God With Us
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
One of the blessings of Christmas is the good news of Immanuel, God with us. As God comes near, he gives us all those things we so desperately need - hope, joy, comfort, assurance, etc. He gives these things to us because he is near. Jesus is the greatest gift, and with his presence we receive so much more.
As we get ready to celebrate the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, I want to encourage you to cross that threshold of another year with God. Go with God, and he will take care of everything else. A few weeks ago Nathan preached for us from Exodus 33 and said, "If God doesn't go with you, don't go." This is so true.
What does it look like to go with God's presence? I believe it requires two things. First, letting go of those things that would take us away from God. Second, leaning ahead into those things that would draw us near unto God.
Abraham Kuyper wrote a devotional by that title, Near Unto God. His meditations are based on Psalm 73:28 where it says, "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."
Listen to what he says. "When we come to know him as our personal Savior, then we have come to him and he has come to
us--because the action moves in two directions. We need to seek his nearness, but he needs to come to us intimately. When he does--and when we do--what we feel is nothing less then eternal joy. We can spend much of our lives without that closeness, sometimes desolate and forsaken. But if we know God's nearness, we know that in those moments of alienation nothing is so desirable as his return. What we seek, we find only in our return--he is near once again. Those moments, beyond description, are the great moments of our lives." (pg. 16, 17)
What does it look like to have your best year ever? There are many leadership and self-help books out there with titles like that. To be the "best you" and have the "best year ever" we need Jesus.
What does this look like? First, what this doesn't mean is that we think less of ourselves. After all, to be in relationship with Jesus requires two parties. God thinks the world of us--so much that he sent Jesus to save us from sin! It doesn't mean thinking less about ourselves. But it does mean thinking about ourselves less. This is how C.S. Lewis described humility. And humility is always a good place to start.
As we take the focus off ourselves and what we have or haven't done, we find the second characteristic of needing Jesus. Instead of worrying about what we don't have or haven't done, we rejoice in what we do have and what Christ has done for us. In Christ, we have all things--faith, hope, love. In Jesus we have God himself!
This Sunday we will have an opportunity to let go of our worries and anxieties, to grieve things that we need to grieve. We need to let go and confess to God those things that take us away from him. This Sunday we will also have opportunity to lean into Jesus. And we will keep this opportunity in front of us all January.
I want to challenge our entire New Life congregation to draw near to Jesus by regular daily scripture reading in 2020.
Here is the challenge: If 70 people (60% of our congregation) will commit to read the Bible every day throughout the new year, I will allow 3 young people who commit to this challenge to shave my head!!
How will this work? If 70 people commit to regular daily Bible reading for a year by my birthday, which is January 28, we will have met the challenge and some of the young people can relieve me of my hair. You can indicate your commitment the next 5 Sundays by putting a note to that effect on the back of the Welcome Card and putting that in the offering plate. We will track how many people have committed and let you know. The commitment will be between you and the Lord to carry out throughout the year.
There are many excellent Bible reading plans. One I am going to begin January 1 is called the Biblical Storyline Reading Plan (http://bible.com/r/4A2). It has you read 3 or 4 chapters a day and includes The Bible Project videos in the plan. This plan gets you through the Bible in 1 year.
If you need a plan with a slower pace, that is fine. The goal isn't volume (e.g. to read the Bible through in a year). The goal is consistency. New Christians, go at your own pace (e.g. one verse a day). Young people, find a plan that fits you. Parents, do this with your children. They count to! Check out the many excellent reading plans in the YouVersion app (www.youversion.com). You can also read the Today devotional. You can find this online (https://today.reframemedia.com/) or hard copies are available in the lobby at church. There are many other good plans.
Friends, if you read the Bible daily, you will draw near to God. Kuyper also said this, "to seek him passionately, and to find him, face to face, in the muddle of our travail here on earth--all of that makes us testify with the psalmist, 'I love you, Lord.'" (pg.17) Will you say to Jesus, "I love you, Lord"?
I am looking forward to seeing how many of you step up to this challenge. If you meet this challenge this it will be one of the best birthday presents for me :--)
Grace and peace!
What's Your Story
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
This morning for our school’s Thanksgiving Feast I read Psalm 107 verses 1 and 2:
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…"
The words, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” appear again and again in the Psalms (e.g. read Psalm 136). Israel recalls all that God has done in his creation and redemption. They tell God's story and they sing this refrain, “His love endures forever.” God is inviting us to thank him and remember his goodness. Very appropriate for us with Thanksgiving next week.
But I want to reflect with you on verse 2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell THEIR story.” Psalm 107 goes on to describe what God redeemed Israel from. It says some wandered in deserts. Some were hungry and thirsty. All of them cried out to the Lord in their distress and he heard them. He delivered them from their troubles. Sounds a lot like the Exodus story doesn’t it? Yet it was personal and unique to each of them.
This Thanksgiving I would encourage you to tell YOUR story. If you are a Jesus follower, you have been redeemed. God has delivered you from something. We each have a testimony to give. We each have a story to tell. And as we tell our story, we begin to feel more gratitude in our heart for all that God has done. We get the spotlight off our self and onto the God who is worthy of praise.
I know for me, God has redeemed me from pride and the need to be in control. Faithwalking training has shown me, with amazing clarity, where I would be if not for God. Even now God is refining and pruning me. I am so thankful for God loving me and accepting me just as I am, but loving too much to leave me that way. Even when I find myself in some difficult situations, telling my story helps me love better.
Friends, in good times and bad, we can praise God for who he is and give thanks to God for what he has done. The more you reflect on your story and share that story with others, the more we live into the people God calls us to be—people of praise, people on the way, people who point others to Jesus!
Most of us take some time during Thanksgiving to list the things we are thankful for. We take time to pray. We pause and give thanks. These are all great things. Keep doing them. I would also challenge you to go beyond just listing the things you are thankful for. Take time to tell your story! And as you do, listen to your heart. I am guessing you will feel closer to God and closer to those around you.
Happy Thanksgiving to you. May the God of peace, fill you with every good thing and remind you of all the good things he has already blessed you with.
Grace and peace.
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
What’s next? That is the question I’ve heard a few times this week and it’s a question I have been asking myself. It’s also a question we need to ask ourselves as a church.
On Sunday we completed our 40 Year Anniversary Celebration. Last week Friday and Saturday was a lot of fun hosting classis. And Friday night was special, hearing stories from the different pastors about the story of the CRC in Texas. It’s clear to me looking back that God is faithful.
Sunday we completed our celebration by having all of our church planters with us. We received in-person greetings from Mike & Gina Johnson, John & Chichi Eigege, Pablo Gaggero, Diego & Camila Hiriart, Leon & Erika Vidal and Ronnie & Terri Lopez. We also received greetings from Eric Schlukebir and Pastor Krishna from a distance. Pastor Roger DeYoung gave greetings the week prior. So it was fun hearing from eight of our ten church planter families and spending time together. Jeff Dykema from El Paso (stepping in for Jerry Holleman last minute) and John Eigege both did a great job with their meditations. And Randy & Tari Wester did a wonderful job with the lunch afterwards (the cake was delicious!). It was fun just being together. I did wonder why so many people didn’t stay for lunch. I wonder if this could have been publicized better? Maybe we were weary from all the celebrating? Maybe something else is going on??
So today, writing this pastor’s update I have different things going through my mind.
First, I am thankful. I’m thankful for all the different people who stepped up to make the 40th Anniversary Celebration possible. I am thankful for God’s faithfulness to our church through these 40 years in our congregation, in our school and community ministries, and through all of the church planters who have been launched out from us. I am also thankful for God’s financial provision in meeting our $40,000 goal for the offering Sunday. All of this is encouraging.
Second, there is also a sense of sadness. In reflecting back on our 40 years as a church, and for me personally in my 10 years at New Life, there is a part of me that misses the people who have moved away or no longer attend our church. It would have been a much richer celebration with everyone who has called New Life home these many years. But we trust God with all that.
Third, I am energized by the challenge we have before us. Our vision hasn’t changed and our challenges are in many ways greater. We have a shrinking congregation and a new generation that is increasingly post-Christian. There is greater complexity in ministry than ever before. And we live in a culture that both craves community yet fights against it. Our American (and Texan!) spirit of fierce independence helps us “Git Er Done” but it also separates us from each other as we each do our own thing and go our own way. How do we show hospitality well? How do we form and create deep, meaningful friendships? How do we shepherd and care for people who are alone or hurting? How do we call people to commitment and hold each other accountable to biblical and Christ-centered community? There are so many forces fighting against all this.
But then there is God. And with God there is always hope. On Sunday, John Eigege challenged us with God’s words from Isaiah 43:18 and 19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” What is that new thing?
This is a question we will have to discern together as a church. What I can tell you this.
It won’t be us who will be leading, but God. Our job is to listen, discern and follow.
God will always be faithful. Our job is to be faithful and obedient back.
Because of God we have hope, despite the struggles. Our job is to trust God and learn the lessons He has for us.
The new thing God will lead us to will be more wonderful than we can ever imagine. Our job is to receive God’s kingdom and seek this with our whole heart.
At our elders meeting this week we were talking about all the church planters who were giving greetings on Sunday. And the comment was made that there was no way Jerry Holleman could have seen this new work that God was going to do 40 years later. We could say the same thing about our school ministry and about Old Town Spring Heights. Could anyone have predicted we would be partnering with Pastor Krishna who has helped launch over 40 new churches? What about all the people who have come to Christ through New Life? So wonderful. God is good.
Will you commit yourselves to this next chapter of our story together? Will you walk with me? We need each other. We are stronger in community. Let’s trust Jesus and follow him together.
Grace and peace.
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
Have you ever had to scramble to prepare for guests coming over? Groceries need to be purchased. The yard needs to be mowed. The house needs to be cleaned. The kids’ rooms need to be picked up (or at least the door shut so you can’t see the mess!). You get the picture.
This has been my life this week. We are in the middle of our 40th Anniversary Celebration and there is a lot going on. I've enjoyed our first two Sundays celebrating God's faithfulness in the early years and through our school. The next two weekends will also be filled with activity.
Tomorrow, Saturday 9/28 – Fabulous Fall Festival in Old Town Spring Heights
The next day, Sunday 9/29 – Worship service celebrating our Community Ministries
Next week, Friday & Saturday 10/4 & 5 – Classis Rocky Mountain at New Life Church
Next week, Sunday 10/6 – Wrap up service and potluck celebration for 40th Anniversary
A few fun invites for you... Tomorrow’s Old Town Spring Heights festival will be a lot of fun. Feel free to stop by between 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. and enjoy games for all ages, great food and fellowship. Address is 27307 Oak Street, Spring, TX 77373. Come meet your neighbors and see what God is doing in our community!
Also, next week Friday night, October 4, during Classis Rocky Mountain, we will have a special session from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at New Life Church where we will be telling the story of the Christian Reformed Church in Texas. It will be very informative and (I think) very inspiring. We have two panels of pastors telling various stories followed by discussion time. Feel free to stop on by and hear the story!
For our wrap up celebration next Sunday, October 6, we are inviting all of our church planters to join us. There is also a potluck lunch after the service. Jerry Holleman and John Eigege are tag teaming to preach on God’s faithfulness, both looking back and looking forward. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had all of our church planters together with us in a worship service before!
Anyway, as you can see, there are a lot of moving parts. So it’s a busy season. But in all the busyness, I’ve sensed God’s faithfulness in a special way. He’s been faithful in my family, faithful in our church, faithful in our school, faithful in our community, and faithful to help us carry out his mission, despite all the setbacks, limitations and our own dumb disobedience.
We have an excellent opportunity right now to put the spotlight on God and praise him for his faithfulness. Take some time today and in the coming week to reflect on how you see that in your life. Take time to praise God and thank him for all the ways you see him in your life.
It is a privilege for me to serve as your pastor and to serve alongside all of you at New Life Church. It's a privilege to stand on the shoulders of pastors and leaders who have served before me. It’s also a privilege to work side by side with all our ministry partners and church planters. May you be encouraged by what God is doing in and through us, and often despite us, and give him the praise.“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” – Psalm 36:5
Grace and peace!
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
Yesterday we were all surprised when tropical storm Imelda caused such massive flooding. None of us were expecting this. I didn’t expect to spend all day fighting off the rain that was pouring through our church and school entryway. I didn’t expect to get a text from Pastor Pablo saying he and his family had significant flooding in their home and had to be evacuated. And all this after they had just gone through this two years ago with Hurricane Harvey.
A few weeks ago when my family and I returned to Texas after a fun two weeks of vacation up in Michigan, I didn’t expect to be greeted with several difficult situations, one of which was an urgent plea from our treasurer to pray for our church’s cash situation. I hope you are still all in prayer for our offering on Sunday, October 6 and the $40,000 we are hoping to take in to stabilize our cash position.
Life is full of surprises. If I had to write the script of my life I know I wouldn’t write it the way it is playing out. Yet, not all surprises are bad. Many times I am surprised by God’s blessings. An unexpected note of encouragement. A pleasant surprise seeing someone come to Christ for the first time. God’s grace showing up in a relationship that was experiencing breakdown. I have a note by my bed written by my daughter thanking me for being her dad and for the way she sees Christ in me. Wow!
In our fall message series, we are going through the book of Exodus and I see surprise after surprise. I’m sure that if they had to write their story, the Israelites wouldn’t have included 400 years of slavery and bondage in those early years. Yet, through this, they encountered God! They went on to meet with God in the desert at Mt. Sinai. This was the same mountain (also called Mt. Horeb) where God first appeared to Moses in a burning bush. He revealed himself to Moses and his people and rescued them in such a way that it forever shaped who they were.
When you think of the surprises and unexpected twists and turns in your life, do you ever stop to consider that God is using this situation to form and shape you so that you grow in your love for him? I wonder if Jesus had never allowed Peter to sink beneath the waves if he would be the same leader he was, trusting Jesus as the Messiah? I wonder if God had prevented Paul from persecuting and killing Christians that later, when he encountered Jesus, would have known both the depth of his sin but also depth of God’s grace? I love how God reveals himself to us.
This week I am preaching on Exodus 3 and the story of the burning bush. Several chapters later it says, “God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them… “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God... I am the Lord.’ ” (Exodus 6:3-8)
In the fullness of time, God revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus used the same name that God revealed to Moses, “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus told those who were questioning him, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). Don’t we serve an amazing God—a God who is faithful to himself and also loving and gracious to us?!!
Friends, cheer up. God loves you! He is in control. He wants what is best for you. If you are going through a hard time, please know that I am praying for you. I may not have all the answers, but I know God does. And because he is God, I know that is enough. He is the one writing our stories. He has hidden our lives in Christ and we can trust him always, no matter what. I pray that God will give you the faith and confidence to stay strong, even in the surprises of life.
Grace and peace!
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
Many of you are aware that during our trip to New Mexico last month we took home a puppy. We named her Nizhoni which in Navaho means beautiful. She is about three months old, half rottweiler and half shepherd. She grew up on the reservation with an beautiful Christian family and is a very good dog. She is beautiful inside and out, just like the people in New Mexico.
Many of you are also aware that our daughter Natalie will be leaving for college soon. She will be attending Calvin University up north in Michigan. She, along with Megan Covington (Texas Tech) and Iain Kelley (Lonestar) are moving on to college life. We will be in church tomorrow but we will leave for Michigan after church. We will be gone two weeks and return Saturday, August 31st. Pastor Adrian will preach for us next Sunday(8/25) and Nathan Roman will preach for us the following Sunday (9/1).
When we decided to take Nizhoni home, the first thing Natalie said was, "Oh, you got a replacement dog for me!" That wasn't our intention, but I can see how it would be perceived that way. The truth is, as cute as Nizhoni is, we can never replace our daughter. We love Natalie and we will miss her presence with us.
Transitions in life are never easy. For those of you who have sent kids off to college you know what Jacie and I are about to experience the next two weeks. We are telling everyone that we are in massive denial, but I don't think the reality of Natalie leaving will hit us until we say good bye to her at Calvin.
When we drive back to Texas the end of August, we will enter a new chapter of our lives. We will have to adjust to life without our daughter. Caleb will have to adjust to life without his big sister. I am sure all of you will also miss Natalie. She is a special part of our church family.
I share all of this with you to let you know what is going on in our family. But I also share this with you to encourage you when you face transitions in your life. Do you have a child headed off to college? Did you lose a family member or close friend? Are you going through a divorce, lose your job or facing a major health crisis? Where do we turn to help in these situations?
In youth group recently, Pastor Adrian walked us through the Song of Ascents (Psalm 120-134). One of the very first Song of Ascents is Psalm 121. It talks about the Lord watching over us and protecting us as we journey with him:
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
If you are going through a transition in life and in need of encouragement, I encourage you to meditate on this Psalm and the other Psalms of Ascents. What do you hear? What phrases or images jump out at you? What do you learn about God? Yourself? How does all this comfort you?
Friends, I will see you tomorrow and then again in two weeks. Until then, may the Lord watch over your coming and going. May he keep you from all harm both now and forevermore. Grace and peace.
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Dear New Life Family,
Last week I had the privilege of spending a week in Rehoboth, New Mexico, with our young people on their summer missions trip. During the day we served in the community, and in the evening we gathered together for worship, teaching, and fellowship. We had so much fun on our trip. It was long, sixteen hour drive, but we were rewarded with the beauty of New Mexico and also meeting new friends and reconnecting with old friends. Last year, a few of our young people went to Bellflower, California, for a similar trip, and many of the same young people were there. So it was fun to see old friends. Also, for our family it was fun to be back in Rehoboth because Jacie’s mom grew up there. It was fun for us to reconnect with that part her family’s history.
One of the best parts of the trip was seeing God at work. God’s presence was very real. You could feel Him moving among us. Our time at the work sites was very rewarding. We also had power times of worship and an excellent speaker. One night we stayed up past midnight worshipping God and praying for one of the young people. On Sunday we will have an update about all this. All of us grew on the trip. We were all stretched in different ways. One of our youth even said it was the best week of his life!
Why was this? What made this week so special? I believe it was God’s presence. We spent a lot of time singing to God, praying to Him, and hearing from Him with His Word. We asked for God to be present with us. Something special happens when we take time to be present with God.
What is so important about God’s presence in our lives? We know God is present everywhere, but what is so special about God’s presence in our lives as believers? Why does this matter?
This Sunday I will begin a new message series on God’s presence and see how this impacts us in different ways in different life situations. As you reflect on this, I invite you to be informed with new teaching. But I also invite you to do more than just absorb new information. I invite you to be transformed by God through His Holy Spirit. Be open. Be changed. Be filled with Jesus!
For me, I am learning important lessons in prayer. Prayer has always been part of my life as a believer, and I have always prayed in ministry. But it has often been just one of many things. If I am honest, sometimes it has been the last thing I do. A few months ago I read a devotional by Pastor Jeff Wells of WoodsEdge Community Church. In it he talked about prayer as a first response. He quoted A.C. Dixon: “When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on. Nor am I disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place. But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to see what God can do! I want the fruit of God’s work, not my work. My prayer for this series is that God would move us to seek Him and rely on Him. My prayer is that as we reflect on God’s presence, that God Himself would change us and make us seek Him together as a first response. Friends, let’s be open to what God wants to do in us!
RENEWED BY GOD'S BIG STORY
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
On Wednesday, my family and I took some time and traveled to Galveston. Summer just isn’t the same without a trip to the beach. The four of us, together with our three nephews and two dogs, climbed into the van and headed south on I-45. We enjoyed beautiful weather, felt refreshed by the ocean breeze, swam in the water and laughed as our dog Midnight barked at hermit crabs. What a fun time!
Getting away helps me rest and refocus. I’ve had a busy year in both my family and in our church family. In the Sytsma family we’ve had a lot of activity this spring celebrating Natalie’s high school graduation and getting her ready to go to college later this summer. Last month Jacie took on a painting project and did most of the exterior of our house (good therapy!). As I write this we have a painting project going on at the church. There’s nothing like a good coat of paint to feel renew and refreshed.
I’m thankful for the many ways God has refreshed us. Last fall we were blessed to have our sanctuary interior refreshed. Now this summer Pastor Leon’s church is upgrading our sound system. Last Sunday we celebrated three professions of faith and witnessed a baptism. The Sunday before that I worshipped with Pastor Pablo, and they were celebrating six baptisms. Physical and spiritual refreshment. God is so good.
One of the biggest ways God has refreshed us is through our school. As I write this update we are in the middle of Cooking Camp, and the smell the freshly baked apple pies is wafting down the hallway. It’s hard to concentrate with so much goodness :--) Dawn and Adrian have been such a blessing—Dawn as our director and Adrian as our lead teacher for summer camp. I have heard many different testimonies about how folks are understanding the Bible better and growing spiritually. The Gospel is coming alive!
Adrian says that his purpose is to help people be formed in their identities by God’s big story. Looking back, I see God putting a similar passion in my heart. My trip to Israel last winter and my sabbatical last summer both helped to reinforce this idea. I have always been a big cheerleader for discipleship, but I find myself more passionate today about this than ever. I see the important role we play at New Life, helping people connect the story of God with the mission of God in community with others.
This fall we will take time to celebrate forty years of God’s faithfulness to us as a church. This is our story. As we celebrate New Life’s anniversary, I invite you to thank God for including us in His big story. He has led us by His word and Spirit. He has renewed us. His love never fails. Our theme verse for our forty year anniversary is Psalm 36:5: “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”
God is good. Have a great summer everyone!
P.S.—The next three Sundays we will have guest preachers. This Sunday, Nathan Roman will preach for us. The council is in the process of approving an internship for Nathan. Next Sunday, Adrian Smith will be preaching for us while I am with our summer youth missions trip to Rehoboth, New Mexico. The next Sunday, I will have just returned from New Mexico and will be here, but Pastor Leon will preach for us.
INTRODUCING AIME FEROW
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
One of the great joys I have as a pastor is seeing people come to know Jesus, and then the rest of their lives, live into this calling by following him. We call this process discipleship. This is our mission. At New Life Church, “We make and multiply disciples.” And this isn’t something that happens only on Sunday morning. Discipleship affects every area of life. Our vision reflects the breadth and scope of discipleship, “We envision a community-wide network of disciples who are growing and partnering together to bring the restoring love of Jesus into every home, neighborhood, school and workplace we touch every day.”
For my pastor's update this week I want to introduce a new partner in this community-wide network of disciples. Aime Ferow has been attending Community Quest with us this past year on Wednesday nights. She is Lori Pugh’s sister and a strong Christian. Aime is also a gifted Christian Counselor. Recently our church council approved Aime to come on staff with us as a Christian Counselor. We are excited that she will help us live into our mission and vision in this important work where broken people are make new.
A few years ago we approved a similar position for Robyn Bajema. Robyn was on staff with us until she and her family moved to California. Aime’s situation is similar to Robyn’s with her education, experience, and goals. Aime attends Northside Christian Church in Spring, and will be working with us part-time.
Here is Aime’s description of her ministry and some background information:
It is my goal to help fellow Christians and non-Christians follow biblical practices and live out an authentic life where broken people are made new. I am a committed Christian therapist and value God's unique place in therapy, yet I welcome members of all faiths and beliefs. I know that we can grow and learn together whatever our backgrounds. All sessions are kept strictly confidential.
Since graduating from Liberty University in 2017 with a master’s in Professional Counseling, I have become a state Licensed Professional Counselor Intern. I have over 6 years of experience in a variety of areas including facilitating DivorceCare®, group therapy, and assessments. My psychotherapy experience includes working with a wide range of cognitive abilities and severity of diagnoses in partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient settings. My interests are working with issues involving anxiety, depression, adjustment issues, grief, stress management, marriage and family, process and psycho-educational groups. I have training in sand tray therapy and am a certified Prepare/Enrich premarital counselor. With a foundation in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Existential Therapy. I have a compassionate, collaborative approach, encouraging psycho education and mindfulness of cognitive and behavioral patterns, along with discovering meaning and purpose in the life God has given. I believe in meeting a person where they are and helping to facilitate change in their life.
This Sunday, Aime will be with us in worship and we will take a few minutes to introduce her to you. Aime can be reached @ (832) 299-5673 or email@example.com.
Please join me in thanking God for Aime and welcoming her to our staff. Let’s pray that God will use Aime and other ministry partners to help us bring the restoring love of Jesus into every home, neighborhood, school, and workplace we touch every day.
AN INVITATION TO PRAY
BY Pastor ANDY SYTSMA
Last week in my pastor’s update, I reflected on Ascension Day. Jesus has ascended on high and is seated at God’s right hand. Jesus told his disciples that it was for out good that He went away, because then He would send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). In my sermon last week I spoke about the promise of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ day, people were looking forward to that promise. Today, we live on the other side of that promise.
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. I will be preaching on the power of Pentecost. I don’t want to repeat here what I will be sharing on Sunday. I do, however, want to invite you to pray.
Prayer is one of the things the disciples were committed to. Before Pentecost, they were all together in the upper room and joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14). After Pentecost they were all together, devoted to many things, one of which was prayer (Acts 2:42). In Acts 6 when the church was growing and they were experiencing some problems (widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food), the church set aside deacons to address this problem and the apostles gave their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. Clearly prayer was a priority for the disciples. Is it a priority for us?
There are many ways to pray. We can pray on our knees in our prayer closets. We can pray in our car on the way to work and talk with Jesus. We can pray during our personal devotions or with our family around the dinner table. We can pray together as brothers and sisters and do so in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul said, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people” (Ephesians 6:18).
There is a new prayer gathering starting up in the prayer room on Sunday 9 a.m. and on Wednesday 6 p.m. Would you join us? We want to draw near to God and spend time in His presence. We also have big challenges in front of us in life and ministry.
David said, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10).
As we are in God’s presence, He dwells with us, assures and comforts us, leads and guides us, and gives us everything we need. We have a loving and merciful Heavenly Father. He has already given us Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He wants to hear from us, His beloved and dear children!
Here is what the Heidelberg Catechism says about prayer:
Q. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of thankfulness which God requires of us.
Moreover, God will give his grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly
and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts and thank him for them.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 116)
Let’s ask for God’s grace and Holy Spirit. Let’s ask Him for these gifts with constant and heartfelt longing. Let’s thank God for all the ways He is so good to us. Would you join me in seeking God in prayer?
Yesterday was Ascension Day. It is the day we celebrate Jesus ascension into heaven. It is the fortieth day after Easter and ten days before Pentecost. We normally don't hear a lot about Jesus' ascension, but if that's the case, you are missing out. It is an important day.
Jesus' ascension has so many implications for us. But the big idea is that Jesus rules and reigns. He is LORD of all. Jesus is sitting at God's right hand as we speak. He holds all things in the palm of His hand. Nothing happens by accident or outside of His sovereign will.
After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus spent forty days with His disciples and taught them about the kingdom of God. He also prepared them for the Holy Spirit He would send. Before He ascended, the disciples asked Him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus didn't answer their question, but instead told them, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After this "he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." (Acts 1:6-9)
I have to confess, there are many times that I feel like the disciples. I am slow to understand what Jesus meant about the kingdom. The disciples were thinking in terms of times and dates and what God would do through Israel. God was thinking about the power He would send through the Holy Spirit and envisioning His universal rule and reign. He was looking forward to making all things new. And this gives me hope. Romans 8:34 says that Jesus "is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." This is one of the benefits of the ascension. Jesus is our LORD rules heaven and earth for His glory and for our good.
How does Jesus' ascension benefit you? Ask yourself what you are concerned about. Do you believe that God is in control of the situation that is keeping you up at night? Do you really believe he is LORD? Think about the various challenges you face. In our limited understanding of God's economy, it may feel like a stretch to trust God with these challenges. But then we are reminded of Jesus and how He is not just our savior, but also our LORD. He is seated in heaven at God's right hand. He is interceding for us. He is the God of complete provision. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and will give us what we need. Trusting our future to Jesus strengthens our faith and reminds us Who we worship.
Take some time to reflect today on the truth and implications of Jesus' ascension. May you trust and worship Him in a new way. May you feel His care and providence in your life. May God give you new opportunities to witness to others the good news that Jesus is LORD!
Greetings! I trust you are having a good week. I want to send out a quick update for you with two things. First, an update on staff transition. Second, a few thoughts on Holy Week.
As many of you know, Trish Helmerich has felt called to serve God in another way in this next season of her life. This Sunday will be her last Sunday as our Youth Director. Trish will still be with us on Sundays from time to time, but at the end of this month will be moving several hours north, so will no longer be able to help with day-to-day ministry. To that end, I wanted to let you know that the council approved Adrian Smith to serve as our Interim Youth Director beginning May 1. He will take over the weekly teaching responsibilities for Trish beginning Wednesday, May 1 and work with our team of youth leaders to carry on this ministry. Since this in an interim appointment, this will give the council time to carry out a search process as we discern who will be our next youth director. We are thankful to both Trish and Adrian for serving our youth.
I also wanted to invite you to worship with us both Friday @ 6:00 p.m. and Sunday @ 10:00 a.m. for our Good Friday and Easter worship services. We had a lot of fun this past Sunday with many of our school kiddos, teachers and school families in attendance for Palm Sunday. It is such a joy for me to see so many people hearing the good news of Jesus! This week we get to go even deeper with this. There are so many stories surrounding Jesus’ final week. It is hard to do justice to everything that happened with his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. I would encourage you to take time to read the different gospel accounts that record what happened.
On Good Friday, I will be preaching on “The Upside Down Kingdom” from John 18:28-19:16. It is the story of Jesus’ trial. We see through these events how Jesus is not of this world but He for our world. He was declared guilty even though He had no sin, so we could be freed of our guilt and forgiven for our sin. It was an unjust situation, but one that made possible our justification. On Easter Sunday, I will be preaching on “Peace Be With You” from John 20:19-31. We will see how Jesus gives us His peace and presence even in the midst of so much pain and confusion. I pray you will know this peace and experience His presence in a new way.
Friends, I pray that you would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. May His death humble you. May His resurrection strengthen you. Because of His death and resurrection, may you be joined with Jesus and die to yourself and rise again with new life in Christ. Finally, may faith, hope and love be yours.
Grace and peace!
For my pastor's update this week I want to do two things. First, let you know about two fun events where we can enjoy fellowship together. And second, pass on some important news within our congregation. Both are about community.
This Sunday, our Old Town Spring Heights ministry is hosting a pastor swap. I will preach at The Haven Church in Old Town Spring and Pastor Barbara Linton from Church of the Living God will preach at our church. There will be other pastors swapping pulpits pulpits. What an amazing display of unity in the gospel! Afterwards, I want to encourage you to come out to the Family Fellowship event in Old Town Spring Heights with all the churches in our ministry. There will be a lunch following Sunday worship @ Truevine Missionary Baptist Church (27307 Oak St, Spring, TX 77373) as well as lots of fun and games including a desert bake off. What a fun time to get to know your neighbors. Please join us!
The other fun event is coming up in about two weeks. On Wednesday, April 10 @ 6:00p.m., we will conclude our semester of Community Quest with a "Bless It Forward" dinner. We will have a delicious meal, a time of sharing and testimonies about the difference Community Quest has made in our lives, as well as a chance for us to "Bless it Forward." Dr. Mike Johnson from Ascending Leaders has been coaching us in best practices in Discipleship the past few years and has blessed our church greatly. His coaching was made possible by a scholarship so he invited us to bless another small church so they can receive a similar scholarship. So we took Mike up on his offer. Towards the end of our program we will have an opportunity to contribute financially and "Bless It Forward." Please mark your calendar and join us for our celebration dinner. Even if you haven't come to Community Quest before, please join us!
Finally, I want to pass on an important update within our congregation. Trish Helmerich spoke to our youth on Wednesday night and other key leaders, and then sent this communication to both our youth parents and our council that same night. I wanted to pass this on to you, our New Life Family, so you are aware of some changes coming up for Trish and her family and also for our youth. I am so thankful for Trish and her faithfulness serving God with her gifts in this very important area of ministry. When God called her she stepped up and said "Yes, Lord" and jumped in to serve. Now she is saying "Yes" to God's leading again but with a different kind of challenge. I ask you to join me in lifting their family up in prayer during this transition process. Trish, we love you and are so thankful for you! Grace and peace.
Dear New Life Family,
It is with very mixed emotions that I must inform you that Easter Sunday, April 21st will be my last day as Youth Ministry Director for New Life Church. I love our youth with all my heart, and being a part of their lives has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life. However, it seems He has new plans for me.
My daughter-in-law has been offered and accepted her dream job, working in a hospital rather than a retail pharmacy, specifically the Rusk State Mental Hospital. In case you aren't familiar with the area, Rusk is about a three-hour drive, located between Lufkin and Tyler. This will be a Monday thru Friday 9:00 to 5:00 position. Additionally, the benefits are amazing, including paying off her (sizable) student loan debt after ten years of employment.
You may be wondering what this has to do with me. My heart was breaking at the prospect of their moving away my little angel Madi. As I prayed for His will to be done during the interview process and for help accepting if indeed she was offered and accepted the job, I have to admit there were times when I included “Please, God, don’t take her away from me.” At the same time Walt and Amanda’s prayers were that if this was God’s will that the offer would happen.
Well, despite my prayer, it is happening. Walt had asked if we would consider moving there and my reaction was maybe later we can. But over the next few days I felt the Holy Spirit leading me in another direction. So after much prayer and discussions, I will be moving with Amanda.
Walt and Tim both will remain here readying our respective homes for sale. Tim will be living with our son Jason for a time after until he is ready for retirement. So I will still be at New Life some weekends and some Tim will come enjoy country life with us.
Long term this will give us the retirement we had dreamed of. Walt and Amanda plan to buy some land upon which we will both build homes. Tim and I have spoken often about retiring to a home with a wrap around porch on some land. Chickens, goats, and a garden for me and a stock pond for Tim to fish to his heart’s desire. Not to mention the joy of helping to raise our granddaughter (and any brothers or sisters that join her).
We will be living very close to where my mother grew up on a multi-generation farm. I feel like I am going home to a simpler, less stressful time and so look forward to slowing down and enjoying life.
I will be working with Andy to help achieve my goal of finishing well. This includes my weekly teaching, the car show, summer mission trip to Rehoboth and particularly relationships with the youth. Although I will not be continuing as staff, it is my fervent hope to remain connected with them when I am here weekends.
I know God is not done with me. I have no doubt He will give me new opportunities to serve, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store. Thank you and the entire congregation for the overwhelming love and support over my season with our youth.
ONE FOR THE BOOKS
This week was one for the books. This week Tuesday & Wednesday, Tim Helmerich, John Eigege, and other pastors and leaders from CRC churches in Texas, Colorado, and Kansas gathered in Denver for our twice-a-year classis (regional gathering) meeting. We got up early Tuesday, flew to Denver, and arrived in time to have lunch with everyone. We knew a snow storm was coming the next day, so before leaving the airport, we switched to an earlier flight to make sure we left Denver before the storm hit.
We had just started our meeting when our cell phones blew up. The text read, "Your flight from Denver has been cancelled." That's when the fun began. The weather report said we were going to have a "Bomb Cyclone" storm with six to twelve inches of snow. Some of the delegates didn't even wait till the evening. They left in a vehicle that afternoon and arrived in Houston the next day. Others were able to make their flight early the next morning. A few of our colleagues didn't get out before the snow storm came the next day and ended up renting a car only to slide into a snow bank - twice!
Since we were unable to get on another flight (1,300 flights were canceled that day), we decided to rent a large Suburban and drive home. We got up early the next day and started the long trip back to Houston. Fortunately, we were able to avoid the snow storm by a few hours. But we did run into heavy rain, intense sand storms and high winds. In West Texas we saw a dozen semis tipped over due to the extreme winds. Tim sent me a news clip in Amarillo that reported forty semis tipped over due to the high winds! We stopped by a Whataburger for lunch and saw a tree fall down in their parking lot and even had to move our vehicle to the other side of the parking lot to avoid the high winds. Crazy trip!
After twenty hours and not a few sore bodies, we were able to make it home safely. Tim, John, and I were able to get to know Lindy Baker (deacon @ Hope CRC), Pastor Diego (Mission of Faith CRC), Americo Olguin (leader @ Mission of Faith CRC), and Manuel Sosa (pastor @ Reynosa, Mexico). I am still tired from all of the travel, but I am thankful for safe travel mercies and also thankful for lessons in perseverance.
The weird thing about this trip was that, in the end, had we stayed for the whole classis meeting the second day and flew home, we would have arrived home only a few hours earlier than we actually got back by car! But our two days on the road felt more like a week. Funny how that works, isn't it?
Sometimes God reschedules us on a "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" trip. It's not the way we would script things. But we are called to persevere and endure. And if we do, God promises to reward us.
I don't know if this stirs up anything in you. Maybe you are working hard to persevere in your marriage or in a difficult health situation. Maybe there are things going on in your faith that are testing you beyond what you are accustomed to. I want to encourage you with this story and say, "Hang in there!" God hasn't left you or forgotten about you. In fact, He is with you in this situation, even if it doesn't seem that way.
Let me know if I can be in prayer about anything. This Sunday I won't be with you in worship since we are having our classis pastor swap following our classis meeting. Pastor Dave Hornor from Peace Community CRC will be preaching for us and I will be at Peace Church. I'm sure Dave will also have some stories!
Grace and peace friends. It's good to be home. See you soon!
GOD'S STORY, OUR STORY
This weekend, Jacie and I will be helping at a Faithwalking Retreat in southwest Houston. It’s been awhile since we’ve participated in Faithwalking, so I am looking forward to that. I am also looking forward to Adrian Smith preaching for us again this Sunday. I really enjoy sitting under Adrian’s preaching. What a treat!
One of the things I love about Faithwalking is that I get a front row seat in seeing transformation happen in people’s lives. It is the same view I have on Wednesday night hearing people give testimony to how reading the Bible is changing their lives, or how ALPHA is bringing them closer to Jesus, or how in our True Story class lightbulbs are going off seeing the Bible as one unified story pointing to Jesus. This weekend the women are having their retreat and I’ve heard many stories of transformation from them as well. I could go on and on talking about how I see this happening with our children, youth, and school ministries.
There are so many opportunities and ways to grow. We are trying hard in our church and school to set the table so you can grow in your faith. For some of us, we are just beginning this journey, exploring our faith, or reconnecting with God. For others of us, we have been on that journey for a while and we are figuring things out. I am always moved when someone tells me they are coming back to church, feel the need to get closer to God, or are wrestling with complacency, boredom, guilt, or suffering. Or maybe they just have a desire to serve more. The Holy Spirit nudges us in so many different ways doesn’t He?
One of the ways He is nudging me is to take a much deeper dive into the story of scripture. A year ago Jacie and I were in Israel and the Bible came alive for me. Last summer I was given the gift of a six-week sabbatical, so I had time to spend reading the Bible from cover to cover. I have also been spending time watching videos and listening to podcasts from The Bible Project (www.thebibleproject.com). Finally, Adrian and Dawn Smith have been a great encouragement to me, delving into the importance of story and the Bible as a story.
For all these things and more, I am grateful. And as I go deeper, I feel more alive, more motivated to serve, and more excited about passing on this story of Jesus to you. My prayer is we can all be captured by God's story, see Jesus fulfilling God's bigger story, see ourselves in this story, and then live out this story together. It is a real gift to journey with you, my New Life family.
Have a great weekend. See you Sunday!
GOSPEL OF JOHN
In December we explored the idea of Jesus’ incarnation and how we can abide with Jesus. We focused on this verse: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) We abide with Jesus as we come to see the glorious truth of his incarnation—we need Jesus, and He met that need by dwelling among us. This winter we will continue to walk through the Gospel of John together.
All of the gospels tell the story of Jesus. John introduces the concept of the new life that we can have in Jesus. He ends his book showing why we need this new life, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” But it’s not just the end. John’s whole book points to new life. He opens his book in chapter 1 by mirroring the opening words of Genesis 1, “In the beginning…” and goes on to mirror the creation account in other ways. He uses the number seven in different ways. The seven signs and seven “I am” statements both mirror the seven days of creation. John is showing us that just as he completed the original creation account in seven days, that Jesus completes God’s new creation. John also notes that Jesus rose again on the first day of the week, showing Jesus’ new creation breaking into our world.
Jesus has come so we can believe and have new life in Him. Personally, I love this picture of new life since it is our church’s name. We are also praying for “new life” for New Life. What better way for God to do a new thing in and among us than remind us of how Jesus comes to make all things new?
My prayer for this series is that we will fall in love with Jesus all over again, and see in big and small ways the continuing story of God’s redemptive work. He made this world good. We messed it up with our sin. But God isn’t finished with us yet. He sent Jesus to dwell with us and is ushering in a new creation through Him. May you find joy in Jesus and his glorious work of bringing new life to you and everyone around you.