a blog from our pastors and staff
by PHIL STEVENSON | DECEMBER 17, 2020 |
The following article was copied from our denominational website, https://www.wesleyan.org/we-are-a-kingdom-people
2020 is drawing to a close. What will 2021 be like?
We are nearing the conclusion of 2020. Much has happened, and I don’t intend to revisit all the things that we have had to navigate as a broader church, local faith communities, nor individuals. We each have our own stories to tell.
As we reflect on 2020, we should ask ourselves: what did we learn about God? Ourselves? Our churches? Our leadership? What lessons of leading through crisis can be applied to the future? As individuals, have we reignited our hearts for the community in which we live and minister?
Reflection on the past provides each of us a reminder of where we have come from. However, we can spend too much time in what has been. In reflecting, our focus must be on the lookout for any gold discovered in the dirt of past challenges. We must determine to not allow what we have been through to be wasted. The past should not be a mire, but a mirror to see ourselves – warts and all.
Unlike past years, when the ball drops (if it does), ushering out an old year and bringing in a new year, 2021 may seem much the same. COVID restrictions may continue, challenges to our ministry will loom and the temptation of anchoring ourselves in the past may weigh heavy. But we must get our eyes set on the horizon.
This year I have been doing my devotions in the New Revised Standard Version. I have found reading Scripture in a different translation than I typically use births new insight. Such was the case as I was reading through the Gospel of John.
In John 14, Jesus is giving the disciples instruction concerning his being the path to God and the future gift of the Holy Spirit. Then, in verse 31, Jesus says this, “Rise, let us be on our way” (NRSVA).
At this time in kingdom history, that phrase really struck me. He is letting them know it is time to get about doing the business of the kingdom. There were still many challenges ahead. But, regardless, it was time to move out. They could not stay where they were.
In other translations it says:
“Come now; let us leave” (NIV).
“Come, let’s be going” (NLT).
“Get up now! Let us leave this place” (JB Phillips).
Regardless of the translation, the intent is clear: Leave where you are, and move toward what will be.
It is time for us to do this in The Wesleyan Church. It is time to move out and move on. It is time to capture the vision God has for us and the churches we lead and the communities in which we have been placed.
We must not linger in what outside entities say we cannot do; instead run after what we can do. Resist becoming overly concerned regarding our religious freedoms; instead live and act in the freedom we have in Christ to carry the gospel to every person and every part of society, regardless of the cost. Refrain from diluting the Word of God; instead recommit to encouraging clear and convicted preaching.
God has a future for us all in his Church. There is opportunity on the horizon. There is a clear call to be the people of God and the bride of Christ.
Our mandate is to be yeast, seed scatter-ers and have the faith of a mustard seed. This is the kingdom of God. We are kingdom people! The kingdom in which we reside is not hampered by restrictions, blunted by resistance, accommodating to critics, compromised by threats, nor molded by culture.
We serve the King of Kings. We honor the Lord of Lords. We follow the leading of the Spirit. We are a kingdom people!
We worship God the Father. We are captured by God the Son. We are the residence of God the Spirit. We are a kingdom people!
We are a holy priesthood. We are the image of Christ. We are ambassadors. We are living stones. We are called to be holy. We are Christ’s hands and feet. We are a kingdom people!
Our identity is in Christ. Our challenge is the cross. Our strength is the resurrection. Our power is the Spirit. We are a kingdom people!
We may be down, but we will never be defeated. We may be weary, but we will never wear out. We may be criticized, but we will never compromise. We may be misjudged, but we will never be misunderstood. We are a kingdom people!
We will never give in, give up or give over. We will not be contained. We will not be overcome. We will not be silenced. We will not allow adversity to avert our mission. We are a kingdom people!
We will love others. We will show compassion. We will live with courage. We will take care of our weaker brothers. We will not be bullied by culture. We will represent our Savior with purity of purpose, strong character and unabridged conviction. We are a kingdom people!
2020 is drawing to a close. What will 2021 be like? I don’t know. What I do know is that we are to rise and be on our way. We are a kingdom people!
Dr. Phil Stevenson is district superintendent of the Pacific Southwest District of the Wesleyan Church.
thoughts from your friendly church secretary, Janell Clingenpeel
In this video (below) of Pastor Dan, I can’t help feel the heaviness of his heart. It reflects my own.
I was triggered by the word “lament.” What does it really mean? Why does it always bring me back to the story of Job? And to David crying out to God?
Lament as a noun is described as a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. This is now officially the word of 2020 in my books. Nila has been talking about surviving or thriving for the last couple of weeks (a heart-hitting sermon that you should check out on YouTube, if you haven’t yet) and I am in the camp of surviving.
For me, the last 7 years or so, I have been learning about God’s control in my life and how little control I truly have. When I was younger I would have said I enjoy change, I sometimes even craved it, which is still true to some extent. The difference is, that as an adult, I think I must control the change. I don’t roll with it as well as I used to. I have always been on the people-pleasing, anxiety-ridden, insomniac road to life and since having a family, that has tripled. I am acutely aware that it is with each of my children, I have lost even more control of my life. You are never aware of how selfish you are until you have kids. Talk about a sacrifice of self! And with every child that God has brought into my life, with every upheaval of a new baby and change, I am keenly aware of how much I don’t want to surrender my life to God. I need to drive. I need to know where I am going next. Change is easy when you are in control. It is terrifying when you feel like you have been thrown into a van blindfolded and have no idea where you are going.
Enter 2020 from stage right. Ah, a new year. Enter Coronavirus from stage left, violently. Having anxiety and using the word pandemic on an almost daily basis is playing with matches near gasoline. All of a sudden I am buying groceries and filling my pantry so I don’t have to leave my house for two months. Abruptly all plans come to a halt and I am home with my kids all of the time. My husband starts doing his work at home. We rearrange my house so he has a home office and I can school my kids at the kitchen table. We all learn how to do Zoom calls. The violent political landscape of our country is vomiting everywhere. The Black Lives Matter Movement rallies and protests. No justice, no peace. Family ties are stretched, differences in opinion and misunderstandings lead to hurt feelings. It is all so much.
And in the midst of all that, God just keeps saying to me, “I am in control. You do not need to be. Take off that blindfold and get in the passenger seat. Let’s go for a drive and be together. Tell me your heart; the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Lament. I have lamented all over the place.
In my Bible, it says in the preface for Job, “...we are reminded that suffering comes to everyone, the righteous and unrighteous alike. God does not always keep the righteous from danger and suffering. Ultimately, God controls all of life's situations, including limiting the power of Satan. The book of Job demonstrates poignantly that God’s comfort and strength are always available to the trusting soul.”
Job is the poster child for suffering and has aced the test on lamentations (and not giving in to what other people think). At the end of Job’s book we see God come to him after his laments and restore Job. God heard him, listened intently, and breathed new life into Job’s heart (God also spared Job’s friends for giving him bad advice because Job prayed for them).
I also am freed from guilt (because sometimes I feel I lament too much) when I read the Psalms. David illustrates to us that it is absolutely okay to lament, to be angry, unsure, confused and shout it out to God. Psalm 13 is a great illustration of this.
My all time favorite verse (Psalm 138:8) is a plea with God to not forget me, because often I have grabbed the steering wheel of my hot mess express and swerved off the road and probably into a ditch and then I wonder how I got there. I know that God has not forgotten me, I know I left him on the road and now he has the tow truck waiting to pull me out of whatever mess I’m in. But sometimes God leaves me in the ditch for a while. I often don’t know why, but it is in those times I cry out to him with the most honest heart. I find suffering, strife, hardships, make us deal with our lives in ways we would not have otherwise, to wrestle with our brokenness, to acknowledge our faults, to deal with all the emotions we have been bottling for so long.
So here we are in the middle of a pandemic, during an election year, with social and racial injustices happening, with our nation trying to decide what to do about school, jobs, evictions, the list goes on… And I have been crying out to God for over 150 days, often asking for patience and mercy when dealing with my crazy children. To restore my way of life before pandemic days.
I don’t think God will restore my life in the way I expect, just like God did not give Job his old life back. He restored Job anew. So I will wait in the ashes of my life and wait for God. I pray for restoration and renewal. Not my old life, but a new one. The one where God is in control.
Due to some challenges we had not anticipated, the church board felt it needed to postpone church at the building this week, June 7. Again, we will NOT be having church in the building this weekend. We are heartbroken and disappointed by this news, but there are still some things the board and pastoral staff need to work out. Thank you for your patience, prayer, and understanding in all of this.
Please be in prayer in the coming week as we decide how to best move forward in reopening, to rely on God's timing and to remember His will be done. Pray for a peace an assurance in decisions made.
Re-Opening Hillside in a Corona World, 2020
Stage 1 - effective Tuesday, May 26th (Groups of 10 or less)
Good day to you all, church family!
We wanted to put together a multi-media newsletter to send to you at home, we wanted you to experience church at home. In this time of distancing, uncertainty, and fear, it is important to remember that our God is bigger than all of this and He cares for you! No matter what happens, God is with you and doesn't want you to worry. Easier said than done, I know, but worth reminding ourselves of.
It was just a few hours ago that we were hoping to provide some way to meet this coming Sunday morning, we were thinking of running multiple services to spread our numbers out. It is really hard to think about not having our doors open when people are fearful and confused. But after conversing with a number of our church leaders and talking with local pastors in our area, we have decided not to gather for Sunday services. In fact, we have decided not to have any church meetings or events starting Friday, March 20th through Saturday, April 11th. There are two exceptions to this: 1) LBA on March 24th will be meeting and 2) any group less than ten people that want to gather (they must get permission from the Pastor Dan before meeting). I realize not everyone has the internet but most people do. We will be working hard to provide resources through Hillside's Facebook, our website and our church app. Look for video and audio sermons, worship links, and even ways you can serve during this time we are apart. We will revisit these policies as we go along. We will need to make decisions regarding Easter Sunday and beyond before long. Please keep looking for updates and be safe. Please pray and/or fast during this time.
There are 4 ways we'd like to bring church to you, and for you to be the church:
We have begun a YouTube channel that we will be compiling worship music favorites and messages from our pastors and staff. Here is a link to our first playlist of worship music, may you find this helpful and useful for a personal time of worship.
SANITIZE THE CHURCH
Are you going stir crazy at your home? Do you need something to do? We would welcome any help sanitizing surfaces and nursery toys at the church. If you are interested in this, contact Pastor Dan.
Here are some ways to get fed:
- Listen to sermons online. Our sermons are always available on our podcast, on the web, or through our app.
- Read a chapter of Matthew a day until Easter.
- Pray and/or fast about the virus and other evils in the world. Pray for revival.
A Midweek Message!
Enjoy this special message from Pastor Dan. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel (the little bell icon) as we will be posting more there as we go.
This is your friendly Hillside church secretary speaking, (I borrowed this from a friend of a friend): I am going to say it because our Pastor may not feel it to be proper. Please, if our church does not meet, it is so important that you still GIVE. Most churches, like households, are impacted greatly from a reduced income, especially if this goes on for weeks. I know some may feel that “if I didn’t experience worship then why should I give?” I just want you to know that God will honor our faithfulness.
There are several ways you can give:
- through our website: www.hillsidewc.net/online-giving.html
- through our app! (text 77977 with the message, "Hillsidewc app")
- send a check to Hillside, our address is 753 Prospect Ave, Olean, NY 14760
Don't forget we are still collecting money for a church family in need. Be sure to select that option if you give online or through the app, or to notate that in your check memo.
When using the web or app, be sure to select one-time gift or reoccurring as you'd like, I just know that it is easy to miss that delineation if you have not used these resources before.
I am reminded of a song I often sing to my kids:
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do.
Be faithful, be diligent, wash your hands, and pray! God is with us and He is in control. He can do ALL things!
Resting in God's hands,
your friendly Hillside church secretary
We are getting ready for Spirit Week at Hillside Wesleyan Church. From Monday, Feb 3 through Sunday, Feb 9, many of us will be trying to live a Spirit led life. There will be special opportunities at the Church on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6 to 7 and we hope that people will come to at least one of them (see future posts for details).
What does it mean to be Spirit-led? Well, I don’t know exactly but that is what makes the task mysterious and fun. Part of being Spirit- led is living out the fundamentals of our faith. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” says Galatians 5:22-23. These are both the actions and the results of the Spirit-led life. With that as our foundation, we can now tune into some finer points of a Spirit-led life.
A Spirit-led person believes that God often speaks to him/her or nudges him/her to do certain things. While it can be difficult to discern if random thoughts are from God, it is worth learning what is from the Spirit and what isn’t. Remember the basics. If the nudge doesn’t exhibit love and the other fruits listed above, it is not from God. Being led by the Spirit is a process done best when one is not in a hurry, is able to carve out a place of stillness before God and is open to being interrupted. A person may need to be more flexible with their agenda. There are people out there that need our prayers, our help and our love. Live this week knowing God will prompt you towards them.
If you are open to this adventure, we would love to pray for you. We are keeping a list of people attempting to live the Spirit led life for a week. If you have not signed up, please do this before Feb 3. If you can’t come in and sign-up, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put your name down.
Blessings, Pastor Dan
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the last of the 13 blogs and I encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Jesus told us to become like children. In fact, he said if we don’t, we won’t enter the kingdom of heaven. What is it about children that are so important for us to emulate? This scripture tells us that they hold a lowly position. To some degree that holds true today but it was even more so back in Jesus' day.
Jesus came to us in this lowly position. As a child, he would lead us. As Jesus grew into His role as savior and king, he would still hold this lowly position mindset. He could have exerted his power and authority over the world whenever he wanted, but he would hold firm to his position as a servant.
There are very few things we have true control of, yet we act like we can make it all happen. Do you know if your heart will keep pumping tomorrow? Do you know if your family will survive the car ride home? While this all seems pretty scary, it is worth remembering. As you celebrate the joys of Christmas, remember how fragile you are and how little control we have over things that are important. Having a lowly mindset does not make you sad. On the contrary, it sets you free.
Welcome to my Advent Blog, this is the 12th of 13 blogs and I encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
Yesterday, I went with my family to see Star Wars Rise of Skywalker (the ninth in and conclusion of the saga). They began the first of the three trilogies in 1977 when I was this thirteen and they are concluding them in 2019 when my daughter is thirteen. Don't worry, I am not here today to talk about how great Star wars is, or even how bad it is. I am here to talk about good and evil, right and wrong.
Children have always been fascinated by fairy tales. They love a good story; a story where evil looks like it will win the day but the heroes overcome impossible odds and, at the last possible moment, win the day.
We live in a gray world, I won’t deny that. In fact, I believe that many things are a combination of right and wrong or good and evil. No person today is truly good and no one human being is truly evil. But there is evil and there is good. There is right and wrong. I don’t believe society determines all these issues. God has laid them down for us in His Word and the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
Whether the latest Star Wars movie is enjoyable, regardless of how entertaining it is, I will watch as the 13 year old boy in me comes alive. I will see good and evil fight. I believe good will win. I will be reminded of the timeless themes. I will remind myself that they are true. We are in a battle. There is a good side and a bad side. As strong as evil looks at times, good will win the day. I believe this with all my heart because I believe in Christmas. I believe the baby was both God and human. He was and is the hero that we have all longed for. The fairy tale is no myth. In fact, it is our only hope.
May the Joy of Christmas be with you, always.
The next blog will be posted Tuesday, Dec 24. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog, this is the 11th of 13 blogs. You are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
"Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying…"
-- Luke 2:13
I am not the most spontaneous person around. I like to have a plan. I like to follow my plan. I like to mark things off the list when one part of the plan is accomplished. There are some positive things about being this methodical, but there are some real dangers as well.
Did you know the word “Suddenly” appears in the Bible about 90 times? When God wants to show up and do something, He doesn’t always forewarn us. In fact, he tells us to be ready because He could show up at any moment. This is not only true of his return to earth but His daily working in our lives. While it pains me to say that I am not the most flexible person in the world, I realize I need to stretch myself in that direction.
When God shows up in our lives through circumstances beyond our control, we must be ready to act. We must be ready to set down the task in front of u……(sorry, need to go now ☺).
The next blog will be posted Friday, Dec 20. Please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think!
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the 10th of 13 blog posts. You are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."
-- John 15:15
Kids are friendly, sometimes too friendly. Most kids will talk to anyone at any time. In fact, it doesn’t take much for a kid to give a hug to someone they barely know. While, I know this kind of friendliness can be dangerous in a world of sinful people, I still have to admire children for their kind disposition.
Jesus had a way of being friendly that disarmed people. He was proactive in his loving nature. You didn’t have to earn kindness from Him. Many of us struggle to be like Jesus in this way. We struggle to be like the child we once were.
It is much easier to keep to oneself. It is must simpler to just stare down at my phone rather than look up at people who come across my path. God likes to engineer circumstances and He also lets us choose our course of action. If you believe these two statements, then you have to wonder how many times God is giving you a chance to be friendly and kind to people who are in desperate need of a little light in their dark day.
When I had little kids, they were a great ice breaker to meet people and to have conversations I might not otherwise have had. But now my kids are a bit older. It is up to me to find new ways to be kind to those around me.
The next blog will be posted this evening, Thursday, Dec 19. Please feel free to comment below. What are ways you try and be kind to those around you?