a blog from our pastors and staff
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.
post by Pastor Dan
I have just spent the last 8 months working with High Schoolers on Wednesdays during their lunch hour. It was my privilege to talk with all types of kids, all at different points in their spiritual journey. Some weeks we didn’t accomplish much but other weeks God opened doors to have deep and meaningful conversations about the purpose of life and God.
People complain a lot these days about God not being allowed in schools. I understand some of that reasoning. We do often reap what we sow. But the school system is in a tough spot and caught in the crossfire of those who want to uphold religious tolerance/freedom and those who want to return to more traditional Christian teaching. Debates will continue to happen but I can tell you that the high school welcomed this pastor in to talk about Jesus each week. As long, as kids had a choice on whether to attend or not to attend, I could open up God’s word and invite the Spirit to minister to these kids. I was given an open door (in my case an open balcony door).
God is in our schools; maybe not in the same way as He once was, but God is there. I know many teachers who pray for the schools, staff and students. They may not be able to do this in front of the classroom but they are doing it. History has shown that Christianity has often flourished when it has gone through the back and balcony doors of society. Keep praying for our kids and our schools. Have faith. God is still in our schools.
a post by Assistant Pastor Andrew Fidurko
-- Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 --
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
God loves us, and we are His children and heirs with Him in heaven. We need to recognize the lessons that God our Father has been teaching us throughout time. We do this by reading the Bible. God’s Word is one of the most, if not the most, important communication devices that God has given us here on earth. In this book, God has written down things for us to learn about Him and learn about ourselves.
I believe that people in the world today look at Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts. In a small group recently someone said, “Because I know God and because I love Him and know that He loves me, it makes me want to do the things that He says to do, and not do the things He says not to do.” Now what happens is emotion and failure get in the way of our inner success of this task. We want all the answers and to be perfect now, but only through reading His word will we even start to understand how our relationship with God should be.
The above scripture talks about the Ten Commandments. Do you know the Ten Commandments, and have them in your mind and heart? Do you know the “greatest commandment” that Jesus said? Our love of God should help drive us to go deeper and deeper into the word to find out these answers for ourselves.
Our parents set up rules in our home, not because they want to punish us, but because they love us and wanted us to grow. God loves you and wants you to continue to grow. Read your Bible daily, and memorize scripture if you can. Start with your favorites and the well-known verses. Make a list of the books of the Bible, and attempt to read 1 book a month, or 1 chapter a week. Start small and build. I believe that you can do this.
-- Psalm 119: 9-11 --
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.”
God’s Word is powerful, and through continuing to read, during the times that you are tempted or challenged, it will rise up in you to be able to combat the enemy and temptations. By relying on the Word of God as a powerful ally in our Christian journey, we will grow.
by Janell Clingenpeel, Hillside's friendly church secretary
I am in love with all things nerdy and thankfully a lot of my church family is either the same or respects the way of the nerd. Today I want to talk to you about the Marvel movie, Black Panther. This may seem weird for a church to post a blog about such things, but it had some really relevant and amazing things that we can incorporate into biblical teaching.
Before I go further, I have a couple things I feel I must tell you:
1) Black Panther is rated PG-13 and for good reason. I leave it up to you to discern if this movie is right for you. PluggedIn.com is great resource for movie reviews written from a Christian perspective and I encourage you to read their review on Black Panther here: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/black-panther-2018
2) SPOILERS!!!! For those of you who have not seen the movie and do not like to know anything about it before going to see it, come back to read this later!
The scene I would like to talk to you about today is a post-credit scene. After a huge battle of good vs. evil and our hero, the Black Panther, finding out a lot about himself, his country and his past, he decides his country can no longer hide in the shadows and lie that Wakanda (a fictional, but amazing country) is a third-world county, but a country that can provide aid and seeks to bring unity to the world. At the end of the credits we see King T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) address the United Nations; he gives this speech:
"Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not," T'Challa declares. "We will work to be an example of how we as brothers and sisters on this earth should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe."
I have watched the movie twice now, and each time I am moved by these words: “More connects us than separates us.”
It seems like more and more every day our community, country, world becomes more divided. It is a simple truth to realize more does connect us than separate. The Bible tells us over and over to love one another, and for good reason. We are often divided by divisive talk, political views, what we look like, how we act. But if we were to simply remember to love one another, more than ourselves, I feel we would find the truth of “more connects us than separates” an easier truth to live. Just do a search on the interwebs, and the Bible tells us over and over to love. We are often faced with times of crisis, and it is during these times I find it the hardest to reach out to others. I often build walls and try to handle things myself. T’Challa (and the Bible) tells us that the wise build bridges. We should reach out for help; we should reach out to those who need help. Simply love those around you. Be kind. Be open to help in times of need, and open to help others when you can.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
[written by Pastor Becky Todd]
I have been doing some catching up and cleaning out projects around our home and at church. As I sift through accumulations, some almost thirty years old, I wonder why has this stuff stacked up? Was it forgotten? Did someone think it might be useful again? I have items saved because I "hope for" the right opportunity I might use them again. But as the dust settles, I have to ask would it be better to move it on to someone else who can make use of it more than I could? Is this stuff I have moved three times worth taking up it's space in my life. My Grandfather always said, "I might need that", but the "might-day" never came. Are some of those piles at church, just reminders of days long past that we hope we get back to again? Some of those "might" things are no longer applicable in our current time.
I've been reflecting on the spiritual applications of these piles; though not a physical pile, we tend to stack up things in our soul. Some of these feel familiar to me; unforgiveness, emotional pain, an anxious heart, unresolved grief. I think you get the idea. We carry around things that weigh us down. Are these things worth carrying around or keeping stacked up in that quiet lonely corner of our life waiting for the right moment to release them. A word to the wise, the release often comes in an un-welcomed way, like reacting instead of responding. At some point, it can become so over-whelming that we live with it and we become blinded to the effects it has in our life and relationships with God and others. Once in a while we need to stop, examine the pile, sort through it's value in our present life, receive God's healing where it's needed and embrace the moment. God's Word says the moment is now!
Isaiah 43:18-19 says, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." God is not saying to ignore the past. Self-reflection, counseling to heal past hurts, Biblical accountability all have tremendous value. But, he does say dwelling, or living in the past is not the way. God wants to do a new work in us! He longs to bring fresh streams of water to our cluttered, junky souls! When we emerge to the other side of the wilderness (and wilderness can be hard work) we find the open field (Psalm 18:19). Let's live in the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
Happy Spring cleaning!
Pastor Andrew recommends you play this YouTube video whilst reading his blog post, enjoy!
🎵"Jesus Loves me, this I know. Because the Bible Tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak and He is Strong."🎵
As I think about my Christian Faith I continue to be amazed at how the simple things produce fruitful results. I used to think that being the best, meant being the brightest, the most powerful, the most loving, and so on. But Simplicity in Christianity is really where it is at. The Basics in Christianity are what produce results.
Picking up a Bible and Reading 1 chapter or one section a day changes our lives. Praying to God for the lost, the hurting, or just our world in general it makes a difference. The simple recognition that He is God and I am not. That Jesus Loves me and accepting that love. This changes lives.
With the passing of Billy Graham last week I have heard several news casters and politicians says what a great man he was. How he loved and served God and that his message was that God loves us all. I think that Billy Graham would want us to know that God not only loves us, but wants for us to accept God's Saving Love. Billy Grahams message was that JESUS SAVES. My question to you is, are you dedicated to Christ today?
🎵"Yes Jesus Saves Me, Yes Jesus Saves Me, Yes Jesus Saves Me, the Bible tells me so." 🎵
I want to encourage you to read your bible today. The Gospel of John would be a good start, maybe somewhere around Chapter 3 Verse 16-18. Rely on God's strength to get you through these times and stay devoted and understand and share his Saving Love with others.
Thank you all for reading,
Assistant Pastor at Hillside Wesleyan Church
Sometimes you find an article or a blogpost that can express things better than you can say yourself. This week I came across this article that I thought might benefit some of our readers. Here is the link to the article, written by Andrew Dragos for Seedbed.com. Comment to let me know what you think!
7 Things the Bible Teaches About Discipleship
By Andrew Dragos - January 29, 2018
1. The life of discipleship was anticipated in the Old Testament, made explicit in the Gospels, and fleshed out in the Epistles and other New Testament writings.
The Old Testament set a pattern for discipleship by way of covenantal relationship—God’s calling for Israel to be his people and to walk in his ways (Deuteronomy 4:1-14; 10:12-13; 1 Samuel 12:14). When they broke covenant, Israel was described as “walking in the ways” of pagan gods (1 Kings 18:21). This walking in the ways of God finds culmination in Jesus’s call for his original apostles to “follow him.” The actual word disciple is almost exclusively limited to the New Testament Gospels and Acts, and was an early designation for followers of Jesus. The word denotes a master (or teacher) – student relationship, and meant that the student would follow in the path of life laid out by his or her master.
2. Discipleship is the highest calling, core identity, and central task of the church.
Discipleship cannot be named among one of the activities of the church, it is what the church is and does. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he made clear in the Great Commission that making disciples was the call of the church (Matthew 28:18-20). In this sense, discipleship is not optional—there is no such thing as Christians who aren’t disciples. As a community, a church cannot tag discipleship onto its multi-level programs, it must be the core purpose behind everything the church is and does, including its worship, evangelism, social witness, multi-generational programs, etc.
3. Disciples of Jesus seek to glorify their Lord by becoming like him in all respects.
In ancient times, disciple relationships were common both in Gentile and Jewish worlds. The basic pattern was that of a student learning from and becoming like their master. This is what Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (NIV) Later, Paul said that the goal of the Christian life was predestined to be conformity to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). Therefore, the best witness to what is expected of Jesus’s followers is the life of Jesus himself, not in spite of his unique vocation as the Son of God but especially in light of his identity. The Gospels’ witness to Jesus’s teaching, way of life, and relationship with God are fundamentally the most instructive revelation of what God expects of his people. And since Jesus fulfilled the image of God perfectly, Christians can now look to his example in order to fulfill their own original vocation as image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
4. The life of discipleship is characterized by a pattern of self-denial and a focus on others.
Disciples are not characterized by conceit, narcissism, or false humility. Even excessive introspection misses the purpose of the Christian life. Rather, disciples are marked by an outward life that focuses on serving others (Mark 10:35-35). Instead of claiming natural rights or seeking maximal happiness and comfort for one’s own existence, disciples look to the needs of others, especially those in close proximity to them. Indeed, the very act of the Incarnation set a pattern for self-denial and emptying oneself of privileges in order to love others well (Philippians 2:1-8). Jesus often reminded his original disciples of the cost to follow him; it involved “denying the self daily” and “taking up the cross” (Luke 9:23). Disciples must crucify—put to death—anything that stands in the way of following Jesus.
5. Authentic discipleship requires the initial, and often ongoing, act of repentance and turning away of sin.
A disciple of Jesus that lives in the kingdom of God, or under his rule, recognizes that repentance is not a suggestion but an imperative. To repent, biblically, means not only to feel remorse for sin but turn away from it and toward God; to turn away from evil and toward the good. The Old Testament prophets regularly called God’s people to repent (Isaiah 45:22; 55:7; Ezekiel 14:6; Joel 2:12-13) and in the New Testament it is made a prerequisite for salvation (Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:37-41). Being a discipleship is totalizing and comprehensive, and requires the entirety of one’s being. When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he responded that one must love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mark 12:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 12:1; 1 John 3:6-7). Often this means re-evaluating core assumptions about identity, vocation, and culture, and being willing to allow the gospel to critique us, even when it’s painful.
6. Discipleship requires intentional practices that gradually become enduring, natural habits.
The life of discipleship, sometimes referred to as spiritual (trans)formation, is not an immaterial, mindful, transcendental life that materializes on its own. It is rather an earthy and intentional descent into practices that were modeled initially in the Old Testament saints and especially in the Psalter. Singing, praying, worshiping, communing, reading, meditating, and lamenting were the primary ways that God’s people covenanted with him. Jesus modeled these same rhythms throughout his ministry, even if reported only on occasion (Matthew 14:22-23; 22:29; Luke 5:15-16). The early church also modeled healthy spiritual habits together (Acts 2:41-47). As these means of grace are engaged, desires and appetites are transformed. What was difficult to do becomes more natural (2 Timothy 2:1-7). Discipleship is made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit who uses the Word of God throughout these various rhythms to transform us (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; Titus 3:5).
7. An essential element of effective discipleship is community.
God’s salvation is not intended primarily to create individual Christians but to create a people that share an identity in Christ. Community has played an integral part in humanity’s wholeness from the very beginning: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) In the Old Testament, the entire community was often held responsible for one person’s sin (Joshua 7:24) and people sought reform together (2 Chronicles 34, Nehemiah 9, Jonah 3). In the New Testament, Jesus’s followers regularly gathered together for several purposes, both in large and in small groups (Acts 2:41-44; Acts 4:31), and it is indeed mandated for Christians (Hebrews 10:25). Varying sizes of communities afford Christian disciples the opportunity to be vulnerable, encouraging, accountable, and supportive of one another in appropriate ways. Community is necessary for discipleship because everyone has a weakness that is served only by others, and conversely, everyone has a strength that can serve the weakness of another person. It is in isolation that disciples fall prey to Satan’s devices and fall into temptation. Together, the life shared by disciples serve as a testimony to God’s plan of renewal for all of creation.
Recommendations for further reading:
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Complete Book of Discipleship by Bill Hull
Following the Master by Michael J. Wilkins
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
The Means of Grace by Andrew C. Thompson
Article taken from: https://www.seedbed.com/7-things-the-bible-teaches-about-discipleship/