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Work, School, Spring Break, and Heaven

Later this week many families, including mine, will leave town on a spring break trip.  This week is a sort of oasis for many people and families in these parts.  For those longing for summer, it’s an opportunity to enjoy some warm weather until things warm up here.  For students it’s a critical break from school and one that gives them the rejuvenation they need to finish out the school year.  As with any vacation it is nice to take a break from the normal routine.  It’s a form of rest that we need.

Can you imagine turning down a spring break trip because you loved your job so much? Can you imagine not taking a break from school because it was so fulfilling? Well, that’s what I suspect heaven will be like.  There will be no vacations in heaven because we will not need a break from the meaningful  work and lives we lead serving God in his presence. The flow of life will have enough variety, that it will be constantly fascinating.  That’s what we have to look forward to.  Until then, I’m glad there’s spring break.

Simultaneity

Yesterday we talked about living life on two levels.  One on level we encounter the events of our day.  On another level we are seeing the hand of God at work.  We can be awake at these two levels simultaneously, engaging in life and being aware of God’s presence.  Author Thomas Kelly called this state “simultaneity.”  It’s the way to live the life that God offers us.  We can live a life that participates with God’s plans.  We can cooperate, rather than fight, God’s good will for our lives.

It’s easier to talk about than to do.  And so yesterday I shared a simple set of questions with you to help you begin this process.  1) When did you feel close to God today?  2) When did God feel distant today?  I would encourage you to take this week to share these questions with your family.  Talk about them at the dinner table or in the car.  To give you a physical reminder, you can click here for a print out to put on the refrigerator or the dining room table.  Try your best to answer those two questions each day this week.  As you begin thinking about God’s presence in your life, you’ll discover him more easily.

Giving Up a Little to Gain a Lot

We lost an hour on Saturday night.  It’s the price we pay for getting extra daylight in the evening all summer.  I think it’s a pretty good trade.  We lose one hour of sleep to gain many hours of extra daylight.  We come to church a little bleary-eyed once a year in March.  (To make it easier, you didn’t even have to listen to a sermon yesterday!)  Then all summer long it’s an extra hour on the boat.  An extra hour at the beach.  An extra hour before the streetlights come on.  All this for just one shorter night of sleep.

There’s a spiritual principle like this too.  When we give up a little, God give us much in return.  We give up an hour a week to spend with a a student through our Kids Hope program.  In return we get to see a child grow because someone cared.  We give up an hour each week to worship with our church family.  God gives us encouragement and strength that carries us through many hours of the week.  We give God a few minutes each morning and he fills that day with his presence and provision.  We give up a little.  God gives us a lot.

The Gospel in Live Study

This Wednesday we will kick off a study that explores what difference the Gospel makes in our everyday lives.  Come at 6:00pm for a meal and stay for the study from 6:45-7:45.  We will watch a short presentation by Pastor Timothy Keller and then break into discussion groups.  For a preview of the study, check out the video below.

Ash Wednesday

It is a tradition in the Christian Church that people fast from something during the liturgical season of Lent.  This tradition is rooted in the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert immediately after his baptism.  During the middle ages fasting was considered a religious duty and strict rules were followed.  People were to abstain from all animal products, including eggs and dairy.  I’m not sure I would have a made very good medieval Christian.

Today there are good reasons to abstain or fast during Lent and some bad ones.  The bad ones include trying to impress God or others, feelings of guilt, or hoping that it will bring you good fortune.  There are also those who give up something during this season because “that’s just what you do during Lent.”  You can also choose to abstain from something for healthy reasons.  Fasting can be a great prayer reminder.  Every time you have a craving, spend some time in prayer.  If you skip a meal, take those groceries you saved and donate them to the food pantry.  Fasting isn’t a rule that you must follow.  It’s an option that can be helpful.  Whatever you choose to do, make it something productive.  Make it something that brings you and others closer to Jesus.  Make it something that prepares you to celebrate Christ’s victory.

Seasons Change

It’s hard to believe right now, but we still have another month to go before Spring is here officially. These warmer temperatures remind us that a new season is on its way. There are changes happening at FCC too. Some of them are known and significant. Our Youth Director, Sam Vos, will be ending his time in that role at the end of March. Other changes involve volunteers leaving an area of ministry and new volunteers stepping in.  

After serving and observing this church for 12 years, I know that two things are constant. The first is that change is always happening.  There are seasons of growth and seasons of loss. Transitions are inevitable. Nothing stays the same forever… well, almost nothing. The second thing that is always constant is God’s grace to his people. In all the changes I’ve seen, they are accompanied by God’s grace and presence. It’s comforting and reassuring to know that when many things are changing, God does not. His love never fails. He is the same today, tomorrow, and forever. One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 27. The psalmist concludes with these words: I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Super Bowl Religion

Each year it seems the Super Bowl gets bigger.  It has become more of an event than a football game.  And not just in Indianapolis or whatever city it is played in.  There is a Super Bowl party in every tenth household.  For many people, this is the only football game they watch all year. Except that they aren’t really watching the game.  Mostly, people are catching up with old friends or making new ones. Perhaps the only times they bother to look at the TV is for the commercials and the halftime show.  More than a football game, it’s a chance to make the weekend last one more night.

I recognize that a life of faith can deteriorate into a Super Bowl Sunday.  Instead of making a relationship with Christ the main thing, we can get caught up in the fellowship, the music, or the positive environment.  In a free society like ours, there is a lot of icing on the cake of faith. We are free to enjoy the fringe benefits.  But we must never mistake the commercials for the game. The best parts of religion can never replace the new life we have in Jesus and the relationship we have with him.

Care Packages

I still remember receiving a string of Christmas lights from my aunt, a package of homemade caramels from my uncle, and a silver and black bracelet from another aunt during my college days.  Those memories remain just as vividly as watching the Challenger disaster on TV in my dorm room. Receiving those unexpected packages made my day and drew me closer to those who sent them. Years from now, I expect that our college students will remember the love and encouragement they received from our Ferrysburg Church family in their care packages.

What can you contribute to our college care packages?  How about a note?  In this age of texts, tweets and SnapChat, a real notecard is something special. Below is Facebook post from Lauren after receiving her package of notes in Spain four years ago :

 

“April 12, 2013 

All of the letters I received just today from my church family back home! I think its safe to say that I have one of the most loving and thoughtful church families in the entire world. 🙂 Thank you so much Ferrysburg Community Church!”

 

 

 

 

What else might students living away for college enjoy? Pinterest has lots of fun ideas or the list below may be helpful as you consider what you may want to contribute.


Study items–highlighters, pens, mechanical pencils, dry erase markers, post it notes….


Hygiene items–toothpaste, toothbrush, chapstick, Tylenol, Kleenex packs, hand sanitizer, hand lotion….


Food–homemade goodies, gum, granola bars, hot chocolate packs, salty snacks, dried fruit, fruit snacks, candy bars, cereal packs, mints….


Care packages will be mailed next Tuesday, February 7.

This week you are encouraged to consider how you can extend love to our college students!

By Lori Houskamp

Another Reason to Read Your Bible

Think about all the forces that shape and influence you each day.  You start the morning with Facebook and a quick check of your email.  The TV is on for the morning news.  On the way to work or school you take in 10 or 15 minutes of a morning radio show meanwhile passing no less than a dozen billboards along the road.  As your day progresses you are subjected to the perspectives of your classmates, co-workers, and friends.  After work you flip through the newspaper or a magazine.  After dinner it’s sitcoms or Netflix and chill, then a few pages of a novel before you drift off to sleep.

And that’s why you should read your Bible.  Every single one of these things is a perspective, a value, an approach to life that leaves its imprint on us.  We marinate in this sea of worldviews.  Yet only the Bible is absolute truth.  Only the Bible is eternal truth.  It is the standard by which all values, all perspectives, all worldviews must be measured.  When we read the Bible, we have a ruler that we can use to evaluate.  Whether you start or end your day with it, God’s word is protection.  It defends us against the forces that would rob from us the life that is truly life.

MLK Day

Today we remember and celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I grew up in Kalamazoo less than a mile from the “color line.”  My family lived on the top of Alamo hill and about half way down the hill the population changed from nearly all white to nearly all black.  For several square miles, the north side of Kalamazoo was occupied almost exclusively by African Americans.  What’s interesting to me is that for about 50 years the north side was almost exclusively Dutch Americans.  The vestiges of of this remained well into my childhood.  The Christian school I attended – one that was started by Dutch immigrants – lay right in the middle of this all-black neighborhood.  The African American churches were once Christian Reformed churches until “white flight” moved them out to the suburbs.

Then I look at the tri-cities.  Sometimes I wonder how important a day like today is when there is such precious little diversity in our community.  Yet the work of Dr. King was about more than skin color.  It was ultimately about standing with and for the oppressed.  It was about reconciliation.  That work is needed in every community.  That work reminds me of someone else I know – another King.