Wednesday, December 19, 2018
2018 sure flew by. It seems like every year goes by faster and faster. I suppose it could be because I’m older and older but that probably isn’t it because a lot of our church members are younger and they say the same thing. The fact remains, when we reached December, half way through the school year again, with Christmas in tow, it came as somewhat of a shock. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? What follows are some prediction based primarily in Scripture. People will continue to chase after that which makes them feel better. Some will go after speed of service or the praise of others, money, members of the opposite sex… a host of other things. Some will mock those who have found true meaning in Christ. Some will challenge the very fiber of proper living, arguing that fundamentals should be reinterpreted in light of a modern age. Some others, with the best of intentions, will become defensive and preach a truth that is only for this present age but will fade and die when the current dilemmas are replaced by new and future debates. Some things will stay the same. God’s people will remain firm. They will believe Him for His promises despite what appears to be a universal moral drift toward wickedness. God’s true people will do what God’s people have always done. They will wait for Him to act in His way and at His time. They will strive to walk in Righteousness. They will learn to walk closer with God. Do we change or do we stay the same? If we are not careful we are in danger of becoming the old guard, resistant to change in the face of reality. On the other hand if we are not careful we could be whisked along with a large part of conservative Christianity into, “fighting for what we believe in.” The fact is that the lies of this generation-the lies that they have swallowed and the lies that they have concocted- are not original, just repackaged. We must be new and being made new daily but we must not fall into the trap of fluctuating so much that historians could rightly dismiss our efforts as limited to this context. We must cling to the solid truths of Scripture while increasing our understanding of its application so that we are not left answer-less for a searching people. We must overcome the challenge of connecting with the people around us- a people more and more willing to allow division to exist. We must reach out to neighbors in a day when neighbors never see one another and willingly accept and embrace the distance between them. We must speak in a language that can be understood without changing the subject matter to be for or against the specific falsehoods we face. God does not care about, nor did He write the Bible to be, a good answer for the challenges of the opposition. The Bible is simply the truth, the truth about what happened, the truth about what happens, and the truth about what will happen. As we go into 2019 then, let us remain the same in the face of the tactics of the enemy AND become progressively better at applying Scripture to our everyday battles. Dozens of generations before us have had to adapt and to open themselves to God and His way. Far smaller numbers were successful than might have been hoped. Let us endure patiently and at the same time work diligently. In this way, we will be present, relevant, and ready.
Friday, December 14, 2018
I had a dear friend of mine disagree with me sharply as to whether the Christian needed to be in the church or not. We quoted some verses and the end of our conversation was that he was unconvinced. He went his way which didn't work out all that well and I went mine. He's working his way back into the church now. That doesn't mean I was right or that I am smart or anything like that. I am an ordinary person with a lot of flaws. I tend to believe that that is who God wants working for Him. We are supposed to bring our stuff and let Him deal with it. We are supposed to lay these things down at His feet so to speak. That being said, I could get some very important things wrong in my life time and indeed in my walk with Christ. Still, whenever you quote the New Testament or whenever you think about the actions of the apostles realize that these things were done in the context of the local church. These things were written to, preserved by, and enacted by the local church. The universal church was the the universal church because it was the sum of the local churches and those who were finding their way into the local churches. Each of us has Jesus to help us get along in life. But I don't read that He died for all of us and suddenly convert to Universalist theology. The church is the "it" that the gates of hell will not prevail against (Matt 16:18) and we are in this together. The church is not an organization and rules and democracy can easily screw up what God is trying to do in His people especially if people are not walking with Him in the first place. No amount of rules or democratic processes can make a group of people into a church. Jesus has to do that. Incidentally, Jesus seems to have the complete control over what church remains a church if you think about the "putting your lamp out," statements in revelation. That bottom-line is this, if we are His body and He is the head then we had better get working together under His direction. There's a reason why God did not put your parts in mason jars and connect them by long-range circuitry. You are meant to be a cohesive unit and so is the body of His people. These and other truths lead us to be loving, forgiving, merciful, and kind toward other members of the church while His holy nature leads us to subject ourselves to the accountability of others. He is a great God and Has designed a great system in which you may deny your need to participate (and that you are needed) and He allows that freedom. However, while He allows freedom, He has expectations. Whether it is New Heights Fellowship Baptists Church of Toledo or not, you are meant to function as part of a local body of believers. One of our Personal Trainers may be able to help you sort out which body, what is a body and what isn't, or you may just want to listen to the voice of God and let Him point you in the right direction. We are willing. He is patient. But it's time. Please accept the truth about Jesus Christ and begin anew today to live your life for Him.
Friday, October 26, 2018
Where does all this destruction come from? Humans, like God have been imbued with the ability to create. We are sentient like He is and need our imaginations, something that animal kind pretty much does not have. Man is also imbued with the ability to destroy. That too, requires imagination. I do not mean, consume, all animals do that and men have become better and better at that. So much so that in some cases it has become the driving force in people's lives. Also, on a side note this force (consumerism) can be a religion of sorts and men have this force provoked in them to manipulate them to do things that they might not have otherwise done. Anyway, where does all this destruction come from? Ariana knows. Yep, she's four and she knows. We go to the library on Daddy Day. This is what Ariana calls my Sabbath. While I am resting and in between the occasional mopping up of some project that nags at my mind and time spent seeking God, we go to the Library. I fully know by the way, that I should be spending more time on the seeking God part. Anyway, we were playing at the library at the Lego (TM) table and a young boy, maybe age eight or so, joined us. Ariana was making a house with a pool. I was making her name in letters and a maze. The boy made a man laying in a pool of blood and a figure representing his murderer. It seemed odd. After a few minutes he had also constructed a tree he informed us was the murder weapon. He informed us that the murderer had pushed the tree down on the man killing him. When he first constructed the victim and the pool of blood Ariana told him that a pool of blood was a scary thing and he simply said, "yeah." and that with a smile on his face and a sort of sinister kid chuckle. When he completed the murderer and the tree she asked him why the man would do that. She said, why would he push the tree down on the man and kill him? The boys answer was interesting but Ariana's assessment of his answer was interesting as well. I'll tell you about it after a brief message from our sponsor... God loves us and sent His son Jesus to die for us. He crushed Jesus as an atoning sacrifice to pay for the sins of men. God, could not/would not in His infinite righteousness and justice ignore sin so He made a way for it to be paid for. He came in the flesh, because yes God is God the Son as well as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit and yet He is one God. And He came and died so that we could be found innocent if we will accept and follow. Trade your life so far for that life that God intends and on into eternity with Him. It's not only grace that you don't deserve but also a Good Deal. Back to the story So, the little boy says, "I don't know," indicating he doesn't know why the murdered would push the tree down on the other guy and leave him in a piled of blood. That makes sense. He wouldn't know and at the same time he's the one who brought it up... I commented that it was a little strange. And in a moment of wisdom beyond her years Ariana said, "He should know cause it came from his imagination." She looked at me and said, "He's the one who made it that way from his imagination because that's where people do that kind of stuff." I don't know that she understood the ramifications of what she said. Still, she was right. She was right and the fact is that the same imagination that allows a young boy to come up with a murder scene can accept that destruction is within in its ability to devise. Also, and on a much more pleasant note, that same imagination can imagine that there is a God who loves and rewards those who seek Him. In an instant of appeal to that "unknown" God ask for His presence and receive the salvation offered. Thank God we are a people with abilities far beyond that which stands right before us but Lord let us use that incredible ability to dream of ways to make the world a better place, ways to advance God's purposes of Love and Peace here on earth. In the mean time the enemy will continue to warp and pervert in us the powers we have been entrusted with us. Until we desire God above all thru His son Jesus there is no redeeming back from the darkness of ignorance the greatness that is our imagination. God bless, P. Dan Pastor Missionary Author
Friday, October 19, 2018
So, first my daughter asks for milk and then asks for strawberries. To keep the whole thing fairly short she asked her mother for the milk and her dad for the strawberries. Both parents lovingly rose to complete the task. In the midst of a genius moment she says let's have a contest and see who can serve me the fastest. Whoever gets what they get for me the fastest wins. Four year olds are smart. Incentives like winning are the best, don't ya think?
Spiritual disciplines are essential for the Christian walk. There are things that one person may say are essential to the Christian walk and there are things that people may say must be cut out. The Bible makes the statement GAL 5-6 that in embracing the things of the Spirit we choke out the things of the flesh and in embracing the things of the flesh we choke out the things of the Spirit. So, if we desire to walk with the Spirit of God rather than against we must embrace the things of the Spirit and these things are disciplines which produce the intended fruit. Intentionally embracing them is disciplining yourself to embrace them. It is not that anyone should get so wrapped up in disciplining himself or herself that the discipline becomes the most important thing. The process as a god of sorts would be a huge mistake and so falling into that trap must be avoided. Ironically, the Spiritual disciplines and their nature of being subject to the Spirit have a built in defense and serve as a defense against idolizing them. This book is about growing. When you were born again you began to learn again to walk, to talk, to eat, to work, and to play for the Lord Jesus Christ instead of yourself. If you have not as you read this accepted Him as Lord and savior you have that process ahead of you. Perhaps it is that very thought that intimidates you and causes you to take this risk with your immortal soul. You don’t want to experience the, perceived as painful, process of learning the basics all over again and so you hold back from a commitment to follow Christ. This growth is not really painful. It is done without regret. We are not to dwell on how poorly we learned the first time or on our failures as we discover and work to overcome them. Rather, we continually rejoice in our ability to grow and learn. As it was when we were children, the world is a new and seemingly very large playground once again and we rejoice in the thrill of experiencing it through un-blindfolded eyes. God has taken the shackles off and as we grow, with each new step we realize the excitement of what we are now capable of and what is made possible in us by our new relationship with Christ. This relationship remains new. Even as we grow and become those who can handle a larger portion, a deeper teaching, or a harder to digest call to repentance and progress, we realize we will always be young in the faith on an eternal scale. God has made us new and continues to regenerate us so that our pains do not scar us and our past mistakes do not accumulate to haunt us. We sleep the restful sleep of the new born exhausted after a day’s play. We lay our head on the very shoulder of God and enjoy our rest as He carries us. But while we are awake we are at the fight. We apply what we know and that to which we have thus far attained to advance the kingdom of God on earth. We take our play very seriously indeed. We know that it is He that will determine the outcome but that the effort that is requested of us is never in vain and never undertaken alone. This fight is the discipline that God has called us to and while its victory may not be based on our proficiency it is definitely tied to our willingness to fight. We can do this. We can listen, study, learn, and obey. With the ease of changing clothes, we can engage in the acts of righteousness we know and put off the works of the deceitful lusts that we have identified. We can listen to the sermon, listen to the word, read the word, study its meaning, searching for and finding those applications that speak directly to us. We realize that even as we do this collected together in one room the Lord may work differently in each of us. We have as our ultimate goal each of us growing to maturity but we know that there is an immense variation in the context of every individual life. Only God may manage all these variables. It is to Him that we submit and trust that He will see us through to the other side in complete victory. To that end, we will be disciplined. We can do this in Him.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Ten Spiritual Disciplines: Bible Intake (This is getting more Bible in you by a variety of means.) Evangelism (The evangelist is a gift but for all others evangelism can be a discipline.) Fasting (This is going without something you value (IE. food) for the purpose of walking closer with God.) Journaling (This is writing something down regularly-The events of your day or your studies, whatever.) Learning (This is enhancing your personal knowledge. Biblically learning is not the only time this is used.) Prayer (This is talking to and listening to God.) Service (This is doing something that benefits someone else and not yourself.) Silence and Solitude (This is being quiet, seeking, quiet, and being alone with God.) Stewardship (This is ensuring efficient use of the resources (any kind) that God has entrusted you with. Worship (This is declaring the worth of God and most often accomplished by giving praise.) As a very basic step right now, go down the list above and write in a step you will take. Remember these are disciplines so the step should be intentional, measurable, and correctable if things are going as planned. Corrections should involve arranging other aspects of your life to emphasize the steps planned to utilize the discipline even more. Examples: Bible Intake: I will read five minutes in the Bible every day and keep a journal of what I have read with some notes on what it meant to me. This would be an action step utilize Bible Intake and journaling. After a week of limited success you can adjust to, I will do this every day first thing, or every night before I turn the TV on. You could buy yourself a special journal, sign up for on-line devotionals sent by text as reminders. Even if you did all these things successfully you would want to continue to add and increase ALL disciplines in your life. Make a plan and fail? Repent, ask God to forgive you, re-plan, and implement. New Heights gas a six month emphasis on one discipline at a time. This is nowhere near enough but it serves to highlight the disciplines and to remind us to get busy.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Spiritual Disciplines Spiritual Disciplines 6 Month Emphasis WOSS Spiritual Disciplines are some of those things that you can do to make yourself stronger spiritually. They are things in line with God and are meant to be used that way. If they are used that way then one can claim the promises of Galatians 5 where it says that by embracing the things of the Spirit one can starve off the things of the flesh. At New Heights we will focus on one of these Spiritual Disciplines every six months in a five year rotation. During this time we ask TEAM leaders to incorporate something of the discipline in their meetings. We ask teachers to incorporate the discipline specifically into their lessons. We work together as a body to heighten awareness of the value of the discipline in every day Christian living. The anniversary date for New Heights becoming a constituted church is May 22nd and that date is the switching date in the spring making the other switching date approximately the third week of November. In the 2017-2018 year the two Spiritual Disciplines focused on were Prayer and Worship. The order for the remaining eight in this rotation has not been set and will be scheduled by leadership although requests are certainly welcome. If all goes well this mean that we will be back on Worship in the spring/Summer of 2022 if Jesus does not come again first. If you wish to emphasize worship as a discipline in your life on a daily basis the Pastor has materials you can study as does the Music TEAM leader. Applying what you learn in a diligent fashion will be the effort necessary to practice this Spiritual Discipline. November 2017-May 2018 Bible Intake May 2018-November 2018 Stewardship November 2018 to May 2019 Possibilities: Meditation, Solitude, Serving...Requests?
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
I'm headed out to empty the back of the little red pickup truck so I can go and purchase 800 canned goods and deliver them to the life station. We've been seeing more and more clients than ever. Some people need to eat while the food bank hasn't supplied canned veggies or fruit in a couple of months.
Ariana is it school for workout Wednesday and she was super excited. Ardin got himself up and got on the bus without any help- not bad for a 13 year old that complains he doesn't get enough sleep. Aaron and I had to have a conversation this morning about pushing your limits with video games and certain behaviors.
This is what life looks like when you have two raised daughters who are raising children of Their Own, Two teenage boys who are struggling to find their way in the world and to keep Christ at the center as well as a charming, growing four year old who needs your full attention. Of course, the world's problems won't wait. They don't get less hungry when you get up slower and the bags of groceries don't get fillled by themselves.
Think again Three Needs editing. The sermon for Sunday needs finished, polished, and practiced. Really important thank you letters need typed and sent out. A really important newsletter article needs written and emailed off. Articles for the newspaper need written and the newspapers that we partner with for distribution need distributed. My wife is back to work today full time after our vacation celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.
It seems like whatever I do today I'll do alone with the help of God. I just thought of one person who may be available to help. That would sure be nice.
While every church member is at work today, baring their own burdens, trying to honor Christ, trying to make the best decision they know how, I'll be blessed to tackle the things that God has given me to do.
I was watching a movie on the flight over to the UK and an Afghanistan warlord was talking about the difference between him and an American officer and he said, paraphrase: You see that's the difference between you and I, you have leaders above you and orders and I have only God.
Everyone submits to something or someone. This is true even if what they submit to is the effort to not submit. Rebellon is like witchcraft.
I pray that we will stay the course and Honor God. He is wothy of it. I know a man who was near miraculously saved from drugs who is right now struggling with drinking. I know a man who was miraculously freed from smoking who eventually compromised and went back to it after years. What are we doing?
Just as we start to win we accept the world's argument that it's more complex than we thought. We start thinking that it's too much or too easy to boil it down to Christ and Christ alone. But when I am sane I realize that all things relate to Christ and there's no other way to see it.
Anyway, there is so much to be done that I feel pulled to question is it all worth the investment. The Spirit in me says, of course it is. I have just one master- and He is the God of the universe.
My mystic friend who will not give up the pursuit as he is trying to frame the world in his own thinking will have to come to his own conclusions but my conclusion is simple. It's time now to clear the bed of the truck, to purchase and haul can goods. Yep, it's time to get up and take another swing at hunger. So, that's what I do.
P. Daniel Stevenson
New Heights Fellowship Baptist Church of East Toledo
Fire storm church planting and Evangelism
Fog and Moon Books
Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE Droid
Friday, September 14, 2018
Joshua's Spies used their provision to bring their insight to encourage the Israelites and in particular Joshua. Here's last Sunday's sermon. Sermon
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
The open doors become a challenge for me at times. It's ironic in a way because when doors are closed they become a challenge to forward advancement. However, consider for a moment a huge room with a hundred open doors. Now, I realize that the doors themselves are not the problem in that room, rather the indecision or the lack of knowledge. I have a pretty good idea of strategy and passion. My business is the business of the Lord but at the same time I find that I have to work hard to get things in the right order and to get things done. Now, it's not that I would drift away from the Lord or fall off into sin (at least I hope not) but it is that I would wind up majoring in the minors. Are you there? Are you listening? That's the question some times. Who's listening and who isn't? I think I have many avenues by which to get the gospel out but those avenues each require a certain amount of maintenance. They require creative juices and energy to keep the whole mess going. So, if all the world I have access to would get it's self neatly in line so I could go right down that line and shake hands and speak individually to each person, that would be great. Thinking it's not going to happen. Anyway, if the world is listening then I hope the message remains simple enough. Jesus is the way and all this other stuff still won't satisfy regardless of how well it is presented. God bless, P. Dan Check this out: www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/nhf for sermons and music from New heights and the life station. P. Dan
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Redefining Love: So the short summary is this: When Jesus spoke of love in the sermon on the mount it seemed like He was talking about love redefined. It seemed this way because some folks had spent some time redefining love since God had set the standard in the first place. They had added "and hate you enemies" to the "Love your neighbor as yourself" that God had given them. They had made love not for everyone and not a thing to be done by everyone. In some cases, they had made it just a word to describe a feeling. These are the same shortcomings of the world's understanding of love today. So, it appears to be redefining love when Christians describe it as For everyone (enemies included,) by everyone (as a command and a choice to follow that command,) and equaling acts of compassion not just feelings. To be a Christian, a follower of the Living Christ is to love others this way (including enemies.) This is hard to swallow because the world has taught that there is another kind of love which there isn't. They have redefined love in a sense and then when we get back to the basics of what it means, it's just hard for them to swallow. Don't buy it. Don't give in to the false belief that there is another kind of love or that love is for some and not for others. That definition will die once and for all when there are no more mysteries and those who follow along with it will go that way too. Love like Jesus.