I am sure you have experienced the wonder of new growth, whether it was a baby being born, a child in a growth spurt, sprouts emerging from the earth, or a plant in bloom. I feel that sense of wonder as I see what the Holy Spirit is doing in Bethel Church right now. We are experiencing a springtime in the middle of a COVID winter.
Here are some of ways that life is springing up around Bethel:
And there are many more life-giving things happening at Bethel: youth ministry, small groups, women’s midweek Bible studies, an Alpha group, and the ongoing efforts of our elders and deacons to mention a few of them. There is also a lot of unrecorded ministry happening—for example what you and others are doing to encourage and stay connected to fellow Bethelites. Praise the Lord for the moving of His Spirit at Bethel. Let’s continue to use our gifts to serve one another!
Lent is for Everyone
Full disclosure – I didn’t grow up within a liturgical background. I wasn’t raised with any notable rhythms throughout the church – outside of Christmas and Easter. And yet, one of God’s greatest gifts to me in recent years has been the discovery and practice of Lent, along with other seasons of worship.
This might be the same for you, or it could be the exact opposite. Services with ashes and responsive prayers of confession may evoke different kinds of feelings and perhaps some level of confusion and discomfort. I get it.
While I want to be sensitive to this, I’d also like to make the claim that Lent is for everyone. The reason I say this is because Lent is less about following a specific tradition in church history and all about embracing rhythms of faith and renewal as followers of Jesus.
On Ash Wednesday, we set aside a day of prayer and fasting. As I look at my email inbox, I see response after response of people who sensed God working through this day to draw us closer to him and to extend his love and comfort to our neighbors. God is moving in incredible ways.
For those who joined us in prayer and worship at night, the ashes we received are our way of saying that we are not enough, but God is—which is why the ashes take the shape of a cross. However, for us to truly receive and confess this, we must first come to the end of ourselves, and that involves humility.
To this end, I invite you to join us in Lent (starting this week) through the following lens:
Lent is a time of repentance.How can you use this time to repent? We cannot truly appreciate God’s love without observing the cost, just as we cannot brush past our need for repentance. This is both individual and communal. Allow God space to work on your heart. Let’s make sure our hearts are right with him.
Lent is a time of preparation. After almost a year of pandemic and isolation, it’s fair to say we truly do not know what is ahead of us. Ask the Lord how you can use this time to prepare. How can you join with family and friends in a new season of growing in Christ?
Lastly, Lent is about mortality. It deals with the sober realities of life by reflecting on death, but specifically the hope we have in Jesus’ death. Since he died for our sins, the new possibility emerges for us to die to ourselves and allow Christ to live in us.
Death to self, and new life by grace is the background to the lingering refrain from Ash Wednesday: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return. Repent and believe the gospel.” Stirring words for a new season.
– Pastor Cris
THE UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS OF COVID-19
As I have reached out to Bethelites over last months, one of the questions I have repeatedly asked is: “What challenges have you faced as a result of COVID-19, and what unexpected blessings has it brought?” You are probably well aware of the challenges of COVID 19. The blessings might surprise you.
Many have grown deeper in their relationship with God: One person told me that he has grown in gratitude, because the pandemic has made him aware of all the blessing’s he had been taking for granted. Several people told me they talk to God more now, or talk to Him at a deeper level.
Many have grown deeper in their relationships with others: A number of families said they feel closer to one another because they have had more time together and fewer distractions. “Our children fought a lot at the start of the pandemic but, as time went on, they got to know one another and became fast friends,” said one parent.
I loved one couple’s story about spending Christmas week with their young adult children who were home from school. Since the kids couldn’t visit friends, they invested in their immediate family. It was a bonding experience for everyone.
One woman experienced healing in her relationship to a sibling. One extended family has been connecting regularly on Zoom—something they did not do before the pandemic.
Another family plans to maintain a regular “family day” after the pandemic because they have found the extra time together so beneficial.
More blessings of COVID: Some of the blessings I learned of were not related to relationships. Some are celebrating that they have been free of colds and flu. Many feel the pleasure in a slower, less frenetic life. One person told me that this time has helped him to prepare for retirement.
It is good to reflect on what GOOD things we have as a result of the coronavirus. It reminds us that God is still at work for our good, and this should fill us with gratitude and joy. What unexpected blessings has COVID-19 brought you?
GOOD NEWS FROM BRIDGE CHURCH
Our daughter church, Bridge Church in Fort Saskatchewan, is making a big impact on their city. The following is a report from Pastor Ryan.
Paul instructs the Colossians Christians to pray for "open doors" for the Gospel to be proclaimed and to "make the most of every opportunity" in their relationships with those outside their community. I am pleased to report that Bridge Church has been faithful to both of these instructions.
Here are some examples: We hosted outdoor concerts with multiple community bands this fall. The Rotary Club, Boys and Girls Club and an addictions recovery group eagerly jumped on board to help. This was an incredible chance to mingle with and get to know our neighbors in the Fort.
On Easter Sunday and again on Christmas Eve, we hosted drive-in church service for the community. Once again hundreds came in their cars looking for hope.
These opportunities to build a connection with people have led to real life change. One man came on Easter, watched church online for the summer and was baptized in the fall. Another man came on Christmas Eve and was later connected to MosaicHouse in Edmonton (it was much closer to his home!). God is using Bridge to draw people to Himself.
What is ahead for Bridge Church? We sense God leading us to venture deeper into the world of online church community. The internet is a fantastic place to reach new people with the Gospel of Jesus. In addition to expanded online ministry, we have church leaders being trained in a church planting program called "Dinner Church." This training is graciously subsidized by Resonate Global Missions. We will look to offer two Dinner Church "Campuses" in Fort Saskatchewan and Josephburg.
Thank you, Bethel Church, for your partnership in the Gospel through your prayers, financial support and encouragement.
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.