient or withholding your love when they disappointed or angered you?             
 

REFLECTION & APPLICATION
In considering our relationship with Christ and the depth of our relationship with Him, it might be helpful to ponder some questions that perhaps shed a light on any issues of distrust that might hinder us from responding to His great love for us.

  1. Do I trust God with the details of my life, or if I’m honest, do I generally operate from a place of fear--a place that attempts to control and stresses about outcomes resulting in my favor?  

  2. Is my faith at risk when prayers aren’t answered with the results I anticipate?

  3. Am I surprised by the idea that God wants to share a meal with me?


PRAYER
God, may we see you as a loving shepherd that desires to live among us and eat with us.  Help us place our trust in you when circumstances threaten to undermine our belief that you are good.  May we trust in your kindness and good plan to redeem all things.  May your kindness lead us to repentance and may your love as a father transform us that we might be a reflection of you to the world.     

WITH GOD: devotional series (pt 4)

PART FOUR - WITH GOD: devotional series 
By: Christie Mannin

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

In Romans 12:13 the Lord says “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”  Our society has told us that hospitality essentially means entertaining company. We envision the perfect home, immaculately clean, put together with beautiful flowers and Pinterest worthy ideas. That to invite others into our homes, we must have the most well equipped media room with comfy recliners and the largest screen or a beautiful pool with expensive landscaping. Most of us would never even dream of the possibility of hosting a meal in our homes. We feel inadequate, unworthy, or that maybe having someone in our home might expose our weaknesses, mistakes, messes, and vulnerabilities.

What if our homes became sacred spaces? What if we began to care less about being perfect and more about being present? What if we became willing to open our doors no matter what mess we might expose? To provide those we love with a place to be heard, seen, and loved. What if we quit worrying about putting together the best party as if it were a competitive sport, but instead began to try to outdo each other in love, honesty, and listening? Sacred spaces can exist in any form…a dorm, apartment, outdoor patio, around a coffee table, or with paper plates. It doesn’t matter if you have 500 sq. feet or 5,000 sq ft.. The important thing is to create an environment where people feel home. Where souls are fed, where God’s voice is heard, and we are knit together in community.

We must begin to put our faith in front of our fears. We must open our doors and allow others into our homes. When they enter in to that sacred space they must leave feeling better about themselves than they do us. It will be because no matter what is going on, they are still loved unconditionally and in that moment they will see the true nature of God and his perfect love for us. We must not waste opportunities to ask good questions and to really listen to the answers.

Finally, we must understand that just like Rome, true community wasn’t built in a day. It is vitally important as a community of believers to continually press into every opportunity we can to gather people in our homes and around our tables. When there are days that seem like we are making little progress in the area of true community, know that it takes time. Persistence will pay off. Those days will come when a hard time has come or there is something to celebrate and you will be the one that they come to for counsel or celebration. Press on! 1 Peter 4:9 says “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” The payoff will come.


REFLECTION & APPLICATION

  • What is the major difference between Mary and Martha?
  • How does Jesus lead Martha? How does he teach her about presence?
  • Martha was concerned with her performance while Mary was concerned with her position before Jesus. How does this speak to our hearts about how we relate with God daily?
  • How could you use your home as a space to invite people into relationship -- a place they leave feeling better about themselves and their relationships?
  • Try something: Commit within the next 30 days to invite a few into your home...not to entertain, or impress, but to enjoy life and God's goodness together. 

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many signs and wonders performed by the apostles. Acts 2:42



WITH GOD: devotional series (pt 3)

PART THREE - WITH GOD: devotional series
By: Stephen Thorne

How often do you spend time with God?
How do you spend time with God?
Do you find it difficult to spend time alone with God?
These questions are often asked to followers of Jesus, but many times we as Christians struggle to answer. Today we will focus on answering just one of these questions and I believe the rest will then answer themselves.

Do you find it difficult to spend time alone with God?

If so, you are not alone! There are thousands of reasons why this may be, and many of them are a result of satan waging war against his enemy (US! God’s chosen children), but the questions of where and how to start often keep us from beginning each day with Jesus.

The difficulty of setting time aside each day may not necessarily be because you have no desire, but because the starting line isn’t defined. The bold starting line that is painted on every running track directly after the turn may not have been painted for your Christian relationship track. Right after you began living for Jesus (The Turn!) no one painted a starting line to assist you in your pursuit of Jesus.

I often felt empty and defeated because I did not know where to start. The days I did not START with JESUS were the days I most often ENDED with SIN. One day during college before one of my classes God spoke boldly to me through a passage in 1 Kings 19:6-8.

"He (Elijah) looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you. 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”

Elijah was told that he could not make the journey unless he ate and drank the bread and water that was provided by God. It was in that moment, reading before class, that God spoke ever so clearly. He said, “Stephen, you will not make it through the day if you do not eat and drink of me! I AM the bread of life! I sustain all things! If you eat of Me and My word, you will then be able to make the journey.”

Start with Jesus. Make Him first in all things. Even if you do not know where to start and you do not think your efforts are the most beneficial starting point, God receives glory through you praying, reading, and worshiping. He will sustain you and fill you so that you make it through the day. I encourage you to start your day by praying and reading scripture. Make God first by giving Him your time and attention. He will receive glory through it and you will be filled.


REFLECTION/ APPLICATION
Ask/say these five questions/statements before and after you spend time with God:

  1. God, use this scripture to speak boldly to me.
  2. God, use this scripture to reveal a new attribute of Yours to me.
  3. God, how does this apply to my life?
  4. God, what would you like for me to hear through your word?
  5. How can I impact others with what you’ve shown me?

Once you have prepared your heart and mind through prayer and worship, begin reading with your questions and concerns in mind. Allow His word to transform the way you think, react, and respond. Here are a few scriptures that speak to the importance of us knowing God’s word:

Psalm 119:11
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.”

 Psalm 119:105
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

 Hebrews 4:12
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

PRAYER
Lord, guide me to be a person who STARTS EVERY DAY WITH YOU. Thank you for your Word and how it refines me, use it to shape who I am becoming. I trust you with everything Lord--have your way in me. Thank you for the grace of Jesus and the presence of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

WITH GOD: devotional series (pt 2)

PART TWO - WITH GOD: devotional series 
By: Ryan Moore

Often in business or in life we find our self looking forward to the end result. We want to know that whatever we are working on, that it has a purpose or a goal that will one day be reached. I think the easiest example of this principle, for me, is in mowing the lawn. Now, some of you take great pride in your lawn… to the point that the neighbors are beginning to talk about how strange it is when you’re on all fours measuring each blade of grass to make sure they line up perfectly. However, the rest of us are just trying to knock the grass down before we get another letter from the Home Owner’s Association telling us that we’ve been voted “ugliest lawn in the neighborhood” for the 3rd month in a row. :)  It doesn’t matter how you feel about your lawn, it’s impossible not to step back after a few sweaty hours of work and look at the masterpiece you’ve created. It’s such a great feeling when you set out knowing that in a short time, all your work will be worth it and you’ll have a clean-cut and fresh looking yard.

I think sometimes, for some of us, that is why we struggle in the area of relationships, or in our relationship with God. You see, if you don’t know what your end result is “supposed” to be or what you’re wanting from it… then you never really have a purpose for the time that you spend with God. There is a famous quote from Zig Ziglar that says, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Sadly I feel that’s how many of us operate in our devotional life and intimacy with God. We have no overall purpose or plan to it, other than… “uh… my pastor says I should read this, then pray.” Is it any wonder that we don’t get anything out of our devotional moments with God? We have to know what we want and have a purpose for our time with Him. Otherwise, it’s like we are holding the handles of the lawn mower, only to look down and find ourselves still standing in the garage.


SCRIPTURE
Read Acts 10:1-22 - Click Here To Read

In Acts 10, we find Peter traveling and preaching the gospel. One day around midday, he went onto the rooftop to pray and spend time with God. It was there, in that moment, that God revealed a vision to Peter in order to change how he viewed animals and people that the Jews considered unclean. When the 3 men arrived at the door, God had told Peter, “Do not hesitate, go with them.”

Read Acts 10:23-48 - Click Here To Read

Peter traveled with them to the home of Cornelius, who was Gentile. (non-Jewish person) This was against the Jewish custom and law, but God told Peter in the vision to not call anything unclean that God had called clean. After a short time with the all friends and family of Cornelius, Peter could clearly see that they were true followers of Christ and he baptized them all that day. 

You see, it was through Peter’s intimacy and time alone with God that he was shown the vision that began to change his perspective on people outside of the Jewish faith and it was in that moment that God told him, “3 men are at your door, don’t hesitate, go with them.” I don’t know about you, but if 3 random guys show up at my door and say, “Hop in our car, we want to take you somewhere,” I doubt my response would’ve been the same as Peter’s. But you see, that’s my point, if Peter wasn’t up on the roof praying and spending time with God, he would’ve never known to change his perspective on Gentile’s and would’ve never known to travel with those men to visit Cornelius. And it was through that visit that all the people in his house were baptized and came to know Jesus in a new way.

Sadly, I often wonder how many opportunities we miss in our daily life, because we don’t stop enough to hear the voice of God and to have that intimate relationship with Him. Are there people showing up in our life that we are supposed to be witnessing to, but completely miss out because we’re not hearing from The Lord. What if Peter hadn’t gone up onto the rooftop that day… how different this story would have been. For that sake of those men and women who were baptized, I’m thankful that Peter was spending time with God.

 

REFLECTION AND APPLICATION

  • Read through Acts chapter 10 again. Write out anything else that may stand out to you.
  • Are there people in your life right now that need to hear about the love of Jesus, but you’ve been missing the opportunities to share it with them?
  • Are you finding time to just sit and receive from God?
  • What is your overall purpose for why you want to spend more time with God? For Peter, it was through his time with God that others became baptized and grew closer to God as well.

 

PRAYER

Father, I pray that you would grow our relationship with you. That our desire for your presence would grow and that out of the moments that we spend reading your word and listening to your voice, that we would then be fueled up to go out proclaim your glory to all the world. Amen

 

 

WITH GOD: devotional series (pt 1)

PART ONE: WITH GOD: devotional series 
By: Tim Mannin

In addition to our Sunday teachings about choosing to be with God we are providing these simple devotionals as a way to encourage your heart and grow your relationship with God.

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Scientist, Dr. Duncan MacDougall back in the early 1900’s wanted to prove that every human has a soul and he believed that with that soul it carried physical presence so he performed some experiments with people who were near their death. Right before they died he would place them on a special bed that would measure weight. The bed was sensitive up to two tenths of an ounce. Through several experiments he discovered that the human body lost an immediate and approximate 21 grams at the time of death.

SadDog.png

Now this is still a theory and isn’t a proven fact. However it’s an intriguing thought. To think that when we die something noticeably leaves. MacDougall did the same experiment on dogs and that showed that dogs lost absolutely no weight at the time of death. So maybe all dogs don’t go to heaven? Perhaps, that's why this dog is so sad.

Regardless if we really lose 21 grams or not I think most people, regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs believe that every human feels a spiritual weight in this world.  Recently, I’ve been using the term “spiritual gravity” – there is a weight to the spiritual realities of this world. When I’m more tuned in and spending more time praying and seeking the Lord I feel this gravity more. 

It’s as if the more I seek Him…the more I feel Him.
It’s spiritual gravity.
We can feel his presence.

Do you feel it?

Too often we don’t feel God. As a result, we feel empty, or like we are failing, and we even question God. Living a life with God begins by paying attention to the spiritual gravity in this world. He’s everywhere! He’s in a good story, in a great laugh, in a glass of orange juice (the seed, growth, fruit, harvest, manufacture miracle), in a single breath, in perfect fall day, and in a great dinner with friends. He’s in all of that.

with god devotionals.jpg

SCRIPTURE

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the Heavens you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings on the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me.
PSALM 139:7-10

Also Read 
Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 31:6 , Isaiah 41:10 , Romans 8:38-39

When we pay attention we can feel His presence press in on us. It’s not a burdensome, cumbersome weight. It’s a gravity of depth, warmth, meaning, and realizing life has more to it than just jobs, busyness, and breathing. Life has this invisible reality that we feel in the depths of our soul. It’s a gravity and a weight that’s there. Some dismiss this sense of God’s Presence With Us to emotional swells, or wishful thinking. Perhaps at times, but what does it mean to live WITH GOD? He’s clearly said HE’S WITH US. But what about us…do we have a responsibility or opportunity or role to play in this whole thing? Is it just about Him being with us—what about us being with God?

 

REFLECTION & APPLICATION

  • How do the scriptures above speak to you about God’s presence?
  • Consider the endless ways His presence (withness) interacts with your life. Journal a list of thoughts.
  • The scriptures clearly teach us that He is with us—we have the opportunity to feel his presence more every day by paying attention and seeking Him. What are 1-2 ways you can seek him this week?
  • Consider doing something significant to be WITH GOD and follow through for a period of time. Here are some ideas: 1. Commit to Pray for 7, 14, 30, or 40 Days at the same time each day. 2. Fast: choose a type of fast for a period of time and during the fast spend additional time in prayer and study. 3. Conversations: Choose 2-3 people to meet with individually over the course of a week or two. Encourage one another, talk about life and faith and pray together.

 

PRAYER

Thank you God for your presence and how you go before us. May be become people who hunger and thirst to be with you as much as you have chosen to be with us. Lord may we walk humbly and courageously today as your servants. Amen. 

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us (pt7)

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #7

Good stories never get old. Hearing how the Lord is working in the lives of people is a big part of what keeps our faith growing. God Is On The Move and we all have the opportunity to jump on board experience the thrilling adventure of a life with Jesus. 

Your story will become exactly what you lead it to become. If you live of life of watching TV and eating Cheetos that will be your story. If you live a life choosing anger or regret that will be your story. But if you choose to pursue a life of good stories about the good work of God moving in and through your life—then that will be your story.

Enjoy our final story in this Blog Series...we'll for sure have more stories in future. 

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STORY #7 -- JACOB WILSON

I always struggle with these sorts of things.  First of all, I’m a man of few words and, secondly, I never know what to write about.  

Should I write about how much this church has impacted me, in just a short amount of time? Or should I share about the opportunity to lead with our awesome worship team on Sundays?  Or maybe about how much Tim’s messages have made me stop and think about my life like not many people ever have before?  Instead, I think I’ll share about something that God has been placing on my heart the last few weeks: His work behind the scenes.

A few months ago in the summer, I was super excited for all the new things that were occurring.  I was starting a new job as a middle school science teacher, getting a new house (to me at least), and having an expectant attitude for everything that was about to happen.

But what happens, occasionally, is things don’t always come as easy as we think they should.  My new house had issues that delayed when I could move in by a couple of months.  My new job had the stress and long hours that comes with any new job, but is then magnified exponentially when you factor in trying to corral 120 unruly seventh and eigth graders.  Needless to say, I was/am stressed to the max at times.

And so as I was trying to figure out what to write about, God put on my heart the story of Habakkuk.  I thought about Habakkuk 1:3 where he’s asking God Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?  Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.  I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. (NLT)  Now, I don’t think it’s always quite on that same level, but I think there’s definitely times where we all feel like nothing is going right, and we are surrounded by the junk that life can bring.  I know I’ve felt like that a few times in the past few weeks.

But I love God’s reply to him in verse 5:  “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” (NLT)  How refreshing!!  To know that even when things look bleak around us at times, God is still doing things in this world.  Things so amazing, we “wouldn’t believe even if someone told [us].”

I see this first hand when sometimes I’ve had a long day at work or wherever, and then I’ll come home to an update e-mail from my sister who recently moved to India to be a missionary.  I’ll read about how she’s been able to share Jesus with several people she’s already met in just her short time there, and how those people are already beginning to share with their friends and relatives.

Or one that we can all relate to is how even though we don’t have our own building yet, and all the struggles that come along with that, we are still able to, as a church, build a church building for CRIO in Africa.  And not only that, but God multiplies it so that we can build not just one, but TWO buildings!  How incredible!?

So what has God been doing in my life lately?  Well, he’s definitely been teaching me what it means to have faith and trust in Him.  Because even on bad days, I can stop and find peace and encouragement in the fact that God is still working in ways that I should be amazed by!  Hopefully you will be, too!

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If you have a story that you’d like to share with us please CONTACT US and we’d love to hear it.

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us (pt6)

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #6 

One of the dreams our church has had since we started was to see stories of people being stirred up by God's Spirit to do something fresh and new with their faith. When we pay attention and respond to the way that God is moving it always results in a fresh story.

What is something new that God is leading you towards? Maybe that's part of the story you ought to be living. The story posted below involved a new step for a family and that new step happened to be our church.

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STORY #6 - POWERS FAMILY (Tommy, Lori, and Brady)

I am to start this off by saying, “our son is a genius and wise beyond his years for leading us to this church.” In all honesty, Stephen Thorne’s question to a friend we have in common, “Hey, do you know anyone who plays the bass?” Our friend pointed over to Brady and said, “this guy does.” The rest we say… is history.

When Brady asked us about going and playing, we weren’t too thrilled as we were so rooted in our church, but we said yes. However, being the parents that we are, we were not going to allow our barely 16 year old son to drive to downtown Oklahoma City where they may have rattlesnakes in the offering basket and who knows what else. :) That Sunday as the service was ending and Tim was finishing his message, I looked over at my husband Tommy and said, “Is it over?” And Tommy replied, “I want more.” After Brady finished packing up his gear, he said, “I told you, I told you.” – which still strikes me as funny, because none of us had ever been here before, but somehow he knew.

Our story is like that of many people—you feel like you’re going to a church just to simply go through the motions. We knew something had to change. After our first Sunday at OKC Community, we felt so fed. We spent the next week not really talking about our experience, because we thought we were just fine going through the motions and doing what we had always done. Shortly after that, something snapped in Brady and he told us that he felt like we had to leave what we were a part of for so long, quit going through the motions, and step into something new. Tommy and I sat quietly soaking it all in, feeling such a relief and conviction, because we weren’t just listening to our family, but to God.

We feel so blessed to be able to come and worship here and are continually challenged by Tim’s messages. I have told Tim several times that I wished I would’ve worn my steel-toed sandals, because he was stepping on my toes. :) And as odd as this may sound, it felt good to be so challenged and convicted.

There is a song by 10th Avenue North, “No Man Is An Island” that really resonates with me and I believe that the meaning of this song references why my family is here. The song speaks of how we are made in Christ’s image and Christ is love and He never kept that love to Himself. He was/is always sharing, caring, and loving EVERYONE. Well, we should be doing that same, sharing, caring, and loving everyone! That needs to start with ourselves, our family and neighbors spilling over to our COMMUNITY not keeping it to ourselves and not being on an island! We are truly thankful and blessed to be here and can’t wait to see what God has next for this church!

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If you have a story that you’d like to share with us please CONTACT US and we’d love to hear it.

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us (pt5)

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #5

Yet, another story of good among us.
It's been so great hearing so many stories from people in our church. Some of the stories are connected to what's happening in our church and some are stories of what God is doing in the lives of families, individuals, and our city. This story has a little to do with all of that.

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STORY #5 -- BY HILLARY GRANTHAM

I wish I could walk over to your house and share this with you over coffee, but here goes! I have never been so over-taken by the presence of God and surprised by the decision to still hope.  

This last year, 5 years really, has been such a wrestle to hold on to hope and to what our family initially felt so passionate about pursuing together.  And this last month has been a battle. The hardest place we have been yet. Often I look at people that I respect and value their highlight reel, but never stop to consider what led to the moments that I admire as courageous and inspiring.      

What began as a 5-year journey to pursue God's plan for our family has exploded in the last month!  Our community in Oklahoma City is viewing our highlight through our non-profit, Beads of Good, but there’s a struggle in that story. 

Five years ago, we stepped into the unknown in pursuit of better.  We wanted to live for something and knew that God had a mission He called our family to fulfill.  Scripture tells stories that are connected to a lineage, a tribe, a family.  Each family has a spiritual heritage, a mission that was passed down to each generation.  As a member of the Grantham family, each of us has a specific role to play that works in harmony with our family’s purpose.  

So, we left our jobs with no provision in sight and we left our vision of success to follow the loud voice in our heart.  We each contributed to the family mission posted on the refrigerator.  This is what we were going to be about.  We weren’t sure where we were going, but we had faith that God did.

The leap was exhilarating! The adrenaline of taking that step was a shot of faith into our souls.  We were willing to go anywhere and do without anything to be where God was present.  But time passed, and slowly, without our permission, we replaced faith and risk with fear and comfort.  Each step toward our dream felt like the movement of an old, rusty gear.  At times, it looked like we might have actually stepped further away from our pursuit and created more of a tragedy.    

Recently, Tim shared about Jacob in his Ancient Stories series and I was like, “Yes!”  I feel like Jacob at the end when he expected that the worst-case scenario was impending--that his brother would take his life.  But instead, God wrestled with him and called him Israel.  Yah.  Surprise!  When we humble ourselves and allow God to be in control instead of taking over for fear that the ending won’t turn out in our favor, God can actually be mighty on our behalf. 

So, what felt like a battle for our family that threatened to end tragically, has been a mind blowing experience of God’s goodness towards us.  It is hard for me to put into words because I don’t understand it.  I know it is God’s presence drawing us in, reminding us He is faithful, reminding us He is good.  But the crazy part, the part that really messes with me and brings me to tears-- why now?  Why not when we had faith?  Why when we were barely hanging on?  Wow.  Surprise.

At the beginning of our 5-year journey to here, we wrote down that as a family we wanted to serve our city and connect to our neighbors.  How fitting it was that the Mannin’s became our neighbors last year and invited us into this amazing community of people--a group of people passionate about lifting and serving their city. 

Thank you, OKC Community Church, for hosting us, allowing us to worship with you, and believing in our dream.  We are excited about what God is doing through our family and our church and can't wait to see what transpires!  Thank you for following Christ and being obedient with your life that others might follow you.

May we as a family and Body of Believers always see what is hidden.  May we be surprised by the hope we dare cling to.

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If you have a story that you’d like to share with us please CONTACT US and we’d love to hear it.

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us (pt4)

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #4

If you want to know how things are going between you and God all you have to do is ask yourself…”What stories do I have of God working in and through me?” 

If you happen to lack stories in your life right now…do not be discouraged—be encouraged! This blog series is intended to inspire you to pursue the life you want to live. Stories of God’s movement in your life are literally a decision away, a prayer away, or a step away. Sometimes we have to have the courage to make a decision, make the commitment to pray through, or the faith to step into places of uncertainty.

We’re excited to share another story of good among us.

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STORY #4 -- BY SABRINA MACKEY

Our family found OKC Community Church in June of 2013 month, thanks to an invitation from some friends. Since that time, our lives have dramatically changed. Not only the day-to-day, but also in the way we envision the future God might have for us. In the “Ancient Stories” series one of the messages talked about the idea of a "silent beckoning" that calls us out of where we are towards where God wants us to be. I was glad to finally have words to articulate something that has been stirring deep in my heart. That feeling of, "Isn't there more than this?" Or, "Wasn't I made for more than this? What is my purpose in being here?" Something inside had been telling me, "Yes, if you are willing, there is more!" This sort of dream in the back of my mind, that maybe, just maybe this normal, everyday life with an 8-5 job, living in the suburbs of the Bible Belt isn't all He has for us. 

Last August, I had what I would call a "vision." I know, that sounds totally crazy, right? This "vision" came after two and half years of praying and asking God what He wanted me to do. My career had come to a standstill and every promotion opportunity had been unfruitful and I was stuck, but this silent beckoning was still there. It's as though the Spirit was whispering, "There's more." Then this vision came. In this vision I was on a medical mission team with my husband, Drew, and we were providing care for people in some other country after a disaster of some kind. This was all well and good, except for one problem: I'm not in the medical field. Drew is an RN, but I'm not and up to this point I have never had any inclination to work in the medical field whatsoever. So, I did what anyone would do: I argued with God. Our marriage had already experienced the stress of nursing school once, and I wasn’t sure we could survive it a second time? And what will Drew say? He's going to think I'm nuts. I continued to pray for about a month before I talked with Drew about it. He did think I was nuts, by the way, and he asked me a million questions, none for which I had an answer. There are still so many unanswered questions. But with Drew's blessing and support, I began taking pre-nursing classes last spring.

I can't say enough how much I appreciate the prayers and encouragement of those around us who know the difficult nature of this journey. The ones who have fervently prayed for me and for Drew and our boys...it's quite humbling. I have watched Drew come around to a place where he is dreaming of a different kind of future for us than he ever thought about before. His support through every class, every semester, every exam, and every day is invaluable. And I can't say enough about the ladies in our church, who have been such a huge support, willing to lift me up in prayer when I have a big exam coming up or when the stress of managing school, work, and family gets to be overwhelming.

I still don't have all the answers, but I have guidance and direction for step one: nursing school. Once that is complete, then God will do what He always does and provide the answers to the other questions at just the right moment. I'm in a place of perseverance, because this really is a marathon. So, I pray for strength and renewal each day and hope that somehow in the chaos I can find balance to be the wife, mom, student, and coworker that I need to be. And this whole idea that each one of us, individually, can do things that matter, excites me. Because we can't forget that we are His big master plan. It's up to us to have the courage to step out of the boat, knowing and believing that He goes before us to prepare the way, He goes with us, cheering us on, and He's still there as we continue the journey. I love OKC Community and the people that make it what it is. I love that God is speaking through His people and touching lives. I love that I love going to church. The past sixteen months have literally changed my life in a big way.

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If you have a story that you’d like to share with us please CONTACT US and we’d love to hear it.

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us (pt3)

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #3
Posted By: Tim Mannin
This entry is the written form of what we shared on 9/14 during our Generous series - "LET'S BUILD A CHURCH NOW!"

Let me tell you a story.
A couple months ago we had Pastor George at our church from Zimbabwe. He is a part of a ministry called CRIO INTERNATIONAL. CRIO is a church planting ministry that works throughout Africa and has grown into a denomination. They have planted well over 1,000 churches throughout Africa. CRIO focuses on helping local pastors and communities of faith build actual church buildings. 

Like us, churches in Africa need buildings to be sustainable, life giving organizations in their community. A building provides validity, credibility, and also creates ministry opportunity. In Africa, church buildings often serve a larger cause than just a church; they also serve as a school, an orphanage, food distribution centers, and all sorts of other amazing things. So, CRIO literally builds churches across Africa. When I first learned about CRIO I immediately thought that someday our church should do something like that. 

In recent weeks, the Spirit has been moving in our Church. God is speaking to people, moving in people’s hearts. We recently had some time as a staff/ team to plan and think through where we are heading as a church and the conversation came up about building a church in Africa and the statement was made…”LET’S BUILD A CHURCH NOW!”

Now, if I made that statement and you knew about where we are as a church and our desire to have our own property it’s pretty easy to think…we’d be talking about ourselves. We are actively praying for our own space, building, or property…anything on 23rd Street in Oklahoma City that will help us create deeper roots in our city. But let’s think about this statement differently—“let’s build a church now”—and not be talking about ourselves. What if as a church we decided to take this generosity, tithing, giving thing seriously as a church body. We don’t just want to be generous people—we want to be a generous church!

So as our team was talking about this I felt like the Holy Spirit said something clearly…"before we build a church here for us, sow a seed by building a church for someone else."

We immediately asked CRIO about this and Ron Hesser (CRIO’s founder) quickly sent me seven churches that are currently waiting for God to provide the funds to build a church. Most of these churches currently meet under trees, tents, or in a field.  Through conversations we identified a church—a community of people like us—who need a building. They have a Pastor (Pastor Martin), they have a group of people, they have land, but they haven’t been able to build a building. They’ve actually been ready for a year to build and CRIO has been praying for the finances to be able to fund them. In addition to the church building they are hoping to dig a life sustaining water well on their property. 

When we pay attention to how the Spirit is moving and speaking—life becomes pretty easy, because we just get to confidently do what He’s already spoken into existence.

AfricaMap.jpg

Let me tell you about Pastor Martin and his church.
They are located in Kenya in a northern region county called Turkana. Turkana is the desert area of Kenya. Although, it’s desert a population exists (largely because of the oil in this area). It is a highly unreached area for the gospel – it would be considered an unreached people group. Well over 95% of the people have a Muslim faith/background. Pastor Martin and the church in Turkana are literally plowing new ground for the gospel in Kenya.

So we have the our opportunity to build a church from the ground up. The church leadership in Turkana have secured land and we can come alongside and provide the funds needed for them to have a building to meet in. A church in this sort of culture can become the hub of all sorts of life sustaining, community building types of activity. Additionally we can provide funds to help them dig a water well. 

We’ve been moved.

We need to build a church…before we build a church. 
We need to plant a seed.

The word says that you reap what you sow.

  • We sow selfishness – that’s what we will reap.
  • We sow generosity – that’s what we will reap.
  • We sow stingy, exclusive, singular purpose – that’s what we will reap.
  • We sow love - that's what we'll reap.
  Church Members from the CRIO church in Turkana, Kenya

Church Members from the CRIO church in Turkana, Kenya

We don’t give so we can get.
We give because God gives. We who desire to follow in his ways – give because we love Him! We also don't see this as a "superman" hero moment, where our church in the west can serve a third world nation church halfway around the world in order to give ourselves a pat on the back. No, we simply want to respond to the leading of His Spirit and we want to be a church that is always involved in the work of The Church around the world. God has put this the path of our church and we need to be faithful and obedient to do what he has for us.

In order to do this we’ve decided that we will not take a special offering to raise the funds to provide this, but instead we want provide the necessary funds to build this church and dig a well in Kenya from our regular offerings in the month of September. As we teach about becoming a generous people…we are building a foundation upon God’s word that instructs us to be faithful to make God first through the tithe. As a church we are going to trust that that God will provide all we need through our faithfulness to that. We believe when we are a faithful to do that as a church we will be able to build this church in Kenya, our church in Oklahoma City, and many other churches around the world (not to mention all sorts of other great things)!

I don’t believe this is a magic pill for our church.
It’s about us doing what we know is right.
It’s about us trusting the church’s money in God’s hands.
It’s about us sowing a seed in faith that will serve the Kingdom halfway around the word and trust that God is big enough to see fruit there and here as a result.
It’s about us responding to the Spirit.
It’s about stepping into the story God has for us.

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us (pt2)

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #2

Stories come in all shapes and sizes. When we try and pay attention to what God is doing stories usually won't be in the form of a number or an event, often times the story is about what God is doing within us and how He's transforming us as people. He will certainly do things through us, around us, or for us--but the deep work within us are the stories that often go untold.

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STORY #2 -- BY TONY DILLARD

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we have no choice but to grow up. We’re consistently told as children that someday this time will come, and we will become adults, as if it were some cocoon-like transformation occurring over a matter of predetermined days. You rarely question this as a kid; we are innately programmed as children to not be concerned with the matters of what big people call “getting old”. Until one day, one unexpected, regular day, you realize it’s already happened.

You see, growth is not nearly as objective as it’s made out to be. We assume “growing up” is universal, and we’ll all be in the same place once we get there (wherever “there” is). But no one warns you that in comparison to everyone you know and love, you’ll all grow at different paces, and at unequal lengths. If everyone would just grow uniformly, growth wouldn’t be the subjective transitional process that it is. Because that’s what it is: a process.

It’s not college course, or a red or blue pill. It’s not even necessarily a decision, or lack-there-of. It’s the result of time plus experience, and your response to it all. Because in the end, it’s not about acknowledging our inevitable growth, rather about how we grow. That’s what sets us apart.

Growth is the product of recognizing how God has intricately and intimately placed His hand into every aspect my life; this recognition only being possible retrospectively. It’s looking back at every moment and seeing how it made me. Every friend, every heartbreak, every failed class and wrecked car. Every curse word and unnecessary argument, every hand held and family movie night. Those things - they’re what made me. It doesn’t have to be a burning bush or a talking donkey. God has, was, and always will be moving in me. And maybe, just maybe, He has me exactly where he needs me. My current disposition is the sum of 22 years of God opening and closing doors; yelling in my heart language or whispering through the words of another person. The older I get, the more I have to reflect on, and the easier it is to see how the Lord works in me and through me. Every single aspect of my life has been ordained by God, and the inescapable product of growth is what I can offer in return. He’s brought me to where I am; how could I not want to give it all to Him?

Growing up doesn’t mean growing apart. It’s not wrinkly skin and a 9 to 5. It’s the acceptance that we partner with a God who so greatly cares for us so that He promises our growth won’t be in vain. It’s taking everything we have ever known and learned, and giving it back to God.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

 

Responding to Evil With...?

Posted by: Tim Mannin

On the evening of September 21, 2014 an event will meet in the Civic Center Music Hall that has received quite a bit of attention. The Black Mass will meet in a different room than we meet in on Sunday mornings at the Civic Center and from what I understand it is going to be an event that encourages people to renounce all forms of religion and the existence of God (among other things). Clearly this is not something that resonates with the same purposes of what OKC Community is all about. Many have asked about my thoughts and how our church is responding. Hmmm…responding?

First, allow me to offer a thought about the Civic Center.
The Civic Center Music Hall is incredible venue and event center that has been gracious to us the entire time that we’ve met there. We cannot say enough about their professionalism and kindness in working with us. I make this statement because of some of the criticism that the Civic Center has received in allowing the Black Mass to hold their event within its walls. I believe the Civic Center is doing exactly what they should as an event center. We can never thank them enough for opening their doors to us as they have.

So the question remains…what should The Church—what should our church do in response to these types of public gatherings that promote evil, darkness, and essentially the death of God. For many of us the subjects of Satanism, evil, darkness, and spiritual warfare are foreign thoughts and it can be extremely intimidating. I believe it’s fair to say that most Christ followers can be fearful of the unfamiliar territory of darkness and evil. We’ll gladly claim the power of God over it, but we’ll also avoid the realities of it because it freaks us out. Psychology teaches us that a natural response to many of our fears and when we feel attacked or vulnerable is to respond by Flight or Fight. This means that we will either avoid the issue by distancing ourselves from it (flight) or we will fight it head on by trying to conquer our fear. The flight response in this particular issue results in disengaged Christians who would rather not talk about the subject. The fight response leads Christ followers to spew hatred, anger, and displeasure against those they deem as the perpetrators. In this instance of the Black Mass, Christ followers can easily fight by going to the media to try and petition against their right to have this gathering, or perhaps some may choose to fight by picketing the event on the steps of the Civic Center.

 Is that how we ought to respond? Should we distance ourselves? Should we fight?
Jesus always had countercultural ways of responding.

 Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Imagine hearing this for the first time. Imagine that you heard it and felt a deep conviction to take it to heart and not to see it as some pie in the sky, philosophical statement that doesn’t carry any real weight, but an actual heartfelt teaching that you are now supposed to live.

Let the person who hits you…hit you again.
Let the person who wants to take your shirt…let them also have your coat.
And for the person who forced you to carry their heavy load one mile…carry it another mile for the heck of it.

This teaching is a bit disturbing
Because it just doesn’t fit—it doesn’t gel with our understanding of reality, because those who go against us shouldn’t be allowed to do so without some form or repercussion, right? Besides, is this a suggestion that we should be pacifists and allow evil to go unchecked. No, of course not—sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to not allow evil to continue. This isn’t about tolerance. This passage simply means that in everything…we seek what is good for others.

This isn’t about allowing evil to continue and this isn’t about becoming a weak, soft pacifist. There are plenty of scriptures that speak boldly about defending the weak, seeking justice, and resisting evil. Jesus uses specific examples to help us understand that when evil is done to us personally…we have the opportunity to return it with grace, love, and goodness.

However, there is real evil in this world that we must take a stand against, such as; when children or women are enslaved and trafficked for sex or work purposes, when governments look to eradicate a people group based upon their religious beliefs or racial heritage, when people are abused, or when violence enters our schools—then we must seek justice. In a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. it's written, “The reason that he pursued equal rights for African Americans was not because he was angry or full of hatred, but because he wanted to free white people from the oppression of racism as well. Because racism wasn’t just an evil upon the victims of it – but the other victims are those who perpetrate it.” Shouldn’t we seek good for all…even those who are against us?

What is the right way to respond?
This passage is teaching us that we can’t respond to evil with evil.
When someone hates and is then hated back – it will be easy for them to continue to hate.
When someone hates and is then loved – it becomes more difficult for them to continue to hate.

Jesus is painting a picture that steps beyond the laws of justice and into the transformation of our hearts. What if the Church (capital C) didn’t take offense to those who reject us, but instead we looked for ways to go the extra mile and serve those who are against us? When we allow the words of the gospel to sink into our souls we may actually find ourselves becoming people who live the gospel!

As a church, we want to respond as people of love, who are consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the ways he responded to those who rejected him and even hated him. There are certainly injustices and evils in this world that demand our bold response, however the Black Mass is a group of people who may strongly reject what we believe and what we are about, but our response cannot be rejection or hatred, it must always be love and hope.

So we will speak gracefully and peacefully of the people at the Black Mass gathering.
We will pray for God’s love to abound in our city and among it’s people of varying belief.
We will do our job to be a people who shine like the stars of the universe—as we hold out the word of life in a dark world…because that is what we believe.

Philippians 2:15-16
Matthew 5:14-16
John 13:34-35

GOD IS ON THE MOVE: stories of good among us

GOD IS ON THE MOVE - ENTRY #1

What are the stories of you life these days? Can you tell stories of good? Do you have stories about God’s movement in your life? If we are honest most of us are more likely to have stories about busyness or the latest movie we’ve seen than stories about a move of the Spirit within us. Too few of us are living the stories we want to live. Since OKC Community began about 18 months ago this has been a conversation we’ve been having. Let’s have stories of doing things that matter, living the gospel, and being the church to tell. The true mark that we are becoming the church and type of people we want to be will be stories.

We are excited to introduce an OKC Community Blog Series of stories happening within our community. Specifically how God is on the move in our people. We’ll be sharing stories of the good things God is doing within our church and his people for the next several posts.

We hope that reading stories will be an encouragement to you and will lead you to pursue a life that is full of stories.

Enjoy the first story.

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STORY #1 -- BY MEREDITH KEMP

OKC Community Church has continued to be an answered prayer for me. Before moving to OKC this summer, I lived in Edmond because I’ve been in school at UCO. I had searched for quite some time to find a church in Edmond, but nothing felt right. I wanted a church that was 1. Mission minded and kingdom oriented, 2. Involved in the community, and 3. that had a small group that I could get plugged into (lol now, right?). Towards the end of this last year that I lived in Edmond, I was pretty miserable. I was going through some difficult friendship situations. My heart was being pulled in 2 different directions, I was either going to be the Christian that I knew I was called to be, or I was going to remain lukewarm with the friends I had been friends with my whole life. It came to the point where I knew God was telling me to choose. It was either Him or them. As painful as it was, I chose to move out of my apartment that I had shared with my closest friend. I was willing to give up my closest earthly relationships to see what God was trying to do in me and with me. After I made that difficult leap of faith, God began opening doors of reassurance for me. 

God moment number 1: The day that I decided to move out, I contacted a family friend that lives in the Uptown 23rd area to help me look for an apartment. We got together the next day and discussed a few options and she mentioned to me that her son and his wife were moving out of her garage apartment and wondered if I might be interested. She said that she would work with whatever my budget was! My new place is about 4 blocks from the Community House. I found a place to live the very day after decided that I was going to move. Answered prayer.

God moment number 2: The Uptown Uncorked event was happening a couple weeks later and OKC Community was one of the sponsors/supporters of the event. The same family friend who helped me find a place to live, is on the board of the Uptown 23rd committee and invited me to be one of her guests. She specifically wanted to introduce me to Courtney Whittier and Leslie Koch (they are good friends of her daughter-in-law). That night, I met Courtney, Leslie, Tim, and Ryan. God had instantly connected me with new friends. Answered prayer.

God moment number 3: I came to a church service a couple weeks after the event. One of my friends from out of town was down visiting me and before we could even make it past the coffee table we were greeted by Stephen and Jenny. Then Courtney, Leslie, Tim, Ryan, and many others throughout the congregation that knew we were new and wanted to make us feel welcome. I immediately knew that I was home. Community. Answered prayer.

God moment number 4: Tim's sermon that week was based around "The Circle Maker" and how God answers prayer. Wow! I didn't know what a prayer circle was at that time but looking back, OKC Community Church was my prayer circle. I also remember Tim talking about missions that our church wanted to be involved in and how it was important to be involved in the community. Answered prayer. 

God moment number 5: Fast forward a couple months to my first meeting with my small group. We are reading through a book together. Guess what it is?? "The Circle Maker". We’ve only recently begun meeting, but I already feel like any of them would be there if and when I need them and I know that we are all constantly praying with and for each other. Jesus-focused friends. Answered prayer.

I am so thankful for the work that God is doing in me and in our church! I can't wait to see what else he has in store for us! He is so faithful!

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If you have a story that you’d like to share with us please CONTACT US and we’d love to hear it.

 

Easter 2014

Easter 2014 marks the second Easter celebration for OKC Community Church. There is nothing like the Easter season. As believers we should celebrate the life of Christ every day, but there is something special about our annual focus on the cross and the empty tomb. As a church we are doing a few things to share Christ with our community and the message of HOPE we have in Jesus.

We thought it would be good to write a short blog to talk about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Community Easter Egg Hunt
Saturday, April 19th 10:00-11:30am 
Cleveland Elementary School
(on NW 23rd street just east of May Ave)

We are going to share some love to the people in our community and have a great time doing it! We will be having our second Egg Hunt event. During our time we’ll have several things happening: Free Breakfast | Toddlers -Pre-K Age Egg Hunt  | Elementary Age Egg Hunt | Inflatables  | OKC Fire Truck  |  Petting Zoo and Exotic Animals | And other activities.

The why behind the Egg Hunt is more important than the what—to read about why we do an Egg Hunt click the link to read our post from last year called, “Why An Egg Hunt" (note that the Egg Hunt information in the "Why An Egg Hunt" post is last year's info). In short, we believe that providing a community event is a simple way to scatter seeds of the gospel in our city.

 

Easter Worship Service
Sunday, April 20th 10:30am
Civic Center Music Hall (201 N. Walker)

Jesus provided so much for each of us through the cross. Each year at Easter we want to remain focused on the gospel and Good News of Jesus. Hope is our message this Sunday. Jesus is our one and only hope. Please join us for Easter Sunday and bring friends and family to share in this wonderful day to celebrate Jesus our risen King! 

EIGHTEEN: This Is Entry 18 (Do Things That Matter)

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY EIGHTEEN, the final entry in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.


This is the 18th entry and if this were golf this would be the last hole.  Ha! Therefore, this is the final entry in this writing series about OKC Community. Writing eighteen entries seems like quite a bit, but in the grand scheme of the story and heart of this church—this writing series is just a drop in the bucket of what is really happening and what God is really doing. With that said, we hope it provides a helpful and beautiful picture of some of the what and why’s behind OKC Community Church. As I stated in the introduction—this is not a theological statement of faith, or purposed to be some sort of creative doctrinal thesis. This writing series was simply aimed to help people. To help people in their everyday lives and to learn about the heart behind this church. While, there is still much to be said—for now we’ll call this a good place to begin.

Now, I mentioned golf. The feeling at the end of a golf game for me is typically satisfaction.  Satisfaction that the embarrassment and torment of a game I cannot master is finally over…at least until the next time I dare to tee it up. Golf is an incredibly maddening sport because occasionally you will experience the sweet and unforgettable feeling of the perfect shot followed by the confusing and endlessly frustrating feeling of another shank shot off your six iron. However, it bids you to come back for the intoxication of possibly having another all to rare, perfect shot.

Eighteen18.png

Isn’t this a familiar feeling we have when it comes to matters of our faith? Some moments, days, or weeks are full of excitement, joy, and fulfillment while others are frustrating, full of regret, and can feel empty. The roller coaster we live as followers of Jesus is quite the ride at times. We aim for perfection, only to mess up…once again. We pray to God looking for answers, only to wonder “is he ever going to answer?” Walking with Jesus isn’t always easy, it doesn’t always make sense, and if we ever choose to be serious about it—well, it can at times feel maddening.

Why am I ending this writing series with such a messy reality? Yes, following Jesus is hard and won’t always seem logical—but why end this series talking about this part of the story? Because, following Jesus isn’t about the hard things, messy things, confusing things, or scary things it calls us to. Following Jesus is about the good things it calls us to.

We live in a broken, not yet restored world—so the roller coaster of challenges will continue, but the Good News in the mess we live in is found in Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus, we carry the best news the world will ever hear. Let me say it again…following Jesus is about the good things it calls us to.

We’ve been called to:

  • love the Lord our God with all our heart mind soul and strength
  • love our neighbors
  • love our enemies
  • pray continually
  • be kind, generous, encouraging, and just
  • worship our Father in Heaven
  • shine God’s light in the darkest places in this world
  • forgive others, extend mercy, and live gracefully
  • to obey God and all of his commands
  • to help the poor and mend the broken
  • to care for the widow and orphan
  • to give hope to the hopeless
  • be courageous
  • be faithful

We’ve been called to many wonderful things. Things that are good. These are things that matter. OKC Community Church is building a community of people who desire to become people who do things that matter everyday.

What if  you did something that MATTERED every day?

Chances are you’ve had too many days that have gone by without doing anything that truly matters for God’s Kingdom. Following Jesus is about pushing our way through the mess in order to show the world the good things that God has called us to. The stuff that really matters, the stuff that makes Jesus good, the things that make Jesus followers good. Far too often the reputation of Christians from non-believers is that they are judgmental and hypocritical. We must let them taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8) and that he’s called us to some good things.

Doing Things that Matter is a call to a group of people to make a difference and to live a life that doesn’t fall for the trappings of this world that will keep you grounded in the sea of sameness. Trappings such as; life consuming careers, the pursuit of the American dream, worldly materialism, and misguided spiritual philosophies that are about doing good and living well.

We aren’t asking you to be a good person.
We’re dreaming that we become good people that live the Gospel in such a way that we change the world around us all for the glory and goodness of Jesus our King. That will call us to do hard things, good things, courageous things, loving things, and incredibly faithful things—or in other words…it will call us to do things that matter.

We hope to pull ourselves and others out of the mess as best as we can. We hope to be the church the best way we know how. And we really hope and pray that we become people who actually do things that matter every day. 

Our story as a church has just begun…may we always remember who the author of this story is and may we never grow weary or lose heart. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

EIGHTEEN: Mission Grounded | Gospel Centered | Movement Oriented

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY SEVENTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.

These three statements have some theological underpinning for what is important to us. The content in this entry is mostly pulled from one of our pages on the website, but I felt that it was important to include it in this writing series.

Mission is central to why we exist. God’s redemptive story throughout scripture is about a Creator on a mission to restore His creation. He has graciously invited us into his missional story. We are a part of His grand story of this world and his creation!  As a community of followers of Jesus—as the Church—we are on mission to restore what has been broken within his story. 
OKC Community Church has begun with simple clarity about three things – we will become mission grounded, gospel centered, and a movement-oriented church. These terms have some deeper meaning, and are our early attempt to create some basic framework to who we are.

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WHAT IS MISSION GROUNDED?
The whole Bible is a missional work. The primary thread from Genesis to Revelation is mission. The missio’ dei (mission of God) is what everything is about. It's what was happening in creation, in the exodus, during the times of kings, in the words of Isaiah the prophet, and climaxing with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God is on a mission to restore the relationship with humanity and to overcome darkness.

He has chosen to use humans, like you, to contribute to this mission. You are the subject of the mission, you can be the recipient of the mission, and you can join the greatest story of all time by carrying the mission as the foundational construct of your life. OKC Community will be a mission grounded church that will never deviate from what and why we are here.


WHAT IS GOSPEL CENTERED?
God chose to come to us Incarnationally (in the flesh, among us) as Jesus, the son. He carried a burden that we could not carry ourselves and he ushered in the redemptive pathway to restoration, forgiveness, and grace with God through the cross and His resurrection. This is the Good News the world needed—this is the Gospel!

As a church we will create ministry with the Gospel story as the center. We will serve the poor, preach the Good News, care for the hurting, befriend the lonely, empower the powerless, unleash courage, make disciples, contribute to renewing our city, and restoring generations—and the Gospel will be the hope within every action, every prayer, and every creative expression. We will not just tell the gospel we will aspire to live the gospel.


WHAT IS MOVEMENT ORIENTED?
The New Testament church has been a movement since its inception. It began as a small group of faithful outcasts who believed the Gospel was actually worth every bit of who they were. Within 300 years of the early church being born in the book of Acts the movement grew from a few hundred followers of Christ to over 25 million followers – that’s a movement.  They did it by moving from city to city and planting more and more churches.

We are a part of that same movement today. Every church plays their part in the movement and every church chooses how seriously they take their role. OKC Community is crazy serious about movement. We believe we can advance the mission of God by living the Gospel in such a way as to add and multiply to the movement of the Church and the gospel in our city.

As we grow and mature as a community of followers we will become a sending church that hopes to help in the planting of new churches in our city and other cities around the world.

The statements of Mission Grounded, Gospel Centered, and Movement Oriented are three foundational ideas to who we desire to be. We have much work to do as a church to be a church that is reflective of this sort of community, but it is the story that we hope to write for years to come.

 

EIGHTEEN: We've Been Sent

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY SIXTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church. 


Have we become spoiled?

When I was a kid, family movie night was an event…we had to go to the movie store…we had to hope that the VHS tape was “behind the movie box”…because the store only had two copies of the big summer blockbuster that had just been released. Sometimes we’d have to wait weeks to actually score that VHS rental. Now you can watch any movie you want, anytime. Download it to your TV, your computer, or phone and even if you are still rocking DVD’s you can even get those mailed to your house by Netflix.

This is a small example of how much the world has changed in just the past few decades. Our environment is becoming more and more of a consumer and convenience driven environment. So even if we are spoiled—it’s not our fault—it’s just the world we live in. Right?

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The danger with the realities of the world around us is that we can become a product of our environment. I think it’s a fair statement to say that the typical American life is largely a product of our environment – this is a sociological reality for most people.

  • Our environment here in OKC says to be a Thunder Fan…so what do we do… we purchase a Thunder shirt!
  • Our environment says to drink fancy coffee drinks… therefore we have no problem throwing down $5 for a Latte.
  • When I was a kid, our environment said it was cool to have a mullet… business in the front, party in the back…and oddly enough people actually did it.

Are we all just a product of our environment?
Will we do as the world around us does?
This is a big question that requires an honest answer! Think about it – how much does the environment shape our every day living?

The contrast of that is – how much do we shape our every day environment?

Everyone is familiar with the statement…be in the world, but not of it.
For most of us that statement means something to the affect, that although we live here we can’t act like we like it. Is that correct? Is that theologically how we should act?  
In John 19, when Jesus was on trial before Pilate he even said, “my kingdom is not of this world…”(verse 36).

So, what does it mean to not be of this world?
If we are products of an environment—are we of this world?
If we like the things of this world—are we of this world?

Does this mean we should boycott things? Maybe we should quit going to Disney World, or watching certain television shows, or maybe we should abstain from technology or advancement and cling to simpler times.

This statement—we are in this world, but not of it—kind easily sound like we unfortunately have to stomach the absolute terrible reality of being “in” the world…because we are actually better than the world. I mean, Jesus even said, “my kingdom is not of the world.”

This is how many have interpreted this idea.
This understanding of the idea will cause us to separate ourselves from everything that seems to be of this world…especially anything that seems dark or worldly. So are we supposed to separate ourselves from things like…sin, drunks, crime, the lust of money or sex, pain, drug addicts, broken families, broken people, hatred, un-forgiveness, selfishness, and greed?

I’ll add a few others…the broken, the forgotten, the blinded, the abused, the neglected, those who are all alone, those who have been wrongfully accused, those who know no better, the disabled, the emotional shattered, the harassed and helpless, the poor in spirit…

When we see the things of this world we often try and separate ourselves from it…claiming some sort of rightness in our separation.

Look at what Jesus says in a prayer in John 17:13-18,
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Our statement “in the world, but not of it” may need a little modification.
Jesus obviously stated that he and the believers are not of the world…but this statment is a place of where it begins, not the destination. Not being of the world isn’t where Jesus or the believers are headed—that isn’t the goal. However, when we order the statement—in this world, but not of it—it can seem that being not of the world is our goal.

Jesus actually said it differently…the “not being of the world” portion is simply a stated fact. He is proclaiming that we are a part of the Kingdom of heaven. Then Jesus said in verse 18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And let’s not forget verse 15, ”I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

He prays for our protection as we are IN the world.
So maybe instead of saying “in, but not of” – we ought to say – “not of the world, but sent into it” 

Is this confusing yet? Let me write this plainly.
WE ARE NOT OF THIS WORLD, BUT SENT INTO IT. 

This is what Jesus said, and saying it this way emphases something different doesn’t it? It rightly places what Jesus is saying to us. The problem is I’m not sure the church in today’s environment knows what it means to be sent into the world. We’ve rested in choosing what we like and are comfortable with in this world and separating ourselves from what we don’t like and are uncomfortable with.

THE KINGDOM THAT JESUS BROUGHT DIDN’T SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD – HE WENT STRAIGHT INTO THE HEART OF IT.

So if I may be so bold…may I ask you about your world?
    -  Your environment…what does it say about Kingdom?
    -  Does it say that you are becoming a product of your environment?
    -  Does it say that you are shaping the environment for the Kingdom?
    -  Does it say that you are living not of this world, but sent into it?

Living a SENT life is essentially what we talk about so often here at OKC Community. It's becoming someone who goes deep into the world. It's becoming someone who chooses to love people and places even when they are at their worst. It's becoming someone who embraces the opportunity to light a match in the darkest places. Living a sent life is a person who lives the gospel. 

Therefore, we have a hope as a church.
That we may become people who are not of this world, but sent into it.

EIGHTEEN: What Is Success? (Part II)

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY FIFTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church. 

I’m sure many of you don’t pay attention to the latest on major league baseball, but I’m guessing most of you have heard something about the controversy surrounding steroids and performance enhancing drugs among players. This controversy has been going on for over a decade now and several years ago it even made its way into a U.S. Congressional hearing. The story of athletes cheating by using steroids isn’t new and it happens in nearly every sport, but since the early 2000’s baseball has been under a microscope.  Some of the games biggest names have been implicated as users in this “steroid era” of baseball.

I don’t have any skin in the game on this particular issue—meaning I don’t get particularly passionate one way or another about the cheating that takes place in sport. The part of this story that is comical to watch (because it’s so ridiculous) and the reason I bring it up is the countless examples of listening to the words spoken by these players versus the story being lived by these players.

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The words spoken by the vast majority is that they have “never used performance enhancing drugs.” The story being lived indicates otherwise. Many of these players have had a tremendous physical transformation over a few short years of time. Their necks typically quadruple in size, their biceps are the size of watermelons, and their thighs are as thick as oak trees. In addition, to their freakish physical transformation, typically their game transforms as well—equating in unusual increases in home runs, batting average, acne treatments (a common side effect) and other stats.

The true measure of a person’s life is not by what they say, but it’s more about the story that’s being lived. The words we’ve seen many professional athletes try and sell us just don’t match up to the story that we can plainly see being lived by them.

In entry thirteen I made the statement that success for OKC Community Church would be obedience. The success measure of obedience stands on its own and encompasses the big picture of what must matter to our church community at our very core. This understanding and value can never change.  But are there other marks of success for us? Do we carry other measuring sticks in order to let ourselves know that we are developing, growing, and improving? What are other things that indicate if we are having success? 

The absolute best measuring stick that we have and really any church, organization, or person should have is — story. A story represents reality. If we say that we value loving our neighbor…well then we better have stories to prove that we really do love our neighbors. If we say that we are a church for our city…well then we better have stories that show how we are a church for our city.

So many leaders and churches are just about words on a screen or in a sermon. They think…”if we put it on our website it will show everyone that we are super serious about it…if we preach about it then we can assume everyone is actually doing it.” We can all agree this sort of thinking is ridiculous, right? Now, let me say this—words matter a whole heck of a lot. If we don’t speak it and call people to deeper levels of love, faithfulness, and dreams for God’s mission then it won’t happen. It begins with words, however words should turn into a story. If the story ends with words in a sermon, on a piece of paper, or on a screen then the story has much more work to do before we can claim it’s a good story.

So many churches/ people think they care about the poor…because they talk about it, or possibly give some money towards it. Tell me a story about how your church/ you are caring about the poor.

So many churches/ people think they do a pretty good job of loving their neighbor…because they are a nice person (especially to the cash register clerk). Tell me a story of how you learned a neighbor’s name, built a relationship, served them, or had a party with them.

So many churches/ people think they are faithful…because they try and do the right things, such as; go to church, keep a low sin-quota, and read the Bible. All of those are great things, but tell me a story about pushing yourself and your faith to new limits—possibly a story of trusting God with your work, relationships, money, reputation, or future.

Those are just a few examples.

At OKC Community we have many things that we believe and highly value (we’ve shared several of those things in this writing series). If we don’t have stories to back those things up then we are just banking on our words. We cannot be built on a mountain of words that end up creating story that says one thing, but lives another. It’s startling to think about how many churches, organizations, and people are essentially living this way—saying one thing, but living another.

That story is the worst kind of story.
That kind of story is usually full of pride, lies, deception, and selfishness.
We desire to measure ourselves against the story of what we are living. When we notice that there is a vacancy of certain stories (such as, the examples above) that is a red flag, and it indicates where we must make intentional efforts to improve and grow. Stories help us know where the soil is healthy and vibrant and they also let us know where we need too tend, water, and care for the soil. Good stories are ones about bearing fruit, thus the need for good gardening skills.

This is a difficult process for some. It’s not always easy for a person, organization, church, or even a professional athlete to take a look in the mirror and ask, “do we have stories that represent who we say that we are?” Success certainly begins with obedience (as stated in entry thirteen), however success will be expressed through our stories.

Our stories provide the proof – if we are who we say we are.
May we live and be able to tell the good kind of story.

EIGHTEEN: City Sidewalks, Thunder Slam Dunks

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY FOURTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.

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“We are a church for the city.”
This is a pretty trendy statement these days. I feel like more and more churches are saying this sort of statement. Having a deeper connection and love for the city one is a part of is a growing trend not only within churches, but with people as well.

Here in Oklahoma City (and also in other cities) there is a movement for local and state pride. Local art, local food, local business, and local everything has caught fire for the last few years. This has been a fun movement to see happening in our city. It’s resulting in better local business, deeper renewal, urban gentrification, and deeper roots for many people who call this city home.

OKC Community Church is a new kid on the block (not to be confused with the “Hangin’ Tough,” New Kids on The Block). Many of us who make up OKC Community aren’t new to OKC, but our church is new. If you’ve ever been the new kid at school or the new person at work you know what that feeling is like. It’s sort of this exciting, awkward, hopeful, nervous, and uncertain state of being. 

How do we fit in?
Better yet…how do we contribute to our city?

It’s easy to get caught up in the trendy 'love for our city' movement. As people of OKC Community we should support our city, love our neighborhoods, contribute to the renewal of places like Uptown23rd (NW 23rd Street), and cheer for our Thunder.  Loving our city is easy. It’s fun and we are proud to be a part of the Oklahoma City landscape. We pray God allows OKC Community Church to exist for many, many decades to come. This is a great place to be!

Loving our city and enjoying all the wonderful things about it does not mean, “we are a church for the city.” It simply means that we love our city. We must embody more than loving and enjoying our city.

We are learning that to be a church for our city we must contribute to the life of the city. That’s why our dream is to bring life to our city! That happens in many ways, but it mostly won’t happen through what we do on Sundays. Although, Sundays are important to the life of our church, the best way to bring life to a city is through the life giving ways we ought to live during the rest of our days and weeks. This means that the way we live and bring life to our neighborhoods, at our workplaces, when we’re shopping, at our coffee houses, and at our sporting events actually matters quite a bit.

We do want to be a church for our city.
But to really do this, it will be less about what our church does as an organization and more about what our church does as people. As an organization we will support our city, contribute where we can, and champion good causes that are happening in our city.

 As a people it is our job to bring life to our city.
…by giving life, sharing life, helping people in life, and showing people how to live life to the fullest measure. This dream comes from, John 10:10, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

This city is brimming with the potential for you and I to make a difference...to contribute...to  serve...to love. 
I love the words from the prophet Micah -- they provide a fitting close to this idea of being a church for the city.

“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Listen! The Lord is calling to the city…” (Micah 6:8-9).

EIGHTEEN: What Is Success?

Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY THIRTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.


Many church plants fail.
There are many reason’s why…maybe because they never gathered enough people or collected enough money. Perhaps because they didn’t start with a clear vision or the leadership didn’t have a real calling to plant something new.

Now in some ways OKC Community has already broken trend.
We have more people coming in year one than many church plants will ever have. We aren’t a large church by many standards, but we do acknowledge that we’ve grown at an abnormal rate compared to national averages.  Now, stay with me…I’m not boasting here.

Early on in our process of planting a regional church planting director told me that we’d be successful if we had fifty people by the end of year two. So, this begs the question—are we already successful?

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Hmmm…is success that easy? Are successful churches all about warm bodies?
Can you see the battle that takes place?
Is the size of the crowd the mark of success?
What if twenty people showed up—would it be a failure?

Churches have long measured a few bottom lines as the mark of success and I get it…Everyone needs to survive and everyone hopes to have influence in his or her community and often that comes with strength in numbers. But the question we have to ask is…who are we trying to look successful to? To others? To the watching world of Facebook, or to all the imaginary people we think are watching us?

The battle for me, and I’m guessing it will be for all us is to stay committed to the purity of what this about.

Let’s be reminded that it didn’t initially seem that Jesus knocked it out of the park when it was all said and done. When Jesus was hanging on the cross only a few faithful followers stood courageously by. Even in the days soon after Jesus’ ascension it says that only 120 followers in Jerusalem came together for their first few gatherings. However, we all know that the success of Jesus coming to earth is not measured in numbers of people who chose to follow during his time on earth, or by who stood by him at the cross. The story of his success is still being written. We are living and breathing examples of his impact and the result of his obedient life.

Now success isn’t a bad word, but the definition of success in the church is what is scattered and often messed up.  Numbers and growth aren’t bad things either – in fact, growth can be a really great thing and our church hopes to experience healthy growth for years to come. However, first and foremost, success for us must be obedience. 

To obey God’s Word.
To obey who and what the Holy Spirit guides us to be and do – that must be success for us.

And then…we trust him with the outcomes that lie ahead.
…we must trust him with the outcomes..
Trusting God with the outcomes is not just about our church…it’s about each of our lives.

This entry is less about the old and tired conversation of debating the inflated illusion of success in numbers within the church -- and instead this is about our stake in the ground to say that true success is rooted in obedience to God. 

How does a church exercise obedience?
There are a couple things to consider with this thought.

1. As people we must collectively grow in our obedience to Christ.
We often say at OKC Community that we are a community of people trying to be the church the best way we know how. This statement is all about a humble hope that we would live and be the people we claim to be. In John 14 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command…” We never want our love for God to be in question. This is something every one of us must embody.

2. As a church we must stay true to the right things.
It’s easy for churches to get distracted and begin spending time and resources on consumer oriented ministry, extravagant facilities, and tactics to become more popular. We must stay obedient to the call that God has put on this church to bring life to our city, love our neighbors, live the gospel, and be the church. We must be obedient through the ministries we create, the lessons we teach, the events we have, the parties we throw, and the decisions we make. 

Perhaps many church plants fail because they never define what success should be.
Perhaps they got confused along the way and thought success looked like something else.

We can’t become confused or misguided.
Success is obedience.
Obedience is what will make us successful.