By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
Wow! That’s harsh. My mom! She was not that bad.
I hope you are reading the Minor prophets with us this summer. If not you might miss some gems like this one. “So I will destroy your mother”.
Why my mom? Check out Hosea’s reason...
“You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother— my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” (Hosea 4:5-6 NIV)
Four reasons are given for destroying your mom (as well as rejecting the priests and ignoring your children).
Well, that is not the intent of this passage. The straying of the Israelites (priests and children) will result in their rejection and being ignored. This results in the destruction of the nation of Israel, the mother. So, this is not about my mom or yours. What a relief, for me and my mom.
Yet, this does not exclude us as God’s children. Yes, we live under grace. Jesus died and forgave our sins. We live in a new reality! But that does not give us a license to sin.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?... What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2, 15 NIV)
There was and is a lack of knowledge. I’m sure you have learned a lot about viruses and politics over the the past few months. How many articles have you read? How many hours have you spent reading headlines? How does that compare to your efforts to learn about God?
There was and is an ignoring and rejecting of God’s word too. Not only do we fail to read and listen to God, but we tend to respond with apathy. What’s the last biblical command you intentionally sought to obey? Sacrificially loving your spouse? Instantly obeying your parents? Blessing your kids (spiritually, not materially)? See our Connecting Well series.
The challenge is clear: don’t be found ignorant or ignoring. You have a Heavenly Father who longs to walk with you, to give you hope, peace, and direction. Will you dig into God’s word this summer? Will you walk in his grace and truth?
Summer Minor Prophets reading plan, along with video overviews and our sermons can be found here... https://www.altoreformedchurch.org/minor-prophets.html
Heavenly Father, help us learn. Teach us of your love. Help us walk in your path and never stray from your truth.
By Kevin Van Wyk
In April, I wrote of the good that could and should come from the church being scattered. I explained how the early Church responded to being scattered by sharing their faith with the world. (Act 8:4, 11:21) This was a transforming moment in church history. The focus was taken off comfort and security. The church or churches were forced to step beyond their walls and circle of friends to share their faith in new places with new people and in new ways.
It’s happened again!
And now the church is being invited back to Jerusalem. The doors are open to return. But before you run back to “normal,” consider the blessing and opportunities before us.
We stand as a people of hope in a culture of fear.
We stand as a people of love in a culture of hate.
We stand as a people of truth in a culture of deception.
Let’s be honest, we are easily sucked into the fear, hate, and deception. We are deceived by media. We share the link, only to find the information was half-true. We are confronted with angry posts using deception to bash our ideology, and our hate for the other side boils over. We see the suffering of the innocent and fear we, too, may suffer. We see the abuse of power and fear the loss of control and freedom.
But, we are people of hope, love, and truth!
As you return to the building or stay home to worship, go into the (social media) world, shining some light on the fear, hate, and deception. Bring the hope, love, and truth of Jesus into the lives of everyone you meet, always watching that you avoid fear, hate, and deception.
Specifically, I encourage you to pray our core values (summarized in three words). Grace. Truth. Mission.
Grace. Lord, soften my heart. Break my prideful heart and fill it with grace, love, mercy, and thankfulness.
Truth. Lord, open my eyes. Help me see truth in your Word and your world; understanding both the Bible and the reality of others.
Mission. Lord, move my feet. Give me courage to act when I have the opportunity to bless others.
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
Some of the staff received emails claiming to be from me and asking for gift cards to give to the staff. They made it appear I had written it and attempted to deceive the staff into doing what seemed like a good thing.
A member’s computer was hacked and locked until they paid the hacker.
Yet another member has been deceived into sending money to a relative, who was apparently arrested. They involved two different people in the phone call: someone to impersonate the relative and then another to impersonate an attorney.
I’ve been deceived by a mechanic, well probably more than one, but I wasn’t bright enough to notice. The one I speak of convinced me the best route to go would be to give him the car to cover towing fees. He turned around and sold it for $1200. Ouch!
There is virus, other than Covid-19, in our world, and it’s just as destructive and troubling. Evil is present. The “Ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2) is spreading lies and deception everywhere we look.
So be aware, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) However, we are to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) When you get that call, see that email, read that Facebook post, or hear the “truth” on the news, please ask if could this be deception.
Step back from any decision and pray. Ask God for wisdom and direction.
It’s sad that these scams are increasing during difficult times.* Who preys on the hurting and vulnerable? Who crushes the one on their knees? Who slaps those who weep?
Lord, may your Spirit convict those who prey on the innocent. Humble them that they may repent and reconcile their wrongs. Help us see our own evil ways, to repent, and chose the better path. Reveal deception and enable us to speak truth in love.
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
Some are arguing that separation of church and state, and that the instruction to "not forsake meeting together" in Hebrews 10 calls the church to continue meeting on Sunday mornings. This response to COVID-19 rejects…
Continuing to meet physically together also rejects our understanding of suffering. As Christians we believe God permits Satan to cause suffering (Job 1), but that God promises to bring good out of these difficulties for those who love God (Romans 8:28). This may be the difficult teaching (John 6:60) which caused many to turn away from Jesus. (At least in part, the idea of eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood implies sharing in his sufferings, yet continuing to obey by faith.) Living in physical isolation is a form of suffering. The earlier church experienced this and has a valuable lesson to teach us.
In Acts 8 we read about the persecution of the believers following the martyrdom of Stephen. Thousands of believers were driven from their homes, businesses, and home-churches into other communities. They did not go into hiding, but boldly stepped into a new reality: dispersion into the world. Check out what Luke says…
“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:4
We are in much the same situation. (Well, very different too.) Our new reality does not permit carrying on as usual. There is no more crying out, “but we’ve never done it that way before.” This is a new day and God is calling us to go and preach the good news of Jesus. I urge everyone to step up intentional efforts to love our neighbors.
Call a neighbor; someone next door, a shut-in, a mom with kids at home, a friend you’ve not heard from lately, a healthcare worker, a college student, a kid… Every one appreciates a call! I recommend you ask them how they are doing, share a fitting bible verse, and/or pray for them.
Don’t wait for people to call you! Take the initiative!
Check out what Luke says happened when the churches dispersed…
“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:21
Lord, may your hand be upon us too. May you instill in us a faith that crushes fear and a love for others that casts fear from others. Use us in this time of need to bring people from fear to faith! Amen!
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
All three of my kids are playing on basketball teams. The moments I love the most are when I see players diving, scrambling, and wrestling over a loose ball. For those without knee pads, floor burns are a painful badge of honor. I love the hustle, the dedication, and the passion! It’s inspiring to see great effort on the court.
So what ball are you chasing? What consumes your time, money and energy? This might be something completely out of hand and destroying your soul, family, and finances. Something like an addiction to gambling, porn, alcohol, or drugs might come to mind. You might be chasing down something that has the potential for great good like academics, sports, music, or carpentry.
Paul tells us “Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people…” (Col. 3:23 NET) We are told to work wholeheartedly, with passion and drive. If you know what ball you are chasing, go after it in a way that glorifies God. Your intense work ethic honors God and reveals Jesus to others whether you are on the court, in the shop, on the stage, or in the home. We should be people who go enthusiastically after the ball!
Whether you are chasing hard after some ball or uncertain what ball you are to go after, I have a challenge for you.
It’s time to chase a new ball: God! Check out what the Bible says about Jehoshaphat: “His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.” (2 Chronicles 17:6) Notice, he got rid of the worldly balls that were leading he and others away from God. Before you begin a full pursuit of God, you should consider pushing the pause button on somethings that are consuming hours of your day.
However, I want us to focus on devoting ourselves to a new ball… the ways of the Lord. Practically speaking the New Testament gives lots of instructions on how to do this chase after God. Consider two verses…
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
"When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching…” Acts 18:5-6
Let me make these things memorable with the current theme
We must devote ourselves to the BALL.
Bibling - apostles’ teaching (1 Tim. 4:13)
Asking - prayer (Col. 4:2)
Loving - fellowship (Rom. 12:10)
Leading lost to Jesus - preach (Romans 15:20)
How are you doing on those four things? Will you join me in wholeheartedly pursuing the BALL?
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
Do you remember climbing up a huge pile of snow and shoving your friends and siblings off? It was great fun! Even getting pushed off was fun as you landed in the snow and slid down. There are some great hills right now just off the church parking lot… maybe I should challenge the deacons tonight at their meeting :-)
Speaking of hills, I was recently reminded I’m on top of the hill and turning 50. I was so grateful to receive an early birthday card from Agnesian Healthcare! What a wonderful healthcare system to send a card. Then I read the inside and thought, “the gift of a colonoscopy was not what I was looking for.”
Thanks for the hard truth. I’ve peaked. I’m over the hill. I’m halfway to 100, as my daughter likes to put it.
God reminds me…”Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4) What a great promise from God. He will carry me when I can’t go on. He will sustain me when I lack nourishment. He will rescue me from my sin and this world of sin.
Not only do we have these promises, but we have this challenge… “Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.” (Psalm 71:18 NLT) The psalmist Asaph is not done, retired, and useless. He has a purpose, a calling he cannot ignore.
I have no desire to be a king of some man-made hill. I want to serve the King of kings and see the next generation stop pushing each other off the hill and start putting Jesus on the hill. May the last half of my life not be about what I like, what I want, or what I think I deserve. May it be about giving my all for the sake of the next generation, that they might know the grace and truth of God.
If you have some gray hairs, or maybe no hairs like me, will you join me in giving all you have to the mission of Jesus, in letting go of the pursuit of comfort and happiness; crushing the “me first” mentality of our culture, and living like Jesus really is your Lord?
Here’s my hope…
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
It’s 2020 and the world has drastically changed since I was a kid. Ponder some of the conveniences we have today which did not exist that long ago.
At the same time, pornography, sex trafficking, violent crimes, and depression are destroying lives everywhere. Our government is at war against itself, while putting us trillions of dollars in debt. We are more stressed than ever, but more pampered than ever. Our denomination can’t even figure out the divisive culture. How do we navigate this troubled world?
Well, the Apostle Paul had some exceptional help for the church in Ephesus and it still applies to us. Over the next few months we will dig into his letter and connect it with your life. Join me Sunday for “Change: What Happens When Jesus Shows Up.” If you have some time, read through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
This is the week when every business seeks to get some of your money. What once was one day of crazy sales has blossomed into a full month of “Black Friday” deals. Cyber Monday started in 2005 and Small Business Saturday started in 2010. No doubt most of us will be convinced this is the time to buy something we don’t really need.
Even non-profit organizations have tapped into this, effectively utilizing buyers remorse with “Giving Tuesday” which started in 2012. If you splurge over the weekend, you can ease your guilt by giving to a worthy cause on Tuesday.
As a pastor, it’s hard to watch. I wonder - How much expendable income is out there? How much will be spent on unnecessary purchases? How much will be given out of guilt?
And most troubling, how should the Church respond to this trend? Shall we start promoting Sacrificial Sunday? People who have not given all year can ease their guilt with a generous gift. Those that faithfully tithe would be challenged to do more.
However, I see some problems with this approach. First and foremost is the motivation for giving. Appeasing guilt is not what should motivate believers to be generous, but a thankful heart does lead to generosity. Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”[a]
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9)
I hope you did not skip over that passage. It is full of wisdom for us. Your giving to the church matters and the attitude in which you give matters, too. Know that our deacons work hard to steward our resources well that we do all we can to make disciples, providing teaching in many different ways, assisting those in need, and supporting missionaries around the world.
While I am not calling for a Sacrificial Sunday, I do want to urge you to consider what it might look like for you to give from a cheerful heart.
I’m kind of, sort of, committed to my Fidelity retirement planning. Once or twice a year, I check to see how things are going. Occasionally, I make a change to the investments. I must confess to Fidelity that Steph and I have been seeing someone else. Don’t worry, we aren’t pulling funds out, but Edward Jones is getting a bit more attention than you are. I’m kinda, sorta, committed.
There are a host of things I am kinda, sorta, committed to... Exercise is another. I did really well for two weeks. I used a stepper thing for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, but then I got sick and took a vacation. Work piled up quickly, and now I have no desire to exercise.
What about you? What are you kinda, sorta, committed to?
At the dedication of the temple, Solomon prays a looooong prayer (1 Kings 8:23-53). Then he stands and proclaims these words to the people...
8:56 "Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. 8:57 May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. 8:58 May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. 8:59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, 8:60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. 8:61 But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time." (1 Kings 8:56-61)
What a great statement of praise... God has helped us (56). Then a statement of hope... May God keep us on track and continue to help us (57-59). Then a statement of purpose... May the result be that ALL PEOPLE KNOW GOD IS LORD. Finally, a clear challenge... God’s help and mission rests on our being fully committed to Him!
I hope you are saying, “I’m all in God! I am yours. I’ll do whatever you call me to do.”
If that is you, I want to flesh that out a bit... What does it mean to be committed to following Jesus?
#1. We commit to daily prayer and Bible reading. You have God’s Word readily available. Are you reading and studying his words with a humble, prayerful heart?
#2. We commit to obeying God’s instructions. This includes discipling others, witnessing to the lost, gathering in worship, giving to His mission, and serving with our God-given abilities.
#3. We commit to His body, the church. Our membership vows and our leadership covenant lay out this commitment well. We commit to following Jesus with other believers, to love them, to receive correction, and to correct our fellow believers.
Have you committed to partnering with us as a member (see The Discovering Membership Packet at the information desk)? Have you committed to leading well by signing our leadership covenant (available at the information desk)? Solomon makes it clear that it’s not perfection God is looking for, but a passionate commitment! So, are you kinda, sorta, committed, or fully committed?
I urge you take the step of commitment today! Partner as a member or sign our Leadership Covenant so all people may know the Lord is God!
What’s up with the Task Force, staffing, and the RCA? Join us for the congregational meeting on Nov. 10 for details.
It’s a common phrase we use… “Where does the time go?”
Most often, we say it with a sense of frustration, looking at all we hoped to accomplish. Now, the year is gone, and we still have a long list of “I-wish-I-hads.”
What’s on your “I-wish-I-hads” list?
Spent time with the grandkids,
weeded the garden,
met with an old friend,
remodeled the bathroom,
taken your spouse on a date,
got a bachelor’s degree,
bought a car, or
read your Bible…
I have an ever changing to-do list. It contains sermons to write, meeting agendas to prepare, tasks to complete… Then I have a list of people I want to connect with. I count about 28 people on that list right now. In spite of averaging nearly 60 hours a week of ministry over this past month, many of the to-dos and people end up on my “I-wish-I-hads” list.
While Solomon tells us “There is a time for everything…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), there is not enough time for everything. Solomon also said, “the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.…” (Ecclesiastes 8:5 NIV). The NCV Bible says it this way, “A wise person does the right thing at the right time.” So where do we get wisdom? Solomon’s wisdom came from God, and James tells us we simply need to ask for it.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
I hope you will join me in asking God for his wisdom each day that we might only do what He wants us to do for that day. With that, OUR to-do’s and OUR “I-wish-I-hads” will simply take a back seat to God’s “I-want-you-to’s”.
If you think you’re busy, you need to check out “Balancing Life's Demands” with Chip Ingram on RighNow Media. It’s a bit dated, but helpful. Signup at www.altoreformedchurch.org/resources.
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