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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.

The Real Deal

One of the hardest parts about preaching is that there is always something I’m not saying.  I can’t preach the full counsel of God in a single sermon (and you sure wouldn’t want me to!).  Sermons are sort of like snapshots.  They capture truth, but not the whole truth.  Take yesterday for example.  I preached about the deal that we can make with God.  We surrender our lives to him and in return, he gives us forgiveness and eternal life.

While I stand by what I said, I would hate to give anyone the impression that the only way to be saved is by giving up your life to God through a sheer act of your will.  If that were the case, it would never happen.  The whole deal starts by God choosing us and making us his special possession.  It is only after that happens that we can begin surrendering our lives.  The real deal always starts with God and his grace, not us.

Moon and Stars

On Friday night we had a meetup to shoot a barn with star trails. It was very enjoyable but photographically challenging. With over 30 people participaing working in the dark, and evryone with a flashlight it made for lots of ruined shots. On my way home I stopped at my favorite barn near Nunica. This is my first tone mapped image of the moon and stars combined. You get some of the fuzziness around the trees which I hate but I like the way the stars and the moonrise combine.When I consider your heavens,

   the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

   which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

   human beings that you care for them?

-Psalm 8:3-4

Five months ago we began a visual journey through the photos of Gert Wallis.  So often we see the tragedies, the pain, the darkness.  Through these 17 photos we have focused on the light – light that the darkness has not and will not overcome.  When we look at the world around us we can see the darkness, the pain, and the brokenness.  But there is far more than those things.  Because the earth is the Lord’s, hope is the truest way to see the world.  Our God reigns!  Our world belongs to Him!  The moon and the stars announce it.  Creation declares it.  Even now with our own eyes we can see it.  We need only to look.

Tuscany

In Tuscany the roads are really not condusive to stopping and taking photos.  Because I didn't have a tripid most photos are more snapshots than a pre-meditated photograph. While I am looking at these snapshots, I see why the area is so photogenic.  You have the s-curve leading into the house which was the first thing that attracted me to this scene. The other elements which deserve a photo on their own are the bales of hay on the right, the rolling hills with, and the layered morning mist.As I look at this beautiful landscape in Tuscany, it occurs to me that I know hardly anything about that part of the world.  Looking at this photo gives me a little information.  I could also read about this region of Italy or do some internet research.  There are probably documentaries on Netflix that could introduce me to Tuscany.  I might meet someone who is from that part of the world and get their description of it.  Yet even then, I wouldn’t really know Tuscany.  In order for me to really understand this region, I would need to travel and spend some time there.  If I did this several times over the course of a few years, then I would be able to say that I knew Tuscany.

Knowing Jesus is a lot like this too.  A person could do a lot of research on Jesus’ life – even reading the Gospels.  A person could talk at length with someone who knew Jesus.  A person could attend church services where people sang about Jesus.  But none of that is really knowing Jesus.  To know Jesus, one has to engage in a relationship with him.  Jesus can’t be known objectively.  We know him by walking with him through life.

Winter – Hoffmaster

It’s a little disconcerI recently aquired a new 160 LED light and I took it out to see if you could use it to light nature scenes. I realized that it has a yellow tint to it. It was a welcome error as fixing the color cast to make the leaves green gives you a very cold tint to the rest of the background.ting to think about snow in June.  For many people, snow is a nuisance, a threat, an inconvenience.  Some people flee to the southern states during the winter months to avoid it.  That’s understandable.  It can be dangerous to drive in.  It is slippery.  It is cold.  Yet when I look at this picture I see a few ways that we have made the best of it.  More than that, we have turned something inconvenient into a canvas for recreation activity.
There are a lot of things we complain about in life.  There are challenges that slow us down and draw down our energy.  Just like snow, we have the option to embrace the challenges.  We can make the best of hard situations.  They can become a catalyst for growth and relationship, not just a nuisance.  In Philippians, Paul listed a number of inconveniences and threats in his life.  Then he made this amazing statement: “I can do all these things through Christ who strengthens me.”  That same Christ will strengthen us too.