a blog from our pastors and staff
I recently started reading the book Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. In this book he sites many references to himself and wisdom over the years that he has gleaned from Dallas Willard. In the most recent chapter Dallas talks about the Soul.
The Soul is a funny thing. You are unable to see it on an x-ray and a child cannot point to it if you ask, “point to your soul”. The majority of people on this earth believe they have one, but I do not believe that people know how to tend their soul or how to keep it in check.
Dallas Willard’s illustration is that inside us, at our core, is our will: our basic ability to say yes or no to the choices around us. It helps to set us apart from a rock. And this “free will” concept helps to set us aside from the animals that run just based on instinct. Just outside the will, in order of what is our core, is the mind. The mind contains our thoughts and emotions. We have streams of emotions and thoughts all day long, except for today when I am in a food coma from Thanksgiving. But the mind is a very powerful and important force in our being. Lastly is the body. Functions of the body and our physical presence in the world is important when considering how we are formed in who we are. Our body has basic biological functions and through our mind and body we create habits, both good and bad, that we attempt to control with our will. Dallas Willard proposes that the soul is the connecting force that integrates these parts of our being. That the soul is fragile and precious. We need to be able to keep our soul well.
In the book, they go on to state that many people do not keep their soul well. In fact, sin is a destructive force ruining the unity and connection between these important parts of us: our will, mind, and body. A well soul is able to have the freedom that comes through the connection of God to alleviate this sin from the picture, again creating the integration between these features. In fact, they state that lost souls are a result of this non-connection with God and that there are a lot of lost souls on this planet.
I believe part of what they are saying is that we not only need a relationship with God, but in order to have a healthy soul we need to be able to have our will, mind, and body to be cared for as well. They make a distinction to psychology in this section noting that the psychological means currently focus a lot on the “self” and no necessarily the “soul.” The keeping of self and building up of one’s self is the recognition of your worth, strengths, and accomplishments. To the soul, who you are is not built in these things. According to Dallas Willard, the health of the soul is reached in the unity between these three elements AND in community with God’s will for our lives. God’s love and acceptance of His will through our choice helps to eliminate the sin that clogs up these integration points in how to experience ourselves.
The reason I am writing on it, is that it is a concept I had not considered before and I wanted to give it additional thought as a theory of how we need to not only be in tune with God, but in tune with our inner soul.
A song like It is Well with my Soul has new meaning with these thoughts in mind. Of course things can be well with my soul because I am okay with me. Despite my environment, means, and things around me not being what I want. Despite things like my best friend dying, things can be well with my soul, because I have not lost myself and I have not lost God.
A wandering and weary soul finds no rest. A soul at peace with itself is what God wants for us.
Pastor Andrew Fidurko
a blog post by Pastor Becky Todd
Years back, we had a daily calendar which featured quotes from Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson.
This is the season where we celebrate the abundance God has given us. We turn our hearts toward thoughts of gratitude and acknowledge the plenty God has given on our behalf. Though mostly our thoughts turn to cornucopias full of earthly goodness and provision, God has given far more. Let's think about the Kingdom of God. Where are you and I invited to personally grow and receive? God gives a personal invitation for us to experience the spiritual bounty of His presence in our lives. He has also given to each one certain spiritual gifts. These gifts are not so much the treasure, as the Giver! Suzanne Eller writes in The Spirit-Led Heart that we discover what Paul is saying in I Corinthians, "these spiritual gifts are valuable because of who gives them."
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord... Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
--I Corinthians 12:4-7
She goes on to say that these gifts have impact beyond ourselves. The gifts given don't make us special; they have value because God, the Giver, gave them so we could help one another. Spiritual fruit grows in our lives as we remain in relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, and the gift serves it's "distinct purpose" to bear the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). And, that is what God treasures!
Back to that little calendar that used to sit on our old antique desk, Bruce offers these words:
"Identify the top three to five things (outside of your family commitments) you do that have the most impact for God's Kingdom. Ask yourself how you could rearrange your life to give more time to the top two than the bottom three."
These next few weeks and months will be full of activity. Choose prayerfully to honor your gifting. In turn you are seeking The Giver and will, no doubt, bear fruit that lasts.
Let's get back to using our spiritual gifts that God designed just for us. Let's hone our focus for Greater Kingdom impact!
Some resources you might like to further explore:
Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson and The Spirit-Led Heart by Suzanne Eller
a blog post from Pastor Dan
Even though I am pastor, I don’t wake up every morning with a smile on my face and
say, “Good morning Lord.” In fact, many days I am closer to saying the opposite. Monday was one of those days, the day started crazy and I was forced to make a choice between letting the crazy drive me or to remain cool.
I had just dropped off my kids at the middle school and started my day at the office when I started getting texts and calls that the middle school would be closed today because the heat was not working (I guess churches are not the only ones who have this problem). I was texted that my 5th grader would be in the high school auditorium so I went to there to get him. Upon arrival, some of the staff was very helpful and nicely redirected me back to the middle school because there was a change in plan. However, other staff were frustrated and overwhelmed with it all. The situation was even crazier when I got to the middle school. The process was not a well-oiled machine, but the staff was trying hard to make the process work. Many parents were pretty frustrated and I could have easily gotten worked up too. Patience is not my strongest virtue. But by then, I had decided that I was either going to be one of the complainers or I would keep myself cool. Once I got my kids, we decided to stop off at Tim Hortons for a donut. The workers there could easily be separated into the cool and the complainers, too.
I want to admit that I can easily fall into complainer mode. My only hope is that Jesus will help me rise above my natural tendencies and keep me cool under pressure. The world is full of complainers. Everywhere I looked today I saw them. Thanksgiving is coming soon. We will all stop and try hard to be thankful for a day or two. Then we can go right back to complaining. I have not perfected the art of choosing cool-mode over complaint-mode, but here is a tool that has helped me.
Every day take a few minutes to say a pray something like this:
Lord, I have two ways I can live today. I can try and take total control and work hard to make everything go my way. I will also complain and fight against everything that works against what I want from this day. Or I can choose to give up control. I can see this day as an opportunity to show love to others who need it. I can remain cool because you are in control. You lead Lord, I will follow.
by Andrew Fidurko
As a young child I loved superheroes. Who am I kidding, I still love superheroes. It is amazing the things that they are able to do. The super powers that they have. I have watched superhero crime fighters, legendary heroes, and average Joe type heroes all winning against evil or the bad of the world. I remember watching the original Superman movie as a boy and being overwhelmed with his strength and ability to fly. I can still hear the line, “This looks like a job for Superman.” I also remember watching He-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Unlike He-Man, the Hulk busted out of his clothing and turned green. It was exciting as a boy to use my imagination and explore these superhero characters and their superpowers.
I believe the powers caught my attention, but the story was even greater. There was the sense of morals and justice of the choices that made these heroes. They truly cared and believed that evil would be vanquished and that good would triumph.
As an adult, we now have heroes such as Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, Superman, Batman, James Bond, The Avengers, and John Wayne. Movies, comics, and books help to captivate ours minds with, “What is the next bigger, badder bad guy that our heroes can take down.”
Superman is my favorite and I think we all gravitate towards some kind of “hero worship” in our society. Sociologically, there is a hole inside of everyone that we fill with role models. A couple of generations ago, sports figures were the heroes. And always there have been role models in parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. There has been a shift though, culture and media have started putting more and more stories of fantastic things in front of us to watch and read. And as we start filling our minds with the wonder of supers with the awesome things that they can do, there is an internal reflection, “I wish I could be like that.”
Now lets talk about Jesus. Is Jesus a superhero? How does Jesus rank in this line of figures? If I were to think of Jesus as a hero of the world, what could be said about Him?
When it comes to Jesus, I do not like to use the word superpower. Jesus has and is the unlimited power. Jesus is the ultimate authority in heaven and on earth.
The other thing that needs to be said about Jesus is that He is not a myth, nor legend. Neither is He just a passing note in history books and stories. Jesus is very, very real.
But for our “superhero” discussion, lets reflect on Jesus as if He was a superhero. Jesus has displayed these “powers” in the Bible (but the things He can do are not limited to this list):
Jesus and God’s power is ultimate and limitless. It is like a nuclear bomb in comparison to a mosquito. Come on! We are talking about the God of the universe that has made galaxy upon galaxy that we have not yet even explored, who is stronger and brighter than the sun.
The trinity belief is that Jesus is God. Jesus is the Holy Spirit. All three are one in a way that we are unable to fathom. So when we reference Jesus and His power potential, all of that has to be taken into consideration. Jesus is stronger than Super Saiyan 4.
Beside their powers, heroes are defined by their character and message. Jesus says that belief in Him is the way to eternal life. In John 14:6, He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” One day Jesus will lift His finger and throw the evil of the earth away, and there will be a new creation made. Jesus wants you to follow Him into this new way. And I ask you today to consider His invitation.
I know Christian beliefs have been smeared throughout the centuries of existence, but I am asking you, instead of pre-judging a belief, to explore what it really means to follow Jesus. There are people who care about you. Please contact us so we can help you with your questions or belief. I will be praying for you as you are reading these words. If you are not in our area, feel free to email us or attend a local church service. I pray that you will find believers that will show you how real Christianity is in the world today.
Jesus is a stronger and better hero than Superman, despite my love of comics, movies, and superheroes. There is barely a comparison in the awesome power of God. Jesus changes lives and will continue to effect change in the world. Discover it for yourself.
A dinner to follow the service will be held at Christ United Methodist Church
(633 Linwood Ave, Olean, NY)
It is with a heavy heart we publish this post. Early this morning Pastor Rick Long, our former pastor, went home to be with Jesus.
Billie Jo posted this on Facebook this morning:
Just before 6am CST Rick traded his sickly body for a new, improved model. I imagine he’s celebrating Jesus using his new lungs now! Mom slept from 10-midnight and I slept from 2 until she woke me at 5:30. As soon as I got up and hugged him, his breathing changed and he wanted to be moved in his bed. Once moved, I realize he had made room for me to lie beside him. It was only moments after lying beside him and snuggling that he took his last breath. Weeks ago he told me that he wanted me be by his side when he died. I guess he didn’t mean figuratively!
Matthew 25:23 "His masters said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'"
As we begin the mourning of Pastor Rick, please know that our pastoral staff is on call today and throughout the coming week.
Dan Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org 716-790-2141
Nila: email@example.com 716-801-3065
Becky Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org 716-790-2114
Andrew Fidurko: email@example.com
Sunday School tomorrow (9/30) will be devoted to the grief process. We will also be having a special prayer time within our church service tomorrow.
Andrew's Small Group on Thursday (10/4) from 6-8 at the church will be dedicated to grief support as well.
Please reach out if you need help processing this great loss. You are not alone.
To God be the glory,
Your friendly Hillside church secretary
Last week, one of my oldest friends, Mike, lost his 25 year old son to suicide. Mike was my very first best friend. We went to swimming lessons together, played superheroes together, went to “Herbie the Love Bug” movies together and for much of our young lives went to Church together. Mike and I remained good friends throughout high school and into adulthood. Eventually, our paths went different directions but I have always liked and respected Mike.
Yesterday, Mike had the worst day of his life. He came home from a wedding and found his son dead. He had committed suicide (how I hate that word). I don’t know what it is like to lose a son to this terrible choice but I know a lot of people who have. I have lost a nephew who took his life at 17 years old. I have also had 4 first cousins who did the same. This darkness weighs heavy in my family.
Many people walk through heavy roads of depression in their life. I have been on a few of those roads myself. Life has a way of bringing us down. Whether it is a road of loneliness, boredom, meaninglessness or deep hurt. Depression can happen to anyone. I am a pastor by profession but I have been there. I might end up there again.
But I believe Jesus came into this world to bring us life. He conquered sin and death and he came to save us from the pit of despair. I cling to that message for myself and I will spread that message to all who have ears to hear it. Hillside Wesleyan Church is one of many churches out there committed to spreading hope in a dark world. If you have a desire to raise awareness for suicide and help prevent it. Here is a link to “Out of the Darkness” Olean Walk on Sept 16th, as well as their Facebook event.
Here at Hillside we will be doing 4 week sermon series for those who have been hurt starting Sept 23rd. If you find yourself in a place of regret, depression, loneliness, or trouble, please consider joining us for this sermon series (or on any Sunday). You are always welcome to join us, 10:45am on Sundays.
Remember, friend: you are never too lost or broken for the love of Jesus. He loves you just as you are, where you are.
--Pastor Dan Todd
by Pastor Becky Todd
It's time for "back to school". In our household we are mostly ready for this annual event. The new sneakers plus a few outfits are bought; all the supplies are being gathered. It's a time of preparation, looking ahead with anticipation for the year to come. There is indeed excitement for the prospects of a new year. There is also a natural pull toward the familiar routine. We welcome the return of habits lost; earlier bedtimes, alarm clocks and paused activities.
Just as the morning comes again and brings a fresh start, so do the seasons. What in your life needs a new beginning? It's a question for all of us really, not just families heading back to school. The return of a new church year brings opportunities to try again, perhaps in a new ministry, a bible study or a Sunday class. Maybe it's more personal and for you it means renewal of time alone with God. Even if this is your (fill in the blank) time to restart, just do it again.
Just start, again! God welcomes us back, it's called grace. He gives it freely.
Read: Ephesians 2:8, Lamentations 3:22-23
Invite a friend into your new start. You're likely to be more successful when you work together, and it's just more fun!
Parent Tip: Trying to get into a healthy Bible or devotional time as a family. If morning is your thing, stick your Children's Bible in the cupboard with the cereal boxes. Grab it when you are getting breakfast and share a story. If you are not a morning person, leave it on the table for the dinner hour. Maybe life is tough and the table is never clean, keep it out and visible, pick it up! Just start, again!
minutes upon the earth. But there are times in which I question whether it is enough time or what the purpose of time is.
A question I ask myself is, “Do I have enough time to read the whole Bible?” A daunting task for some like me that has a hard time reading. I think that time is on my side when I think about this task, until I put all the unimportant things in its way. I could continue to procrastinate, and procrastinate, or even say, “That is good enough for today.” If I want to be a righteous man, a wise man, and have honor as an elder someday, I need to make time work for me.
You see time is a neutral. It is not good or bad. It doesn’t have an opinion about your day or give you the excuse, “ I didn’t have the time.” Time is a constant. I know that there are 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. How am I going to use the time I have here on earth is the question. What is worth the time spending on and what is not worth spending the time on?
People say that wisdom grows as we get older. I believe it, because the elder think differently. Not only time, but energy are at a premium. How am I going to spend the time and energy I have and is it worth it?
We earn the gray hairs of honor through our wise and unwise choices throughout time. Turning back time is a great sci-fi concept, but it might steal something from the value of the lesson learned, as long as we have learned it.
It is good for a man to focus his time and energy on the things of God rather than on the trivial matters of the day. So I am attempting, and I encourage you brothers and sister, to spend your time mainly on the things that count. And the things that do not count, help them to go back quickly or resist the temptation of misspent time.
I was thinking the other day how much of a slower pace of life I am liking these days, and how people younger than I am have such a fast pace. Make sure that your pace is determined by God’s clock. Time will always be there; it is the precious moments that you may miss by hurrying too fast. Take the time and reflect on the important things in your life and to God.
--Proverbs 20: 26-29--
"A wise king winnows the wicked, And drives the threshing wheel over them. The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.
My Prayers are with you,
Hillside Wesleyan Church
and looks my way, "Sorry, Mom." "Yes, son", I say nodding with a sigh. I kindly request he gets the shirt off as soon as we get home. My hope is that if I deal with it right away, the stain will lift. If it gets lost in the laundry basket for another week it may set in. Ketchup, spaghetti sauce, chocolate they are all like that; stubborn.
As I stand over the utility sink, scrubbing the stain under the cold water with some dish soap I am hopeful; and for good reason. I know this stain doesn't have a chance, because the stain lifting power of this detergent cuts through. It's taking care of it, doing the work it was meant to do. I celebrate! Another shirt saved from the donation pile.
We have a stain lifter in our spiritual lives; his name is Jesus. Those stubborn stains that mark you have sat there too long. Let Jesus take some of his powerful deep-cleansing forgiveness to the rusty, crusty places of your soul. He can take care of it. He already has taken care of it. It's time to celebrate! The Savior, Jesus is The Boss of spiritual laundry. No sin too dark or deep. It's all made new in His cleansing power.