In June of last year, the Vision 2020 Team of the Reformed Church of America (RCA) released its study report and suggestion of how to move forward in light of how some churches are interpreting scripture; especially in regards to human sexuality, universalism, and church discipline or the lack of it.

The report painted a picture of a diverse denomination in belief, practice, and even priorities. While it was difficult for the group to reach consensus around how the current reality should be defined, they were united in their assertion that first, deep change was needed to address both the present divisiveness around controversial topics and various areas of organizational dysfunction.

Secondly, they recommend that a new non-profit mission agency be formed independent of the RCA (but in partnership with the RCA) to house what currently makes up the RCA’s work in global missions.

And then thirdly, recognizing that some separation is inevitable, they believed the RCA has an opportunity to act in an exemplary way by providing a generous exit path for those churches which decide to leave and by inviting those churches to also act generously. (All of this information can be found at ).

Since that report was released, our Consistory has been discussing how American Reformed Church should respond in order to remain faithful to the gospel and to the call God has placed on our church. We have patiently waited to see what possible off ramps and new landing spots might present themselves from the churches who are likely to leave the RCA. We have reflected on the value of denominations and how they enhance or hinder the effectiveness of our ministry.

Questions that we have been seeking answers to are: What about theology? How large of a core of non-negotiables do we desire? Creeds? Confessions? Worship liturgy? Bible interpretation? What form of governance and accountability? Do we want to be part of a large group of churches that holds one another accountable? What value do we find in networking with and supporting other churches in our area? Is it important to be part of a Classis? What about mission? How will being part of a denomination enhance our local, regional, or global mission? Do we need the help and support of denominational staff and resources? And regarding assessments, is the cost to participate worth it?

From June to November several RCA churches or Classes throughout the country began working on new denominations or affiliations. Seven different expressions began to take shape.

In October, the Consistory sent out a questionnaire seeking your thoughts on whether ARC should stay in the RCA, 75% believed we must leave. 20% believed we could stay, 5% believed we must stay.

In December, leaders from the seven different groups met to see if there was enough common ground for one group to be formed. Since then, the leaders of the seven groups have united and are in the process of forming the Alliance of Reformed Churches. And since the initials of our church match the initials of the new alliance, we firmly believe that it is a sign we are supposed to leave the RCA and join the ARC. (OK, just kidding ☺).

However, the Consistory did meet this past week with Pastor Tim Vink who retired from the RCA and now has been hired by the Alliance of Reformed Churches as the Director of Spiritual Formation and Outreach. And although many details are stilled to be decided, we were excited to hear about their vison of how we could partner with them and how they could support us. We were excited to hear about their desire to equip local churches to be rooted in the love of the Father, to be Christ centered, and Spirit empowered.

If you would like to know more about the Alliance of Reformed Churches, you can go to or check your mailbox for the Alliance of Reformed Churches Organizational Convictions document. And then also, come join us on Sunday, June 6 at 10:45 AM for the informational meeting.

Mike Altena


Cheerful Giving

This Sunday marks the conclusion of our Sunday school year. As I reflect on this past year and the challenges presented by Covid 19 I am so grateful for everyone’s flexibility to do whatever was necessary to hold our education classes. For the most part our children’s and youth ministry has not only survived, but in many ways it has also thrived. I thank God for the ways he has protected us and provide for us.

I say “for the most part our ministry has survived” because there has been one area that has seen a significant impact. One significant setback has been in the children’s offering. That’s right, while the adult offering has remained consistently generous, the weekly children’s offering has dropped by a whopping 90 percent!

Friends, the fact that our children’s allowances have been cut back so severely to the point where they almost have nothing left to invest in kingdom ministries creates deep feelings of sadness and concern for me. And I am especially concerned when I think about our parents who have received generous relief payments from the hand of our government. Doesn’t it seem suspicious to you that the government has been sending all kinds of money to our parents, but then our parents are withholding it from their children, so they have little more than a widow’s mite to give as an offering? May it not be so with you and me!!

Okay, so by now you may have guessed I am just kidding. However, the fact that our children’s offering has dropped so low (average $5 per week) has raised some questions. Why do we even take a children’s offering? Would the peer pressure of making the kids bring their offering forward during the worship service increase giving amounts? Where do the children from 4th grade to 12th grade give their gift? At what point does a child shift their giving from the children’s offering to the adult offering? Are parents teaching their children about Biblical stewardship and the joy of giving? And I hope it doesn’t come to this, but should the deacons begin visiting the parents to see why they are withholding a portion of their relief check from their children? ☺

Now, I want to be clear about the intent of this article. Personally, I appreciate the effort Becky puts into finding worthy kingdom causes to invest in, however my point is not to guilt the children into giving more money. And yet I do hope and pray that parents are teaching Biblical stewardship and the joy of giving at a very young age.

Parents, when apprenticing your children in the area of giving, I hope you use the Macedonians as the model. The Apostle Paul tells the story in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 about the generous spirit of the Macedonians even though they had little themselves. Here are a few selected verses. 1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people… Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

The vision for our ministry is to apprentice future generations to passionately proclaim and demonstrate the good news of the kingdom and according to these verses, one of the greatest ways you can teach your children how to demonstrate the gospel message is through generous and cheerful giving. May it be so with you and me and our children!! Looks like lots more government relief payments from July through December to invest in the kingdom!

Overflowing with thanks to God, Mike Altena


Wait It Out

When thinking about the evil invading our society, (e.g. story in the news about Virginia parents who confront Loudoun County school board over critical race theory, ‘pornographic’ books in school), I often find myself wondering what my role is in addressing evil.

On one hand the Apostle Paul suggests in Galatians 6 that “if someone is caught in sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” I suppose the assumption is the person who is “caught in sin” is a follower of the Way so I should do something.

On the other hand, this morning I spent some time mediating on Jesus’ parable of the weeds in Matthew 13. 24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

So like the disciples, you and I might not be clear on how to interpret the parable. Thankfully, Jesus patiently explains the parable of the weeds to his disciples and to us. Here is how to understand the parable of the weeds. 36 Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

Am I understanding this correctly, there are times to engage someone who is caught in sin, and at other times we are to live patiently in the midst of, and with the consequences of, those who are spreading evil? Do you think the parents in Loudoun County should have confronted the school board, or should they just let them continue to do what evil people do?

Grace to you and peace,

Mike Altena


Right Responses

Because I couldn’t say it any better, I share this letter from Pastor Jeff Evans. Pastor Evans is the director of the Minnesota Church Ambassador Network within the Minnesota Family Research Council.

Mike Altena


Dear Mike,

The Chauvin trial has come to a close.  Your congregants have a wide range of opinions and emotions. Some are relieved, some celebratory that justice has been served, and others concerned that justice may not have been served.  No doubt, you as a pastor have been asked what you think about all that has transpired. You may be preaching on this very topic this Sunday.  While we don’t pretend to know all the right responses to such a multifaceted issue, there are a few things we think are essential for everyone to consider.

First, compassion for the family of George Floyd. No verdict will bring him back to his family and friends. He was a human being made in the image of God.

Second, human justice has been rendered through our court system, and needs to be respected. “…[T]here is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).  Such justice, though human (and therefore always imperfect and incomplete), is part of God’s mercy toward society. We should give thanks to God for the trial administered by Judge Cahill, the service of the jurors, and the long hours put in both by the prosecution and defense. What’s more, compassion and justice belong together, so let us thank pastors and lay leaders who prayed and worked hard for peace in our streets and the constitutional right of free and non-violent expression.

Third, the Day is coming when divine justice and mercy will be fully applied. Though our human courts do contribute to the peace and prosperity of our state, as God has ordained, they cannot right every wrong    nor wipe away every tear. This will only happen when the Son rises from the right hand of the Father in   final judgment.

That time will come, but for now, we wait. The whole series of events of the past 331 days has taught us that we cannot put all our trust and hope in human justice, or merely human solutions. We must all grab hold of God’s precious Gospel, the divine Solution. We can start here: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  Jesus received the perfect sentence of justice (on our behalf) when He died on the Cross.  We believe the Father’s perfect forgiveness and mercy is extended to all who trust in His Son. This justice and mercy has been accomplished, and we must proclaim it to everyone.

As we move forward in the weeks and months ahead, let us reason with one another with all humility. Let’s listen respectfully, with the expectation and hope we will be listened to as well: “… let every person be   quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21). Let us trust in our Savior all the more and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This is the Gospel path to perfect justice, perfect compassion, and  perfect hope.

We covet your prayers as we navigate through these times by proclaiming the gospel, strengthening families, and advancing foundational truth in churches, the media, government, and the public square throughout the state of Minnesota.

Blessings in Christ, Pastor Jeff


Who Can We Trust?

This past week has been a very difficult week for me in that I discovered that I might not be able to trust my favorite news source any longer. That’s right, I often watch the Cable News Network because they claim to be  “the most trusted name in news.” Well, not according to a news article I read by Ryan Saavedra, an undercover agent from Project Veritas who interviewed CNN’s Technical Director, Charlie Chester about a variety of issues happening in America. And not knowing the true identity of who he was being interviewed by, Charlie Chester spilled the beans on many of their deceptive news reporting tactics.

For example, on Black Lives Matter and hate crimes, Chester said:

“I was trying to do some research on the Asian hate, like the people [who] are getting attacked and whatnot. A bunch of black men have been attacking Asians. I’m like ‘What are you doing? Like, we [CNN] are trying to help BLM.’”

“The optics of that are not good. These [are] little things that are enough to set back movements, because the far [right] will start to latch on and create stories like ‘criminalizing an entire people,’ you know, just easier headlines that way, I guess.”

On having a predetermined agenda to cover climate change and to use “fear” to sell it, Chester said:

“So, our next thing is going to be climate change awareness.”

“I think there’s a COVID fatigue. So, like whenever a new story comes up, they’re [CNN’s] going to latch onto it. They’ve already announced in our office that once the public is — will be open to it — we’re going to start focusing mainly on climate.”

“I have a feeling that it’s going to be like, constantly showing videos of decline in ice, and weather warming up, and like the effects it’s having on the economy–”

“Climate change is the next “pandemic-like story that we’ll beat to death, but that one’s got longevity. You know what I mean? Like there’s a definitive ending to the pandemic. It’ll taper off to a point that it’s not a problem anymore. Climate change can take years, so they’ll [CNN will] probably be able to milk that quite a bit.”

“Be prepared, it’s coming. Climate change is going to be the next COVID thing for CNN.”

When asked if CNN was going to use “fear” to push their agenda, Chester said, “Yeah. Fear sells.”

And in another Project Veritas released this week, Chester said:

“Any reporter on CNN — what they’re actually doing is they’re telling the person what to say… It’s always like leading them in a direction before they even open their mouths. The only people that we [CNN] will let on the air, for the most part, are people that have a proven track record of taking the bait.”

“I think there’s an art to manipulation…Inflection, saying things twice — there’s little subtleties to how to manipulate people…I mean, it’s enough to change the world, you know?”

Well, if you’re like me, I’m sure you’re heartbroken and outraged to discover that “the most trusted name in news” is intentionally trying to manipulate you and me. Very bad! Very bad!

And yet in our staff meeting this past Tuesday, we learned that all of us are guilty of manipulating each other in action and in the way we talk to each other.  God created humanity with four basic temperaments, and when operating in their weaknesses, Sanguines manipulate with charm and flattery, Cholerics manipulate with tone and volume, Melacholics manipulate with moods and silence, and Phlegmatics manipulate with procrastination and stubbornness (Trust me, you’ll have to take the course in order to understand).

May it not be so with you and me that we would intentionally manipulate one another with our words or actions, but rather may you and I change the world by always speaking the truth in love and saying only that what is helpful for building each other up according to their needs.

No more CNN, now only following Jesus, the most trusted name above all names,

Mike Altena


How Unfair!

I’m guessing some of you may have heard about the decision of the city council in Evanston, Illinois to pay reparations to black residents who have suffered housing discrimination. Because the black Americans who lived in that city from 1919-1969 were disadvantaged by racist housing decisions, the city council voted 8-1 to distribute $25,000 each to 16 eligible black households to use for home repairs or as a down payment on property. In order to be eligible to receive reparations, the family must have been living in Evanston from 1919 to 1969 and must have been a victim of discrimination in housing because of policies or practices in the city in that time. The funds to pay for the restitutions will come mostly from a new tax on legalized marijuana.

Although I don’t doubt that the black residents were treated unfairly, after reading the story, I wonder if in 50 years, will the marijuana smokers be eligible for reparations for being treated unfairly by the city council for having to pay for the reparations to those who were treated unfairly. Like how is it fair to treat someone unfairly to right a wrong that was committed by other people who acted unfairly? And why only 16 households? Is it fair that the rest of those who were discriminated against have to wait until more pot is smoked?

Well, of course this isn’t the only time someone was treated unfairly to provide reparations for those who had acted unfairly. There’s another such story told in Isaiah 53. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message and it goes like this: 1Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

2-6 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him [How is that fair?].

7-9 He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off—and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true.

10 Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

11-12 Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—the best of everything, the highest honors—Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep [How unfair!].

May it not be so with you and me that we would ever complain about being treated too unfairly. But   rather, may we meditate on how Father thought it was fair for his Son to pay the reparations for the injustices we commit.

Just as if I’d not sinned,

Mike Altena


Mr. Potato Head

America received more shocking and dark news this past week as Hasbro, the maker of Mr. Potato Head, has announced that the long time toy has been made over. After seven decades, Mr. Potato has lost his manhood. And not only has he lost his manhood, he lost his womanhood too. Mr. Potato Head has now become gender neutral and will be simply known as “Potato Head.” In fact, a spokesman for Hasbro said, “The Potato Head Family kits will come with two “non-gendered ‘adult’ potatoes, one ‘baby’ potato, and 42 accessories.” “That will let the kids decided the parents’ gender, rather than being told they are ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’”

The reality of that breaking news story, my friends, is deeply disturbing and saddening. Those whose hearts are darkened and have wandered far from the life of God have lost all sensitivity and sensibility. America, a nation founded by a majority of Christians who sought to live out the gospel, has been hijacked by a group of demonized individuals who have been deceived by the Devil.

And like Jeremiah, in the season of Lent I lament our loss of Godly values and the deceit being foisted on our children. I invite you to join me in lament reading from Lamentations 3.

1I am a man who has suffered greatly. The Lord has used the Babylonians to punish my people…

17I have lost all hope of ever having any peace. I’ve forgotten what good times are like. 18So I say, “My glory has faded away. My hope in the Lord is gone.” 19I remember how I suffered and wandered. I remember how bitter my life was. 20I remember it very well. My spirit is very sad deep down inside me.

21But here is something else I remember. And it gives me hope. 22The Lord loves us very much. So we haven’t been completely destroyed. His loving concern never fails. 23His great love is new every morning. Lord, how faithful you are! 24I say to myself, “The Lord is everything I will ever need. So I will put my hope in him.” 25The Lord is good to those who put their hope in him. He is good to those who look to him. 26It is good when people wait quietly for the Lord to save them.

27It is good for a man to carry a heavy load of suffering while he is young. 28Let him sit alone and not say anything. The Lord has placed that load on him. 29Let him bury his face in the dust. There might still be hope for him. 30Let him turn his cheek toward those who would slap him. Let him be filled with shame. 31The Lord doesn’t turn his back on people forever. 32He might bring suffering. But he will also show loving concern. How great his faithful love is! 33He doesn’t want to bring pain or suffering to anyone….

37Suppose people order something to happen. It won’t happen unless the Lord has planned it. 38Troubles and good things alike come to people because the Most High God has commanded them to come. 39A person who is still alive shouldn’t blame God when God punishes them for their sins.

40Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living. Let’s return to the Lord. 41Let’s lift up our hands to God in heaven. Let’s pray to him with all our hearts. 42Let’s say, “We have sinned. We’ve refused to obey you. And you haven’t forgiven us….

55Lord, I called out to you. I called out from the bottom of the pit. 56I prayed, “Please don’t close your ears to my cry for help.” And you heard my appeal. 57You came near when I called out to you. You said, “Do not be afraid.”

Father, I praise you for making a potato gender neutral. And I praise you for your original “Equality Act.” I praise you that you created mankind in your own image, in the image of God you created us, male and female you created us. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful. I know that full well!

So, do not be afraid,

Mike Altena


Faithful To The End

This past Tuesday night, one of our elders began the Elder’s Meeting by reading from Daniel 11. Daniel chapter 11 is an account of the vision that Daniel received 536 B.C. which was in the latter part of his life. According to Daniel 10:4-6, Daniel was standing on the bank of the Tigris River when he looked up and standing before him was “a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” The image was so overwhelming that Daniel passed out and fell into a deep sleep. (Many scholars believe the man standing in front of Daniel was Jesus).

As the story unfolds the man standing before Daniel eventually touched him and restored his strength and then informed him that he would reveal future events which were written in the Book of Truth. And then beginning in chapter 11:2 all the way through chapter 12:4, the messenger tells Daniel story after story of the rise and fall of many empires and nations and kings. The whole chapter is a prophecy of king after king who rise to power, only to be overtaken by another king. And the neat thing is, the notes along the bottom of my study Bible give the information of when each of those events took place in history. Every one of the prophecies that were revealed to Daniel in his vision in chapter 11 eventually came to pass.

When our elder concluded his reading of a portion of Daniel 11, he reminded us of the sovereignty of God to rule the world. He reminded us we need not fret about which president sits on the throne, simply because God knows about the rise and fall of all these earthly kingdoms.

As the story of Daniel’s vision concludes in chapter 12, we discover that not all the future events were clear for Daniel, however the messenger (I also believe it was Jesus) assured Daniel that he would be blessed if he would continue to walk in faith. And at the end of chapter 12, Jesus told Daniel, “As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will receive your allotted inheritance.” What a great word of encouragement!

Well, a couple of days later, I was visiting with the elder about his devotion, and after discussing that America is turning its back on God by saying what is evil is not evil and what is good is not good, we agreed that it appears the “empire of the great America” is going down. We then talked about the role of the church in the midst of a crumbling nation, and then he gave this image. America is like the Titanic, we’ve struck our iceberg, it’s going down. And if in his sovereignty God has determined that America is about to reap what it’s been sowing, there is nothing we can do to stop America from self imploding. Our job is simply to help people discover where they can find a life boat. And of course our life boat is Jesus.

And the same was true for Daniel. In Daniel 11:33-35 we read the words of the messenger, “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”

And so it will be for you and me in these last days, those who are wise will help many discover the Truth. And, we may also experience much persecution. Difficult times remind us of our weakness and our inability to cope. We want answers, leadership and clear direction. However, even though it may feel like the ship is sinking, this is an exciting time, in that, many people will be searching for truth. This is a time for our faith to be refined and strengthened as we share the gospel message of the Kingdom of God that has no end.

May it not be so, that you and I would fret during this time. God holds the future and us in his hand. Let’s just continue to be faithful in being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And in the end, we will receive our inheritance.

Grace to you, and peace,

Mike Altena


Spiritual Famine

The staff is currently working through Erwin McManus’s book, The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life. This past week we looked at chapter six in which Mc Manus draws wisdom from a very interesting story found in II Kings 7. The background for the story is that God’s people in Samaria were in a severe famine; so severe that some families had begun eating each other’s children. As the story unfolds, the King of Israel threatened to kill Elisha because he wasn’t doing anything to end the famine.

We pick up the story in II Kings 7:1. Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”

The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”

“You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay   here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”

At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping    it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

As the story plays out, Elisha’s prophesy was fulfilled and the famine dissipated, and the man who doubted God ended up being trampled to death. (I would encourage you to read the rest of the story).

This story was convicting for me for several reasons.  First, when Elisha prophesied God’s deliverance, the king’s official said it couldn’t happen. The officer had lost hope and faith, but God’s words came true anyway. Sometimes we become so preoccupied with our problems when we should be looking for opportunities. Instead of focusing on the negatives, I must develop an attitude of expectancy. To say that God cannot rescue someone or that a situation is impossible demonstrates a lack of faith.

Secondly, as is often the case, notice that God uses the most unlikely people to carry out his plan.

Thirdly, this story is a great reminder that God always has the bigger picture in mind, and that trials like these build faith as we see God always goes ahead of us to do the impossible.

And then finally, God has so richly poured out his grace into our lives. God has blessed us with the gift of financial and material prosperity and the gift of salvation through faith in Christ and therefore, like the lepers, it would not be right for us to keep all these gifts of grace to ourselves.

Friends, we have a spiritual famine going on in our land, however, may it not be said of us that we would begin to lose hope and faith. We mustn’t become so pre-occupied with our problems, but rather we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the one who’s writing our story. And let’s certainly not hoard God’s gift of grace for ourselves.  Live your life as if someone were counting on you for some good news!

Basking in the Father’s love,

Mike Altena


We Reap What We Sow

Without making light of what happened in Washington DC this past Wednesday, one might wonder if the dark shadow of 2020 still lingers over us. It only took six days into the New Year before we heard that familiar word, “unprecedented,” again.

And in response to the unprecedented invasion of the capital building we are flooded with questions like, how could this have ever happened in America? Why did so many protestors show up at Trump’s rally? Was there voter fraud, or wasn’t there? Who is to blame for stirring up the peaceful protestors? Who is at fault for turning the protestors into rioters and insurrectionists? Was this a coup? Why wasn’t there a greater police presence? If the majority of the rioting crowd had been black or brown people, would there have been many more arrests and deaths. Was this clear evidence of white supremacy? Should President Trump be impeached? We want to know who is at fault. Is it President Trump’s fault? Is Congress to blame? Maybe the deceit of the media is responsible. Or could it be Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg is to blame?

The list of “cause and effect” questions to be answered is long. And in the midst of our chaos, we naturally respond to our fear and anxiety by blaming others. And yet I wonder, are we avoiding other, more important, questions?

As I watched the news surrounding all that was going on Wednesday, I imagined the various media outlets trying to answer questions that might get to the root of our nation’s problems. Like, imagine Don asking Chris, where do we see the devil at work today? And then I imagine Chris quoting Ephesians 6:10-12. 10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And then I imagine them discussing the tactics of how the devil has been the tempter, the deceiver, and the accuser.

Or I imagine Tucker asking Sean, what happens when people, even though they know that God exists, neither glorify him or give thanks to him? And what happens when a country exchanges the truth for a lie? And then I imagine Sean pulling out his Bible and reading from Romans 1. 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen…  28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

And then imagine Joy asking Whoopi, so is there any hope for America? And Whoopi responds, God said, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We reap what we sow. When trying to decide who is to blame in our darkest hour, may we all have the humility to say, I am the number one obstacle to what God wants to do in my life, in my church, in my community and in my country. God grant me the gift of repentance.

Grace to you and peace, Mike Altena