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

NEW SERIES: Beyond Our Fences

FB beyond our fencesby Manuel Luz, Pastor of Creative Arts

One of the sayings we repeat to one another often at Oak Hills is this: “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world.” What it means is that we, as Oak Hills, don’t exist simply for the purpose of helping one another in our journey toward following Christ. We follow Christ because we are God’s incarnational expression of the Gospel to the world.

The word incarnation comes from a Latin word that means “in the flesh.” And Jesus is the primary expression of this. God’s love for us was so great and so astounding that the Son voluntarily entered into His creation, being born an unassuming baby, entering the gritty and often difficult life of a normal human being, living and laughing and loving and dying, so that His redemptive purposes could be fulfilled. He came to live among us, clothing himself in mortal flesh, in order to love us and save us and invite us to a better way.

Jesus called us, His church, to go and make disciples. In John 20:21, Jesus says, “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” So in a very real sense, we are the enfleshment of His continuing purposes in the world. We are called to be flesh-and-blood examples of His love and grace.

We have and continue to emphasize spiritual formation at Oak Hills. And we think we have done of good job of teaching and modeling and living out lives that are continually surrendering to God’s reign and rule. And the result of living in the Kingdom of God is the transformation of our character to be more like Jesus. But our mission statement is “Oak Hills Church exists to invite people to experience the reality of life in the Kingdom of God.” Spiritual formation is not an end unto itself. Discipleship is for the world.

Frank Laubach stated, “The simple program of Christ for winning the whole world is to make each person he touches magnetic enough with love to draw others.” In other words, it is the transformation of our lives by God into something “other than” that will draw others to Him. Jesus said it this way:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

This is why we’ll be exploring the various aspects of what it means to live out our Kingdom lives to the world. We invite you to attend each Sunday through the months of October and November, as we explore the nature of God’s mission, who we are, our culture, and how to practically live out God’s grace in Folsom and beyond. We’ll even have a Sunday to answer your questions. Join us as we learn together how to live “Beyond Our Fences.”

10/6 Our Missionary God

10/13 Who We Are Matters

10/20 Our Post-Christian Culture

10/27 Love Your Neighbor

11/3 Making Room

11/10 Third Places

11/17 Life Together

11/24 Q&A

Spiritual Formation Academy

by Pastor Mike Lueken

It’s fun to live in the information age.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved history.  I remember as a kid being mesmerized by a two volume set of books by Winston Churchill on World War II.  More recently, I spent a year or so immersed in the NASA moon expeditions of the 1960’s.  Currently, I am reading about the Watergate scandal of the early 70’s.  Because of the internet, I can do more than just read about it.  I can listen to Nixon’s secretly taped phone conversations and meetings.  The information age makes it possible to actually sit in “Tricky Dick’s” office while he meets with his advisers.  It’s amazing.

But our high-tech age also breeds inaction in us.  We become trained in learning without acting and reading without responding.  We read about unspeakable hardships in some remote corner of the world and respond by exiting out of that web page and logging into ESPN’s website or signing onto Facebook.  Our hearts and minds and emotions and will become trained to hear without doing anything about what we have heard.

One of the chief concerns of our spiritual lives is to listen to God’s call to apprenticeship to Jesus but never do anything to actually live as an apprentice of His.  We are especially at risk of this at Oak Hills.  We like to talk about spiritual formation and the possibility of transformation.  But talking about it can never replace taking action to realize it.  Reading about spiritual formation is no substitute for concrete action steps in the direction of maturity in Christ.

So one of our challenges as a church is to find practical ways of helping people move forward in their pursuit of spiritual transformation.  The Spiritual Formation Academy exists for this purpose.  It is a two year process of weekend retreats, readings, and experiences in a community of others who are intentional about spiritual formation.  It is a concrete way for hungry people to move beyond words and thoughts about spiritual formation, and into action.  We recently completed our first academy with approximately 20 people completing the entire two year journey.  Their feedback has encouraged us to start another one in January of 2011.

Part of the uniqueness of the academy is that it requires a higher level of commitment than a typical church event or program.  As such, it is important that those who decide to participate understand the expectations.  We are planning to have three academy orientation meetings this fall.  The dates are Nov. 2, Nov. 20, or, Dec. 5.  We are asking those interested in the academy plan on attending one of these orientation meetings.  They will last about an hour with plenty of time allotted for questions about the experience.  Right now, we have about 35 people who have expressed an interest in the next academy.  We’re very excited about how God might use this to continue to teach us about life in His kingdom.  Contact Susie at susie.worthington@oakhills.org or 983-0182 x42 for more info.

NEW SERIES: For All Intents & Purposes

by Mike Lueken, Co-Senior Pastor

Is it time for you to draw a line in the sand?

Good Intentions.  We all have had them in countless arenas of our lives.  Food.  Weight.  Devotions.  Exercise.  Workouts.  Home projects.  Family time.  Date nights.  I recently told the beloved child in my home responsible for mowing the lawn, to do it that night.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  It wasn’t a request.  It wasn’t one of many ideas in a family brainstorming session.  It was an order.  They agreed and then proceeded to not do it.  What is that?  It would be easy to dismiss this as teenage normal.  But it’s not merely a teenage issue.  I have it.  You have it.  We all have it.  Seriously, if we could understand the phenomena within us that says we are going to do something — even makes plans to do it — and then doesn’t follow through, we would discover a key to living well under God in this strange world.

Our intention in spiritual formation refers to our ongoing decision to do our part so we experience Jesus more fully and become the person He has redeemed us to be.  Intention is the least talked about aspect of authentic spiritual growth.  We talk about God’s grace.  We talk about forgiveness of sins.  We talk about the Holy Spirit’s role.  We talk about the fact that we can’t manufacture spiritual growth on our own.  But we don’t always carefully consider the importance of our purposeful effort to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in what He is trying to do in us.

Intention in spiritual formation is an act of our will to put forth effort.  It is not based on feelings.  It is not based on whether we like the process or not (in fact, disliking the process is often a sign we are pursuing something spiritually formative).  It is not based on achieving fast results.  Intention is simply a decision, an act of our will to cooperate with God’s Spirit.

For the next seven weeks we are taking a break from our series in Acts to explore this crucial component of spiritual formation.  This series is one of those occasions where we will be considering core aspects of Oak Hills Church.  This series is one of those “this is who we are” series.  We are rigorously devoted to helping people make real progress in their life with Jesus.  There will be plenty of practical opportunities for you to get involved in to help move beyond “good intentions.”  Our hope is that this series will be another opportunity for people to take another step with Him.