Friday, November 18, 2016

A part of the whole

Kinetic sculpture from Carl Zachmann
Last weekend was spent running around and sitting. The Copa Benelux, an indoor soccer tournament organized by the church in Ghent, brings members of the church and friends together to enjoy a day of sport in a christian atmosphere. It is a time to reconnect with members from congregations across Belgium and the Netherlands; there were players from Haarlem, The Hague, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Rotselaar and more.
This past week we visited Eindhoven for their monthly singing evening. This was a time to encourage one another, but also to talk about how best to use our time singing together. How do we help one another? How can we be better song leaders and singers? It was a challenging evening. We hope to share some more of these in the coming months. 
Both of these activities reminded me of how important the individual and the whole is. A soccer team doesn’t work when there is only one person playing. It has to be a team effort – each member of the team doing his or her part. Some are better at shooting a goal, but sometimes the defender pushes through to make or receive a pass and score. And sometimes the striker has to return to defend against an attack. It is a team effort. Those who do not play as a team, do not make it further.
Singing, as God has designed it for us in the church, is also a group effort. The whole point of our singing is only accomplished as a group. We are speaking to one another of the glory of God, encouraging one another to remain true and strong in the faith, sharing our feelings of struggle or joy or comfort. If we do not sing together, we do not accomplish what is possible through the Holy Spirit. And yet we each take part, individually, in this communal song.
We are individuals, created as unique beings, meant to be only part of a whole. We are indeed simply cogs in a machine – or better, as Paul states it in 1 Corinthians – body parts. We must be active as individuals, but we must not forget that our purpose is in the whole. That is when we truly work as a team. That is when we truly make harmony. 

We are so thankful for the opportunities God gives us not only to take part in these activities, but to be reminded of this wonderful truth of His working through us for His purpose. 

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Choosing to grow

We spent this past weekend down in the Ardennes at Fall Camp. About 20 years ago this was a weekend for families and the youth. Then we focused more on the youth. Now, the last two years, we have put the two back together again. It is a challenge to meld activities for parents with kids, little kids, young teens and older teens – but it is worth it.
For years we have been telling our young people the truth of what it means to follow Jesus. And they have been listening. They want to follow, they want to do what is right. When we all get together, it gives us all the opportunity to really put that into practice – and that is what we need! How can I follow if I don’t have any examples? How can I follow if I am not challenged with difficult options (for example: help someone, or go play)?
At our camps, we always have ‘corvee’ (pronounced: core-fay) or kp-duty (kitchen police – washing up after a meal). Everyone signs up for a turn at corvee and sometimes the camp director has to ‘volunteer’ folks for their chance. Not this group. The young people were some of the first ones signed up. They came to me throughout the week to ask: What can I do to help?
Of course it is also nice to be able to get away with your friends and talk about things that interest you. I enjoyed seeing this group encouraging one another. Besides the talk of music, movies, sports and school, there were discussions about struggles, about fasting and praying, about how better to encourage one another. Some of the young people were the example for me, rather than the other way around.
It was only last year that Gijs gave his life to Christ. In the meantime, he has looked at how better to focus his life on this Jesus whom he is following. What things are most important? How to combine work with faith? How to be more active in the local body of Christ? It is exciting to see!
One of the walks this week was to a rock. I tell people when we get there: That is where we are going (looking up to the top of this rock). Some groan. Some want to start clambering up the rock right away. But there is a path – a winding, climbing path. You have to keep climbing. Along the way, you can look down and see how far you have come so far. Once up top, you can gaze below and wonder at how high you have climbed! And then you can turn around and continue up the path – even higher and further.
Perseverance, continuing, looking ahead and up, staying focused, enjoying the journey along the way – this is what I see on weekends like these. It is so good to be part of the family of God and be able to share this, not only with mature brothers and sisters, but also with those who are becoming mature and those who are still looking for the Way. 

The sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 (remember to at least read the whole chapter)