I Want To See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So grateful to be able to see, Mike Altena

 


For the Grace of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a grace-filled 2019,

Mike Altena

 

 


Ready or Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#savedformorethanwatchingFoodChannel    #readyornot    #Jesusiscomingsoon

Mike Altena

 


Partnership in the Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laboring for the Harvest,

Mike Altena

 


Exercise Your Right to Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking to advance the Kingdom,

Mike Altena

 


Celebrating Halloween

A few days ago I was scanning some articles on my news feed when my eye caught this title, “Former Satanist Warns Christians about Celebrating Halloween”. The article caused me to wonder, should Christians celebrate Halloween? Opinions differ in Christian circles. According to a CBN News Facebook poll, 87% of believers feel that Christians should not celebrate, while 13% believe it’s okay.

Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, originated in an ancient Celtic festival Samhain, which means “end of summer.”  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, during Samhain the souls of the dead are supposed to revisit their homes and many people believed that ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons roamed the earth. So in order to protect their families and livestock during the coming dark winter months, the Celts invoked the help of their gods with animal sacrifices.

However the holiday took a turn when Christians arrived on the scene and began celebrating All Soul’s Day. All Soul’s day was a time when Christians would commemorate and pray for the souls of believers who had died. In the Western Christian Practice, the celebration began at a prayer service on the evening of October 31 and ended on November 2.

During this time, the poor would visit the houses of wealthier families to receive little pastries called “soul cakes” in exchange for a promise to pray for the families’ dead relatives. Eventually, the festivities evolved into people dressing up and singing songs in exchange for treats.

Former Satanist John Ramirez recently joined Charlene Aaron on CBN News Prayer Link to talk about Christians and Halloween. Ramirez was a general to the kingdom of darkness in witchcraft. Ramirez said, “I would sit with the Devil and talk to him like I am taking to you today. It was that kind of communication. It was that kind of a relationship.”

Ramirez warns Halloween isn’t just about costumes and candy—there’s a much darker reality. “Sometimes people say, ‘I celebrated Halloween 10 years ago, I did this 15 years ago, I did this 20 years ago, ‘but the door is still open. You just cursed your family for three to four generations,” Ramirez told CBN News.

“You have to be aware it’s a curse. You have to go back to the place where you started, that year you started that Halloween thing, the celebration when you started having an encounter with the dark side. You have to go back to that same spot and renounce it in the name of Jesus Christ and ask God to forgive you so that God can have mercy and close that door so your whole family can move forward,” he continued.

Ramirez, now a pastor knows the dark reality of Halloween. He once sacrificed animals as part of satanic rituals and his friends even knew him as “Lucifer’s son.” Now as a born again believer, he strongly warns Christians against celebrating Halloween and participating in harvest festivals. “The only harvest we should celebrate is the harvest of souls,” he adds. Ramirez says that in his opinion the other events Christians hold to instead of Halloween, such as “Trunk or Treat” nights are really no different.

“Do you know of any Satanists who say, ‘Hey we’re going to come into Good Friday and we’re going to hang out with Christians and we’re just going to call it a different name?”

If you would like to read the full articles go to:

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/october/former-satanist-warns-christians-about-celebrating-halloween

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/october/paganism-and-witchcraft-the-dark-reality-of-halloween-nbsp

I’m guessing that when most parents take their kids trick or treating, they aren’t intentionally “celebrating” Halloween. However, I wonder if we have any idea what the Enemy’s perception is when a Christian participates in the same activity as those who belong to the kingdom of darkness. So, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8

Semper Reformanda, Mike Altena

 


Next To Him

The staff has been engaging a study from the book of Nehemiah written by Chip Ingram entitled Holy Ambition. This past week we looked at what I consider one of the most powerful images in the Bible of God’s people who committed themselves to a “Holy Ambition” that God laid on their hearts to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. In chapter 3, Nehemiah tells the story of how the people, with every kind of gift and skill, came from every direction to complete the good work God prepared in advance for them to do.

I especially love verses 17-32. Just notice all the “next to hims” and “next to thems.” 17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their fellow Levites under Binnui[f] son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle of the wall. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib’s house to the end of it.

22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shekaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.

As I reflect on our study, I am grateful that I get to work next to the staff, next to the Ridder Team and next to the Consistory. I thank God I get to work next to the Prayer Team, the Worship Team, the Discipleship Team and the Mission Support Team. And I thank God as I watch so many of you working side by side, teaching, caring, serving, and encouraging one another in order to advance the kingdom here in Luverne and around the region.

We might not finish our work in 53 days, but I thank God for how he is working in and through ARC!!!!

Laboring for the harvest, Mike Altena

 


Time For…

Reflecting on a variety of challenges that are part of my daily experience, I’ve spent some time this week meditating on Ecclesiastes 3. Like, does it really matter what I do, or how I live? Is “having a good time” all that matters? Is what I do mostly “busywork”? I know of people who take comfort from the first part of chapter 3, but what do we do with the end? I wonder how this chapter might have looked different if Solomon had lived after Jesus lived.

From Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 3: There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

14 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.

15 Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That’s how it always is with God.

16-18 I took another good look at what’s going on: The very place of judgment—corrupt! The place of righteousness—corrupt! I said to myself, “God will judge righteous and wicked.” There’s a right time for everything, every deed—and there’s no getting around it. I said to myself regarding the human race, “God’s testing the lot of us, showing us up as nothing but animals.”

19-22 Humans and animals come to the same end—humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there’s really no advantage in being human. None. Everything’s smoke. We all end up in the same place—we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth. So I made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do—that’s our lot. Who knows if there’s anything else to life?

Thanking God for progressive revelation!!

Mike Altena

 


Thanks, Moms!

I realize the day for celebrating our mothers is several months away, but after spending a few days camping with three of our four granddaughters, I want to give some love to our moms.

First of all, when it comes to vacation, I’m guessing most moms likely plan the vacation and then also pack everything for the vacation, and thus the vacation probably never really ends up being a vacation. I’m sad to report to you that this is also true for our family.

Second it’s on vacation that I’m guessing most dads get a real glimpse into what a mom does every day. From prepping meals, to changing diapers, and trying to keep the little ones from killing each other and in addition to a full or part time job and a never ending list of other tasks, a mother’s work never               seems finished.

Vicki and I were never outnumbered when we were raising our two sons so we got a little taste of what it’s like to have three—we didn’t dare try all four. Well, in addition to being out numbered, add the extra drama that comes with three little girls trying to play a good game of dolls, and it becomes a physically and  emotionally disturbing experience. When Jesus gave the reasons for what hinders a person from growing in Christ likeness, he could’ve added “having too many kids in too short of a span.” J  You know I’m just kidding, however I’m guessing the writer of Proverbs 31:10-31 put his reflections on paper after returning from a vacation or camping trip.

For the sake of space I will include only selected verses.  (And moms, I know there are many of you who don’t like this scripture because of the pressure they feel to meet these expectations. And yet from my perspective, this description of a mother and wife is not about who you should become, but rather it’s a reflection of who God hard wired you to be).

And with that I honor you with these words…25She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come [like when she can go to the bathroom alone]. 26She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

May it not be so with you and me that we should ever take our mothers for granted. And here’s to you, Vicki and Traci and all the other moms who read this!

Grace to you and peace!

Mike Altena

 


General Synod Update

Significant news from General Synod 2018:  On Saturday, June 9, General Synod approved Eddy Alemán as general secretary of the RCA by voice vote. The role of general secretary includes casting vision for the denomination and overseeing implementation of its mission.

General Synod delegates passed a recommendation to form a 2020 Vision Group proposed Friday morning, June 8, by Don Poest, interim general secretary.

Since then, members of the 2020 Vision Group have been selected in response to the General Synod 2018 recommendation that a vision group be formed to research and identify strategies and consequences for three possible scenarios for the future of the RCA:

  1. staying together
  2. radical reconstituting and reorganization
  3. a grace-filled separation.

Per the recommendation, one specific option the group will consider is for the RCA to be a single denomination with three or more affinity assemblies within it.

The recommendation originated as a proposal by then-interim general secretary Don Poest, who suggested the vision group in response to his assessment of deep division in the denomination.

Members of the group were named by Poest and general secretary Eddy Alemán, in consultation with the General Synod Council (GSC), and were chosen to reflect the wide diversity of the RCA, including all regional synods and racial/ethnic councils.

On Monday, June 11, General Synod directed the general secretary to write a letter to the United States president strongly supporting immigration reform and DACA and urged congregations to advocate for legislation that supports immigration reform and DACA at the local level.

The Commission on Christian Action originally brought the recommendation to synod, but retracted it instead of presenting it for a vote. Then, during their report, a motion from the floor brought the recommendation back before delegates. Some delegates expressed discomfort with the general secretary writing a letter to the president about a political issue.

“I personally do not want this body writing a letter for me,” elder delegate Glenn Emmert said. “There’s so much involved in this. … I don’t feel comfortable having our general secretary write this.”

Others, like GSC member and corresponding delegate Anna Jackson, voiced support for the recommendation.

“Too long, I believe the church has been silent to many of the injustices that are happening in our country,” said Jackson. “We need to find our voice. It is within our authority. The report does have something to say when it comes to justice issues. I think it’s high time that we do make a statement.”

General Synod voted on Monday, June 11, to commend an instructional, question-and-answer document on marriage and sexuality to all RCA churches and classes. Known as the Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality, the document consists of 19 questions and answers and is written in a conversational format similar to the Heidelberg Catechism (see document on the RCA website).

Responding to overtures from two classes and a regional synod about commending or adopting the document, the Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business made a recommendation to “commend the Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality for reflection, study, and response by the Commission on Theology and RCA churches and classes as a means of deepening our understanding of the biblical teaching on human sexuality and finding a pathway forward toward unity in mission and ministry.”

Several amendments were debated that would have restricted distribution until the Commission on Theology could study and respond to the document, but in the end none were approved and synod voted 134-90 to approve the original recommendation.

For more insights into this year’s General Synod, check out www.rca.org.

May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

Mike Altena