Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Mountain Peaks Belong to Him

 I just returned from a high altitude adventure in the Colorado Rockies.  Traveling west with five friends from central Iowa, I participated in Ride the Rockies.  Ride the Rockies is to Colorado what RAGBRAI is to Iowa.  It's a one week journey across Colorado on bicycle.  We rode two-wheelers from Telluride to Colorado Springs with 2,000 other bike riders.  Needless to say it was an epic journey that checked off one of the empty boxes on my bucket list.  The ride was challenging to say the least.  We covered over 500 miles and climbed four major mountain passes: Poncha Pass, Hardscrabble Pass, Lizard Head Pass, and Wolf Creek Pass.  The day we climbed Wolf Creek Pass could be considered the Queen Stage of the bike tour.  It was a 91 mile day that took us over the Continental Divide at a staggering elevation of 10,850 feet!  Completing that difficult day in the bike saddle may have been one of the hardest things I've ever done.
 However, it wasn't all pain and agony.  During the ride, we witnessed incredible natural beauty.  We laid our eyes on stunning 14ers such as Mount Sneffels, Mount Princeton, and the infamous Pikes Peak.  We cruised through breathtaking canyons alongside raging rivers rippling with rapids.  We paused to reflect on the bright yellow beauty of a cactus flower in the high desert of Southwest Colorado. 

Overall it was a trip that left you awestruck.  Seeing all this reminded me of a verse right in the middle of the Bible.  The Psalmist reminds me that "The Mountain Peaks belong to Him." (Psalm 95:4)  It's true.  The mountain peaks belong to the Lord.  In fact, everything belongs to the Lord.  The contemporary testimony of the Christian Reformed Church also reminds us: "Our World Belongs to God."   The earth and the seas, the animals and the trees, and all of the world's seven billion people belong to the Lord.  Whether or not we acknowledge it makes no difference.  Everyone and everything belongs to the Lord.  So it's no surprise when we witness beauty on the earth.  God's good creation reflects God's glory.

The mountaintop experiences didn't come to an end when I returned to Iowa.  The Thursday after I returned from Colorado, New Life Prison Community hosted a worship service at the Newton Prison.  It was an incredible worship service to say the least.  Overall the highlight was baptism and profession of faith.  Ten men were baptized and one man professed his faith in Jesus Christ. 
These eleven men committed themselves to make a stand by following Jesus Christ.  At first, I was disappointed that it was only eleven instead of twelve disciples.  Later in the evening, however, I was reminded of the eleven disciples who met with Jesus after His resurrection from the dead.  "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go." (Matthew 28:16)  Is it significant that this was also on mountain?  Probably.  But I suppose it's more than just spatial.  It's spiritual.  Whenever we meet with God, it's a mountaintop experience!

Unfortunately, not every moment of life is spent on the mountaintop reaching for spiritual highs.  Whenever you find yourself in the valleys of life longing for the elusive heights of the mountain peaks, go to God's Word for comfort, encouragement, and grace.  Today I encourage you to meditate on the 95th Psalm.  It makes no difference if you read it on the printed page, listen to it on your MP3 player, visit the webpage (PSALM 95), or call it up on your smartphone's Bible app.  Simply pause to digest this important message: "The Mountain Peaks Belong to Him."

Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa.  New Life is in the middle of its third year of ministry to the imprisoned.  So far it's been a big year for New Life of hosting big events, such as February's 'Piercing the Darkness' concert and May's 'Brothers-in-Blue,' a four day spiritual retreat behind prison walls.  Rick & his wife Rose live in Pella with their two children.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Truly Inspired

On June 20, Troy shared this poem at the New Life worship service.  It was fitting during a busy night of worship that included 10 baptisms, 1 profession of faith, the Gospel Singers Male Chorus, the Lord's Supper, and a report on Pastor Rick's bike ride in Colorado.  I think you'll enjoy Troy's it is!

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Life's Brothers-in-Blue team: Phil Goodyk, Pastor Rick, Marv Goodyk

Recently we completed our first Brothers-in-Blue weekend.  In a word it was Awesome!  In another word it was Incredible!  What a great weekend we had in early May (May 9-12).  21 volunteers and 46 inmates celebrated the depths of God's grace.  God blessed the weekend and now we're experiencing an incredible overflow of abundance: as many as a dozen guys may be baptized at the June 20th worship service.  Can you believe it!!??

This four day spiritual retreat is called Brothers-in-Blue because Iowa's inmates wear navy blue shirts and blue jeans.  It was a great way for imprisoned men to change their lives and also draw closer to God.  The Chaplain of Linn County Jail, Bob Smythe did a great job leading the weekend.  Pastor Rick was Bob's right hand man, helping to iron out important details.  

New Life volunteers Marv and Phil Goodyk were a part of it too.  Here are a few of Marv's reflections: "You could sense an excitement in the room from the guys.  You couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement with them.  I certainly appreciated the emphasis on prayer.  It was indeed a great experience." Here are some of Phil's thoughts on the weekend: "I enjoyed the camaraderie of the team.  We were One."  Candidate Juan agreed: "The unity was awesome."  Jordan really liked the atmosphere: "You could feel the Holy Spirit in there."  Many great things happened during Brothers-in-Blue.  God saved Kenton during the weekend. Here are some words from Kenton:  "I feel in my heart that I've been saved by grace.  Now I spend all my free time in prayer."  

Here are some more quotes from men who went on the Brothers-in-Blue retreat.  James: "I could go on and on about Brothers-in-Blue.  It was the BEST THING that happened for me in a long time!"  Joshua: "Brothers-in-Blue was an AMAZING EXPERIENCE.  It gave me so much hope.  The love shared by the leaders and speakers was tremendous."  Zyriah: "Brothers-in-Blue was a great experience.  There was a strong sense of FELLOWSHIP."  Robert talked about his table leaders (volunteers Larry & Sheryl Hanthorn): "They made me feel special!"

Each man completing the weekend received a handsome silver cross necklace.  But the weekend was so much more than just jewelry.  Philip finally came to the point where he was able to forgive himself.  Joshua experienced God's love.  Overall it was an amazing experience.  Lord willing, we hope to host our second Brothers-in-Blue early in 2014.  To God be the glory!

Smiling Pumpkin

One of the guys from Brothers-in-Blue gave me the words below.  In his grace, God saved him during the Brothers-in-Blue weekend.  Now he's inspired to become baptized in the prison gym on June 20th.  What a great day that will be!

The other day in baptism class, he gave me these words.  It was too good to keep to myself....

When asked, what is it like being a Christian? a newly baptized woman replied, It's like being a pumpkin!
God picks you up from the patch, brings you in and washes off the dirt.  Then He cuts the top off and scoops out all the yucky stuff: the seeds of doubt and hate, greed, pride, etc. God carves you up with a brand new smiling face.  Then he puts his light inside you to shine for all the world to see!

Don't you love it?