Friday, November 6, 2015

DID YOU KNOW? Nov. 2015

    Another month has flown by and here we are, looking Thanksgiving square in the face!  How does it happen so quickly?  Months just seem to fly off the calendar like falling leaves.  Ah well, at least we’ve had enough rain to safely say that fire season is, pretty much, behind us….The month of October has been very busy at Hilltop Chapel.  We started the month with our Helping Hands meeting at the home of Craig & Paula Aliano with Paula as our hostess.  Pastor Rod led us in Bible study from the book of II Thessalonians, followed by a delicious potluck lunch with even more delicious desserts and, finally, a beautiful devotional from Paula, followed by a short (reasonably) business meeting….We said goodbye to a dear friend as Bunny Stockebrand moved to Santa Barbara to be closer to her daughter and take up residence in a very nice retirement community.  She seems quite contented in her new surroundings, but we know she misses us.  If you’d like to keep in touch, Donna Symons has all of Bunny’s address information….Pastor Rod officiated at a memorial service for Don Hall, who was a lifetime resident of Dunlap, principal of Dunlap School, and civic leader.  Nearly 400 people attended Don’s service and the gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed loud & clear!  The family graciously hosted a large number of mourners at their ranch for a barbeque and healthy dose of reminiscences….Our teenagers gathered, once again, at the home of David & Kaysia Barr, along with granddaughters Allison & Anna, for their yearly yard sale.  They started early in the morning and when the day ended, they had raised $560.00 for the Teen Mountain Ministry.  Kudos to Isidro & Colleen Bruno, Dorothy McFarland, all the teens and adults who helped make the yard sale a great success….AWANA Club got off to a late start this year due to the Rough wildfire and its aftermath.  It was worth the wait, however, since we started the year with 25 youngsters eagerly anticipating a great time.  From the opening flag salute to the closing prayer circle, the night was filled with good food, songs, teaching from God’s word, memorizing Bible verses and lots of fun games.  We are so thankful for all of our AWANA teachers, leaders and helpers, without whom our AWANA program would not be possible….Several of our folks have been dealing with health issues and we call them to your attention as a matter of prayer:  Linda Riffel, after several years of battling cardiac issues, finally had open heart surgery.  There were some complications, but we’re happy to report she’s doing a little better now.  Linda still needs your prayers….Erica Evans, our AWANA Journey (Jr. Hi. & High School) teacher, was thrown from a horse she was training and fractured her ankle.  She’s now in a cast and will need a few months of recuperation. This is not easy for a person who trains horses for a living & has four children from 1 to 10….Diana Kiper, a new Christian (as of 3 weeks ago), is still battling cancer and needs our continued prayer.  Just pray that the Lord will give her His courage, strength and peace that passes understanding. She needs the assurance that He will never leave her, ever!....And then, it was time for our annual Harvest Dinner & Auction.  The entire after expense proceeds go directly to our 4 missions groups for Christmas gifts.  It was a great event this year and way exceeded our expectations.  The dinner was a tour de force in Northeastern cooking.  You just can’t beat Yankee pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, Lee McComb’s angel biscuits, salad & Theresa Pike’s berry & peach cobblers. Many thanks to Theresa for taking care of all the details, from decorating the hall, to cooking the meal and making sure everything was cleaned up later.  Great job!....Lesley Davison put the last minute donations for the auction into a beautiful display of items for sale.  With a lot of small items, pies, cakes, jams, a vintage rocking chair and a cord of wood, the sale raised $3,600. for our missionaries. Praise the Lord!.... Finally, on the 25th of the month, 23 people enjoyed more Yankee pot roast and a great movie, “In The Name Of God”, at Supper & A Movie night….





    There is no better holiday, for the sheer joy of gathering together, than Thanksgiving.
There are no ulterior motives (gifts), no secret agendas (more gifts) or reasons for pretending to
like certain people (expensive gifts).  You can just go to grandma’s or aunt Bertha’s house and
eat to your heart’s content without feeling any pressure or guilt and have a great time, expressing true thankfulness for all that God has provided.  He is truly an awesome God!
    Have you ever given much thought to what it actually means to “give thanks in all things”?
The concept of giving thanks is pretty easy to understand, but are we comfortable with putting ourselves in the position of accepting what “in all things” really encompasses?  I think our total commitment to that proposition may wane from time to time.
    The apostle Paul, in I Thessalonians chapter 5, lays out 22 commandments—and you thought you only had to worry about 10—for followers of Christ.  In verses 16-18, he writes: “Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”How many of us spend the whole day rejoicing?  Are you on your knees 24/7, just praying up a storm?Are you thankful for each and every thing that pops up on any given day?  My guess is that a firm yes to each of the preceding questions is not a realistic expectation.  So, why does verse 18 say, “…this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”?
    Exploring this prescription for successful Christian living requires an open mind, a willing heart and wisdom only God the Holy Spirit can impart.  I think another passage of scripture may be helpful in unlocking what seems to be a mystery.  Once again, Paul is our guide as he writes to the church in Philippi.  He expresses three fundamental points, in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Now, we’re getting somewhere! 
    The very first piece of the puzzle and the very last piece of the puzzle is the realization that God has us and our situations, however dire they may seem, in the palm of His hand.  Our willingness to accept that reality is absolutely essential to grasping how in the world we can possibly be thankful in every circumstance.  After all, it is in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him.  We are His children and His desire is to have a close, personal and intimate relationship with us.  That sounds a little farfetched to many folks, but it is absolutely true.  Romans 8:16-17 tells us: “The (Holy) Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…”  That’s the kind of relationship that you and I, as believers and followers of Christ have with God right now.  It will never change, throughout eternity.
    It’s still difficult to be doing “flips of gratitude” when the situation seems to require tears of frustration.  It all comes down to our perspective as we face each trial or testing.  How about looking at the circumstance as an opportunity to express our thanks to Him for giving us the strength to endure whatever the trial may be?  Is there a possibility that we could actually verbalize a confirmation of our knowledge that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”? (Romans 8:28).  There is no limit to the number of ways we can give true and honest thanks to our God and Savior, if we have the proper frame of mind and a heart full of love for Him.
    Thanksgiving day only lasts for 24 hours, but true thankfulness in all things can be a 24/7
experience for each one of us if we allow ourselves to be absolutely surrendered to His will and purpose for our lives.  I am absolutely convinced that Paul was 100% right when he wrote:  “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, not height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).  
    You may find it difficult to give thanks for everything, but maybe now you will find it a little
easier to give thanks in everything, knowing that the sovereign God of the universe holds you in His hands and will “never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5).
    May God richly bless you and your families this Thanksgiving and until Jesus comes again.