STEPPING INTO THE NEW YEAR WITH PURPOSE
We have reached the end of another year. This will be the occasion of a lot of parties as people say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in 2018.
Parties are a good thing. Jesus attended them Himself. Developing rich relationships through celebrating and laughing together is a healthy, Biblical practice.
Unfortunately for many, celebrating will amount to little more than an escape from routine. They will cheer the moving of the secondhand that marks the end of one year and the start of the next, just because that is what we do at this time of year.
As Christians we see a deeper meaning in this year end milestone. It reminds us that all of history is in God’s hands, and His timetable for planet earth is unfolding apace. The major turning point of history was reached when Jesus conquered sin on the cross; so, the tide of history has now turned. Nothing can stop Jesus Christ from ushering in the triumphant, concluding chapter of our world’s story.
That means that we can welcome in the new year with hope. Our lives are meaningful. Our hours and days are important.
Because of this, we should use our days on earth wisely. We are to work and witness; love and learn; reconcile and rejoice all with a view to pleasing our Lord and Saviour whom we will see sooner than any of us realize.
Let’s “fix our eyes on Jesus” and go into the new year with joy and purpose. –Pastor Tom
A Christmas Card
Dear Bethel Church Family,
I would like to take the time to write a Christmas card to each of you individually, but that is not possible. So, I am taking this week’s Pastor’s Corner to write one Christmas card to all of you together.
I am deeply thankful for you all. I get a lot of joy out of ministry, and this is in large part, because of you. There is a lot of love her for God, for one another, and for others outside the community and it is wonderful to serve among you.
I pray that you will experience the peace and presence of the One who was born on Christmas Day to be your Saviour. (May that be especially true for you if you are suffering from an illness, are dealing with difficult personal circumstances, or are missing a loved one this season.)
God bless you all,
“In the Bleak Midwinter”
During this Advent season, I have been blessed by the worship leading of our teams at Bethel. One song they have lead us in is “He Shall Reign Forevermore” by Chris Tomlin. It is a catchy song that reveals God’s majesty. It is based upon the 1872 poem “In the bleak Midwinter” written by Christina Rossetti. Rossetti’s poetry wrestled with faith, doubt, and the divine love of Christ.
While she was a reclusive woman, she had a warm and loving heart. When she was not creating art, you would find her ministering to the poor and “down and outers” of her day. Her Christmas poetry speaks of the light of Christ breaking into a dark world crying out for grace. Read the last stanza of “In the Bleak Midwinter”:
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.
Have you finished your Christmas shopping? For some, gift-giving this time of year is a routine annoyance, but for others it is very enjoyable. My wife Jessica loves gifts. Her love language is gifts. She delights in finding just the right gift for just the right person. Have you ever asked the question: “What gift can I give God for Christmas? Or what would be the perfect gift for Him?” I know I have. This poem, and our song based on it, speaks truth to us.
What can you give to an all-powerful God? Everything that we could possibly give Him, He has given us first. To God belongs all the wonders, riches and beauty of the whole universe. Despite this, what we CAN give Him is our hearts. As David wrote “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). This Christmas may our hearts be fixed upon the Newborn Savior of the world who “in the bleak mid-winter” of our souls has come to bring light.
TALKING ABOUT THE CHURCH PLANT
Our Church Plant Team has received a lot of great feedback since our recent congregational meeting. Here is what many of you had to say about our proposal to start a new church in Fort Saskatchewan:
· Many people have expressed to the Church Plant Team that they believe the new church proposal is on target. These words spoken in private, along with the positive results of the straw vote taken at the congregational meeting, suggest that a significant majority of Bethelites believe we should move forward with this plan.
· One Fort Saskatchewan couple who recently joined Bethel expressed their excitement that a church might be planted in their home town. They are eager to take part in it.
· One person pointed out that other Christian institutions will be having capital campaigns in the next year and that we should consider this in our planning for fundraising.
· One person had a challenging experience as part of a church startup and wanted us to know the difficulties that can be part of an effort like this.
· A few people said that by the time of our congregational vote in June, our team should define precisely the dollar amount we hope to raise in a drive and show how this money would be used.
Our team appreciated all of this feedback. Thank you! Here are the steps our team plans to take next:
· We are hosting an information meeting in Fort Saskatchewan on January 31 for people considering being part of the new church. This meeting will allow us to test our belief that a solid core of 10-15 families can be gathered for the project.
· As a team we have broken up into four subgroups. These subgroups have these aims: 1) determine the model of church we hope to plant, 2) create a five year budget for the new church, 3) lay out the time table for the launch, and 4) define the new church’s vision.
Please pray for this effort—your prayers are vital. We would also love to hear from you. You can go to the Bethel Church home page and locate the Church Plant logo to give us your feedback. –Pastor Tom
THE PURE AT HEART PHENOMENON
The Pure at Heart events have swept through the church like a wave, touching hearts and lives. We trust they will leave good things in their wake.
Each event was well attended. (About one hundred and seventy-five people came for the viewing of Over 18. One hundred and ten men came to last Saturday’s breakfast, and around one hundred and twenty women attended Wednesday evening’s dessert night). The audiences ranged from teens to seniors. Clearly, the topic of porn is one that touches people of all ages.
The men’s event seemed to be especially impactful. Comments on the feedback forms were almost universally positive. The men expressed things like: “Effective speaker.” “Great content.” “Let’s do something like this again.” “I appreciate Bethel’s leaders for being courageous enough to take on this topic.”
Of course, our efforts as a congregation cannot stop with three events, if we are serious about becoming a church that is “pure at heart”. These events are just the start of a journey. Dealing with the risks and temptations of pornography will require, on each of our parts, daily vigilance, prayer, a willingness to give and receive support.
In this respect I believe we have reason to be encouraged. Both the level of engagement in the events, and the feedback expressed to the event organizers, suggest that our congregation intends to fight this battle in God’s strength.
The Pure at Heart Team will be following up with those who requested more information or said they would like to be in an accountability group or indicated that they want to support people struggling with porn. If you have any feedback or want further help, we welcome you to contact any of our team’s members.
--Pastor Tom (for the Pure at Heart Team: Mark Dubbeldam, Robyn Dubbeldam, Rene Hebers, Melanie Reinders, and myself)
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