I hope this email finds you well.
Some Information for you
Pastor Doug asked me to share Jim Fortney’s April Financial Summary Document.
A story and a devotional thought
When I was sixteen, two things were new to me. I had become a Christian the previous August and I had saved and begged enough money to buy my first car. And for Randy who knows I am not a car guy, here is a description of the car: It was a 1977 Fiat 131 - mirafiori. It was a four door, box of a car that was bright orange. And much to my surprise, when I got up to 55 mph, the hood would begin to bounce open. Fortunately for me, it opened near the windshield and not near the grill. It had a hole in the floor that allowed water, mud and grime to come in and if it was wet before a freezing night, I could get the doors open, but had to hold them closed as I drove to school. I was so proud of that car!
In May, because of my new Christian commitment, the youth group I attended voted to have me give the “sermon” at the annual Youth Service taking place in June. I worked and worked on that message. I even submitted a transcript to my youth pastor. The Friday before the service, my brother, a friend of his, my dad and I went to the batting cage off Alpine in Grand Rapids. The batting cage was closed, so we hit golf balls. On the way home, just before getting on the highway, someone three cars in front of us decided to turn RIGHT out of the LEFT turn lane. I hit my brakes hard. I stopped a few inches from the bumper of the car in front of me. But the guy behind me (in a full size Dodge Pickup) never saw a thing and never touched his brakes. He hit us at approximately 45 mph, we hit the car in front of us and it hit the car in front of it.
My brother broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. His friend was hit by the trunk and fractured his skull. My dad was relatively unscathed and I had hit my head on the windshield - very hard apparently.
We all ended up in Blodgett Hospital. Everyone seemed to be recovering ok, except me. I had a concussion and had developed amnesia. I had no idea why I was in the hospital and had no memory of the accident even though I had given a full police report at the scene. I was told I would be there a while so I had to call my buddy (from the youth group) to tell them I wouldn’t be able to preach on Sunday. And apparently, I called him several times and had the same conversation with him because I could not remember I had already called him.
There remain a few months of my sophomore year I still don’t remember. But I do remember the verse and the sermon I was supposed to preach. And I did get to preach it the following year.
Here is the passage: 1 Peter 3:8-9 says: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
As you can tell, this idea has been a theme in my life since I was a brand new, baby Christian. I remember wanting that church (in 1982) to know how much I appreciated the way the enfolded me. They had treated me with compassion and kindness. They even asked me to speak to them. While this is not what I consider my first sermon, it is the first time I was asked to share with people what God had shared with me through them.
You, Community Reformed Church, have done the same for me. You have enfolded me and have treated me with compassion and kindness. I know I am not your “typical” pastor type. :-) However, I love the Lord, love His Scriptures and love you all very much. I see and hear a lot of frustration from many of you and only want for all of us the blessing God has promised us. We are all dearly loved by God and by each other. No matter how this present darkness impacts us, let us run to each other in aid (compassion and humility). I, like you, am ready for this darkness to end. It feels like CS Lewis’ description of Narnia - "always winter but never Christmas." But I assure you, not only is Christmas coming, so is EASTER. He is risen and He is victor! Even this will bring Christ glory. Let us choose to be glory givers by our actions, words and love for our neighbor.
End of the story: Just before the accident in the Fiat, I realized I couldn’t afford to insure the car anymore - insurance was one of the costs I failed to consider. I was going to have to sell the car. After the accident, insurance totaled the car and while I had paid $750 for it, I received a payment of $2000. Did I buy another beater and save the rest? Nope. I bought a 1968 candle apple red Ford Mustang. It was much cooler, but the brakes went bad a few months later. Why this story? Each of my choices as a teenager surrounding cars was full of hope but came with a cost. Over the years, I’ve learned to try to count the cost in advance. While I hope our civic leaders are doing that, I know our elders are. There is a danger in this: considering the cost can paralyze. It can also lead to wisdom. Pray for wisdom as the elders and pastors discern God’s will for this church during this present darkness.
In His Grip,