Pastor Rod's Message
September 2018 Newsletter
"The falling leaves, drift by the window, the autumn leaves of red and gold". I'm sure many of you remember those lyrics from the song of the same name. It was a reminder of the end of summer and all that entailed, from the return to school, closing down the summer cottage at the lake and pulling down the snow tires from the rafters in the garage to get ready for winter weather. Maybe not a California tradition, but certainly a reality where I hail from.
The Berkshire Mountain range in Western Massachusetts is recognized as one of the best places in the United States to view the most colorful autumn foliage. People travel from all over the world to photograph and try to capture on canvas the breathtaking profusion of color produced by maple, oak, birch, and other varieties of trees scattered over the landscape. Everywhere you turn, you eyes are drawn to nuances and shadings produced by light and shadow that dazzle and amaze at the same time! It sounds too good to be true, right? I assure you, you have to see it to believe it.
There are things in this life that defy description. Sometimes, you just have to take someone's word for truth or go and see for yourself. It's very much the same things with Christianity and whether you should believe its claims or not. Why are these Christians so sure that what they believe in is right for everyone? Could it be that there is more than one way to experience a relationship with God?
Many people are touting the idea that many roads lead to God and if you live a good life, love your fellow man/woman, and do good deeds, He will accept you into His heavenly kingdom. Well, that would be nice, but there's only one small problem. God's word--the Bible--tells us a different story. Just as sure as I know that, very soon, the autumn leaves will be turning to red and gold, I know that God's word is the absolute authority for what He will allow or disallow. And, the Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that Jesus is the only one through whom each of us may gain access to heaven.
Jesus told His disciples, in John 14:6, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, except through Me." Pretty emphatic, isn't it? Some might even say the statement is exclusionary. Guess what? It is very exclusionary, except that it's absolutely free to anyone. "Jesus also said, on the very last page of scripture: "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). So, whosoever will, may come! One can contemplate later, with deep thanksgiving the mysteries of the divine call, but first he must come, and if he so wills, he may!" -- Henry M. Morris
We are living in a very contentious and troubled world. It seems as if civility and harmony are no longer part of the lexicon of modern society. If people have differences of opinion about issues, there is very little room for discussion or dialog and lots of room for division and animosity. So, the question becomes, how in the world do we reach out to people in the name of Jesus and not risk causing a small riot in the process? The second part of the equation concerning the conversion process has to do with "the call".
In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the great apostle writes this: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." So, even though we decide to answer the call, even as the disciples answered affirmatively when Jesus called them to be "fishers of men", we are called by God to come to Him and live lives that are pleasing in His sight.
To some reading this article, it may seem suspect that God would do anything other than wait for us to accept Jesus as our Savior. After all, God sent His only Son to die on the cruel cross of Calvary so that we might have forgiveness of sin, victory over death and eternal life with Him, so why is He calling us? Why not just sit back, relax and say, "okay, I've done my job, either take salvation through Jesus Christ or leave it." When you figure God out, send up a red flag and let the rest of us know, okay? God does what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, and we're not in any position to question Him. He holds our lives in His hands and we're totally subject to His love, mercy and grace.
The very essence of God's purpose is predicated on the proposition that, from the foundations of the world, He desired a relationship with His creation --mankind--and is determined to bring that to fruition by what He did 2,000 years ago in sending Jesus into the world to die for our sins and through those of us who have believed in Jesus, telling others about Him as we live our daily lives.
May we proclaim the gospel of Jesus, loud and clear, until he comes to take us home to be with Him. I believe that day is close at hand and is as inevitable as the autumn leaves starting to fall!!
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!
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