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  • The Longest Christmas Journey


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Featured Articles

Pilots for Christ Expands Gospel-Outreach via Free Transportation

Pilots for Christ 235Lori Layne is president of the Michigan chapter of Pilots for Christ.Dennis Emmons was a homeless, penniless man dying of brain cancer when Lori Layne agreed to fly to Houston and transport him to the Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. In and out of consciousness, Layne succeeded in receiving an answer from him that served as a comforting balm to his estranged sister.

Layne, president of the Michigan chapter of Pilots for Christ (PFC), flew Emmons to Michigan in 2011 at the request of his sister. Between the drugs to manage his pain and the disease itself, Emmons was not always coherent.

January Series Speaker Recounts Need as Palestinian Pastor to ‘Cast a Bold Vision’

Mitri Raheb235 Rev. Mitri Raheb: “I learned how to have the courage to go against the grain and to swim upstream.” Rev. Mitri Raheb lives and ministers in Bethlehem, Palestine, an area of the world that requires him to walk a cultural and religious tightrope.

He has witnessed his hometown reduced to rubble and shattered glass. Yet through it all, God had a plan, Raheb said recently at Calvin College’s January Series, which marked its 29th anniversary this year.

January Series Speaker Exhorts Christians to Bravely Pursue Justice

Kurt VerBeek235 Kurt VerBeek: “We’ve got to stop listening to the culture’s lie that our safety and comfort is a top priority.” There are 1,379 references in the Bible related to justice, according to Kurt VerBeek, who accomplished his personal Google search of the word to gird himself for a difficult future he knew he would encounter when he and his staff decided to walk a tightrope for change in a Central American country rife with corruption.

By standing up for victims of violence, labor and land-rights abuse and government corruption in Honduras, organizations around the world, including Transparency International and the United Nations, are increasingly recognizing VerBeek, Association for a More Just Society (AJS) as a pioneer in achieving justice for the poor, said VerBeek, director of Calvin College's Justice Studies semester in Honduras and co-founder of the AJS, a Christian justice organization that focuses on Honduras. VerBeek recently spoke at Calvin College's January Series.

January Series Speaker Urges Biblical View of Immigration

Salguero January Series cutline235Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero co-lead the multiethnic Lamb’s Church in New York City.Some ministers understandably prefer not to mix together in their messages current-events and politics. Rev. Gabriel Salguero is not one of them.

Speaking recently at Calvin College's January Series, Salguero shared the stage with his wife, Jeanette, who translated his message from English to Spanish.

Michael Card to Perform in Hudsonville

Card Michael235Michael Card is a teacher, author, singer-songwriter, recording and performing artist, scholar and speaker. He often juggles several roles at the same time.

The Tennessee native comes to Grace Community Church in Hudsonville on Sat. March 26. The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is ideal for a concert based on the themes of his recent album and book "A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross."

The album draws from several of his previous songs dealing with Christ's passion, death and resurrection. Long time fans will recognize such titles as "Ride On to Die," "Love Crucified Arose" and "Known By The Scars."

January Series Speaker Explains Why an Inclusive Church Still Needs to be Realized

Leroy Barber 235 Rev. Barber delivered a passionate appeal to include people who are not part of the majority culture.Sweat beading his bald pate, Rev. Leroy Barber made it clear early-on he had more in mind than delivering a feel-good sermon.

Barber, who spoke during Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Calvin College’s January Series, delivered a passionate appeal for missions boards and churches to reexamine the reasons why mostly-white leaders are recruited to accomplish the Lord’s work, specifically to spread the gospel abroad and help the underprivileged in the United States.

Spangler Writes of the Bible’s ‘Wicked’ Women in 15th Book

Wicked Women coverAnn Spangler and friend Jean Syswerda wrote "Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture" back in 2008. Since then Spangler has wanted to dig deeper into what Scripture says about some of those 52 women they featured.

The result of that desire is Spangler's new book "Wicked Women of the Bible" (Zondervan), which digs deep into the lives and times of 20 women from Eve to Mary Magdalene.

"I wanted to do something more in depth because I'm always looking for fresh ways for myself and others to engage with Scripture," she said. "The Bible can be intimidating, but it's also life giving and life changing."

Thirsty Ground

Thirsty Ground Holdfast Cover235The West Michigan Christian pop-rock band Thirsty Ground has a new five-song collection titled "Hold Fast."

It contains four new tunes, plus a re-make of one of its earlier songs.

The EP opens with the musical plea "Let's Not Forget," a reminder of the sacrifice of Christ for our salvation. Its straightforward message is framed with a rockin' chorus that sets it apart.

Family Progress: Try Ceiling Words

danseabornI'm convinced that the phases of child development are what turn parents into broken records. As kids grow up and mature, time passes in phases. Kids are newborns, toddlers, children, adolescents, adults.

With each chunk of time that comes and goes, parents often find themselves emphasizing different concepts and principles with each phase. Sometimes it can take months and years for these ideas to catch on, and in the process parents get stuck using the same old phase-phrases:

Lifetree Café Fosters Community, Conversation and God’s Unconditional Love

Lifetree 1 235 Oakdale Park CRC Senior Pastor Emmett Harrison and Lisa Ayers discuss how their parents raised them.Laid-back and non-confrontational, the Lifetree Café that meets Wednesday nights at Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Southeast Grand Rapids is intended for people who likely would not hunker down in a church pew and listen to a minister drone out a sermon.

Instead, a Lifetree Café meeting offers people an opportunity to watch a video or PowerPoint presentation about a current affairs topic and discuss their viewpoints about it while sipping a cup of coffee and munching on a snack. No one at these meeting criticizes another person's point of view or waves a judgmental finger.

Radio Broadcasting in Europe

7thref235Seventh Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan is pleased to announce a contract with Pan American Broadcasting to air weekly on Voice of Europe (1368 kHz, 846 kHz, and 567 kHz) as from December 6, 2015. The thirty-minute radio programme, titled "Truth for Today", will air in English, and will feature the expository ministry of senior minister Dr Tim J. R. Trumper. The broadcast can be heard on Sunday evenings on all AM frequencies and on Internet streaming at the local time of 7:30–8:00 p.m., repeated at 11:30 p.m.–Midnight (CET [GMT +1]). Broadcast from Padua, Northern Italy, "Truth for Today" will reach Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, parts of Southern Germany and Southern France, and Vatican City. The streaming is available on IRRS/EGR channel, and through multiple random plays over the week on All Gospel Radio 24/7.

Best Selling List January

Bestsellers – January, 2016

Fiction
1. Painter's Daughter – Julie Klassen
2. First Hostage- Joel Rosenberg
3. Sensible Shoes- Sharon Brown
4. Come Rain or Come Shine- Jan Karon
5. Two Steps Forward – Sharon Brown
6. War Room – Chris Fabry
7. Cup of Dust- Susie Finkbeiner Photograph – Beverly Lewis
8. Taken- Dee Henderson
9. Thin Ice- Irene Hannon
10. Story Keeper – Lisa Wingate

Ruined for the Ordinary

perspectives135Are you ready to be "ruined for the ordinary"? That's what one man said will happen when you take Perspectives!

"Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" is a powerful, in-depth course on God's heart for all nations and His Kingdom purpose for all Christians. In fourteen sessions with fourteen passionate, experienced instructors you will gain a fresh perspective on the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic aspects of God's global cause.

SowHope Inspires World’s Neglected People: Impoverished Women

Sow Hope235 Mary Dailey Brown, co-founder, president and CEO of SowHope, has impacted more than 56,000 women in the world by funding projects in 15 countries.Mary Dailey Brown's work as a White House staff photographer for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but she wouldn't trade that job for what she's doing now as co-founder of the international charitable organization, SowHope.

Since its founding in 2006, SowHope's programs have impacted more than 56,000 impoverished women living in 15 Third World countries.

Hope for a prosperous future

By "impoverished," Dailey Brown is referring to women who earn $2 a day or less.

Calvary Carpet Care is ‘all about God’s Kingdom’

Calvary Carpet Care235(l to r) Jeff Hoos is the president and Paul Klokkert the vice president of Calvary Carpet Care.Three years ago, Jeff Hoos and his wife, Sarah, moved from Illinois to Holland without completely knowing what God had in store for them. Jeff was certain, though, the Lord was leading him in far different direction from the one he knew as the owner of Classic Carpet Care, in Arlington Heights, Ill.

"We were discerning God's leading," said Hoos. "The Lord said to move out here to Holland. We didn't know exactly what we would do. We thought maybe we'd enroll in a Bible college."

EaRN Works With Those Needing Support Finding a Career, Updating Job Skills

EaRN 235Fletcher Cochran is the executive director of the Employment and Resource Network and Ken Soper is its founder and Master Career Counselor.Thankfully, the Great Recession is in the rearview mirror of history. But there is still work to be done for those who want to learn how to remain employable, are searching for a new career, or need to know how to find work, say the founder and executive director of the nondenominational ministry, Employment and Resource Network (EaRN).

"Unemployment is very low, but that doesn't tell the whole story," said Fletcher Cochran, executive director of EaRN. "We still have people in transition who want to identify the vocation that is right for them and develop search plans."

New Year’s Resolutions

NewYearsResolutions2Ever notice how New Year’s Resolutions are often about how we wish we were different?  Lose weight.  Lower golf handicap.  Watch less TV.  Quit smoking.  Quit drinking.  Quit less-than-useful habit du jour.  Get out of debt.  Off-load stuff accumulating in the basement, the attic, the garage.

The moral of the story is that a lot of us want to improve ourselves and our lives, or at least our general condition.  But we have this problem called the human predicament.  As Pogo famously said years ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  It’s not family nor friends.  Not our environment.  Not even the economy that keeps us from fulfilling our dreams.  It’s us.

Guiding Light’s ‘Keep GR Warm’ Accepting Winter Clothing Donations

Keep GR Warm 235 Guiding Light Mission’s Back to Work program director Matthew Holmes is in charge of sorting through the Keep GR Warm donations.So far, winter's cold snap has not invaded West Michigan like it has in previous years. However, the staff at Guiding Light Mission knows Jack Frost's raw chilliness is a momentary reprieve.

It's for that reason GLM recently launched its initiative called Keep GR Warm.

This is not the first year GLM has accepted donations of coats, blankets, gloves, hats and socks, said its executive director Stuart Ray.

Christmas Eve Services Blossom

XmasEveFlier235As Cornerstone Church planned its services for Christmas Eve this year, it realized that more is better.

Between the three locations of the multi-site, Grand Rapids area church there are nine Christmas Eve services at times ranging from noon to 10 p.m.

"Because we are trying to reach people who typically don't attend church, we spread the service times out during the day to make it convenient rather than expecting the family to adjust their schedule around us," said Ken Nash, director of multi-site/worship and a teaching pastor.

Women of Faith Theatre Event Planned

Women of Faith theatre event235A live/film event featuring a Women of Faith "experience" is coming to theatres in West Michigan this February.

The interdenominational Christian ministry – which for 20 years has hosted arena gatherings for women featuring prominent speakers, authors and music artists – is planning its first ever cinematic event at theatres nationwide, including multiplexes in Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon and Kalamazoo (see details below).

During 2015 Women of Faith (WOF) presented its "Farewell Tour" which included many of the ministry's most popular presenters such as speaker/authors Patsy Clairmont and Luci Swindoll and singer Sandi Patty.

Matthew West Returns With Jam

West Matthew Christmas235Matthew West gets in the Christmas spiritSinger-songwriter Matthew West is back on board the giant Winter Jam tour, coming to VanAndel Arena on Sun. Jan. 3 (see details below).

The Christian music artist will perform more true-life-story songs from his latest CD, "Live Forever."

"The whole record theme is about moving forward," said West of songs such as "Day One" and "World Changers".

West's last three albums have all been based on testimonies found in true stories sent in by fans – gleaned from the tens of thousands of emails, letters and messages he's received. Many of the resulting songs have been assisted by videos introducing viewers to the people involved. Two examples are "Hello, My Name Is" (about Jason, a reformed drug addict) and "Forgiveness" (a mother who forgave the drunk driver who cuased a car crash that killed her daughter).

Degage’s Upcoming Christmas Store is Wrapped in Dignity

Degage Christmas store cutline No. 1Degage’s Christmas store offers its patrons a place to buy gifts with dignity.Christmas is the time of year when people anticipate giving presents to loved ones. That same desire holds true for the homeless and disadvantaged who often can't afford to purchase gifts. Enter Degage Ministries, 144 South Division Avenue. The Heartside District ministry is hosting its Christmas Store on Dec. 16 and 17 for the people it serves.

All the merchandise cost $5 or less, said Liz Warners, Degage's volunteer and development coordinator. Items for sale range from comforters to coffee makers, soaps, cleansers, hairnets, hygiene products, candles and underwear.

‘Twas the Night

christmasnativityIt's that time of year again. The period when we take a moment and reflect on the awesome Christmas story that many people first remember hearing as little children. I thought it would be good for us to take a moment and go back to that childhood and contemplate this beloved writing.

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring..." Wait, wait, wait. See, that's what most people think of when they remember the Christmas story. But that's not the authentic account of Christmas.

Best Selling List December

Bestsellers – December, 2015

Fiction
1. Two Steps Forward – Sharon Brown
2. Taken – Dee Henderson
3. Painter's Daughter – Julie Klassen
4. Cup of Dust- Susie Finkbeiner
5. Story Keeper – Lisa Wingate
6. Chasing Sunsets – Karen Kingsbury
7. Photograph – Beverly Lewis
8. Come Rain or Come Shine – Jan Karon
9. War Room – Chris Fabry
10. Steams of Mercy – Lauraine Snelling

Turning Pointe’s ‘The Promise’ Moving Example of Dance Bringing Beauty to a Broken World

Turning Pointe cutline No. 1 Sarah Morin (in foreground) is among 60 dancers are a recent rehearsal of Turning Pointe’s Christmas favorite, “The Promise.”Unlike many teens whose faces are found buried in their smartphones, dance students Hannah Beath and Sarah Morin willingly dedicate their spare time to mastering the cabriole, pirouette and other dance moves.

They are quick to say their dancing serves a higher purpose, which will be self evident when they are their young colleagues perform a Christmas favorite titled, "The Promise."

Object lessons brighten Christmas for Kids and Adults

Christmas Object Lessons235Christmas can easily become all about gifts and decorating and great food, but thanks to a new book even the simplest Christmas object can open the door for learning.

"Christmas Object Lessons" offers 45 Scripture-based lessons that help children (and adults) keep Jesus at the center of the season. From bells to cookie cutters, holly to ornaments, from snowmen to wrapping paper, author Verna Kokmeyer offers a short story, Scripture verse, discussion question, prayer and simple activity to add depth and meaning to these classic objects.

"I love that object lessons can make complex, theological concepts simple and easy to understand," said Kokmeyer. "Then, when you see that object later you remember that lesson."

Kokmeyer is no stranger to object lessons. She's been writing books full of them for two decades. She's written object lesson books for toys, animals and sports, with "Object Talks from Sports Kids Love" recently republished by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas ($9.95). LPC also publishes "Christmas Object Lessons" ($9.95), which is available locally at Baker Book House, 2768 E. Paris Ave. SE.

Crossroad Bible Institute’s New Director Avows Love for Prisons’ Marginalized

Crossroad Bible Institute 1235Lisa Blystra: “CBI is really demonstrating God’s love and sharing the truth of His Word.”Earlier this year, Lisa D. Blystra assumed the leadership helm at the Kentwood-based Crossroad Bible Institute because of the ministry's ability to point prison inmates and ex-offenders to a better future through its Bible correspondence courses thanks in part to its worldwide partnerships with churches and affiliates.

"My love for marginalized people and my passion to have churches reach out and realizing what Crossroad Bible Institute is doing so well are the reasons I sought this position," said Blystra, who in September was unanimously tapped by CBI's board of directors to serve as the nonprofit prison ministry's executive director.

Terry’s Picks: December 2015

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian web writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts and entertainment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for December:

*Open Eyes Christmas Concert – A good dose of holiday hip-hop, with dance, DJs and spoken word featuring Beacon Light (aka Brandon Clahassey) and other area artists starts at 7 p.m. Fri. Dec. 11 at The Edge, 735 Ritzema Ct. SW, Grand Rapids. The Edge is a hip-hop church where Beacon Light is a worship leader. "Open Eyes" is the title of his forthcoming album. Other performers include Steven Malcolm, Mark Evans, Edify and Michael Nobody, all centering on a Christmas theme. Tickets range from $5 to $11.54. For more information visit online.

Holiday Concerts Have Contemporary Tradition

Wells Bob235Bob WellsSome old and some new Christmas performances dot the West Michigan calendar in early December.

Musical director Chris Hansen says the annual "Hark Up" Christmas presentation is subtitled a "Symphonic Celebration of Hope."

"We have 35 string players with us, including the (Hudsonville) Unity Christian Orchestra," he said of the student ensemble directed by Sara Jager. Other guests include violinist Susan Mora of the GR Symphony, cellist John Smith and violist Brysien Beer.

The "Hark Up" production features hundreds of singers, dancers, instrumentalists and multi-media in an original show called "Sing A New Song," and is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5 and 3 p.m. Dec. 6 in DeVos Center for Arts and Worship at Grand Rapids Christian High School.

New Christmas Music Preview

Christmas Goes Gosp vol 2 hier rez CD coverFollowing up last year's successful multi-artist collection, here comes "Gospel Goes Christmas Vol. 2," with songs of the holiday from an almost entirely different roster of top gospel artists.

A welcome addition is Marvin Sapp, a Grand Rapids pastor (Lighthouse Full Life Center Church) as well as a national recording and performing artist.

His song for the collection, "Holy," is taken from his Christmas album of two years ago, "Christmas Card."

Signs of Significance

billboard235Digital billboards are making their way into the world. Although old-fashioned billboards still dominate most major highways and thoroughfares, digital billboards can be seen locally along Interstate 196 near Holland and on U.S. 131 in Grand Rapids. They are very colorful and bright, but depending on what time you drive by, you may see a different ad than someone else. Your exposure to a certain advertisement can be hit or miss.

Ken Thompson Treks for Treasures

treasure235The Treasure Ken Thompson, of the First Reformed Church of Grandville, is about to begin a "Trek for Treasures", to help out World Mission, based in Grandville. This fund-raising effort will allow World Mission to get "Treasures", solar-powered audio Bibles, into remote parts of the world, including the 10/40 window. The Treasures are available in up to 4,500 languages. The solar panel on the unit allows the sun's rays or a light bulb to energize the player to play the gospel. One unit can reach as many as 144 people and many groups meet to listen to the Treasure. They are utilized by pastors in churches in these areas where so many of the people are oral learners.

Forgotten Man’s ‘God Pods’ Engenders Real Change in Inmates

Forgotten Man Ministry 235 No. 1 A chaplain with Forgotten Man Ministries teaches biblical principles at a “God Pod.”Real change. A new attitude. Embracing the Gospel's "raw message."

The descriptions rapidly roll off the tongues of the inmates incarcerated at the Kent County Correctional Facility who've immersed themselves in the Forgotten Man Ministries' Biblical Life Principles Pods (BLPP), or "God Pods," as the inmates are known to call them.

Whichever term is used, the goals flow in the same direction: Showing men and women deep change is possible if they give the Lord a chance to operate in their lives, inside and out.

Musical Variety Highlights Thanksgiving Week

Joy Tiff235Gospel music fans from urban/contemporary to Southern have options during the Thanksgiving holiday week in West Michigan churches.

Gospel singer Tiff Joy takes the platform at 6:30 p.m. Tues. Nov. 24 at Revolution Christian Ministries, 5301 28th St. Ct. SE. No tickets are necessary.

Tiffany Joy McGhee (Tiff Joy is her stage name) burst onto the gospel music scene two years ago as the songwriter and soloist on "Amazing," a radio hit for Ricky Dillard & the New G's. The celebrated tune was nominated for both Grammy and Dove Awards and won a 2015 Stellar Award as Song of the Year.

An Attitude of Gratitude

thanksgiving3I just can't imagine living one day without a sense of gratitude about something or someone. Every where we look amazing things are happening. Every day is a miracle! If we are honest with ourselves and what we see and experience, the Lord has surrounded us with enough people and things that it is natural to be filled with some level of gratitude every day. Without this sense of gratitude toward something or someone life becomes dull, meaningless and we end up just going through the motions.

Music Impacts Both Audience and Artist

Battistelli F. performing235Singer-songwriter Francesca Battistelli says her greatest reward in life is the spiritual impact of her inspirational songs.

“Anytime I meet someone who has been touched by a song or whose story intersects with the music, it’s a great reminder,” said the artist of the goal of her music ministry. “That doesn’t get old because it’s why we do what we do – to see lives change,” she added.

Battistelli is currently on a concert tour with fellow artist Matthew West which comes to Zeeland Sat. November 21. 

Next Step of WM Dedicated Helping Those Who’ve Had Doors Slammed Shut

Next Step of West Michigan cutline No. 1 Michael Moore is blessed and amazed with what Next Step has done for him.Drugs and alcohol are the twin rudders that steered Michael Moore to encounter a run-in with the law and find himself behind bars. With a criminal record, finding a job that paid the bills and a landlord willing to rent to him were personal hurdles he couldn’t clear on his own.

“When I was in the streets, I didn’t care,” said the soft spoke Moore, 25, who now lives in a refurbished home and plans to marry his fiancé. “When I went to church, it was overwhelming because they always talked about judgment.

New Music Review

Son of None235The musical collective known as Son of None is celebrating delivery of its first CD, "A Monster Inside," following an official release concert in early November.

Son of None is the brainchild of Joshua E. White, a local singer-songwriter who had previously released a solo project.

White takes listeners on a transformative journey throughout the 10 songs on this collection - from the prologue hauntingly telling of "the monster (of pride) inside me" to the closing epilogue ("Some Days") which earnestly celebrates belief while acknowledging the battle with unbelief.

The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church

ee235In January of 1956 my parents were at an evening church service when the pastor announcedEcuador. The missionaries and their families were part of Operation Acua, a mission to reach a savage tribe of indigenous people. The killings later became the subject of a feature article in Life magazine. That article did much to bring attention to missions and to advance the cause of overseas missions. Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the young men that was killed, emerged as one of the more high profile members of the group. Through the Gates of Splendor, a book written by Elisabeth Elliot, gave a detailed account of the work the group did. It came out in 1957 and over time became one of the most important Christian books ever written.  Elisabeth would go on to write many more books, including Shadow of the Almighty, a biography on the life of her husband Jim.

Tomlin Enthuses, Inspires Van Andel Audience

Tomlin hands235It probably was a surprise to most of the assembled crowd. Singer-songwriter-worship leader Chris Tomlin led more than 7,000 gathered in Van Andel Arena in a recitation of Psalm 100.

The willing audience at his Nov. 7 concert was able to read the verses aloud from the giant arena screens, completing a great introduction to Tomlin’s song “Psalm 100.”

There was no sermon or even an extended meditation during the artist’s 15-song, 89 minute presentation. But the scripture in his lyrics provided a warm and hopeful message amidst the worshipful themes.

Best Selling List November

Kregel Parable Bestsellers – November, 2015

Fiction
1. Come Rain or Come Shine – Jan Karon
2. Photograph – Beverly Lewis
3. Two Steps Forward – Sharon Brown
4. War Room – Chris Fabry
5. AD 33 – Ted Dekker
6. Sea Keepers Daughter – Lisa Wingate
7. When Love Returns – Kim Vogel Sawyer
8. On This Foundation – Lynn Austin
9. AD 30 – Ted Dekker
10. Ties That Bind – Kim Vogel Sawyer
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