Highland Park Baptist Church
Header

Summer: A Time of Transitions

June 28th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Brian - (Comments Off on Summer: A Time of Transitions)

The summer is a big transition time in student ministries.  We welcome our new sixth grade class, pass our new freshmen up to high school and say goodbye to our exiting seniors.  I’ve been around for quite a few summers now and one of the things I have learned is that transitions are typically difficult.

Transitions tend to be hard because they involve two things that make us uncomfortable; change and the unknown.

Change is usually hard and the unknown is often scary.  Most of us would rather just stay where we are, where it is comfortable and familiar, but transitions are a part of life.

In the past couple weeks I have talked to parents who are transitioning into becoming empty nesters, a more seasoned saint transitioning into assisted living, a family learning how to live after the loss of a loved one, a recent college graduate looking for employment, and a friend who is changing jobs.

Change is everywhere.

But so is God.

When you find yourself in the middle of a transition, trying to hold tight to what you know instead of jumping into the unknown let me encourage you.

When life is changing too fast, remember that He is unchanging.

When the unknown is scary, remember that it is not unknown to Author of Life…who knows you intimately and loves you deeply.

He goes before and beside us.  He helps in the times of transition, change, and the unknown.

Transitions will come and Jesus will walk us through each one. We would love to hear how God has been faithful to you through transitions, tell us a story of God’s faithfulness during transition in the comment section.  Let’s encourage each other.

-Brian Atkins

Director of Student Ministries

Give Me A Break

June 24th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Dave - (Comments Off on Give Me A Break)

It’s officially summer – and all God’s people said, amen!  (I know there are some parents of school aged children who aren’t nearly that enthusiastic).

Sometimes we do need to get away from the routines, sameness, pressures and intense responsibilities of day to day life – for awhile at least.   And, if nothing else, summer schedules provide a welcome break up to the monotony and regularity of our typical schedules. Just the fact that it stays light outside until after 9:00pm – what a gift!

So let’s take a break.  How about (1) standing outside in the early morning or early evening to simply enjoy the beauty of God’s creation – listen, look, smell, silently praise.  No need to even dress up for this occasion.  Take a break, and . . .  (2) talk to your neighbors who tend to stay inside all winter, like we all do.  Be attentive to their stories, and the potential of a need in their life that you could assist. Take a break, and . . . (3) get some outdoor exercise – walking, working around the house, shop in places other than indoor malls.  Take a break, and . . . (4) focus on family, relationships, and farm fresh food.  After all, everything on TV is a rerun.  Baseball is best enjoyed at the ballpark – not in a living room.  The selection of Michigan grown products at this time of year is plentiful and delicious.

Taking a break from the routines of day to day life can be extremely refreshing.

More and more, though, the need for a break is being used as the reason for a summer sabbatical from being active in church.  After all, what better time than these summer weeks to make alternative Sunday plans?

So what about a break from church?

We only take a break from church if the church is a building, a location, a destination, or a weekly routine of coming and going.  Remember, we are the church.  We are followers of Christ who gather regularly for worship, encouragement, learning, growing, and serving – together.  Our life in Christ is just that – our life.  And gathering with God’s people is an expression of our life in Him.

We certainly wouldn’t consider taking a break from our walk with Christ.  Our passion for worship, encouragement, growing in Him and serving – is constant.  If who we are in Christ is the core of our identity, then taking a break is not an option.

So, as we all take a much needed break this summer, let’s use it to stretch ourselves toward furthering our walk with Christ – not taking a break.  Let’s keep up with the Bible reading assignments for the Cover to Cover series.  How about reading that Christian growth resource that sits on your shelf, or desk, or nightstand?  Would you consider getting involved in a ministry that is outside your typical commitment – like the upcoming Fun Fair in August?  Be looking for unique opportunities to give away and serve others – like our teams are doing this summer on their various mission trips.

Whatever we do this summer to take a break, let’s celebrate the change of pace, but at the same time remain fully engaged as a follower of Jesus, a member of His Church, and an essential part of His Body.  We are never given permission to take a break in the development of our life in Him.

David Borror

Ministry Administration

Your Image of Jesus

June 20th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Your Image of Jesus)

I am not a science or math person, but I wish I were. I can’t even pretend to be a math person. If you ask me to calculate a number for you, I would consider it a small miracle if I got it right. So save me the embarrassment and let’s leave the calculating to the calculators. And math people.

I’m a history and English person. I may regret saying that because you might judge my grammar and sentence structure more harshly now. But that’s okay… just be gracious in your critique J.

Because I’m bent this way, I love that Jesus talks in metaphors and imagery. The only time I’ve ever taught a series, I did a 6-week study for my college internship on the “I AM” statements in John.  I loved diving into the fullness of what the different statements mean and how greater perspective is gained by drawing similarities. Like in John 10:9, I can connect better to what Jesus is saying because I understand the function of a door. As a door lets allows us to enter into a room, Jesus is the one who allows us to enter into heaven – really basic but absolutely profound.

I was having a conversation with a friend about 6 months ago, and he was telling me that his most cherished image of God was God as Father. His relationship with his own father is strained, and to know God in that specific role resonates so deeply in his soul. Images and metaphors throughout the Bible aren’t always explicitly stated as obviously as “I am…” but they’re everywhere (sometimes carried through entire books)! I think understanding what our favorite image of Jesus is gives us some insight into ourselves.

In college, I was walking through a season of life that was particularly difficult and emotionally draining. I met regularly with a mentor and during this period she encouraged me to spend significant time in my journal, writing or doodling, as a release for my stress and emotions. There was one day in particular that instead of writing something new, I turned back to old entries and scanned through pages. On the bottom edge of a random page I read, “at the right time, God will rescue you” in my own handwriting. I don’t remember when I wrote it, I don’t even remember writing it. But it was in this moment that I understood truth I had known for years in a new way – God is the one who is fighting for me.

My circumstances are not for me to try and control, worry over or manipulate. He is the one working out my salvation (Philippians 2:12-13), making me new (Revelation 21:5), and carrying me to completion (Philippians 1:6). I’ve spent (and still spend!) a lot of time & energy trying to fight for myself. As I walked through this season in my life, I was so guarded against everything – even Christ – because I was scared of getting hurt or getting in too deep. When I came across that particular quote at that moment, I felt as though I was allowed the space to breath and to release. He is trustworthy. He is sovereign. He will rescue me. He is fighting for me.

It’s been since then that I have held closely to the image of Christ as a Mighty Warrior. I cling to Psalm 24:8 “Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!” He fights for me; I don’t have to fight for myself. There is insurmountable freedom found here. Not only does He fight my “battles” for me but also He is fighting for my soul and for my affections. To be loved and to be fought for – two deep desires of my soul completely satisfied in Christ.

What’s your favorite image of Christ? What insight does this give into your own heart?

-Katie Williams

Student Ministries

Jesus in the Suburbs – Part 1

June 18th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Derrick - (Comments Off on Jesus in the Suburbs – Part 1)

A year and half ago my wife and I were discussing moving our family from the suburbs of Farmington Hills into the city of Detroit. We even talked with friends about moving as well. We were enthralled with the idea of pouring into people’s lives in the “City.” I had this vision of ministry at HPBC coupled with ministry out of our house in the city of Detroit. We were both excited about this and started to pursue this endeavor in prayer.

After spending months of prayer over this, God abruptly changed my point of view and gave me a spiritual kick in the pants. Here we were a young family ready to do anything for the Lord and move…. yet God just began to break my heart over the lostness of the neighborhood I was already living in. We had formed some great relationships with the 6-7 families around us. We have poured into them, showed them Jesus, and loved on them.

God renewed my calling to people! Not to a place, not to a particular social stratosphere, not to something “new” and possibly dangerous, but to PEOPLE! We had built into the lives of some very lost families. They trust us completely and confide in us. They know we are genuine, even mentioning to us they have never experienced a “Christian” family like us. I even had one of my neighbors say, “I have a great wife, great kids, plenty of money in the bank, and yet I don’t have happiness….. I want what you and your family have.” And here I was ready to walk away from these relationships for something new, something that was kind of the cool thing to do at my age. God really changed my heart.

Let me remind all of us, Jesus Christ came to die for everyone (1 John 2:2). Yes, everyone, the poor, the oppressed, the middle class, and the rich. They ALL need Jesus. No matter where you might be located, remember God has you there for a reason…. Ministry! Tell others about Jesus and live out the Gospel in front of them. Win them to Christ or at the least show them Jesus in your life.

Take your calling as a child of God seriously. Love on those around you and make Jesus known. If you have not developed relationships with the people around you, I challenge you to do that. Your opportunity to shine Jesus light is great. People want to be friends with authentic, trustworthy people. Be that person to your neighbors. Show them Jesus!

Derrick Jackson

Music & Worship

* There is another important scriptural truth to this story that I will write about in my next blog. 

Who Are The Real Christians and Who Are The Fakes?

June 13th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Who Are The Real Christians and Who Are The Fakes?)

It seems like the whole world is asking this question. 73-76% of Americans claim to be Christians. But most people look around and easily notice that not a lot of people are looking like the Jesus they know or have heard about. Fingers are being pointed in every direction. Sweeping generalizations of different denominations of Christianity are being made. And dividing lines are created to try and disassociate from the “fakes.”

But this conversation is happening way more than just nationally and has become more than just a denominational debate. It happens within our church walls and within our own hearts.

I was confronted with this recently with some of our students. It didn’t take long for it to be obvious that many of the students believed that a great deal of the other students were “fakes.” While I was really uncomfortable with using this language, I appreciated the students honesty. What they wanted was authenticity and what they were seeing in culture was quite the opposite.

With adults, I think we use different language and hopefully we aren’t as quick to judge, but the core issue is still the same.

A couple weeks ago, in Derrick Jackson’s message called “Where’s the Proof?” He gave some great guidelines for this discussion. He says, “to find the proof of our own relationship with God we must ask ourselves each of these three questions with understanding. Do we understand sin? Do we lovingly obey? Are we committed to the truth of love? This is a good litmus test to let you know if you are real… OR it lets you know if you are a pretender.”

As I was sitting listening to Derrick talk I noticed a tendency of my heart that I am slightly embarrassed to talk about. Although, I would imagine I’m not alone in this. I noticed that I was not asking these questions of myself. I was asking them for everyone else in the room and in the world. I was exactly like the students I had encountered who were really just more open about it than I was. As Derrick talked I was getting wrongfully excited about the “calling out” of these pretenders when in reality, he wasn’t calling out anyone. He was just asking us to ask better questions about our own hearts.

What I have come to realize is that asking, “Who are the real Christians and who are the fakes?” is the wrong thing to be asking. Its wrong because its absolutely impossible to answer by us.

One good litmus test in 1 John 2:9 for being a believer is loving your brother. “Whoever says he is in the light, and hates His brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”

When I accuse someone of being a pretender or a fake I am essentially accusing someone of not belonging to the family of God. I couldn’t imagine accusing my own brother of not belonging to my family. That is as far away from love as it gets. Plus, even if he is somehow secretly not part of my family, he is constantly invited to be a part of my family because my father loves him. In the same way, it is our heavenly Father who is inviting everyone to belong to His family out of His love.

In Ephesians 1:5, Paul writes, “In love He predestined us for ADOPTION as sons through Jesus Christ.”

If anything our call is to tell people that they are invited by God to be adopted into the family of God. When we start to decide ourselves who is in and who isn’t and at the same time claiming to be spokespeople for God, we become the very definition of hypocrites. God is the only good and righteous judge. Lets trust in that and rest in that. We will find much more freedom and peace in pursuing our calling to love our neighbor and brother instead.

-Brantley Vosler

Student Ministries Worship

The Value of Spiritual Disciplines

June 12th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Jimmy - (Comments Off on The Value of Spiritual Disciplines)

Many would agree the topic of discipline is never hugely popular in any area of discussion. However, the loathing of discipline often reaches an entirely new level when it comes to spiritual matters. I believe we often react this way because of our tendency to quickly marry spiritual discipline and legalism. And while there’s no question destructive results do occur when spiritual discipline is motivated by legalism, we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Why? Because many times we use the excuse of legalism to avoid the practice of any discipline at all, when in reality we’re just too lazy. Instead, we ignore the opportunity for growth that such discipline creates, because to quote Thomas Edison, “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

However, we must remember the exercise of spiritual disciplines is never to earn greater favor with God. Children of God already receive such favor and grace from God’s unmerited love in Christ.  But, what the practice of discipline does provide is a method to respond to the calling on our lives to walk in His ways and pursue a life worthy of our calling. Therefore, spiritual disciplines alone should never be the goal, but instead should assist us in striving towards the goal of Christlikeness and glorifying God. In fact, the more disciplined we become, the greater our awareness should be of our own sinfulness, thus magnifying our great need for Christ.

Jimmy Smith

Young Adults

Pray On!

June 11th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Dave K - (Comments Off on Pray On!)
How can we pray for our missionaries? We want to uphold them in prayer but we don’t always know how. David Sitton, missionary and founder of To Every Tribe (Mission agency focused on the unreached peoples of the world) offers this helpful guide: 
 

Helpful Hints On How To Pray Effectively For Your Missionaries

“I urge you brother, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of
the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”
Romans 15:30

Spiritual Life:
…That we will take sufficient time to read, reflect and pray
…That we would be protected from dark forces in spiritual realms
…For our spiritual growth and personal renewal
…That we would be encouraged and experience joy in ministry
…That we will be men and women of integrity, reliability, humility, wisdom
and consistency
…That we would maintain a healthy sense of humor

Personal Life:
…That our marital relationships will remain strong
…That the social, emotional and spiritual needs of our children are cared for
…That our basic financial requirements are regularly met
…That we would be protected from physical sickness
…That we will find time for proper sleep, rest and exercise
…That we would be self-disciplined
…That we will experience God’s protection from accidents, crime, terrorists
and dangerous animals

Relationships:
…That we would experience harmonious relationships with other Christians
…That our team would experience unity, love, good communication and patience with one another
…That we would develop intimate friendships with our national brothers
and sisters
…That we will resist temptations toward jealousy, envy, bitterness and pride

Language Proficiency:

…That we would make steady progress in language studies
…That God would give us grace to adapt well to new cultures and customs
…That God would give us clarity, creativity and relevance in preaching
and teaching

Evangelism And Discipleship:
…That we would be fearless and bold to preach Christ and Him crucified
…That we would be lead by the Holy Spirit as to where we go
…That God would give us supernatural discernment and wisdom
…That God would begin preparing hearts in advance for the message
…That God will open a door for His message and that it would spread rapidly
…That God would establish His Church in new regions
…That disciples and church leaders would be fully trained
…That God would raise up national missionaries
…That God would be honored and praised through our ministry

Countries:
…Pray for those in government positions
…For religious freedom
…That we would have favor with government officials
…That we would be granted swift approval in our visa applications. 

 
“The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”  ~Jonathan Edwards
 
Whether it is this prayer guide or another one, let’s continue to faithfully uphold our missionary family across the globe!
-Dave Kuntzman
Missions and Business

Sideline Satisfaction

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Sideline Satisfaction)

When a professional sports team wins a championship they are then given trophies or medals in some sort of ceremony. Often times, when watching those ceremonies I notice just how many players are on that team that have always been on the sideline and never made it into a game. Being on a championship team is a large accomplishment in itself, but it is interesting that some players are awarded a trophy for cheerleading from the sideline, and never getting into the game to make a play.

However, it seems that we are often very content with this type of mentality in our spiritual lives. We are excited that we are on the winning team. We are thankful for God’s grace and acceptance into his family, but we are so often content with staying on the sidelines!

This is often reflected in our prayer lives. So often we pray in a “cheerleader” type of way. We pray for God to do something incredible rather than being part of the play, and asking for God to use us. There are many times that people pray for God to to save other people, which in itself is a great prayer! But they are praying for God to make an incredible play, while they are watching on the sideline. They are not praying for God to use them to make an incredible play.

In Acts 4, believers had just been released from prison, which they were arrested for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If there was ever a time to want to be on the sideline of the game, cheering for God to do things on his own, this was it! However, we see the believers pray, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (4:29). The believers were not simply praying for God to save people, they were praying to be used by God to save people. They wanted to be part of the play!

God did not create us to sit on the sidelines, but often our prayers reflect that mindset. He created us as His workmanship designed to love others and make disciples (Ephesians 2:10, Luke 10:27, Matthew 28:19). We are familiar with the saying, “There is no “I” in team.” This saying is popular because the responsibility and work needs to be shared. But a lot of times we are very content with there being no “I” in our prayers because we are content with God doing all the work. It is easier to pray for God to do something, rather than praying for God to equip us to do something. It’s a lot easier to pray for God to save the grumpy next-door neighbor, then to pray for God to use us in the life of the grumpy next-door neighbor. It is a lot easier to pray for God to surround someone who is hurting with a community of people that will love him or her instead of praying for an opportunity for us to love him or her.

Are there situations in your life where you have been cheering for God to do something because it’s easier than being involved yourself? Let’s not let our prayer lives reflect a complacent attitude of sideline satisfaction. Let’s pray for boldness so that when God is ready to run a play, we are ready to be in the game.

-Jeremy Einem

High School Director

Godliness With Contentment

June 6th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Brent - (Comments Off on Godliness With Contentment)

We all want to do something that really counts; something that produces benefit both for us and for others.  Even more than that, as disciples, we want to live in such a way as to bring honor to our Lord.  I’ve been thinking about that recently.  How do I know that my life is really producing something that counts?

We strive for excellence, but what if we are doing the wrong thing?  What if we are investing in the wrong place?  What if we are working hard at something that doesn’t really count?

Paul told Timothy that there is real gain in godliness, when it is coupled with contentment.  So often we think of godliness as rigid, ascetic, and stoic living.  But godliness refers to living by God’s standard; living God’s way.  To do this, we follow Jesus.  We go where He goes.  We speak as He speaks.  We love as He loves.  We act as He acts.  Jesus perfectly matched His Father’s standards.  So when we follow Him, we begin to walk in godliness.

But the necessary corollary to godliness is contentment.  We’ve all known people who strive for holiness, but are sour and dour.  Our God is not like that!  He is the one who created joy and laughter.  You see, contentment is found when we are confident of sufficiency.  So it is one thing for God to be content because He is self-sufficient.  But we are not.  So where does contentment come from?  It comes from knowing that when we are in Christ, our sufficiency is God.  It is not in bank accounts or in houses and lands.  Contentment never comes from having everything we want, or from having everything our society tells us we should have to gain others’ respect.  Contentment comes from Him.  He is all we need.  He is our reward.  When we follow Jesus, we walk in godliness.  When we live in Christ, we find contentment.  Godliness with contentment is great gain.

Brent Slater

Senior Pastor

Engagement

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on Engagement)

Right now I am at a very unique time in my life.  Four months ago, I asked my now fiancée (then girlfriend) to be my wife.  The excitement and joy was incredible!  As we stood on a bridge over a river after she said “Yes!”, the symbolism of the bridge captured the moment.  Just like the bridge, engagement isn’t the destination; it’s the time between dating and marriage.  “Betrothal” they used to call it, “a mutual promise or contract for a future marriage”.  Marriage is the intention and marriage is the focus.

What took me a couple months to fully realize are the incredible parallels engagement has with my relationship with Jesus.  As a Church (capital “C” in “Church” meaning the universal, worldwide church), we are betrothed, engaged to Jesus.  There is a “mutual promise or contract for a future marriage” between the Church and Jesus.  We are his and he has promised to return and take us home to be with him.

Something that’s really fun about engagement is getting to tell everyone “It’s official!  We’re getting married!”  And let me tell you, no one forces me to talk about my bride-to-be or to tell the story of our engagement.  I love talking about her and telling the story!  At this point in our engagement, there is almost no one that we know that doesn’t know about our engagement and future marriage.  This is such a challenge to me as I think about my relationship with Jesus.  Is there overflowing evidence of my love and relationship with Jesus?  Of all the people I know, how many of them know about how much joy my relationship with Jesus brings?  Something else about engagement is the time.  There a limited amount of time to prepare everything for the marriage.  Sometimes it feels as if it’s flying by.  Sometimes it feels as if that day will never get here.  Regardless, every day has this anticipation, this excitement, the feeling that “Marriage is one day closer!”  Am I applying that same perspective to my relationship with the soon-coming Christ?  Do I find myself feeling “Christ’s return is one day closer!  Our union with Jesus is coming soon!”?  I know there are times I can’t help wishing that Christ would come back sooner.

What’s the difference between the two, between my engagement to Sarah and our betrothal to Christ?  I know the exact date, time, and location at which our engagement will end and we can plan and prepare accordingly.  With Jesus, we must live every day as if it was that day: the day we will be reunited with him for eternity.  For just as I gave my fiancée a ring as a symbol of the promise of our coming marriage, Jesus has given us “the promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49) so that the world will know that we belong to him.  Now we wait, with great anticipation, for that day when he takes us home.

-Brad McCarthy

Missions