EASTER OR CHRISTMAS?
There are two major Christian holidays each year: Christmas and Easter. Which is your favorite?
Our society clearly favours Christmas. Canadians spend significantly more, and celebrate significantly more, at Christmas time. Such a big deal is made about Christmas, that it might surprise you to learn that the New Testament says very little about Christmas and a lot about Easter.
Matthew and Luke each devote their first two chapters to telling the Christmas story. Apart from those chapters, there is very little said in the rest of the Bible about Jesus’ birth—just a verse here or there.
On the other hand, the Good News about the resurrection of Christ appears in all four Gospels. It is the focal point of the preaching recorded in the Book of Acts (along with the cross of Christ). Virtually all of the New Testament letters refer to it—often repeatedly. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul goes so far as to say, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). (Words like that are never spoken about the Christmas story.)
Although I am saddened that our society has gotten it wrong about the relative importance of these holidays, in a strange way it makes me happy. At Easter time there is less hype, and there are fewer distractions. That means we are freer to focus on the real meaning of the holiday.
I hope that you will take the time to think deeply about the Easter story. And I hope, that as you do, you will be filled with all of the joy that God intends for you. –Pastor Tom
“Home of Blessings”
Chances are you have noticed baking sales at the back of the auditorium. This has been to support the work of our missions team that will be leaving from Bethel to El Salvador at the end of May. A large part of Bethel’s partnership in El Salvador is with an organization called “Home of Blessings” which works closely with Resonate Global Missions.
Since 2015 Bethel has had the privilege of sending teams to El Salvador. In that time we have seen God grow the ministry and we have been able to help build a facility for “Home of Blessings”. What is the work of “Home of Blessings”? Our partner missionary Roland Vanderburg writes:
“Home of Blessings” has the purpose of contributing to Christian outreach, the training and support of leaders, and building quality of life and integral community development in Central America. The ministry is founded on, guided by, and engaged in promoting Christian transformation and values, reconciled relationships and the Kingdom of God.
The strategies employed by the ministry include:
*integral, asset based community development training,
*social business promotion,
*appropriate technology demonstration and sales,
*microfinance capacity building and monitoring.
In the coming weeks you have will the opportunity to learn more! On Sunday April 15th Roland Vanderburg will be in our services to share exciting updates on what is happening. There will be an offering taken on that Sunday for building supplies for “Home of Blessings”. On the evening of April 16th we will have a spaghetti dinner event where we will watch the acclaimed documentary “Poverty Inc” and have a Q&A time with Roland. Finally, on May 13th , we will lay hands on and pray for the missions team, commissioning them in their work.
God’s mission of transformation extends to every nation on planet Earth. We have the incredible honor of joining Him in that mission. Please keep El Salvador in your prayers!
CLASSIS ENDORSES BETHEL’S CHURCH PLANT
The vote is in! Our regional body of Christian Reformed Churches (Classis) approved the release of $53,000 per year, for three years, to support the Fort Saskatchewan church plant, starting in 2019. The unspoken message is: “Bethel Church, If you will take the faith-step to sponsor a church plant, we will be behind you 100%.”
This vote was significant for a couple of reasons. It showed strong affirmation of Bethel’s plans. It also marks a milestone in classis’ vision to plant one church every three years for the next fifteen years.
When I reported to Classis I was able to tell some of our “God stories:”
· Our Council Chair Greg Boskers’ story of feeling led to move to Fort Saskatchewan, then coming to believe the city needed a church plant. (At the time, Greg didn’t realize that planting a church was already part of the Dream for Bethel.)
· Pastor Ryan’s sense of call to plant a church, and his affirmation by the denomination.
· The surprising growth of the Fort Saskatchewan House Church in recent months, and how it is even starting to attract seekers.
After the vote was taken and the motion to support the church plant unanimously approved, I introduced Pastor Ryan. He shared his passion for Fort Saskatchewan and his eagerness to see many come to Christ.
I think our words made a big impact on the group. My prayer is that Bethel’s example will spur on other area churches to partner with Classis to sponsor future church plants. I praise God for Bethel’s faith-filled leadership in this mission effort!
- Pastor Tom
CHILDREN ENGAGED IN MINISTRY
Each week our children ages two through grade six leave Sunday morning worship to attend their own program. If you volunteer for the Lighthouse ministry, you have a good idea about what goes on in the lower level of the church when the kids meet. However, many of us know very little about what the children actually do from Sunday to Sunday.
The leaders are doing something very creative with the children this week, so I thought I would tell you about it to give you a glimpse into what Lighthouse is like. I think you will find it inspiring.
First the leaders will tell the children the story about the rich man who stored up wealth but neglected his soul. He died and had to leave all his wealth behind.Then they will apply the story to the children’s lives. Christie Thomas writes:
WORDS FOR THOSE WHO WORRY
Last week I delivered a message on the topic of anxiety. I think it struck a chord—we are all prone to feel anxious.
I want to pass along to you some quotes that I find comforting when I am tempted to worry. They are taken from the writings of the Catholic Bishop Francis De Sales who lived at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The quotes were given to be by a fellow Bethelite as I was preparing to leave for a personal, spiritual retreat. I pass along these words with a few bonus quotes thrown in:
I hope these words will help you find rest in God, who cares about the big, and small, things in our lives. --Pastor Tom
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