Living Water

It’s been a long night. Or a short one. Depends how you look at it. I caught a few winks in the recliner, but most of the night was spent on the floor of the kitchen with a sick lamb. She was clinging to life and I so desperately wanted her to live. I lost a newborn lamb a few days ago and I didn’t want a repeat.

We had just picked her up from the big farm earlier in the evening. She baaed all the way home and seemed fine when I put her in her new shelter with her two roommates, Pippi and Pirate. We gave her the name Pansy and supplied her with a few ounces to drink and left the three youngsters to get acquainted.

When I returned for their bedtime feeding, things had changed drastically and I could see our newest addition was in distress. I am definitely no sheep expert, but I decided maybe she was cold and I took her to the house to warm her. She wasn’t able to stand and could hardly let out a sound, but I wrapped her in a warm towel and snuggled her on my lap in front of the furnace vent and started googling what to do with a sick lamb.

Google is a wonderful thing when you are looking for answers, but it can also be very disheartening when you are pretty sure what needs to be done, but you don’t have the right tools. Google suggested, and the thermometer verified, that the lamb was hypothermic. She needed to get warmed up, which I was working on, and she needed milk in her belly. The problem was she wouldn’t drink from the bottle. Tube feeding was an option, but I didn’t have the necessary equipment and I wasn’t about to call around trying to find one in the wee hours of the morning.

I attempted repeatedly to get her to take the bottle or to at least swallow the milk that I could get into her mouth, but with little success. I tried to reason with her that if she didn’t drink she was going to die, but she didn’t seem to understand. As I knelt on the floor watching her struggle to survive, the tears began to flow. Not for the lamb (well, maybe a little), but mostly for the people in my life that the lamb represents, people to whom I have offered Living Water but refuse to swallow, people who ignore warning signs, people who brush off any attempts to help them, people who reject the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. My heart ached from the feeling of helplessness as I drifted off to sleep.

And while I cannot make someone drink the Living Water anymore than I can make a baby lamb slurp up a bottle of warm milk, I CAN pray for them.

Heavenly Father, You are the Good Shepherd. You are everything that I want, and I want so badly for others to want you too. By your grace and mercy, pour out your Spirit that all people would repent of their sins and be drawn to you. Replace their heart of stone with a heart of flesh and help them be receptive to your voice. I pray that they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. Raise them from the dead because of your great love. Amen, let it be done.

Erin Jacobsma

In case you are wondering, Pansy made it through the night until I was able to get a tube to feed her with and she is doing much better.


The Joy of Worship

Something caught my eye as I was worshiping during the Sunday service a few weeks ago. The congregation was deep in song when suddenly there was much movement near our pew. Glancing over I was blessed to see a small child bouncing up and down to the music as though she was praising God with every ounce of joy she could find within. The scene brought a smile to my face and the words of Jesus saying, “let the little children come to me” to my mind. Precious little girl, I pray you never lose that excitement to worship your Heavenly Father.

Worship comes in many forms and our junior high students have been learning about just that the last few weeks. Their lessons have challenged them to live a life of worship in all they do. Afterall, worship is far more than singing along to a tune being strummed on the guitar or played from the organ. The students and adults have been encouraged to encounter God in a variety of ways throughout their week. My heart was full as I listened in on the lessons and took in the shared ideas and personal experiences of worship the students and adult leaders had for one another.

As Louie Giglio says, “Worship is simply giving God His breath back.” What better words to share with God, than the very words he inspired to be written for us all to read. My heart tends to immediately turn to the Psalms when I think of worship in the Bible. When I am at a loss for words as I worship, it seems as though a few verses from a Psalm can quickly fill that void and draw me even closer to my Creator. “You God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (63:1) “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (101:1) “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (106:1) “Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. (134:1-2)

Don’t those verses spark joy deep within and make you want to bounce up and down worshiping the Lord for all He is? A quote I read recently said, “An encounter with God marks you, and makes you hungry for more of Him.” (Jenn Johnson) While worship has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God, the experience still somehow fills us and leaves us thirsting for more all at the same time.

So, what about you? How do you encounter God on a daily basis? When life throws a curve ball how do you respond to the situation? When something amazing happens, do you praise God or just enjoy what is happening before you? May it be so of each of us as we go about our daily business that each moment is an act of worship for our Heavenly Father.

And don’t forget to dance with great joy!

Becky Ossefoort


Mr. Potato Head

America received more shocking and dark news this past week as Hasbro, the maker of Mr. Potato Head, has announced that the long time toy has been made over. After seven decades, Mr. Potato has lost his manhood. And not only has he lost his manhood, he lost his womanhood too. Mr. Potato Head has now become gender neutral and will be simply known as “Potato Head.” In fact, a spokesman for Hasbro said, “The Potato Head Family kits will come with two “non-gendered ‘adult’ potatoes, one ‘baby’ potato, and 42 accessories.” “That will let the kids decided the parents’ gender, rather than being told they are ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’”

The reality of that breaking news story, my friends, is deeply disturbing and saddening. Those whose hearts are darkened and have wandered far from the life of God have lost all sensitivity and sensibility. America, a nation founded by a majority of Christians who sought to live out the gospel, has been hijacked by a group of demonized individuals who have been deceived by the Devil.

And like Jeremiah, in the season of Lent I lament our loss of Godly values and the deceit being foisted on our children. I invite you to join me in lament reading from Lamentations 3.

1I am a man who has suffered greatly. The Lord has used the Babylonians to punish my people…

17I have lost all hope of ever having any peace. I’ve forgotten what good times are like. 18So I say, “My glory has faded away. My hope in the Lord is gone.” 19I remember how I suffered and wandered. I remember how bitter my life was. 20I remember it very well. My spirit is very sad deep down inside me.

21But here is something else I remember. And it gives me hope. 22The Lord loves us very much. So we haven’t been completely destroyed. His loving concern never fails. 23His great love is new every morning. Lord, how faithful you are! 24I say to myself, “The Lord is everything I will ever need. So I will put my hope in him.” 25The Lord is good to those who put their hope in him. He is good to those who look to him. 26It is good when people wait quietly for the Lord to save them.

27It is good for a man to carry a heavy load of suffering while he is young. 28Let him sit alone and not say anything. The Lord has placed that load on him. 29Let him bury his face in the dust. There might still be hope for him. 30Let him turn his cheek toward those who would slap him. Let him be filled with shame. 31The Lord doesn’t turn his back on people forever. 32He might bring suffering. But he will also show loving concern. How great his faithful love is! 33He doesn’t want to bring pain or suffering to anyone….

37Suppose people order something to happen. It won’t happen unless the Lord has planned it. 38Troubles and good things alike come to people because the Most High God has commanded them to come. 39A person who is still alive shouldn’t blame God when God punishes them for their sins.

40Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living. Let’s return to the Lord. 41Let’s lift up our hands to God in heaven. Let’s pray to him with all our hearts. 42Let’s say, “We have sinned. We’ve refused to obey you. And you haven’t forgiven us….

55Lord, I called out to you. I called out from the bottom of the pit. 56I prayed, “Please don’t close your ears to my cry for help.” And you heard my appeal. 57You came near when I called out to you. You said, “Do not be afraid.”

Father, I praise you for making a potato gender neutral. And I praise you for your original “Equality Act.” I praise you that you created mankind in your own image, in the image of God you created us, male and female you created us. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful. I know that full well!

So, do not be afraid,

Mike Altena


Outward Appearances

I share life with a car enthusiast.

From the day I met him cruising the loop in his ‘78 jet black Pontiac Grand Prix, I could tell his vehicle was important to him. One might call him fussy. He is knowledgeable and skilled at changing oil, flushing fluids, swapping out motors and transmissions, replacing brakes and exhausts, and a thousand other things I know nothing about.

But as particular as he is about the mechanics of the vehicle, he is even more meticulous about its appearance. We do not set things on top of the car, we only need to touch the door handle when entering the car, we don’t put our fingerprints on the window, we kick the dirt off our shoes before we get into the vehicle, and we don’t ever leave trash in the vehicle; or so I’ve been told.

Many hours have been occupied detailing cars together. After all, “a clean car is a happy car”. We even spent the first two hours of our wedding night at the car wash removing hot fudge, whipped cream, and rice from the interior and exterior of our vehicle, left behind by some ruthless hooligans. Of course, my new husband was not very happy.

All that to say, the dear husband likes a clean car. So, when the weather turned bitterly cold the last few weeks and I made the decision to let the barn cats shack up in the garage, trouble started brewing.

All was fine at first. I prepared a container of litter and a cat chow buffet and set the kitties up in a cardboard box with a folded towel for insulation and fuzzy blanket for some extra warmth. The feline princesses seemed thoroughly grateful. They purred and snuggled in and observed life from the box. But as the cold days continued, restlessness set in and they were no longer content with the cardboard condo. They began exploring the garage floor and even caught a mouse. Good kitties!

Then the unthinkable happened. Or at least I hadn’t thought about it. The kittens were again nestled in their box as we shut the lights off and went to bed, but the next morning we were greeted with two calico fur balls perched on the top of my white car and an abundance of dirty little footprints. It appeared as though they had a dance party on the hood, trunk, and roof, and even did the Electric Slide down the windshield a few times. The car was not happy and neither was the husband.

Well, the car got washed and the cats will be returning to the barn as the thermostat rises, but dirty footprints got me thinking about appearances. We spend so much time cleaning and maintaining, primping and preening, just to make sure we look good on the outside, but do we give due diligence to what’s on the inside. Does our heart and attitude get the same amount of attention as the face in the mirror? Are we as attentive to soul maintenance as we are to car maintenance?

A story is told in 1 Samuel 16 about choosing a new king for the people of Israel. God sends Samuel on a mission and he sees several young men who he considers to be a good option. But God says no. More specifically, God says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord  does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

If God is more interested in your heart than your appearance, that’s probably a good place for us to look too. During this season of Lent, let’s be more concerned with our heart condition than just looking our Sunday best. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Erin Jacobsma


Faithful To The End

This past Tuesday night, one of our elders began the Elder’s Meeting by reading from Daniel 11. Daniel chapter 11 is an account of the vision that Daniel received 536 B.C. which was in the latter part of his life. According to Daniel 10:4-6, Daniel was standing on the bank of the Tigris River when he looked up and standing before him was “a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” The image was so overwhelming that Daniel passed out and fell into a deep sleep. (Many scholars believe the man standing in front of Daniel was Jesus).

As the story unfolds the man standing before Daniel eventually touched him and restored his strength and then informed him that he would reveal future events which were written in the Book of Truth. And then beginning in chapter 11:2 all the way through chapter 12:4, the messenger tells Daniel story after story of the rise and fall of many empires and nations and kings. The whole chapter is a prophecy of king after king who rise to power, only to be overtaken by another king. And the neat thing is, the notes along the bottom of my study Bible give the information of when each of those events took place in history. Every one of the prophecies that were revealed to Daniel in his vision in chapter 11 eventually came to pass.

When our elder concluded his reading of a portion of Daniel 11, he reminded us of the sovereignty of God to rule the world. He reminded us we need not fret about which president sits on the throne, simply because God knows about the rise and fall of all these earthly kingdoms.

As the story of Daniel’s vision concludes in chapter 12, we discover that not all the future events were clear for Daniel, however the messenger (I also believe it was Jesus) assured Daniel that he would be blessed if he would continue to walk in faith. And at the end of chapter 12, Jesus told Daniel, “As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will receive your allotted inheritance.” What a great word of encouragement!

Well, a couple of days later, I was visiting with the elder about his devotion, and after discussing that America is turning its back on God by saying what is evil is not evil and what is good is not good, we agreed that it appears the “empire of the great America” is going down. We then talked about the role of the church in the midst of a crumbling nation, and then he gave this image. America is like the Titanic, we’ve struck our iceberg, it’s going down. And if in his sovereignty God has determined that America is about to reap what it’s been sowing, there is nothing we can do to stop America from self imploding. Our job is simply to help people discover where they can find a life boat. And of course our life boat is Jesus.

And the same was true for Daniel. In Daniel 11:33-35 we read the words of the messenger, “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”

And so it will be for you and me in these last days, those who are wise will help many discover the Truth. And, we may also experience much persecution. Difficult times remind us of our weakness and our inability to cope. We want answers, leadership and clear direction. However, even though it may feel like the ship is sinking, this is an exciting time, in that, many people will be searching for truth. This is a time for our faith to be refined and strengthened as we share the gospel message of the Kingdom of God that has no end.

May it not be so, that you and I would fret during this time. God holds the future and us in his hand. Let’s just continue to be faithful in being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And in the end, we will receive our inheritance.

Grace to you, and peace,

Mike Altena


Use What You Have

Have you ever looked for something, not knowing exactly what that something was? A sensation of tugging and pulling in an uncertain direction, but you cannot put your finger on it. It begs for your attention and about the time you throw your hands up in defeat you discover it right under your very own nose.

I wonder if this is how the widow we read about in 2 Kings felt. We meet her as she is scrambling to figure out the situation she had been left with. She was frantically searching, knowing she had to do something, but could not put her finger on what she was looking for. Her husband had died and suddenly she was thrown into a desperate need for funds to repay a debt the man had left behind. It seems unbelievable to think her only option may be to give her own children as payment. Not willing to give up easily, she cries out to Elisha asking if he can point her in a more reasonable direction of securing the necessary means of paying the debt. I am sure she was ready to throw her hands in the air the moment he asked the question, “What do you have in your house?” (2 Kings 4:2) She had nothing. There was n-o-t-h-i-n-g. The house was empty, it was simply her and her children…except that one little, tiny jar of oil, but what good would that be?

As the short seven verses continue, the woman and her sons gathered all the jars in the neighborhood as instructed by Elisha, closed the door behind them, and with great hope began to pour. The oil flowed until the last collected jar was filled to the brim. As the last drop dripped from the small jar, Elisha instructed them to sell all the oil and pay off the debt. This miracle not only paid the debt and let the children remain with their mother, but it also provided an abundance of funds for the family to live on. God knew what the cry of her heart would be, provided, and blessed her with more than she had even asked for.

I read a quote of Priscilla Shirer the other day that said, “Sometimes we wait impatiently on God when He is patiently waiting on us, waiting for us to recognize what He’s already given as part of the answer to our problem.” How quickly we are consumed with the evidence of what is not there, rather than working with the gifts and blessings He has already placed before us. Like the widow, I too am quick to search for solutions to my problems without giving a second glance at the things right under my nose. I impatiently go ahead of God and seek out my own answers and band-aids to my problems. Yet God is patiently waiting for me to recognize the things He has already gone ahead to put in place for me, even before I knew I needed them.

What is in your house? What pot of oil have you neglected to notice? Maybe the answer you have been praying for is already in plain sight. That little, humble something on the back shelf of your mind may be the beginning of the most amazing move of God you have ever witnessed.

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Becky Ossefoort


Spiritual Famine

The staff is currently working through Erwin McManus’s book, The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life. This past week we looked at chapter six in which Mc Manus draws wisdom from a very interesting story found in II Kings 7. The background for the story is that God’s people in Samaria were in a severe famine; so severe that some families had begun eating each other’s children. As the story unfolds, the King of Israel threatened to kill Elisha because he wasn’t doing anything to end the famine.

We pick up the story in II Kings 7:1. Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”

The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”

“You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”

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

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

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

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping    it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

As the story plays out, Elisha’s prophesy was fulfilled and the famine dissipated, and the man who doubted God ended up being trampled to death. (I would encourage you to read the rest of the story).

This story was convicting for me for several reasons.  First, when Elisha prophesied God’s deliverance, the king’s official said it couldn’t happen. The officer had lost hope and faith, but God’s words came true anyway. Sometimes we become so preoccupied with our problems when we should be looking for opportunities. Instead of focusing on the negatives, I must develop an attitude of expectancy. To say that God cannot rescue someone or that a situation is impossible demonstrates a lack of faith.

Secondly, as is often the case, notice that God uses the most unlikely people to carry out his plan.

Thirdly, this story is a great reminder that God always has the bigger picture in mind, and that trials like these build faith as we see God always goes ahead of us to do the impossible.

And then finally, God has so richly poured out his grace into our lives. God has blessed us with the gift of financial and material prosperity and the gift of salvation through faith in Christ and therefore, like the lepers, it would not be right for us to keep all these gifts of grace to ourselves.

Friends, we have a spiritual famine going on in our land, however, may it not be said of us that we would begin to lose hope and faith. We mustn’t become so pre-occupied with our problems, but rather we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the one who’s writing our story. And let’s certainly not hoard God’s gift of grace for ourselves.  Live your life as if someone were counting on you for some good news!

Basking in the Father’s love,

Mike Altena


There’s No Place Like Home

There’s no place like home.

There’s no place like home.

There’s no place like home.

Some of you are wondering why I just repeated the same sentence. Others of you are imagining yourself standing in the Land of Oz, wearing ruby red slippers, clicking your heels together three times.

“There’s no place like home” became iconic following the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. The film tells the tale of Dorothy Gale who lives on a farm in Kansas with her dog Toto, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Dorothy seeks shelter in her bedroom from an approaching tornado, but the window gets blown in, hits her in the head, and knocks her unconscious. The house is sent spinning into the air and lands in Munchkinland in the Land of Oz.

Chances are you know the rest of the story as Dorothy follows the yellow brick road to Emerald City making friends with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion along the journey to find her way home. In the end, all Dorothy needed to do was close her eyes, click the heels of her ruby red slippers together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

But what if “home” isn’t a single place? I pondered that question after a conversation with Michelle Klay as she and her family were packing and preparing to leave their home in Florida and return to their home in Africa. What if you have multiple places that you call home, and your heart is torn between the two? I imagine when you are in America a portion of your heart longs to be in Africa and when you are standing on African soil, a part of you wishes you were in America. If you are at home in two different places, two cultures, two continents, do you ever feel at home? There’s no place like home, but where is home?

I got my answer the very next day as I took in the words of Psalm 90. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” I don’t know how you would describe a “dwelling place”, but I would call it HOME.

This particular Psalm is a prayer written by Moses. I would guess Moses struggled with his home identity. He was born in a Hebrew village, raised in an Egyptian palace, fled to the land of Midian and started a family there, only to return to Egypt, and then eventually wander in a desert for 40 years. Where was home? The land of Canaan was supposed to be his destination, a place where he could finally put down some roots and unpack his bags, but he never even crossed the threshold.

However, God graciously revealed to Moses along the way that his focus wasn’t supposed to be on a place, but on Him. God’s presence was the only place Moses needed to reside. And Moses could honestly say, Lord, you have been our dwelling place, our refuge, our safe house, our hideout, our sanctuary, our HOME.

The same can be true for us. It would be my prayer for those who say they are followers of Christ, that you could claim the words of Psalm 84:1-2. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

In the words of an old song, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”

Erin Jacobsma

(By the way, Caleb & Michelle and boys arrived safely at their home in Africa. Yay, God!)


All The Noise!

BOY: /boi/ n. a noise with dirt on it. These words were neatly printed on a small canvas that once hung on the wall of our boys’ shared bedroom. While one of the boys has always been neat and tidy, the other will undoubtedly have dirt or mud somewhere even after a shower. What they don’t share in cleanliness, they make up for in the production of noise. A sound I will always treasure is the one produced when they would pinch their tiny lips together and make the rumble of a tractor while they pushed their tiny toys across my floor.

As they have grown, not much has changed other than the toys have progressively gotten bigger. We went from little tractors to larger Tonka trucks in the sandbox, then they graduated to a tractor they could peddle and haul lots of dirt with. Other than the varying tempos and pitches, the sound remained the same. A few years ago an old, salvaged lawnmower was brought into the shop for some modifications. Filthy little fingers came to the dining room table that afternoon but there was an absence of noise to accompany the dirt. Seemed puzzling, but very peaceful at the time. After lunch, a new racket was heard – that of a 1 ½” pipe out the hood of the previously mentioned lawnmower. You could hear that silly thing crack across the section and it had me yearning for the quieter sounds they once produced while playing in their room.

Fast forward to the present and I am still dealing with dirt and noise. We’ve taken out stock in GoJo soap, given up on blue jean stains, and learned to tune out many familiar sounds; no matter how loud they have become. That was until recently when something new beckoned for my attention. The recently licensed teenage boy has installed some “snappy” glass packs on his pickup. Since the installation there has been a lot of chatter about how cool the pickup sounds, a plethora of sarcastic Snapchats sent to mom, and lots of little spin outs in the gravel. I was granted permission to drive the noise machine to work the other day since big sister had my car. Admittedly, the noise even brought me a little smile to my face while running my errands. No, not because of the clamor it makes as I push the gas pedal, but because of the joy it brings  my silly kid.

The world is full of noise begging for our attention. The ringing of political unrest, brother hurting brother, and social injustices pierce us at the core and can often leave us completely focused on the noise coming from them. But we as Christ followers have a choice; we can continue to listen to the ear-piercing turmoil or focus on the gentle, easy listening harmony our Father in heaven has for us. I don’t know about you, but I have had to do a little extra tuning in to some of my favorite scriptures lately. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Ps. 4:8) “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Ps. 37:7) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

May you find joy each day as you tune your soul to the gentle sound of your Savior in the midst of this dark, messy, and noisy world.

Becky Ossefoort


We Reap What We Sow

Without making light of what happened in Washington DC this past Wednesday, one might wonder if the dark shadow of 2020 still lingers over us. It only took six days into the New Year before we heard that familiar word, “unprecedented,” again.

And in response to the unprecedented invasion of the capital building we are flooded with questions like, how could this have ever happened in America? Why did so many protestors show up at Trump’s rally? Was there voter fraud, or wasn’t there? Who is to blame for stirring up the peaceful protestors? Who is at fault for turning the protestors into rioters and insurrectionists? Was this a coup? Why wasn’t there a greater police presence? If the majority of the rioting crowd had been black or brown people, would there have been many more arrests and deaths. Was this clear evidence of white supremacy? Should President Trump be impeached? We want to know who is at fault. Is it President Trump’s fault? Is Congress to blame? Maybe the deceit of the media is responsible. Or could it be Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg is to blame?

The list of “cause and effect” questions to be answered is long. And in the midst of our chaos, we naturally respond to our fear and anxiety by blaming others. And yet I wonder, are we avoiding other, more important, questions?

As I watched the news surrounding all that was going on Wednesday, I imagined the various media outlets trying to answer questions that might get to the root of our nation’s problems. Like, imagine Don asking Chris, where do we see the devil at work today? And then I imagine Chris quoting Ephesians 6:10-12. 10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And then I imagine them discussing the tactics of how the devil has been the tempter, the deceiver, and the accuser.

Or I imagine Tucker asking Sean, what happens when people, even though they know that God exists, neither glorify him or give thanks to him? And what happens when a country exchanges the truth for a lie? And then I imagine Sean pulling out his Bible and reading from Romans 1. 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen…  28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

And then imagine Joy asking Whoopi, so is there any hope for America? And Whoopi responds, God said, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We reap what we sow. When trying to decide who is to blame in our darkest hour, may we all have the humility to say, I am the number one obstacle to what God wants to do in my life, in my church, in my community and in my country. God grant me the gift of repentance.

Grace to you and peace, Mike Altena