Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Considering Lent: Further Questions

On Sunday Pastor Dave and others advocated for practicing Lent and fasting as a spiritual discipline. Dave gave Biblical encouragement for pursuing God in this time, Pastor Austin gave historical background of the practice of Lent, Jon Anderson shared his personal experience with fasting, and Pastor Chuck recommended some good resources which will be available as devotionals for study this season. If you would like to hear this sermon it will be available at: http://westchestercares.org/media.php?pageID=6

After the service, we realized that other questions might be popping into your mind when considering doing a fast this Lent season.

Here is just a quick recap of the main points of this season:
-Lent is 40 days starting this Wednesday (Feb. 10), Ash Wednesday, and ends Easter Sunday (Mar. 27).  The 40 days do not include the 7 Sundays of the season, but it is optional to practice the fast on those days.
-Traditionally participants will choose something of daily significance and abstain from that for the duration of the season and replace that with a focus on prayer and seeking the Lord.

Q. Is giving up chocolate or soda an appropriate fast for the lent season?
A. Many of the areas of fasting are going to be personal in nature, so there is not one thing that is appropriate for everyone. What the pastors would encourage is to take something that you would recognize daily. If you love your chocolate after dinner or your diet coke with lunch then it would absolutely be appropriate. If you are someone who could go days without realizing that you had a soda, then fasting from it during lent may be less significant.
            Be aware that no matter what food item you would abstain from, there will always be the temptation to consider weight loss, health, and physical appearance. We live in a culture that highly values these things, but this season should be a striving after God and not as a New Years Resolution part 2. With this we would encourage you to enjoy and celebrate with these items on Sundays as a way to remind yourselves that this is a fast, not a diet.

Q. Who should I tell about my fast? What if I’m in a situation where I need to tell a group?
A. Another temptation to be aware of is the desire to announce to the world the fast you are doing. With that being said, there are times where your silence could be more harmful than telling people. If you are married, for sure enter into this season with your spouse for encouragement. If you are single, find a trusted friend or two who will be praying for you in this season. If there is a change in your diet (ie. Fasting from meat) then people who are preparing meals for you will need to know that.
            I’m sure there will be times that come up where more people will need to know, but try and avoid drawing attention to your fast as much as possible. One example may be—if you are avoiding meat and you are out to dinner with a group of friends, you can easily order a salad or vegetarian meal instead of drawing attention to it.

Q. Does the fast have to be food? When should I not do a food related fast?
A. While fasting from food is by far the most common, I would say there are instances where food might not be right for you. If you have a special diet you need to be on, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if food creates problems due to an eating disorder or other body image issues then doing a food fast during lent could end up doing more harm than good. The goal, after all, is to be able to pursue God in this time, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
            Many people these days are finding fasts from social media and technology to be most beneficial. Staying off of facebook, twitter, instagram, or other platforms will immediately create a space where you have more time to read your Bible and pray. Other ideas are fasting from watching TV or movies after dinner. Take a time in your day where you would normally have background noise (TV while eating or cooking; radio/ music in your car) or when you would be staring at your computer, phone, or tablet, and instead spend that time in quiet prayer and reflection.

The options for fasts are plentiful, but find the thing that is right for you. Something that you will remember daily, avoiding seeing it as a diet, and aim to glorify God not to exalt your own abilities.

If you have any other questions please email the Pastors. We are praying that this would be a profitable time of pursuing the Lord leading up to Easter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Considering Lent

In this Sunday’s service we will be discussing fasting and the upcoming season of Lent. Staring on Feb. 10 churches all over the world will begin their observance of Lent. This will also mark the first year that I, Pastor Austin, will be participating. I would like to invite all of you to consider observing Lent this year. Unfortunately just at the mention of a word like Lent many of you may start squirming and even have your blood boiling a little bit.

When I was growing up in the Bible belt as a broadly evangelical protestant—I remember first hearing about Lent when some friends of mine who belonged to higher tradition churches started to discuss what they were giving up that year. I was taken aback because these particular friends showed no signs of the Spirit working in their life and I was doubtful of spiritual growth in their lives, yet they were willingly involving themselves in a spiritual discipline.

Because of this I grew callous at the idea of Lent. It seemed like many people viewed it as a diet—I’m going to eat less sweets or stop drinking coke—or it seemed like people had the mindset of—I don’t read my bible, rarely go to church, and generally don’t carry the personal ethics that scripture commands, but I can look at this thing that I do and convince myself that I’m ok with God.

You won’t find the word Lent in scripture and its not commanded—but I want you all to see it as this—a spiritual discipline. A piece of wisdom of how we can grow spiritually. The idea behind Lent is that we will take the 40 days that precede Easter and give up something that would be common to our every day life. Rather than indulging in that thing, instead commit to prayer and reflect upon our lives being in God’s hands, and that our dependence is upon Him—that we look to Him for life, and Him alone.

It’s a discipline, a way to train our bodies, a way for our bodies to reflect a spiritual reality—and for us to grow closer to God in this time.

So this is an invitation, not a command. A challenge, not a requirement.

Consider taking something regular out of your diet—coffee, soda, meat, etc. Or what a lot of people are finding relevant these days is fasting from social media—getting off of facebook, twitter, or other platforms. Maybe fasting from TV, video games, or maybe even news outlets.

One additional challenge I’d like to give is this: refrain from advertising what you will be fasting from and asking others about their fast. Read Matthew 6:16-18 for advice on fasting.

So let’s remember this: Just because some would do this discipline in vain or out of impure motives, does not make this a bad exercise.

I hope you will all consider participating with me this year in Lent. We will be giving more information on Sunday, but if you have any questions please email me. ahilmer@westchestercares.org

Austin Hilmer

About the Author:
Austin serves on staff at Westchester as Associate Pastor of Corporate Worship

Monday, October 26, 2015

Worship Round-Up (October 25, 2015)

a weekly review of Sunday worship to provide resource and further reflection from our Sunday service.

"The Journey of Nebuchadnezzar"
Pastor Chuck Mullikin
Daniel 4
Listen to the sermon here.

In this week's sermon, Pastor Chuck highlighted King Nebuchadnezzar's change from self sufficiency as king to recognizing God as his king and the rightful recipient of praise and glory. We drew connection between the sermon and the music by emphasizing God as our king with "Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven". In Westchester's rendition of "O Worship the King" we refrain
"Lift up your voice to the glorious King
Let us enter His courts with praise.
He was, and is, and is to come,
The Lord is King forever!"
We continue our focus on missions and also emphasize Jesus as the great King who deserving of all praise with "Bright and Glorious". We responded after the service with communion and singing of "You are My King" and then ending with a song of celebration in our great salvation with a new arrangement of "What Wondrous Love is This".

Praise My Soul the King of Heaven
by Henry Francis Lyte | John Goss | Austin Hilmer

O Worship the King (Lift Up Your Voice)
by Johann Michael Haydn | Robert Grant | Austin Hilmer

Bright and Glorious
by Aaron Ivey | Todd Agnew
Listen on YouTube

You are My King
by Billy J Foote
Listen on YouTube

What Wondrous Love is This
by Alexander Means | William Walker - arrangement by Pacific Gold
Listen and Purchase on Bandcamp

Austin Hilmer

About the Author:
Austin serves on staff at Westchester as Associate Pastor of Corporate Worship

Monday, October 12, 2015

Worship Round-Up (October 11, 2015)

a weekly review of Sunday worship to provide resource and further reflection from our Sunday service.


"Eyes on God"
Daniel 1
Pastor Josh Earhart
Listen to the sermon here

In this week's service we wanted to highlight the reality of God's sovereignty. At this time in our church we are studying Ezra and the minor prophet Haggai together and it perfectly correlates with the new sermon series through Daniel. God has a plan. God has a mission. God will see that through and we can trust in his promises even when the times seem most dire. The songs we chose to sing all highlight this sovereignty by affirming our trust in Him. We sing that our "One Comfort" is knowing our salvation is complete on the cross. We affirm that he is Lord and creator of all in "God of Wonders". We affirm that we cannot rely on and trust in our name, possessions, and abilities here on earth in "My Worth is Not in What I Own". We ended by reaffirming the greatness of our God in "How Great Thou Art".


My One Comfort
by Dustin Kensrue
Listen on YouTube

God of Wonders
by Marc Byrd | Steve Hindalong
Listen on YouTube

My Worth is Not in What I Own
by  Graham Kendrick | Keith Getty | Kristyn Getty
Listen on YouTube

How Great Thou Art
by Stuart K. Hine

Austin Hilmer

About the Author:
Austin serves on staff at Westchester as Associate Pastor of Corporate Worship

Friday, September 25, 2015

Worship Coffeehouse Recap

We had so many people attend the coffeehouse this week! Thank you for all of your support, participation, and especially if you helped set up or clean up you are amazing!


After the first coffeehouse we did a couple of months ago I began brainstorming improvements to the coffeehouse and what the future of such an event could look like. The first theme we put music to was Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration-- the storyline of scripture (for a recap of the first event click here). This time we did the theme of The Atonement-- Christ's sacrifice on the cross, the various aspects, and what it means for us. The theology of the Atonement is what truly sparked my interest in studying theology and has become a passion of mine. By digging in deeper to what Christ accomplished in his death on the cross, we get a bigger and fuller picture of our salvation, and also we can have full assurance and peace of knowing that our sin is truly taken care of and we have been fully reconciled to Him. Below you will see the themes, songs, and verses we used to discuss the atonement.


Note: Unfortunately we cannot stream all of the songs we played that night due to copyright issues. The songs posted above are all in the public domain.

Blood Sacrifice: Jesus himself was our sacrifice---Hebrews 9:11-22

Nothing But the Blood/ There is a Fountain
by Robert Lowry | William Cowper
Listen to our version above.

Reconciliation: Man was estranged from God to the point of being enemies. Through Jesus we have been reconciled to God--- Romans 5:9-11

Jesus Thank You
by Pat Sczebel
Listen on YouTube

Propitiation: Jesus bore the wrath of God--- 1 John 4:10 (Not all translations use "propitiation". The ESV is one that does)

In Christ Alone
by Keith Getty | Stuart Townend
Listen on YouTube

Sweetly Broken
by Jeremy Riddle
Listen on YouTube

Justification/ Imputed Righteousness: Through Jesus' death we are pardoned from our sins and transgressions. We are then counted as righteous because of all that Christ has done right. This is all possible because Christ is our great mediator---Hebrews 4:14-16

Before the Throne of God Above
by Charitie Lees Bancroft
Listen on YouTube

Redemption/ Ransom: Jesus "buys us back" or reclaims us from bondage to Satan, sin, and death. This is holistic in body, mind, soul as well as all of creation to himself.--- Ephesians 1:7-10

My Savior's Precious Blood
by Cathie Fay

And Can it Be
Arrangement by Austin Hilmer

Jesus Paid It All
by Alex Nifong, Elvina M. Hall, John Thomas Grape

Christus Victor: Jesus conquered our enemies--- Ephesians 2:1-5

Sing My Soul
by Brooks Ritter, Rebecca Elliott & TJ Hester
Listen and purchase here

Penal Substitution: Jesus paid the penalty and died in our place--- 2 Corinthians 5:21

Man of Sorrows
by Philip P. Bliss; Arranged by Ex Nihilo

New Heavens and New Earth: We sing the bitter-sweet reminder of the age that is to come in anticipation of Christ's return.

Never Grow Old
by James Cleveland Moore
Listen on YouTube

On Jordan's Stormy Banks
by Christopher Miner | Samuel Stennett
Listen on YouTube

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hitting the Mark

When Jesus was on Earth he never sinned. This is of course very important to us as Christians because he needed to live a perfect life for his death on the cross to atone for our sins. He lived out the life that actually hit the target when it comes to God’s requirements for salvation.

We, on the other hand will not hit the mark. The Greek word for sin, hamartia, actually means to miss the mark. There is a standard that we need to live up to, and every time we sin we fall short of that mark. God knows this and that is why it was his plan from the beginning to provide us with a savior.

However, before Jesus came, the Jews did have a word for hitting the mark, Kavanah. This wasn’t a way to obtain salvation, they recognized their sin and their need for the coming messiah, but it did describe the way in which they should strive to live. There are four things that they came up with that would help them Kavanah, that is, hit the mark. We need to Study, Pray, Love, and Live.

This idea of Kavanah is something that we should continue to understand today and keep as a litmus test for our Christian walk. We should be striving to become more Christ-like through Study of the Bible, an active prayer life, showing love to all of those around us, and living a life that emulates Christ. This is pleasing to the Lord and it will also help us live out the Great Commission.

Take a moment to think of these four areas in your life. Do we struggle with our study of the Bible, or is our prayer life lacking? Could we do a better job of showing love to people, or are we failing to live out the call of Christ?

We can’t obtain salvation for ourselves, but we do have the privilege of being a representative of Christ and we should strive to hit the mark as much as possible. We do this because our love of God and his love for us compels us.  He is deserving of all glory and he deserves obedience.  We should always remember that it is only by his gift of grace through Jesus that we can have eternal life, and it is exactly for this reason that our desire should be to hit the mark. 

Josh Earhart

About the Author:
Josh serves on staff at Westchester as Associate Pastor of Student Ministries