Family, Fellowship, and Farewell: A Letter from the Williams
Dear Ocean Park Family,
It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye in this season. We cannot begin to adequately describe the impact the OPBC community has had on our small growing family. You welcomed us with open arms. You mentored us. You encouraged us. And most importantly, you loved us. It truly has blessed us immensely in this last year to be part of this beautiful community where the love and ministry of Jesus was palpable.
We will miss the sweet community of OPBC. Our only sorrow is knowing our family will not be here to grow with you here in the "devotion to teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer". We love you Ocean Park! Please keep us in your prayers and let us know how we can specifically pray for you.
Grant & Stacy Gabriel, Elijah, & Selah Grace
Soli Deo Gloria
Prayer for a New Music Leader
Last night I received the phone call that no pastor wants to receive from his Music Leader. Grant called to tell me that their family was moving to South Carolina for work and that his last week at church will be October 28th. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for the time that Grant has spent at our church and for his faithfulness in serving our congregation by leading and facilitating our music team. He has faithfully prepared and committed himself each week to making our music good, beautiful, and true. I am so thankful for the time that we have had his family at our church and will miss them dearly. However, just as we trusted the Lord to bring Grant to our church we must trust the Lord to bring his replacement. Therefore, in the meantime, trust a Sovereign God who knows what He is doing.
Please begin to pray today for...
1) The Coming Season - The Lord has already begun to move the necessary means to connect use with our next music leader though we don't know how he will do it. I look forward to being able to tell the story of how the Lord led our next music leader to our church and celebrate God's incredible sovereignty over the details of our lives. I know He's working, even though I can't see it yet.
2) The Interim Time - Pray that the Lord would provide musical talent to aid us in our worship, whether it be substitutes from other congregations, Jenny & Olivia, musical recordings, or old-fashioned acapella singing (or a combination of all of these). I pray that our music would be genuine and heartfelt as we seek to make much of who God is and what he has done. There will be bumps along the road but God is not impressed by how polished our music is but the attitude of our hearts as we make a 'joyful noise' to the Lord (Psalm 100:1-5).
3) Faithfulness in Worship - Our Sunday School curriculum 'Gospel Shaped Worship" could not come at a better time. Jarod Wilson reminds us that worship is not the music that we play in service but the worth that we give to God for “worship means to give worth or value to something. It expresses what we find most valuable or satisfying.” Our worship will not suffer because we are losing Grant. In fact I pray that our worship will actually improve. How? Because it will help us realize that worship is more than beautiful notes and lyrical richness but "about knowing and sharing the love of God in our lives at every moment of every day." A member of our congregation encouraged me when he said, "We don't go to church in order to worship. We are worshipping everyday which motivates us to assemble with the people of God." He couldn't be more correct. I pray that this coming season teaches us a deeper understanding of worship that will be transformative for our congregation.
Soli Deo Gloria
VBS Reflections: Crafts, Chaos, & the Spirit of God
The fellowship hall that once overflowed with the shouts of children is now quiet and empty. The decorations that gleamed and sparkled have been packed away. All the songs have been sung, crafts assembled, and snacks devoured. Most importantly, the good news of the gospel has been told. Our work is now done. We can only trust the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit to convict, transform, and encourage the children in their journey of faith in Christ. Will they trust the promise of the gospel in Christ or will they believe the fleeting promises of this world?
The children have heard the call of the gospel this week. The gospel that declares that there is a God who is holy. The one true God who alone is the source of all that is good, beautiful, and true and ‘in [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy;… and pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). Yet mankind has trusted the whispers of the serpent who questioned the character, love, and provision of God when it asked, ‘Did God actually say?…” Gen 3:1 Rather than trusting the love and wisdom of God we trust what our eyes can perceive and our hands can touch. We have shaken our puny fists at the maker of heaven and earth and declared, “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you in charge. I know what is best for me!” Adam’s rebellion that plunged our race into misery, pain, and death has been perpetuated by generation, after generation, after generation, for ‘all have sinned…” Romans 3:23. Sin continues to poison our hearts, destroy our bodies, corrupt our societies, and fracture our relationships. Yet is the lament of the prophet Isaiah that reveals the most devastating effect of man’s rebellion, “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” Isaiah 59:2. Though the sin of man was great the love of God is greater. God was not content to leave us in the deserved darkness of judgment but to send his only son, Jesus Christ in order ‘that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17-18). Jesus loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might and loved his neighbor as himself. He was perfectly righteous. Yet in self-sacrificial love he laid down his life on the cross to ‘suffer once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Three days later he was, ‘raised [from the dead] for our justification.” This incredible promise is available to all who respond, not by works that prove our worth, but by faith alone that trusts the completed work of Christ who declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Faith that trusts the promise of the gospel that declares, “Jesus took my punishment on the cross and gave me his righteousness so I can live forever with God.” Faith that turns away from cherished sin in repentance and turns to the rule of Christ in thankful obedience. Faith that no longer cherishes sin but cherishes Christ. Faith that seeks forgiveness, confesses our need for Christ, and follows Christ in baptism. This is the call of the gospel.
During the gospel presentation a three-year old boy turned to his leader and said, “I want Jesus to be in charge of my life.” May that confession be strong when he is tempted by his peers to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh and when the world calls him a fool for trusting Christ.
Another boy came to me after the lesson and confessed, “I trust in Jesus!” I pray that his bold proclamation continues when he is twenty, forty, and sixty years old.
May we soon rejoice to witness the baptisms of the children who trust Christ and follow Christ’s call to follow him through the waters of baptism that was reiterated at VBS.
May the children who didn't seem to be paying attention, the ones who were surely, and the ones who didn't want to be there come to know the truth of the promise of the gospel through brief moments of truth that penetrated their staunch defenses and distracted minds. The Spirit of God has changed the hearts of much stauncher opponents of the gospel (e.g. Saul). May it also be in our church!
May the teen workers be reminded by the gospel this week to find their identity not in their image, bodies, relationships, academics, or activities but in their relationship with Christ alone. May they ‘consider everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Phil 3:10)
May we as parents be faithful to shepherd the hearts of our children and foster a home where Christ is treasured. May we as a community of faith be willing to invest in the lives of the children who we share community with. Men may we be examples to the boys of what it means to be a man who loves Christ and honors him with our mind, body, and actions. Ladies, may you be faithful to adorn your lives with modesty and self-control so that our girls see how a women who loves Christ lives.
VBS is not a program to manufacture a product, bolster our church’s reputation, or make our children ‘moral’. VBS is a means to plant into the hearts of our children a love and trust for Christ. As we faithfully proclaim the gospel, the Holy Spirit was working amidst the glitter, music, and chaos of VBS. The Holy Spirit is able to produce what no man can: spiritual life.
It is my prayer that as we watch these children grow we will be have the privilege to echo the thanksgiving of Paul…
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…” Colossians 1:3-7
Ocean Park, thank you for giving our your time and energy to invest in these children that they may come to saving trust in Christ. May God be glorified in our church now and forevermore!
Soli Deo Gloria