Reach One More For Jesus

While doing some meditating a few days ago, this verse came to mind.  Matthew 9:37 “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’”

It made me think about the harvest of crops we take in every fall. We plant in the spring. We work the soil and fertilize it to give the seed the best chance to sprout and grow and mature and produce even more grain. We care for it as it grows and watch for things that can hurt it or slow its growth such as weeds or insects.

Then just when everything has gone well and the harvest is ready, tragedy hits. We might be deathly ill, or had a serious accident that keeps us from being capable of doing our work, or maybe there’s a death in the family that we can’t deal with. I’ve seen this many times when someone isn’t able to do their work and the harvest is ready, family, neighbors, friends, and church family step up, join together, and bring in the harvest.

It’s made me wonder, are we Jesus disciples? There are so many people searching. So many hurting, and wondering where they can find peace; wondering where you find peace. They are in your work place, at your school, people you meet on the street, at the stores you shop in, and in your church. Do you see them? Do you recognize them? They are the harvest Jesus is talking about. Are we one of the workers that are missing? They may be young or old, so it doesn’t matter how young or old we are. You or I may be the one they are looking for, to talk to. Someone brought Jesus to you and me. Now it is our turn to bring Jesus to them. There is no limit.

A song by Lyndsay Lloyd Wallace – “Reach One More For Jesus”, says it best. The words are printed below.

Darrel Van Aartsen

As I looked in my father’s eyes
Sat by his bed and held his hand
And I said my last good byes
He just held on for as long as he can
And I heard him say:

Reach one more for Jesus
Before I close my eyes
I must reach one more for Jesus
I won’t let another day go by
That’s what I’m living for
To reach one more, one more for Jesus

As I sat by father’s side
I lay down my head upon his bed
And he felt the tears I cried
And he placed his hand upon my head
And I heard him say:

Reach one more for Jesus
Before you close your eyes
You must reach one more for Jesus
Don’t let another day go by
That’s what you’re living for
To reach one more, one more for Jesus

Before he closed his eyes
For the final time
And left this earth for home
He said:

Reach one more for Jesus
Before we close our eyes
Gotta reach one more for Jesus
Don’t let another day go by
That’s what we’re living for
To reach one more, reach one more for Jesus
That’s what we’re living for
To reach one more, one more for Jesus


Fully Dressed

I have never been much of a fashionista. Rarely will I swap comfort for style. Labels and name brands mean little to me unless my experience has confirmed that a particular brand is superior in fit and quality. I grew up on hand-me-downs, clearance aisles, rummage sales, Goodwill bargains, and made-by-mom originals. I was clothed, but not in designer threads or the latest and greatest.

When I was about 10 years old, my brother and I were invited to a movie on the big screen for the first time. It was a film about Annie, a spirited, ragamuffin orphan from New York City who was invited to live for a week with America’s richest billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Annie travels to Warbucks mansion and his staff lavishes her with love and adoration and a wardrobe full of new clothes. But while Annie is basking in the delight of a new way of life, the film cuts to a scene of her friends back at the orphanage, dressed in their drab duds, joyfully singing, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

I liked the sounds of that. The perfect accessory to any outfit. No matter what style or brand of clothing I was wearing, whether I was dressed like the rich kid or the pauper, I could always add a smile!

But the Bible tells us about another go-with-everything garment. In Colossians 3, Paul compares our new life in Christ to a new wardrobe. The Message paraphrase reads like this: 9-11 “Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it!”

LOVE! It’s your perfect all-purpose garment. It goes with everything! And no person, especially no follower of Christ, is every fully clothed without it.

Paul also tells us about some things that we need to get rid of. We don’t have room for a new wardrobe if the closet and dressers are still filled with the old.  1-2 “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.  3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.  5-9 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.”

Are you ready to make some changes to your wardrobe? Don’t delay. Christ’s designer attire is the perfect fit for you.

Erin Jacobsma

 


The Lord Himself Goes Before You

Many of the Bible stories we first learned about as children are tucked within the pages of the Old Testament. From the first verses of Genesis we learn about God’s Creation and beginning of the plan for His people. Most will recall the story of Joseph. How his dad, Jacob, favored him just a bit more than all the other sons. His brothers loathed his special treatment and their anger was fueled when Joseph was gifted a beautiful robe. Adding to the jealousy, Joseph shares about the dream he has one night, and how the brothers sheaves of grain bowed to his sheave. This, of course, infuriates the brothers and they eventually develop a plan to leave him for dead and toss him in a cistern. While all this is happening, a caravan of Ishmaelites pass nearby and a new plan is made. After quickly changing their minds, his brothers not only get rid of their brother, they profit by selling him into slavery. As the years pass, Joseph’s life looks much different than fist imagined. From slavery, to accusation, to prison, eventually Joseph found himself in one of the most powerful chairs in all of Egypt. Through it all Joseph did not give up and instead of wallowing in self-pity, he sought God with each move he made. Like us, from the moment Joseph was born God wanted to use him and with every circumstance in His life, God used it to develop and grow him.

We continue to read, after several years a famine hits the land and Joseph’s brothers show up in Egypt. He recognizes his brothers immediately. Without revealing himself to them, Joseph asks questions about his family back home and even has some silver placed in their sacks in an attempt to have them return. When the brothers discover the silver, they return immediately begging for mercy. Eventually Joseph cannot control himself and he reveals his identity to the brothers and they fear what he may do to them. Instead of getting angry or punishing them for what they did to him, Joseph shows nothing but love and forgiveness. He tells the brothers to not fear him or be angry with them “because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you….But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth to save your lives by a great deliverance.” (Gen. 45:5 & 7) You see in it all God had already gone ahead of Joseph and all the difficulties he and his family had. No matter the situation, God was providing a way to care for both Joseph and his family. Even in the most difficult situations throughout all their lives, God was at work.

Our challenges today may look a little different than Joseph’s, but we have the same choices he did. We can give up when the weather forecast is wet and soggy or we can trust God to provide. When a child is scheduled to undergo a lifesaving surgery, one can live in fear or trust God has already gone ahead and is walking alongside us every step of the way no matter what happens. When life seems as though all is going wrong and sadness surrounds us, we can be upset and angry or we can hope in the one who created us. We can trust in Him because He has been faithful not only throughout our lives, but in those we read about in His Word.

As we enter this new decade, I pray we will continue to recall and reflect on the many times God has been at work in our lives. May we share our testimony with all we encounter so God’s love and faithfulness might be revealed to them. May this be the decade we each grow deeper in our faith, fully trusting our Heavenly Father as He goes ahead of us on this journey of life.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8)

Becky Ossefoort

 


Dad Tired Conference

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


With Him For Always

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

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

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

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

Bringing you good news of great joy…

Mike Altena

 


Journey to Jesus

“Journey to Bethlehem” is the name of the children’s Christmas Program this year. In our lessons and preparations, we have been discussing the journey of all who traveled that first Christmas. The lessons got me to thinking about the word “journey” as I was preparing. There are a couple ways to define it; one definition is: “an act or instance of traveling from one place to another.” In our lessons, the students have been helping me plan a trip for my Christmas break. We discussed what I should pack in my luggage and even where I should go. I showed a highway map to the students as we talked about the journey I was planning to take. Several looked at it funny and suggested I simply use the map app on my phone to guide me. The map gives clear direction, the symbols all make sense, and I could follow the thin lines on the paper to arrive at my destination in a timely manner. The paper map would be sufficient to plan my route if I were going to travel through the state of Wisconsin, but not a trip to Hawaii.

Another definition of journey is: “a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.” I am sure many of you would agree life is certainly a little different than using a simple highway map. On our trip of life, we find many detours due to our own insecurities and sin. Other times we keep driving, only to find out we took a wrong turn. We often times blame the invisible GPS system for our mistake, or quickly hit the off switch because of the constant bellow of “recalculating” we would rather ignore. There are even moments we are forced to stop because the pavement has ceased to exist. Perhaps there were warnings of the road closure we disregarded along the way, but we are forced to ask ourselves, “what now?”

This Advent season I have taken gentle note of the wise men and their journey. They didn’t have a road map or a modern app to tell them where to turn or set the cruise control. They simply noticed something different and turned their complete focus to the bright object in the sky, following it day and night. While they were not sure of the exact destination, they knew it led to something of great importance and did not want to miss out. The journey was long and it actually took a couple years to reach their destination, but they continued on completely focused on the star. While some may say they simply followed a star and asked for a few directions along the way, we know it was God’s provision that lead them to Jesus.

Our lives are similar. While my life has not included any deep teachings in astrophysics or the means to afford extravagant gifts, it has included the best direction giver. For many years I trusted my own GPS, but one day, as I was wandering, God caught my eye through the words of a friend. I knew from that moment I wanted to focus on Him and Him alone. The journey of my life changed that day and my focus shifted from my way to discovering my path by seeking my Savior through prayer and studying scripture.

While our journeys are all different, we are all invited to focus on our Father in Heaven. And like the star, we can look to Him to lead and guide each of us. God calls us to trust him and follow the lead of our Savior who joined us here on earth as a little baby. This same sweet, little bundle would grow up and pay our ransom as his body would hang from a cross and defeat death three days later. This was all done for me, and it was all done for you.

Is God calling you to Him? Grab hold of the greatest gift ever given – for He was given for you.

“‘Then you will call on me and come and pray with all your heart. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord” Jeremiah 29:12-13

May your Christmas be blessed as you put your focus on the gift of a little baby lying in the manger.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Train the Younger Women

Last week marked the end of an era. What began November 7, 1955 came to a close December 2, 2019. For 64 years, the Esther Circle has been part of the Women’s Ministry at ARC. According to church records, the Esther Circle began with almost 100% participation from the women of the church. That number has dwindled to less than 4% in recent years and now stands at zero. For a variety of reasons, the current members are unable to continue.

I became a part of the Esther Circle 23 years ago. I was not contemplating joining a Circle. I certainly wasn’t looking to connect with a group of ladies who were all old enough to be my mother or grandmother. I definitely didn’t have extra time on my hands. I was a busy young mother with a one year old, a four year old, and a half dozen other children running around my ankles at my in-home daycare. Maybe I was just desperate for adult conversation, but one of the women in the group stopped me on a Sunday morning and extended an invitation. As we talked, it turned out to be a mistaken invitation. She thought I was someone that I was not, but continued her invitation regardless. I accepted.

The following night, I received a warm welcome as I gathered around the table with the Esther Circle. I don’t remember what portion of the Bible we studied that first night. I don’t even remember who was all present. But I remember thinking to myself that these women were survivors. They had made it; made it through mountains of diapers (that weren’t even of the disposable variety), made it through years of cooking in quantities that I can’t even imagine, made it through laundry that was done without modern conveniences, made it through struggles and heartaches and woes that my generation has only read about. They had experienced a multitude of battles and stood firm. And maybe, just maybe, if I stuck close to them and paid attention, I could glean from their wisdom and I might be able to stand firm and survive as well.

The meeting was filled with conversation, reading scripture, discussion questions, sharing of celebrations and concerns, and I could sense a genuine love around the table. At the close of the evening, the ladies bowed their heads in a circle of prayer, calling out to God for the needs of one another and their church family. And I knew that it wasn’t the elderly lady who had invited me, it was my Father in heaven who knew exactly where I needed to be at that time in my life.

During the Esther Circle’s final gathering, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Bluestem, shared Christmas cards with our prayer partners, reminisced on years gone by, and again closed the evening with a circle of prayer. As each woman took a turn to lift her voice to heaven, I recalled moments from the past when we interceded on her behalf… prayers for surgeries, heart problems, cancer, new babies, broken hearts, grief, divorce, deployments, floods, fires, fractured relationships, illness, and disasters. And through it all, God has been faithful and we survived and learned to enjoy the abundant life in the midst of our struggles.

The apostle Paul must have known something about having godly role models, passing on the faith and helping one another withstand the pressures of this life. He writes to his friend: “Teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)

I have learned much from the older women in my life and I appreciate their friendship greatly. May each of us take seriously what we are passing on to the next generation and do so for the glory of God.

Erin Jacobsma

 


His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Repetition. The process of repeating something over and over. There is great value in repetition. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that children learn to master a skill through repetition. It’s why they have homework sheets, quizzes, and practice tests before the real test is given. Repetition increases confidence and strengthens connections in the brain. It helps transition a skill or knowledge from the conscious to the subconscious. This is why we ask the children in Pioneer Club to write down their memory verses five times. This is why school teachers used to implement disciplinary tactics of having students write out 50 times, “I will not talk during class”. I believe this is also the reason behind the writing of Psalm 136. Repetition helps us remember.

We do not know the author of this psalm, but twenty-six times they repeat the words “his steadfast love endures forever.” It seems to me that maybe they needed to give themselves a reminder. Maybe the author was a young mom, bogged down by the continual pile of soiled diapers and dirty laundry. Perhaps these words were penned by a middle aged man, feeling the heaviness of life, tired of the rat race, and questioning the goodness of anything. Or could the psalmist have been a stressed out teenager, a depressed addict, a grieving widow, or a dying saint. I’m guessing whoever they were, they might have been in a bit of a funk, a pit of despair, or just down in the dumps. Yet they recognized their need to remember; to repeat what they already knew.

I need to remember. I grab a notebook and begin writing out the ancient words. Timeless words.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;

The psalm moves from declaring God’s love throughout creation, to recounting God’s salvation and preservation of his people. As I duplicate the biblical text in my notebook, I am convicted to remember my own story.

Here are a few of my own stanzas of gratitude: Give thanks…

To him who formed me in my mother’s womb, black hair and double chin; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who picked up the pieces of sticks and stones and words that hurt; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who accompanied me through the minefield of school hallways; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who sat at meetings with police officers and principals; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who picked me up from pride’s fall; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who helps abstract my foot from my mouth; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who breaks the chains of fear and anxiety and sets me free; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who bottles my tears and holds me tight; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who gives and takes away; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who saves me from myself; his steadfast love endures forever.

To him who loves me too much to leave me as I am; his steadfast love endures forever

I challenge you to repeat your own story and remember and give thanks. 26“Give thanks to the God of heaven, FOR HIS STEADFAST LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Everything Beautiful In Its Time

Daylight Savings Time has recently come to pass, and I think my body is finally reset to the time change. However, I still find myself thinking, “It can’t be that time already.” Who would guess that adjusting a clock by 60 minutes would make such a difference.

Time has been a recurring theme in my conversations. That usually means God is standing at the great chalkboard of life, ready to teach me a lesson, and I should sit up and pay attention. During Wednesday’s Pioneer Club, my 5th and 6th grade girls interviewed an older couple and asked them about their life. Repeatedly, they mentioned that they were grateful for the extra time they have in retirement to spend with their grandkids, but wished they had spent more time with their kids. They also acknowledged their time on earth is probably short compared to the students in the room, although none of us knows how much time we really have left. They also shared how it takes more time to do certain chores or activities at their age than it did when they were younger.

Other timely conversations this week have regarded the need for better time management, how to cut back on time wasters, and making time for the things that matter. And time clichés have been resounding like a grandfather clock in a silent room… time flies, time is money, only time will tell, it’s just a matter of time, once upon a time, all the time in the world, it’s about time, time is of the essence, time out…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a well-known scripture passage regarding time. The writer declares: “1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

But my favorite declaration of time comes in verse eleven. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Someone confessed to me this week that they hate this time of year. The crops are mostly out, the trees have dropped the majority of their leaves, the flowers no longer bloom, and everything just looks   dead and dreary and lifeless. Yet I have seen the beauty of a full moon in the early morning hours, and exquisite sunsets at days end. There have been stunning canvases of frost on the windows and intricately designed flakes of snow. No, there isn’t the rainbow of spring colors, or an abundance of green foliage, and this time of year presents its own set of challenges, but if we are willing to pay attention, there is still beauty. He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time. Just like there is beauty in the gross reality of a newborn baby, there is also beauty in a final breath. Belly laughs are just as beautiful as sobbing cries. There is a time for everything.

Each day is a gift of time, 86400 seconds to be exact, and God has made each one beautiful in its own way. May each of us declare with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) And may each of us celebrate the beauty of whatever times we are in.

Erin Jacobsma

 


2020 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vision 2020 Team

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

Grace to you, and peace.

Mike Altena