We Have Not Ceased To Pray For You

What A Prayer!

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. – Colossians 1:9-10

Heard what? Why did Paul and Timothy make this amazing statement?  Colossians 1:4-5 gives us the answer: They heard of the Colossians’ faith in Christ Jesus and the love they had for all the saints, which was due to the hope (i.e., guarantee) of eternal life laid up for them in heaven. And so, this caused Paul and Timothy to pray…and pray…and pray for them!

But this is no ordinary prayer! Take a look at all of the BIG words in the prayer in verses 9-10:  Filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…fully pleasing to Him…bearing fruit in every good work. The prayer goes on past verse 10, but the amazing possibilities in just these two verses are overwhelming! What if you and I were filled with knowledge of God’s will? And it was with all spiritual wisdom and understanding? Wouldn’t we like to be fully pleasing to Him? And who wouldn’t want to bear fruit in every good work? This is my prayer for myself…and for you!

Ministry Update

  • We’ve still been posting the job for our senior high youth pastor position on various schools’ job boards and ministry job search websites, as well as networking with many people we know. After a slow period when we weren’t finding many candidates, we’ve had a recent surge. We’re evaluating 10 or so candidates more closely at this point, and will likely interview 5-6 of them. After that, we’re praying that a few finalists will emerge for extended interviewing and evaluation with our team, which includes students and parents. We still plan to involve them at the right time. Stay tuned.
  • This whole season has taught us to (1) trust the Lord at greater levels, (2) more carefully consider and actually do what matters most in ministry, and (3) involve the body more and more in the work of ministry. We’re still convinced God is in charge, His timing is perfect, and we’re walking in obedience as best as we can discern.  These are all GOOD things!  And Galatians 6:9 reminds us to “…not grow weary of doing GOOD, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” So like the saying goes…It’s all GOOD!

Pray

  • Colossians 1:9-10.
  • Provision of a senior high youth pastor, and continued spiritual growth and unity of our students.
  • Continually strengthened trust in God, His will, His ways, His timing, and His ultimate provision…because it’s all GOOD!

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

 

He arrived and witnessed the grace of God

Gospel Growth

Acts 11:23 records Barnabas’ visit to the fledgling church in a major city in the ancient world, Antioch. It was the first predominantly Gentile church ever. The Jewish Christian leaders in Jerusalem didn’t quite know what to make of it, so they sent Barnabas to check things out. When he arrived at the Antioch church, Barnabas saw something that defied human parameters. God had drawn large numbers of Gentiles to Himself by using men from a small island in the Mediterranean and a region in northern Africa to preach the gospel in this bustling city. Imagine that! The rest of the story is that this Antioch assembly grew to become arguably the premier church in the world in those times, marked by vibrant, missional, gospel-centered ministry. All of this was a tribute to the grace of God. Indeed, we can learn much today from these ancient brothers and sisters in Christ…and from God’s abiding grace!

So, what will FBC’s Go Forward path look like? Will we be content to maintain the status quo, or will we dare to dream audaciously about all that God can do in His church in this time and place? We’ve recently seen examples of churches (Ephesus, Laodicea) that hit  dead ends because they strayed from God’s love, God’s path and God’s ways. We also see a church that got it right – Antioch. So FBC, which will it be? I pray we walk down the trail blazed by the church at Antioch.

Ministry Update

  • We started a new round of our search for a senior high youth pastor. We are in the process of narrowing down candidates and expect to identify approximately 10 with whom we will take a next step. These men will complete in-depth questionnaires so we can discern possible fits for our church. From there, we’ll interview (in person if local or via Skype if not) those who are possible “fits.” That will most likely take us down to 2-3 candidates. We will then bring those men in, interview them, and have them interact with youth group student and parents. We are praying one might be our next senior high youth pastor. Certainly all of the above is under God’s guidance and leadership, so we’re ready to shift gears if He leads us to do so. More to come. We’ll keep you posted.
  • The senior high youth group is growing in strength and health despite the absence of a full-time youth pastor for that age group. Many students, parents and other volunteers have stepped up to this opportunity. Praise God for His grace in this way.
  • The Cochrans’ church plant project is no longer moving forward. This is not due to anything the Cochran’s did or did not do. As a church we have continued to engage with the Cochran’s about their needs, and to offer support where needed.

Pray

  • For the hire of our next senior high youth pastor;
  • For the continued health and growth of the senior high youth ministry;
  • For the Cochran’s as they discern God’s path now that the particular church plant possibility has closed down.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 20-21, ESV)

What and How

I remember – way back in ancient history – when I was in elementary school and we learned how to diagram sentences. Generally the purpose was to teach us how to identify the main subject, and to see how the other parts of the sentence served that big point. Well, I’d like to give you a super short lesson in how to diagram the verses above. When Jude wrote it in his original language, the main point was keep yourselves in the love of God. That means a continuous and abiding action and state of being. The other three phrases of the sentence tell us how to do that. Specifically, we are called to (1) build ourselves up in our most holy faith – i.e., stay in the Word of God, (2) pray in the Holy Spirit – i.e., listen and talk to God consistently, and (3) wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life – i.e., look forward to His return.

I want to encourage you now more than ever to (WHAT) keep yourselves in the love of God by (HOW) staying in the Word of God, praying in the Spirit of God and looking for the return of the Son of God! Pretty great what and how, eh?!

Ministry Update

  • We diligently pursued interviewing three candidates for the senior high youth pastor position. Many of you met them. After much prayer and a very invested process, we believe God is leading us to keep searching. We are pursuing many avenues to find God’s next senior high youth pastor for FBC. We’ll keep you posted on progress. Any leads you might have that you think could be helpful would be appreciated!
  • We trust God! Are we a bit disappointed we don’t have a senior high youth pastor by now? Yes. However, hope is high! Because…God does all things perfectly…both how He does them and when He does them. He is in control. We are trying to be faithful stewards.
  • A wonderful outcome of these last five months is that hands-on involvement by parents and students in planning and executing ministry is at a super high level! That is how it should be! Very healthy! We would be grateful for your continued prayer, support and engagement.

Pray

  • We would continue to trust God fully;
  • Jesus Christ would be glorified more than ever;
  • God would provide our next senior high youth pastor as soon as possible…but always most importantly right when we need him based on God’s perfect plans;
  • The Cochran’s are winding down their time in Tulsa, are fully engaged in developing partners in ministry for their church plant path, and are praying for many more supporters (more details to be reported on during services on 8/25).

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

“…God sent me before you….”

The Providence of God

When Joseph is finally reunited with his brothers, he urges them to not be “distressed or angry” with themselves about the sins of their past. Then, he encourages them by proclaiming that “…God sent me before you to preserve life.” Wow! What an amazing reality! What from a human perspective seemed like a tragic and destructive event that spanned over 20 years was actually God’s work to bring about the preservation of His people that had near-term, long-term and even yet-future-to-today consequences! Talk about God having a plan! This reality just blows me away! He IS in control, and He IS working His plan to accomplish His will. Such encouraging news gives me hope, and I pray it does you as well. As a matter of fact, it gives me the proper perspective and grid through which to process all of the affairs of life…even those noted below!

Ministry Update

  • We are still in process with three candidates for senior high youth pastor. We have gathered just about all of the information and feedback we need for each of them, and hope to narrow down our choice within the next couple of weeks. We may decide to end our process with one or more of the candidates before those couple of weeks if we get final clarity on things. When we believe we have our final choice, our tentative plan at this point is to bring him and his wife in so he can actually minister to students in a candidate role. Stay tuned. More to come.
  • We are currently working through our planning for the fall semester, and will need help from as many of you as possible. This season of transition is a great time for all of us to step up and serve.
  • We are working with the Cochran’s as they get down to the final stages of Joey’s time on staff. His last day on staff will be July 31. It is exciting to see how things are moving forward with their Chicago church planting process. There will be various opportunities for the Cochran’s to share with the body about these exciting things over the next month or so.

Pray

  • Please pray for wisdom and clarity as we make next step decisions regarding the senior high youth pastor position.
  • Please pray that God will raise up volunteers for all of the needs of the youth ministry for the coming year.
  • Please pray for the Cochran’s as they move closer to their departure date from FBC and thus closer to their launch date to Chicago.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Grace For Sure

I’ve been pondering Psalm 103 lately. And as I’ve pondered it, I’m convinced that David must have been in awe of God’s grace when he wrote the psalm. The first and last thing he exclaimed was, “Bless the Lord O my soul!” Then, in between those bookends he wonders over God’s forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, goodness, righteousness, justice, slowness to anger, compassion, eternality, and sovereignty. Yet through it all, there is a heartbeat of grace that pulses prominently. Perhaps God’s grace is unique because it is part of who He is alone, and is shaped by all of His other attributes. I know the psalm is worth a lot more of my pondering, and I believe it is worth yours as well. So, check it out! You won’t be disappointed!

Ministry Update

  • We have concluded our first round of interviews of the senior high youth pastor candidates. Three men emerged as being fit for the next round. We are coordinating with each of them to come to FBC for onsite interviews with staff and elders, and interaction with parents and students. We’re getting schedules coordinated for all involved as we speak. Once we do, we’ll let you know more. If you’re a senior high student or parent, we welcome your involvement once we let you know dates/times.
  • Welcome to Adalie June Cochran! She was born to Kendall and Joey this morning at 7:33 a.m.. She weighed 7 lbs., 10 oz., and was 20 inches long. Joey says she’s “just like the other two.” I told him, “that’s certainly not a bad thing!” We rejoice with the Cochran’s. On the ministry front for their family, they are still moving toward the church plant in Chicago. They hope to sell their house soon and wrap up things here in Tulsa. They will likely live with family in the DFW area as they continue in fundraising efforts.
  • Overall, we’re pointing toward some exciting directions in the life of FBC. We’re looking forward to recommitments for L2L groups in the fourth quarter, and we are also refining directions regarding discipleship, missions, etc.  More to come after Labor Day.

Pray

Please pray for the three items above.  Also, please pray that we will have wisdom from God to discern clearly His direction for His church.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

A Man Like Joseph

Relentless Faith

As I’ve been going through the life of Joseph in our Genesis series, I think I may end up being challenged and inspired by his life of faith more than any other character in the book. His steadfast reliance upon and obedience of God is amazing! I aspire to be a man life Joseph.

This week’s sermon is entitled Faith of the “Forgotten”. It centers on Genesis 40, where we find Joseph in very difficult circumstances for an extended period of time. Perhaps most of us at one time or another have gone through trials that seemed to never end…perhaps you’re going through such a trial right now. Joseph shows us the way to walk by faith in such circumstances. He stayed engaged, kept his spiritual bearings straight, and kept on trusting God even when it got really tough.

Doing the above doesn’t guarantee delivery from tough times, nor does it somehow prevent trials from coming in the future. In fact, it doesn’t even promise that we’ll have answers to all of our questions or resolutions to all of our pain. It does, however, put our focus where it belongs…on God and His purposes and His glory. It drives us to find perhaps unexpected and certainly unconventional rest in the truth of 1 Peter 2:20-21: But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps….

Ministry Update

  • After reviewing 60 or so resumes, we narrowed down to about 15 youth pastor candidates. From that number, the youth ministry staff, Don Mann, the Youth Advisory Support team and I narrowed the number to 9. We have been conducting interviews with those 9 (mostly via Skype since the majority are from out-of-town). We have three more interviews to go. After that, we plan to narrow the number down to 3-4 and bring those candidates in for face-to-face interviews and candidating. Those interactions will include standard interviews with staff and elders, as well as some kind of interaction with parents and students. We haven’t figured out all of those details yet, but we hope to begin that next round in a couple of weeks or so.
  • The Cochran’s have finalized their decision to move in the direction of church planting in Chicago. They will be part of a core team (Joey will be one of the four pastors) that will plant Cross Community Church. This work is being launched by The Village Church in the DFW metroplex. For now, they’re doing all sorts of things to secure fundraising support and prepare for a move to the Windy City. Additionally, Kendall is due with their third child at the end of this month.
  • At a broader level, the elders continue to sharpen focus on the ongoing vision and direction of FBC. More to come as we near the end of the third quarter.

Pray

In addition to praying for the items noted above, please pray that we who have been entrusted with servant leadership here at FBC will walk ever more closely with Jesus Christ…both in our personal walks as well as in our roles under His direction as the Head of this church. May Jesus be glorified!

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

Man’s Plans, God’s Direction

First of all, please allow me to apologize for the tardiness of this post. Things have been a bit hectic around here!

The Sovereign God

Proverbs 16:9 says We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (NLT). How true that is! Even the tardiness of this post in some ways affirms that proverb! Is planning wrong? No. Other passages in Scripture urge us to do so. However, I believe what that proverb teaches us is to hold “our” plans loosely. It is the Sovereign God who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).

So how do I process all of that? How do I live with the reality of that truth which at times can seem like tension? Well, I relax in God’s sovereignty for starters! I trust Him, believing that His will is right and His purposes are ultimately good. I also continue to take seriously my job as a steward. I should be wise and plan well. But again, I do all of this within the context of God’s ultimate control.

Ministry Update

Speaking of man’s plans being subordinate to God’s direction, we got delayed a couple of weeks in our search process for a youth pastor due to some issues that took higher priority (e.g., some staff family issues, the recent tornado disaster, etc.). However, we’re back in the groove and continue to make good progress.

  • We finalized a list of 15 candidates to whom we sent questionnaires. We received their responses, and the Youth Advisory Support Team along with some staff have reviewed and ranked them. From this list, we will select perhaps no more than a half dozen with whom we will have face-to-face interviews (locals in person, out-of-towners via Skype). Thereafter, we will probably narrow down to “finalists” whom we will bring in for interviews with staff, elders, and selected parents and students. We are praying that we will have a finalist who will commit to FBC by the end of the summer.
  • We hired a female youth ministry associate named Sadie Utter. We are extremely excited to welcome her to our team, and believe she will be a great addition to the ministry as well as the FBC body generally. Sadie is finishing up her responsibilities at New Life Ranch this summer, and plans to start with us near the end of August.
  • The Cochran’s are continuing to pray for God’s direction. They have been moving in the direction of becoming part of a team that will plant a church in Chicago. Those efforts would begin this fall. In the mean time, Joey remains on staff and they are preparing for various transitions (sale of home, baby coming, new opportunities, etc.). We continue to process and pray with them each step.

Pray

Please pray that God would be preparing the heart of the next youth pastor to connect with us. Please pray for God’s wisdom as we continue in the search process. Please pray for the Cochran’s as they trust and obey the Lord. Above all, please pray that all we do throughout this process would bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

Let Love Be Genuine

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)

The Real Deal

I’ve been memorizing verses lately, and the one above was the first one I committed to memory. What a marvelous challenge, and what an essential reminder! Genuine love. Isn’t that something we all crave? Both to give it and receive it? In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he challenged the body of Christ to put their gifts into practice so they would be complete. Serving one another was a key part of that. So when we get to his exhortation to let love be genuine, we have some important context for that statement.

I want to challenge all of you as I’ve challenged myself to test the genuine quality of our love through the grid of those four simple charges: (1) abhor evil, (2) hold fast to good, (3) love with brotherly affection, and (4) outdo one another with honor. Wouldn’t it be something if we all measured true love according to those four things?

Ministry Update

  • We are nearing the final stage of interviewing for our female youth ministry associate. We have one finalist. Various parents participated in the search and interview process, and many students have been under the ministry of this individual in the past. The reviews have been outstanding! More details to come soon!
  • We have sent questionnaires to about 10 candidates for the senior high youth pastor position. We expect to receive replies by the end of the coming week, and then we’ll begin interviewing. Again, various parents and students will be linked in to this process along the way.
  • The Cochran’s have identified a couple of opportunities for ministry that would be exciting. They’re praying about them, seeking God’s direction and provision. One area that continues to be of interest to them is church planting, and they will be attending a “boot camp” for planters later this month to learn more about that pathway.

Pray

Please pray for all of the items above. Most of all (and in keeping with our current sermon series) please pray that we all as individuals and FBC as a body will treasure Jesus Christ above all else, and that we will be transformed so that our desires, choices, pathways, etc. will all be rooted in and pointed toward Him!

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

Rejoicing and Repentance

“Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change. Indeed, it is when we rejoice over Jesus’s sacrificial love for us most fully that, paradoxically, we are most truly convicted of our sin.”

Timothy Keller, from Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters

Rejoicing and Repentance

What an unexpected, provocative pairing…rejoicing and repentance. “Conventional” thinking would never put the two together. In fact, they seem somewhat at odds with one another. How can I rejoice in repentance? And if I’m rejoicing, won’t repentance bring me down? Or at least kill the mood?

But that’s just what the gospel does. It obliterates human convention. It knocks our fleshly, self-focused – yes, proud – lives out at the knees. It takes every last ounce of human effort out of the equation so that it seems unbalanced and impossible to solve from our human paradigm…which in fact it is! But oh, the glorious and life-giving beauty of the equation that is perfectly balance from God’s perspective! He takes our sin; He gives us life! Here’s how the Apostle Paul reflects on it:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ESV)

So, as a gospel minister I consider it a privilege to be a part of the gospel ministry (2 Corinthians 4)…and particularly among all of you at FBC.

Ministry Update

  • The Youth Advisory Support Team had its initial meeting. Great connection point. The team prayed together and began defining goals for how they will serve. Another meeting is upcoming.
  • We’ve gotten lots of resumes in response to our various job board postings. We’ve also learned about several candidates through personal networking contacts. In the next week or so, we’ll probably begin to do some Skype/phone interviews with those who look like they could be a good fit. From there, we’ll probably zero in further on those whom we will bring in for face-to-face interviews. At some point, we want to involve some students in some part of the process. Stay tuned for more details.

Pray

  • For the FBC body to become “drenched” in the gospel and its realities for true life;
  • For continued progress and clarity in the ministry update steps noted above;
  • For the Cochran’s as they continue to evaluate next steps.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric

Every Member Ministry

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ….” Ephesians 4:12

“For the body is not one member, but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

Amazing Privilege…Amazing Opportunities

What an amazing privilege it is to be a part of God’s building program! As the two verses above remind us, God’s perfect design is to use all of us to do His work in the church. At FBC in particular during this season, God has given all of a chance to step forward and step up into some great opportunities for body building in the senior high youth ministry.

Everyone – from students and parents, to other willing helpers and staff – can chip in. The results already appear to be mapped out: the building up of the body of Christ. So what are we waiting for?! Let’s do this! We have plenty of opportunities for you, and we’re sure one of them can be a match for your time and talents.

Ministry Update

  • The Fellowship Student Ministries Advisory Team will be having its first meeting on Sunday, 4/7. They’ll begin to work with our staff to pray together and seek God’s direction in charting a path forward for the next generation of youth ministry at FBC.
  • We have finished posting the senior high youth pastor profile to a number of web-based job boards (through schools, ministry organizations and church staffing specialists). We’ve also made contact with a number of wonderful ministry friends who are helping us think through search possibilities and candidates for this important role. We have already been contacted by a small handful of candidates, and we anticipate that number will grow rather significantly over the next few weeks. Once we get a decent number of viable candidates, we’ll push forward with an review/interview process.
  • Joey is doing an excellent job in the tasks we’ve assigned him in his associate pastor role. He continues to be a wonderful teammate. He is exploring various opportunities, and we continue to work with him to best allow him to walk down all of the potential paths God has for him.

Pray

We continue to covet your prayers for all of the aspects noted above. We continue to be confident in the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God Whom we serve. May He be glorified!

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Eric