Growing Courage

In last week’s article I shared a small portion of our learning about the value of courage at our Ridder: Churches Learning Change retreat. Hey, by the way, wasn’t that a great video I suggested for you to watch!! My favorite line is when he says, “I know this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It’s my aliveness coming to get me.” When it comes to living on mission with Jesus, it takes a great deal of courage to let go of what is familiar in order to grab on to what is unknown.

Again, the definition for courage we were given is, courage is getting or staying in action, as wholehearted children of God, regardless of fear, anxiety, shame, or real or imagined consequences. Well, at the end of the article I pretended not to know how to grow courage and so I asked you to send me your thoughts in regards to this question: So how do we grow courage? Apparently you also thought I was pretending since I didn’t hear from any of you. J

Ok, so here are my thoughts on how to grow courage. First of all, we often grow in courage when we are forced to act in a particular situation because the consequences of doing nothing will be too costly for the other person. For example, if you have a co-worker or neighbor who you discern is darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God due to the hardening of their hearts, you’re not just going to let them go to hell; of course you’re going to muster up the courage to help them discover the good news of Jesus.

And when I think of other ways to grow courage, again I think of David. When it came to fighting Goliath, David found courage in reflecting on past experiences when God empowered him to overcome a situation that appeared to be impossible. When explaining why he had no fear of fighting Goliath, David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Courage is the choice to obey God based on past experiences of God’s faithfulness.

On another occasion David and his troops were out fighting against the Philistines and while they were away, the Amalekites came and destroyed their hometown and kidnapped their wives and children. Of course, David’s soldiers were heartbroken. In fact they were so angry with David that they wanted to kill him, and so in order to overcome his discouragement, it says in I Samuel 30:6 that “David strengthened himself in the Lord.”

You grow courage by learning how to strengthen yourself in the Lord. And you strengthen yourself in the Lord by rehearsing and claiming all of the promises of God. If you read through the Psalms you will find hundreds of promises that David wrote; promises like Psalm 91:14, “The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.”

And then my favorite way to grow courage is by studying the life of Jesus and hanging out with him. I figure if it worked for Peter and John, it will also work for me. Luke records these insights on how to grow courage in Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

So, your aliveness of living on mission with Jesus is coming to get you, may you have the courage to grab on to it!! Hanging on to the old bar is no longer an alternative.

By God’s grace…learning how to fly, Mike Altena

 


Strong and Courageous

Included in my 100 favorite stories in the Bible is the story of David’s encounter with Goliath. The story is told in I Samuel 17. The armies of the Israelite’s and the Philistine’s gathered in the Valley of Elah to wage war. Battles of this magnitude often resulted in heavy death losses on both sides, and so on occasion in order to reduce blood shed, each army would send one man to determine the outcome of the battle.

As the story unfolds, “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall.” He wore a coat of bronze scale armor which weighed 125 pounds. The end of his spear weighed 15 pounds. His size alone would have been enough to discourage anyone. Each day for 40 days Goliath would walk out onto the battle field and challenged someone to come and fight him saying,  “Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

No one had the courage to fight the intimidating Goliath until one day when Jesse sent his son David to the battle field with some snacks for the Israelite army. Upon arrival David discovered the tension between the two armies and after discovering the payout for the person who killed Goliath, David said to King Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

As I ponder David’s courage, I am amazed at how he managed his feelings of fear.  Although numerous times in the Bible we are told not to be afraid, it doesn’t mean that we should never experience fear. Fear is simply an emotion that is naturally produced by a situation that is perceived to be threatening. The command to not be afraid has more to do with how we respond to our emotions of fear. The opposite of being afraid is not the absence of fear, but rather the absence of courage.

Another value the Ridder Team learned about a couple weeks ago was the value of courage. It is impossible for us to live our life as if Jesus were living our life apart from displaying courage. There is no doubt; to follow Christ in mission will require courage.

The definition we were given for courage was: “Getting or staying in action, as wholehearted children of God, regardless of fear, anxiety, shame, or real or imagined consequences.” A shorter definition from John Wayne is “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

In his devotion on this value of courage, Pastor Scott Stephan writes, “Most Christians have advanced in our spiritual maturity only as far as our courage has taken us. In other words, what is often standing in the way of experiencing God’s emerging future is not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of courage. If that is true, then it’s quite possible that what you and I don’t need is another sermon, but rather “saddling up” and doing what we already know God is calling us to do.”

We all have habitual areas of disobedience that exist solely because we lack the courage to do what we know is right. One of the primary reasons that leaders fail, that relationships break down, that teams become dysfunctional, and that churches become ineffective against the schemes of the devil is simply a failure of nerve—a failure of courage.

So how do we grow in courage?  Well, I’m not sure? So send me your ideas and then I’ll finish my thoughts on the value of courage next week. 🙂 In the meant time check this out!!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWvV5N4hOGc

Growing in being strong and courageous,

Mike Altena

 


Aren’t You Curious?

Last weekend the Ridder: Churches Learning Change Team gathered in Sioux Falls with several other teams from churches in northwest Iowa to continue our discussion on how we can grow in becoming more fruitful and effective in personal and corporate missional living. Back in 2016 Vicki Altena, George A. Bonnema, Angie Fick, Erin Jacobsma, Becky Ossefoort, David Sandbulte, and Randy Sasker gave their word to learning with and for our congregation about how we could move towards God’s emerging future for ourselves and for ARC.

Meeting the first and third Tuesday evening of each month, our team spent most of 2016 learning how authenticity and integrity are significant values for living on mission and how the anxiety of change affects a family system. We also reflected on our mental model of discipleship and our mental model of missional living; both of which have a significant impact on the fruitfulness of making disciples.

Next, we spent the first part of 2017 identifying our current reality and the second half considering how we could generate and sustain some creative tension that would help us have a greater impact on blessing our community and also in connecting with those who are far from God. In October 2017 our team and a few other individuals from our congregation attended a Faithwalking Retreat which is a spiritual formation process designed to help a person increasingly follow the way of Jesus.

Then, in the beginning of 2018 we worked through Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Pursuing God’s Will Together, in order to help us grow in discerning where God is inviting us to join him on mission both personally and as a congregation. It has been an exciting process to watch where God has been inviting each person on our team to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel. Most notably we have been really excited to see how God has invited George and his board to address the needs of the senior citizens in our community. Since September we have also been working through Faithwalking 201 which is designed to help remove the obstacles to living an integrated, missional life.

Well, one of the new values we were introduced to last weekend was the value of curiosity. An individual or congregation that seeks to be faithful and fruitful in following Jesus on mission must remain curious. The Churches Learning Change definition we were given is that curiosity = “openly engaging God, others, and self with inquiry and wonder for the purpose of discovering God’s design to live missionally.”

Question: Are you still curious about discovering God’s design for you to join him on mission? Well having had the opportunity to help present the information on this value, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my level of curiosity. Actually I believe curiosity is more than a value we should develop. I believe curiosity is something that God has hardwired into us. We are curious beings from the time we are born. Have you ever heard of a parent who had to teach their child to put something in their mouth, to touch something they shouldn’t, or to ask the question why?

And yet in his book, Leadership on the Line, Ronald Heifetz suggested that, over a period of time while living into God’s call on our life, it is possible that our curiosity will begin to fade. He would argue that the continued resistance to change or the resignation to status quo dulls our capacity for curiosity. So then, in order stay curious, Heifetz would suggest, “The practice of leadership requires the capacity to keep asking the basic questions of yourself and of the people in your organization and community.”

So how about it, what would be some “basic questions” that would stir your curiosity to help you become more clear about the good works God prepared in advance for you to do?

Just curious, Mike Altena

 


Pop the Pimple

As you know, our journey of life is full of many twists and turns and unexpected surprises. Such was the case for Vicki and me this past Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day is very special to us not only because it’s a day to celebrate love between friends, but it was also 38 years ago that I drove Vicki out into a rolling meadow by Oak Grove State Park where we sat under a big oak tree and enjoyed a wonderful picnic. And afterwards I asked Vicki to marry me while the song I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You by Foreigner was playing softly in the back ground on my boom box.

Well, rather than going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day this year, Vicki and I decided we would stay home and enjoy a romantic candlelight dinner complete with steak and shrimp, baked potatoes, corn and leftover cheese cake from the coffee shop and a glass of yellow wine (Mountain Dew).  Again we enjoyed a special time together, although I forgot to put the candle on the table.

Feelings of passion were intensifying so Vicki and I decided then that we would cap the night by watching The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story. It’s the story of how an American athlete and a Russian gymnast fall in love right before the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Well wouldn’t you know it, when we turned the television on to begin searching through Netflix for the movie, I discovered that a new episode of Dr. Pimple Popper had just started. So Vicki and I quickly snuggled under our blankets in time to discover that Taylore had an ear keloid on each ear that needed to be clipped off. Ken had several epidermoid and pilar cysts that needed popping and Jose had a two year old lymphoma cyst that was the size of a tennis ball on his forehead that he wanted extracted.

Dr. Pimple Popper maybe wasn’t the love story that we had planned on watching, but it was so exciting to watch each individual find freedom from their pockets of puss. In fact, at times, the show was so full of suspense Vicki couldn’t even watch—it was the perfect night of celebrating love!!

If you’ve ever watched the Dr. Pimple Popper show, then like me, you wonder how all those little juicy cysts and zits begin to grow. And even more amazing to me is why do some of the people let them continue to grow bigger and bigger; one lady had a 45 year old black head removed that looked like a black marble.

Well, because I’m always thinking of something to write about for these articles, I began wondering if there was a spiritual connection between having a pimple removed and our Christian life. After all, after having his lipoma removed from his forehead, Jose said, “Dr Lee has changed my whole life.”  And sure enough, as I was reflecting on the mashed potato like substance that was oozing from the pimples of each individual the Spirit helped me see that those cysts and zits and black heads are like unforgiven offenses or unconfessed sin—the longer you ignore them, the bigger they grow and the nastier they smell when you    pop them.

When it comes to popping the pimple of an offense, Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if you have any grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  And when it comes to extracting the cyst of an unconfessed sin, John urges us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sin, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

With that in mind, I’d like to close by confessing a sin to you; I have an “epidermoid” growing in me. See I lied to you. I did not take Vicki to a meadow for a picnic and I did not ask to marry her under that tree with the song playing in the background. The truth is, I can’t remember where I took her out for dinner 38 years ago and I actually asked her to marry me while we were sitting in my car on her driveway right before I dropped her off for the night. I’m sorry. There I feel so much better ! Jesus has changed my whole life!!

With love,

Mike Altena

 


Set the Stage

As many of you may have noticed, work has begun on the renovation of the front of the old sanctuary. The stage area will be replaced with rooms for storage.  (For those of you who were at the Congregational meeting, you may remember that the project wasn’t going to begin until all the necessary funds were received. Well Merlin, Adam and Derek from Cleveringa Construction approached the Consistory about getting started earlier so they would have inside work during the next few months. Their proposal also included waiting to send the bill until funds were available, so the Consistory approved their request).

So, the Cleveringa crew quickly moved in on Tuesday, hung some plastic, built some temporary walls and began dismantling the old stage and choir loft. The space that so often was filled with the beautiful songs of the choir and the preaching of the good news of the gospel was replaced with the sounds of hammers pounding, the screeches of crow bars prying apart lumber, cordless saws cutting through perfectly good lumber and the sad, sad sound of country western music. J Even though the stage had been built sturdy enough to drive a semi on it, by quitting time, was almost completely dismantled. The area had been cleared and was almost ready for a “new stage” for enhancing our ministry.

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not a very sentimental person—I don’t get too attached to anything that has fulfilled its purpose—and yet as I watched and reflected on the demolition, I felt both a sense of sadness and joy. I began thinking about all of the choir songs and special numbers that were performed on that stage. I thought about all the weddings, the baptisms, the professions of faith, the funerals that were performed by several different pastors. I even thought about the opportunity I had on May 30, 2004 to provide pulpit supply; my first since graduating seminary. I remembered Cory and the youth praise teams leading worship during YEL.

I felt sadness that the stage was gone, and yet I felt great joy when thinking about all the ways God had used that platform to reveal his love and grace to so many of you over the years. And even felt more joy when David Sandbulte brought me a vintage 16 ounce glass Mountain Dew bottle he found under the stage; complete with a soggy cigarette butt in the bottom of it. I began to wonder, did Merlin Cleveringa help build the stage when he was a teenager? Or was it from David’s dad, Henry? Did either of you ever smoke Camel straights? J

As I continued to reflect on my experience, the Spirit brought to mind the story from Luke 5 of when Jesus asked Peter if he could climb in his boat and use it as a stage to preach from. Peter humbly and eagerly welcomed him to use his stage. After he finished preaching, Jesus asked Peter if he would be willing to bring his stage out into the deeper waters to let down his nets and it was there that Jesus invited Peter to become a fisher of men. In a sense Jesus was inviting Peter to leave what was familiar and what likely had resulted in some great memories in order to risk a new adventure with a greater audience.

I thank God for the new stage that we have in the new worship center; I believe God has already revealed his love and his grace in so many ways to so many people from that stage. And yet like Peter, because Jesus said so, I hope each one of us is willing to take a greater risk by taking our stage into deeper waters in order to become fishers of men. “…so they pulled their boats [stages], left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11).

Don’t be afraid…,

Mike Altena

 


I Want To See

Since I have been diagnosed with Glaucoma, one of the tests I have to take often is the Vision Field Test. For those of you who haven’t taken it, I lean forward and look into a little machine and what I see is a white field. Once the test begins, little black dots begin to randomly appear in my field of vision and each time I see one I am supposed to push the button that I have in my hand. Imagine the vision field is like a clock; because of the glaucoma in my right eye, I can’t see the little black dots when they appear in the area from three 3:00-6:00. I can clearly see all the little black dots with my left eye, but not with my right eye.

As I was thinking about some of the news stories this week, especially in regards to the abortion issues in Iowa and New York, I can only think there are many people with spiritual glaucoma. They just can’t seem to see clearly what you and I see. We wonder how they cannot see that ending the life of a baby inside the mother’s womb is murder—how can they not see it?

There certainly seems to be a real form of spiritual glaucoma that is causing people not to be able to see these days. As I was reflecting on this sad reality, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:4, where he wrote, “The god of this age has blinded the mind of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” According to Paul, unbelievers are really blind to the truth.

Now here’s where my analogy breaks down because when Paul writes that Satan “blinded the minds” of unbelievers, Paul is vividly portraying someone who deliberately removed that person’s eyes and permanently blinded them. So it’s not like the person is slowly losing their sight, they actually don’t even have eyes!

And then also notice, Paul didn’t say that Satan blinded their eyes, it says he blinded their mind. And when referring to their mind, Paul is referring to an unbeliever’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ability to reason. So Paul is saying Satan has “gouged out” the spiritual eyes of unbelievers to such a degree that they have no ability to see things correctly and therefore it has also impaired their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ability to reason. As a result, for someone who is spiritually blind, killing an unwanted child seems like the logical thing to do.

Many of the foolish decisions our government officials make creates a deep sense of sadness and even righteous anger in me. And in those situations, having had our eyes opened by the Holy Spirit, our responsibility is certainly to speak up for those who have no voice. While at the same time we must pray that the Holy Spirit would open their spiritual eyes so they can see Truth.

Although what we see unfolding in our country and around the world is deeply discouraging, we shouldn’t be surprised. Writing to Timothy about what it will be like in the last days, Paul writes, “Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

One final thought; it’s easy to become outraged when you clearly see someone else who is apparently rebelling against God’s will, and yet may it not be so with you and me that we would overlook the ways we give ourselves grace for our own willful disobedience. Instead may we have the humility of the blind man who when Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” said, “I want to see.”

So grateful to be able to see, Mike Altena

 


For the Grace of God

In last week’s article, I mentioned that I occasionally watch the Food Channel. But the problem with watching the Food Channel for me is that it often makes me hungry, so then I quickly change the channel to the program entitled, “My 600-lb Life.”

Recently I watched an episode in which Dr. Nowzaradan had met with James K. about getting his weight under control. James had actually gained so much weight he was unable to get out of bed. So before Dr. “Now” would perform the weight loss surgery on James, he sent him home for a period of time to live on a restricted diet of 1200 calories in order to lose weight.

During the filming of his time on the restricted diet, James made it sound like he had been doing really well and that he was quite confident he was losing weight, however during the program, they showed James getting very irate about his diet with his fiancé, Lisa. He was tired of eating chicken and shrimp and he had a strong hankerin’ for some Chinese food.

At first Lisa denied his request, arguing that it would ruin his diet and therefore jeopardize his possibility of getting the surgery. James angrily argued back, claiming that to fudge on his diet “just this one time” would in no way sabotage his progress and that it would actually be a nice little reward for doing so well. Lisa seemed a bit frustrated, but eventually called a Chinese restaurant to have some food delivered.

Soon it was time for James to return to the hospital to see if he had lost enough weight. James explained that, because he was so heavy and that he couldn’t stand up, they would have to weigh him in a special bed. I thought it seemed a bit strange since it sounded like James had lost a lot of weight while at home, but on the way to the hospital James and Lisa began to express their fear over how Dr. Now would respond if he hadn’t lost any weight. I began to wonder if James and Lisa had been telling the truth.

Well sure enough, after hoisting James in bed, the scale revealed the truth that James had indeed gained an additional 140 pounds. James’s weight had climbed to 840 pounds. Interestingly James and Lisa were both surprised and disappointed; apparently he had rewarded himself more than just the one time. J James was eating himself to death.

As I was reflecting on James’s weight gain, I also had to admit, I am really not that much different than James, I am so undisciplined and I find all kinds of ways of sabotaging my goals. And even though I am dead to sin, I often feel like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25, “Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise…. I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.”

As Paul would write in Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled…”

I thank God that at the end of my rope there is no condemnation, but that his grace can save me from destroying myself. And may it be so with you as well!

Wishing you a grace-filled 2019,

Mike Altena

 

 


Ready or Not

In our message last week Sunday, we were reminded that because of God’s amazing saving grace, we are to devote our lives to doing good. I challenged you to consider this question: of the 1440 minutes God gives you each day, what percentage do you devote to doing good?

Well, one of the ways I like to “devote myself to doing good” each day is by plopping down in my Lazy Boy with a bowl of popcorn or ice-cream each night in order to watch 180 minutes of the Food Channel. For those of you who have ever watched the Food Channel, you know how exciting the different shows are. I especially love the episodes of Beat Bobby Flay!

I am so amazed at the creativity of the chefs and how they can take foods I’ve never heard of and turn them into something delicious. That being said, I’d still like to see them try to get creative with the kinds of food I like to cook; things like hot dogs, mac and cheese, tater chips, or Cream of Wheat.

The Food Chanel shows are so fun to watch, and yet what really makes them even more fun is that the chefs are given a certain amount of time to get their dish made. You would probably never guess this, but often times the chefs are putting their finishing touches on their dish while the sand in the hour glass is running out. Sometimes it’s so close that I can’t even watch. In fact, on one occasion I even had to change the channel because I was getting so excited I was having chest pains. J

As I was thinking about the excitement that comes with having to finish making a meal before the tiny crystals of sand make their way through the narrow opening of the hour glass, I thought of the exciting time we’re living in while we’re preparing the way of the Lord before he comes back. The story is told in Matthew 25, it goes like this:

1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’ 12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’ 13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.”

May it not be so with you and me that we would be like the silly virgins who were not ready when the Bridegroom returned for them. And even worse, may it not be so with you and me that Jesus would find us sitting in our Lazy Boys watching other “wannabe chefs” trying to beat Bobby Flay.

#savedformorethanwatchingFoodChannel    #readyornot    #Jesusiscomingsoon

Mike Altena

 


Partnership in the Gospel

The first eight days of ministry in November have proved to be both very exciting and challenging so far. And like the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi, let me say “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5).

First of all, most often a person doesn’t realize the gift you had, until you lose it. Again I am so grateful for Nate and Missy’s leadership in worship for the past seven months, because now that they’re gone, I am seeing more clearly how complex it is to organize the Sunday worship service. Until we hire someone, Erin, a team of volunteers, and myself (although mostly Erin) have been picking songs, planning worship, organizing practices, and communicating with guest worship leaders.

In addition, Arlin called a meeting with the projection and sound volunteers to talk about how those teams can also function at a high level in the midst of the chaos. Although I wasn’t at the meeting, I discovered that there are a few of the long term members of those teams who are ready to take a break. Then when talking about recruiting new members to the team, it was noted that making the song presentation for each Sunday morning can take anywhere from three to four hours. And then there is the sacrifice of coming early for practice on Sunday mornings, not really being able to worship as they are focusing on their responsibilities, and not being able to worship with their families.

I am so thankful for all committed partners in the gospel that it takes just to gather for worship! (And please don’t forget about all of the praise team members, the SS teachers, those who make and serve coffee, the ushers, the nursery workers… J)

On Monday night the Consistory met for a five-hour meeting. Thanks for your commitment, guys!

Then this past Tuesday was an exciting day as Darrell and LaDonna’s youth group volunteers moved in to start cooking for their fundraiser (a few who took the day off from work). In addition, those who participated in the Bake-Off Challenge began dropping off their goodies. What a fun-filled day and evening; again, it wouldn’t have been possible without so many of you partnering in the gospel.

Then on Wednesday morning the volunteers moved in to begin working on the meal for Wednesday night. And thanks to some great partners, making and serving the meal usually gets pulled off without much fanfare, however on this day, the cook wasn’t feeling well so she went home. Thankfully Erin and Becky and some more great volunteers were able to finish preparing and serving a great meal!

Then as the church emptied out from Pioneer Club and youth groups, Henry, Virginia and Brian began setting up for the funeral for Zach Cowell. Between harvest and other work schedules, finding volunteers to bring cake and bars and to serve at funerals is a challenge. However, whether they were able to be there the whole time, or just coming to help during their lunch break, several other partners in the gospel did a great job on Thursday in helping the Cowell and Klarenbeek family feel loved!

And of course, the ministry that I mentioned above is only that which I’m aware of. I know without a doubt that many others were living on mission in other ways. Although maybe feeling somewhat emotionally drained as I write this, again my heart feels full of joy when I think of how you have all been created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which he has prepared in advance for you to do.

Oh and one final request, if you have any interest in checking out our sound or projection ministry, please contact Arlin.

Laboring for the Harvest,

Mike Altena

 


Exercise Your Right to Vote

In his article “Why This is The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” in the November 2018 issue of Decision magazine, Franklin Graham shares these thoughts. “There is a battle raging between good and evil, between right and wrong, between light and darkness. It’s not new, but it certainly has intensified in a very public way. The battle is raging in the halls of Congress, on the Senate floor, in the Supreme Court, and on the media airwaves. It’s raging in our city councils and school boards across America.

The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil: who put darkness for light and light for darkness: who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:29).

The further our nation moves away from God, the quicker our decent into greater moral depravity and chaos. I fear for what is in store for our children and grandchildren.”

He then goes on to encourage his readers to go out and vote on Tuesday, November 6 –voting for the candidate who is most closely aligned with Biblical values.

After the Presidential election in 2016 I began to question what my responsibility was in regards to politics and voting—especially in light of the fact that I questioned the integrity of both major candidates and that I am foremost loyal to the King and his Kingdom. I wondered, if Jesus lived in our day and had the opportunity, would he have voted? And who would he have voted for? Maybe you have some of the same questions or skepticisms.

So what does the Bible say? In Romans 13:1 it basically says that God is ultimately the one who establishes government. And in our form of government, as a citizen of America we have the privilege and responsibility of electing those who govern over us.

In Jesus’ or Paul’s day they would’ve had no such opportunity to vote for who would govern them, so at minimum, Paul encourages Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior … (I Timothy 2:1-3).

From this text we can clearly see that it’s God’s heart that we would enjoy peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Our ability to choose leaders gives us the ability to pick leaders that would seek to work towards that end.

In Philippians 1:27, Paul encourages the church with these instructions, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The word for “conduct yourselves” in the Greek is politeumai; it’s where we get our word “politics.” So for you and I to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel would mean that we have a responsibility of being active in administering civil affairs.

As ambassadors for Christ, you and I have been called to advance the reign and rule of Christ in our circles of influence and one of the most entry level ways of doing that is to vote for Godly leaders whose values align with the kingdom of God.

I agree with Franklin Graham; I believe this election is critically important to the future of the family and church in America. So please, renounce any passive thoughts that your vote doesn’t matter, and vote! By doing so you are voting to bringing the kingdom of God to our families, our churches and our schools!

(In order to help you make a more informed vote, I put a little card in each mailbox on how to access your own personal voter’s guide online).

Seeking to advance the Kingdom,

Mike Altena