Speechless

As I sit behind my keyboard on this Thursday morning, I feel compelled to offer some kingdom insights that might help us process the horrific murder of George Floyd and the response of the angry protestors who have ravaged a portion of Minneapolis.

And yet, like I’m sure is true for many of you, I am speechless. After staring at my blank page for twenty minutes now I am unable to scrounge up a few words that would adequately describe the behavior of the four policemen, the protestors turned rioters, and the venomous responses offered by the arm chair protestors on social media.

My fingers feel paralyzed to write anything as I try to imagine how a person would become so full of contempt that they could actually slowly squeeze the life out of person while his three partners emotionlessly ignored the desperate cries for help from Mr. Floyd and that the process of apprehension was grossly inhumane.

Likewise, I’m also trying to imagine how a group of people could be deceived into thinking that destroying and looting your neighborhood would relieve the pain of their broken hearts.

There are no words. Hurt people hurt people. Injustice often breeds injustice. What we see happening is the ultimate effect of people whose consciences have been seared—people who 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 making an attempt to make sure justice is served while doing the very thing they are protesting.

As anxiety and anger begin to fill my soul, I also feel a need to release it, I begin to think about who is to blame. But then I began to wonder, when it comes to addressing injustice, who in the George Floyd story am I most like.  Do I become like the cop who blindly carries out his own justice? Am I like the other three  policemen who quietly stand by and say nothing even though people are alerting me to the fact that something is not right?

I also wonder in what way am I like the watching crowd who were taking videos of the arrest but didn’t have the courage to make a greater attempt to stop the policeman. Or I wondered, has there ever been a time when my quiet protest over an injustice didn’t bring about the immediate results my soul was hoping for? And so instead I gave into the little voice in my head which reassured me of my right to release my pent up anger from the times I had been hurt, regardless of whether or not I would hurt someone else. And how easily do I find myself being motivated by the synergy of the looters and rioters who have also taken up my cause, even though I know what we are doing is wrong?

As I reflect on the current events happening in Minneapolis, I realize more and more how broken this world is. I realize how intense the battle is becoming. I realize how important it is for me to be aware of how I respond to injustice. And I realize more and more how the world would be different if we embraced Romans 12:9-10;14-21.

9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Oh God, grant us the grace that would protect us from destroying ourselves,  Amen.

Mike Altena

 


Under His Mercy

One of our greatest challenges the past ten weeks of living in the midst of the pandemic is discerning whether or not we can trust those who are leading us. For example, after months of trying to avoid touching any unnecessary surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control is now suggesting that it’s not very likely that a person could catch the COVID-19 virus from touching surfaces. (I’m guessing the makers of Clorox wipes are not very fond of that report). I’ll do my best to withhold my judgment since I’m certain the CDC is still learning many things about the nature of the virus and how it spreads.

On a different issue, I am noticing in myself and in others an increase in anxiety in response to how Governor Walz is reopening our state. There appears to be some significant disparities in his timeline of who gets to be open, when they get to be open, and to what degree they get to be open. Like most notably, why did the famous yellow candy store near Minneapolis get to be open before the local main street stores get to be open? And then why does the Liquor Store, Bomgaars, Menards, and Costco… you know the narrative. All of those inconsistencies have a way of causing us to lose trust in those who lead our state.

And then even more frustrating to you and me is the fact that reopening churches appears to be the last activity we will finally be given permission to engage in. Add all of those things up, and many more, and now a person or people group move beyond losing trust and respond by saying, we don’t care what our leaders say, we’re no longer going to submit to the authority.

So how does a Christian respond when they disagree with authority? The Apostle Paul writes this in Romans 13:1-5, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

Wow! Looks like we best continue to submit to our Governor. But then what do you do if your Governor is acting beyond the bounds of his authority (the Constitution of our nation which says we have the right to gather for worship)? Or are there reasons and occasions when we are no longer required to submit?

In Acts chapter 5:29, having been instructed by the religious authorities that they could no longer proclaim the gospel in Jesus’ name, Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

I think we would all agree that we are called to humbly submit to those who are in authority over us, unless they require us to do something God tells us not to do, or unless they insist that we refrain from doing what God has told us to do.

So when it comes to the directives, or the lack of them, from our Governor, do we continue to submit? Or having discerned that the Governor is infringing on our Constitutional rights, do we begin gathering for worship?

Knowing when to submit to authority and when not to has been a very challenging conversation for our Consistory over the past few weeks. And it would be a great discussion to have with your children to help them understand why our Consistory has decided to reopen for worship even though the Governor has asked us not to.

Under His mercy, Mike Altena

 


Don’t Keep The Good News To Yourself

Some of the most amazing stories of God’s supernatural provision and providence are found in II Kings 2-8. The story recorded in chapters six and seven is about a drought in the land that was so severe that the people began eating their own children.

In chapter seven we read the story about four lepers who are forced with a decision that could’ve led to their death either way; either starve to death or approach the camp of the enemy Arameans in hopes they would have some food knowing they risked being killed. Here’s the story.

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

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

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

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.

After reading this story, at least two things come to mind that could encourage us on our journey through this pandemic. First, regardless of how badly the food chain gets disrupted and or how widespread the foot shortage may become, you and I can be at complete peace knowing God can do the unimaginable and impossible to sustain us. I love how God frightened the enemy by making them hear the sound of an army when there really wasn’t one—so frightened that they ran for their lives leaving everything behind for the lepers to feast on.

And secondly, regardless of our current circumstances, this pandemic presents us with a great opportunity to testify to the amazing grace of God. My favorite verse in this story is found in verse 9. Again, “Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves”.

Friends, to receive the grace of God that grants us the gift of being at peace with God and not telling our lost friends is not right. And to have the peace of God that passes all understanding and not share that with those who are filled with anxiety is also, not right.

May it not be so with you and me that we hoard God’s grace from anyone, but be ready in any and every situation to share about the supernatural ways God has delivered you in desperate times. This is a day of good news!!!

I love to tell the story, Mike Altena

 


Laboring With The Lord

A wise mother stated, “Once labor begins, it never ends.” Labor for me began 27 years ago, eighteen hours before our firstborn entered this world. She was a beautiful baby, perfectly knit together in my womb, crafted by her Creator. And with her first cry, everything I thought I knew about being a mom unraveled, and I never felt more inadequate for anything in my entire life.

That feeling hasn’t gone away. Maybe there are some moms who feel like they are knocking it out of the park and that their kids are the luckiest offspring on earth, but that’s not the case for me. I have messed up in more ways than I care to mention, and remember many days when I would lay my head on the pillow and ask God to erase my children’s memory of that day. I realize that I’m my biggest critic, but maybe there are other moms that can relate.

There are so many stories about mothers in the Bible, some I can relate to and others I can’t even imagine. A mother who birthed mankind, a mother who hid her baby in a basket by the river, mothers who buried children, played favorites, raised prophets and priests, and a young mother who birthed the Savior of the world. But the story that touches my mothering heart isn’t about a mother at all. It’s found in Mark 9:12-17. The Message Bible tells it like this:

As the day declined, the Twelve said to Jesus, “Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

“You feed them,” Jesus said.

They said, “We couldn’t scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish—unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody.” (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.)

But he went ahead and directed his disciples, “Sit them down in groups of about fifty.” They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.

As I read these words, I hear Jesus say to me, “You feed them.” I have made thousands of bottles and thousands of meals for my children over the years, but that’s been the easy part. Feeding mouths is one thing, feeding souls is another. Most days I feel like one of the disciples scraping together a few morsels, and offering it to the Messiah saying “This is all I have and I know it’s not enough.” But Jesus takes our insufficient and turns it into abundance with leftovers to boot! Thank you, Jesus!

I don’t know who penned the following words, but they were taped to my refrigerator for many years and I have prayed them often. If you are a mom, I would encourage you to pray them as well.

“Lord, you know my inadequacies. You know my weaknesses, not only in parenting, but in every area of my life. I am doing the best I can to raise my kids properly, but it may not be good enough. As you broke the fish and the loaves to feed 5,000 hungry people, now take my meager effort and use it to bless my family. Multiply it as only you can. Make up for the things I do wrong. Satisfy the needs I have not met. Compensate for my blunders and mistakes. Wrap your great arms around my children and draw them close to you. And be there when they stand at the great crossroads between right and wrong. All I can give them is my best and I will continue to do that. I submit them to you now, and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. The outcome rests securely in your hands, Lord.”

Laboring with the Lord, Erin Jacobsma


What Are You Learning?

I started a study on 1 Corinthians a while back and let me tell you, for such a time as this. As I’ve read about the culture of Corinth in Paul’s day, I see so many similarities to our modern-day culture – highlighted even more because of the current reality in our world. The city of Corinth had many travelers and businesses because of the location on the water route through the country of Greece. The people were proud of their city and you could find anything your heart desired because the Corinthian culture was full of indulgence, idolatry, and immoral living. It was a culture that thrived on self-importance, ambition, and status. Sound at all familiar?

In the book of Acts, we read Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth, “teaching them the word of God.” (18:11) I imagine Paul spent countless hours sharing the Gospel and gently correcting their habits and patterns of life in contrast to the Good News. A few years after Paul’s departure from Corinth, he receives word the Christian Corinthians have fallen into their old destructive habits in his absence. Instead of a good old fashioned written lecture, Paul simply affirms their identity in Christ and reminds them of God’s truth. Once again we see Paul’s gentle teaching and correcting as we read the words penned in his correspondence we have come to know as the book of 1 Corinthians.

As I think of the things God has been teaching me during this pandemic season, I can’t help but think of the things I have been learning in my studies as well. Paul spent a lot of time teaching the Christian Corinthians about the Messiah and living as part of God’s kingdom. But, after Paul departed on his next journey, the people quickly turned to their old habits. As we slowly begin to turn the corner of our social distancing, sheltering in place, and homemade mask-wearing, I wonder how quickly I may fall back into my old and regular patterns of life pre-Covid. Will I begin to fill my schedule with the things I didn’t miss or that lack real value for my life? When classes resume, will my children’s schoolwork turn into more of the teacher’s responsibility, rather than my own? This slower pace of life has allowed for an extended quiet time at my Saviors’ feet each day; will I continue to crave the time spent with Him or will extra time fade into what once was, as well?

See, deep down there is a part of me that hopes we never fully return to “normal”. No, I don’t mean keep things locked up tight downtown; those are my friends and it is good for us all to work and make a living. I am just as excited as everyone else to see friends and the smiles of our church family, but I am going to miss some of this season as well. I feel as though I am entering this new season of familiarity with a much different concern than when we entered the unknown – shelter in place way of life. During this time, God has shown me ways to minister in a fashion I never imagined and many blessings in the slower pace. I have found a deeper passion for worship, a greater desire for less, and patience I didn’t know I had just six short weeks ago. I don’t want to fall into the old habits and patterns of life before Covid like the Corinthians did as they waved goodbye to Paul.

We would likely all agree the lasting effects of this time will continue to be felt for many months to come. For some, this season has or will bring great heartache and loss. Perhaps it’s a time of life we wish we could simply erase. Yet I also believe God never leaves a season without revealing Himself to His people. In this time, may it be true of each of us that we lean into our Father fully trusting Him and all He has for us – both the good and painful – each and every day.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. [While maintaining a distance of 6 feet.] All God’s people here send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 11-14

Missing each of you, Becky Ossefoort

 


Sing It!

One of the things I appreciate about the Psalms is that they are a compilation of the writer’s authentic and transparent feelings about how they experience God in the midst of a broken world.

There are several types of Psalms; four that are most common, the Psalm of praise, the Psalm of thanksgiving, the Psalm of lament and the Psalm of trust. Some, like Psalm 18 can include all four of those characteristics. And as many of you know the Psalms were put to music and have been used in worship thousands of years.

In Psalm 96:1 David suggests we must “Sing to the Lord a new song…” Now please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not building a case of why we should sing more new songs. Like most of you, I love many of the old hymns! And yet there have been several “new songs” (songs written in the past few years) that have enhanced my worship during this covid pandemic.

For example, I was recently listening to the radio when the song entitled “Even If” by Mercy Me came on. It begins like this, “They say sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some and right now, right now I’m losing bad.” Sadly, my first thought was that this could become the theme song for many farmers and business owners. The writer of the song goes on to tell how it feels like he’s going through a fiery trial, but in the end he trusts in God for his salvation. The song closes with these lyrics, “You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good. All of my days, Jesus, I will cling to you come what may. ‘Cause I know You’re able, I know you can…It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Another song that I was introduced to a couple of years ago is entitled and also known as the “Kyrie Eleison”. The Latin and Greek translation of Kyrie Eleison is “Lord have mercy on us.” Possibly inspired by Psalm 51:1-6, the lyrics of the song are simple. “For the things we’ve done and left undone. For the ways we’ve wandered from your heart, forgive us we pray, forgive us we pray. For the idol’s we put on Your throne, for the loves we choose before Your own. Forgive us we pray. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy on us. For the lies that we clutch to our chests. For the fear that wants to steal our breath. Forgive us, we pray. And give us your grace. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy on us.” Oh do we need God’s mercy at this time!!

I have also been blessed by Lincoln Brewster’s song, “While I Wait.” Like many of the Psalms, Lincoln writes about a time in his life when he and his wife are waiting for God to do a miracle. Beginning with his confidence in God, the song begins, “Deep within my heart, I know You’ve won, I know You’ve overcome. And even in the dark, when I’m undone I still believe it. I live by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). Sometime miracles take time. When I fall apart, You are my strength, help me not forget. Seeing every scar, you make me whole you are my healer. While I wait I will worship. Lord I’ll worship Your name. While I wait, I will trust you. Lord I will trust You all the same.”

Back to thinking about how shutting the economy down because of the covid virus has especially impacted our farmers, even in the midst of “right now we’re losing bad,” I see them trusting God for a miracle. In some ways it would make no sense to plant the corn or soybeans. Because of the uncertainly of the impact of the covid virus, they really have no idea if there will be a market for their grain this fall, and yet they walk by faith and not by sight…sometime miracles take time. We wait.

I thank God for the gift of music and how it can give expression to our thoughts and feelings in the midst of our broken world so loved by God. I thank God for all the songs that have enabled you and me to express our praise, our thanksgiving, our lament and our trust. I would love to hear from you about a song, old or new, that God has given to encourage you during this pandemic. Call or text me at 320-226-2646. Or email me at mike@arcluverne.org.

To God be the glory, great things he has done…Mike Altena

 


End Times?

Over the past few weeks I’ve read articles, listened to podcasts and had conversations with people who are wondering if, or how, the covid pandemic might be a sign that Jesus’ second coming is getting very close.

Prophetic voices have spoken about super powers making their move towards the one world government and the one world currency.  Whether it’s because we have better technology and increased access to report all that is happening around the globe, or that there clearly is evidence of an increase in evil, pain, suffering and persecution for following Jesus, a person might rightfully ask, will Jesus be coming soon. Maybe you are wondering the same thing.

Apparently the church in Thessalonica was wondering the same thing nearly 2000 years ago; do we know what day Jesus will come back to take us home?

The Apostle Paul addresses their concern with this response as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10. As you read Paul’s response, take note of attitudes and actions that we shouldn’t be taking versus those we should   be taking.

1 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Do you see it? What are at least three attitudes and actions we should avoid at this time?

1.

2,

3.

And what are at least five attitudes and actions that should mark our lives at this time?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

And then of course, the greatest good news regardless of when Jesus returns, take some time to mediate on verse 9-10. Why did God choose to save you? And then spend some time thanking God for his plan to redeem this lost and broken world, and that he gave you the faith and the grace to believe he wants to live with you forever!!

May it not be so with you and me that we would worry about when Jesus will come back, but rather may you be filled with peace knowing that it’s God’s presence in our lives that distinguishes us from all the other people on the earth.

Soli deo Gloria (Glory to God alone), Mike Altena

 


While It Was Still Dark

John 20:1 “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

This verse was part of my scripture reading for today and I was caught off guard by five little words sandwiched between two commas: while it was still dark. While it was still dark? Why did my mind fixate on that phrase? Maybe it had to do with the early hour at which I was reading, maybe the words dredged up nocturnal fears from my childhood, maybe it’s indicative of the darkness that hangs over our world, or maybe the Holy Spirit just needed me to do some reflecting.

So I have been pondering.

Scripture tells us a few things about this woman. Mary is her name. Not to be mistaken with Mary the mother of Jesus, or Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, or any of the “other” Marys, this Mary is known to those around her as Magdalene. Her identity was tied to the town where she was from—Magdala. We know little of her past, her family, or her age, but we do know that she had a transforming encounter with the Messiah. Luke 8:2 informs us that Magdalene had been delivered from evil spirits, seven to be exact. The details of that event are not revealed to us, but the effects are crystal clear. Jesus had set her free and she committed her life – time, resources, energy – into following Him.

According to other Gospel accounts, we read that Magdalene, along with some other women, accompanied Jesus as he went through the cities and villages, not as a crazy fan club, but they provided for the Rabbi out of their own pockets. They traveled together, ate meals together, listened to Jesus’ teachings, and grew closer every day. And when it came to the unfolding events at the cross, we see Magdalene present from beginning to end. She stood helplessly by, watched as her Savior was nailed to a cross, listened to his anguished cries, observed his final breath, and didn’t leave until she saw where his body was laid.

So when I reflect on “while it was still dark”, I see a woman overcome with grief, tossing and turning through the night, waiting for daybreak so she could go and honor her Savior. But she just couldn’t take it anymore. Her heart yearned for her Lord and not even the darkness could hold her back.

And maybe she was accustomed to the dark. In her days of being held hostage by evil spirits, maybe the dark of night was her safe place that shielded the stares and remarks of others. She had experienced such darkness in her past, and then this strange darkness for three hours in the middle of the day while Jesus hung on the cross, and now the darkness had no hold on her.

And she was confident that daylight was coming.

Magdalene is rewarded for her faithfulness. In the midst of the trauma of seeing the stone rolled away and the body of her Beloved missing, she turns around to see Jesus standing behind her. Her eyes are blurred with tears and she doesn’t even recognize him until he says, “Mary”. Maybe Jesus was one of the few people who called her by her first name while they walked from town to town, or maybe there was such a familiar tenderness in his voice, that even in disbelief, she knew her Savior stood before her. The darkness around her disappeared, her grief was erased, her tears wiped away, and she ran to the disciples with the exclamation, “I have seen the Lord!”

Are you grieving? Are you weeping? Are you experiencing a dark night of the soul? Does there seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Turn around. Do you hear Jesus calling out your name? Do you know his voice? I pray that even in the midst of this dark hour we can proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Good Is Good All The Time!

“God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” It was a phrase uttered regularly after the release of the “God’s Not Dead” movie a few years ago.   Such a simple statement I have believed in my heart since I was a little girl. I still hear people say the phrase, but perhaps not as often as I did when the movie was first released. Yet it is something I have reminded myself, and others, of in this season.

The COVID-19 virus has certainly stopped us all in our tracks in one way or another. To think how drastically our daily tasks have changed in just a few weeks is somewhat mind blowing. Many things we once took for granted look different right now, and I think many are ready for everything to return to normal. But what if our normal never looks…well, normal again? Could it be God is drawing us to something new? I get excited to think of a new, clean, fresh outlook on the ways I have allowed my life to become mundane and stagnant. Yet, every ounce of the human within me wants nothing more than to go about my regular daily tasks again without having to think so hard and reinvent what once, just was. It’s those moments when I cling to the phrases and scriptures I have come to know.

God is constantly at work to bring about good. On our Jr High Youth Group Zoom meeting this week we talked about just that. We dug into Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” All his promises are available to anyone who proclaims the name of Jesus! God uses everything and turns it to good for those who trust in Him, rather than the things of this world.

God is our Good Father. Whether it is the lyrics of the song “Good Good Father,” or God’s gentle whisper through the scriptures I am constantly reminded of His love and faithfulness to His people. While we will never be able to explain why God allows things like the Coronavirus to spread across the world like it has, we can fall back on the truth that He is in control and He is good! The scriptures are full of God’s goodness, one of my favorites that I am claiming in this season is, “They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty – and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works – and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:5-7

Ultimately, God already has a plan and knows exactly how this season will end. He stands in the middle of all the chaos, holding things together, and preventing anything from spiraling out of control. I would agree many things feel a little uncertain and as though we are venturing into the unknown, but God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. There are so many verses to find the comfort of God having all things held together, but today I leave you with this familiar one from Philippians 4. “4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Becky Ossefoort

 


Nothing Can Separate Us

When I think about our current health crises, it rightfully creates concern on many levels. In regards to the economy and jobs, it feels like the dark, discouraging times of the farm crisis in the mid 1980’s. This crisis however has two other significant hardships that we didn’t have to deal with in the farm crisis; the potential for catching the Covid 19 virus and therefore the relational distancing being imposed by our government.

I’ll be honest, when getting present to my thoughts and feelings about the reality of extending my personal comfort space from three feet to six feet; I have a hard time coming up with words to describe it. Words like, unbelievable, eerie, crazy, and wonderful come to mind when I think of the need for separating. If our level of avoidance when meeting people in public wasn’t already a serious social concern, it’s almost comical to watch people in their efforts to keep their distance. J

The good news in all of this, and the promises we cling to, is that NOTHING will separate us from the love of God. I’m guessing many of you have been standing firmly on Romans 8. However, if you’re not, well then here you go, allow the Holy Spirit to pull you up out of your quicksand so that you can stand in this truth!

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In order for the article to fit on this page, I had to leave part of it off.  I would also encourage you to read Romans 8:18-27. When I read through this text I find at least eight profound truths. Here are the first three, you find the rest:

  • v. 28-29 If we allow him to, God will work this out so that we will become more like Jesus—that gives me hope!
  • v. 34 Jesus is praying for you and me right now –that gives me peace!
  • v. 39 There will never be a reason that God will impose “relational distancing” from him—that makes me feel loved!

May it not be so with you and me that we would ever worry about being separated from God’s love!

Grace to you and peace until we meet again,

Mike Altena