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

 

 


Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

If you’re like me then you have spent much of your week pondering our current reality of “social distancing” in hopes of mitigating the spread of the Covid 19 virus. Many people have expressed that it feels like this is a bad dream, or as posted on Facebook, some kind of “make belief story written by a fourth grader.”

Like me, you may also question whether the threat of the virus warrants the recommendation from our government to avoid all unnecessary contact with those we normally share life with.  (That being said, I also believe I must submit to those who are in authority). It doesn’t take long to realize that our means of slowing the spread of the virus is already having a significant impact on our lives, relationally, financially, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Will I ever be able to touch my face again!? 🙂

And like me, as a result of the sudden halt of our normal daily routines and the uncertainty of when, or if, normal ever returns, the number of times you approach the throne of grace now far exceeds the number of times you wash your hands each day.

As I process the shock of our current reality, one of my favorite stories from 1 Samuel 30 comes to mind. And again, not exactly like the pandemic we’re dealing with, but it’s a story filled with fear, anxiety, anger and a brief period of social distancing which causes David to seek God’s divine help.

The story goes like this, “David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

“When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.”

Imagine being away from your family and community on a business trip for a few weeks, only to return to find your community has been totally destroyed and your family has been kidnapped. And even worse, you were responsible. Imagine the level of anxiety, fear, and loneliness David immediately felt while walking through the rubble, and even more so, when he discovered his closest allies want to kill him.

And how did David respond to the devastation of his home and community and the uncertainty of the fate of his family? It says, “But David found strength in the Lord.” Or in the NASB it says, “And David strengthened himself in the Lord.”

I’ve been thinking about that verse a lot this week? What action did David take in order to strengthen himself in the Lord? I wonder, did David spend a lot of time on Facebook or Snapchat?  And in light of all that is unfolding in our world, how do I “strengthen myself in the Lord?”

Not saying this is the only way to strengthen yourself in the Lord, but it begins by finding a quiet place to pray. Even Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16). Be authentic with God; acknowledge all the different emotions you are feeling. And yes, spend time rehearsing the promises of God found in the written and living Word of God. Spend time in worship; worship through song has a natural way of connecting your heart to the heart of God. And let me also add, nothing wrong with reading other people’s devotional insights, but let me encourage you to have your own encounter with God. Maybe take some time and write your own Psalm and share it with your family. Inquire of the Lord what you can do, and then walk in radical obedience      (1 Samuel 30:7-8).

May it be so with you and me that during this unexpected trial that we grow in “strengthening ourselves in the Lord.” I’m excited to hear about your encounters with God!!

Grace to you! And God be with you til we meet again, Mike Altena

 


March Madness

As one who enjoys watching sports, one of my favorite seasons is the college basketball tournament called March Madness. Based on their season’s record, difficulty of schedule, or being the conference champions, today (March 15) would have been the day 68 teams would have been selected to play in the NCAA tournament; all with hopes of making the “Big Dance” in Atlanta on April 4-6.

However as many of you are aware, the NCAA March Madness has been cancelled and replaced by a new March Madness, the COVID-19 virus. And by referring to it as “madness,” I am referring to the madness of how Americans are responding to the threat of the coronavirus. I fully understand the reasoning behind the cancellations of all kinds of events around the world. And I agree we should do whatever we can to minimize the effects of spreading the virus; however, hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and wearing hazardous material suits on airplanes seems like pandemonium to me.

When reflecting on my response and the response of others to the threat of being infected by the virus, I am reminded of my desire to control the destiny of my life. I have been forced to think about what I value most deeply and even more importantly what I believe about God’s providence and protection.

Although it isn’t a story about the frenzied panic of the masses, one of my favorite stories of overwhelming fear on the part of the disciples is when they experienced a sudden storm that popped up while they were crossing the Sea of Galilee. The story is found in Matthew 8:23-27.

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Like us in the frenzy of our current March Madness, the disciples were gripped by fear believing that they were going to die. And not only die, they were going to die the worst kind of death; they were going to drown (The Jewish people had a great fear of what was lurking under the water). By the fact that Jesus was sleeping, the disciples also made an assumption that he didn’t care about their well-being. And it revealed what they believed about Jesus’ ability to protect them.

It’s fun to imagine what actually happened in the boat. Like, I imagine one or more of them shaking Jesus, trying to awaken him. And then finally when they succeed in waking Jesus, did he just lift his head a little bit and say, “Why are you so afraid? You have so little faith!” And then did he go back to sleep? J Oh wait, I guess he didn’t go back to sleep because Matthew remembers Jesus getting up and then speaking to the storm, commanding it to stop.

This part of the story gives us great comfort in the midst of our current storm. First we have to remember, this story reminds us of the spiritual battle in the heavenlies. I believe Satan orchestrated the storm to destroy Jesus and his disciples. But Jesus demonstrates here that he has both the authority and the power to stop any storm whenever he wants. Likewise, we might be afraid that Jesus is asleep; he’s not paying attention to how this virus might destroy our lives (or any other trial we might be going through). But the truth is that Jesus will allow the storm of this virus to last only as long as he sees necessary in order to accomplish his will.

The good news is, while God never promised he would keep us from dying, but rather, even if we die, he will keep us. And so together we can say with great faith the words of Psalm 31:13-14, “…there is terror on every side….But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “you are MY God.” My times are in YOUR hands…”

Grace to you and Peace during this season of madness,

Mike Altena

 


Sit and Soak

There was a time in my life when the bathtub was my evening friend. I would turn on the hot water, pour in the liquid bubbles, and fill the tub until it was almost overflowing. Then I would climb in and soak until my fingers resembled white raisins and I was shivering from the decrease in water temperature.

As I got older, the bathtub was replaced with the much-quicker shower, since I had places to go and things to do and no longer had the time to sit and soak. It was possible to get through the shower, washed and dried, in less time than it would take me to run my bath water, and time was of the essence when chores needed to be completed before evening activities began, and a good cleansing was needed in between. Now as an adult, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I sat in a tub.

My wash habits could be compared to the time I spend in God’s Word. In 2019, I was committed to reading through the Bible in a year and I followed a reading plan that showered me in large chunks of scripture. It was refreshing in many ways, but there was little time to sit and soak in a particular passage.

But this year I’m sitting in the tub, so to speak, with just a few verses each day and soaking it in. During Lent I have been using the book “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Cole as my guide. In the first day’s reading she petitions her readers to “consider Lent as less of a project and more of a sojourn. A sojourn is a “temporary place to stay.” And a “stay” is about presence not productivity.” The author also suggests “invest your energy in seeking to remain present to the sacred history of Jesus’ walk to the cross. With each reading [of scripture], dust off your childhood imagination and “stay” in each story. Observe Jesus… Imagine yourself… and fast from Lent as a project and enter Lent as an experience, as a sojourn with your Savior.”

So each day I’ve been doing a little soaking in the book of John. The first day felt awkward, sitting in the home with Martha and Lazarus after he had recently been raised from the dead. It was captivating to visualize the bond of love between them and Jesus. Of course, Martha used her gifts of service and hospitality. And then Mary entered the scene, washing Jesus’ feet with an intoxicating perfume and drying his feet with her hair. I felt like I should avert my eyes, look away, but I couldn’t keep myself from staring at the beauty of it all, until Judas’ cold remarks cut through the aroma in the room like a knife.

Another day I mingled with the disciples while getting ready for the evening meal, when Jesus, our Master, prepared the bath water and began washing OUR feet and becoming as a servant to us. Peter threw a fit, but spoke aloud what all of us were thinking. Jesus continued with the task at hand, washing all of our feet… Peter, James, John, Judas, and the rest. And oh, to imagine Jesus holding the feet of Judas in his hands, knowing what was to come, burdened, sad, but still tenderly and lovingly washing his feet. My mind         jerked ahead to the death of Judas, his betrayer, and I wondered if Jesus mourned the death of Judas as his companion.

It has been good to soak in the stories of Jesus during this first week of Lent. I would encourage you to do the same. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, knowing how the events unfold, try pretending that you don’t. Sit with Jesus for awhile and let him speak to you and experience the events leading up to Easter as if you were there. Be still. (Psalm 46:10)

Erin Jacobsma

 


Continue In What You Have Learned

“In the beginning God”…that’s where a group of Pioneer Club kids and I started this past Wednesday night during activity time. For a few weeks this group has been experimenting with different science projects, doing their best to understand why things react and do the things they do. The final lesson of the unit was about the Creator of all things along with what was supposed to be a brief discussion of Genesis 1:1-2. It was Awards Night so we did not have much time, but these first four words in the Bible grabbed the boys’ attention and sparked many questions and deep thought. Soon the room was full of curiosity and the leader and I smiled as we heard things like, “Wait! God was there before time…like always was…but…wait! How was He there before anything? That’s mind blowing!” “It took God six days to create everything and then He rested on the seventh day. So, shouldn’t the Sabbath be on Saturday?” “How did there get to be more people. Adam and Eve only had boys.”

While we didn’t exactly accomplish what I had walked in the room to do, I left filled knowing they could not get enough of learning about their Creator. The Holy Spirit was among us and it blessed my heart to watch them soak in what we shared in those brief fifteen minutes. I have promised to return with some information next week as I did not have a good answer for a question or two and I’m already looking forward to our time together!

At one point in our discussion someone asked how I knew so much about God, so I turned the question back to the group and had each of them to tell me something they knew about God. A few were hesitant with their answer and others rattled off several facts. I then asked, “So how do you know those things?” While there were a variety of answers, they all agreed most of their knowledge had come from listening to their parents, teachers at church, and reading the Bible.

While I was flattered they thought I knew so much, I told them they could know as much or more if they did one simple thing each day – spend time with God while reading the Bible. I shared how God speaks to me through His Word and I feel fresh and renewed after our time together. As I’ve grown to know God, life’s challenges seem a bit clearer, there’s been more peace in the storm, and I have experienced great joy in serving my Heavenly Father each day.

After our conversation Wednesday night it caused me to pause and consider how I am doing at home with my own children. Have I put as much effort into sharing Jesus with them this week as I have stressed the importance of completing their homework for school? Each morning they see me sit and spend time with God, but how am I doing at encouraging them to do the same on a regular basis? What do I need to change in their schedule to allow time for them to find rest at the feet of their Savior? Parents, we are our children’s greatest example and with a burning desire they are looking to us to lead them to their Creator. We may not have all the answers, but we can find those answers together when we dig into God’s Word and actively allow Him to walk alongside us in this journey of life.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Becky Ossefoort

 


Measurable Growth

If you were to pause and reflect on the ministry of American Reformed Church over the past three years, would you say we have made progress towards the intended outcome of our ministry efforts?  Some of you might think, well I’m not sure what the intended outcomes of our ministry efforts are.

And for those who would agree that we have made progress over the past three years towards our ministry efforts, let me ask you, how would you measure that?

Since last October the Ridder: Churches Learning Change Team has been working on defining some measurable outcomes for our ministry. Basically we were challenged to consider what is the intended goal of our ministry—why are we doing it—and are we succeeding?

In order to help us process our work, we have been reading Gil Rendle’s book, Doing the Math of Mission: Fruits, Faithfulness and Metrics. In chapter one Rendle makes this sobering statement, “At the heart of the church’s struggle to be fruitful is a common non-profit dilemma: nonprofits routinely do not know what difference they are trying to make. In other words, nonprofits (including churches) do not know what outcome they are trying to produce.”

After telling a story to illustrate one church’s lack of clarity on why they were doing what they were doing, a situation came up where a church board needed to make a decision on whether or not to baptize the baby of a mom who was an inactive member of that church. They decided to proceed with the baptism, “Because you never know what good can come of it years later.”

Is that the goal of why we baptize babies, or of why we put so much time and energy into Sunday School, Pioneer Club, Youth Groups, Vacation Bible School (which by the way, that team is already busy preparing), Bible studies, etc.—“because you never know what good can come of it later”?

Rendle then goes on to tell how, because churches don’t know what they are measuring, they end up focusing on counting. Counting things like how much money is given in the offering each week and how many attended worship. He would argue that there is nothing wrong with counting; it’s just that what we count identifies our “resources,” while what we measure identifies our intended outcome.

For example, in 2019 our giving was down $ 8,184 and our average worship attendance was down 3 people than the previous year. Those numbers represent counted resources. However those numbers may also represent a measurable difference in the spiritual condition of our congregation as well.

So if counting and measuring are both important, then obviously it’s important to be clear about the outcome of what we are doing and why we are doing it. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Rendle defines an outcome as “The measurable difference you believe God has called you to make in this next chapter of your life.”

After much discussion at many meetings, I believe the difference that God has called this ministry to make is to “Apprentice next generations to passionately communicate and demonstrate the gospel message of the Kingdom.” I believe that is an accurate description of our mission to make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded. So then, if “Apprenticing next generations to passionately communicate and demonstrate the gospel message of the Kingdom” was our intended outcome over the past three years, now could you say we have been making measureable progress towards that goal?

Identifying measurable progress has also become a challenging part of the conversation; can you measure—how do you measure—if a person is becoming more passionate about communicating and demonstrating the message of the kingdom?

Well Jesus had much to say about counting and measuring. For example, from Matthew 7:16-20, 16 “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

May it be said of you and me that our lives reflect measurable growth in communicating and demonstrating the message of the King and his kingdom!

Growing in grace,

Mike Altena

 


Rags to Riches

Super Bowl LIV has come and gone and unless you are a fanatic football fan, or you were stimulated or repulsed by the half time display of soft porn, it likely has become a meaningless memory. That being said, often times in big games like this there is a rags to riches story. Such was the case for the center for the Kansas City Chiefs football team, Austin Reiter.

In 2016 Austin was a center for the Cleveland Browns. The team went 1-15. In 2017, Austin returned for another season with the Browns, only this time was limited to special teams offensive line play. The team went 0-16. That’s the worst two year stretch of any franchise in the NFL.

Before the start of the 2018 season, Cleveland released him. Arguably the worst team the NFL has ever seen determined that Austin Reiter wasn’t good enough to play for it anymore. From the outside looking in, this made sense, your team goes 1-31 and you might as well clean house. After all, exactly how good could a special team’s player be who couldn’t crack an offensive line rotation that allowed a whopping 50 sacks in 2015 and also allowed their quarterback to be hit an additional 130 times?

Reider didn’t have much pedigree to argue. He was a two-star recruit out of high school before signing with South Florida. Then the Washington Redskins drafted him in 2014, but not until the seventh round. He spent his entire time in Washington on the practice squad and obviously no one in Cleveland thought much of him either. Maybe, it was fair to wonder if having the Browns fire him was a sign his NFL career was over.

“One man’s trash,” Reiter said, smiling, on Sunday night (of the Super Bowl), “is another man’s treasure.” Reiter, 28, was standing in the middle of the celebratory swirl of the Kansas City Chiefs locker room. He was wearing a Super Bowl champion hat on his head and a Super Bowl champion t-shirt over his shoulder pads. He was about to get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, give it a kiss, and pose for     a picture.

The guy who couldn’t make it on one of the worst teams in the league had just been a starting center on the best team in the league. After playing in four games in 2018, the Kansas City chiefs rewarded Austin with a two-year guaranteed contract with up to $5.5 million “The NFL is crazy,” Reiter said. “The Lord works in mysterious way and here I am.”

After reflecting on Austin’s story, I began to think about all the “unlikely heroes” in the Bible—men and women whose “teams” would have released for their lack of integrity or productivity. The fact that Jesus called Peter to leave his career as a fisherman and follow him likely meant that Peter was not a very good student in school. We know about all the times Peter spoke before thinking and especially the time when Peter denied even knowing who Jesus was (what a lying dogfaced pony soldier).

And yet Jesus never gave up on Peter. After Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus re-signed Peter by saying, “Follow me.”

Peter would go on to become one of the great Apostles and would come to understand his reward saying, “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. (I Peter 1:4). What a rags to   riches story!!

And may it be so for you and me. Don’t ever give up; God’s not done with you. The Lord works in mysterious ways. You’ll play a part on his winning team!

Pressing on to win the prize,

Mike Altena


Change the Channel

Last week Sunday, I was among the 99.9 million people who tuned in to watch Super Bowl LIV (54). To be honest, it was the first NFL football game that I had watched all season. I’m not what you would call a die-hard football fan. Super Bowl Sunday at our house is really just a reason to have some friends over, enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious food, and partake in a tradition of watching the big game. As far as I could tell, with my limited knowledge and feeble opinion, it was a good game. The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers and I enjoyed our evening of festivities. We had lots of laughs, some lively discussions, and full bellies. But as our guests headed for home and I cleaned up around the house, I had one regret. (Well, two, if you count the number of cheeseballs I ate!) In years past, we have enjoyed watching the eccentrics of the halftime shows; the smoke, the lights, the glitz and glamour, and marveled at the time and energy it takes to produce such a display. But this year, I wished we had changed the channel.

Change the channel. This is a phrase that has been looping through my mind like an instant replay. When I was a youngster, we had the pleasure of watching television on a large wooden console with alien-like antenna poking out the top, and a variety of channels to choose from; two, to be exact. Our family would gather around the television to watch shows like the Dukes of Hazard or Full House or Lawrence Welk, and we actually watched the advertisements during the commercial breaks or used that time to run to the bathroom or get a snack. But at the conclusion of a show, if Mom or Dad didn’t care for the program that was airing next, they would say, “Change the channel.” We didn’t have a remote control that could change the broadcast at the push of a button, it took effort to get up off the couch, walk across the room, and turn the knob. We often joked that the only reason parents had children was so they would have someone to change the channel on the TV.

In the world we live in, we are flooded with channel choices. Currently, my cable tv package includes over 95 channels and more than a dozen stations are programmed on my car radio. Choosing what channel we play on the radio or watch on television is an important decision. But choosing what channel we play in our mind is of even greater importance.

Like the two-option television of my childhood, there are two basic channels that broadcast in our minds. Not Channel “11” or “13”, but the channels known as “Positive” and “Negative”. Moses presented the channel choice to the Israelites this way: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)  Paul presents a different view of the same choice: “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)  And Jesus’ entire ministry was about changing the channel: love your enemies, instead of hating them; don’t count offenses, but forgive those who hurt you; serve other people instead of worrying about who is serving you; don’t get revenge, turn the other cheek; consider yourself blessed when people insult you… All of these and more, require a change in our thinking and changing our thinking requires effort.

So what channel is your mind playing? Is it a channel of negativity, self-hatred, destruction, and death? Or is it a channel filled with things that are positive, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy? The choice is yours. Change the channel.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Perfect Plans

God has had a plan from the very beginning of time. His plan included a beautiful creation and, what I imagine to be, an unexplainable union of love with His people. When sin entered the world, it separated us from Him. While sin may have affected God’s plan, He continued with the plan of Salvation to reunite the perfect companionship with His people once again. We are all pieces of His plan and within it, He has a plan for each of us as well.

Plans. Life is full of them. Academic plans, health care plans, house plans, emergency plans, exercise plans, strategic plans, short-term and long-term plans, diet plans, contingency plans…the list is endless. We each have a plan for our day, our week, and our life. As hard as we try to carry out our plans, inevitably we run into snags, interruptions, and often detours.

I’ve been pouring my heart into a project for a while now; a plan I’ve been working towards for nearly a decade. I invited God to be a part of the planning process from the beginning and asked Him to not allow me to go ahead of Him as I worked steadily towards it. As the project has continued to come together, friends have been invited to help in the process. My friends have invested a lot of time, talents and advice into it, all for me. I’ve prayed over my project and with each step found clarity and peace in moving to the next step, instead of over analyzing every detail as I tend to do. The project was coming together beautifully when suddenly I felt God close the door – *click* – just like that. I wasn’t prepared for the door to shut and as it did there wasn’t a loud slam or a painful blow to the face, rather a soft, gentle close. One may think I would be very discouraged and disappointed, but in reality, I have actually found greater peace, joy and even excitement in my project since the door closed. I know and trust God’s plan is far greater than anything I could ever imagine and as beautiful as my project was coming together – I’m very excited to see how lovely it will become in His timing.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the speaker said “Life gets out of balance when we quit before God moves,” meaning when we veer off the tracks of His plan we won’t experience the immense blessing of following His perfect plan. In other words, when we invite God to lead and direct us and then take over with what we think is best; we may still end up with something good, but not great. So knowing my future may hold some turmoil and trouble or simply a lesson in patience, I am thankful for God’s provision and protection, because in the end it will be worth every second of the wait.

Lamentations chapter 3 offered me this word, it goes like this:

22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.

True contentment and peace won’t come by chasing our dreams; rather it comes from the willingness to chase the one who gave us the ability to dream.

Be blessed, my friends, as you wait on the Lord God and Creator of all good and perfect plans,

Becky Ossefoort

 


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