Pastor Rod's Message
August 2018 Newsletter
"IT'S A MATTER OF PRIORITIES"
In a world that seems to be hurtling at "breakneck speed" toward destruction, it is good for Christians to take a hard look at our priorities. Just who and what are we living for? This is not a trick question. It just seems that, if we're really honest with ourselves, there are a lot of things that take up our time and energy. Many of us fill our days with all kinds of activities that are, on the surface, important. But, are they the ones God intended for us to do?
I hear people talking after church, Bible studies, and even prayer meeting about their plans. They express, with great enthusiasm, what will be happening tomorrow and the coming week. Those plans may include going out with friends shopping, to lunch, fishing, hunting, golf (my all time favorite), water skiing, hiking or any variety of other endeavors. None of these things are bad or, in the least, harmful. The real question is, however, where is the focus?
I know lots of people who can't wait for baseball season, football season or basketball season to get here. They have the schedule, know the statistics and can even tell you all about the life histories of all the players on their favorite teams. They're excited and primed for a great time, all season long. When have most of us been as excited about getting up on Sunday morning and going to church to learn about Jesus?
As the disciples of Jesus were with Him after the resurrection, there was great excitement and expectation. When He ascended to the Father, they waited for and received the Holy Spirit. When the Church was in its infancy, the followers of Christ (according to Acts 2:42-45) "...continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." Verse 47 goes on to say, "...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
We get excited when one person a month, or every six months, gets saved (and we praise God). But what's wrong with this picture? I'll tell you what's wrong, my friends: God wants to do much more! We're frustrating His efforts because we're out of focus and lazy.
Living for Jesus isn't a "when I get around to it" affair. He will not accept the "red ribbon" for 2nd place in your life. The only ribbon He's interested in is the "blue ribbon" which signifies 1st place, in everything. If you have put a bunch of other things on your priority list, in front of Jesus, it's time to clear the slate and start over.
The scripture is as true today as when it was written: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21. There is a little saying which I've shared with many in our congregation over the past 22 years and it goes like this: "Just one life will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
As we consider the world and all its troubles, it's no wonder many people busy themselves with any distraction that may help take their minds off the pressing worries of the moment. The truth is, however, no matter how hard you try to push them away, the problems will still be there. As long as we live we'll be challenged and tested and, much to our collective dismay, tempted. Satan will use very trick in the book to get you to think and act negatively. He does not want a bunch of happy Christians getting in his way and ruining his fun. He'll do everything he possibly can to keep you as miserable as possible. It cuts down the odds that you may actually nudge someone in Christ's direction.
It's very late in the game and Jesus is coming again, soon. Don't be caught by surprise when He returns. Let's live for Him now and lead other people to salvation. How? By getting as excited about Jesus as we are about things that won't matter when we see Him face to face.
Pastor Rod's Message
July 2018 Newsletter
"AN APPOINTMENT WITH JESUS"
As I write this newsletter, I'm basking in the glow of a truly remarkable event in the history of Hilltop Chapel. Yesterday, June 24th, was the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the dedication ceremony for the new church building in Miramonte. I'm sure the folks who attended the worship service on June 21, 1953, were eager with anticipation as to what God would do in the hearts and lives of people in the mountain communities through the ministry of this little church on the hillside. Well, 65 years later, we're still learning what God is capable of doing when His people "stand up for Jesus" in their little corner of the world. And, if yesterday is any indication of God's intentions for our congregation, exciting times are in view right on the horizon!
What a thrill it was to see every seat in the sanctuary occupied (110 people to be exact) and more chairs needed in the Fellowship Hall for the anniversary celebration after the worship service. Several guest speakers along with a six minute video, spoke about the early years and how the determination of the membership to make a go of it, was such an encouragement to those who traveled up from the valley, every Sunday, to preach the Gospel to the little flock of believers here. Many of the people who attended the service traveled from various places in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond to be with us, and without exception their comments about the campus, the service and the luncheon afterward were enthusiastically positive.
Friends whom we hadn't seen for many years were back home again and the smile on each face was a telling indicator of what was going on in hearts and minds all around the room. Songs of praise and worship filled the air as a 100+ voice choir (in 27 part harmony) made a joyful shout unto the Lord.
I am quite sure that the vast majority of those attending yesterday's celebration had no idea what to expect when they arrived and were pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of people on site and what a blessing they all received by being here. As I watched one of the last cars leave the parking lot as the day was drawing to a close, it occurred to me that 65 years ago, there was another "last car" leaving the parking lot.
Perhaps Pastor Reuben Bodmer, who officiated at the first worship service in the new Hilltop Chapel, was the last one out the driveway that day, traveling back to Fresno with his family. I imagine his thoughts weren't too different from mine, as I drove away yesterday. I wondered how God would use this unique gathering of His people for His honor and glory. I wondered about the two people who gave their lives to Jesus at the conclusion of the worship service. Would they truly embrace Him and seek His will for their lives? How long would it take for us to see the real effect of what had transpired here this day? Will we be welcoming new members into our fellowship before too long? Lots of questions, to which only God has the answers!
What I do know is that 110 people had an appointment with Jesus, they showed up and so did He. Now, we've received His message to all of us. That message hasn't change in 2,000 years -- "And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone." Mark 16:15. When we do His will, great things can and will happen.
Our sincere thank you goes out to all of those who made our 65th anniversary celebration such an unqualified success. Your unfailing love for the Lord and unflagging efforts, no matter the task, are applauded by all who witnessed and benefitted from your hard work. May God richly bless you all!
Pastor Rod's Message
June 2018 Newsletter
Looking back can be a healthy exercise from time to time. Trips down memory lane, glimpses of past triumphs or failure, give us much needed perspectives to draw upon as we look toward the future and whatever it holds. A wise man (George Santayana) once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." That's the correct quote -- it has been altered over the years and is most commonly rendered, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." For the sake of accuracy, I gave you both quotes; use whichever suits your fancy.
This month, we fondly remember 65 years of history concerning Hilltop Chapel and its role in the life of our community (Miramonte, CA) and those that surround us -- Pinehurst, Badger, Dunlap & Squaw Valley. Recollection is a strange, yet wonderful activity of the mind, which sometimes leads us in odd directions. I'll try to give you as clear a picture as possible, to the best of my ability, of the past 65 years, without straying off course too badly.
Hilltop Chapel was born by the desire of several women to bring the Gospel message to the children of our area. In the late 1940's, these ladies started Sunday School classes in their homes and would rotate, from house to house, on a monthly schedule. They would even pick up youngsters, bring them to Sunday School and return them home at the end of the session. Out of those humble beginnings sprang the idea of, someday, having a real church building and, not only Sunday School, but church services.
In June of 1953, Pastor Reuben Bodmer sent out a letter to the people of Miramonte, which I'd like to share with you --
June 13, 1953
Have you ever spent hours and days dreaming of what the future holds? Have you suddenly had that dream come true?
That is exactly what had happened in our community! Some of us have long dreamed of the day when there would be an undenominational community church.
June 21, 1953 at 10:45 AM, God willing, we will dedicate for the Lord's work, the Hilltop Chapel, a church where we trust you will bring your family and worship the Lord, regardless of previous church relations. The morning service will begin with Sunday School at 10 AM. The dedication service will be at 10:45 AM. Mr. Pederson from Fresno will be the speaker. Special music will also be presented.
A potluck dinner will be served at noon. Since our church is just starting, we ask all to bring your own table setting. Beverages will be served by the church.
The concluding service at 2:30 PM will be a song fest with special music and a word from former pastors and workers.
We are looking forward to even a greater and better day than Easter. Be sure you don't miss this service. Bring the entire family next Sunday and enjoy the day with us.
Very truly yours,
Reuben Bodmer, Pastor
Well, 65 years later, Hilltop Chapel will be celebrating again! We're delighted to welcome all of those receiving this newsletter, either by mail or through our website, to join us as we look back to those early days right up to the present and, hopefully, what God has planned for the future.
Please, set aside June 24th as we celebrate together the remarkable journey that was, is now and will be Hilltop Chapel. As Pastor Bodmer did 65 years ago, I echo now: "Bring the entire family ... and I'll add ... 'friends and neighbors" and enjoy the day with us. Hope to see you then!!
* * * * *