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

 

 


Grandma’s Cookies

A month or so ago, my cousin had a post on Facebook about her child requesting our Grandma’s molasses cookies. My mouth instantly watered and a smile spread across my face as I remembered the delicious treats. Grandma always had a variety of special sweets, and if those were not enough, her molasses cookies always adorned her special silver cookie tray. Grandma doesn’t recognize her faithful cookie eaters anymore and has not mixed up a batch in many years. A stroke has left her body frail and dementia has overtaken her mind. But I am so thankful for treasured memories, a simple recipe card, and a very special cookie tray in my hutch.

After reading my cousin’s post, I decided I should at least try my hand at making these cherished cookies once. Unlike my Grandma, I am not a master baker and I especially loathe making cookies. I do, however, enjoy a little challenge. To begin I got out the copy of her neatly typed (on a typewriter) recipe and read through the ingredients – simple enough. When I reached the instructions, I knew I was in trouble. “Mix. Roll in sugar. Flatten. Bake.” Maybe it was just me, but I was certain there were some missing details. Thankfully next to the faded, typed letters “365°” was scribbled in her handwriting. Somewhat blindly I began; I mixed, rolled, flattened, and baked at 365° having faith I’d have something resembling the cookie I remembered. Several batches later, I’m finally getting close.

One day I allowed a batch to cool and placed a few on Grandma’s silver tray. I proudly snapped a picture on my phone and sent it to my sister. She immediately replied with her plea for me to share. A few days later I surprised her with several dozen in a package on her doorstep. Later that evening I received a text message saying, “Never in my life have I eaten something that so quickly took me back to an exact place and time. Those are so good!” I must admit – they really are about as good as I remember them.

Her text reminded me of my study of the Israelites leaving Egypt. When Pharaoh finally released the Israelites, the instructions were not exactly clear either. Perhaps somewhat out of desperation the Israelites trusted God had a plan and set out on a journey like no other. Each day God led them and provided for their needs. They continued to whine and complain, but God stuck with them just as He had promised. Eventually God instructed Moses to have the Israelites celebrate the Passover out in the desert. (Numbers 9) This would be the first time commemorating the Israelites’ escape from Egypt by God’s power. Do you suppose the Israelites were swept back to a moment in time as they prepared the celebration, remembering that night and all God had done for them since?

It’s good for us to remember. When we look at our past we can more clearly see God at work protecting and carrying us through dark valleys in our life. The blessings He has provided us with become more evidence of His hand at work in our daily routines. It is almost as though we are able to dive into our past and better understand our present as we remember different times and events in our life.

As I have been preparing for Easter, remembering all God has brought me through in the last year has been a gift. Sure there were times I would like to remove from my memory, but I’ve realized that is where His power was the strongest. I pray the same is true for you as you prepare your heart for the resurrection of your Savior.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Growing Courage

In last week’s article I shared a small portion of our learning about the value of courage at our Ridder: Churches Learning Change retreat. Hey, by the way, wasn’t that a great video I suggested for you to watch!! My favorite line is when he says, “I know this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It’s my aliveness coming to get me.” When it comes to living on mission with Jesus, it takes a great deal of courage to let go of what is familiar in order to grab on to what is unknown.

Again, the definition for courage we were given is, courage is getting or staying in action, as wholehearted children of God, regardless of fear, anxiety, shame, or real or imagined consequences. Well, at the end of the article I pretended not to know how to grow courage and so I asked you to send me your thoughts in regards to this question: So how do we grow courage? Apparently you also thought I was pretending since I didn’t hear from any of you. ☺

Ok, so here are my thoughts on how to grow courage. First of all, we often grow in courage when we are forced to act in a particular situation because the consequences of doing nothing will be too costly for the other person. For example, if you have a co-worker or neighbor who you discern is darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God due to the hardening of their hearts, you’re not just going to let them go to hell; of course you’re going to muster up the courage to help them discover the good news of Jesus.

And when I think of other ways to grow courage, again I think of David. When it came to fighting Goliath, David found courage in reflecting on past experiences when God empowered him to overcome a situation that appeared to be impossible. When explaining why he had no fear of fighting Goliath, David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Courage is the choice to obey God based on past experiences of God’s faithfulness.

On another occasion David and his troops were out fighting against the Philistines and while they were away, the Amalekites came and destroyed their hometown and kidnapped their wives and children. Of course, David’s soldiers were heartbroken. In fact they were so angry with David that they wanted to kill him, and so in order to overcome his discouragement, it says in I Samuel 30:6 that “David strengthened himself in the Lord.”

You grow courage by learning how to strengthen yourself in the Lord. And you strengthen yourself in the Lord by rehearsing and claiming all of the promises of God. If you read through the Psalms you will find hundreds of promises that David wrote; promises like Psalm 91:14, “The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.”

And then my favorite way to grow courage is by studying the life of Jesus and hanging out with him. I figure if it worked for Peter and John, it will also work for me. Luke records these insights on how to grow courage in Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

So, your aliveness of living on mission with Jesus is coming to get you, may you have the courage to grab on to it!! Hanging on to the old bar is no longer an alternative.

By God’s grace…learning how to fly, Mike Altena

 


Strong and Courageous

Included in my 100 favorite stories in the Bible is the story of David’s encounter with Goliath. The story is told in I Samuel 17. The armies of the Israelite’s and the Philistine’s gathered in the Valley of Elah to wage war. Battles of this magnitude often resulted in heavy death losses on both sides, and so on occasion in order to reduce blood shed, each army would send one man to determine the outcome of the battle.

As the story unfolds, “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall.” He wore a coat of bronze scale armor which weighed 125 pounds. The end of his spear weighed 15 pounds. His size alone would have been enough to discourage anyone. Each day for 40 days Goliath would walk out onto the battle field and challenged someone to come and fight him saying,  “Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

No one had the courage to fight the intimidating Goliath until one day when Jesse sent his son David to the battle field with some snacks for the Israelite army. Upon arrival David discovered the tension between the two armies and after discovering the payout for the person who killed Goliath, David said to King Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

As I ponder David’s courage, I am amazed at how he managed his feelings of fear.  Although numerous times in the Bible we are told not to be afraid, it doesn’t mean that we should never experience fear. Fear is simply an emotion that is naturally produced by a situation that is perceived to be threatening. The command to not be afraid has more to do with how we respond to our emotions of fear. The opposite of being afraid is not the absence of fear, but rather the absence of courage.

Another value the Ridder Team learned about a couple weeks ago was the value of courage. It is impossible for us to live our life as if Jesus were living our life apart from displaying courage. There is no doubt; to follow Christ in mission will require courage.

The definition we were given for courage was: “Getting or staying in action, as wholehearted children of God, regardless of fear, anxiety, shame, or real or imagined consequences.” A shorter definition from John Wayne is “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

In his devotion on this value of courage, Pastor Scott Stephan writes, “Most Christians have advanced in our spiritual maturity only as far as our courage has taken us. In other words, what is often standing in the way of experiencing God’s emerging future is not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of courage. If that is true, then it’s quite possible that what you and I don’t need is another sermon, but rather “saddling up” and doing what we already know God is calling us to do.”

We all have habitual areas of disobedience that exist solely because we lack the courage to do what we know is right. One of the primary reasons that leaders fail, that relationships break down, that teams become dysfunctional, and that churches become ineffective against the schemes of the devil is simply a failure of nerve—a failure of courage.

So how do we grow in courage?  Well, I’m not sure? So send me your ideas and then I’ll finish my thoughts on the value of courage next week. 🙂 In the meant time check this out!!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWvV5N4hOGc

Growing in being strong and courageous,

Mike Altena

 


Aren’t You Curious?

Last weekend the Ridder: Churches Learning Change Team gathered in Sioux Falls with several other teams from churches in northwest Iowa to continue our discussion on how we can grow in becoming more fruitful and effective in personal and corporate missional living. Back in 2016 Vicki Altena, George A. Bonnema, Angie Fick, Erin Jacobsma, Becky Ossefoort, David Sandbulte, and Randy Sasker gave their word to learning with and for our congregation about how we could move towards God’s emerging future for ourselves and for ARC.

Meeting the first and third Tuesday evening of each month, our team spent most of 2016 learning how authenticity and integrity are significant values for living on mission and how the anxiety of change affects a family system. We also reflected on our mental model of discipleship and our mental model of missional living; both of which have a significant impact on the fruitfulness of making disciples.

Next, we spent the first part of 2017 identifying our current reality and the second half considering how we could generate and sustain some creative tension that would help us have a greater impact on blessing our community and also in connecting with those who are far from God. In October 2017 our team and a few other individuals from our congregation attended a Faithwalking Retreat which is a spiritual formation process designed to help a person increasingly follow the way of Jesus.

Then, in the beginning of 2018 we worked through Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Pursuing God’s Will Together, in order to help us grow in discerning where God is inviting us to join him on mission both personally and as a congregation. It has been an exciting process to watch where God has been inviting each person on our team to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel. Most notably we have been really excited to see how God has invited George and his board to address the needs of the senior citizens in our community. Since September we have also been working through Faithwalking 201 which is designed to help remove the obstacles to living an integrated, missional life.

Well, one of the new values we were introduced to last weekend was the value of curiosity. An individual or congregation that seeks to be faithful and fruitful in following Jesus on mission must remain curious. The Churches Learning Change definition we were given is that curiosity = “openly engaging God, others, and self with inquiry and wonder for the purpose of discovering God’s design to live missionally.”

Question: Are you still curious about discovering God’s design for you to join him on mission? Well having had the opportunity to help present the information on this value, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my level of curiosity. Actually I believe curiosity is more than a value we should develop. I believe curiosity is something that God has hardwired into us. We are curious beings from the time we are born. Have you ever heard of a parent who had to teach their child to put something in their mouth, to touch something they shouldn’t, or to ask the question why?

And yet in his book, Leadership on the Line, Ronald Heifetz suggested that, over a period of time while living into God’s call on our life, it is possible that our curiosity will begin to fade. He would argue that the continued resistance to change or the resignation to status quo dulls our capacity for curiosity. So then, in order stay curious, Heifetz would suggest, “The practice of leadership requires the capacity to keep asking the basic questions of yourself and of the people in your organization and community.”

So how about it, what would be some “basic questions” that would stir your curiosity to help you become more clear about the good works God prepared in advance for you to do?

Just curious, Mike Altena

 


Preparing…

Preparations are a part of life. Parents prepare meals for their children, teachers prepare lesson plans, pastors prepare sermons, high school seniors are preparing for graduation, and soon (I hope) farmers will prepare the soil for planting. On a daily basis, most people are putting something in order for a future time. My family is in the midst of an intensified season of preparation. We are in the process of moving.

I have changed addresses many times throughout my adult life; this is number ten to be exact. However, I don’t particularly enjoy moving. It’s not that I’m overly sentimental or attached to a particular house. And even having the best neighbors in the world (aka The Woodleys☺) hasn’t derailed our current undertaking to transplant to a different neighborhood. The disdain I have for relocating is due to the preparations involved. Not only is there the sorting and packing and dismantling of things at our current residence, there are arrangements that need to be made for the transfer of utilities and mail and other paperwork. We have also been doing some renovations at our future home in preparation for the big move – cleaning, painting, removing carpet, updating some plumbing and heating, and trying to keep the snow moved.

Preparations require a lot of work. Necessary work. Sure there are times when we can wing it, or go with the flow, but lack of preparation often leads to stress and frustration and maybe even some tears. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

God’s Word also talks about preparations. 2 Chronicles 12 records a time in the history of God’s people when the king did evil because he had not prepared his heart to seek the Lord. This is true for all of us. When we do not prepare our hearts to follow Jesus, when we do not determine to be obedient to His commands, and when we are inattentive to the evil around us, we slip into destructive patterns and habitual sins and dishonor God. We do evil because we fail to prepare.

Lent is a season of preparation. We are preparing our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior. Some choose to prepare by fasting, eating different foods, or giving up something and denying themselves a particular pleasure. Others prepare by spending time in God’s Word, increasing their prayer time, or being more intentional of their spiritual formation, while others will arrive at Easter morning with no thought or preparation at all.

Jesus is also making preparations. In John chapter 14, Jesus tells his disciples to not focus on the troubles in this world because he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. And when those preparations are complete he will return.

None of us know when that day will come. We do not know the number of days allotted to us on this earth. We do not know when “Moving Day” will be. But we can be certain that the time will come when the opportunity to make preparations is gone. Whether we leave this world as an individual or Christ returns for the final judgement, the time to prepare will be over. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus has prepared a way for us to be reconciled to God and spend eternity with him. All we have to do is believe in him and prepare our hearts by seeking him.

What are you doing to prepare your heart?

Erin Jacobsma