a blog from our pastors and staff
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the 7th of 13 blogs, and we encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.
-- Hebrews 12:10
A million books have been written about why there is evil and pain in the world. Most of the conclusions come down to four possibilities. 1) God is the author of your pain, 2) Satan is the author of your pain, 3) you are the author of your pain or 4) the world in which you live is the author of your pain. (By the way, the answer is 5) all of the above.)
We think that if we know who or what is behind all this hardship, we can find a way to avoid it (or at least reduce it). Hebrews 12:7 says that we should “endure hardship as discipline from God”. While, claiming that God is the author of all hardship is a big mistake, I can’t overlook this passage in Hebrews. It may a bit unclear whether God is the originator of the hardship or He just wants to use it to make us holy. Either way, the bottom line is that God wants to discipline us. Nobody likes to be disciplined. I think most of us would choose to have an easy life over having a harder life that helps us grow.
So what does any of this have to do with having a child-like faith? While children hate to be disciplined, I think they come to accept it as normal and even necessary as a way for them to grow and learn. But as adults, we hate to be corrected. Being corrected makes us feel like a child.
But we are still children in God’s eyes and discipline guides our path. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11-12). Pain and hardship are two of hardest gifts to receive, but they are a gift. God isn’t always the author of the gift but He does want the gift produce good in you. And it will, if you will see it as way to make you righteous.
The next blog will be posted Friday, Dec 13. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent blog, this is the 6th of 13 blogs and you are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
-- Luke 11:11-13
God has put this parable on my heart the last couple months. Luke 11 tells a story of a man looking to borrow some bread from his neighbor. The neighbor doesn’t want to get out of bed and help his neighbor but he eventually gives into his demands. The reason he gives in is because the man has the audacity to keep knocking on his door.
I find it interesting that Jesus told this parable immediately after he taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Apparently, Jesus not only wanted to teach them what to say, but how persistent to be. You know who is persistent in asking for things? Kids,
us to ask for things that are in line with His priorities. God not only wants us to ask but to keep on asking. God honors a devoted and persistent heart. There is no guarantee here. There is no formula to get God to give you what you ask for. God is not Santa Claus.
But God likes giving gifts to His children. One of greatest gifts God gives, according to this text, is the Holy Spirit. Our community and churches need a special wave of the Holy Spirit. I have to believe that God wants to give that to us. God’s timing may not always align with ours, but God wants us to be diligent in our prayers for this gift. God is testing our resolve. Do we want Him enough to keep asking for it?
Crawl up in our Father’s lap and tell Him what you really want this Christmas season. And keep doing this in every season.
The next blog will be posted Thursday, Dec 12. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is number 5 of 13 blog posts and you are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
We know very little about Jesus’s childhood. The gospels jump right from his birth to his adult life; except for one story in Luke. Luke 2 tells one story about Jesus when he was twelve. Do you remember being twelve? Your parents are not quite the idols they once were, but when it came to bragging rights among your friends, they would often be described as extraordinary. “My dad is stronger than your dad” and “my mom is the greatest cook ever” are just a couple of phrases you might have said when you are twelve.
I wonder if Jesus had any of that inclination when he was twelve. His family had just finished attending the Passover Festival in Jerusalem and set out on their journey back home. After a day’s travel, they realized Jesus was not among any of his relatives. If you have ever forgotten a child somewhere, you are in good company. It took them three days to find him and they were quite exasperated when they finally found him in the temple talking with the priests. When asked about his decisions, Jesus responds, “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
If it was me, I might have chosen to say this a bit smugly (always a smart idea to act innocent and logical in the face of possible punishment). But since this was Jesus, I have to think his motives would have been better than mine.
But I do wonder if there is a sense of pride in his voice, not about himself but about His Heavenly Father. I don’t know if Jesus’s parents had told him that he was born of a virgin and that God was his birth father. Maybe it makes little difference in his response to his parents; Jesus was more than happy to explain his priorities. He was very proud of his Father. Jesus could actually say to the other kids, “my dad is stronger than your dad” and would be right every time.
I know we have to choose our words correctly in this day and age, but we can carry a similar pride. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name” may sound more proper but deep down we need to pray, “Daddy, you are the best and strongest daddy ever.”
The next blog will be posted Wednesday, Dec 11. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to Pastor Dan's Advent Blog. This is the 4th 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.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. -- Ephesians 2:8
Yesterday, I talked about enjoying the gift of Jesus. Today, I want to talk about being a special gift. One of the most difficult things people struggle with is how to correctly view themselves. But once we get a handle on that, life becomes much clearer. First of all, should I view myself as special? After years of struggling with identity questions like this, I have come to my conclusion. The answer is “yes.” Certainly, more needs to be said for a truly accurate view of ourselves, but let us start with the positive. You are special (in a good way). Most children believe that when they are young. Children will dance, jump, sing and draw. And each time they do, they look around to whoever is watching like they have just done the most amazing thing ever. Why is that? Because they understand they are special. As we get older we compare ourselves to others and stop believing that, it is hard to see yourself as a gift.
God sees you as important and gifted. You are made in His image. However, there are a few other things we must keep in mind. First of all, your special-ness doesn’t make you any more or less special than anyone else, because they too are created in God’s image. Secondly, your special-ness doesn’t mean God owes you anything or that you deserve God’s forgiveness. You are special to God because He says you are, not because you did anything to deserve that title. Finally, your special-ness doesn’t mean you aren’t also sinful and in need of Christ’s redemption.
Let me try to give you a simple image. Imagine yourself as toy given to a child at Christmas. Every child wants something different. One child wants Buzz Lightyear, another child wants Woody and another child wants Jessie (if you haven’t ever watched a Toy Story movie, you need to). Like a special toy to a child, we are special to God. But not long after we came out of the packaging, we broke. We stopped working right. And that is why Jesus came. The broken toys are repaired. We are no longer stuck on the island of misfit toys, (if you haven’t ever watched Rudolph, you need to).
You are special, your neighbor is special too, but we are all broken. Thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us broken. That is why Jesus came.
The next blog will be posted Tuesday, Dec 10. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog! This is the 3rd 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.
The baby Jesus was given gifts at his birth. Jesus was himself the great gift from God to his prized creation, us. Children love getting gifts. While adults like getting them too, it gets more complicated to receive as adults. We have a hard time receiving if we are not also giving something in return, kids don’t have that problem. Adults have a hard time not earning our gifts, kids don’t have that problem. The gospel is about getting something we don’t have to earn. And while God hopes that we will give back after receiving, it is not the reason He gives the gift. God gives because that is who He is.
Children will take any gift you have from them, at any moment, for any reason. Jesus came to give the gift of peace, love and hope that is only found through Him. Isn’t it time to take the gift and enjoy it? To enjoy something, you have to use it and to use it, we must spend time with it.
Too many people don’t enjoy the biggest Christmas given to them. In fact, Christmas is about the gift of Christ that we don’t earn or deserve. The great thing about getting Jesus for Christmas is that it never stops or fails to teach us something new about peace, love and hope. There are always new ways to explore and learn about the gift.
We need to stop seeing God as a tyrant making us feel guilty about our lack of faith. We need to start seeing God as one who gives the ultimate gift and can’t wait to see us unwrap and enjoy the gift of Jesus.
Be looing for the next blog post Friday, Dec 6. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog!
This is the 2nd of 13 blog posts, and I encourage you to read them in order.
Christmas vector created by macrovector - www.freepik.com
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
-- Matthew 11:25
Yesterday, I asked why God sent Jesus in the form of a child if his ministry came thirty years later. Clearly, Jesus came as example and even in his young life he showed us the importance of being a child of God. This blog is primarily about how we need to find the child-like faith that we once had. Jesus was able to retain his inner child, but as most of us got older we have lost the child in us.
One thing many adults lose as they get older is the ability to play. I am not talking about playing computer games or even playing tag (although that could be good for us). I am talking more about having a playful spirit. When people play there is a trust element happening, everything is under control. God has got you and you have time to have fun. As Christians, we have a serious mission given to us but that does not mean there isn’t a time to play. A playful attitude in life often shows an absence of worry and despair. There can even be a peace that comes from a good day of play.
If we are God’s children, we come to Him as children and we can even come to Him to play. This might seem contrary to what many of us think the Church and our faith is about. Do our services, classes, and programs allow for an element of holy play? I am not talking about replacing Sunday worship with a good game of hide-n-seek, even if for a Sunday or two it might be just the thing to help us find our inner child. We need to trust God enough to relax and see God in the fun of life.
Christmas season is not a time to play for most of adults, even though most kids still think it is. We are too busy prepping for a moment that lasts a day or so. There is season for everything under heaven. Do you prioritize play? Is it in the rotation of activities? Again, it isn’t so much about what you do, it is about the spirit in which you do it. God is in control. Look up to heaven and ask God if He knows a good joke. Lots of us will be hustling and bustling over the next couple weeks, but if you are not careful you might fail to see God’s answer to that joke.
The next blog will be posted Thursday, Dec 5th. Please feel free to comment below.
Jesus’ birth is more than getting people excited about Easter, as great as that is. If we go back to verse one of Isaiah 9, it states, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” I do understand that these verses have a context in which they were said but it’s also clear that Isaiah was foretelling of Christ’s birth. Christ would come but 2000 years later and we still see plenty of gloom and distress around us. Why is that so? One major reason is that Christ coming to earth is a two-fold prophecy; the birth of Jesus that happened over 2000 years ago and the return of Christ in the clouds that has yet to happen. We are in the time in history called the “already and not yet.”
While our world still has plenty of gloom and distress, Jesus offers a way to overcome the world. Not that we can avoid trouble or hardship but that there is now a path and person to help us find peace even in our worst pain.
One way Jesus tells us to find that peace is to be like a child. “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” (Matthew 18:2-4).
While these verses help us to understand something of what a child-like faith is. There is still lots of room for discussion. After all, every quality of a child is not something to be sought after. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (I Cor. 13:11).
I find it interesting that as Jesus grew and matured, he was able to retain his child- like faith while putting away childish qualities. Jesus came to be our example as well as our Savior. But while Jesus retained his child-like faith, most of us are hoping to rekindle something we lost a long time ago. This almost-daily Christmas blog is about possible ways to find the inner child in us.
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. The next blog will be posted Wednesday, Dec 4th.
By Andrew Fidurko, Assistant Pastor - Hillside Wesleyan Church - Olean, NY
I believe we are all on a spiritual journey. As Christians this is the call we have on our lives: we need to be able to reflect on the things of Christ and how he is using us, molding us, and changing us.
"That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
Today I want to talk about the basics of the Christian life. Day to Day Christianity can have the fullness that we desire. This happens when we start to point our hearts towards the things that give God joy and the things that break God’s heart. The Christian life is two-fold. First, there is time of solitude (not isolation, but solitude) where it is just myself with God Almighty. And secondly, the Christian life is done in community with others with like-mindedness about Christian beliefs. We need to strike the balance of both for God to continue His good work inside of us.
Let’s talk a bit about solitude. Now, I am not saying that you have to become a monk to have solitude, but in monasteries throughout the centuries, the practice of solitude has led to a practice of the presence of God. God is ever present in your life. Picture Him there next to you right now. God loves you and is with you now, just like He was with you in the last struggle. His angels are there to help fulfill His mission, and you can help to be His hands and feet, and eyes and ears of this world.
Solitude is a state of mind and heart, rather than a physical place. Jesus chose this during His mission. In Matthew 4-11, He spent forty days and forty nights in the desert. In Luke 6:12, He spent the entire night alone in the desert hills before choosing His disciples, and Matthew 14:13, after the death of John the baptist, He withdrew on a boat to a solitary place.
Where are the quiet and solitary places in your life? Is it in a park or at your desk? In the car on the way to work or during your morning cup of coffee? We need to take advantage of these little times of solitude throughout our day. Maybe time it on our watch or phone, 5 minutes of just quiet and still. Listening to God. Of course, you will have to have a question on your heart, but do not just keep filling your mind with questions, prayers, and petitions. Instead, just be in the presence of God and allow yourself to let go of that moment.
Now, let’s talk about Community. I believe that we are called to be the body of Christ for a reason. I believe God created us to be able to help each other. If Jack can paint a house in 10 hours, and Jill can paint a house in 10 hours, how long would it take them to paint a house together? A lot less time! A lot less effort on both parts, and the fulfillment will be there as well as the connection that builds between them. Not only in service, but with other gifts it is important to be able to share the struggles of our hearts. Not only with God, but with other Christians. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” --Matthew 18:20
Accountability is a built-in benefit of community. As we draw closer to each other, we start naturally seeing the standard in which we are living out our faith with God. This is not anything to shy away from. Any strong Christian will tell you it was a process for them in growth to get where they are. We live in such a shame based culture, that when we feel we do not measure up, we stop. But that prevents the growth that we actually seek. In community with others, we can actually share testimony and growth stories to help us understand that there is really no condemnation in Christ. There is love and grace.
I encourage you to have an accountability partner or mentor that would be able to help you through these lessons and struggles. The lies of the devil are hidden in secret, but it is only in the light (bringing them out in community, even with just one person) that will help this.
Again, I recommend writing or typing things out for our remembrance so that we can have these reminders throughout the day of our daily life or over all goals. Meditate on these, and let God help show you the next step of your answer to these prayers. Holiness is a high standard in our society today. Growth is the goal.
Lord God, help us to understand the love and grace that You give us as children of God. God, also help us to step up in our devotion to You. Help us to step up with our time with You. Help our lives have an abundance of prayer, and help us to rely on You with all that we can do. Grow us deeply Lord.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Hello all [from Pastor Andrew],
I am not sure how many people are reading these blogs, but it does help me to organize my thoughts and I hope that they are making an impact on your life.
The next several blogs I want to write as a series. I will spread them out month to month. They can stand alone as a good word and message, but also will relate to each other. They are going to be about specific habits or disciplines that a Christian may undertake in their spiritual walk with God. They will be on simple concepts, like prayer helps and my thoughts on worship, or more in depth, such as fasting, keeping your Sabbath holy, and so on. All of them are difficult to maintain and put into practice. I think that is why they call it discipline.
In my 'Doctrine of Holiness' class they state that the more modern term, rather than discipline, is: becoming more like Christ. So that will be the title of the series: How to become more like Christ.
I believe we are all on a spiritual journey and as Christian’s this is the call we have on our lives. We need to be able to reflect on the things of Christ and how he is using us, molding us, and changing us.
"That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Pastor Nila shared a handout on the Holy Club of Oxford during our last prayer retreat and I have continued to review it since that time. It is a good exercise in order to challenge ourselves in growth with Christ to reflect on these questions.
In my reflection I have made it a point to not get stuck in condemning myself for ways that I do not measure up, but rather, with joy, give these areas of growth to God in prayer.
Take an hour and do them all. Take 10 minutes and just reflect, journal, and read the Bible thinking of one question. I recommend writing or typing them out. Holiness is a high standard in our society today. Growth is the goal.
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?
Lord God, help us to understand the love and grace that you give us as children of God. God also help us to step up in our devotion to you. Help us to step up with our time with you. Help our lives have an abundance of prayer and help us to rely on you with all that we can do.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Human beings exist in time. We believe that God does not. Humans often live like we have plenty of time on earth. God knows that many of us do not.
On Feb. 3rd I preached on time (Hunger Games, Part 3; you can listen to the podcast). We exist in time and the clock is always ticking away. If you are like me, time is often the enemy. I rush to get things done before time evaporates. My stress is often an indication of my lack of control over time.
I was reading in Genesis for my devotions the other day and I was reading about how God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on the altar. Abraham was faithful in his obedience. But God did not make him follow through on his offering.
I am glad that God has not asked me to sacrifice my child. But He has asked me to
give up control of my time. People say we live in the age where time is our most
precious commodity. We each want to be careful with where our time goes. I believe
God wants me (and maybe you) to put my time on the altar. He is asking me to give
time to Him before I give it away to other things.
The good news is that God honors the time you give Him. The rest of the list of things you need to do and the list of things you want to do seem to come together when you give God time first. Don’t believe me? Try it for a couple weeks and see what happens.
They say a Christian never really loves Jesus until they learn to “waste” time with Him. It is the thing that most feeds our soul. Isn’t it ironic that our fear of time running out has us rushing from place to place? The answer doesn’t lie in the fast pace of life but comes to us when we carve out space with Him.