At our last meeting of Managing Elders for 2015, we were reflecting on the past, wonderful year of ministry and feeling appreciation for the many, many people who give of themselves to make Bethel the place that it is. We were asking ourselves, “How can we express to the congregation the deep appreciation we are feeling?”
It seems like the answer to that question should be simple, but it is more complicated than you might imagine. There are two reasons why.
First, there is the practical issue. When you start thanking people in any kind of way, publicly or even through private gestures or gifts, you always run the risk of leaving someone out. Well-intentioned efforts along this line can leave those who were not thanked feeling that their sacrifice is less valuable than others’. That is NOT the message we want to give.
Secondly, there is the faith issue. As Christ followers, we know that all of our talents and resources are gifts from God. Our good actions are like moonlight—a beautiful reflection of the sun (Son) that is shining off of us. In our hearts we want the ultimate praise to go heavenward. We do not want our egos stroked.
So what to do? The Apostle Paul shows us the way forward. Paul lived with a deep sense of gratitude for his fellow believers, and in his letters to the churches he frequently expressed this by saying: “I thank God for you.” Following Paul’s model, the Managing Elders asked me to write a Pastor’s Corner to express their thanks to you.
So that is what I am doing right now. Speaking on behalf of all the Managing Elders let me say: “We thank God for you Bethel—sincerely and from the bottom of our hearts.”
Peter Taylor Visser is our Children’s Ministry associate and a masters student at Taylor Seminary. He will be bringing our message on Sunday, December 27. I thought I would use this occasion to talk about a ministry Peter is in charge of that is having a big impact on our neighbourhood.
The ministry is Kids Club. I think of it as our Mighty Mouse ministry. I say this because, like a mouse, this ministry goes about almost undetected in the church’s life; yet God is using it in a way that is out of proportion to its apparent smallness.
Peter describes it’s unassuming character this way:
Kids Club meets on Thursday nights at the Bannerman Community Centre starting at 6:30 pm. Each evening we meet, Ed Dubbeldam, Carley Clarke, Hilary Warnock and I set up games, activities (like coloring) and Lego and hang out with the kids. During this time we get to connect with the kids and see how their week has been going. Once a month Mo, the community librarian from the Clareview Library, comes and hangs out with us. He brings laptops and iPads that the kids can play with (if they first read for 30 minutes). Line des Rosiers has also led some bully busting events at Kids Club to teach about the negative impact that bullying has.
But he goes on to describe its “mighty” impact:
Kids Club has led a lot of the kids to start coming to our GEMS Girls Club (about seven girls have become connected through Kids Club) and our Cadets Boys Club (about 4 boys have joined because of Kids Club). Most of the kids who attend Kids Club receive school supplies made available by Bethel Church.
Good things really do come in small packages. Kids Club is one of them.
While many have been counting down the days eagerly until Christmas, many people have also been counting down to another day… on December 18th Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters. Some suggest that The Force Awakens could gross over $3 billion dollars in the worldwide box office.
If you have seen the Star Wars films, do you remember the first time you watched them? As a child, I remember my imagination being captivated by these stories. I was sitting in my uncle’s basement and watching a little green puppet named Yoda say “A Jedi’s power flows from the force.”
Did you know that “Jedi” is a registered religion in the United Kingdom? There are those who take their Star Wars very seriously. It’s funny, I have heard many Christians try to tell me that the mystical “force” from Star Wars, the force that holds the galaxy together, is basically the same as the Holy Spirit. I want to debunk that.
The “force” of Star Wars is an impersonal energy. In stark contrast, while being transcendent and immanent in all of creation, our Holy Spirit is a very personal being. Throughout church history groups have risen up (like the modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses) that teach the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force similar to Star Wars. This is simply not the case from Scripture.
Amazingly, as Christians we can have a relationship with the Spirit of God. In fact, the Holy Spirit is one who comforts, grieves, and teaches (John 14:16, 26, Eph. 4:30). These are all personal actions that a force cannot do. Can gravity comfort, grieve or teach? Of course not.
Another difference is that the “force” of Star Wars has a light side and a dark side. Yet our Holy Spirit is One with God the Father who has no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5).
On Friday night, my wife Jessica and I will be a couple of the crazy people eagerly waiting in line to see the new movie. If the critics are correct, it should be a fun evening for us.
However, I am thankful that the truth of our Christian faith is filled with a real tangible hope. Master Jesus outranks Master Yoda everyday of the week. I hear Him saying “A Christian’s power flows from the Spirit.” This Christmas we remember that God has come near to us in Jesus Christ. That same Jesus sends the personal and indescribably Holy Spirit, full of Light to be our Comforter and Friend! Merry Christmas!
At our recent Home Missions Team meeting we gave unanimous approval to a church planting and renewal proposal. We hope to present the plan to the churches of our region for approval at our spring Classis meeting. If it is embraced by our area Christian Reformed churches it could have a far reaching impact on our region.
The plan calls for our Classis to:
Unite in prayer around the goal of reaching people for Christ in obedience to the Great Commission. Our hope would be that in ten years we will have more disciples of Jesus in our churches than we currently have and that we will have established a growth trend in our Classis.
Get the current Ottewell church plant launched, then plant five more churches in the next 15 years—an average of one every three years.
Journey together as churches toward congregational health and missional effectiveness. Specifically this would involve 12 pastors and about 10 other representatives of each church taking a two-year journey together in connection with a program called Renewal Labs (which is offered by Calvin Seminary) through which they will gain instruction and mutually encourage one another toward the goal of congregational renewal.
What makes this plan exciting to me is that I firmly believe God is in the driver seat. The convergence of people, ideas, and opportunities has all the hallmarks of being led and orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. I am hoping that God is about to unfold a movement that will see his people working together, with united hearts, to see His church strengthened and the Gospel advanced.
This past Wednesday, Philip Lee, a missionary to the First Nations people of the Saddle Lake reserve, visited our morning prayer group. He described his exciting, often exhausting, and always challenging work on the reserve. His sharing was fascinating, and it may just be possible that his story will continue to intersect with Bethel’s story in the future.
Philip began by doing youth ministry on the reserve. Then he started applying for jobs that would allow him to support himself financially. When the St. Paul Abilities Network, a nonprofit organization serving people with disabilities, discovered that he had a background in the hotel industry, he was hired to arrange for a Hampton Hilton to be built in the town. He was eventually promoted to his current role as the agency's director of business development, overseeing seven companies that help bring in revenue for the agency.
In Philip’s eyes, His job promotion was God’s appointment. It created a unique platform for ministry. Through his hiring practices, Philip has helped to bring about reconciliation between the reserve and the town that was once home to a residential school. The city’s residents have witnessed the hard work of the company’s many native employees, and the Native Canadian employees have learned that they can be accepted in a town where they have historically felt disrespected.
We were encouraged when Philip shared stories of God’s powerful work on the Saddle Lake Reserve and saddened to hear of problems—eight people died of drug and alcohol related deaths in a recent ten day period. At the end of his sharing, the members of the prayer group prayed earnestly for Philip with laying on of hands.
We have asked Philip to help us as a church. Recently our church was asked by our Classis (regional group of churches) to host an evening to build on the work started by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the past several years. Philip will be joining the committee tasked to figure out what such an evening might look like for Bethel, if we were to do it. Philip needs churches who will come alongside him in prayer. So perhaps Philip and Bethel will be able to mutually bless each other as we go into the future.
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