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

 


Under Construction

My daily commute takes me past the local Golden Arches and I have enjoyed watching the visible progression of their remodeling project. The red tin roof and faded yellow sign have been removed and a new modern shape is being erected. The mound of discarded items keeps growing in the dumpster while the stack of building materials that was delivered to the site at the onset of the project is shrinking. Some days there is a whirlwind of activity and other times the rain has brought things to a screeching halt, but progress is being made.

And to the delight of travelers and locals alike, a large sign outside the building reads “Open During Construction”. Granted, the parking lot is somewhat tight, there’s extra noise during lunch hour, it might be a bit of a mess, and everyone has to be a little flexible, but nobody has had to forgo their Big Mac or Egg McMuffin or Happy Meal. In the midst of the renovation the employees have tried to continue with business as usual.

There’s something exciting about renovations. Years of wear and tear are replaced with fresh and new. Faded becomes vibrant. Outdated becomes advanced. Boring becomes bright. Lifeless becomes lively. Transformation is captivating

Each of us is a bit like a renovation project. As a baby, we seem absolutely perfect – a new construction. But over time our spirit becomes dull, our lives are contaminated by sin, we are faded by the consequences of our decisions, and we are in desperate need of an overhaul. Thankfully, God is in the business of renovations. He delights in making all things new. He restores our soul. Scriptures tell us that God makes all things beautiful in his time (Eccl 3:11) and that if we are in Christ, the old has gone and the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the most exciting transformation to witness.

And Like McDonald’s, we are “Open During Construction”. Sometimes people watch and observe as old things are stripped away, we have messes to clean up and adjustments to make, and periodically things seem to be at a standstill. But be assured that God is at work. As Paul writes in Philippians 1:6 “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

So what does completion look like? For McDonald’s, I’m not really sure. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But for those who are in Christ, when we reach completion, we will be a perfect reflection of Jesus. And while that won’t happen on this side of eternity, we continue to be open during construction, learning and growing and transforming as we go along.

Another renovation that I’m excited about is the scheduled repair of Highway 75 north of Main Street. The local newspaper reported that beginning in July, crews will do emergency repairs and mill off the worst spots to level the surface and make long asphalt patches on the driving lanes. I am delighted that we will have a smoother driving lane; however, it’s a temporary fix to a deeper issue.

People have a tendency to do the same thing in their lives. We make some upgrades to the behaviors that are visible to the public eye, but we don’t deal with the underlying problems. We focus on symptoms instead of solutions. We avoid the hard work of transformation.

As we embrace the summer construction season, may we be convicted of the changes and shifts and complete renovations that need to be made in our own lives, both on the surface and deep within. And may we not shy away from engaging the process.

Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet,

Erin Jacobsma

 


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

 

 


Consider Your Path

History was made last week in Louisville, Kentucky. The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby took place on Saturday, May 4, 2019 and for the first time in race history, the horse that crossed the finish line first was not declared the winner, but was disqualified for race interference. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the race, here is a recap.

The Kentucky Derby is touted as the greatest two minutes in sports and 19 horses lined up for the contest on a sloppy, rain-drenched track. The horse named Maximum Security was one of the favorites to win. This particular Thoroughbred led the entire race and indeed crossed the finish line before the others, but after an objection was made and the videos were reviewed, it was clear that Maximum Security had drifted out of his lane, bumping into the horse next to him and hindering the stride of several horses, namely War of Will, Long Range Toddy, Bodexpress, and Code of Honor. (Don’t you just love horse names!)

Unlike NASCAR, rubbing isn’t racing, and the rules in Kentucky that apply to horse racing provide for the disqualification of a horse if it shifts its position in a manner that impedes or interferes with another horse, costing that horse a better place in the race. Ultimately, the path that Maximum Security chose cost him the crown!

The same is true for us. Our future is determined by the choices we make and the path we choose. This is true for the high school graduate, the convicted offender, the veteran, the senior citizen, the farmer, the teacher, the secretary, the mom… all people. It can cost us our finances, our relationships, our reputations, our life. The path we choose leads to victory or defeat, to eternal life or eternal death.

As I consider our paths, I have come to the conclusion that we are often tempted to take the path of least resistance, to seek an avenue of ease and comfort, routes that don’t look too different or require too much change. We tend to justify the lane we are in and we like our pathways to be wide and relaxed, giving us plenty of room to move around.

But Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14, “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.” The Way that Jesus is talking about is himself. Jesus is the way. He is the way to the Father. He is the way to salvation. He is the way to eternal life. Jesus’ own words are recorded in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We, then, are called to be followers of The Way, to be in the world, but not of the world, to be set apart and distinct. Our path is a different one.

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about our path, but one of my favorites is Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

It would have been a game changer for Maximum Security if he had stayed on a straight path. It’s a game changer for you too. Are you on the right path? Are you following The Way to life or the road of destruction? May each of us live the words of Psalm 25:4: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.”

Erin Jacobsma

 

 


Influence

May of 2019 has arrived. Over the years, with each flip of the calendar, I knew this month would come and now – it’s here. Kaylie’s High School Graduation will be here in just a few short days. Like any parent has experienced before me, this day is bittersweet. There is no greater excitement than watching your child grow, mature, and seek the path God is leading them to. Some days it is hard to contain the joy that flows out of my heart as I watch her, but there are also days I realize I have so much I want to teach her yet. Thankfully we have a lifetime to share together and she’s not wandering too far from home this fall.

The ARC Class of 2019 holds a special place in my heart, not only because my daughter is in it, but because many special people in my life are part of it. This class is one of the first groups of students I taught here at ARC. Our journey together has taken us through Sunday School classes, Christmas Programs, the very first year of Pioneer Clubs, VBS, RCYF, mission trips, Power Connection, Rocky Mountain High, and countless other encounters. A few of the girls have lovingly called me “Mama Becky” for several years and I, too, count them as my honorary daughters whom I love very much. I have prayed for each of these students, I have cried with many of them, I have watched mistakes be made, and I have witnessed them surrender their life to Christ. A special group of kids I will never forget.

I think we would all agree raising kids in this broken world of chaos is difficult. Eighteen years sounds like a healthy amount of time and yet a lot has to be taught within them. We not only teach with words, but our actions as well. The things we give our time and energy to are all evidence of what is important and valuable to us. Naturally, over time, our children begin to mimic our actions and values. When I think of discipling a child, I often think of Timothy in the Bible. While he grew up with a Gentile father, his mother  and grandmother were believers and loved Jesus. Eunice and Lois were both great examples of influencing a child to be a Christ follower, yet there are few details of the ladies actually discipling him. In fact, what we know of Timothy is mostly found through Paul’s writing. In one letter, Paul writes to Timothy “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15) Evidence of loved ones modeling Christ in all they did and taught, from the   very beginning.

The words of Paul cause me to consider how I am influencing my own children. Do my actions and words speak of Christ or show my heart is really after the things of this world? Each morning when I rise, am I witness to seeking the Father’s face before I start my daily list of tasks and appointments? It also causes me to wonder about our church family within the ministry here at ARC. Are we preparing our Sunday School and other youth lessons with great joy and anticipation of the Lord speaking to the hearts of our students, or merely passing on a story that happens to be found in God’s Word. What about our regular practices and church activities; are we giving our whole selves in worship and praise to our Creator and Master, or simply participating and marking ourselves present each Sunday?

You see, I don’t believe Timothy’s mother and grandmother simply taught him the scriptures and complacently lived out their faith halfheartedly. I believe they were very purposeful and talked about their faith as they sought God with each and every breath. I pray that this too, may be our discipleship strategy both in our homes and here within our church family.

Congratulations Class of 2019! Thank you for the memories, the love, and all they ways you have influenced me by shining Christ’s light in this dark and broken world.

Becky Ossefoort

 


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

 


Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm

My daily Bible reading plan has directed me through the book of Deuteronomy over the past couple of weeks. As I read through the 34 chapters that recollect the stories of Moses and the Israelites while they journeyed to the Promised Land, a simple phrase caught my attention. Multiple times, Moses directs the people to remember God’s MIGHTY HAND AND OUTSTRETCHED ARM. One of those passages is Deuteronomy 5:15: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

The imagery of God’s arm/hand was a powerful one for the Israelites. They had lived for 400 years under the hand of Pharaoh, but had also witnessed God having the upper hand and defeating this earthly leader and redeeming His people.

So what picture comes to mind when you think about God’s arm or hand in your life? Maybe you hear the words of the timeless Sunday School song “He’s got the whole world in His hands…” Or do you imagine God holding you in His arms like an NFL football player clutching a football and barreling down the field of life? Perhaps you view God’s hand raised in a position to strike, or like a reprimanding parent shaking their finger at you. Maybe you see God’s arms as a place to find shelter like a mother hen tucks in her chicks.

One of my views of God’s arm/hand stems from when my children were little. When we would go for a walk, we went hand in hand. Sometimes the grip was loose; sometimes we held pinkies; sometimes I increased the strength of our connection when we were getting close to a busy street. But often times, as their hands were in mine, we would encounter a crack in the sidewalk or some other obstacle and they would begin to stumble. At these times, I would tighten my grip and raise my hand in the air, pulling their little body upward to prevent their tender knees and nose from scraping along the sidewalk. Likewise, I see my hand in God’s, sometimes just walking along enjoying the company of one another, and sometimes getting yanked off my toes to prevent a greater calamity.

There are many scripture passages that refer to the hands and arms of God. Here are a few:

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 32:17 “Oh, Lord God! You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

This week, I challenge you to focus on the Lord’s mighty hand and outstretched arm. See them stretched out on a tree, bloodied and torn apart for you. See the outstretched arms of God who loved you so much that he gave his one and only Son as a ransom for your soul. See them raised in victory; he has conquered the grave and reigns with all authority in heaven and on earth.

Like the psalmist, let us raise our voices in praise of the Lord our God! “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” (Psalm 98:1-3 NKJV)

Erin Jacobsma