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Featured Articles

Redeeming Experience Propels Big Daddy Weave

Big Daddy Weave 235"My Story," a new song by the inspirational pop band Big Daddy Weave, flows from an earlier song that represented a spiritual breakthrough for lead singer Mike Weaver.

"Really, this is just a continuation of what God's been doing - back from a time and place when I was not feeling good about myself," admitted Weaver, 40, on the phone from near his Mt. Juliet, Tenn. home.

Van Andel Arena to see ‘Outcry’

outcry235The highest-profile worship event of the year in West Michigan is The Outcry Tour, a collection of top worship leader/artists coming to Van Andel Arena at 6 p.m. Tues. April 19.

Kari Jobe, Hillsong Worship, Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture with Martin Smith and Brian Houston (Hillsong Church's senior pastor) are all part of the line-up.

The collection of artist-leaders is touring major venues across the country.

Jobe, a worship leader at one of the campuses at the huge Gateway Church, has visited Van Andel previously, performing several years ago on the Winter Jam Tour. And she comes to Grand Rapids as a new mother: her son Canyon was born in February.

GRIL Teaches Biblically-based Leadership Skills to Teens, Young Adults to Transform Communities

Grand Rapids Initiative 235Denise Fase is GR Initiative for Leaders executive director.Around Greater Grand Rapids are teens and young adults who have learned biblically-based leadership skills that they in turn make the most of to transform their schools, churches, related-ministries, businesses and communities.

What they learned didn't happen overnight. They committed and applied themselves with one of five programs that GR Initiative for Leaders (GRIL) offers at its Southeast Grand Rapids location.

Best Selling List April

Bestsellers – March, 2016

1. Brush of Wings – Karen Kingsbury
2. Atonement – Beverly Lewis
3. If I Run – Terri Blackstock
4. Room for Hope – Kim Vogel Sawyer
5. Sensible Shoes – Sharon Brown
6. Return to Paradise - Barbara Cameron
7. Burning Proof – Julie Cantore
8. Always Watching – Lynette Eason
9. Behold the Man – Brodie & Brock Thoene
10. God's Not Dead 2 – Travis Thrasher

Local author celebrates Oliver the Pug and her family’s healing in new book

pug235Alison Hodgson knew that eventually she would write about the fire that destroyed her home, but she didn’t think that story would also involve a pug named Oliver.

Hodgson’s first book, “The Pug List: A Ridiculous Little Dog, a Family Who Lost Everything and How They All Found Their Way Home,” released on April 5 (Zondervan, $15.99) and she and the dog have been on the run ever since.

They’ve been on local television, traveled to California and Colorado, and will make an appearance at Book Expo America in Chicago in May. Hodgson will also do a number of local events wherein she talks about the book and people fawn over The Real Pug Oliver, as he’s known on Instagram.

“The Beams Are Creaking” Opens April 14

Bonhoeffer photo245Dietrich BonhoefferThe life – and sacrifice – of pastor/author/teacher/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is highlighted in the latest Master Arts Theatre production, "The Beams Are Creaking."

The biographical drama, featuring local actor Tim VanBruggen in the lead role, opens April 14.

"The messages and themes that emote from this play are still relevant today," noted director Bob Karel.

Local National Day of Prayer’s Heart Including Sparking Revival, Unity

rhek235 Randy Hekman’s heart beats for revival and unity among believers in Jesus Christ.Randy Hekman’s big picture goal extends beyond people praying together for one hour during the local National Day of Prayer at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

“I really want to see revival,” said Hekman, executive director of The Grand Awakening, a nonprofit he founded that desires to see a spiritual awakening sweep across a unified Body of Christ in West Michigan.

And because Hekman dreams big, he wants to see it impact the nation as well.

Gaither Vocal Band, Guests, Bring “First Class” Gospel Music

GVB 2016-235Singer Adam Crabb of the Gaither Vocal Band was part of group founder Bill Gaither's 80th birthday celebration last week. "It was a surprise party, and it went really well," said Crabb, 36, from near his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Crabb is a relative newcomer to the celebrated group, which Gaither began in the early 1980s – a successor of sorts to his original Bill Gaither Trio. Crabb and fellow singer Todd Suttles joined the group just two years ago.

"When that first Gaither (Homecoming) video came out, that's what hooked our family into music," Crabb recalled of he and his four siblings who for many years sang as The Crabb Family. "We loved the music and the sound and the message. It's pretty wild how eventually God brings things full circle and now I'm singing with the group that really inspired me."

Card’s Biblical Lyrics, Music, Inspire Holiday Weekend.

Card235It was the day between Good Friday and Easter that singer-songwriter and Bible teacher Michael Card carried a Hudsonville audience through the Holy Week story at Grace Community Church.

Backed by the church's 40-voice choir and a small string section, Card's 80-minute, 16 song-set included many of his past ballads and anthems on Christ's passion, and several newer songs that fit the theme.

Terry’s Picks: April 2016

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News 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 April:

Mel Trotter’s New Emergency Shelter Gets Vulnerable Young Men Off Street, And Then Some

Mel Trotters YES 235(l to r) Mel Trotter Ministries community relations director Abbey Sladick and Adrienne Goodstal, vice president of programs, stand in the Youth Emergency Shelter’s common living area.Abusive homes, aging out of the foster care system and feeling intimated by older homeless men are key reasons why Mel Trotter Ministries launched its Youth Emergency Shelter (YES) for men ages 18-24 at its gospel rescue mission in downtown Grand Rapids, located at 225 Commerce Ave. SW.

Besides providing an overnight refuge for a maximum of six young men for a 21-day stay, YES's separate space provides immediate basic needs including meals, access to a bathroom and shower, clean clothing, a designated sleeping room and a living room style community area.

How to Diagnose and Recover from Bitterness

bpIf there is one emotion or attitude that can destroy someone's life it is bitterness. Bitterness is a monster that has destroyed marriages, families, churches and even nations. When a bitter spirit is loose somewhere there is no telling the damage and havoc it can bring about. The heart of bitterness is rooted in an unforgiving spirit toward someone or about something that happened to us in life. Bitterness is often easier to see in others, but very hard to see in ourselves.

If you went to a doctor for checkup, the doctor might check our blood, take our blood pressure, and measure our height and weight against standard targets. A number of tests and measurements could be taken. But is there a test for bitterness, hidden anger and resentment? While there may not be a specific test, there are some signs. Here are a few: Do we experience a loss of energy on a regular basis? Have we dropped out of things we used to enjoy doing? Do we spend less time with people? Do small things really bother us? Do we resent hearing sermons on grace, forgiveness and the Cross?  Do we share our faith with others?

Three W's For Parents

dan seabornIf there's one thing I've learned in thirty years of parenting, it's this: there's no pill you can take or give to your kids to make everything work out perfectly. Trust me—I've checked. These things just don't come in a bottle.

In parenting, then, it's important to establish some parameters for ourselves as we deal with our children. Over the years, I've built some guidelines for myself, and three in particular have been so beneficial that I'd like to pass them on.

I call them the Three W's .

Starfysh is Grand Experiment in Human Compassion to La Gonave Haitians

Starfysh cutline No. 1Starfysh founder/president Steve Edmondson prays with a mother and her gravely ill daughter.Dr. Steve Edmondson acknowledges he felt over his head when he launched Starfysh, a nonprofit grass roots movement that started with a simple idea that has since mushroomed to some ambitious initiatives intended to alleviate the abject poverty of the 100,000 people who live on the island of La Gonave, Haiti.

"Mine is a story of what God can do even when someone is ill equipped," said Edmondson, an affable man who's a family practice physician in Saranac and the founder and president of Starfysh. "It's since become obvious to me God had something bigger than I had in mind. Since then, I've tried to keep up with what God is doing with us."

Even The Lone Ranger Didn’t Go It Alone

lone rangerPeople sometimes think they can make it alone. But it's not so. Aristotle thought men and women were social animals. He got the first part correct. Human beings are indeed first, last, and always social.

But we're not animals. We're something different, a creation "a little lower than the angels" made "in the image of God." People who forget this sometimes end up feeling alone, or they end up going alone.

In the extreme, people who think they can go it alone end up kind of freaky weird. Think Howard Hughes, Bobby Fischer, maybe the Unabomber.

Panelists Make Biblical Case Against Death Penalty

Death Penalty and Faith Forum 235(l to r) Death penalty panelist included Shane Claiborne, Gail Rice, Bernard “Chris” Dorsey and Randy Steidl.Randy Steidl knows firsthand what it feels like to be sentenced to death. Bernard “Chris” Dorsey argues capital punishment undermines the Christian faith. Gail Rice, whose police officer brother was killed in the line of duty, believes the death penalty is disproportionally waged against minorities and the poor. And Shane Claiborne believes no one, including convicted murderers, is beyond redemption.

The four-member panel that comprised the death penalty forum was of varied backgrounds and experiences but all argued for the same conclusion: the death penalty should be abolished.

Best Selling List March

Bestsellers – March, 2016

1. If I Run – Terri Blackstock
2. Cold Shot – Dani Pettrey
3. Always Watching – Lynette Eason
4. Mermaid Moon – Colleen Coble
5. Restoration – Wanda Brustetter
6. Sensible Shoes – Sharon Brown
7. Room For Hope – Kim Vogel Sawyer
8. War Room – Chris Fabry
9. Two Steps Forward – Sharon Brown
10. Behold The Man – Brodie & Brock Thoene

New Music Preview: “So Break It” by Lamain

Lamain235Don't think academics when you're listening to the debut solo project from singer-songwriter Marty Lamain.

"So Break It," the seven-song release by the former Grand Rapids church music minster, just happens to double as Lamain's graduate school thesis (Lamain moved to Nashville two years ago to study vocal performance at Belmont University).

I give him an "A" for effort on this expressive and often soul-baring package of tunes.
The title track comes from a line in the ballad "It'll Take Something Beautiful." The lyrics tell of the emotional wall built by the writer to keep out pain and hurt, yet revealing a longing for connection. "It'll take something beautiful to break it down....so break it down," he invites.

Clean Comedy Brings Laughter to LaughFest

Sapp Henry235Henry Sapp This is the sixth straight year that West Michigan-based comedian Henry Sapp has been part of LaughFest.

"I've been in it since the very first one," Sapp said of his part in the annual 10-day festival sponsored by Gilda's Club of Grand Rapids.

But in the 2016 version the married father of two is actually headlining a show – scheduled for March 19 at Living Word Christian Center.
"They came to me and said, 'You've always brought (other comedians) in, why don't you headline this year?'" said Sapp, 45. "And I said...that would be sweet."

Calvin Prison Initiative is Force for Moral Rehabilitation

Calvin Prison Initiative 235Todd Cioffi is co-director of the Calvin Prison Initiative.Most inmates will never see beyond their prison walls while others eventually will be released, but what they share in common is a "moral rehabilitation" infused in their lives due to a newly accredited program called the Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI).

Up to 20 prisoners a year from any of the 31 prisons in the Michigan Department of Corrections system can apply to earn a bachelor of arts degree in ministry leadership. The program is a joint venture between Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary.

Encore Living Program Shows Seniors How to ‘Bear Fruit in Old Age’

Encore Alliance of Greater Grand Rapids 235Encore Alliance of Greater Grand Rapids president L. James Harvey with his wife of 63 years, Jackie. L. James Harvey knows he faces an uphill battle, but he is convinced there should be more in store for senior adults than while away their time after they retire. Want proof? God says so, said Harvey, president of the nonprofit ministry, Encore Alliance of Greater Grand Rapids' Encore Living Program (ELP).

"I've taken a look at the Bible from beginning to end on what it has to say about longevity," said Harvey, 85, whose background includes former president of Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland, dean of students at Hope College in Holland and vice president of William Rainey Harper Community College in Palatine, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and author of Christian books.

Finding Genuine Love In a World of Disappointments

lentThe moment a person knows they are loved by someone things usually change for the better. The moment a person doesn't feel loved by someone you often have the beginning of trouble. That, in a nutshell, is how the world functions. Sometimes we try to complicate things, but it often boils down to how much or how little love people experience. The main problem we all have in life, however, is that almost no one told us this fact. As a result, people spend much of their lives trying to figure this out and then more time trying to fix it once the problem has been defined.

Terry’s Picks: March 2016

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 March:

World Mission Unveils New Location

World Mission 1World Mission CEO Greg Kelley cuts the ribbon to an appreciative crowd.Staff and administrators at World Mission (WM) showcased its new headquarters to the public Feb. 26, 2016, but its aim to provide solar-powered audio Bibles to illiterate people living in Third World countries remains firmly intact.

WM chief executive officer Greg Kelley officially cut the ribbon inside WM's new facility at 4200 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park, amid appreciative applause, which was then followed by two prayers, one said in Arabic and the second in English.

Same Old Marriage Issues

danseabornDan SeabornBob's the kind of guy who you'd think has it all together. He prefers his clothing crisp, his hair clean-cut, his problems solvable, his life in order. This is a man people go to for answers. With 40 years of marriage under his belt—with kids and grandkids growing like weeds—it would be fair to assume that Bob has mostly figured out home life by now. There's no surprising the guy anymore, you'd think.

Grand Rapids Church, Pastor ,Step up to Help Flint

water235Volunteers in Flint help unload donated waterGrand Rapids pastor and national gospel recording artist Marvin Sapp wanted to do something more.

The leader and co-founder of Grand Rapids Lighthouse Full Life Center on Madison Ave SE was already scheduled to speak at a February revival at a church in Flint. But when the city's plight with dangerous lead levels in its water supply came to light, Sapp knew something else needed doing.

"We can't sit idly by and watch this.....and not do what we can to help," he said.
And so Sapp's congregation raised funds and sent to Flint a semi-trailer of 17,000 bottles of water which were distributed by The Church of the Harvest on Flint's northwest side (truck and delivery were donated by Corrigan Transportation).

New Community Church Sprouts 2nd Location for its Counseling Center

Lew Vander Meer cutline No235The Jefferson Avenue location will an extension of New Community Church’s Community Recovery Counseling Center and provide space for two congregations: Greater Glory Missionary Baptist Church and Take Hold Church.Rev. Lew Vander Meer, senior pastor of New Community Church in northeast Grand Rapids, confirmed the church’s counseling ministry is in the throes of extending its outreach in the former Garfield Park Reformed Church.

Vander Meer said the 90-year-old building located at 1975 Jefferson Ave. SE will be used for its Community Recovery Counseling Center (CRCC), a 12-step recovery ministry that addresses a host of addictive and mental health challenges from a biblical perspective. CRCC is open to the public and provides counseling for all ages. An average of 150 to 200 people avail themselves to CRCC.

Vander Meer’s son, Mark, is CRCC’s founder and director.

Does a President's Religion Matter?

abeAbraham Lincoln is near universally considered the greatest president in American history. Many scholars also regard Lincoln as America's greatest "civil theologian.

Interestingly, Lincoln remains the only president who used the name Jesus Christ rather than simply God in his public utterances. And his Second Inaugural Address delivered March 4, 1865, stands as one of the most impressive theologically infused orations in American political history.

Open To A “God Moment”

Hopkins Rick235 Rick Hopkins and his wife Nicole Are you open to God's leading each and every day? Even in surprising, unexpected ways?

On a recent Grand Rapids morning, Rick Hopkins found himself with an unanticipated opportunity for ministry. His story reveals the blessings that can come when you act on the Spirit's prompting.

Rick made the following Facebook post after his unusual morning: "I just had one of those moments where God became very real. I went into work even earlier than normal today and got there at 6:30am. The coffee machine at work was busted. It's never been busted. So I decided to drive to Biggby near Beltline and 28th, one that I don't normally go to.

Area Women Invited to “Get Real”

Tammy Trent235Tammy Trent Tammy Trent said she's looking forward to returning to her native West Michigan to be a presenter at the "Get Real" womens' conference, Feb. 19-20 at Community Reformed Church in Zeeland.

"We women carry so much with us – the weight of family, children, work, caring for husbands or parents and trying to be the glue of the family," said the singer-author-speaker from her Nashville, Tenn. office.

"This will be a chance to get together as girl friends and let it go for a day or two, and see the surprises and challenges in realizing that we're not alone, and to see how God can show up for us in this moment."

First United’s Celebration of the Arts Extols Creative Gifts from God

Celebration of Arts 2016 235. 1Catherine McClung’s “Birds of the Bible” was the 2015 first place winner.The winter doldrums stand a good chance of being dashed for those who experience First United Methodist’s 43rd annual Celebration of the Arts (COF).

The Feb. 12-24 juried spiritual arts festival will display artwork submissions from 190 artists who live within a 150-mile radius of First United, located in downtown Grand Rapids at 227 East Fulton Street.Admission to Celebration of the Arts is free and open to the public.

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.

Best Selling List February

Bestsellers – February, 2016

1. Thin Ice- Irene Hannon
2. Mermaid Moon – Colleen Coble
3. First Hostage- Joel Rosenberg
4. Cold Shot – Dani Pettrey
5. War Room – Chris Fabry
6. Cup of Dust- Susie Finkbeiner
7. Always Watching – Lynette Eason
8. Two Steps Forward – Sharon Brown
9. Restoration – Wanda Brunstetter
10. Sensible Shoes – Sharon Brown

Terry’s Picks: February 2016

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News 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 February.

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.
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