10 STEPS FOR DEEPENING YOUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD

Adapted from Andrew Murray’s (1828-1917) book, A Deeper Christian Life, and appeared in a Decision Magazine article (November 2009).

The first and chief need of our Christian life is fellowship with God.

1. Begin each day by waiting before God and letting Him touch you. As I need every moment afresh the air to breathe, so it is only in direct, living communication with God that my soul can be strong. I must every day have fresh grace from Heaven, and I obtain it only in direct waiting upon God Himself.

2. To this end, let your first act in your devotion be a setting yourself still before God. In prayer or worship, everything depends upon God taking the chief place. I must bow quietly before Him in humble faith and adoration. Take time, till you know God is very near.

3. When you have given God His place of honor, glory and power, take your place of deepest lowliness and seek to be filled with the spirit of humility. As a sinner, you are not worthy to look up to God; bow in self-abasement. Sink down before Him in humility, meekness, patience and surrender to His goodness and mercy.

4. Then accept and value your place in Christ Jesus. God delights in His beloved Son and can be satisfied with nothing else in those who draw nigh to Him. Enter deep into God’s holy presence in the boldness that the blood gives and in the assurance that in Christ you are most well pleasing. This is the great object of fellowship with God; that I may have more of God in my life and that God may see Christ formed in me.

5. Christ is a living Person. He loves you with a personal love, and He looks every day for the personal response of your love. Look into His face with trust, till His love shines into your heart. Make His heart glad by telling Him that you love Him. He offers Himself to you as a personal Savior and Keeper from the power of sin.

6. Christ is to be formed in us so that His form or figure – His likeness – can be seen in us. Bow before God until you get some sense of the greatness and blessedness of the work to be carried on by God in you this day. Say to God, “Father, here I am for Thee to give as much in me of Christ’s likeness as I can receive.” The God who revealed Jesus in the flesh and perfected Him will reveal Him in you and perfect you in Him. The Father loves the Son and delights to work out His image and likeness in you.

7. The likeness to Christ consists chiefly in two things – the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). The death of Christ was the consummation of His humility and obedience, the entire giving up of His life to God. In Him we are dead to sin. As we sink down in humility and dependence and entire surrender to God, the power of His death works in us, and we are made conformable to His death. And so we know Him in the power of His resurrection, in the victory over sin, and all the joy and power of the risen life.

8. All this can only be in the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you. Count upon Him to glorify Christ in you. Count upon Christ to increase in you the inflowing of His Spirit. As you wait before God to realize His presence, remember that the Spirit is in you to reveal the things of God. Seek in God’s presence to have the anointing of the Spirit of Christ so truly that your whole life may every moment be spiritual.

9. As you meditate on this wondrous salvation and seek full fellowship with the great and holy God and wait on Him to reveal Christ in you, you will feel how needful the giving up of all is to receive Him. Seek grace to know what it means to live as wholly for God as Christ did. Let every approach to God and every request for fellowship with Him be accompanied by a new, definite and entire surrender to Him to work in you.

10. “By faith” must be the keynote. As you wait before God, let it be in a deep quiet faith in Him, the Invisible One, who is so near, so holy, so mighty, so loving. Just yield yourself in the faith of a perfect trust to the ever-blessed Holy Trinity to work out all God’s purpose in you.

Begin each day thus in fellowship with God, and God will be all in all to you.

Pastors Newsletter – November 2009

As we enter into the month of November, the busyness of the holiday season is already upon us. Before we know it, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be over and it will be 2010! But before I rush the holiday season along too quickly, there are a number of excited things to look forward to at Hope Church over the next 2 months. October’s “Missions Emphasis Month” has helped prepare us for our annual Missions Conference which takes place the 6-8th of this month. I am so excited to see what God teaches us about how we can be better equipped to serve in our mission field of Crawford County and beyond. We will also be continuing our small group study where we work through the book of James on Sunday nights. If you are able to attend our adult Sunday School class, Steve Solinger and myself are teaching on “Biblical Economics.” We hear so much about economics these days but rarely is it from a Biblical perspective. This class is sure to be of interest to you. Also this month, we will be having our Thanksgiving service the Sunday before Thanksgiving, on November 22nd. Sometimes we find ourselves so busy during this time of year that we don’t take the time to reflect on all the blessings of the Lord. We have so much to be thankful for including the joy and delight we have in knowing God. The following Sunday, the season of Advent will commence as we look forward to the celebration of the birth of our King.

As you know, the Bible is central to everything that we do at Hope Church. Our mission statement makes this clear. “Hope Church exists to glorify God by learning, following, and sharing the Word of God and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, both locally and globally, through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. We have some unique opportunities to “share” the Word of God both locally and globally. This past month we purchased 200 Bibles through an organization called the “Bible League” and they will distribute those Bibles in Southeast Asia. What really makes me really excited about this opportunity is that each bible reaches an average of 15 people. That means that thousands of lives will be impacted through our giving. We also purchased another 200 New Testament Bibles that we will distribute locally through an outreach called “The Good News of Christmas.” Along with each New Testament Bible comes an invitation to our Christmas Eve service. I believe this is a great way to reach out to our communities and help provide hope to those who have no hope. Please pray that God would use this outreach opportunity for His great glory. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of those people decided to actually read the Word of God and perhaps even come and visit our Church? Continue to pray that God would use Hope Church as a powerful missionary agent in the surrounding area. We need to be united in our mission to reach the lost and spread the gospel to this world that desperately needs to experience the love of Jesus Christ. I want to encourage you to remember what we’ve been commissioned to do – to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Pastor Dan

Pastors Newsletter – October 2009

I absolutely love the fall in Ohio! It is truly beautiful and I can’t wait to see more of the fascinating colors on the trees that fall brings. I am also excited to see what God does this fall at Hope Church. Our small group starts this month where we will be working through the book of James. This will be a great time of learning and fellowship as we seek to grow together in our knowledge of God. At the end of the month, we will also be having our first Men’s Breakfast, which will be a great time of male bonding. If there is one thing that the world needs today, it is men who are willing to lead their families in a Christ-like way and exemplify Godly character in this ungodly world. The Men’s breakfast will be a great opportunity to talk about such matters. Perhaps the biggest happening at Hope Church this month is missions. I am calling October “Missions Emphasis Month,” as we seek to participate in the mission of God to this world. On October 25th, Brian and Christie Kessler will be speaking at Hope and sharing about their cross-cultural ministry experiences. The following Sunday, I will be preaching a sermon called “Thinking like a Missionary.” This will be in anticipation of our annual mission conference, which takes place November 6-8th, this year. David Holdcraft, a professor from Indiana Wesleyan University will be our featured speaker this year. In years past, we have invited missionaries in to share about their experiences on the mission field and to challenge us to live missional lives as well. This year, we are taking it one step further. In an effort to further encourage us to be the missionaries that God has called every Christian to be, we have invited David Holdcraft in to speak on the theme, Preparing for the Mission Field: Defending the Faith. So often we think of cross-cultural missionaries as the professionals and we are just the amateurs. But that is not what we find in the pages of Scripture. Every Christian is a missionary and our mission field is Crawford County. Let me take this opportunity to remind you of our vision statement. “The vision of Hope Church is to grow and develop followers of Jesus Christ who understand and live their calling as missionaries, spreading God’s love to the world.” As Charles Spurgeon puts it, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” I hope and pray that your will take your missionary calling seriously and seek to bring God glory in all that you do.

The Knowledge of the Holy – by A.W. Tozer

I just finished reading A W Tozer’s classic work, The Knowledge of the Holy. This was the second time I’ve read through this book, but this time, I took it a lot slower and was all the more blessed in doing so. In the book, Tozer is pleading with the reader to know God and have a high view of God. In the preface, Tozer states, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking. With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence.” I am always blown away at how relevant Tozer is for the contemporary church even though he was writing 50 years ago. Tozer proceeds to take the reader through roughly 20 different attributes of God. I was amazed at this man’s knowledge of God and his love for God. If you are looking for something that challenges your thinking about God and at the same time exults the majesty of God, this might be a good book for you to purchase. Here are some of the most memorable quotes from the first and last chapters of the book:

Chapter 1: Why We Must Think Rightly About God

“the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”
“The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably.”
“Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness.”
“The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.”
“We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.”

Chapter 23: The Open Secret

“When viewed from the perspective of eternity, the most critical need of this hour may well be that the Church should be brought back from her long Babylonian captivity and the name of God be glorified in her again as of old.”
“The secret is an open one which the wayfaring man may read. It is simply the old and ever-new counsel: Acquaint thyself with God. To regain her lost power the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God.”
“The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God our Savior.”

“Let me present a brief summary of these conditions as taught by the Bible and repeated through the centuries by the holiest, sweetest saints the world has ever known:

1. First we must forsake our sins
2. Second, there must be an utter committal of the whole life to Christ in faith
3. Third, there must be a reckoning of ourselves to have died unto sin and to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus , followed by a throwing open of the entire personality to the inflow of the Holy Spirit
4. Fourth, we must boldly repudiate the cheap values of the fallen world
5. Fifth, we must practice the art of long and loving meditation upon the majesty of God
6. Sixth, as the knowledge of God becomes more wonderful, greater service to our fellow men will become for us imperative.”

Now, that is simply a taste of what Tozer brings to the table in The Knowledge of the Holy. Hopefully, Tozer has encouraged you today to pursue God like you’ve never pursued Him before. I want to encourage you to dig into the Word of God and discover for yourself the One, True God. Most Christians only have a superficial, surface knowledge of God, but God wants to be known intimately and deeply by His chosen ones. Why not make it your life goal to pursue that knowledge of the holy?

Pastors Newsletter – September 2009

It’s hard to believe but the summer months of June, July, and August have came and went and now we are moving into the fall season. The kids are back at school and the weather is cooling. As is usually the case, the fall is going to be a busy season of activity and I wanted to keep you up to date on what we have planned for September. On September 13th, after church and starting at around 3:00pm, we are having a golf tournament at Valley View Golf Course. This promises to be a great time for all involved. On Sunday, September 20th, we are having a membership meeting from 6:30-8:30pm. Anyone can attend this informational meeting, and especially those who are interested in membership.

In this newsletter, I would like to take this time to remind you of the importance of unity. Let me explain what I mean by that because I am sure it brings many things to mind when you read that. In this context, I am using the word unity to describe a group of people who come together for a common purpose. Our mission as a church is to glorify God, and how that happens is truly remarkable. In the Bible, one of the metaphors that is commonly used is the Body of Christ. There are hundreds of different parts that together form our bodies, but they are all important and each serves a specific purpose. This is instructive because we know that when all the parts come together, you have a healthy, functioning, body. The same is true with the Body of Christ on earth, the Church. If half the parts are not functioning and not being used, you have a sick body that will never perform as it was intended. However, if all the parts are working and functioning together for a common purpose and mission, you will have a very healthy body that accomplishes incredible things. My application for this is quite simple. We need you! We need everyone who is part of this local Body of Christ that is known as Hope Church to come together as one. We must be unified. God has given each one of us Spiritual Gifts and if there are only 15 people out of 50 who use those gifts, we will never be used of God as we could be. So go ahead, find your gift and use it for the glory of God. Jesus Christ desires to live through you by the power of His Holy Spirit and use you. I am so excited about what God is going to do this fall, but keep in mind, we need you!

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Matthew 6:33

The Problem with “The Shack”

I heard about the novel The Shack about a year and a half ago. I was not too interested in reading it at the time because I had dozens of other books on my to-read list and thought it would simply be a waste of time. Well, as an avid follower of the happenings of North American Christianity, it was not too long before I started to hear more and more about The Shack. The success of the book (over 7 million copies sold at this time) eventually forced me to take a closer look. Instead of starting off by reading the book, I surfed the net to see what others were saying about this publishing phenomenon. Most of what I read greatly concerned me. I also listen to Dr. Albert Mohler’s radio program where he devoted one of his episodes to the book. He explained many of his concerns with it and described parts of the book as “blatant heresy.” Well, even after taking a look at what discerning folks were saying about the book, I still did not get around to reading the book for several months. That is until, at the urging of Janet Clabaugh, I finally went down to the local library and took out a copy of The Shack. I was not surprised to find that many aspects of the book disturbed me and even shocked me. Ever since then(4 or 5 months ago), I have been meaning to write a book review on The Shack but have not got around to it. The bottom line with the book is that even though it is a story that has connected with a lot of Christian people, the book is full of heresy. If you do choose to read the book, please be prayerful and discerning as you read it. Some of the heresy is very subtle and hard to spot, so read it carefully!

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

On Dr. Michael Youssef’s website (leadingtheway.org), he lists 13 heresies in The Shack. Here they are:

1. God the Father was crucified with Jesus.

Because God’s eyes are pure and cannot look upon sin, the Bible says that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins (Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 27:45).

2. God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice.

The Bible declares that God’s love and His justice are two sides of the same coin — equally a part of the personality and the character of God (Isaiah 61:8; Hosea 2:19).

3. On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless.

Jesus explained that only those who come to Him will be saved (John 14:6).

4. Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil.

Our God is a God of order (Job 25:2).

5. God will never judge people for their sins.

The Word of God repeatedly invites people to escape from the judgment of God by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-3).

6. There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity.

The Bible says that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. This doesn’t mean that one Person is higher or better than the other; just unique. Jesus said, “I came to do the will of Him who sent me. I am here to obey my Father.” Jesus also said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit” (John 4:34, 6:44, 14:26, 15:26).

7. God submits to human wishes and choices.

Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us (Matthew 7:13-15).

8. Justice will never take place because of love.

The Bible teaches that when God’s love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing (Matthew 12:20; Romans 3:25-26).

9. There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell.

Jesus’ own description of hell is vivid … it cannot be denied (Luke 12:5, 16:23).

10. Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn’t matter which way you get to Him.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

11. Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us.

Jesus, who dwells in the splendor of heaven, sits at the right hand of God, reigning and ruling the universe. The Bible says, “In Him there is no change, for He is yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 11:12, 13:8; James 1:17).

12. There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven.

Jesus said, “Only those who believe in me will have eternal life” (John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40).

13. The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper.

The Bible is God-breathed. Sure, there were many men through 1,800 years who put pen to paper (so to speak), each from different professions and different backgrounds, but the Holy Spirit infused their work with God’s words. These men were writing the same message from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to read more about the place of Christ in the Scripture, read “We Preach Christ” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Pastors Newsletter – August 2009

It is hard to believe that July has already come and gone, but as we look back on the month that was, we once again see God’s faithfulness. At our annual Ice Cream Social, more than 200 people from around our area came through the doors of Hope Church and feasted on the food and ice cream. No doubt many of those people do not know the joy of the Lord and we will continue to pray that God would use the people of our church to reach them. Later on in the month, we had a special service at the Crawford County fair, which was also well attended. Please pray that God would continue to expand the reach of the ministry of Hope Church in order that many more would come to delight in our great God and King and follow Jesus wherever He leads us.

As we look ahead to August, we are excited about our Lowmiller’s pond service on the 16th and Kid’s Day on the 30th. Please consider inviting friends and family members to these events. For Kid’s day, a familiar face will be joining us (that being Walt Keib) and we are praying that many kids from around the area will also join us for that special day. The fall is also fast approaching. Before we know it, the kids will be back in school and the summer will be over (sorry if that’s depressing to you). We will also have many exciting things going on in the fall and I pray that God would use them mightily and for His great glory.

As often as I can, I try to remind us of our mission as a church:

“Hope Church exists to glorify God by learning, following, and sharing the Word of God and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, both locally and globally, through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.”

This little statement, communicates a tremendous amount. First off, we are here for God. It’s not about us – we are intended for God and exist to bring Him glory. Secondly, the Word of God is central to all that we do as a church. If this ever ceases to be the reality at Hope, we will die as a church. Thirdly, we desire to spread the gospel message all over this area, and to the far reaches of the world. Finally, the only way any of this can be accomplished is through the power of the Holy Spirit. May you have a wonderful month and stay close to the Lord Jesus.