Examine Our Ways

It’s that time of year again… Annual Staff Reviews.

One by one the staff members of American Reformed Church enter a small, dimly light room and brace ourselves for the impending interrogation. We are instructed to sit on the far side of the room facing our examiners; four of them to be exact. The room is dry and hot, and nothing is offered to quench our thirst. The investigators whisper quietly to each other, before the official examination begins. I take a deep breath and try to prepare myself for what’s to come…

Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. It does in some ways feel a little like getting called into the principal’s office and in other ways it’s like having coffee with close friends. Merlin, Willis, Codie and Nadine do a wonderful job of putting us at ease and encouraging each of us in the roles that we fill and I appreciate their willingness to be on the Staff Support Team.

Staff reviews have taken several different routes over the nine years that I have participated in them. Some years we have been asked to assess our co-workers, other times members of the congregation have been called upon to share their opinions and experiences regarding the staff. This year we were asked to do a self-assessment based on an idea from Marcus Buckingham, an author, motivational speaker and business consultant, who would argue that the best person to assess your performance at work is you. Staff members were given a list of questions and statements in which we could share our thoughts about our strengths and weaknesses in regards to our duties, our team, the consistory and the church.

Doing a self-assessment is not necessarily an easy task, but it is beneficial. Spending time thinking through the questions helps me reflect on the past year and brings to light areas where I have fallen short and could improve upon in the future. It also reminds me of tasks that I have done well and where I have used the gifts and strengths that God has given me.

God’s Word also instructs us to examine ourselves. As sin-filled human beings we are quick to examine other people and point out their shortcomings, but we tend to shy away from critiquing ourselves in the same way. Jesus cautioned his followers concerning this in Matthew 7:3-5. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

This doesn’t mean that we can never assist others by gently pointing out their blind spots, but if we aren’t doing the work of examining our own hearts and taking care of the sin in our lives, we have no business confronting someone else about theirs or making conversation about it with others.

As we enter a new week, I encourage each of you to spend some time examining yourself, not as a  comparison activity to see if you are better or worse than your neighbor, but an analysis to learn about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and to draw near to God.

Lamentations 3:4 “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Good Church Members

A friend recently shared this newspaper clipping with me:

What kind of church member are you?

  • Some members are like wheel barrows—no good unless pushed.
  • Some are like kites—if a string isn’t kept on them, they fly away.
  • Some are like kittens—they are content when petted.
  • Some are like footballs—you can’t tell which way they’ll bounce next.
  • Some are like trailers—they have to be pulled.
  • Some are like balloons—full of wind and ready to blow up.
  • Some are like lights—they keep going off and on.
  • Many are thankful and are like the North Star—there when you need them, dependable, ever loyal, and a guide to all people.

Like me, you probably smiled when you read these descriptions and could think of someone you know that would fit into each category. Maybe you felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and recognized yourself as a kitten or a trailer. Maybe you could even come up with a few more descriptions of the various church members that you have encountered.

As I laid the paper aside, I was saddened by the characterizations of people that are members of the Body of Christ. ALL of God’s people should be dependable and loyal and a guide that points people to Christ, not flighty and reluctant and temperamental.

What saddened me more is thinking about when did we exchange following Jesus and being disciples for being good church members? I can think of many clubs and co-ops and organizations that have members, but Jesus clearly did not commission the disciples to make great church members. His specific words are recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

Now I’m sure there was a variety of commitment levels and understanding among the new disciples in the early church and they didn’t do everything perfectly. In fact, if the first century Christians lived life as Jesus intended, half of the New Testament would never have needed to be written. But where have we gotten the idea that the goal is to be a good church member rather than a disciple? Maybe as a member, it’s easy to focus on the perks and benefits. As a disciple, we are called to focus on who it is that we are following. William Kynes offers an expanded definition of what it means to be a disciple: “A disciple is one who responds to the call of Jesus in faith, resulting in a relationship of absolute allegiance and supreme loyalty through which Jesus shares his own life and the disciple embarks on a lifetime of learning to become like  his Master.”

When I shared some of my own spiritual struggles with a friend, they brushed off my concerns and sarcastically replied, “What do you want to be, a disciple?” Actually, yes, I do. And it would be my prayer that all church members would desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a follower of The Way.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Be Positive or Be Quiet

If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. This seems to be a favorite line of mothers. In the movie Bambi, Thumper’s mother reminds him of this wisdom and I have repeated this saying to my own family more than once. A new version that I recently heard is “If you can’t be positive, then at least be quiet.”

The tongue is a popular topic in the Bible, especially in the book of Proverbs. Listen to these words from Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Is it any surprise that 3 of the 7 things that the Lord finds detestable have to do with our mouth and the words we say?

The Wisdom Writer continues with more insight regarding our tongue:

  • “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
  • “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18-19
  • “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:1-2
  • “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Proverbs 15:28
  • “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:27-28
  • “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23

I have had multiple conversations in the past weeks with people who have witnessed the Body of Christ using reckless words and gushing evil from their mouth, criticizing other Christians and bashing the Church. This saddens me greatly, and yet I am convicted that my tongue is also sometimes more like a sword than an instrument of healing. It is so easy to open our mouth and let our words fly. But James reminds us that “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

As it was in the time of the early church, so it is today. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)

Another phrase you have probably heard is “think before you speak”. Using the letters of the word THINK, examine your heart and think about whether what you are going to say is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

If you agree with 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, then we would be wise to evaluate and correct our words. May we all pray the words of David, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Compartments

This week many of us will celebrate the 4th of July holiday with some fireworks, camping, activities at the lake, or a family get-together. There is an abundance of options for the extra day off from work, but picnics are my favorite. Not only do they provide a connection with family and friends, but there seems to be a never ending supply of delicacies that tempt my tummy. Grilled meats, fruit salads, veggies, homemade pies, chips, dips… all spread before my eyes on a gingham draped picnic table. There is just one problem with a feast like this: no regular plate will do. I can deal with foam, Tupperware, Chinet, plastic, or paper, but no matter what the plate is made of, it must have compartments. It is a gross misdemeanor to have a sweet, fruit salad nestled up against a spicy taco salad, or even worse, salty condiments finding their way onto Grandma’s homemade pie. And who wants their salad dressing making a soggy mess of their bun? Yuck! I know that it all goes to the same place, but I like the things I put in my mouth to be separate from each other. I don’t want one flavor to overlap another.

We tend to do the same thing with our lives. We isolate and divide. We separate our space, desiring our own bedroom, our own bathroom, our own vehicle, and our own office space. We divide our commitments, not wanting our job to interfere with our family time, or our kids to interfere with “me” time. We segregate our loyalties and don’t want political views and spiritual beliefs to overlap and get messy. Everything is easiest if we can keep it compartmentalized and evenly distributed.

But God isn’t big on compartments, he’s a God of wholeness. He wants our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not one piece, once in a while. He wants all of us all the time. He can’t be contained to Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. He doesn’t just fit our schedules on Christmas Eve and Easter morning. He is God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is God at church, at our workplace, at the bar, at the playground, at the prison, at the hospital, at home.

Philippians 1:27 says “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” It doesn’t excuse our words and actions when someone cuts us off in traffic, or when it’s been a long week and we just need to unwind, or when we just need a bit of sunshine and the rain to stop, or when the kids are driving us nuts. We are called to live our lives completely connected to Jesus Christ. No matter what. No divisions. No compartments. No categories.

In the 86th Psalm, David prays these words: “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”. David knows the aimless tendencies of the human heart. He asks God to unify and inhabit all areas of his life. May the same be said of us.

So go ahead and separate your pickles and your pie. Keep your pudding away from your pasta. But don’t try to keep your spiritual life separate from the rest of your life. Let God’s love for you and your gratitude to him flow and mingle and affect everything that you think, say, and do.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Alignment

I recently downloaded a Dictionary app on my phone (don’t judge) and since then I have received a daily notification for a Word of the Day. It has made me feel a bit uneducated and uncivilized since I have not been familiar with any of the words so far. For example, today was the word “antigodlin”. If I had to make a guess, I might reason that it has something to do with being ungodly or against God. However, the actual definition of the word is 1) lopsided or at an angle; out of alignment, 2) diagonal or cater-cornered.

My car has been a bit antigodlin lately. I purchased new tires a few weeks ago and paid for an alignment, but it just wasn’t good. As I drove down the highway and let go of the wheel, it would quickly pull to the right. We made an appointment to recheck the alignment. The mechanic tweaked a few things and thought it was fixed, but upon further driving on the open road it continued to pull to the right. After yet another appointment at the repair shop, the mechanic thought that switching the front tires would help. It did. But now the car pulled to the left. The decision was made to order a new tire and try that. Thankfully, the new tire seems to have done the trick. The car is no longer antigodlin, but drives down the road in a relatively straight line.

A wheel alignment sounds like a simple thing, but when I googled the method I realized it is actually an elaborate process that brings the car’s suspension into proper configuration, positioning and adjusting components so the wheels are aligned with one another and the road surface. When your wheels are out of alignment, the tires aren’t pointing in the right direction. This affects steering and suspension, but could also affect your safety and the durability of your tires and other parts of your car.

Sometimes my life seems to be a bit antigodlin also. I feel a bit lopsided and like I can’t get things straight. I try to go forward, but there are distractions and detours. I veer to the right and then to the left and struggle with advancing in a linear direction. Like the alignment on my car, I continually need to check and recheck my alignment with God. His Word gives us many insights into the process and the proper configuration:

  • Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
  • Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.
  • Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every lofty opinion that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.
  • Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
  • Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

So wherever you find yourself on the road of life, it is my prayer that you would align yourself with God according to his Instruction Manual, that you would be diligent about rechecking that alignment until you get it right, that you would finish the race and keep the faith.

Erin Jacobsma

 

 


How I Love Your Words

“Turn left…turn left…left again…turn right…stop…proceed…turn right…right again…slow down…brake…Brake…BRAKE!”

These are the words that have become the language spoken inside our car over the past year. Our daughter has her learning permit and is required to log 40 driving hours before she can test and proceed to her provisional driver’s license. We started out driving in the church parking lot, proceeded to city streets, then advanced to highways and the Interstate. We have practiced left turns and right turns, accelerating smoothly, stopping gently, following at a safe distance, controlled and uncontrolled intersections, lane changes, maintaining speed, driving defensively, backing up, and parallel parking. She has improved greatly. However, it occurred to me several weeks ago that while her skills have become more refined, the day is approaching where she will be the only one in the car and, up until this point, I have been making most of the decisions for her. Therefore, our driving instructions have now evolved into “Drive to the church; take us to the park; proceed to the grocery store; go to Grandpa and Grandma’s house.” Instead of me telling her how to get to where we need to go, she has had to enlist her brain and her own thought process to make the decisions required to help us arrive at our destination.

This week I had a similar experience of employing my mind. Wednesday was the first morning of the Community Women’s Bible Study at the Christian Reformed Church. Twenty or so women from multiple area churches gathered for Jen Wilkin’s study of the book of 1st Peter. The opening video was interesting and Jen warned us that this study might be different than studies we had done in the past. We would be looking at the Bible as a book about God-discovery, not self-discovery. We would be engaging not only our heart and emotions, but most of all our mind. Then the author laid out a few guidelines, the first of which made me hesitate: no commentaries, no study notes, no paraphrases. Wait, what? My NIV Study Bible is an old companion that she was asking me to leave at home for this journey. The Study Bible is printed with the scripture at the top of the page and explanations printed underneath for almost every single verse.

As I held my breath, I listened to her reasoning. She likened the use of study notes to a driver using a GPS device. We mindlessly listen to the automated voice telling us to turn left or right until we arrive at our destination without much trouble and without really knowing how we got there. However, if our GPS were to lose signal and we had to think about where we actually were and struggle with our confusion and dwell in the “I don’t know”, it would actually be a good thing and we would probably remember that route and destination in the future. As Jen Wilkins explained, “Nobody likes to feel lost or confused, but it is an important step in the acquisition and retention of understanding.” I began to evaluate how often I read a passage in scripture and then jump straight to the study guide for an explanation of what I read instead of mentally chewing on it for a while and letting the Holy Spirit speak to me personally.

In Psalm 119:97 David says, “Oh, how I love Your words.” While I can say that I love the Word, I am convicted that all too often I spend more time reading books and devotionals about God’s Word than the Word itself. Devotionals, study guides, and commentaries can be helpful, but I would like to grow in allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me into truth before I listen to someone else’s insight or direction. Scripture also warns us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that there will come a time when the truth will be disregarded and people will surround themselves with others who tell us what our itching ears want to hear. I think that time has come. And how easy it is to be deceived when you haven’t learned the truth firsthand.

My challenge to you and myself is to get in the Word. Read, struggle, listen, think. As Jen Wilkin reminded me, “The heart can’t love what the mind doesn’t know.” May God’s Word be the lamp to your feet and the light to your path! Erin Jacobsma

 


Track Record

According to ABC News, Orville Rogers of Dallas, Texas set 5 new US and World Records in the 100-104 age category at the 2018 USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships in Landover, Maryland. Rogers started running when he was 50 years old and began competing in track meets when he turned 90. He has quite the track record in Track Records.

The term “track record” most likely originated with horse racing and referred to a horse’s best time at a track. But the phrase has expanded over the years to include many areas of achievement. For example, we talk about the track records of investments, sports teams, people, companies, and products. Track records can be positive or negative. They are simply the things that someone has done in the past that can be used as a way to judge what that person is likely to do in the future. Perhaps you have a track record for being late to work or for setting off the smoke alarm when you are cooking. On the other hand, maybe you have a history of generosity or compassion. Either way, your past behaviors are often a good indicator of future performance.

The Bible mentions the track records of many people. Abraham had a track record of faithful obedience, but also lying. Moses’ track record included an explosive temper, but also a heart for God’s people. Samson had a history with women. David was accomplished in trusting God against all odds. For Solomon, operating with wisdom was his standard. Each of these people had a history that gave a clue to their present and future.

The apostle Peter also had a track record. Most memorable was three separate occasions where Peter blatantly denied his best friend. Not only did he deny knowing Jesus, he disowned everything about him—everything he had done—everything he had taught. But Peter also had a track record of obedience, trust, willingness, and zeal. Peter didn’t hesitate when Jesus said, “Come”. His feet knew the sure foundation of the Savior both on land and sea. Peter trusted Jesus whether bringing him five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people, or by putting his boat out into deep water at Jesus’ request after a night of futile fishing.

Back in the boat is where Jesus found Peter following the roller coaster week that included Jesus’ death and resurrection and Peter’s track record of denial. Jesus had already appeared to the disciples so Peter knew he was alive, but so far there was no specific interaction between Jesus and Peter. I can only imagine the shame and disgrace that hung over Peter’s head. (Talk about an elephant in the room!) Peter, John, and some of the other disciples were out on the water and had been fishing all night with nothing to show for it. As the sun began to appear on the horizon, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t know who he was. After Jesus inquired about their catch, he informed them that they would find fish on the other side of the boat. The tired fishermen oblige the stranger and their nets become so loaded with fish that they cannot haul it in.

John is the first to see the recognizable sign of an overabundance of fish. Jesus had a track record too. John nudges Peter and nods toward the shore and shares his revelation: “It is the Lord.” Peter doesn’t hesitate and throws himself over the side of the boat. I can’t help but wonder if Peter was hoping that his past experience of water walking would hold true this time also.

After Jesus prepares breakfast and the meal is sitting heavy in the men’s stomachs, Jesus finally addresses Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him and then instructs him to care for his sheep. Jesus reinstates Peter and his future in God’s kingdom and cancels out his track record of denial and shame.

Jesus offers the same opportunity to us. No matter what our track record has been in the past, Jesus extends the opportunity to start a new way of life of faithfulness, obedience, trust, and service that will be a new normal. It’s not too late. Start a new record with Jesus!

Erin Jacobsma

 


Broken Things

We live in a disposable society. Paper plates, paper towels, diapers, water bottles, coffee cups, and shopping bags all go in the trash after just one use. Other items that exceed the one time use – used batteries, dried out ink pens, dull razors, and such – also end up in the landfill as their usefulness becomes depleted. Some things we dispose of just because the cost to repair them exceeds the cost of buying new. There’s truth to the saying “they don’t make things like they used to”, but we also don’t keep things like we used to, especially when something is broken.

Several weeks ago, the 3 hole punch that I use in the office became a source of frustration as it continually jammed and wouldn’t completely punch through where one of the holes was supposed to be. So I ordered a new one and the old punch found a resting place at the bottom of the garbage can. When the new hole punch was delivered, I quickly unpacked it and was eager to try it out. I pushed down the lever and pulled out the paper, revealing only two holes instead of three. I tried again; two holes. After further inspection, I could see one of the pieces that was necessary to punch the third hole was missing. I called the company.  Their solution: throw it in the garbage and we’ll send you a new one.

I’m tired of broken things. It seems that no matter where I turn lately, something is broken. Broken hole punch… broken pencil… broken toaster… broken windshield… broken trust… broken relationships… broken dreams… broken… broken… broken. I admit that I get frustrated with broken things. And yet that’s what I offer to God over and over. My own brokenness. Matthew West sings a song that has been looping in my brain like a broken record. Ironically, the title is “Broken Things”. I sing backup on every chorus: “I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King. I wish I could bring so much more. But if it’s true – You use broken things, then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours!”

I want to offer myself to God as neatly packaged and as useful as possible. I don’t like to lay my brokenness at His feet, but as this song reminds me, “The pages of history they tell me it’s true, that it’s never the perfect, it’s always the ones with the scars that You use. It’s the rebels and the prodigals, it’s the humble and the weak. All the misfit heroes You chose tell me there’s hope for sinners like me.”

Contrary to our culture, God is in the business of using the busted up, cracked open, and crushed. He is attracted to the broken and moved to compassion. Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” and Psalm 147:3 affirms that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God doesn’t discard those things that are broken, he uses them. He uses our messes and mistakes, our trials and troubles. He uses all of it for our good and for his honor and glory. God is a master Recycler. But only when we surrender our junk to Jesus, can we be recycled and made useful again. Psalm 51 assures us that God does not delight in sacrifices and burnt offerings, but the sacrifices that God will not despise are a broken spirit; a broken and humble heart.

If you’re feeling broken today, don’t despair. I know a Man who was broken for you and is willing and able to use your brokenness to make something beautiful.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Praise the Lord!

People always say expect the unexpected, but if you expect the unexpected, isn’t it expected?  Recently, I shared with a close friend about a challenge that I was facing.  I expected her to sympathize with me and offer some encouragement or words of wisdom.  Instead, the words that came from her mouth were, “You need to praise God.”  I was a little surprised at her response, but I immediately knew she was right.  I had been focusing on the problem at hand instead of the Problem Solver.  Over the next few days, God relentlessly reminded me of the need to praise Him no matter what.

Praise is easy.  When life is going well, we give God the glory.  We are quick to praise Him from the mountaintops and areas of beauty, but what place does praise have in the valley and the darkness?  The Chronicles of the Old Testament record a beautiful picture of the power of praise.  King Jehoshaphat finds himself and all the people of Judah in quite a pickle.  Messengers have come to the King and reported that a huge army is on its way to attack them and he knows there is no humanly possible way in which they could be victorious.  King Jehoshaphat is alarmed and summons all the people to join him in the most sensible way he knows how—to seek help from the Lord.  The King pleads with God Almighty to save them from this impending calamity.  From the midst of the assembly, the Lord speaks through one of the young men and assures the people that the battle is God’s and they do not need to be afraid.  They do, however, need to go out the next day and face their enemy.  Upon hearing these words, King Jehoshaphat and all the people bowed down in worship before the Lord and several men in the group stood up and praised God loudly.  Early the next morning, the King gave the people a spiritual pep talk and appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of his holiness as they led the army of Judah forward.

The next words in 2 Chronicles 20:22 strengthen me.  “AS THEY BEGAN TO SING AND PRAISE,” the Lord set ambushes against their enemies, causing the opposing forces to turn on one another and they were defeated.  Yay, God!

The people of Judah didn’t have to lift a finger, all they needed to do was lift their voices.  Could the same be true for us?  The people not only praised God after things turned out in a positive way, they praised God before the battle even got started, and continued to praise him in the midst of their attack.  As my friend reminded me, my commitment to praise God didn’t change because of my circumstances.  Praise should be an ongoing response to the splendor of the Lord and He will fight for me.

Praise is a powerful weapon in our spiritual arsenal.  Praise confuses the enemy and it takes our focus off the storm and forces us to look to the only One who can bring calm.  Hebrews 13:15 reminds us, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”  Whatever situation you find yourself in today, will you join me in praise?

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17)

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)

Erin Jacobsma

 


I Have a Dream

I have a dream.

Depending on your age, those four words probably trigger a memory of Martin Luther King Jr addressing a crowd at the March on Washington, or possibly a whimsical song from the movie TangledTangled is a story about Rapunzel who has a dream to see the floating lanterns that appear in the sky each year on her birthday.  Through a tangled web of events, she enlists the help of the kingdom’s most wanted thief, Flynn rider, to take her to see the lights.  That is until they end up at the Snuggly Duckling Tavern and a group of ruffians capture Rider and Rapunzel’s dream seems to be on the verge of unraveling.  Rapunzel uses her long hair to disarm the bandits and confronts the group of thugs to plead her case for her dream of seeing the lanterns and asks them, “Haven’t any of you ever had a dream?”  The ringleader grabs an ax and approaches Rapunzel with anger in his eyes when he turns and says, “I had a dream… once.”  What follows is the “I Have a Dream” song where the room full of vicious scoundrels share their unlikely and touchy-feely dreams.  In the middle of the song, they ask Flynn Rider what’s his dream.  Rider denies his singing ability and having a dream until he’s held at knife point.

I recently watched a video of Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of International Justice Missions, who talked about leaders having a dream and not being afraid to follow those dreams.  Haugen went on to say that fear was the silent destroyer of dreams.  And while our most powerful dreams flow out of love, fear is a preoccupation with ourselves.  His personal fear in leaving a good job to start a non-profit global ministry was the fear of looking like a failure.  This was all very interesting to me, but as I listened to the presentation, I felt like Flynn Rider and not having a dream that was worth singing about.  As a youngster, I had a dream to become a nurse, but that dream was short lived with the realization that the sight of blood made my head spin and my stomach roll over.

Some people have grand dreams of opening a restaurant or writing a book.  Others dream of being famous or fighting an injustice.  As my mind hovered on the verge of my “No Dream” pity party, the Spirit began to remind me of the dreams I do have.  Though maybe not as concrete as a college degree or a Super Bowl ring, I have a dream, or maybe multiple dreams.  I have a dream to help people experience the freedom of surrendering their life to Jesus Christ, to know the power of his unfailing love and accept his grace and mercy.  I dream of a world where each person is celebrated as a child of God regardless of their past or present.  I dream of a community that cares for all it’s people.  I dream of a church where all would be welcomed and loved, where pettiness would disappear, and where people would worship with all their hearts and be willing participants.  I dream of families that would stick together, respect, honor and serve one another.

I don’t think it would take much to imagine that the apostle Paul also had some dreams for the world in which he lived.  He dreamed about people having the eyes of their heart enlightened that they would know the hope to which they were called, the riches of their glorious inheritance and the incomparably great power for those who believed (Eph 1:18-19).  He dreamed that the people would be rooted and established in love and that they would grasp the width, length, height and depth of the love of Christ (Eph 3:17-18).

Another dream I have stems from the conversation in Mark 12:30-31 where Jesus tells the people that the two most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  I don’t want to start a new program or develop a new ministry, but I envision God’s people being deployed in this community, wearing t-shirts that say Love God – Love People, and humbly offering a hand wherever and whenever there is a need… cleaning up after a storm, picking up garbage after a baseball game, pitching in at Hot Dog Night or Tri-State Band Festival, living a life of service for the glory of God and the transformation of the world.

So how about you?  Do you have a dream?  Is there a dream or vision that God has for ARC?  I’m confident he does!  Let’s seek that dream together!

Erin Jacobsma