HILLTOP CHAPEL NEWSLETTER
"COMING APART AT THE SEAMS"
Fifty years ago, as a young member of the United States Air Force, I was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. I was enrolled at Defense Language Institute in the Serbo-Croatian (Yugoslav) department. There, I would spend 37 weeks learning to speak, read and write the language of the "South Slavs". This was no easy task! I later learned that Serbo-Croatian was second, only to Mandarin Chinese, in difficulty of the 50 languages being taught there at the time.
The mission was daunting, but the accommodations and the food were excellent. I persevered and actually graduated with fairly good grades (a solid B to be exact). For any of you who know me well, anything above a C meant I studied, which was not what I normally did in school. Language school, however, was only part of the allure of the Monterey Peninsula. The main magnet that drew me to this "Shangri-La" was, of course, golf.
One day, I met a man who happened to be the president of Carmel Valley Country Club at Quail Lodge. He invited me to play there and gave me a complimentary voucher for a friend and myself to play whenever it was convenient for us. We were there the next Saturday!
We teed off on the 1st hole and proceeded to play one of the toughest courses we had ever seen in our lives. We were doing fairly well and even made some good shots. We had just reached the green on the 7th hole. I knelt down to check the line on my putt and heard the r-r-rip. I immediately felt a cool sensation on my leg and realized that there was a gaping hole, in my Italian designer golf slacks, between my mid-thigh and knee. I thought, "This is great. My one chance to play an exclusive, private country club and I'm coming apart at the seams."
As luck would have it, my playing partner had a couple of safety pins in his golf bag. With a strategic placement of these wonders of modern science, I was able to finish the round of golf, enjoying the awe inspiring beauty of the Carmel Valley in the process. I know that you're thinking: "What does this little vignette have to do with the world, Jesus Christ, the church, or anything I can apply to my daily life?" I'm glad you asked.
It seems to me that, just like my golf slacks, the world is coming apart at the seams and no one has any concrete answers as to how to remedy the situation. There are wars and rumors of wars all over the globe. Every time we turn around there is a new "hot spot" somewhere. We are in deep trouble and in no instance does the pressure seem to be easing.
The safety pins kept my slacks together long enough for me to finish the round of golf and drive home, but what's the world going to use for safety pins! We are in desperate need of short and long term solutions to these major world crises. Where are the nations of the world going to seek answers and solve problems? The United Nations certainly does not elevate one's expectations for peace. Ineffective would be a charitable way of assessing its role in bringing nations together in any meaningful dialog. It seems as if many nations feel comfortable spending days, weeks, months and even years, discussing the issues, but no one is willing to make the hard decisions necessary to stop the violence and put the world on the road to lasting peace.
The Bible tells us there will be no peace until Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom here on Earth. If that's the case, what are we to do in the interim?
Christians have a unique opportunity in this time of trouble and uncertainty. People are looking for answers to the perplexing questions of our time. They are not looking for pat answers or worn out cliches. Too many political hacks and spin-doctors are trying to tell us that everything will be alright if we just "give peace a chance". That begs the question, how can we give peace a chance if the warring parties are not willing to put down their arms and try it?
Personal peace begins with an intimate relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Jesus explained that kind of relationship in John 14:23, when He said: "...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." If God is willing to make His home with you, it's hard to imagine a much closer relationship. Why are we keeping Him at arms length when we need Him so desperately, today?
All the signs point to the return of Jesus Christ at almost any time. Are we so blind that we will not accept the fact that the things prophesied in the Bible could very well happen in our generation? If these things do come to pass while we're still here, don't you suppose that it might be a good idea to be prepared? It is my firm belief that the clock of history is about to strike midnight and there is much more at stake than a "glass slipper".
If you are not actively engaged in the process of getting the Gospel message out to others, there is no better day to start than today. Don't be afraid. God will give you the strength and courage. All you have to do is trust Him and "just do it!"
HILLTOP CHAPEL NEWSLETTER
"HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN?"
This newsletter now is mailed to about 150 homes and is posted every month on our website, hilltopchapel.org. I wonder, sometimes, how many of you actually sit down in your easy chair or at your computer and read the article and the rest of the "rag". When I try to figure out the effectiveness of our ministry here at Hilltop Chapel, I'm left with the overwhelming feeling that it is really none of my business. My primary concern, I believe, as far as God is concerned, is to prepare others for the work of evangelism and whatever type of ministry He calls them to. This newsletter is just another aspect of the ongoing ministry of Hilltop Chapel.
Just recently, as I contemplated our outreach, I asked myself, "How effective have we been in reaching out to the people of Miramonte, Pinehurst, Badger, Dunlap & Squaw Valley?" I had felt a little doubtful about the impact we are having. Then, comments from deacons & deaconesses, Sunday School teachers, AWANA leaders and others, from over the years, came flooding back to me. These folks had related story after story of instances when they had been in conversations with people whose lives had been touched by the ministry of Hilltop Chapel. These people were not only from the mountain communities, but also towns like Reedley, Selma, Dinuba and even Fresno. People are amazed that a "little mountain church" like ours can do the things we do with the resources we have. Let's face it, you can't call ours a rich congregation! It was gratifying to hear their perceptions of our outreach and its overall effectiveness.
As I continued down memory lane, it became obvious that this ministry was and is making a difference. And then it hit me! That is exactly what I need to see and understand. It is never about us, as Christians, and our preconceived ideas about what should or shouldn't be happening. It is all about God and what He wants to do in a given situation.
Because we are a small community and there is very little industry here (logging has all but disappeared), many of our people travel down to Fresno or Visalia for work each day. Our ministry outreach extends to each of those workplace situations. You would be surprised at the number of people who have accepted Christ as their Savior through the witness of one of our congregation on the job. It's amazing to contemplate the awesome power of God as he works through the lives of believers in many different circumstances every day. We are not capable of comprehending the scope or magnitude of God's ongoing work in the world today. All we can do is marvel at the stories of changed lives, healed marriages and relationships, families pieced back together and friendships restored as people realize their need for the Lord and reach out to Him in faith.
The real measure of any church body is not the number of people occupying pews on any given Sunday morning. What makes or breaks any congregation is attitude. If we are in a body that is loving and caring, that, in essence, is what is expressed to the community at large. The apostle Paul tells us, in I Corinthians 13:1-2, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
We are not good and kind because we were born that way or because mom and dad did such a great job when we were kids. The truth is, we are only loving, good and kind when we come to the "foot of the Cross" and receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. His love, compassion, grace and mercy become ours the moment we turn to Him in simple faith and say, "I believe in You." It's really that easy. When we do truly believe, the portals of heaven are opened up to us and all of God's blessings begin to flow our way. As we receive these heavenly gifts, we are to pass them on to others. In I Corinthians 2:12, Paul says, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." We are not passing on worldly things, but things directly from the heart of God. The little chorus goes like this: "Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely, give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live."
How long has it been since you gave the idea of sharing your faith any real consideration? There is a whole world out there that still needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. You may be the only one standing between some poor soul and the gates of hell. Yes, I realize we're making a difference here at Hilltop Chapel, but there is so much more to be done. Let's not rest on our laurels. Let's see how many more we can rescue before Christ comes again.
HILLTOP CHAPEL NEWSLETTER
As we look at a brand new year and all the promise it holds, I thought it might be instructive
for us to consider what God has to say about the beginning. I’m sure, with all the turmoil that accompanied the start of 2017, you’re all ready for a more peaceful entry into 2018.
The Bible gives us two very distinct views of the creation period and yet, they meld so beautifully into one. So, let’s take it from the top and consider the Source of all things, here on this
planet and throughout the universe. The very first words are: “In the beginning, God…” The sovereign God of the universe is the clear and overwhelming star of the show and His divine nature
pervades every “nook and cranny” of history (His story).
We’re given an amazing overview of the way He envisioned his creation and the meticulous
planning involved in each step of the process. From the introduction of light, the division of light and
darkness, the names He gave to each—Day & Night—to the creation of man & woman, there were no
missteps, no do overs. He carried it all out with absolute perfection!
With the introduction of mankind, we have get a glimpse of God’s purpose for creating all this
splendor in the first place. Deep within, for reasons known only to Himself, our Heavenly Father wanted then and continues to desire an intimate, personal relationship with each one of us. He created
man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). In vs. 28, we read: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God gave everything to His newly formed, innocent, man and woman. And, He gave them authority over the entirety of all that He’d just created. You can see how much He wanted all of this to work.
Then, in short order—whatever that means in terms of eternity—sin entered the scene and all of
God’s wonderful work became tainted. Not a single thing within the created host escaped the curse of sin! Because of man’s willful disobedience to the command of God it all went “haywire”. You may ask
yourself, as I have many times, why didn’t God disallow sin into the equation in the first place. After
much consideration, I’m of the opinion that God had to show us the ruinous nature of sin so that we
might appreciate what He had to do to save us from it’s devastating effects.
Within the beginning of creation there is the larger story that directly impacts each of our lives, today. That story is the real, enduring and ongoing revelation of the One without Whom nothing in the beginning would have been possible. In John 1:1-4, we read: “In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ‘He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life,
and the life was the light of men.” And this is the key to all that we’ve seen so far; He is life! Life then,
life now and life eternally. Without Him there is no hope!
Paul tells is, in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” In other words, if you’re clinging to Jesus and He’s not the “real deal”, you’re
just wasting your time. You may as well give up right now and live life any way you please. But, in the very next verse, we get the rebuttal: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man (Adam) came death, by Man (Christ) also came the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
(1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
Isn’t it wonderful to consider the awesome truth that, from the very beginning of the world, God accounted for you and me and made the perfect and only way for us to spend eternity with Him?
We may not understand it all, but we do know that the very first Bible verse many of us learned as children, is still as true today as it was back then: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
This is a month of new beginnings! Let’s remember—“In the beginning, God!!!
In January, it was good to see many of our regular congregation back at church after weeks of illness with the flu symptoms, aching, cold, cough, etc. WELCOME BACK! ... Hope all of you reading this are healthy, happy and safe. The forecast in our local area is for very warm and dry weather for the next couple of weeks. We are truly blessed, but could use some rain at some point ... Due to illness and the weather, a smaller number of Helping Hands ladies met later in January at church on the 16th for their business meeting and elections. They enjoyed their Bible Study and monthly potluck luncheon with Gail McClard as hostess. Congratulations to the new and returning officers: President -- Laura Gia, Vice President -- Marcia Wilcher, Recording Secretary -- Donna Stieber, and Treasurer -- Donna Symons. Many thanks to the former officers for their excellent and devoted service ... Helping Hands will meet at 11 a.m. this coming Tuesday, February 6th, in the Social Hall at Hilltop Chapel for Bible Study, a potluck lunch, and a business meeting. All ladies are welcome to attend. Bring a dish if you like and hope to see you there ... The members of Hilltop Chapel met for their Annual Church Meeting and Elections on January 28th and, with 60 members on the roster, we were able to gather a quorum and conduct the meeting and elections. Congratulations to our new and returning official board members: Deacon (3-year term) -- Russell Crose, Deaconess (2-year term) -- Bonnie Lamar, Trustee (3-year term) -- Mike Gage, Treasurer -- Terri Brown (1-year term), Christian Ed Supt. -- Lesley Davison (1-year term), Asst. Christian Ed. Supt. -- Kaysia Barr (1-year term), Missions Supt. -- Linda Riffel (1-year term), Asst. Missions Supt. -- Donna Symons (1-year term), and Recorder -- Debin Crose (1-year term). Our church extends a grateful thank you to all the former board members who have served our church tirelessly and faithfully ... Our church still has two openings for volunteers to provide snacks on two Sunday mornings. Please see Kaysia Barr if interested ... The weekly Children's Church has been successfully presenting the Gospel message and Bible stories to our local children in grades 1 through 5 on Sunday mornings during the regularly scheduled Sunday Service. Thanks to the adult volunteers and leadership of the Brunos and the Lovewells, 27 children have benefitted from this very important ministry that we all hope to see continue well into the future. Our children will be leaders some day and we shape tomorrow's world by what we teach our children today ... The men from our local communities met on January 20th for their monthly Men's Breakfast and Fellowship, and shared a great meal, their thoughts and faith. Hey guys, mark your calendar for February 17th and join the others for a delicious breakfast, devotion and wholesome fellowship ... Remember, when you can't forgive someone, pray for them. It may or may not change them, but it will always change you ... The Teen Mountain Ministry will be meeting for their annual planning meeting on Saturday, February 3rd. The plans for the new year sound exciting and the local youth are encouraged to attend and share ideas ... Have you heard the one about the golfer who gave up trying to shoot his age on the course? Now he's aiming for his area code ... Be sure to wish Pastor Rod a very special Happy Birthday on February 7th. Happy Valentines Day to all.
January 2018 Newsletter
DID YOU KNOW… ?
The ladies of Helping hands met for our monthly meeting on the 5th of December at the home of Yasmin Garrett in beautiful downtown Badger for a Bible study, potluck lunch and business meeting, with Pastor Rod leading us all in a melodious chorus of Christmas carols accompanied by his guitar … The Hilltop Chapel Official Board Christmas Dinner was held at Twin Valleys in the 7th of December, with everyone who attended having a great time visiting, catching up, and exchanging stories, and of course sharing an enjoyable meal together. A wonderful fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters … The Hilltop Chapel Youth Group held a benefit bake sale in the Social Hall on the 10th, to the delight of many who attended and purchased the yummy sweet treats. Many thanks to all who helped make this event a success … Our congratulations and grateful appreciation to Pastor Rod for pastoring here at Hilltop Chapel for the past 22 years, since 1995, as of December 17, 2017. He shall stand and shepherd his flock, in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. – Micah 5:4 … The youth’s AWANA Club met in December for a “Birthday for Jesus” … The Hilltop Chapel Christmas Party and Ornament Exchange was a great success, and many of us now have new prayer partners for 2018. We are grateful to all who participated and brought goodies to munch on. If you missed this month’s festivities – plan to join us next year … Those brave and hardy souls with good, strong voices all gathered at church one evening to go out amongst the neighbors to spread good cheer with Christmas caroling. They were often welcomed with claps and cheers, and hot chocolate and treats. A wonderful annual celebration ... The men of the church met on the 16th for Men’s Breakfast and Fellowship. This monthly event was well attended and enjoyed by all, a great time to gather and share your faith and fellowship … Christmas is the heart of God revealed, the grace of God provided, and the peace of God received … The Christmas Eve Sunday morning Worship Service was well attended, a very special time to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We hope you all were able to have joyful gatherings with your family and friends all around and singing carols to inspire you with their old familiar sound ... Unfortunately, due to a rampant flu epidemic in our area, our New Year’s Eve Sunday morning Worship Service and evening Candlelight Service were both cancelled, allowing everyone to stay home, keep warm, and feel better … Life isn’t about finding yourself – it’s about discovering who God created you to be … As long as there are algebra and geometry tests, there will be prayer in school … Now that the holidays are behind us, we offer you a worthy mission project that can be donated to year-round. The St. Jude’s Ranch for Children’s Recycled Card Program accepts new and used, all-occasion greeting cards all year, including general and religious Christmas cards, Easter cards, sympathy cards, Thanksgiving cards, and all-occasion blank greeting cards. The children recycle them into beautiful ‘new’ greeting cards, and sell them in packets of 10 for $17.00 to support the programs and services for abused, neglected and homeless children, young adults and families. These cards be purchased by calling 877/977-7572. To donate cards, mail donations to: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, Recycled Card Program, 100 St. Jude’s Street, Boulder City, NV 89005. More details can be obtained at their web site: stjudesranch.org/about-us/recycled-card-program. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year.