I attended our denomination’s prayer summit held on Monday and Tuesday of last week. People from Christian Reformed Churches all over the US and Canada travelled to All Nations Church near Los Angeles, California to take part in the event. I was delighted to participate, having missed the first and second summits which were held four and three years ago, respectively.
If I had to summarize my experience of the event in a word, that word would be “hope”. I feel hopeful that our denomination’s leaders believe that prayer must be a vital part of our shared life, going forward. When we unite to pray, we are throwing open our windows to heaven and welcoming the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to blow in. That means that all manner of good things are possible.
We are facing some serious challenges as a denomination. When we pray, we are asking God to take the leadership over the church that is rightly His. We are entrusting ourselves to him for His guidance and protection. The Bible, and our church’s main catechism (the Heidelberg), remind us that on our own, we are not equal to these challenges. On the other hand, there are no challenges that can ultimately stand against the power of God.
I am praying, along with the organizers of this event, that this fresh wind of God’s Spirit will blow into every region where Christian Reformed churches are found and to each individual Christian Reformed church, as well. Imagine what might happen if each church came to God with empty hands inviting him to show His power!
I am thankful for the vital prayer ministry in Bethel. I pray that God will continue to move in our hearts and fan the flame that is burning among us to His glory.
— Pastor Tom
Sometimes the most creative ideas come when you are the least “with-it.” I remember in my 2nd year of Youth Ministry at Bethel coming home late after a youth night and trying to fall asleep. I was buzzing with excitement after staying up late drinking Coca Cola and talking about life with some Junior High Students. I was thinking, what should we do for our next retreat? I was also thinking about Outlet events. Half asleep, an idea popped into my head: what if we took the excitement and mystery of a progressive dinner and made a “progressive retreat?!” After bringing it to our youth leaders, and sanding off the edges of the idea together – we had a tangible plan. The result was our first “Mystery Retreat.”
Six and a half years later, we have done a few of them. Junior and Senior High Students show up at 6:00 pm on Friday and have no clue what they are going to experience for the weekend. They only know they are promised an impactful weekend with Jesus… somewhere in the province. Parents receive a sealed envelope of the locations on Friday evening that they are instructed to read once at home. Amazingly, the Mystery of each trip (which usually has 3 different locations each weekend) has been preserved year after year.
Some highlights have included doing a serve day at Rehoboth, going Go-Carting in Sylvan Lake, praying over street-people in Calgary, sleeping on countless church floors, hiking the Hoo-doos, worshipping spontaneously, continental breakfasts and more. The Youth Leaders try to build elements of service, worship, and play into each weekend.
This weekend (April 17-19) we have special guest speakers, Cameron and Abi Smith from Tennessee joining us. This couple has a long relationship with our youth group. They have been there for all 5 trips to Mexico over the years. Abi is Pastor Arturo’s daughter. We look forward to having them bring God’s Word to us.
God is doing a good work in the youth of Bethel. Please continue to pray for them – that each would discover, and grow in their identity in Jesus. Pray also for our youth volunteers who give their time to mentor and teach our young people.
We are beginning a new series of messages. It is based on the Book of Ruth.
The Old Testament Book of Ruth is endearing to many because it is a love story. Though ancient, its themes resonate today: a young woman meets a man. They fall in love. The man goes to great lengths to make this woman his own, and in the process saves her from a life of destitution. They marry and end up having an enduring and famous relationship.
However, it is not as a love story that this Bible book speaks to us most powerfully. It’s more important lesson is about hope. The Book of Ruth teaches us that we can hope even when life gives us no apparent reason for hope, because God’s faithfulness never changes.
John Piper summarizes the book’s lessons well:
What is the state of your hope? Could you use more of it? The series is called “Soaring Hope”, and I pray that it will help your “hope-level” to rise!
As a staff we did something odd and wonderful this week. We washed one another’s feet.
Our foot-washing was modeled on the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.
It was awkward, honestly. It was awkward for me to wash someone else’s feet. It was even more awkward for me to allow someone else to wash my feet. But then, that was the point of the exercise.
The early disciples found the first foot-washing awkward, but Jesus wanted them to experience it, nonetheless. His foot-washing was just a tiny picture into how he would serve them in a much bigger way by dying for them on the cross. It was also a picture of how they were to treat one another in their daily relationships. If they didn't understand the foot washing, they would not get the cross or the Christian life either.
Jesus has washed our feet. He came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). On the cross he “washed our feet” by paying the price for our salvation. On Easter Sunday we see displayed, in full view, what that foot-washing accomplished for everyone who stakes their hope on Him—a new meaning for living, a new strength for each day, and a wonderful hope for the future.
After washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus got up and put on his robe again. That is a picture too. On Easter Sunday, he put on His incorruptible body, donning the robe of his rightful kingship. Now He is reigning in heaven till the day when all that is promised in the resurrection becomes both a personal and a universal reality. Hallelujah. He is risen!
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