Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

“Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!

    Serve the Lord with celebration!
    Come before him with shouts of joy!

Know that the Lord is God—
    he made us; we belong to him.
    We are his people,
    the sheep of his own pasture.

Enter his gates with thanks;
    enter his courtyards with praise!
    Thank him! Bless his name!

Because the Lord is good,
    his loyal love lasts forever;
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.”

Psalm 100 Common English Bible (CEB)™

Here we are again another time of Turkey stuffing, family, and shopping. If you are expecting the pastoral rant about making the holiday more about Christ, thats not exactly what I had in mind. No, thanksgiving comes to us as a time to be thankful in all things, and for all things. While we may spend that time in the food, or football, or in my family all the holiday shopping ads, those things are not wrong nor do they make God angry. This year I would like you to consider that instead of forgetting all about God, or going all extremist and all things about the holidays are a sin, instead can He be first? I am hoping that my family will start with prayer, or will start with a heart of Thankfulness to God before gorging into the stuffing, and the green bean casserole (My wife’s favorite!) Here are some suggestions for us to keep God first!

  • Got any music lovers in your family? Why not sing Amazing Grace sometime in the middle of the meal?

  • Pray before you eat.

  • Go around the room and say one thing you are thankful for and then after everyone has gone, say thank you to God and Jesus.

  • Make plans as a family to go to church on Christmas Eve! What a great thing to see candle light, and sing Silent Night together!

  • Set a budget for the holidays that gives families room to breath, so their stresses can be on kids like me finding gifts (Sorry Mom!:( 

  • Finally, if nothing else this Thursday when you and I wake up, will you join me in kneeling old school by the bed first thing in the morning and thanking God for all He has done and will do! 

My prayer for you this year is to find out God’s greatest gift for you is Christ! I am thankful that you would dare even try to figure out what Christ means this Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Strive on My Friends Strive on!

Pastor Richard Hiltibran

Monday, October 13, 2014

Off to the Races

“He has told you human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 Common English Bible (CEB)®

This small piece of Scripture is a very eye opening tale into what the people of God are to do. Micah 6:8 is what is known as the Great Requirement. The short hand version is that we are to be a loving people, who look out for oppression and abuses of any kind, to defend the weak and helpless, and to never walk without our Heavenly Dad in a humble position allowing Him the authority to guide us all of our days. The one thing you do not see on here is an age, or social status when you may no longer need to fulfill this requirment. Matters of fact, the only qualifying note God places on Micah 6:8 is “human one”, if you consider yourself to be a “human”, then guess what, God requires this of you. 

More so, the lack of qualifiers of who this requirement belongs to leads us into the knowledge that these are active statements, not passives one. Here in Micah 6:8 is an understanding that loving God, and living for Him is mission driven. God does not call people to experience the salvation of Jesus Christ simply rot on this planet until they’ve reached a heavenly goal. John Wesley the founder of Methodist believed that “Heaven starts now!” Waiting for an after world religion to Wesley was a foolish and unproductive one. Today we intrinsically know this still to be true, think about the saying “so Heavenly focused of no earthly good.” Micah 6:8 should act to the Christian, the same way as the shoot opens for the horses at the Kentucky Derby. The world should looked amazed as our Lord Jesus says “And they're off!” seeing the people of God mobilized in their requirement for faith, loves, and justice. Yet, in my darkest moments I must confess that I look outward to others, and inward toward myself and all I can see is a stagnant faith, which doesn’t energize the Christian, nor transform the world. Micah 6:8 becomes only another theological knowledge of what God wishes for His people, but not a serious request to be taken in “fear and trembling”. I lost my father (Mark) in his early 40’s when I was only 18 years old, my Grandma (Daisy) when I was 25, and buried my uncle Ron in 2006 he was only 53. At 32 I have already seen several personal deaths, and more in leu of my profession as minister. Micah 6:8 should make us charge this world with a passion that is unearthly because we do not get to stay here. If you found the love of God in Jesus Christ you are a blessed person. As a matter of fact you are “a blessing to all the nations” (Genesis 12:2) What God needs from us as His people is to actively pursue the world sharing with all the blessing we have received, the salvation from our own brokeness through Jesus Christ. But, not in a calm orderly state as to suggest we are in no real hurry, but as thoroughbreds pounding our hooves into the sand as if one lap is all we have for victory. Because today is the only day you and I are guaranteed, and to show love, justice, and share Christ our only requirements. Let us be of earthly good toady, and Heavenly focused when we get there! 

Strive on my friends, Strive on!

Pastor Richard


Monday, September 8, 2014

You're Running the Wrong Way!

In John 21 Peter who was ashamed that he had denied Jesus three times decided that instead of continuing the journey he went back to his old way of life. Peter left the pulpit to pick up the fishing net in order to start a life where maybe he could once again be successful and whole. 

As a rule of thumb we are prone to want to give as much as we receive. Yet, in God’s world that is impossible because no one can wholly live up to being Holy (Perfect)! This is why remembering that in our weakness we can have God’s strength. The burning question before us today is which way are we running? Is God’s perfection too much? Instead of going toward the light we are sprinting into the darkness at break neck speed. If you feel in the pit of your stomach this feeling of longing, urgency, and loneliness maybe its time to stop, catch your breath, and look at the compass your of life. Just like Peter when he tried to run away from who God had made him to be, or when he placed value and worth into things other than God namely his trade as a fisherman all he got was a night with no sleep, and zero fish. Yet, when Jesus appeared and told Peter to throw the net on the other side of the boat his nets were overflowing. As soon as Peter realized this strange man was Jesus he jumped off the boat and swam fearlessly toward Him. 

Do you feel lack of purpose and value in your life, work, and family? Do days pass by mindlessly and your thoughts run wild about having a different wife, kids, job, and to live in a different place, or country? The problem might just be that in our daily lives we have been chasing after money, popularity, and comfort for so long only to realize we missed the greatest goal to chase after our Heavenly Father with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength! (Matthew 22:37) The goal of this life shall either be the safety and comfort of this lifetime, or to live for something bigger than only one lifetime. What would our current state of affairs look like if Peter would have stayed on that boat? After all the first sermon about Jesus was preached by Peter in Acts chapter 2. Peter chose in a moment to leap from the security of what he had always done and ran back to Jesus despite feeling as if he was a failure. This is what we must do as well. Instead of looking at life with mundane glasses we start to see what God can and will do with us if we allow him space, and we chase after a real relationship with Him. 

The Challenge this week should you choose to accept it. Take 15 minutes each day in a quiet place praying to God to show you forgiveness for your faults. (He Will!) Then ask God to show you an adventure this week and to live for something bigger than your one lifetime. 

This is a small feat, but can you see if you did this for weeks? Months? Or even Years? As the clock ticks by you will be so busy in God’s adventure you will not have time to see the world through mundane glasses!

Strive on my Friends! Strive On!

Pastor Richard Hiltibran!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alive and Well

“Jesus responded, "You are wrong because you don't know either the scriptures or God's power. At the resurrection people won't marry nor will they be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like angels from God. As for the resurrection of the dead, haven't you read what God told you, I'm the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He isn't the God of the dead but of the living." Now when the crowd heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. One of them, a legal expert, tested him. "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

He replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Matthew 22:29-30 CEB

When was the last time you took the time to think back to yesteryear? Was it happy? Was it horrifying? There is nothing you could trade me to go back to a former time. I was the awkward fat kid in High School. The cocky college kid. The out of place mechanic. Today I was both reminded of my father who passed away in 2001, and my best friend in high school. What it reminded me of is that God has brought me through so much in the short life I have already lived. But more so, I can attest to a living God. Because a dead God would never have the grace to drag me through all the tests this world brings. All the tears, and scars of life. To look back at what God started with this broken pot and to see His hands molding my life gently one day at a time. What kind of God would take time with us? We the broken creatures in an equally broken creation? A God who is racing ahead. A God who still looks at this spinning globe and sees hope for it. Today, I challenge you to look back and see how the hand of the Father has been molding you. What has God done? What have you done to help or hurt the process? Can you see that the love of Jesus hasn't stopped for you, and that no matter what you do Jesus will not give up on you. That is what the Cross symbolizes right? God's unwillingness to leave this creation a mess, and His unearnable gift to all mankind. I challenge you to write your story down, play with it, dare to see Jesus in your life. After all your story is not just for you but the testament to God's mighty love and grace in the 21st century. You are a part of God's Word, matters of fact your story is the most recent book. In 1 Timothy 4:16 it says to watch your life and doctrine closely so that it will save both you and anyone who hears it! At Lewisburg UMC our mission is: To Connect Our Neighbors to Jesus One Person at a Time!  The most important thing we can do to change the world is to help people see Jesus as the Savior of the world. That connection may start with scripture, it may start with a simple talk, but it hits home when it hits you! Why after 10 years of being in God's house, and being in His presence do I still tear up? Because I know God has not given up on this porn addict. I Know God is not done with this pervert. I know God is not done with this stubborn mule. I have seen it in my work first hand within my own life. Your story is the home run to loving your Neighbor, because when we worship a living God and can tell His story in our lives it is a reminder to the 21st century that God is not Dead! He is not done! Please share your story. Tell it with passion and know it well it is after all the most current volume of His Word. It's His power Alive and Well today. 

Strive on My Friends Strive on!

Richard Hiltibran-Pastor


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Light Em Up!

"Set yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles around just to watch you burn." John Wesley

Have you ever had a story so funny, awkward, and almost unbelievable that you just had to be there?

This Christmas Eve God gave Lewisburg UMC the gift of laughter in an almost unbelievable sequence of events. We had a total of three services 6:00-7:30-10:30. It was a powerful time of learning about God coming down in the middle of chaos to show the world His love. Before the sermon section of our service we had a customary lighting of the Christ candle which is part of the advent wreath. An advent wreath for those who don't know (I just learned this year!) is a 5 candle wreath and week by week candles are lit  then you light the final candle on Christmas eve as a symbol of Christ being the light of the world. At the 6:00 and 10:30 services this ceremony went off without a hitch and there was no minor malfunctions, but the 7:30 service I learned what could be one of the most important lessons of my life. If you are going to do an advent wreath make sure to either use battery power candles, or use a fresh set of candles at the start of each service. Needless to say this ends with the advent wreath catching on fire at the end of the sermon, and everyone looking in awe as two brave folks wrangled the fire and the grand finale was one gentlemen punching the fire out with a manila envelope that he had. It was one of the coolest/funny/awkward things I can put down on my resume. All I could do was to think back on the fire, what it looked like, how it glowed, and most of all how when the fire happened all the attention was focused right on it!

We are in the start of a brand new year and like most I am thinking on the minute ways that I can change my life to do things better. But for some reason my mind won't get away from the idea of fire. This quote from John Wesley fits so well with the attitude and lifestyle of a practicing Christian. In 2014 the thing that has challenged me most is "Am I on fire?" Does my relationship with Jesus matter to me? Would it matter to anyone else? I have been thinking and milling the question over and over what are Christ Followers here to do? I believe what God wants for all of us is to do exactly what good ole' John Wesley is suggesting in his quote, which is to be so passionate about our relationship with God that its an adventure. I have been wrestling with how the 21st century Western church wants to make everything black and white. Sinners go to Hell. We know who the sinners are, and we know who the saved are. This fault is acceptable, while this fault will lead to to condemnation. I am not supposing there is no sin (missing the mark or not being perfect like God), but more so that why do we focus on it? I know I am jacked up in more ways than I care to share, and could possibly make the same guess about anyone reading this blog. But, if life is a journey and we are being called to walk it with our Lord Jesus Christ how come most church services look at the past mistakes not the future adventure? I want 2014 to be the year that I am filled by the Holy Spirit and my faith makes my daily life an adventure. I want a prayer life that feels real not stale and robotic because pastors are supposed to pray good. I want to look at scripture with the awe and passion that a child looks at it, not strictly to fulfill my pulpit duties, win theological arguments, and not read scripture solely like a text book (most pastors wrestle with this). All the latter uses of Scripture are important in there times but not before we get to the "good stuff" which is knowing that I have a Heavenly Dad who tells me daily that "I am worth a damn in this world." I don't want a highly educated sophisticated relationship with God. I don't want to picture God and I having tea together at a Golf Club exchanging lofty ideals while hiding from the rest of the world. I want to be God's little boy first. I want the God that lets me in the tree house. The God who takes me on adventure. The same God who split the Red Sea for Moses, and this Jesus who scared the crap out of the disciples by rising from the dead and appearing to them in the upper room. Maybe, if the church takes of its nice suits and put on its muddy clothes and followed God into an adventurous faith more people would want to follow. The point this year is not to bash the theological heady knowledge that I and so many have been blessed to gain in this life, but to make sure that knowledge is not the only part of me that believes in God. I am asking what about my heart? Is my heart on fire for Jesus? Am I on fire for Jesus? Because I have seen that when something is lit on fire everyone can't help but stare. We all joked that I might burn down the church but the truth is I do want to set it on fire! Because I want everyone to come from miles around and know that Jesus is the greatest adventure they can ever take in this lifetime. What about you? What is your 2014 to hold this year? I pray you are ready for God to use you in a way you never thought possible!

Strive on my friends, Strive on!

In Him,
Richard Hiltibran
Lead Pastor-Lewisburg United Methodist Church