Gratitude

by Pastor Kent Carlson

30yearbash-54

I absolutely loved our church’s 30-year anniversary celebration weekend. I’m not completely sure why it was so profoundly satisfying and fun for me. I just know that it was perhaps the most enjoyable time I have had in thirty years of ministry at Oak Hills Church. Maybe it was because we were so very relaxed going into that weekend. Maybe it was because we weren’t really using the celebration for much of anything other than to have a party together. Maybe it was the amazing performance of the Oak Hills Rewind. Maybe it was seeing Rick Leary in long hair. Whatever it was, I had a blast.

The predominant feeling I have coming out of this celebration is gratitude. Thirty years is a long time to be in one place. In one church. There are so many stories, so many beautiful people, so many experiences of God’s grace and transformation. So many people who have sincerely sought to follow Christ in the midst of what seemed like impossible situations. And all these stories flooded over me, and I was, and continue to be, deeply grateful to God and to the people of Oak Hills Church, for all this goodness, all this beauty, all these stories that are a part of God’s great story of redemption. This Thanksgiving, without any effort at all on my part, but simply as the natural result of being overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the people of Oak Hills Church, I am deeply grateful. It’s a good feeling.

Now, on to the next thirty years!

I want to highlight two events to help us bask in the sheer delight of our 30-year celebration. First, we have our Annual Congregational Meeting and Vision Night on Thursday, November 20. We will worship together, meet our elders and vote to affirm them. We will talk about some of the challenges and opportunities in our future and have a time for questions and answers. We will have a scrumptious dessert. And most wonderfully, we will have a repeat of our Oak Hills Rewind. For those of us who have already seen it, we will be able to laugh all over again. For those of you who have never seen it, well, you are in for a treat. Please try to make this night a priority and let’s keep the celebration going!

Second, I want to encourage us all to come to our annual Thanksgiving Eve Service. We will worship together “in the round” and we will share together the Lord’s Supper. There will be ample opportunity to share with each other our deep gratefulness to God for all that He as done for us. I hope to see you all there.

With deep thankfulness,

Kent Carlson

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Mid-Year Offering

We are thankful to God for His provision for us, and we are thankful to the Oak Hills Church family for your faithful and generous financial support for all that God is doing in and through our church.  Our mid-year offering this year is wonderfully different than many other mid-year offerings, because instead of just 10% of whatever is given going to ministries outside the walls of Oak Hills Church, this year about 66% of everything coming in will be directed outside of Oak Hills.

The Liberti Family

Our offering will be divided into three parts.  The first part will go towards our ministry partners, Oak Hillians Steve and Dawn Liberti, who are missionaries with Proclaim International and living in Germany.  As a way to help their children, Sophia and Bianca, continue to thrive in their new culture and to continue to adapt to a new language and life experience, we want to help the Liberties send their daughters to a school in their area.  We are excited about this “hands-on” involvement with our newest missionaries.

The second part of the offering will go to another one of our ministry partners, The Nehemiah Project in Manipur, India and their work to help educate, care for, and treat pregnant women living with HIV/AIDS as well as educate and care for HIV affected children.  This wonderful ministry is in some rather desperate need of more funding and we desire to do our part to help this ministry continue to spread the message of Christ and to meet the needs of an often neglected population.

Manipur 2012
© Katie Albert Photography

The third part of the offering will go towards paying down the principal of our mortgage.  This is all part of our long-term plan to completely pay off the mortgage as soon as we are able.  Every little bit helps!

As always, this is an “over-and-above” offering, which means that it is not meant to replace, but rather be in addition to, our regular giving to our church budget.  We encourage everyone who calls Oak Hills Church their home to take some time to consider as families and individuals what we can generously give to this offering.

The official date for receiving this offering is this Sunday, June 10th, but you can give your offering any time from now through the end of June.  In fact, this may be a great opportunity to jump on the website and try out our handy-dandy on-line giving.  Just click on the “give” tab at the top of the website and follow the instructions you find there.  If you have more questions on the on-line giving process, feel free to contact Rick Leary or Melinda Word at the church office.

Thanks for your willingness to sacrificially support the 2012 Mid-Year Offering!

In Christ,

Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken

December 3 Men’s Breakfast: A Different Kind of Experience

Your breakfast might look like this.

by Pastor Mike Lueken

There is an interesting story in the life of Joshua where he is praying and seeking God’s help and God says to him, “stand up, what are you doing down on your face?” (Joshua 7:10). Joshua’s confusion over a recent military defeat led him to pray. This makes sense. But God’s response was essentially to quit praying and take action. “Get busy living, or get busy dying” in the words of Andy Dufrane of Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption. Joshua then learned that one of the Israelites (Achan) had secretly sinned and this was the reason why the Israelites lost the battle.

It intrigues me to think that there are times when God grows weary of our praying and commands us to get off our knees and do something about the situation.

Recently in our Men’s Ministry we’ve been talking about this principle. We don’t need to hear another message on the kingdom of God. We don’t need to sit through another sermon. We don’t need another worship experience. We don’t need another small group discussion. The vast majority of us have ample knowledge about God and the way of His kingdom. We need, if you will, to stop praying and start doing. The time has come to engage the world in the power of the kingdom of God and see what happens. Perhaps (and I suspect so) the faith required to take concrete action in his name and the dynamic adventure of what follows will school us in the ways of the kingdom far more thoroughly than can be acquired in another “classroom” setting.

I’m excited about this principle turned loose in our Men’s Ministry. As we talk about this in our leadership meetings and at a recent men’s breakfast, my sense is that guys are ready to go out and “do something” for the sake of the kingdom. Obviously we can do this individually and many do so on a regular basis. But there is something fun and invigorating about bonding together with other guys and launching out in service for His sake.

Our Men’s Breakfast on December 3rd is going to be a different kind of experience, and I want to challenge any man who is reading this to take the risk and show up. We are going to do what we generally do at these breakfasts – eat. But then we are going to venture out in small teams and help some women in our church who live alone or who have lost their husband. In many ways, they are “forgotten” people in our midst even though they may not look like it. We are currently in the process of organizing teams and planning the projects we will complete at each home. Currently, we have about 40 men who have signed up to help. You don’t have to be an effective handy man to contribute. You don’t have to know what a hammer is. You simply have to be willing to carve out a few hours on Saturday, December 3rd to put your faith in action and serve someone else in the name of Jesus.

If anything in this piques your curiosity, send me an email at mike.lueken@oakhills.org or give me a call, and I will help you become part of one of these teams. I am confident the sense of “doing something” in the name of Jesus will far outweigh the cost of time required.

Playmakers

by Mike Lueken

When some of us think of football we may think of things like excessive testosterone, legalized violence, cutthroat competition, or an overused topic in sermon illustrations. We might think of middle-aged men who are trying to eradicate their own demons by screaming at a 10 year old who missed a tackle. We might think of the NFL work stoppage as players and management quibble over how to split 9 billion dollar profits. Or we may think of the creeping corruption in college football that is slowly eroding the purity of the game.

But what if the game of football could be used to stir the hearts of young men toward a life of character and service? What if football could become a means for inspiring young men to think beyond themselves, their team and their record?  What if football could be the venue that instilled life changing lessons and values into the hearts of impressionable young men – and the whole experience changed the trajectory of their lives?

For the past several years, Greg Roeszler and his team of coaches have sought to bring these priorities to young football players in the Sacramento area through Greg’s “Playmakers” organization. As I’m writing this,  about 300 players from around the area, including a team of deaf students, just completed participation in Playmaker’s annual football camp where football and life skills are being taught. Greg is relentless in his vision to change the way we think about sports and coaching. I have learned a great deal from him that has impacted how I approach coaching freshmen football. And Greg, and Playmakers is making a difference in our community.

Sometimes we scratch our head and wonder how to bring the Gospel to the world.  Few things are more intimidating to us than the thought of talking to others about Jesus. And I get that.  It’s not an easy thing to do. But one thing we can do is live in our world (whatever our world happens to be) with a missional mindset. We go to our jobs, our neighborhoods, our teams, our schools with the conviction that God has put us there to manifest the reality of His kingdom. We engage the world, in other words, with confidence that God is up to something in the lives of the people we interact with and He wants to work through us to spread the good news of His Gospel.

When we adopt this perspective, a whole new set of opportunities to share the Gospel unfold before us. Football practice becomes a mission field where we point young men toward what is good and excellent and right. The cubicle world of Intel becomes a place where we demonstrate what life is like in God’s kingdom. Our neighbors become people whom we pray for and love.  Our job becomes more than a job. The teams are kids play on become venues where we seek to discern where God is moving. We feel the weight of a calling – to make disciples of Jesus – wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

The key then is for us to live out the truth of what we claim to believe. We engage our world with hopeful confidence that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all people. When we think this way, and live this way, there simply is no greater adventure!

Good Season

by Senior Pastor Mike Lueken

Sunday night, May 15th, about two hundred people gathered to celebrate God’s faithfulness to Oak Hills during our fascinating journey of the past ten years. It was a beautiful night. In a way, it marked the end of a long, often arduous process of seeking to become a church that takes seriously Jesus’ invitation to live in his kingdom. In another sense, it was the beginning of another chapter in the story. In addition on that Sunday night, we reflected a bit on the book Kent and I have recently written on this journey. I know I speak for Kent in saying thank you for the opportunity to serve here as one of the pastors. There are many pastors in our country and around the world who cannot conceive of a congregation as pliable and trusting as Oak Hills. There are many who would like to lead their church toward spiritual formation and transformation but they know it would be met with fierce opposition. Kent and I want to thank you for your commitment to Oak Hills and to us. The Sunday night gathering triggered a variety of emotions in me. But mostly, it reminded me of what a great church we have. And for that, both Kent and I are thankful.

One thing that seemed obvious on Sunday night is that we are in a good and fun season as a church. You may actually be getting tired of hearing that – but it’s absolutely true and acknowledging it, hopefully, will help keep us humble and grateful. People may wonder what it means to say “we are in a good season.” A few things come to mind. The Holy Spirit seems to be moving; people are hungry to experience God’s kingdom; many are captivated by the possibility of genuine spiritual formation; our finances are getting stronger; the staff is unified; more and more people are finding places to serve both inside and outside the church. Subjective evidence? Perhaps. But serving in the church setting for many years trains one’s senses. In light of the journey we have made together for the past decade, it is good for us to feel good about where we are as a church.

So as we approach our mid-year offering, I want to remind us of the purpose for which it will be used. Effective May 1st, Pastor Rick Leary transitioned to a part-time position overseeing facilities and grounds. Rick has faithfully served at Oak Hills for 22 years. He is a man of strong faith and character and we are thrilled he will be staying with us on staff. But we have not budgeted for his new position and we don’t feel it is wise to add it to our planned expenses. Yet, we feel the role is crucial in light of the ongoing demands of our facilities, and Rick’s expertise and gifting is unique. So our hope is to fund this position through over and above special offerings beginning with this year’s mid-year offering.

As always, we will give 10% of whatever comes in to a ministry outside of Oak Hills. This year the 10% is for Theodore Judah’s Stars program which is an after school program for children. The date of the mid-year offering is June 5, but feel free to give it anytime from now until the end of June.

If you have questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to ask me, Kent or an Elder Board member. Once more, thank you for the privilege of serving. I believe God has good things in store for us!

Holy Week

by Pastor Mike Lueken

Holy Week is so called because the events that occurred have cosmic implications that have emphatically altered the course of history. For starters, it was the last week of Jesus’ earthy life. On Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem to the cheers and adoration of the crowd. His stay in Jerusalem began by clearing out the Temple.  Each day, He went and taught on the kingdom in the Temple courts. He confronted the religious power brokers. On Thursday, He shared the last supper with His followers in the upper room. Late Thursday night, He was arrested.  On Friday, He was tried and sentenced to die a criminal’s death. The sentence was carried out Friday afternoon. He was placed in a new tomb.  And then on Sunday, the tomb was empty for the King had arisen!  It started with the crowd cheering for Jesus the King.  “Hosanna in the highest.” It ended with Jesus the King conquering death. “Hosanna in the highest.” It was a holy week indeed.

As we approach Holy Week 2011, we face the same temptation followers of Jesus have faced for two thousand years. The Sunday crowd that lined the streets leading into Jerusalem, who waved palm branches and cheered for Jesus, were, by and large, fans of His. They admired His teaching.  They found Him unique.  Perhaps they were intrigued by the fascinating way He put things. But many of those same people stood outside Pilate’s palace a few days later and shouted, “Crucify Him!”  On Sunday they were fans, but by Friday, for a variety of reasons, they had become enemies.  But they weren’t His followers.

There is a vast difference between admiring and following. Admirers, or fans, are detached from that which they admire. It has no real claim on them. Their admiration does not bind them in any sustaining way. Their loyalty can change in the course of a few days. But followers are invested in what they follow. They seek to become more like the thing or person they follow.  They are students who are diligently working to become like their teacher.

Followers, then, fully enter into the Holy Week experience because it is what their teacher did. They walk “with Him” from the anticipation of Palm Sunday, to the betrayal of Maundy Thursday to the agony of Good Friday to the celebration of Easter Sunday.

We have many opportunities at Oak Hills this week (beginning April 18) to be with Jesus on His unforgettable journey:  (1) walk through our Art Gallery in the lobby entitled “Way of the Cross,” (2) join us for a guided prayer time Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:30am in the Prayer Room (M-208), (3) participate in our Maundy Thursday 7pm service, (4) our Good Friday noon service, and then, (5) celebrate with us on Easter Sunday!

I invite you to seize the opportunity of this Holy Week to spend ample and unhurried time with our Savior on His history-changing journey.

Where’s my crash helmet?

by Senior Pastor Mike Lueken

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

If you have never read anything from Bonhoeffer, before doing so buy yourself a well made crash helmet. Not the plastic Harley Yarmulke some guys wear to look cool, but a genuine, Department of Transportation crash helmet. I’ve been reading a biography of Bonhoeffer and have been struck again by his ability to hone his sentences so they cut with precision to the core of the matter. He wrote during a time when the Lutheran church of Germany was slowly being hypnotized by Hitler’s lunacy. They believed Hitler’s mad ravings could co-exist with Christ’s teachings in an idealized Germany. Bonhoeffer’s main message through his many writings is captured by the quote above. To profess Christ meant to follow Him. To believe in Him meant to live for Him. To accept Him meant to live according to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a disturbing challenge to only call ourselves “Christian”  if we are willing to take up our cross every day and live like one. And something about Bonhoeffer’s clear, unqualified, in-my-face style calls out to a desire in my heart to live my one life well under God.

It’s tempting to equate talking about spiritual formation, with actually being spiritually formed.  But they are not the same thing. It’s tempting to equate reading the Bible, praying and serving with spiritual formation. But they are not the same thing. It’s tempting to equate believing the right things with spiritual formation.  But they are not the same thing. Spiritual formation is the process of becoming more like Jesus.  It is driven by the Holy Spirit but our cooperation is crucial. And at the end of the day, after all the thinking and talking, it boils down to our willingness  to take concrete action in the name of Jesus, in faith that He will work through our action to form us into His likeness.

This year’s men’s retreat is about the particulars of that action. What can we do as men to tap into God’s power and see our lives change? We aren’t going to explore much theory at this retreat. Rather we are going to press into the practical stuff that helps a person tap into God’s power and become more like Christ.

I meet with men all the time who are frustrated with life and who are experiencing some level of turmoil, chaos or trouble. They are looking for hope in the form of a better way of living. Whether they realize it or not, they are looking for the Kingdom.

It’s our hope over the weekend of the retreat to learn together how to practically make progress in the fascinating journey of discipleship. I hope you will carve out the time to come. I think our souls will expand for having been together in the mountains.

If you’d like to find out more about our Men’s Retreat (March 4-6, Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe), contact Pastor Rick at 983-0182 x12 or rick.leary@oakhills.org.