God’s Plan

Have you been watching any Hallmark Christmas movies this season? I do not spend a lot of time watching television or movies, but I’d likely be a little embarrassed to admit how many of these flicks I’ve watched over the last couple years. My husband thinks the shows are ridiculous, my brother claims they are way too predictable, and my kids say the movies always end with a beautiful snowfall and a couple falling in love. Honestly, I don’t really care if they are predictable, they are good clean entertainment and simple to follow.

Life isn’t always as predictable as these ninety minute Christmas stories. When I was a teenager, I decided I would go to college to be an architect, settle in a big city, help people build their dream homes and eventually start my family. It was a picture perfect vision of what my future would look like and yet through a series of events, my life turned out very differently than I had planned. I actually found myself engaged before I even started college. Never in a million years did I anticipate marrying a guy who loved to farm or living in rural Rock County. Fast-forward twenty five years and there is not one part of God’s plan for my life I would trade for my own ideas.

God has had a plan to redeem His people from the very beginning of time and we read about that plan throughout the pages of scripture. Several hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah shared a prophecy – or a prediction – to the people of Israel. It was a powerful message of both judgement and hope. Isaiah warned the people to repent of their ways because the Prince of Peace was coming and He would sit on David’s throne and over his kingdom. (Isaiah 9:6-7) It took Isaiah’s words about 400 years to happen, but when they did, the people missed it. While they had cried out for a Messiah, the events that took place when Jesus was born were so far from what the people thought would happen many refused to believe He was indeed the Messiah. As Jesus grew and began His ministry the people knew He was special, but many remained puzzled if He really was the Messiah. We read in the book of Matthew Jesus asking the disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (16:13) They reply with a variety of answers, and then Jesus focuses in on Peter and asks, “What about you? Who do you say I am?” (vs.15) Peter knew exactly who Jesus was because as he had been intimately following his Teacher. God revealed Jesus’ true identity to Peter and his answer was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (vs.16) Peter knew his life had forever been changed and his days of tangled fishing nets were but a distant memory.

While I would never compare a silly Hallmark Christmas movie to God’s great love story in the Bible, we too know how His story of redemption ends. One day Jesus will come to this sin-filled world again and rescue His people from darkness. His entrance to this world will look different than the first time and, once again, the arrival time is only known by the Father. While on earth, Jesus instructed us to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matt. 24:42).

Advent is a time we not only look back at His birth, but forward to His second coming with great anticipation. It is also a season to ask ourselves if we are keeping watch. Are we spending time in the scriptures and with our Father to know our Savior like Peter did? No matter how troubled our situation or how evil the world becomes, we must continue to be God’s faithful people who hope for His return and not complacently wait for the ending to take place or we will miss it just like many of the people did all those years ago.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Value

This past weekend, the Jacobsma clan gathered together at Grand Prairie Events for an auction of my late father-in-law’s treasures. Bernie was an avid collector of toys—tractors, implements, trucks, horse drawn carriages and more. The 2-day event was fun; fun to be together, fun to assist the auctioneers, fun to see familiar faces, and fun to imagine how much Dad would have enjoyed being there.

Some family members are also involved in collecting toys and know a good deal when they see one, but that is not the case for me. I am in the same category as my sister in law who said, “I clearly know nothing about toy auctions. Things that I thought would go cheap brought a higher dollar and things that I thought would do well, sold low.” We just couldn’t make sense of it.

As I reflected on the weekend, VALUE seemed to be the theme that kept coming up for bid in my mind. Ultimately the value of each item was determined by the highest bidder. Some bidders saw the possibility of  an item increasing in value or maybe re-selling it for a profit. Some saw the value in buying a gift for a loved one at a discounted price. Other bidders determined value based on sentimental reasons. Such was the case for my daughter. She loves horses and loves Grandpa and she was not going to stop bidding until the set of Appaloosa horses and wagon was hers. Regardless of the reason, in the end, each toy sold for an amount that someone was willing to pay.

There’s a story in the Bible about an auction. It’s found in the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet to the people of Israel, warning them of the calamity that was going to come if they continued to be unfaithful to their covenant with God. In an unusual “object lesson”, God commands Hosea to take a prostitute as his wife. Hosea obeys the Lord and marries Gomer. The local people must have thought he was crazy. Hosea and Gomer have 3 children together before old habits resurfaced. She walks away from Hosea and returns to her former ways of prostitution. But God isn’t finished with this lesson. He tells Hosea to go after his wife even though she is unfaithful, and to love her as the Lord loves the Israelites even though they also have been unfaithful and worship other gods. So Hosea goes to the local auction and purchases Gomer for 15 shekels of silver and some barley. Now, I can’t tell you the value of a shekel, and I’m not sure that it’s important, but we do know from Exodus 21:32 that the going rate for a slave was 30 shekels. This gives us a pretty good idea of what the other bidders thought Gomer was worth. I have to wonder if there were even others that were interested, or if Hosea offered the only bid.

This story gives us a beautiful illustration of God’s unrelenting pursuit and love for us. God loves us in spite of our unfaithfulness, and in spite of what value others see in us. He loves us with an everlasting love and paid a high price. John 3:16-17 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save (purchase) the world through him.”

You, my friend, are valuable to the Lord. Maybe you think your value is limited and you feel like a half-priced clearance item like Gomer, but our value is not determined by our achievements or our failures. Our value is determined by the One who paid it all! “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So Glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And just as Hosea said to Gomer, our Father says to us, “You must dwell as mine… You will not belong to another.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Waiting…

What stirs up in you when you hear the phrase “wait patiently”? Life is full of instances where we are called to wait. When we are single, we wait for that special someone to enter our lives. Eventually we get engaged, and wait for the wedding. In time, many couples decide to start a family and again there is a period of waiting. For some the news will come quickly, others it takes an extended time of waiting to make the big announcement to their family and friends. For others, they wait patiently only to realize what they are waiting for may never happen as planned. Some couples seek fertility treatments and wait to see if those will work; while other couples seek adoption – and once again…wait.

Recently Josh and I have been invited to share in the waiting period of a possible adoption. No, we aren’t adopting, but a couple whom we love dearly hope to. They have been waiting to start their family and it would seem as though God has a bit of a different path for them than they originally thought. So we are now waiting with them for the sweet, little blessing God already has picked out for them (and us) to love. During a meeting with the social worker, we discussed what the process will look like for both the couple and the child. I’ve always thought of the adoption process as being a waiting period for the parents-to-be. But in our conversation, I realized this is just as much a waiting period for the child whose greatest desire is to be loved by a family of their own.

Have you ever been in a season of waiting? I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at one time or another. It can tug at our heart and mind; it can be exciting, but it can also be very painful. The other day I was reminded of a quote I had heard a while back about waiting. I’m not sure of the original author, but it goes like this: “The work God does within us while we wait is just as important as whatever it is we’re waiting for.” Similarly, we are reminded of this in scripture. Romans 5:3-5 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (NLT)

When I reflect on my life I can think of several situations when I wanted God to take the difficult time away and fix it. Yet, in reality I would never give up any of those trails, simply because they have formed and shaped me into who I am today. Yes, some of them were hurtful; no, I do not care to experience the pain again – but I am thankful for each experience. I guess in some ways I have learned to simply remember some of my past a little differently because of the joy I have found in the outcome of my waiting.

This week many of us will sit around a table with family and friends and enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Some families will go around the table and share what they are most thankful for this year. There are likely a few individuals who will struggle with what they are thankful for. Others will simply say a prayer of blessing and carve the turkey. Whatever the case is for your family, may it be so of each of us that we not only find ourselves grateful for the bountiful blessings of this life, but also for the good work God has done within us while we are waiting.

Becky Ossefoort

 

 


Partnership in the Gospel

The first eight days of ministry in November have proved to be both very exciting and challenging so far. And like the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi, let me say “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5).

First of all, most often a person doesn’t realize the gift you had, until you lose it. Again I am so grateful for Nate and Missy’s leadership in worship for the past seven months, because now that they’re gone, I am seeing more clearly how complex it is to organize the Sunday worship service. Until we hire someone, Erin, a team of volunteers, and myself (although mostly Erin) have been picking songs, planning worship, organizing practices, and communicating with guest worship leaders.

In addition, Arlin called a meeting with the projection and sound volunteers to talk about how those teams can also function at a high level in the midst of the chaos. Although I wasn’t at the meeting, I discovered that there are a few of the long term members of those teams who are ready to take a break. Then when talking about recruiting new members to the team, it was noted that making the song presentation for each Sunday morning can take anywhere from three to four hours. And then there is the sacrifice of coming early for practice on Sunday mornings, not really being able to worship as they are focusing on their responsibilities, and not being able to worship with their families.

I am so thankful for all committed partners in the gospel that it takes just to gather for worship! (And please don’t forget about all of the praise team members, the SS teachers, those who make and serve coffee, the ushers, the nursery workers… J)

On Monday night the Consistory met for a five-hour meeting. Thanks for your commitment, guys!

Then this past Tuesday was an exciting day as Darrell and LaDonna’s youth group volunteers moved in to start cooking for their fundraiser (a few who took the day off from work). In addition, those who participated in the Bake-Off Challenge began dropping off their goodies. What a fun-filled day and evening; again, it wouldn’t have been possible without so many of you partnering in the gospel.

Then on Wednesday morning the volunteers moved in to begin working on the meal for Wednesday night. And thanks to some great partners, making and serving the meal usually gets pulled off without much fanfare, however on this day, the cook wasn’t feeling well so she went home. Thankfully Erin and Becky and some more great volunteers were able to finish preparing and serving a great meal!

Then as the church emptied out from Pioneer Club and youth groups, Henry, Virginia and Brian began setting up for the funeral for Zach Cowell. Between harvest and other work schedules, finding volunteers to bring cake and bars and to serve at funerals is a challenge. However, whether they were able to be there the whole time, or just coming to help during their lunch break, several other partners in the gospel did a great job on Thursday in helping the Cowell and Klarenbeek family feel loved!

And of course, the ministry that I mentioned above is only that which I’m aware of. I know without a doubt that many others were living on mission in other ways. Although maybe feeling somewhat emotionally drained as I write this, again my heart feels full of joy when I think of how you have all been created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which he has prepared in advance for you to do.

Oh and one final request, if you have any interest in checking out our sound or projection ministry, please contact Arlin.

Laboring for the Harvest,

Mike Altena

 


Exercise Your Right to Vote

In his article “Why This is The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” in the November 2018 issue of Decision magazine, Franklin Graham shares these thoughts. “There is a battle raging between good and evil, between right and wrong, between light and darkness. It’s not new, but it certainly has intensified in a very public way. The battle is raging in the halls of Congress, on the Senate floor, in the Supreme Court, and on the media airwaves. It’s raging in our city councils and school boards across America.

The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil: who put darkness for light and light for darkness: who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:29).

The further our nation moves away from God, the quicker our decent into greater moral depravity and chaos. I fear for what is in store for our children and grandchildren.”

He then goes on to encourage his readers to go out and vote on Tuesday, November 6 –voting for the candidate who is most closely aligned with Biblical values.

After the Presidential election in 2016 I began to question what my responsibility was in regards to politics and voting—especially in light of the fact that I questioned the integrity of both major candidates and that I am foremost loyal to the King and his Kingdom. I wondered, if Jesus lived in our day and had the opportunity, would he have voted? And who would he have voted for? Maybe you have some of the same questions or skepticisms.

So what does the Bible say? In Romans 13:1 it basically says that God is ultimately the one who establishes government. And in our form of government, as a citizen of America we have the privilege and responsibility of electing those who govern over us.

In Jesus’ or Paul’s day they would’ve had no such opportunity to vote for who would govern them, so at minimum, Paul encourages Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior … (I Timothy 2:1-3).

From this text we can clearly see that it’s God’s heart that we would enjoy peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Our ability to choose leaders gives us the ability to pick leaders that would seek to work towards that end.

In Philippians 1:27, Paul encourages the church with these instructions, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The word for “conduct yourselves” in the Greek is politeumai; it’s where we get our word “politics.” So for you and I to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel would mean that we have a responsibility of being active in administering civil affairs.

As ambassadors for Christ, you and I have been called to advance the reign and rule of Christ in our circles of influence and one of the most entry level ways of doing that is to vote for Godly leaders whose values align with the kingdom of God.

I agree with Franklin Graham; I believe this election is critically important to the future of the family and church in America. So please, renounce any passive thoughts that your vote doesn’t matter, and vote! By doing so you are voting to bringing the kingdom of God to our families, our churches and our schools!

(In order to help you make a more informed vote, I put a little card in each mailbox on how to access your own personal voter’s guide online).

Seeking to advance the Kingdom,

Mike Altena

 


Celebrating Halloween

A few days ago I was scanning some articles on my news feed when my eye caught this title, “Former Satanist Warns Christians about Celebrating Halloween”. The article caused me to wonder, should Christians celebrate Halloween? Opinions differ in Christian circles. According to a CBN News Facebook poll, 87% of believers feel that Christians should not celebrate, while 13% believe it’s okay.

Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, originated in an ancient Celtic festival Samhain, which means “end of summer.”  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, during Samhain the souls of the dead are supposed to revisit their homes and many people believed that ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons roamed the earth. So in order to protect their families and livestock during the coming dark winter months, the Celts invoked the help of their gods with animal sacrifices.

However the holiday took a turn when Christians arrived on the scene and began celebrating All Soul’s Day. All Soul’s day was a time when Christians would commemorate and pray for the souls of believers who had died. In the Western Christian Practice, the celebration began at a prayer service on the evening of October 31 and ended on November 2.

During this time, the poor would visit the houses of wealthier families to receive little pastries called “soul cakes” in exchange for a promise to pray for the families’ dead relatives. Eventually, the festivities evolved into people dressing up and singing songs in exchange for treats.

Former Satanist John Ramirez recently joined Charlene Aaron on CBN News Prayer Link to talk about Christians and Halloween. Ramirez was a general to the kingdom of darkness in witchcraft. Ramirez said, “I would sit with the Devil and talk to him like I am taking to you today. It was that kind of communication. It was that kind of a relationship.”

Ramirez warns Halloween isn’t just about costumes and candy—there’s a much darker reality. “Sometimes people say, ‘I celebrated Halloween 10 years ago, I did this 15 years ago, I did this 20 years ago, ‘but the door is still open. You just cursed your family for three to four generations,” Ramirez told CBN News.

“You have to be aware it’s a curse. You have to go back to the place where you started, that year you started that Halloween thing, the celebration when you started having an encounter with the dark side. You have to go back to that same spot and renounce it in the name of Jesus Christ and ask God to forgive you so that God can have mercy and close that door so your whole family can move forward,” he continued.

Ramirez, now a pastor knows the dark reality of Halloween. He once sacrificed animals as part of satanic rituals and his friends even knew him as “Lucifer’s son.” Now as a born again believer, he strongly warns Christians against celebrating Halloween and participating in harvest festivals. “The only harvest we should celebrate is the harvest of souls,” he adds. Ramirez says that in his opinion the other events Christians hold to instead of Halloween, such as “Trunk or Treat” nights are really no different.

“Do you know of any Satanists who say, ‘Hey we’re going to come into Good Friday and we’re going to hang out with Christians and we’re just going to call it a different name?”

If you would like to read the full articles go to:

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/october/former-satanist-warns-christians-about-celebrating-halloween

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/october/paganism-and-witchcraft-the-dark-reality-of-halloween-nbsp

I’m guessing that when most parents take their kids trick or treating, they aren’t intentionally “celebrating” Halloween. However, I wonder if we have any idea what the Enemy’s perception is when a Christian participates in the same activity as those who belong to the kingdom of darkness. So, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8

Semper Reformanda, Mike Altena

 


Get Naked

“Today is a Good Day for a Good Day.” That is one of two sayings you would see on the wall if you asked to use the bathroom at our house. It reminds me of the words of Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Every morning, the statement suggests to me that no matter what happened yesterday or what my concerns for today might be, each day has the potential to be a good day. And even if it doesn’t feel like it has been a good day when I’m ready to retreat to my pillow at night, each day is a gift from God and His goodness is woven into it.

The second saying that you will see on my bathroom wall is “Get Naked”. Some guests have questioned  my sanity regarding those words. But the words have a double meaning to me, both practical and spiritual. They are fitting, in my opinion, to scroll across the bathroom wall, because they tell exactly what is required before one would enter the shower. They also remind me exactly what is necessary in my relationship with God. Obviously the definition of being naked in the shower is to be without clothes. However, when I crack open my thesaurus and look up additional words with similar meanings, I read these definitions: undisguised, plain, unadorned, open, exposed, bare, stripped, unveiled, without covering.

For most of our lives, we have been taught to hide our emotional and spiritual brokenness and scars. Cover up. Put a smile on your face. Wear the mask. But I’m learning that if we really want to have an intimate relationship with Father, we need to get naked and bring all of who we are before Him. The good, the bad, the ugly. Even the saggy.

Some time ago, I received an email containing an article from Ann Voskamp titled “Brutally Honest Psalms.” Her words feel naked.

“How long, O Lord?
Have You dropped your watch, lost Your cosmic phone, forgotten that we are kinda just dying here, kinda just waiting here for You to rouse, wake up and finally do something, anything, for crying out loud?
How long till you see the blasted hands of the clock ticking down, like an atomic bomb, while You seem to just sit on Your hands?
How long till you peel back an eyelid up there and see that we’ve got people hurting like the dickens down here, and that open window with its sliver of possibility, it’s closing right before our eyes, and hear us: 
Our endurance is flat out of breath, and our hope is withering up.
You may have all of forever, but we, sure as Sheol, do not.
How long till we see some light at the end of the tunnel — but what if that light turns out to be a train come barreling our way?”

Could you be this honest with God?

The shower might seem like an unlikely altar, but Hebrews 4:13 reminds us that “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (ESV) Father knows everything anyway. Stop trying to cover up. I dare you to sit with Him and get naked.

Erin Jacobsma

 


I Am Who God Says I Am

Over the past couple of months we have been singing a song called “Child of God” by Hillsong during some of our worship services. Every time the music begins and the screen comes to life, I get choked up thinking about these words. “Who am I that the highest King would welcome me? I was lost but He brought me in; oh His love for me.” I cannot even begin to comprehend why God would want anything to do with a sinner like me and I am overwhelmed by his love! Tears fill my eyes, and I can hardly utter the words out loud. But within the 30 seconds that it takes to get to the next phrase in the song – “Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed. I’m a child of God, Yes I am” – I want to raise my hands and my “hallelujah” and run through the aisles proclaiming my freedom!

But it’s the words that come next that I’ve been contemplating this week. “I am chosen, not forsaken. I am who You say I am. You are for me; not against me. I am who You say I am.”

I am who you say I am? Who does God say that I am?

Since the beginning of 2018, in response to Saul’s question in Acts 9:5 “Who are you, Lord” I have been going through the book of Psalms writing down everything that I know and can be certain of and proclaim about my Lord. My search has assured me that he is a shield around me, he hears my weeping, he searches minds and hearts, he watches over the way of the righteous, he laughs at those who plot against him, his love is unfailing, he does not disappoint, he is my Shepherd, all his ways are loving and faithful, he is my hope, he is King forever and ever. I could go on and on. My pen has lined many pages with my confidence about who God is.

But who am I? I was introduced to this world as Erin Gayle Teunissen. But that’s just a name. Over my lifetime, the enemy has led me to believe that I am less than, average, unimportant, insignificant, and worthless. For many years those were the words I believed. But that’s not the truth. God sees me in a different light. I am his beloved. I am chosen. I am forgiven. I am holy. I am free from condemnation through Christ’s death.

I started going back through the book of Psalms to see if there were things that I could be certain of about who I am. I discovered that I am blessed, I am set apart, I am crowned with glory and honor, I have a delightful inheritance, I am the apple of his eye, I am protected, I am armed with God’s strength, I will not be in want, I am blessed because my transgressions are forgiven and my sins are covered. I am a child of God.

So who are you? Do you believe what the lies of the enemy say about you or are you going to believe the Truth? Satan knows your name, but calls you by your sin. Jesus knows your sins, but calls you by your name. You are valued and loved.

I have been called many names over the years, some names of affection and some I’d like to forget. As a child, I hated my given name. But listen to this from Revelation 2:17: “To him who overcomes, I will give a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”

Imagine that… God has a pet name for you. A term of endearment. Maybe it’s a descriptive name, but it will be yours and only yours. Today, choose to believe that you are who he says you are. You are a child of God. Live like it! Erin Jacobsma

 


Protective Gear

This past week I was sitting with some moms at a junior high football game. While enjoying the game we commented how we cringe each time our child gets tackled, fearing for their wellbeing. Apparently it’s not only me who finds it hard to sit on the sideline and watch your child get jumped on! I was enjoying the company around me and the action in front of me as we watched the game together. Often times, during a game, I lose track of Austin in the sea of white helmets on the field, and this one was no different. Following one of the plays, a player remained on the ground after everyone else had stood up. The player rolled around in the grass a bit and appeared to be in pain. About the time he got to his knees, my heart sank realizing it was my little boy who was injured. After a quick chat with the coach, Austin walked over to the huddle for the next play. I could sense he was hurting. (Moms just know these things.) Sure enough, a few plays later he was along the sideline removing his jersey and pads. All I wanted to do was run down and hug him, but knew he would be mortified if mommy ran to his side. After the game and a trip to the school’s athletic trainer, the injury to his side was determined to be bruised ribs. The trainer advised he wear rib pads and recommended he not overdo it at practice the next day. Just a couple days later, with rib pads in place, he was back on the field running, jumping, and tackling as though nothing had happened.

As parents, we want to do whatever we can to protect our children from harm. We purchase mouth guards to prevent harm to their teeth while playing sports. Baseball players must wear helmets to shield their heads when running the bases. In hockey we wouldn’t think twice about putting the goalie in front of the net without the proper pads and protective gear. We buy the safest car seat when they are little and refuse to put the car in gear until all seatbelts are buckled as they are able to do it on their own.

It makes me wonder if we are as protective of our children’s spiritual lives as we are their physical lives. Do we put as much care into helping them know their Savior as we do caring for them while playing sports or driving down the highway? We cram our schedules full of opportunities for our children to participate in –which are all good – but are we scheduling time to sit and intentionally read God’s Word as a family? Sure we take them to church on Sunday mornings, attend Sunday School each week, and wouldn’t think of missing a midweek class, but are they the only three hours a week our children are digging into the scriptures?

These questions are not meant to shame anyone, rather only help us each examine our discipleship process at home. God has entrusted us as parents with our children with the instructions to be their primary teachers of who God is. The Bible says, “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 3:16-17. When we raise our children to not only know who God is, but be in a relationship with Him, we are providing the greatest protection available. His Word becomes our safeguard against false teaching and our source of guidance for how we are to live for a lifetime of protection.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Next To Him

The staff has been engaging a study from the book of Nehemiah written by Chip Ingram entitled Holy Ambition. This past week we looked at what I consider one of the most powerful images in the Bible of God’s people who committed themselves to a “Holy Ambition” that God laid on their hearts to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. In chapter 3, Nehemiah tells the story of how the people, with every kind of gift and skill, came from every direction to complete the good work God prepared in advance for them to do.

I especially love verses 17-32. Just notice all the “next to hims” and “next to thems.” 17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their fellow Levites under Binnui[f] son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle of the wall. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib’s house to the end of it.

22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shekaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.

As I reflect on our study, I am grateful that I get to work next to the staff, next to the Ridder Team and next to the Consistory. I thank God I get to work next to the Prayer Team, the Worship Team, the Discipleship Team and the Mission Support Team. And I thank God as I watch so many of you working side by side, teaching, caring, serving, and encouraging one another in order to advance the kingdom here in Luverne and around the region.

We might not finish our work in 53 days, but I thank God for how he is working in and through ARC!!!!

Laboring for the harvest, Mike Altena