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

 


Strength In The Lord

Often times these articles are birthed from an experience that creates an emotional hook. For example, during last week’s little wind storm that blew through the area, one of the trees in the boulevard at the south end of church’s property broke off right at the ground—no, not just a limb, the whole tree broke off. So I thought about writing an article about the tree and making the connection about the importance of being spiritually healthy in your inner being. But no!

And then I thought about writing an article in response to a conversation I had with someone who was extremely angry at God because his plan includes good people being killed in car crashes. But no! (God was not to blame).

And then after spending a little time at the Rock County Fair and looking at the pigs, and the horses, and the kangaroos, and emus, I thought about writing about the creative nature of God. Or after walking by the little food stands, I thought about writing an article in response to how easily I am lured to feed on junk food. But no!

No, this article is written in response to a story I read recently from 1 Samuel 30. It goes like this…

1 Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

After reading the story, I tried to imagine the level of discouragement David must have felt when he arrived back from deployment to war, only to find his community destroyed and his family had been kidnapped. And then not only his family, but I tried to imagine the weight of the responsibility he felt towards all the soldiers who were fighting with David whose families were also kidnapped. And then I tried to imagine the fear and the loneliness David must have felt when he discovered his friends wanted to stone him.

I began to think about all the things that have recently caused me to be discouraged. Of course, none of my reasons for discouragement come close to the level of discouragement David felt, simply because most of my reasons for discouragement are the result of “rich people problems.”

But then did you notice how David responded to what seemed a most hopeless situation? It says, “But David found strength in the Lord.” The English Standard Version says, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.” Don’t you just love that verse!! No matter what it is that causes you and me to lose heart, we can always strengthen ourselves in the Lord.

So then I began to wonder, well how does a person go about finding strength in the Lord? But no! I’m out of room. So give me a call; we can go for a cup of coffee and discuss some ideas.

The joy of the Lord is my strength,

Mike Altena

 


Our Source of Comfort

A few weeks ago Vicki and I went to the Pizza Ranch for lunch. While I was scoping out all the delicious rations on the various food troughs, I noticed a little boy who was doing the same thing. The little lad walked around the pizza trough, and then around the chicken and taters trough, and then around the roughage trough.

And then suddenly he turned and realized he was all alone. His face immediately was filled with panic as he quickly scanned the room looking for his daddy. Unable to find him, his voice beginning to crack, he cried out in fear, “Daddy!!!” Immediately his daddy stepped forward from behind the pizza trough and reassured his son saying, “I’m right here son, I’m right here!”

As I reflected on what had just happened, I immediately realized how much I am like that little boy. For so many of my days and weeks and months I feel confident as I go about navigating the wide variety of experiences this world has to offer, but then something difficult happens and suddenly I feel very alone. And like the little boy, I cry out to Daddy seeking his presence, knowing he is a source of comfort, help, and deliverance. Much like David did in Psalm 34 when he was feeling lonely and afraid, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

Are you feeling alone, afraid, troubled, and brokenhearted? The Pizza Ranch is not the place to turn to for comfort, but rather turn to God’s word and taste and see that the Lord is good!!

1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Radiantly content and at peace, Mike Altena

 


Daily Toil

After replacing the two windows on the north side of our house recently and then looking at all the paint that is peeling, I began to reflect on how much time and money we spend on maintenance.

Changing the oil, rotating the tires, mowing the lawn, replacing the bearing, getting your hairs cut, oiling the roller chains, vacuuming the living room floor, having a body part fixed or replaced, filling the water softener tub with salt, drinking a glass of water, sharpening the blade, trimming your nails, washing the car, meeting with your mentor, washing the clothes, going to the meeting, washing the body, fixing the fence, painting the deck, replacing the light bulb, trimming the trees, replacing the roll of toilet paper, going to the chiropractor, going to the eye doctor, going to the body doctor, and going to the teeth doctor, trimming the lawn and trimming the long hair growing in your ears, sweeping out the garage, trimming the trees and the hair that grows in your nose, eating breakfast, cleaning the barbeque grill, pausing to pray for yourself or with a friend, spraying for bugs, replacing the ink in the copier, picking up rocks, washing the windows, cleaning your glasses, gathering for worship, dusting the end table, greasing the bearings, fixing the gate, repairing the water way, replacing the o-rings in the faucet, taking a nap,         re-siding the house, going on a date night, edging the side walk, emptying the garbage, studying your Bible, cleaning the shower, picking up branches and twigs, getting your vaccine shots, refilling the bird feeder, writing a note of encouragement, running on the elliptical, going to bed for the a good night’s rest (or for whatever sleep you can get in your season of life), pulling weeds, watering the flowers, replacing the shingles, brushing your teeth, eating lunch, meeting a friend for coffee, ironing your dress shirts, re-seeding the bare spot in the lawn, observing a daily office, spraying the weeds, staining the deck, mopping the floor, blowing out the air filter, singing along with a worship song, replacing the furnace filter, enjoying a bonfire with your spouse or family…I’ll let you finish the list.

When I reflect on my list of all that we do to maintain our daily lives, two scriptures come to mind, the first is from Genesis 1:28 where God invites us to join him as co-creators both in word and action.  God has given us the responsibility of managing and stewarding the earth.

The second is a few verses from Ecclesiastes 3. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted,…a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;…What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time….12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Grace and peace to you as you enjoy the gift of life, even in the midst of the daily toil, Mike Altena

 


Weed Sowing

If I remember right, in 2017 we had a hot and dry spell that lasted long enough that a portion of the grass in my front yard went dormant. So dormant in fact that when the rains came and the temperatures cooled in the fall, there was a significant dead spot in my lawn.

Seeing that the lawn was dead and that it wouldn’t be growing back, that fall I lightly tilled it up and sowed some new seed. I began to water the area and faithfully continued to water that area until winter set in with no signs of new growth.

So in the spring of 2018, I lightly tilled up the area again and sowed some more new grass. Although I barely needed to water the area because of all the rain we had during May of last year, I continued to water the area during the month of June—but still no new grass grew. Later in the summer I had a friend who has an over-seeder come and he sowed some more new grass into the sun-scorched and barren area of my lawn.  Again I faithfully watered the area, however, after sowing nearly enough grass to cover a football field—STILL NOTHING!! (So much for Scott’s Turf Builder Quick Mix Fix Grass Seed)

After months of sleepless nights trying to discern if I have a soil problem or a seed problem, I planned on trying to re-seed again this spring. However with all the rain, I have been unable to do anything with the area.  Now here’s a most disturbing discovery over the past few weeks, apparently while I wasn’t paying attention, someone snuck in and sowed a nice fresh crop of clover.  Like, how does that work? I spend all that energy trying to grow good seed, but then an enemy of mine comes in and sows some clover and it pops right up.

Kind of reminds me of when Jesus told the 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.”

Now if you’re like the disciples and me, you would like an explanation of what the parable means. And like for the disciples, Jesus is also pleased to clarify for us. 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.

After spending a week in Washington DC in May, it’s become clear to me that the battle between the good seed that Jesus is sowing and the bad seeds the devil is sowing is intensifying. The devil has clearly intensified his weed sowing efforts in our state and in our country in hopes of choking out the good seed.

Life in such a kingdom, until Jesus comes again, has the potential to be much more difficult so it’s vitally important for us to continue to stand strong and to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

And unlike that pesky clover that is corrupting my lawn, may it not be so with you and me that when the harvester comes that he would find us corrupting his kingdom.

Shining like the sun in the Kingdom of the Father, Mike Altena

 


The Now and The Not Yet

On April 30, some of the staff attended an event sponsored by Sioux Falls Seminary at Central Church in Sioux Falls. The topic of the Hiller Lectureship was “Invigorating Abundant Communities: How to Invigorate Revelation’s Eschatology in our Churches and Neighborhoods.

The very thought provoking, convicting and yet affirming, day-long lecture from the book of Revelation by Dr Ralph Korner who is the Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, AB was divided in to these three main points:

  1. The IMMENENCE of Christ’s RETURN FOR His Church…which INVIGORATES our living for Christ.
  2. The IMMANENCE of His PRESENCE IN the Church…which gives hope for an ABUNDANCE of fellowship in Christ.
  3. The ESSENCE of His PURPOSE THROUGH His Church…which focuses us on COMMUNITY development and development of community.

Although at first glance the outline might appear a bit complex, I found the content to be very applicable.

Summarizing the three-part lecture for you, using a wide variety of texts from the books of Revelation and John, Dr. Korner talked about the fact that Jesus’ second coming is imminent  which should stir our hearts to passionately live with and for Christ. The fact that Jesus is coming again should compel us to deepen our relationship with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then, birthed out of our experience of enjoying the presence of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can already enjoy the beautiful reality of community life in the kingdom of God right now here on earth. That’s right! We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to experience the joy of eternal life!

In one of the most challenging parts of his lecture, Dr. Korner suggested that when Jesus said he was going away to prepare a place for us and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, he was simply implying that he is the way into the family of God.

So another translation of John 14:2 and John 14:6 could sound like this. “In my Father’s household (the family of God) are many dwelling places…I go to prepare a place for you (in the bigger context of the family of God—whatever faith family you choose to be a part of)….I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes (in)to (an intimate relationship) with the Father (during one’s life time on earth) except through (a whole-life commitment) to me.” And the point being, the purpose of our spiritual formation is simply to grow into who we are already as a child of God and as a citizen of God’s kingdom in the daily woop and warf of our lives!

And the way we fulfill the purpose of the Church then is by focusing on community development and development of community. And this was the part that was both convicting and affirming me. Convicting in that God has showered his grace and mercy on me, and yet there are certain neighbors and situations where I withhold grace and mercy. And yet affirming when I think of all the ways our ministry is seeking to bring the kingdom of heaven to our community and county.

And for that, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have been invigorated by Revelation’s eschatology and therefore have been intentional about working in cooperation with God in developing abundant community in your circle of influence. I feel so blessed to be able to join you on this mission as we eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return!

Fully enjoying the now and the not yet, Mike Altena

 

 


Instructions for Christian Living

Instructions for Christian Living from Ephesians 4:17-5:17. This is an exercise in hearing from God. Please invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you and then slowly and carefully read the following verses.

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

What did you hear? Choose a phrase, a sentence or a verse that stuck out to you. Meditate on it. Thank God for speaking to you! If you are currently not doing any other devotions, I challenge you to read this passage everyday for the next week; listening for new instruction each day.

Seeking to live as a child of light, Mike Altena

 


Concerned and Confident

By now most of you are aware of the 20/20 Vision Team of the RCA which has been tasked with providing options for how our denomination will live out the gospel in the future, especially in regards to how we interpret scripture in regards to human sexuality. One of the options may result in some form of a split in our denomination.

After hearing the update from Rev. Tom Smith, Coordinator of Ministries of the Synod of the Heartland on Sunday, March 31, a concerned member stopped by my office to express her deep sense of disappointment in regards to the possible impact of future decisions. She was especially concerned about the impact of ignoring what scripture says about human sexuality and the effect it might have on the children of our congregation.

I certainly share her concern of how a “progressive” theology among many self-proclaimed Christians is undermining God’s will for us to be reformed, transformed, and conformed to the likeness of God’s Son. We should be concerned any time we are deceived with the question “Did God really say…?” Twisting God’s Word to make it fit what our itching ears want to hear will always result in a darkened life far from the life of God. This is also the very reason I expressed to her that I have far greater concerns for our children than whether or not they become confused about their gender or sexuality.

See, because I am also concerned that many parents are apprenticing their children to believe that you can be Christian without actually following Jesus. My concern is that parents are teaching their children a false gospel that deceives them into thinking that if they believe in Jesus; one day when they die they will go to heaven regardless if they have any desire to repent from their sin.

It also concerns me when watching the little child who passionately loves and worships God as a five year old, but then as they become more self-conscience in middle school and more self-centered in high school, they appear to care less about being an active disciple of Jesus. With approval from their parents, many of our youth make the shift from Jesus being at the center of their life to relegating Jesus as one of many options that may enhance their already very busy life.

Even as I reflect on my once very passive journey of discovering who God is, who I am, and what God wants to do with my life, it concerns me that our current process of making disciples results in many young people and adults who lack passion for, or who are disillusioned with God.

Although concerned about a variety of apostate trends among those who claim to follow Jesus in our day, I also realize I must not be surprised. When Jesus was teaching the crowds about the beautiful reality of community life in the kingdom of God he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

That being said, we need not be discouraged. Because, even though only a few will find the narrow way that leads to life, you and I can also be confident “…that he [God] who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

“For it is God’s will that you be sanctified…For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life….So now, may the God of peace sanctify you and me through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls us is faithful and he will do it!!!!!”  1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7, 23-24)

Concerned and confident, Mike Altena

 


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. ☺

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