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Learning curves

Learning how to use my new laptop a couple of years ago

Learning how to use my new laptop a couple of years ago

For technologically-challenged people like me, the learning curve of adjusting to a new computer can be almost as stressful as having the old one die. Yesterday my old one died in the morning and my new one arrived in the afternoon. By God’s truly amazing grace, I remained calm and positive all day and late (very late) into the night.

I’d ordered the new computer last Saturday. My old computer was working fine and I didn’t want to spend the money on a new one. And I was busy preparing presentations for multiple speaking engagements, so I certainly didn’t want to take time for even the gentlest learning curve. But because Microsoft no longer supported Windows XP, I needed to make this radical change.

Preparing speaking presentations kept me from taking time to back up recently. I finalized the last presentation on Tuesday and intended to back up like mad on Wednesday.

But Wednesday dawned with the distressing discovery that I couldn’t use my desktop. Apparently a virus infected it. I rejoiced that I could access my speaking presentations from my laptop, and that my new computer was on its way.

It came that afternoon, a day before its earliest anticipated arrival date. I was thrilled when I saw the UPS man carrying a DELL package.

“You won’t believe this,” I told him. “My old computer died this morning!”

“Really?” He grinned. “You must be living right.”

I wanted to tell him it wasn’t so much a matter of me living right as it was the amazing providence of my awesome God, but I didn’t think of it before he was back in his truck. And I still stood in the front hall with my jaw on the floor.

With the help of a talented son, I was able to get the new computer set up and copy files off the old one. Still I wondered about things that aren’t as simple as copying files: remembering passwords, accessing email, and all my favorite internet bookmarks.

This morning I want to share that things are going pretty well. I didn’t know if I’d ever blog again, but here I am! I feel like the Psalmist, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6, ESV).

For weeks, I’ve seen God stretching and blessing me in ways beyond my imaginings. He’s even keeping my technology-bald tires on the road through the new computer learning curve.

wolves circle
When one dog starts to howl, all the neighborhood dogs join in. If this happens late in the evening, roving coyotes may even begin howling.

Psalm 59 brings that eerie chorus to mind by repeating an identical refrain. Verses 6 & 7 in the ESV say:

Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
There they are, bellowing with their mouths
    with swords in their lips—
    for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

Verse 14 echoes 6, while verse 15 depicts the  insatiable appetite of these “dogs”:

Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
They wander about for food
    and growl if they do not get their fill (ESV).

The vivid canine simile represents  the psalmist’s circling enemies and their taunting chants. But the psalmist’s song drowns out his enemies’ howls and growls.

But I will sing of your strength;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love (Psalm 59:16 & 17, ESV).

In an earlier post, I spoke about how David wrote this psalm when he was trapped in his home, surrounded by men Saul had sent to kill him.

We may not have physical enemies prowling outside our homes, but we have spiritual enemies sneaking inside our minds. Ephesians 6:12 calls them the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Christians easily fall into one of two errors about spiritual warfare. We can disregard its reality or we can regard it too much. We need to be aware of it without being preoccupied by it. And an awareness of spiritual warfare doesn’t preclude personal responsibility.

In other words, we can’t use “spiritual warfare” as an excuse for not recognizing negative or proud thoughts and trying to take them captive to Christ:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Corinthians 10:4-6, ESV).
We shouldn’t dwell too much of the reality of spiritual enemies, but we must keep our focus on Christ. God promises:
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4, ESV).
God is in control of even the howling and growling dogs in our lives. Keep your focus on Christ. Sing aloud of God’s steadfast love in the morning. Those are the best ways to drown out chants of any enemy and fill your mind with praise to God.

Walker 1911 bldg-cAs Walker United Reformed Church celebrated its 100th anniversary, its members remembered the past while looking to the future with thankfulness to God.

The theme verse chosen for the occasion was Psalm 145:4, “One generation shall praise Thy works to another, And shall declare Thy mighty acts” (KJV).

A special centennial celebration took place on Sunday, December 8, 2013. Rev. Arthur Besteman, who assisted the church during two pulpit vacancies, led in congregational prayer. Walker’s current pastor, Rev. Corey Dykstra, preached from Deuteronomy 32:1-9 on “Our Faithful Covenant God.” He encouraged the congregation “to remember the life God gives us through His word by the Spirit, and the love He has particularly shown us in Christ. This was the foundation for the church for the last 100 years and is that which we need to continue to hold fast to.”

Following the service, attendees viewed a centennial display featuring church directories, photos of the church and members, the baptism bowl from the original building, commemorative dishes, a wooden Sunday school chair, and minute books from the Ladies Aid and Young People’s societies. Visitors also viewed a newly-commissioned painting of the original building.

Members and former ministers received a centennial book that included historical information and pictures. Former pastors attending were: Rev. Syburn M. Voortman (1966-71), Rev. Joel A. Vander Kooi (1992-2004), and Rev. David N. Klumpenhower (2004-2008). Rev. Wilmer R. Witte (1954-1958), and Rev. Jay A. Wesseling (1986-1991) were unable to attend.

Lunch was followed by the centennial celebration service at 1:30. Rev. Dykstra opened the service. Rev. David Klumpenhower led in prayer and thanksgiving; he then read from Psalm 145 and spoke briefly on its meaning. Rev. Joel Vander Kooi read Belgic Confession Art. 21 and Isaiah 52:1-15 as the basis of his sermon, in which he urged hearers to “Wake Up and Behold the Beauty of the Savior.”

Organizer Ben Veldkamp explains, “We are actually celebrating our centennial one year late—the church was officially organized on December 18, 1912.” He adds, “Our current minister, Corey Dykstra, was hung up in immigration limbo for over two years, and we wanted him to be with us for the celebration.”

Rev. Dykstra was ordained and installed on February 15, 2013.

outside crowdIn September, the congregation dedicated a centennial rock that was placed in front of the church. “Underneath the rock is buried a cylinder with pennies from the birth years of the members of the congregation,” explains Mr. Veldkamp, “or at least most of them—finding pennies from the 1910s and 1920s was difficult.” The theme verse from Psalm 145 is engraved on the rock.

The church is Walker’s oldest church and the only one to bear the city’s name. The current building stands on the original property, just north of where the first structure stood. The initial building’s construction began in 1911, but the church was not officially organized as a Christian Reformed Church until late in 1912.

The 14 charter families were nearly all first-generation Dutch immigrant farmers. Two current families trace their roots back to two of those charter families. Four current families have had five generations attend Walker.

The first man to serve the congregation was a home missionary, Rev. John R. Brink, who visited Walker on weekends from 1913-1916 to teach catechism and preach. Next was Rev. Peter J. Hoekenga (1917-1918) who served 18 months before resigning due to poor health. Rev. J. Wyngarden (1918-1928) was a veteran minister who provided stability for the young, growing congregation.

Rev. Peter Vos (1928-1947) took several voluntary pay cuts and frequently deferred his pay check to help the church meet pressing financial obligations during the difficult Depression years. The congregation grew numerically during that time, which led to a building addition in 1941.

Mr. Veldkamp said that explosive post-war growth in the Walker area in the late 1940s and early 1950s created the need for a subsequent addition, and changed the geographic dynamics from rural to suburban. But burgeoning membership soon stretched the existing building to its limits, and in 1960 construction began on a new building, dedicated in 1961.

“The original building was demolished, although some of its wood was re-used to build houses in the surrounding neighborhood,” says Mr. Veldkamp. “The old church’s bell was placed in the bell tower of the current church, and the cornerstone was embedded in one of the stairwells of the current building.”

bulletin coverWalker’s highest membership was 516 in 1966. Statistics remained in the upper 400s until denominational controversies took their toll.

“From 1985 to 1995,” says Mr. Veldkamp, “the church lost more than one quarter of her members…. Some members found Walker to be too conservative; others were upset that the church remained in the CRC.”

In September of 1997, 73% of the congregation voted to leave the CRC and affiliate with the newly-formed URCNA.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 14 & 15 of the January 1, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Gathering for worship at Phoenix URC

Gathering for worship at Phoenix URC

Phoenix, AZ, named after the mythological regenerating bird associated with the sun, consistently tops the charts of the sunniest US cities. The legendary phoenix can symbolize Christian themes of rebirth and resurrection, and it’s those timeless truths that members of Phoenix URC seek to bring to the almost 1.5 million people living in American’s sixth largest city.

Whenever I write a church profile, I begin by gleaning information from the church’s website. The professionalism and appearance of the Phoenix URC site were striking. Via email, I visited with Pastor Phil Grotenhuis about this and the church’s ministerial perspective.

CR: The church website has a fresh look and a professional feel. What led to your website changes and what kinds of things did you want to convey with the upgrade?

Pastor Phil Grotenhuis

Pastor Phil Grotenhuis

Pastor Grotenhuis: Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not web savvy. According to Pastor Bill De Jong, I once tried turning on a computer by pushing the Dell sticker on the desktop hard drive. Nevertheless, I think I can still convey accurately how we came about reconfiguring our website.

We came to a point in our church’s ministry where we believed that we needed to ask a number of key questions that revolved around the matter of ministerial philosophy such as: Who are we? Why are we here in Phoenix – a city that ranks fifth in the nation in population and number one in geographical expanse?  Where are we at in our church’s ministry?  What are our ministry’s strengths?  What are our ministry’s weaknesses?  Where should we be heading as a church? There appeared to be a consensus that we needed more exposure as a church. Our conviction was that if the light of the gospel and our Reformed heritage was so precious, then we were obligated to let our light shine (Matthew 5:14,15). In the course of discussion on these key questions, a member of our church suggested we take a serious look at our website. We understood that our website was an integral part of our witness and so we needed to “freshen it up,” as they say.

We’re extremely glad we did.

There are a number of things that prompted a retooling of our website. First, we did a search of some URC websites and found that a number of them were quite informational but lacked aesthetic appeal. Secondly, we found that a number of websites lacked pictures of the members and life of the church. The standard home page typically showed a picture of the church building but no true face of the church. On a related note, we found no videos that provided an insight into the ministry and life of the church (at least among the websites we viewed). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, many websites reflected (in my personal opinion) an imbalance between the church as institute and the church as organism. Many websites were weighted in favor of the church as institute – its leadership, doctrinal position, confessional standards, on-line sermons, worship practices. But few focused on the organic life of the body – its community, relationships, ministries, local outreach efforts, opportunities for service. It’s not as if these things were not there; it’s just that they did not seem emphasized to the degree that we wanted for our own website.

As a result of our findings, we set out to create a website that reflected more of a balance between information, doctrine, community, worship, ministries, mission, etc. – all packaged in a fresh, creative, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing way. This required that we go outside our circles (Tipping Point Media) and invest a significant amount of money in making this happen.  We’re generally happy with the results and we have discovered that a large majority of our visitors decided to visit us due to the appeal of our website, particularly the three videos that we feature. Many people have commented that they have found it extremely helpful in learning about who we are, what we believe, what we practice, and what our calling is in the world.

CR: A video on the website explains that Phoenix URC began meeting in a warehouse in 1996, but soon moved to a school in an industrial area where it met for many years. It implies that in recent years the church purchased an older building and renovated it. If that is correct, when did the renovation occur, and in what ways has the building facilitated your congregation’s witness to the city?

Pastor G. In God’s gracious providence, the door was opened for us to purchase an existing church building centrally located in Phoenix. You are correct in saying that our church began meeting in a warehouse and then soon moved into a public school gymnasium where it worshipped for about 15 years. During that time the church committed itself to giving to a building fund that accrued over time. You can imagine that after 15 years the church was itching to have a place they could call “home.” An existing church building opened up a year and a half ago not far from the school where we were worshipping. We chose to purchase the building primarily because of its geographical proximity. It provided a central meeting place for our congregants – many who must drive many miles from all parts of the city (my commute time is 35-40 minutes).

young peopleBut our location also provides access to a number of people in the area and we’re currently in the process of figuring out how best to reach them. Recently, our Rooted group (ages 18-25) offered a mammoth garage sale in our church’s parking lot. We sold various items to fund a mission trip to Honduras, cooked burgers and hot dogs, mingled with people from our neighborhood, and took interested people through a tour of our facility. This provided great exposure for our new church and, quite frankly, many in the neighborhood were thrilled that we were there. A few months later our Rooted group sponsored a pancake breakfast to raise further funds and sent out flyers throughout a mile wide radius of our building. At one point in the breakfast, half of the people were from the neighborhood. You can’t underestimate what God is able and willing to do when you “stick your neck out” and “test the waters.”

CR: Phoenix URC is about 350 miles or about five and half hours from its nearest URC neighbor, Christ Reformed Church in Santee, CA. In what ways do you foster fellowship with other URCNA congregations and with local churches?

Pastor G. Great question. Yes, we are on a bit of an island and we are not the only ones [like this] in the URC. In some respects, this is a healthy thing. It allows us to form our own identity in a unique setting apart from what other URCs are doing. In other respects, there is a sense of isolation that is mitigated somewhat by flying in URC pastors upon occasion for preaching and seminars and also keeping in touch with URCs that share a similar ministerial philosophy. Of course, the leadership also finds fellowship at our regular classical and synodical gatherings. But we have also found that we have been greatly blessed by interactions with other churches. Such interaction allows us to see that the church of Jesus Christ is greater than the URC federation (thus keeping us from a sectarian spirit). At the same time it helps us to gain a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of our federation and its confessional heritage.

CR: How would you describe your church’s viewpoint on ministry or leadership and what are you doing to develop it?

Pastor G. One thing that we are increasingly grappling with is our mission identity. Many conservative churches view mission as addendum to their church’s ministry rather than the very heart and identity of their ministry. The reason for this, in my estimation, is because they don’t see the Scripture through the hermeneutical lens of God’s mission to the world. Jesus has not gathered a people for the sake of themselves but for the sake of the world (John 20:21). When you see the church through the hermeneutical lens of mission, it affects everything you do in the church and drives the church’s ministerial philosophy.

The danger of every local church is to fall unconsciously into a maintenance form of ministry. This easily happens when the church (and especially the leadership) fail to regularly ask themselves key questions about identity and purpose. Thus, at PURC we have committed ourselves as elders to meet twice a year to assess our ministry and address such questions as: Who are we?  Why are we here in Phoenix?  What are our current strengths?  What are our current weaknesses?  Where should we be going in our ministerial calling as a church?  Asking these questions is vital and cultivates intentionality in ministry. It prevents the church from navel gazing, stagnation, suspicion, and inevitable infighting. Positively, it keeps the church moving forward and gives the congregation a sense that they are not only important to each other but the world.

One thing I personally find is that it’s easy to lack creativity in ministry. It’s so easy to plod on from year to year without serious analysis of what the church is doing and without providing creative solutions to perceived shortcomings. At PURC, we have initiated some ministries/activities that have attempted to address various weaknesses. This has been good because it has provided opportunities for service among the members.

two womenHere have been some of our endeavors. We have provided a fresh look to our website. We have recently formed and sent a mission group to Honduras. We are seeking closer ties with New City Phoenix, a PCA ministry to impoverished South Phoenix. We have initiated men’s leadership training with special speakers from around the country. We have begun a discussion about a daughter church plant sometime in the future. We have looked at how we worship and how we can, without compromise, make our worship more intelligible and accessible to people with little or no Christian background. We have examined ways to increase fellowship between believers in the church. We are in the process of forming a mentoring program for new believers. We have initiated a yearly post-worship, congregation-wide celebration of new members – some of them who share stories of how God brought them to faith and/or brought them to our PURC. It’s a great time of encouragement for the church. More could be said. But this gives you an insight into how we (in a very imperfect way!) seek to be faithful in our ministerial calling as a church to the city in which God’s has providentially placed us.

Of course, this kind of ministerial philosophy creates immeasurably more work but the fruit, by God’s grace, is extremely sweet. And we still have much more work to do. But we rest in God’s grace and provision … “(He) is able to do far more abundantly that what we ask or think according to His power at work within us. To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen!” (Ephesians 3:20,21).

The above interview by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-14 of the January 1, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Psalm 58

On Mondays for the last several years, I’ve been trying to post a meditation on a psalm and today’s the day for Psalm 58. Interestingly, Bible Gateway’s “Book of Common Prayer” reading plan for today (March 17, 2014) includes Psalm 58.

Almost four years ago, I looked at Psalm 58 in a post titled “Broken Teeth & Torn Fangs” that talked about its vivid imagery and imprecatory language.  I noted how this psalm thrusts into overdrive Psalm 57′s image of wicked liars as lions.

We see this particularly in verse 6 (ESV):

O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
    tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

I noted that the editors of the Literary Study Bible use the term “satiric” four times in their brief introduction to Psalm 58 and avoid the use of the word “imprecatory” all together. Reading my original post nearly four years later, I’m still not sure warrior David viewed this as satire when he wrote it. If you want a somewhat graphic description of David’s forceful character when he became angry at Nabal, read the King James Version of 1 Samuel 25.

People tend to avoid talking about the imprecatory Psalms, perhaps because they don’t know what to say about them or are embarassed by their apparently vindictive words. But we know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. And that includes imprecatory (or satiric, if you prefer) Psalms.

Psalm 58 pulses with vivid pictures of the wicked who “go astray from birth, speaking lies” (v. 3), comparing these liars to poisonous snakes:

They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
    like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
    or of the cunning enchanter (verses 4 & 5, ESV).

Lies are poison. Liars are like devious snakes who will not listen to charmers or enchanters. Intent on their malicious purpose, they will not listen to reason. They refuse to be controlled by anyone other than their own desires.

After David compares liars to young lions, asking God to break their teeth and tear out their fangs (see v. 6 above), he continues to pray for their destruction with disturbing descriptions (verses 7-9, ESV):

Let them vanish like water that runs away;
    when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
    like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
    whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

Because some of these phrases carry weighty emotional freight, these verse are difficult to read.  And they’re immediately followed by this graphic image:

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
    he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked (verse 10, ESV).

How are we to understand such disturbing language and graphic imagery?

We must first realize that the vengeance depicted here is not our own, but God’s. He has executed it in his perfect and righteous judgment.

In Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, John Calvin writes about verse 10: “It might appear at first sight that the feeling here attributed to the righteous is far from being consistent with the mercy which ought to characterise them; but we must remember that…there is nothing absurd is supposing that believers, under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, should rejoice in witnessing the execution of divine judgments. …when wilful obstinacy has at last brought round the hour of retribution, it is only natural that they should rejoice to see it inflicted, as proving the interest which God feels in their personal safety” (p. 142).

Christians who seek to show Christ’s compassion shouldn’t cringe when reading imprecatory Psalms. These Psalms are not calls for us to perform violence, but are assurances that God will certainly judge and completely destroy those who thwart the cause of his righteousness. Their destruction will witness to the entire world (verse 11, ESV):

Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
    surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

This verse implies that we don’t have to wait until the final Day of Judgment to see the wicked destroyed. We may wait that long to see some forms of justice, but God will also make his justice obvious while people still inhabit the earth.

While we might be tempted to cringe at or reject scriptures expressing imprecation, we can view them correctly when we remember Romans 12:19 (ESV):

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

We are not to seek vengeance. Rather we must rest in God and trust that he will see justice done. We can be thankful that God is a righteous judge who will not allow wickedness to triumph forever. He may destroy evil on this earth, and we can be sure that he will finally eradicate it forever.

And that’s reason to rejoice!

Writers resources

clouds-geeseSusan Olasky regularly posts Web Reads on the WORLD magazine website. Among the fascinating links she posted at the end of this terrific article about Elisabeth Elliot is The Write Life’s list of 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014.

I’ve only had time to scroll through because these days I’m focused on preparing several speaking presentations, but many of the links pique my interest.

For weeks we’ve been seeing geese, flying in formation and heading south. I have no idea why they continue to fly south this time of year, which seems odd and depressing. The picture accompanying this brief post is my attempt to think spring. If you click on the image, you’ll see geese, and they’re flying north.

Bartolome Murillo – The Adoration of the Shepherds (from Wikipedia Commons – image in public domain because its copyright has expired)

During the Christmas season, Reformed Christians enjoy the beauty of the arts more than any other time of year. They decorate their homes with artistic wreaths, creative decorations, fragrant greenery, and nativity sets. They listen to Handel’s Messiah and tap their toes to its rousing Hallelujah Chorus. Many use their God-given talents to craft attractive gifts.

The primary way Reformed Christians celebrate Christmas is in worship. They gather with other believers to praise and pray, but especially to hear the gospel proclamation of the incarnation, the mystery and beauty of God who became a man.

Worship is one thing Reformed Christians do very well. They also do church music well. Many familiar hymns are arrangements of great classical music, and much choir music weaves beautiful melodies with biblical words. While Christmas anthems fill our ears with aesthetic tunes, they thrill our hearts with inspiring truths.

Reformed Christians do many things well. But we—and evangelical Christians in general—sometimes lack experience in fostering appreciation for fine poetry, excellent literature, or engaging art. Frankly, believers from high church traditions often have a more comprehensive understanding of the arts. But shouldn’t a biblical believer acknowledge God’s sovereignty over every area of life, including the fine arts?

At Christmas, we easily integrate our faith with beauty. In coming issues, the Lord willing, we’ll explore more about embracing artistic endeavors and the Christian artist’s responsibility to produce art that is true, lovely, admirable, or excellent. All to the glory of God, who became a man in the greatest revelation of beauty and mystery.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 54 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

McGavran in springPaying back college loans while working at entry level wages can be a challenge for college graduates. But Providence Christian College is committed to helping its students stay in school and pursue their callings after they graduate without the concern of struggling to pay back student loans.

Providence is the first and only college in California to offer the innovative Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) program to undergraduate students. Beginning in the fall of 2014, all incoming freshman will be eligible for what is being called the “Providence Promise.”

Through LRAP, the plan not only will enable students to enroll at Providence, remain in school, and graduate on time, but it will also provide a safety net for repayment of educational loans.

Students will receive an award letter from the LRAP Foundation that specifies upper and lower thresholds used to determine amount of assistance. Graduates who are employed at least 30 hours per week, but whose income is low, will receive pro-rated assistance in paying back their student loans. Assistance will continue until the loans are repaid or the graduate’s income increases above the upper income threshold.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 27 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

Writing book reviews

A few months ago, I blogged about how to Support Your Author Friends. One of the suggestions I mentioned was to review their books.

Elaine Marie Cooper

Elaine Marie Cooper

My new Word Weaver friend, Elaine Marie Cooper, recently posted this entertaining article about How to Write a Helpful Book Review (or How to Keep an Author from Crying). She provides humorous and illustrative “do” and “don’t” examples related to an imaginary book she makes sound so appealing I’d like to read it.

Elaine’s recently released Fields of the Fatherless is available in Kindle and paperback formats at Kindle. This moving story from a young woman’s point of view tells a fictionalized version of historical events surrounding a little-known battle at the beginning of the American Revolution.

I’m thankful for every review people post about my books. I’ve received some incredibly humbling ones in magazines and online. But I’d certainly appreciate more. If you’ve been blessed by my devotional, A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God, would you take a moment to head over to its Amazon page and post a review? Many people have personally expressed appreciation for Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss. If you’ve found it helpful, would you consider sharing that in a review? You don’t have to be a writer or a publishing professional. Any reader can post a review.

It’s easy to do. Simply state the name of the book and author and relate why you liked it or how it helped you. You don’t have to write a long review; in fact, shorter is better. A review as brief as twenty-five words can pack a powerful punch. On Amazon, you also have the opportunity to rate the book by giving it from one to five stars (five stars being best). 

If you’d like a better idea of how to write a review, check out Elaine’s post for helpful suggestions.

I encourage you to post reviews of all the books you appreciate. Your authors friends will thank you for it!

Bestemans-cIn August of [2013], Rev. Arthur Besteman gave up preaching. He’d hoped to continue until he was 85, the age at which his wife’s father retired, but he was 80 and felt that it was time. He still goes out on pastoral visits and conducts funerals. In fact, the same week he gave up regular preaching he officiated at two funerals.

Rev. Besteman originally retired almost 15 years ago, at age 66, but he found retirement didn’t suit him. In God’s providence, he was asked to be Stated Supply for the Kalamazoo URC for a year, then at the URC in OliveCenter for 20 months, and then two times each at Eastmanville URC and Walker URC.

Rev. Besteman received his B.D. from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1958 and did one year of graduate study at Westminster Theological Study in Philedelphia. He accepted a call to the CRC in Leota, MN.

“All through seminary I had hoped that somewhere was a small church I could serve,” he says. “I was led to accept the largest church to which I received a call. The church was over a hundred families and had been without a pastor for twenty months. It taught me to depend upon the grace of God. Later on when I had five funerals in ten days, it was the grace of God that carried me through. The first service I conducted after my ordination was that of a 3½ year-old who was killed the day I was examined. It taught me to depend upon the Lord, a lesson which served me throughout my ministry.”

Rev. Besteman served his first five years in Leota as a bachelor, but people were constantly introducing young women to him. When some good friends suggested that the next time he was in Grand Rapids he have coffee with their acquaintance, Audrey Honderd, who worked as a case worker there, he thought, “What would a cup of coffee hurt?”

The two were married in September of 1964 and now have three children and nine grandchildren. One daughter teaches in the Dominican Republic, but her family recently returned to the States when their child was diagnosed with leukemia and subsequently spent 17 days in intensive care. The Bestemans are thankful that retirement allows them to spend more time with their daughter and her family, despite the reason for their return.

Following the Besteman’s marriage in 1964, Rev. Besteman went on to serve several congregations in Michigan: Messiah in Hudsonville from 1964-1972; North Street in Zeeland until 1986, when he accepted a call to the Beverly CRC in Wyoming. That church became an independent congregation affiliated with the ARC in 1992 and part of the URCNA in 1996. He retired in 1999 and began a new avenue of service to the churches.

The joys during his 55 years of ministry have been the “privilege of proclaiming the gospel of salvation” and “seeing that gospel highlighted in the lives of so many who made their profession of faith.”

“Another highlight was the establishment of the United Reformed Church,” he adds. “Having served on two boards of the denomination with which I was formerly affiliated, it was a great privilege to serve several terms on the Board of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and know that the members were of like mind and theology.”

He has found it rewarding to see the Spirit’s work in people’s lives.

“The greatest reward was the faithful attendance of people of all ages and of all backgrounds to the preaching of the Word,” he says. “It was rewarding to see people growing in the faith.”

But ministry is never without its struggles. He says, “The biggest challenge of the ministry was to remain faithful to the gospel. Closely related to that was the challenge of loving the many different kinds of people who made up the church of Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Besteman believes the most crucial issue facing the church today is remaining true to the Word of God: “It is such a temptation to adopt the various methods that the church world adopts to attract members. And it goes from one attempt to another with no one thing working for long.”

When asked what advice he’d give young ministers today, he provides a list that prioritizes preaching.

“Young pastors have to be convinced that the power of the pulpit is in the preaching of the Word.” He adds, “The preaching of the Word alone can satisfy the hungering of the human heart. Young pastors also must be careful whom they marry. A pastor must be sure that his wife is willing to share his time and concern with others. Young pastors must also know when they should end their sermons. They don’t need to say everything they know in a single sermon. They must learn to respect their elders.”

Rev. Besteman also offers some insight for lay people: “The person in the pew must demand from the pulpit that the Word of God is preached. The person in the pew must demand that the sovereignty of God is proclaimed. Nothing less than the Reformed faith.”

After an intense stint of chemotherapy and a heart attack in recent years, Rev. Besteman is thankful to still be able to do the Lord’s work. He says, “It amazes me that the Lord has entrusted me with the responsibility and privilege of proclaiming the gospel for all these years.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 26 & 27 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal as part of the series “Shared Wisdom: Tapping into the experience of seasoned ministers.” 

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