Rags to Riches

Super Bowl LIV has come and gone and unless you are a fanatic football fan, or you were stimulated or repulsed by the half time display of soft porn, it likely has become a meaningless memory. That being said, often times in big games like this there is a rags to riches story. Such was the case for the center for the Kansas City Chiefs football team, Austin Reiter.

In 2016 Austin was a center for the Cleveland Browns. The team went 1-15. In 2017, Austin returned for another season with the Browns, only this time was limited to special teams offensive line play. The team went 0-16. That’s the worst two year stretch of any franchise in the NFL.

Before the start of the 2018 season, Cleveland released him. Arguably the worst team the NFL has ever seen determined that Austin Reiter wasn’t good enough to play for it anymore. From the outside looking in, this made sense, your team goes 1-31 and you might as well clean house. After all, exactly how good could a special team’s player be who couldn’t crack an offensive line rotation that allowed a whopping 50 sacks in 2015 and also allowed their quarterback to be hit an additional 130 times?

Reider didn’t have much pedigree to argue. He was a two-star recruit out of high school before signing with South Florida. Then the Washington Redskins drafted him in 2014, but not until the seventh round. He spent his entire time in Washington on the practice squad and obviously no one in Cleveland thought much of him either. Maybe, it was fair to wonder if having the Browns fire him was a sign his NFL career was over.

“One man’s trash,” Reiter said, smiling, on Sunday night (of the Super Bowl), “is another man’s treasure.” Reiter, 28, was standing in the middle of the celebratory swirl of the Kansas City Chiefs locker room. He was wearing a Super Bowl champion hat on his head and a Super Bowl champion t-shirt over his shoulder pads. He was about to get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, give it a kiss, and pose for     a picture.

The guy who couldn’t make it on one of the worst teams in the league had just been a starting center on the best team in the league. After playing in four games in 2018, the Kansas City chiefs rewarded Austin with a two-year guaranteed contract with up to $5.5 million “The NFL is crazy,” Reiter said. “The Lord works in mysterious way and here I am.”

After reflecting on Austin’s story, I began to think about all the “unlikely heroes” in the Bible—men and women whose “teams” would have released for their lack of integrity or productivity. The fact that Jesus called Peter to leave his career as a fisherman and follow him likely meant that Peter was not a very good student in school. We know about all the times Peter spoke before thinking and especially the time when Peter denied even knowing who Jesus was (what a lying dogfaced pony soldier).

And yet Jesus never gave up on Peter. After Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus re-signed Peter by saying, “Follow me.”

Peter would go on to become one of the great Apostles and would come to understand his reward saying, “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. (I Peter 1:4). What a rags to   riches story!!

And may it be so for you and me. Don’t ever give up; God’s not done with you. The Lord works in mysterious ways. You’ll play a part on his winning team!

Pressing on to win the prize,

Mike Altena


Dad Tired Conference

Hey dads, as you begin to think about New Year’s resolutions, I wonder if this might be a worthwhile investment of your time. I’ll find out how we can register. Mike Altena

 

Hello brothers and sisters!  My name is Caleb Haverdink.  I am nothing special, just a regular dad and husband who has lived in NW Iowa his entire life.  But I’m very excited for an opportunity that is coming to Maurice Reformed Church on February 29, 2020.  Jerrad Lopes, if you haven’t heard of him, is a pastor in a ministry that he has been serving in for a few years now called Dad Tired.  Yep!  That’s right!  Dad Tired.

He hosts a podcast weekly, which is how I got introduced to the ministry where he gives insight, teaching, and direction on many topics related to men living out the gospel through the various areas of our lives.  The podcast has been downloaded over 1.3 million times now and hundreds of thousands of men listen to the podcast each week.  He has worked with other men in the ministry such as Matt Chandler, Bob Goff, Jon Acuff, Paul David Tripp, Shane Claiborne, and Jefferson Bethke to help equip men to be the husbands and dads that God is calling them to be. He has hosted well-known people such as Tony Dungy, Alfred Morris, Anthony Oneal, Remi Adeleke, Ryan Stevenson, Jon Foreman, Rhett Walker, and Andy Crouch just to name a few.

Jerrad is the author of the best-selling devotional Stop Behaving and his recent release Dad Tired and Loving It.  Dad Tired is a ministry that helps men live out the gospel through their marriage, leading their family, and their personal lives.  In his words, he uses the platforms of marriage and parenting to be able to preach about the gospel.

The Dad Tired ministry has had an incredible impact on my life by providing teaching moments, insights, gut checks, challenges, and encouragement.  A few months ago, I felt the nudge from the Holy Spirit to not only STEP outside my comfort zone, but to completely LEAP out and to contact Jerrad and invite him to Maurice Reformed Church.

The one day event on February 29, 2020 is titled Stop Behaving.  As Jerrad says in talking about this conference, “Your family doesn’t need a man who behaves well.  They need a man whose heart has been radically changed by Jesus.”

I want to invite you and the fathers and husbands in and around your congregation to attend.  Learn about healthy marriage practices, how to speak the gospel into your children, spiritual leadership principles, and develop Christ-centered family traditions.  Each participant also will receive a copy of the devotional Stop Behaving.  I included a link below that directs you to a site that gives information about the agenda for the day, some testimonials, and a couple of videos from Jerrad that show a little more of his heart and how God is using the Dad Tired ministry.  I would love for you and as many men that you know to come and learn, laugh, grow, experience, be challenged, and be radically changed.

https://www.dadtired.com/conference.html 

More specific details of the conference will be available soon as to the cost(estimated to be approximately $25/participant depending on sponsors), space available, etc.  If you have any questions or would like to help in the planning of the event, please feel free to contact me at cjhaverdink@gmail.com or my cell phone, 712-463-3241.

 


With Him For Always

In 1994, the Russian Department of Education asked two Americans to go to Russia and teach morals and ethics based on biblical principles. They went to public schools, prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage where 100 children had been left in the care of this orphanage. The Americans related the following story…

Since it was nearing the holiday season, we wanted the orphans to hear the Christmas story for the first time. Throughout the story, the children and the staff listened in amazement. After telling the story, we gave the children pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger.
Each child was given a small paper square cut from yellow napkins we had brought along. Following instructions, the children tore the paper into strips to lay in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel cut from a discarded nightgown, were used for the baby’s blanket. A baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.
The orphans were busy assembling their mangers as I walked among them. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat waiting after he had finished his project. He looked about six years old. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the boy why there were two babies in the manger. I thought perhaps he had misunderstood the story. The child began to repeat the story very seriously. For one who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related it accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.
Then Misha said, “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mama and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him, but I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did.
I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him, FOR ALWAYS.

I love this story in that it invites me to treasure and ponder the wonder of Jesus’ humble birth. Like Misha, if I were to repeat the story of Jesus’ incarnation, how would I retell the story in order to help you understand how Jesus has brought hope and healing to the broken parts of my life? If I were to repeat the story of Jesus’ incarnation, it would likely include how Jesus values me apart from my performance or productivity. It would likely include my telling about his grace that covers my besetting sins. And it certainly would include the peace I have in knowing Immanuel, and more importantly, that Immanuel knows me.

Ok, now your turn. Like Misha, how would you repeat the story of how Jesus has brought hope and healing to your brokenness?

Bringing you good news of great joy…

Mike Altena

 


2020 Update

Since the General Synod meeting in June of this year, the Consistory has been keeping up to date with the work of the 2020 Team. For those who aren’t able  to keep up with the updates on the RCA website, I am including the latest update below:

The Vision 2020 Team met October 28–29, 2019, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, continuing the work that God and the General Synod have called us to do. That work is currently focused on discerning the best way forward out of the three scenarios we’ve been researching, narrowing the options based on intensive dialogue, feedback we’ve heard, and in faithfulness to God. 

We’re having good conversation. As we’ve built trust, built relationship, and built friendships, we’re doing our work. It’s very open. Every one of us has had courage to speak, and that courage enriches our work and pushes us further. We’re listening well, and we’re honing in on something.

We have narrowed down our work and reached consensus on a framework to bring to General Synod 2020. As we have listened to God, to each other, and to feedback we’ve received, a possibility is emerging that brings together some of the best elements of the “three scenarios.”  This possibility began to germinate at our September meeting, and was refined as we reflected, pinpointed its problems, and identified its strengths. 

A crucial moment that shifted our understanding was recognizing the difference between General Synod statements on human sexuality and the functional reality of our structure. This team believes the denomination has existed for a long time with functional diversity. Historically, we have been united around our standards, and because of the way our polity works, functionally the RCA is theologically diverse about a range of topics, including human sexuality, infant baptism, women in church leadership, and others. Our practices vary from classis to classis and congregation to congregation. 

Our team’s role is not to define the RCA’s stance on human sexuality or other differences of conviction but to recommend a way forward in light of our functional diversity. So we asked ourselves: in a structure with functional diversity, what are our next faithful steps? 

We are now focusing on recommendations that will increase clarity about the RCA’s identity as a denomination that embraces this functional diversity, and that will provide a pathway for a mutually generous exit for those who can’t live within this diversity. We are also exploring recommendations to restructure the denomination to better support a 21st century church. 

This represents new clarity for the team, and we celebrate this. We understand there is a high level of complexity involved as we move forward. These are the broad strokes of a plan that is in early stages, and much may change as we continue to move forward. We have formed three sub teams to work on various aspects of this proposal between now and our next meeting in January. At our next meeting, we’ll meet with subject experts to help us craft our recommendations….

Above all, we remember that we are all people of the resurrection. We are God’s beloved children, and God has redeemed us and given us hope for the future. We are grateful for the movement of God’s Spirit among us.

We long for prayer support as we continue to move forward with greater clarity.

The Vision 2020 Team

I find this update very interesting since it leads me to wonder if we will be packing our bags very soon. The Consistory is planning on holding a meeting after the worship service on December 8 to discuss the three scenarios with anyone who might be interested. Copies of the three scenarios are available on the back table in the foyer for those who would like to gain a better understanding of what is being prosed for the future of the RCA.

Grace to you, and peace.

Mike Altena

 


So Blessed

This past Sunday, our Sunday school class spent our time reflecting on the story in Matthew 16 of when Jesus asked the disciples “Who do you say the Son of Man is?” If you are familiar with the story then you remember that Simon Peter answered this most important question by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

Jesus could have said to Peter, “Nice job Peter, you got the answer right,” but instead Jesus alerted Peter    to the fact that he was “blessed” to have received the gift of revelation from the Father about the nature of his  Son, Jesus.

This past week I’ve been meditating on how “blessed” I also am in having received that revelation from Father about the nature and person of Jesus Christ as well as the gift of faith to believe that revelation.

Then, on Wednesday night I met a member of our congregation in the hallway by my office and I asked how she was doing. She said she was “blessed” and proceeded to share with me several ways she was blessed. Again, I believe it is a wonderful gift when Father makes us aware of how blessed we are.

On another occasion, Jesus revealed more truth to those who gathered to hear his teaching about how a person would know if they’re blessed. And just in case you’re not sure if you’re blessed, I’ve included Jesus’ examples from Matthew 5 to help you. (And please, take your time; revelation rarely occurs when you’re in a hurry).

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

So how about it, did Jesus’ list help you discover at least one way you are blessed? Any fresh revelations? For me today, verse 5. May it be so with you and me that we would be growing in our understanding of all the ways we are blessed!

And now, may the Lord bless you and keep you…,

Mike Altena

 

 


Hide It Under a Bushel – NO!

I was recently visiting with a member of our congregation and he shared with me that it seemed like the picture on his television was getting darker so he invited his grandson to come over to his home to check out his television to see if there was any way he could make the picture brighter. In addition he mentioned how he had gradually lost his ability to read the newspaper. Well, a few weeks ago he had cataract surgery in which they removed the cloudy lens of his eye and replaced it with an artificial one that was clear. He said, “Within a day I could read the newspaper without glasses again and the television was also remarkably clear.”

As I was reflecting on his story, Jesus’ words from Luke 11:34 immediately came to mind.

34 “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

Here Jesus describes how our perception affects our soul. When Jesus refers to healthy eyes, he meant eyes that not only see well, but also that perceive well. So it’s not only what we see, but how we perceive that impacts our ability to live as the light of the world. Bad eyes lead to bad perception, but if our spiritual eyes are good, our body, soul and spirit will be illuminated. Just like, if we are in a well lit room, we see things clearly and therefore are able to easily navigate around the obstacles in the room. On the other hand walking in a dark room will often result in walking into tables and chairs and doorways.

Everyday our eyes filter thousands of images that are good or evil, beneficial or harmful, and our perception of them, the meaning we give to them, or the story we tell ourselves about them inform our world view. If we perceive goodness, goodness will radiate outward from within our hearts and minds. However, if we allow our eyes to linger on evil, eventually darkness will begin to emanate from within and can corrupt us and those around us.

In preparing for our message on putting on the belt of truth, I am reminded of II Corinthians 11:14 where Paul alerts us to the fact that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. The number one scheme of the devil to destroy you and me is to cloud our vision—to make us think we found the light when it’s actually the darkness of a false light. His intention is to slowly blind us to the truth and therefore corrupt our minds and eventually our behavior.

Using his army of demons and those who follow him, the father of lies continually parades a never ending stream of evil for us to gaze upon. In addition to all the images that feed the lust of our eyes and the lusts of our flesh, Satan would also try to deceive us into thinking that he is actually winning the battle between light and dark and that God is helplessly trying to figure out how to stop him.

Satan would love nothing more for us than to focus on the darkness of a health issue that doesn’t appear to be improving, on strained relationships, on the rising cost of providing for your family, on the current challenge of the harvest including yields and commodity prices, on the political turmoil in America, on the inability of the church to be the light of the world…and the list goes on and on.

But not so with you and me. Let’s pause and invite Jesus to perform his spiritual cataract surgery on you and me. Jesus is the light of the world. In this world we will have trouble, but the Truth is, he has overcome all that we perceive as darkness.  35 “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”     Hide it under a bushel, NO!! Mike Altena

 


Receive Mercy, Give Mercy

On Saturday, September 14, ESPN’S “College Game Day” was broadcasted from Ames, Iowa prior to the football matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones. During the broadcast, Carson King held up a homemade sign that could be seen in the background which read, “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” followed by his Venmo user name. (Venmo is a means of sending money through social media).

Kings’s phone immediately started ringing with notifications from Venmo. Within 30 minutes, the 24 year old had received donations of over $400. King was quite surprised he would receive any donations since it was intended as a joke.

After speaking with his family about it, he decided that, minus the cost of a case of Busch Light, he’d give the rest of the money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. As word spread of his plans to donate the money, more and more people decided to contribute. Eventually, Venmo and Busch Beer offered matching funds and by Sunday morning, the contributions—including Venmo and Busch matches—had raised 1.14 million dollars and more money was still coming in.

In addition to the matching funds, Busch Beer sweetened the deal by offering King, now dubbed the “Iowa Legend” a year’s supply of Busch Light and they were going to put his picture and name on the cans of Busch Light.

King was ecstatic about reaching the one million dollar mark and now has set a goal of raising two million dollars for the Children’s Hospital by the end of the month. Kind of a cool story, right?

Well after hearing about the unfolding story, the Des Moines Register decided to send a reporter to interview King. However before doing so, the reporter dug into King’s past social media posts and discovered that when he was 16 years old, King apparently sent a racial tweet. Deciding the seven year old media post was pertinent information to the outcome of the story, the Des Moines Registered published the Tweet. Busch Beer soon heard about the young man’s foolish mistake, and although they are still going to honor their donation to the children’s Hospital, they announced they are cutting any ties with King.

Hearing that the Des Moines Register had discovered his foolish social media post of seven years ago, Carson King immediately apologized to the public for his comments. Venmo announced they have forgiven King, acknowledging we all say and do stupid things when we are young. Now there is an outcry against the Des Moines Register for ruining the story by publishing needless information.

When I reflect on the story several thoughts come to mind. Doing something as a joke can have surprising outcomes that can change your life in a hurry; be careful when doing something as a joke. Be careful what you post on social media, you never know how it might be used against you. In my opinion, for the Register to publicize King’s social media post from when he was in high school was senseless. Like the Apostle Paul, I am grateful that God doesn’t hold my past against me, but rather can use it for his glory.

Maybe the Des Moines Register could also learn a thing or two about mercy from Paul’s testimony in I Timothy 1:15-16.  “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

There is no doubt that sometimes we will pay the price for our past sin, however I praise God that he keeps no record of my wrongs and that his love covers a multitude of sins. And may it be so with you and me that we would be quick to drop our rocks.

Grace to you and peace, Mike Altena

 


In It To Win It

I recently stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few items, and after I returned to my car, I noticed two young girls, maybe third and fifth graders, approaching the car parked next to me. Walking about fifty feet in front of their mom, who had a cart full of packages, I could tell they were very excited because they were carrying a new board game. You remember how it was when you were a kid and you got a new game or toy and you couldn’t wait to get home to play it.

Well, as they were getting into the car I noticed the game they bought was the “Game of Life.” As I began to reflect on their sense of excitement about their new game, I could only imagine how happy they were hoping this game would make them feel. Then another thought entered my mind, I wondered how many times they would play their game before it became just another game among the stack of games they already have—would they be able to make it to Christmas before they asked for another new game.

As I continued to reflect on the experience, I realized how often I have been like those girls in my life. I can remember the excitement of driving my first car home. I was so happy…but it wasn’t long before I began thinking about another car. I can remember my first job, I was so excited and happy…but it wasn’t long before I began thinking about what it would be like to work for someone else. And then I can remember my first girl friend, I was so excited, she seemed so special, but then it wasn’t long… before she began thinking about what it would be like to date someone else (yes, she dumped me).

Life seems to be full of those experiences, doesn’t it?  You buy something, or you find that perfect job, you hope will make you happy. You fall in love with that perfect person and you can’t wait to get married because you know he/she will make you so happy. Or you take your little cuddly bundle of joy home, only to discover he/she won’t sleep and they keep needing to be fed and diapered—and you wish at the end of the day you could just put them in the toy box with all the other toys. Yes, how often the things we hope will bring happiness, leave us feeling empty.

This all led me to begin thinking about “my new life in Christ,” was it still everything I had hoped for. Am I experiencing the joy and peace and happiness that God intended? Have I become bored with my life, or am I feeling the excitement of being part of the bigger story that God is writing? As God’s story unfolds in my life, could I truly have been put on earth for such a time as this?  And if I didn’t choose to become a follower of Jesus, but he was the one who chose me to bear fruit, am I bearing fruit that lasts?

May it be said of us that we are a people of God who are truly passionate and joyful about the gift of life. And having been called “to be a blessing in this world” (Genesis 12:1-4), may we never become weary of participating in God’s mission.

In it to win it,

Mike Altena

 

 

 


A Day Off

This past Wednesday Vicki and I had the opportunity to go to a Twins baseball game with our son Jonathon and his wife, Chelsey. It was an absolutely beautiful day for a baseball game. Having once dreamed of playing in the majors, I quickly found myself wondering what it would be like to be talented enough to be paid anywhere from $550,000 to $13,000,000 a year to play the game of baseball.  (And even though in our game, only three players got on base).

For those of you who have never attended a game, going to a MLB baseball game is a unique entertainment experience.  Before the game begins, some special person is given the privilege of throwing out the “first pitch.” In our case it was a young high school girl from some town in Minnesota who has set all kinds of pitching records in girls fast pitch softball. It must have been a pressure packed moment for her since her pitch didn’t even get close to the catcher.

A little bit later some lucky young boy gets to bring the first baseball out and set it on the pitcher’s mound. Then after that special moment a veteran from the Iraq War was honored followed by some 70 year old guy who loved to sing in his church’s choir who always dreamed of singing the National Anthem at a Twin’s game. Then finally, another very special little boy, maybe three to four years old get’s the spot light and he squeaks out “wet’s pway baseball!”

Like I mentioned earlier, in this game the Twins couldn’t seem to get a hit so the game seemed fairly boring. I guess maybe that was ok, since I was actually only able to see about half of the game. Yes,  Jonathon found us some great tickets on the lower level about half way between first base and right field and I was lucky enough to have an aisle seat. But the only reason you would want an aisle seat is if you had to go to the bathroom every inning. The bad thing about an aisle seat was that there was a never ending stream of fans walking up and down the steps who either had to go to the bathroom or to get more hotdogs or pretzels or gyros or french fries and sodas.

Then in addition to those people interrupting my view, you have the vendors who are playfully trying to get you to buy their tasty ice cold $10 bottles of Bud light and $5.50 bags of Fischer’s peanuts or $5.00 boxes of popcorn or cotton candy or ice cream treats or raffle tickets. And then just when the view clears and you think you’re going to have a chance to watch the game, a tap on your right shoulder means it’s time to stand up so someone from your aisle can exit or return.  Now please don’t think I didn’t enjoy my experience at the ball park; we had a great time!

And yet the following morning after reading Acts chapter 9, I found myself reflecting on the nature of my entertainment experience. Here I was, sitting and watching a bunch of grown men play a game of baseball with 30,000 fans gorging themselves on food and drink, meanwhile the Apostle Paul was trying to figure out a way to escape those who were trying to kill him because of his bold preaching. Like, how am I supposed to process that?

Who knows, maybe Luke just never told the story of when Paul took the day off to go to a baseball game. 🙂

Grace to you and peace,

Mike Altena

 


Seriously, But Not Literally

Several days ago I received an email from a random web designer in Michigan who was offering his services to help our ministry with our website if needed. In order to display some of his work he submitted three examples of some websites he had designed.

Curious to check out the quality and creativity of his work, I clicked on one of the three links and I found this information on one of the church’s home page. “The UCC tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages heart and mind; we are non-doctrinal and respectful of other faith traditions. We take the Bible seriously but not literally.” My initial response was WHAT!!!?? What a wretched declaration!

Well, in order to gain clarity about who this congregation/denomination was claiming to be, I had to get out my dictionary:

Progressive = (of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Unabashedly= without embarrassment or shame.

Non-doctrinal= not concerned with the belief or set of beliefs held and taught by the Church

Seriously= with earnest intent; not lightly or superficially.

Not literally= not in a literal manner or sense; not exactly.

As I reflect on their declaration, what I see is adherence to the deception of relative truth. For them, truth is a set of beliefs determined by who has the most power or who has the most votes.

So I wonder, how does a person take something seriously, but not literally. Like, that sounds like my approach to my wedding vow to cherish Vicki when we first got married; I took it seriously, but not literally. (I actually cherished myself way more than I cherished her).

And then I wondered, how do I say to Jesus in my prayer time, “You know that stuff you said in Luke 14 about giving up everything in order to become one of your disciples, well I take that very seriously, but of course not literally.”

With an approach to the Bible like that, then one could also say, “Jesus did say that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, but he didn’t really mean that small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it—silly Jesus.”

The more I thought about the statement, the more my heart was filled with sadness. And yet the more I thought about the statement, the Holy Spirit convicted me that my heart was also becoming more and more filled with self-righteousness. See because, I would never dare say that “I take the Bible seriously, but not literally,” but a daily review of my life would show there are many occasions when I don’t take the word of God seriously or literally.

Even though the Bible says I am not to engage in idolatry, I find that I have many idols. Even though the Bible tells me not to lie, out of fear I often find myself lying. Even though Jesus said, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full,” I fill my daily planner with so many other activities that I have no time left for seeking the wandering sojourner. What a wretched man I am!

Father, I pray that you open the eyes of the heart of the UCC that they would see that it’s not progressive ideology and relative truth that sets a person free, but that freedom is found in Christ alone, through grace, by faith alone, to the glory of God alone. And may it not be so with me that I would ever think it’s acceptable to take your Word seriously, but not literally. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Reformed and always being reformed,

Mike Altena