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For the Pastor’s Post this week I would like to give you all a brief update on my life. I’ve been gone for two weeks – but it feels longer than that and I am happy for the opportunity to reconnect!

Every single thing that happened this year - in our personal life, in the church of Christ, or in the world around - happened “according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).

The Christmas program this past Sunday evening was a delightful reminder to me of the goodness of God revealed in the wonder of children. I

These past few days have been very rewarding. I’m in southern California for Home Missions Board meetings and I’ve told several people that this has been the most enjoyable Home Missions meeting I’ve ever attended (and I’ve been on the Board for 16 years).

Friends, I’m excited to think about what the Lord might do, by His power and for His glory, among and through us, as we continue to grow in intentional discipleship, missional outreach, and church planting. I believe that Harvest’s best days are yet to come – and that’s very exciting.

My lasting impression of Montevideo is the tremendous need for the gospel there.

This past Monday my family (brothers and sisters) got together for Mom’s 83rd birthday. It was a perfect summer night for a back yard buffet – and one more chance to be with my brother Randy. A highlight of the evening was sharing stories and memories of Randy; things we particularly loved about him. It was a blessing to be able to do that with him there, to listen and join in. It was evident that Randy is a unique blessing to our family. Always has been.

Many people experience PVB because they hate their job or their ‘normal’ life. That’s not the case for me at all. I love my work and I feel incredibly blessed in my normal life. It’s just not home – not in that deep sense. Normal life, in this present evil age with a not-yet-perfected self, is a life filled with stress, conflict, loss, fear, weariness, anxiety, etc. Normal work is filled with thorns and thistles – and something deep within me longs for beauty and for deep body and soul rest. That’s why I cry a little when I must leave the place where I experience a taste of it. It feels like leaving what I was made for.

The month of June is upon us and, with it, the celebration of America’s true public religion – Pride. Our nation, with much of the western world, has committed itself wholesale to the worship of unlimited sexual license and the aggressive evangelizing of the LGTBQ+ agenda. This is not about politics, or social policy, or human rights. At its core, this is purely about worship. It is demonically driven rebellion against the Living God and His good creation. This is man “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” and God, in judicial response, giving our society “over to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). Pride Month is man shaking his fist in the face of God – and God revealing His just and awful response to that wicked pride.

We are people who worry. We worry about our health, about the kids, about our job, about our relationships, the economy, the country, the world. I, for one, am an expert worrier. I can find something to worry about in just about any situation, no matter how good it might be.

Spring is nearly too much for me. The sheer thrill of warm sunshine, the wonder of growing things, the glory of flowering trees and the smell of warm earth; I can barely contain myself. I feel like a 5-year-old boy on my birthday about to open the presents with cake and ice cream waiting. It’s too good and too much, an overload of the joy-capacitor. The weight of the glory strains what this mortal can handle. I can’t help but think that this experience is a small foretaste of the first day in heaven.

I’m convicted by how easily contemporary Christians (me included) act like these fruits are nice-but-not-necessary features of the Christian life. We can all recite them, but how many of us intentionally pursue them? How many of us are deeply conscience stricken when they are not evident in our life? I know some of us are, and I’m deeply thankful for you. But, I feel like my vision of piety has been heavy in how-to-respond-to-God and insufficiently focused on the fruit of the Spirit – which is heavy in how we respond to people.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light upon my path.” That’s how I memorized Psalm 119:105 as a young boy at Lamont Christian School. It’s hard to describe how much more precious that truth has become 50-some years later. I say that because I feel increasingly disoriented in today’s society. So much has changed.

I read a book on my most recent study break that has really gotten my attention. I’ve begun sharing it with the staff here, and hope to do the same with the Session. It’s not a “Christian” book – but it applies directly and powerfully to how we live together, as followers of Christ, in our families and our church.

Conservative Christians are increasingly being caught up in the political/cultural issues and less zealous for Biblical ones.

Covenant theology is just the conviction, born out of the Scripture, that God always deals with mankind according to covenants – and those covenants are made with individuals AND their descendants.

Election season is an opportunity for the world to reveal its true colors: its lust for power, its hatred of those who disagree, its rejection of reason and discussion, and its delusional conviction that their future well-being is wholly dependent on the outcome of the next election. The whole scene is the sad spectacle of a world that has lost its way because it has lost its sense of God. That is our current cultural context - and it is a tremendous opportunity for the church to be visibly different. It’s a chance for us to show our true colors.

Does your work really matter? Yes, it pays the bills and maybe provides a helpful service to clients – but is your work significant in light of eternity? Does it matter for the kingdom of God? Are there some callings that have more eternal significance than others? For instance, do pastors and missionaries have a ‘higher’ calling? Is our work more significant for eternity? Most Christians have a hard time answering those questions. This is a shame because our forefathers knew the answers very well!

In our progressive, post-Christian culture, Christianity is one giant “No” to things our neighbors deem as essential to personal happiness and fulfillment. Promiscuity, homosexuality and transgenderism are not appealing in and of themselves. The appeal is solely rooted in the conviction that they are a “yes” to human freedom and self-determination. And, in the mind of our neighbors, that makes Christianity a hateful “no” to human flourishing.

It struck me again this past Sunday that the pastor has the best seat in the house. I wish you could see what I see as I look out over the congregation on a Sunday morning. What do I see?

I’m reading an excellent book called Pastoral Graces by Lee Eclov, in which he says that God’s children have a Spirit-given homesickness about them. “God gives his people a homing instinct when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us.”

I have been thinking about death lately. Not morbidly. I know death is a conquered foe. But it is still an inevitable reality. And the Bible says that there is something about “numbering our days” that produces wisdom (Ps 90:12). What is the wisdom of remembering our own mortality?

I’m making my way through Ecclesiastes recently in my devotions. It reads like a lament: a man with “eternity in his heart” grieving the fleeting nature of life in this world. How can things matter when nothing lasts?

It was a great plan. As you know, I was scheduled to speak this past weekend, near Yosemite, for the Family Camp of the Presbytery of Northern California. I spoke there about 10 years ago and greatly enjoyed the people there and I was really looking forward to being with them again. The plan was to speak on the book of Job. It was hard work trying to capture the essence of the book in a weekend of lectures but I was pleased with what I had come up with.

A few weeks ago, in my sermon on Ephesians 5:1-2, I spent a little time talking about culture – specifically how Dutch West Michigan culture is defined by lots of good things – like family and apple pie, but also by some not-so-good-things, like a lack of humility and love. Cultures come with blind spots because we assume that “the-way-we-do-life” is normative and biblical. (The blinding power of culture is clearly seen historically, for instance, in the church’s complicity with slavery and, later, the Jim Crowe laws.) So my question is this: in what ways might our West Michigan, predominantly Dutch, middle-to-upper class, Reformed, married, white culture impact our ministry? In what ways might our “West Michigan culture” hinder a truly “gospel culture”?

There will be messages preached all over the country this week using the death of Christ to affirm the value of the listener. Those messages will fundamentally misrepresent the Scripture and miss the point of the cross. Good Friday and Easter did not happen to magnify the worth of fallen man.

We all assume that we are pretty good at discerning truth from error – but the age of the internet has made fools of us all. The fact is the internet is better at lying than we are at discerning. Algorithms are able to determine the stories we want to hear and then craft false narratives we happily consume and pass along. You would hope that Christians would be immune to this – but sadly, we aren’t.

I’d like to be that guy - the one who is not afraid of bad news. The one whose heart is firm and steady. How do you get to be a person like that?? Well, it’s right there in the text – “his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord". That’s it. That’s the gold. The biblical antidote to fear is “trusting in the Lord”. The way to have a “firm heart” in the midst of troubling times and even trembling mountains (Ps 46:3) is to lean on the rock of God’s faithfulness and stand on the unshakeable foundation of His promises.

I read an article last week by Rick Perhai, an American missionary who had decided to remain in Ukraine despite the danger of an imminent Russian invasion. What I found particularly compelling was the idea that, when life gets scary, God’s people have a refuge the world knows nothing of – and which we ourselves only discover, in truth, when “all around our soul gives way”.

Do you know what the leading cause of death is in the world? Last year it accounted for 42.5 million deaths. That’s more than the deaths caused by heart disease (18M.), cancer (9.5M.), and respiratory diseases (4M.) combined. Care to guess what it is? Abortion.

I heard from several people that the sermon this past Sunday night was a great blessing to them. It seems to have touched a nerve. The name of that nerve is “fear”. We all have it. We would all like to be rid of it. So, when God says “Fear not” and gives us glorious reasons for comfort and courage, it matters.

What is the best gift you received this Christmas? Well, it might surprise you – but I already know! The best Christmas gift any mortal man could ever receive is the one we’ve obtained in “Immanuel”, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). “God with us” is precisely what we lost in the fall. Adam’s sin forced him, and all his descendants, from the Garden of Eden, the paradise of God’s presence. Ever since, mankind has struggled in the weary wilderness of life “without hope and without God” (Ephesians 2:12). To live apart from God is the definition of “lost”. To do so eternally is the definition of hell. There is no greater loss, no greater deprivation, no great calamity in time or eternity than to be “without God”.

I’ve had a new experience this past month. A first for me. Three men I know, all close to my age, passed away unexpectedly – all within three weeks. They were all believers in Christ. They each left behind heartbroken yet hopeful family and loved ones. Their life in this world is done. And, in some ways, it feels unfinished.

Well, the holidays are here again! Thanksgiving Day kicks it all off with the familiar pattern of too much food, catching up with family, and watching the Lions lose another football game. All in all, a good day.

My reading diet has not been healthy. Too much meat, not enough dessert. Too much reading for knowledge and not enough reading for the sheer joy of well-crafted sentences and a compelling story. This past month I was able to read two such books (they are hard to find).

One of the very best things in life - like good wine, coffee on a cold morning and fall colors – is a word of encouragement. In her song, “Legacy”, Nichole Nordeman begins with the line, “I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me.” And further on, “We all need ‘atta boy’, or ‘atta girl’.”

Earlier this month, Joanne and I had the pleasure of visiting a sister OPC denomination. I always enjoy visiting a church where I am not preaching and not known. It frees me to just “be a visitor” and observe a church from that perspective.

When I was growing up, no one in my world asked this question. There was one and only one option for anyone who attended a conservative Dutch Reformed church (unless they were RCA). The Christian school was seen as an essential, non-negotiable third leg of the “three-legged stool” of a committed Christian community. (The other two “legs” were the home and the church.) To suggest the Christian school was not essential would be very similar to recommending the abolishment of the family.

One of the best benefits of getting older is the joy of having “old friends”. I often smile when I hear an earnest 19-year-old give a wedding toast to her friend whom she’s known “almost her whole life”

Early June mornings on the farm were absolutely intoxicating. They were saturated with good things

This Sunday we will be celebrating Pentecost. It is a historic event we all too easily overlook – and yet it is the birthday of the New Testament church! Not only that, but the presence of the Holy Spirit is also the defining mark of a New Testament Christian. If you are a true Christian, then you are a “Pentecostal” in the truest sense of the word - the Spirit of the living God dwells within you. That means He is always present with you. He goes everywhere you go.

So, I’m watching it snow

A few weeks ago, I had one of those “The Lord spoke to me” experiences. I know, it sounds charismatic, but the experience was thoroughly biblical. For the past several months I’ve had a growing sense of anxiety and, yes, even fear. There is no denying that our culture is becoming increasingly aggressive in its hatred of Christ. A new religion called social justice is sweeping the land with a vigor unmatched since the Great Awakening. This new religion is impervious to reason and will not tolerate dissent. Whether the issue is LGBTQ+ or race or ‘climate justice’, you will find that those who worship at the altar of ideological social justice are not interested in debate. They are interested only in conformity and compliance. And that’s been on my mind.

I’ve just begun reading a terrific new book by John Piper - Providence. I’ve only read the intro and the first chapter so far, but I’m already sensing this book might become a very important book for me. It’s not that the concept of divine providence is new to me. Not at all. I’ve heard of it all my life. I’ve read good books on it (Trusting God by Jerry Bridges) and preached sermons on it. But I have to confess that while the concept is clear to me, the reality is not always so.

Spring is a wonderful time of change, a time of growth - new things, new life. And as it is in the natural world, so it is in the church. I’m excited to let you know about the Session’s decision to move forward with the search for an Associate Pastor of Youth and Evangelism.

This past Sunday night I had another wonderful reminder of why Christian parenting matters. My brothers and sisters (and spouses) got together at Mom’s place, after the evening service, to sing and pray. The news of Randy’s cancer has hit us hard. We’ve been through hard things before

I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs recently. In a world full of spin, half-truths, propaganda, and blatant lies

As many of you know, I had a brief foray into the Pentecostal world. I was 22, a fresh graduate from Dordt College, and I visited First Assembly of God, on 44th street in Wyoming, sporadically for about 1 ½ years. I also attended a fascinating (strongly charismatic) Friday night Bible study for about a year. There were about 40 of us, mostly young people, all very hungry for a personal relationship with the Lord.

I have to say

Well, we have certainly been blessed to live in interesting times. The news this past week has been filled with things that are concerning: riots in the Capitol building; an election in Georgia giving the Democratic Party control in the House and Senate. Many Christians are experiencing anxiety and fear. The life they have known as citizens of the United States feels threatened. And it may be.

I woke up somewhere in the middle of the night last night with this hymn playing in my mind. “Long the clouds of evil lower; bless us now with gladsome days Let thy children see Thy power, let their children learn Thy praise On us let the grace and beauty of the Lord our God remain Strengthen us for noble duty that our work be not in vain.”

One of my favorite “Christmas texts” isn’t found in the gospels or the prophets, but in Hebrews 2:14-15. It’s a deep summary of the purpose and power of the incarnation. It’s a particularly relevant reminder this year. In a world gripped by the fear of death, we celebrate Christmas as a Divine Invasion of life!

Pastor Dale shares his top four books on the difficult subject of critical theory.

One of the wonderful things about the way the Bible talks about money is that it never treats it as a budget issue; it’s always a heart and faith issue. Whenever the authors of Scripture address the topic it is clear that they are not seeking resources but righteousness. In the same vein, I’d like to talk about finances not in the interest of meeting budget, but in the pursuit of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord!

I recently read an article on the blessings of good elders for a church. It inspired me to write my own. Harvest has been blessed with very good elders. What’s the benefit for the body? What do we gain with good elders? Here’s a few things that come to mind, (I’m sure you can think of others).

Well, it was bound to happen

As I was taking my walk in the park this gorgeous morning, I was reflecting on the influence reading has had in my life. I remember being transfixed by the high drama of Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch as Mrs. Vander Wall read to us first graders. LOVED that story! I was instantly hooked on Zane Grey novels as a 10-year-old when I stumbled across Union Pacific. I wept like a baby over the death of Old Dan and Little Ann (Where the Red Fern Grows) and was stunned by the profound beauty of Cry the Beloved Country. Stories are powerful tools for molding the contours of our emotional landscape. They mold our loves and dreams and desires

This past Sunday evening I on Psalm 60. I was surprised to be reminded of what a great Psalm that is; how incredibly encouraging a message it brings

There are three things we must have clearly in our minds when it comes to discipling our children. The Value of our Children. We believe, by conviction, that our children are God’s children

The Bible continually encourages us to live our few days with eternity in view, to build a life that has weight and worth in the eyes of holy angels and our Lord Jesus (1 Tim 5:21). What is at the heart of such a life? What is the essential ingredient that creates something of noble value and beauty in the eyes of God?

Cemeteries are good for the soul. As we walked through the quiet forest of gravestones, the brevity of life, the certainty of death, and the hope of resurrection were as real as the earth and as true as the quiet beauty surrounding us. Each stone represents a life, just like mine - a life filled with family and summer mornings and work and love and sin. And every stone marks the inexorable reality of death. We all must die. And then they put the dates of your short existence on a stone and place it over where your body lies

Well, this is an absolutely Pure-Michigan postcard August morning. Simply can’t be better. The beauty of a quiet summer morning is a precious gift from the Lord. I took my walk pre-sunrise this morning. It’s wonderful to watch the natural world waking up. I caught three does still in bed (the fawns, of course, were already up and at ‘em!)

August anxiety is only a few days away. I’ve experienced this for as long as I can remember but have only recently identified it. It’s the anxiety that comes from the sense that summer is slipping by, far too quickly. I feel the need to be ‘out there’ taking in as much sunshine and summer smells as I possibly can. There are the aromas of fresh hay and verdant woods and cornfields and lake water and rain falling on dry ground

I don’t know about you, but reading and watching the news these past few months has tempted me to despair. It is unrelenting bad news! No wonder the rest of the world feels like they are watching America implode.

One of the things COVID-19 has spawned is a wave of strong, differing opinions. It is rich soil for division. So what does Paul say? “Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3

I have to confess that I had totally forgotten how wealthy I am. In these days of things-not-being-the-way-that-I-want, it is easy for me to think about what I lack and what I think I need, and I have to confess, I forgot how fabulously wealthy I am. Paul reminded me in the first chapter of his letter to the saints in Ephesus.

So you thought patience was hard? How about sacrifice?? The word even sounds scary. It conjures up images of slaughtered animals and fire. It has very unappealing synonyms: detriment, disadvantage, cost, loss, forgo. No wonder I’ve never seen it used in a kitschy plaque hanging on a wall. It just doesn’t have the same ring as “Live, Laugh, Love”, does it?

Patience. That’s been my “word” for these past few months. If you know me at all, you know that patience isn’t one of my strong suits. I remember when I was just beginning ministry, I visited a wonderful, but frighteningly direct elderly lady named Anne McQueen. She looked at me over her cup of Earl Grey tea and dainty eyeglasses and said, in her Scottish brogue and a disapproving tone, “You are a young man in a hurry.”

God, in His providence, has kept us from public worship for a time

One of the greatest personal blessings COVID-19 has brought into my life is a renewed acquaintance with the Apostle Paul. I owe this man a tremendous debt of gratitude! I am continually surprised, convicted, encouraged, etc., by the way he thinks about the Christian life. The two most prominent realities in his mind, the two things that mold and animate his theology of life in this world are:

Just as there are three basic rules to real estate, there are three basic rules to peace of mind in hard times: Perspective, perspective, perspective.

In other words, Job observed in his friends, a common human trait

I was reading Romans 8 again this morning. What an incredible chapter! And, in this time of COVID-19, and everything we don’t like about it and fear because of it

Well, our Governor has decided that we all need three more weeks of intense, uninterrupted, 24/7, non-stop, no-escape-possible, family time. OK. On a more serious and encouraging note

So, I feel a little lost. How do you shepherd when you can’t be with your sheep? I remember feeling something like this a long time ago

These are certainly interesting times, aren’t they? So much is changing, and so fast. I think we are all starting to feel the loss of fellowship and communal worship. When it comes to being the church, the things that formed the foundations of our spiritual life are suddenly …. different. All the truths remain, but in a new context, with new rules, less organizational structure and less ‘official’ spiritual oversight. How do you “do” church when you can’t “do church”

Well, we certainly live in interesting times. The stock market is tumbling and major sports events are canceled for the foreseeable future as the ominous clouds of the coronavirus begin to fill our horizon. It is clear that people are afraid

The past few years I’ve become increasingly convinced that our young people not only need to know the outlines of classic systematic theology (The Doctrines of God, Man, Christ, Holy Spirit, Church, etc.), but they also need to know how to biblically discern the issues of our day. Our society is becoming increasingly aggressive in ‘catechizing’ young people in the new cultural religion of progressive thought and it is extremely important for our young people to be able to discern Biblical truth in the midst of the mass deceptions of our age.

Sex is something we don’t talk about much, as the church, and that’s a mistake. In our sex-obsessed world, we need to be casting a robustly, biblical vision of sex or we will inevitably adopt the vision of our surrounding culture. Parents, our children desperately need us to be able to explain a truly biblical conception of sexuality for them. Take up and read!

One of the things I love about Harvest folk is your enthusiasm for learning! I love hearing about all the small groups, Bible studies, men’s and women’s groups, book discussion groups, and day-to-day discussions about things that matter! It’s wonderful. In the interest of learning, I’d like to share some of my online resources where I commonly turn to in order to keep up with current issues in the church and world.

I’m working on two terrific texts for this coming Sunday: Revelation 17 and Psalm 54. I’m looking forward to walking through them with you. Psalm 54 is rooted in David’s traumatizing experience of betrayal recorded in 1 Samuel 23. But the main thought of the text applies to every trial we face as the children of God: “God is my Helper.”