Highland Park Baptist Church

“Are you not of more value than they?”

August 6th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on “Are you not of more value than they?”)

vsco_0I had the opportunity to go Up North this past weekend to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was an absolutely incredible experience. Places like northern Michigan are places where I can’t help but think about our Creator. Spending all that time taking in the vast beauty of the lakes and dunes it’s nearly impossible to not stand in awe of Him. It seems as though everything is a reflection of Him and it is so easy to see Him in everything.

At one point during my exploration of the Sleeping Bear Dunes I walked to the very bottom of one of the dunes where I reached the edge of the water of Lake Michigan, which might I add was quite cold. I then turned around looked back up the daunting dune I had just descended. After seeing that sight I did what any smart person would do… avoid the climb as long as possible. So I decided to walk down the shoreline.

The walk was long, not because of the distance but because of all the unbelievable rocks along the shore. It seemed that every step led me to a pile of incredibly beautiful stones. I could have taken 5 steps and looked for hours, just to take 5 more steps with seemingly thousands of more stones. As I looked up and saw miles upon miles of sandy lakeshore I could only imagine how many stones were actually there, each incredibly beautiful and unique.

After a couple of hours I walked back towards the dune to make my ascent. On the seemingly never-ending climb to the top I could not stop thinking about the stones: the miles and miles of stones. God specifically designed and created each one individually, and they were all so beautiful. Then I began thinking of how much more creativity and thought went into creating me. Matthew 6 tells us that God values us more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Ephesians 1:4 states that he chose us before the foundation of the world. That means that he was thinking about you before he created every single one of those stones on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Luke 12:5 tells us that he values us more than he values many sparrows and knows the number of hairs on our heads!

He knows and loves you more than anything else. You were designed perfectly in His image just the way He wants you. He was thinking about you before the foundation and creation of anything else. And on top of all that He sent his son as a propitiation for your sin (1 John 4:10). We truly serve a God who loves us.

Jeremy Einem

Student Ministries

Dead to Alive

July 25th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Dead to Alive)

There is a good chance that you have heard a story or two about people who claim to have been to heaven and back. Television news and book publishers always seem to latch on to anyone who claims they have seen “the great white light” as they were pronounced dead and then miraculously brought back to life.

While I really don’t have much to say about the validity of these claims, I do know that it is an absolutely captivating story. Of course people flock to anyone with a story of what its like to be dead and then alive again! Its what the whole world is asking!

What’s amazing is that if you are a Christian, this is part of your story. You get to tell people about what its like to go from dead to alive. This happened to you.

The scripture that talks about this is overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful! So much so, that I am just going to get out of the way and let you read it for yourself and let the Spirit speak this truth to you. But before I do, can I challenge you to not just let this encourage you (although I hope it does), but also allow it to encourage those around you? Your testimony is one of the most captivating stories of all time. You went from dead to alive. That is a miracle.

Romans 6:1-6 ” What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

Luke 15:24 (Parable of the prodigal son) “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

Ephesians 2:1-7 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 2:13-15 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

-Brantley Vosler

Stumin Worship Director

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

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

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

Love Does

May 30th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Love Does)

I was recently in a meeting with someone who I seriously respect. Beforehand, my brain was in a fog – I was so excited and expectant about the meeting that I walked right into the men’s restroom (luckily, no one was in there, so it wasn’t that embarrassing. Except now I just told all of you, so now it’s a little embarrassing). This guy lives his life on a very public platform – so there’s a pretty substantial part of himself that he divulges to the world. But on a personal level, we don’t know each other really at all. Up until this point, we had only interacted through a few phone calls and emails. But because of what I knew about him, I was sure that at least our conversation would be hilarious and interesting.

We ended up chatting for about 2 hours. I was right about the hilarious and interesting part – this guy has the most outrageous stories and tells them in an incredibly engaging way. What was so special, though, is that sprinkled throughout the funny stories and outrageous situations was deep and profound truth. I was sad that I couldn’t whip out my phone and take notes, but that would have probably been a little awkward… and rude.

At one point in the conversation he looked over at me and said, “You strike me as someone who loves extravagantly.” Remember, he doesn’t know me – so he can’t really know that, right? And my natural reaction was to reject that – because obviously I can always be better, I can always love more – and I want to always be growing in that (and also, it feels weird to be like, “yeah, I’m awesome at that!). But he didn’t just say it to say it; it wasn’t just an off the cuff comment. I know that because loving more – loving God and loving people – is something that God and me have been seriously working through. I pray about loving people better all the time.  This guy obviously didn’t know all this background I’m letting you in on. But, he allowed God to speak truth through him. And in that moment, I didn’t reject it. And by God’s grace, in that moment, I had the clarity to recognize that his words were actually God’s. He was God’s microphone, speaking truth into my life. It was like God was saying, “Keep going! I see you! Keep letting my love flow through you!” But more than that, it also communicated God’s deep love for me – that he cared enough about me to put this little thought into this stranger’s brain to encourage me.

I’m learning a lot through this. When I think about God speaking through people, my mind immediately connects to Old Testament prophets. That seems a little out of my league. But being connected to God and speaking truth isn’t antiquated, obviously! And there’s so much power in it, endless power really. There’s a lot of chatter that happens in relationships – and there’s a lot of distractions vying for our attention (but that’s for another blog post!). I pray we are people so connected & listening to God that it becomes second nature to allow his truth to flow in love from us. And that it actually flows! That we act – that we say what the Holy Spirit is prompting us to say. That we respond the way the Holy Spirit is prompting us to respond. It’s one thing to just think it; lets take the next step – say it!

I am deeply loved. YOU are deeply loved. How is God using the people in your life as his mouthpiece to communicate His love? And how does He want to use you as a microphone to communicate love and truth into someone else’s life? Don’t just think about it, act on it. Love does.

Katie Williams

High School Director

Invited and Welcomed

May 14th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Invited and Welcomed)

 “Then the King will say to those on his right…. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

I know I could quote from memory all of the actions surrounding this portion of Matthew 25:35-36. I remember the parts about prison visits, and about clothing the naked, and providing food for the hungry, and visiting the sick. But I would bet that if I skipped one of these it would most definitely be, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

That one doesn’t really fit the bunch. All the other ones seem way more epic. They all seem like they are meeting basic human needs when people are in desperate situations. Welcoming a stranger seems kind of average. Yet, it is right there amongst the others.

There have been few times in my life when I can remember being a complete stranger somewhere and feeling welcomed. I have been invited to places plenty of times and that feels pretty good to be invited. But once I arrived I have rarely felt welcomed. I have rarely felt like I belonged with people that I was a stranger to.

I can, however, remember as clear as day the times that I have been welcomed amongst strangers. I will never forget the first time I went to a particular church gathering in Chicago. I sat down for dinner with 10 people who I didn’t know and had never met before. I can’t explain exactly how they did it but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I belonged. They asked me question after question about who I was and what was going on in my life. Then they listened. By the end of that dinner I was literally sharing my deepest burdens and asking for prayer.

What happened? I had no idea at the time. I had only known them for 1 hour! But I was welcomed. I knew I belonged.

It is my hope that this is something that HPBC is known for. Not for our own glory or our own credit but because this is a way to love like Jesus and give Him glory.

We may not have a ton of people walking through our doors that are going to prison, or need clothing or are hungry (although we must be seeking those people out). But it is a guarantee that we have people who are wondering if they belong.

Most people know that they are always invited to church. But do they know they are welcomed? Do they know that they are invited, not just to a service, but to our own family?

It is our call to show them that they are.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” -Matthew 25:40

-Brantley Vosler

Stumin Worship Director

Tragedy Amplifies Our Platform (Part 2)

April 16th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Tragedy Amplifies Our Platform (Part 2))

The beginning of my day today started like any other. I generally rush around for the first half hour until I make it to my car and begin to actually process real thoughts. As should have been expected, I immediately began to process yesterday’s events at the Boston marathon. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I couldn’t help but watch the live footage of the explosions yesterday. Something like that doesn’t just go away after a nights sleep.

I was reminded of this quote from Brian Atkins blog from last week. “Tragedy
amplifies our platform. It adds a megaphone to our message.”

The hashtag spread like wildfire on twitter and instagram yesterday to #prayforboston. Christians and non-christians alike were in unison. The call was to turn to God for comfort and peace and to ask Him for help. I haven’t checked but I am guessing that earlier in the day yesterday there weren’t anywhere near the amount of conversations about God and prayer as there were after the explosions.

The reality is that people are reminded of their humanity. People remember that if they want they can live a life in fear.

The fear of anything but God is the antithesis of our message. This gives us the platform, the stage and the microphone. This gives us an opportunity to shout the Gospel. We get to enter in the conversation with the joy of saying that there is a God that is love and that He offers hope and forgiveness for free.

Making sure we are preaching forgiveness for all might be our best shot in times like this to stand out from the noise of what most people are saying. Many will put their hope in the FBI trying to catch the people behind the explosions. This is not our hope. We have real hope because of forgiveness. And forgiveness is offered equally to the people who committed the crime as it is to us.

Today is a day to enter the conversation. Whether it be at work, at school, or wherever. The freedom, salvation, hope, and forgiveness of God needs to be talked about. You are the perfect person to do it because you have been given all of these things.

-Brantley Vosler

Student Ministries Worship

God Always Is

April 12th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on God Always Is)

Most people tend to define themselves based on their past or their future. If you spend an hour with little kids they will tell you all the things they want to be when they grow up. When you spend time with high school students they will tell you where they want to go to college and what they want to study. When you spend 10 minutes in a room with middle-aged men they constantly relive the glory moments of their athletic careers. When you spend time in a nursing home you hear stories of first loves, news-headline events, and wedding days. We as people almost always define who we are based on what we have accomplished, done in the past, or what our future goals are. We rarely think about who we are in the present.

This thinking seems to roll over into our spiritual lives as well. Revelation 1:8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,” who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” When thinking about God a lot of times we think about Him as the Alpha. It’s easy to think about Him as the Creator of all things, who at some point in time created everything in the past.

It’s also easy to think about Jesus as a character or person of the past. He was born to Mary, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, and ascended into heaven. All of that happened 2,000 years ago which makes it easy for us to associate Jesus strictly with the past.

On the other hand, it is also easy for us to think about God as the Omega. We tend to think of Him as the God that we will one day meet in a perfect heaven. Or we think of Him as becoming more real as we pass from this earth to our eternal life.

It’s also easy to think of Jesus as a future character or person. He is the one who will come again on some day that no one knows in the future. His return is what all believers look forward to.

Focusing on these aspects of God is a very good thing and very necessary. However, it seems as though it is easy to forget that God “is.” It’s easy to remember that God was, and it is easy to remember that God is to come, but in our everyday life it is so important to remember that God “is” right now and with us.

Being a follower of Jesus is not only believing he lived and that he will come again. It is also about following Him every day of our lives. Our focus needs to be on Him in the present as we walk through every situation. It is so crucial to remember that in the times where it seems as though things are falling apart, God “is.” He is with us and present. It is vital to remember that when everything seems to be going well or easy that He still “is”.

There is nothing more encouraging than knowing that we are able to have a relationship with a God who is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9). That means that in every single situation He is there with us.

So as people who find it very easy to think about the past or the future, it is so important for us to remember that God is also always present. He is present in every situation: good or bad. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that we serve an all-powerful God who promises to never leave our side. It is incredible that we serve a God who always is, and will always be with us no matter what we are going through.

Jeremy Einem

High School Director

Clear the Stage

March 18th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Clear the Stage)

Music is a gift. It will always be a mystery to me how and why it moves people to experience beauty and truth. It engages peoples hearts and minds in a way that is totally unique. It is because of this power that it has been abused. People have used it and worshipped it until it has lost its purpose and its power altogether.

I would know because I am a recovering music addict. There is a strong to very strong chance that I have a bigger iTunes library than you. I’m the guy that will make you listen to a ten minute song uncomfortably loud and have no idea that you checked out eight minutes ago because my eyes are closed and I am air drumming.

When I was young I was gifted with the ability to play music and the people around me affirmed that gift and before I knew it I was on stage’s every week. This was a good thing because I was using gift’s for Gods’ glory and fighting the battle in my heart that people would see Jesus and not me on that stage.

But somewhere along the line I stopped fighting as hard. I let the gift become my god.

So many of us have done this with so many things. It’s the new and better disguised idolatry. Instead of elevating golden statues we elevate things that are good but are not ultimate. It leads to a life that is loveless, joyless, and unsatisfying. 

Every gift from God is meant to be given back to Him in obedience and worship. This is where love, and joy and satisfaction is found.

What we really need is this verse to be true of us.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:23-24 ESV)

-Brantley Vosler

Student Ministries Worship Director

ps… Come see Jimmy Needham this Sunday @ HPBC !