Autumn Leaves and Life

I love the season of autumn. The crisp air, fall sunshine, green rain-watered lawns, apple picking, a new school year, and high school and college football are all fall season realities that bring joy to my heart. But it’s the transformation of the leaves from the green of summer to the gold, crimson, orange, and brown of autumn that fills my heart with wonder and causes me to gasp in awe.  The leaves of maples, oaks, birches, poplars, and other deciduous trees change because autumn’s cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours break down the green chlorophyll revealing the splendid colors beneath.  My wife and kids make fun of me because I like to point out the emerging fall colors as soon as I see them….

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Mark Bennink
Blessed to be a Blessing

As we enter the fall ministry season and likely the final months of 12th Avenue Church’s ministry, the Worship Planning Committee met back in July to plan services for the rest of the summer and the start of the fall seasons. The team decided that in light of the likely closing of our church it would be fitting to do a message series on the theme, “Blessed to be a Blessing.”

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Mark Bennink
Hiking Smoky Mountain Trails and Walking God's Path

During my family’s Spring Break vacation early last month, we spent a couple of days at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. We got our first taste of the Great Smoky Mountains the first afternoon we were there when we parked our car along one of the park roads and decided to hike one of the most popular trails in the park – the Laurel Falls trail.

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Mark Bennink
Trumpets, Tears, and Ashes in Lent

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent.  During this season of forty days, the church of Jesus Christ reflects on Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins and on our need to repent from our sins through the power of our crucified and risen Redeemer.  Usually during the Lenten season, we reflect on the events towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry as Jesus focused on and traveled to Jerusalem for a final time along with the events of Jesus’ Passion Week.  As we reflect on Jesus’ suffering for our sins and how we are called to turn away from sin and toward the God who has redeemed us, it can be helpful to reflect on a less typical Scripture to help us reflect on the meaning of Lent for our lives today.

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Mark Bennink
Dream Big, Think Small

As we begin New Year 2018, many of us have a desire to begin this new calendar year on a better foot.  We often want the next 365 days to be better than the last 365 days we have experienced.  Because of this desire, many people make New Year’s resolutions.  They resolve to eat more healthy foods, to exercise more regularly, to improve their relationships, to carry out a lifelong dream, or to begin a new hobby.  These resolutions are all practical solutions to an underlying desire: to grow into better people.  This desire is a good one because God himself, our Creator and Redeemer, wants us to grow too in this New Year and beyond.  The Apostle Peter reminds the church of God’s desire for us in the final verse of his final letter: “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18)....

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Mark Bennink
The Peaceable Kingdom

In June of 2010 my family and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. where we enjoyed seeing the memorials, the museums, the White House, the Capitol, and Mount Vernon.  While we visited the National Gallery of Art, we saw Edward Hicks’ 1826 painting of the Peaceable Kingdom

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Mark Bennink
Grateful in November

As we begin the month of November and look ahead to the Thanksgiving holiday, I think about many things I am grateful for.  I am grateful for the autumn colors we have enjoyed.... 

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Mark Bennink
Reformation Faith

On October 31, 2017, the global Protestant Church will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Back on October 31, 1517, an Augustinian German monk and professor by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church to advertise for a debate on the use of indulgences in the church.  This in-church debate was the spark that led to the flame of the restoration of the gospel in the Western Church.  In commemoration of this significant anniversary, we will be reflecting on the essence of Reformation Faith with a series on the “Five Solas.”

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Mark Bennink
Serving Jesus in Chicago

On Sunday, August 27, the Chicago Mission Team shared a report and slideshow about their work on behalf of 12th Avenue Church in Chicago, Illinois.  You heard testimonies from the team and saw images from the trip, but I also want to share the experiences of the team in a bit more depth here.

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Mark Bennink
Renewal Team Retreat

On Saturday, July 8, several members of the Renewal Team and their spouses gathered at Rene’ Baatenburg’s sister’s cottage on Lake Macatawa.  Rene’, Pastor Mark, Jack Buys, Peggy and Steve Camiller, Helen Evenhouse, and Merle and Barb Koops came for a Renewal Team retreat for the morning and early afternoon that day. 

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Mark Bennink
God Is Able

A few months ago, I asked our Worship Planning Committee to think about and share with me their ideas about a topic for summer Sunday evening series.  A few weeks ago, one of the Worship Planning team members shared an idea with me that resonated with me as something that would work well this summer in light of current events and the interruptions of family gatherings and vacations that often take place at this time of year.  She had come across one of Joni Eareckson Tada’s devotionals from her daily radio program “Joni and Friends.”  

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Mark Bennink
Our Ministry Matters

As I sit here writing this newsletter article, it’s the day after Memorial Day.  On this day after the traditional opening weekend of the summer season, we have already begun our summer outreach ministries in our community.  Yesterday before the start of Jenison’s Memorial Day parade, cars were pouring into our parking lot enjoying the free parking.  Members of our church manned tables by the church’s north entrance laden with coffee pots, water and lemonade dispensers, trays of cookies, and stacks of ministry fliers advertising our summer ministries.  This Memorial Day parking lot ministry has been known for years as “Park ‘n Praise.”

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Mark Bennink
Transitions

As we begin the month of May, it’s a time of many transitions.  Looking at God’s creation outdoors, we see spring taking hold with the trend toward longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures, and the spring foliage changing to that of summer with buds transforming into full-grown leaves and flowers and the grass quickly growing (and giving our lawn mowers a regular workout!).  Robins and other birds who have built their nests and laid their eggs will soon be nurturing growing young.

 

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Mark Bennink
Freedom from Fear

As we begin the season of Lent during this month of March, it is appropriate for us to focus on “Freedom from Fear,” which is the title of my message series for the Lenten season.  We are dealing with so many fears in our world and in our nation.  People fear the threat of terrorism.  People fear the arrival of immigrants and refugees in our country.  People fear the security of our nation deporting them or keeping them or their loved ones from coming to our country.  People fear the policies and new laws of our government.  People fear what will happen if we don’t change the laws and policies of our former government administration.  People fear the threat of climate change.  People fear what will happen to our economy if we focus too much on environmental concerns. 

 

 

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Mark Bennink
Messages for the New Year

As we begin New Year 2017, we will be focusing on several different themes beginning this month of January.  On New Year’s Day I will be reflecting on what it means for us to be new creations and ambassadors for Christ with a message entitled “New Creations in the New Year” from II Corinthians 5:16-21.

 On January 8 and 15 I will have us focus on our updated mission and vision statements with a Mission/Vision series.  It’s beneficial for us as a congregation to think together about what it means for us to live out what we believe is God’s calling for us as a church in this place and at this time in our ministry – especially as we finish our Renewal Lab journey this year and continue to work for our church to be more outreach-focused.

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Mark Bennink
Angels and Songs

As we begin the Advent season, images of this season flood our minds as we reflect on the stories and the memories of Advent and Christmases past.  One image that pops into my mind is that of God’s heavenly messengers, more commonly known as angels.  Each year an angel tops our Christmas tree and several heavenly heralds adorn the lower branches too.  We have a chorus of three angels that adorn our front door during the Christmas season.

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Christopher Dekker
N.T.C.H.U.R.C.H.

The New Year is an appropriate time for new beginnings, both individually and communally.  The New Year is commonly a time where people seek to have a fresh start and to begin good habits that will help them eat better, exercise more, have stronger relationships, be more productive, and be better people.

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Christopher Dekker
Tying Up Loose Ends

Now that we have completed Holy Week and are enjoying the early spring season, it’s a great time to tie up some loose ends. Those of us who are getting ready for Spring Break in early April are taking time this week to prepare and pack for our vacations. Those of us who are snow birds who return from the South and West to Michigan in the spring will soon be getting our winter residences ready for our vacancy and will soon be packing up our possessions for the travel home. Those of us who are students are preparing for the close of the school year as we journey through our final semester or trimester and finish our academic work.

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Christopher Dekker
The Places of Christmas

If you would conduct a “man on the street” series of interviews with everyday people in America asking them what they think of when they consider places of Christmas, you’d probably hear answers like: Bethlehem, the North Pole, the mall, and Grandma’s house.  If you would ask the same question to Christians in a church, they may give you more biblical answers like: the Bethlehem stable, the shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem, Mary’s home in Nazareth, and the city of Jerusalem.

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Christopher Dekker