Friday, December 30, 2005

The Eyes of God. . .

It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord our God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
- Deuteronomy 11:12

What land? And what year? It was around the year 1400 B.C. It was the Land of Milk and Honey: The Promised Land. And in the context of this passage in Deuteronomy, the Israelites are being equipped to set out and possess the land. They did not yet physically control the land – their right to the territory hadn’t yet materialized. Yet they already seemed to have power over this land through eyes of faith.

And guess what? This same beautiful illustration is ours: God’s caring and attentive eyes are always looking upon us. And we - like the Israelites - can put our concerns and uneasiness into God’s hand of infinite grace and possess strength to face the yet-unseen future. 2006 is our Land. It could be a year of spiritual drought. It could be a year of graceful abundance. Either way, as believers, we can settle in “green pasture and lie down beside the still water.”

“The eyes of the Lord…” What precisely does that mean? Surely it is more than just Omniscience. I don't know for certain. But let’s just envision the delight and enchantment in the eyes of a loving and devoted parent as they watch their young child achieve something for the very first time. Now, see in your mind's eye: the deep love of God’s eyes as He watches His creation. He watches each of us with personal interest. This looking-after is not delegated to some other heavenly creature. God Himself watches us! The heart of Deity looks after us! And he never stops watching after us. This special watch-care is unbroken. It’s continuous. This unwearied power of God toward His people has been uninterrupted since the creation of the world! No human effort, no lyricist, no gifted writer, no dramatist could ever sufficiently make plain or explain God’s watch-care over His own.

It’s time we switched to the flip side. We need to take an honest look at our eyes. If God is ceaselessly and unwarily watching us, should not our eyes be upon Him? Constantly?! Sad thing is I’m afraid we don’t even come close. We get caught up in our days -- setting our sights on the temporal and the frivolous – and we don’t look for Him or see Him at all.

While the rest of the world is settling in for the few weeks of agony that goes along with keeping “New Year’s Resolutions,” let us resolve to cultivate the practice of looking to and seeing God in all of 2006.

- Pastor Mark

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

God's Agenda . . . Facing the Winter Seasons of Life

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Scripture is a verse that brims with meaning and emotion. Read with reflection these ancient words from the pen of Job:

“From the city men groan,
And the souls of the wounded cry out”
- Job 24:12

Slip into the scene of this verse for just a moment: Beneath the loud splash of bustle and activity in our cities, there are invisible, wounded, broken hearts - souls aching from shattered relationships, illness, death, financial despair, crushed hopes, unforeseen disaster, the list goes on and on.... Job calls them groans. In Hebrew, the word suggests that this groan comes from one who has been wounded. Perhaps this is why Job adds the next poetic line: The souls of the wounded cry out. In this line, “wounded” comes from a term meaning pierced as if stabbed. But it is the soul that is crying out, for the deep hidden lacerations of the heart can be far more painful than a physical stabbing. Does this describe you today? To be sure it defines Crane Community Chapel as a church body.

In a very real sense, 2005 has been a winter season for Crane Chapel. Winter speaks of barrenness: Icy shadows. Naked branches. Short days. Long nights. It is an ideal time to slow down in quiet reverence and remember that

God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.”
- Psalm 115:3

If we’ve learned anything in 2005, it is that our lives here on earth are indeed God’s agenda. Not our own. There were no designs in January of 2005 for Crane Chapel to flatten an arson-destroyed church building. There were no plans that included blueprints for a 1.3 Million dollar building project. And there were no guidelines for a pastoral search committee. But God is still working. His blessings and His agenda become more evident with every step we take. When the despair of this winter season has past, we will be wiser, stronger, and deeper in love with Jesus.

Crane Chapel stands at a crossroads this New Year. We can look backward or forward. The backward glimpse is devastating. It hurts. Unexpected circumstances occupied and dominated a great part of 2005. The good news is that God’s Word holds answers. The book of Job brings light and understanding to the perplexities and heartaches of life. Together, as a congregation, we are going to begin this New Year with a sermon series in this great book of the Bible. Together, we will discover Scriptural principles to direct and sustain us in the winter seasons of life.

Is it winter right now in this season of your life? Are you weighed down with feelings of confusion, depression, and loneliness? Do you feel forsaken, spiritually on hold, barren, cold? No question – our lives here on earth will always include winter. But, beyond the thick gray clouds of winter…is God! His agenda is miraculously greater than ours. And some days His Light just makes everything beautiful and shiny! Let this study in Job be a blessing and a source of comfort, as we look Forward in 2006!

- Pastor Mark & Esthermay Bentley Goossen

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The WHY? of Christmas. . .

Christmas greetings! My prayer this Christmas Day is that the Crane Chapel Family feels all the love and joy and peace that only Christ Jesus can give. I do hope that you have experienced His wondrous Salvation and have had many opportunities to share it.

It is a cliché, but in the hustle and bustle of the world, it is so easy to miss the real meaning of Christmas. There is so much unnecessary décor and clutter and mayhem and even chaos that the real meaning can be completely overlooked. It has been said, that if Jesus were invited to the birthday party that the world throws for Him each December, He wouldn’t even RSVP. Sadly, the world has not invited Him. The world does not want Jesus. It sees no need for Jesus. People just don’t want Jesus making any claims on their “private lives.” They don’t want to acknowledge the reality of who He is. They only want to throw a big celebration so there’s a ready excuse for all the stuff they choose to do. The world’s indulgence and entertainment are at Jesus’ expense and in His name! How’s that for honoring His birth?

It’s always fitting when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, don’t you think? In the grand text we look upon today, we are faced with the reality of Jesus Christ and obliged to reflect on the WHY of His advent. Why did He come?

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Christ took the penalty that we justly deserve.” - Hebrews 2:9

He came to earth to lead us up to the Father: “For it became Him, for whom are all things…in bringing many sons unto glory; to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” - Hebrews 2:10

Jesus Christ is capable of making us holy and part of His family: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” – Hebrews 2:11

Jesus came to earth, he died, and rose again - destroying Satan’s power of death: “…he himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.” -Hebrews 2:14

“…that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest… to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to help those that are tempted - Hebrews 2:17-18

The WHY of His Advent? The one single individual and only reason for Christ’s Birth was so he could DIE. For those who have received Him, there is nothing more marvelous or incredible to Celebrate! Go ahead and break out the mayhem and décor for that!!

- Pastor Mark

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Lamb of God

"The Lamb of God.” What a wonderful title for a children’s Christmas Program. A lamb is such an endearing animal and children adore gentle, sweet animals. Children – even more than most adults - appreciate the wonder of the animals that filled the stable where Jesus was born. Even so, Lamb is a rather unusual title for God’s Son. Of all the animals in creation, why was this species selected over, say, an eagle… or a lion? Let’s take a quick spiritual journey and appreciate why Lamb of God is such a fitting and proper title for our Savior Jesus.

Mankind’s need for a Savior travels much further into history than the stable in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. God realized the condition of mankind even before He created the universe. His Son is the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8) When Adam and Eve put their own desires above God’s will, God initiated the world’s first sacrifice. From that sacrifice, the skins of an animal were used as garments to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness. For all of time since, sin has needed to be covered. This “covering” of sin would ultimately come at a great price. God’s own precious and innocent Son would die like a spotless lamb to cover the sins of His own creation.

Cain and Abel were taught that the only way to approach God was through animal sacrifice. Of course, we know the story. One of the brothers obeyed and observed God’s command and offered a true sacrifice understanding that God does not allow substitutions. Years later, God’s Lamb would become the ultimate and final sacrifice.

God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. Abraham complied and because of his obedience, God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac’s life. I am so glad that God’ Lamb is our substitution.

The Israelites applied the blood of the Passover lamb to the doors of their homes. This too was God’s command. It was their only hope of being delivered from the destruction and havoc sent upon the Egyptians. “… He is to cast lots for two goats – one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat… He shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering.” (Leviticus 16:8-9) Again, years later, God’s Lamb became a sin sacrifice. He took our sins away and bore them himself.

And finally, Isaiah the prophet foresaw God’s Son as the suffering lamb who was wounded and bruised and silent before his shearers.(Isaiah 53:5-8)

The imagery of a lamb is so thematic throughout the entire Bible. The portrayal of Jesus as the Lamb of God occurs twenty-seven times in the writings of John in the New Testament alone. There is no doubt that God’s Son is The Lamb of God. He came into the world one night long ago in a dirty stable surrounded by animals. Behold him! Cast eyes of faith upon Him. Rest fully upon Him to find the real meaning and JOY of Christmas.

-- Pastor Mark

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Merry Christmas!" It's Okay to Say It!

Thanksgiving was still a week away this year when the American Family Association called for a Christmas Season boycott of Target stores, saying the chain was refusing to allow the phrase “Merry Christmas” on in-store promotions and advertising. On his show recently, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly offered a list of other retailers that he says refuse to use “Merry Christmas” in their store advertising. In Maplewood, New Jersey, the high school’s brass ensemble has been prohibited from playing even instrumental renditions of traditional Christmas carols, because as one school official put it, “If you’re familiar with the tune, you know the words. No religious songs!” It seems we can add the United States Postal Service to the list of “Grinches Who Stole Christmas” this year. It appears the USPS won’t be issuing any more “religious” stamps, as they are now considered “offensive.”

We go through this war on Christmas every year! Christians across the country are aggrieved by the secularization of the Season. Teachers in public schools are too intimidated to allow students to sing “Silent Night.” Business owners fear loss of fourth-quarter profits should they offend anyone with a Christmas (i.e. Christian) message. The majority of Americans (regardless of their religious background) believe it is ridiculous to ban nativity scenes in public places. And the war goes on. There’s a just-published book out now by John Gibson entitled, “The War on Christmas.” Now we can read about what we already know and commiserate with everyone else over the secularization of Christmas. Don’t we have anything better to do with the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

The message of Christmas is not that we should or should not tolerate a phrase or an act or a display that may or may not offend someone who does or doesn’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God! Whether someone believes in Jesus or not does not change the truth that Jesus Christ is a fact of history! This is precisely what President Ulysses S. Grant acknowledged on June 26, 1870 when he declared December 25th a Federal Holiday. But the message of Christmas is so much more than historical fact.

The message of Christmas is that God sent his Son into the world with the Good News of Salvation and Hope for rejected teenagers and wayward children and single parents and rundown husbands and weary wives and critical mothers and brokenhearted women and lonely men and depressed senior citizens and nosy neighbors and annoying relatives and homosexuals and drug addicts and preachers and you (and the guy who refuses to buy a Christmas tree unless it’s marketed as a “Holiday” tree). It’s painfully obvious that none of us are by nature perfect people. But God sent His incomparably perfect Son in the form of a little baby to be our Savior and He wants to change us into His likeness! (Romans 8:29) That is the message of Christmas.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.”
- I Timothy 1:15

We know that it was a cold, dark night in the little non-descript village of Bethlehem in Palestine, where a young virgin girl gave birth to this little baby Jesus in the most unsanitary wretched conditions imaginable, standing in the filth and manure of a stable. To call the birth of God’s Son “humble” is almost sarcastic. He lived just as humbly. He was obedient to His Father. He died a substitutionary death. And His powerful resurrection covered the sins of all people of every generation for all time! I Timothy 1:15 is a great summary statement of the Real Message of Christmas: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”

Nobody knows the exact month that Jesus was born, but it is a wonderful tradition that places Christmas one week before New Year's Day. New Year's is a time when we resolve to change things in our lives, and the Message of Christmas is that we can change. As 2005 comes to an end and we look back and reflect, consider the words of Charles Spurgeon:

If this child who lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem’s manger, is born to you, my hearer, then you are born again! For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child.”
- Charles Spurgeon

Has Christ been born to you? Are you born again? Has the message of Christmas touched you? It’s okay to say “Merry Christmas!” In 1870, the President of the United States declared the Birth of Christ a Federal Holiday. And the message of Christmas is that we can be forever changed by his Birth. What could be more Merry? Go ahead and wish people a “Merry Christmas!” The person offended by it the most probably needs the message of Christmas the most. (Might be the guy buying the “Holiday” tree.) Go ahead and say it!

May You Know the CHRIST of Christmas,
- Pastor Mark & Esthermay Bentley-Goossen

Now You Know the Rest of the Story...

The Incarnation of Christ is often a hard truth to grasp. Even … seasoned theologians take effort at a good clarification. But years ago when I was working in the oil fields of Wyoming, I heard one of the most unique explanations of the Incarnation from – of all places – the voice of Paul Harvey over the radio. “The rest of this story” reveals wonderful insight into the verses in John Chapter 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the word was God. . . .
The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Paul Harvey’s story opens with an apathetic, disinterested husband and father who just was not getting into the Christmas spirit. He turned down an invitation to attend a church Christmas program with his family, boldly stating his disbelief in the miracle of the Incarnation. He simply did not believe that God became a man.

His family left for the program and he settled in for a quiet evening at home. Outside a winter storm was gathering force. The winds were beginning to pick up when he heard a strange noise -- a tapping sound on the windowpanes. Opening the curtains, he discovered a flock of birds desperately seeking shelter from the storm and being attracted to the light emanating from the window. Feeling compassion for these birds, he threw on his wraps and headed towards the barn. He flung open the doors for the birds, but they did not come. He turned the barn lights on to attract them, but that did not work either. He got bread from the house and made a trail of crumbs, but that too failed. He rushed behind the flock to steer them toward the barn, but they only scattered.

Finally in disgust, he thought to himself, If only I could become a bird to show them where to go for warmth and safety. Just then in the distant village, he heard the church bells and an illuminating truth began to dawn in his soul: Is it possible that the reason for that first Christmas – with a tiny baby named Jesus – was for God to become like us? Is Christmas really the Incarnation of Christ?

And now, you know the rest of the story. . . .

- Pastor Mark

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Will The Real Messiah Please Stand Up?!

Does anyone remember the game show “To Tell The Truth?” I remember watching it as a kid. It premiered on CBS forty-nine years ago this month. The show always had three contestants each claiming to be the same person. And there was always a panel of celebrity guests that would take turns asking each contestant various questions. Each panelist would then venture a guess as to who was telling the truth and who was not telling the truth. The goal, of course, was to identify the real person and eliminate the two imposters. I can still remember clearly that famous catch phrase: "Will the real so-and-so please stand up?”

To be sure, t.v. game-shows are pure entertainment. And it is fun to reminiscence about things we remember growing up. But there’s a lesson here too. Those questions posed by the panel always had a way of exposing the fabrications of the two impostors. Let’s apply the “Real-Person-vs.-Imposter-Test” to any “savior” or so-called “christ” other than Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus will sit alongside the two impostors, each claiming to be the Messiah. Here are some hypothetical questions our celebrity guests could pose:

Were you born in Bethlehem?
Were you born of a virgin?
Are you a direct descendant of both Abraham and David?
Did you come approximately 490 years after Daniel’s time?
Did you exercise a benevolent ministry characterized by miracles?
Were you a perfect character?
Did you die on a cross? Rise three days later?
Did you offer your body to be wounded & pierced as a sacrifice for the sins of the world?
Did you rise from the dead and ascent to Heaven?
Were you sold for thirty pieces of silver?
Did anyone ever part your garments or cast lots for your vesture?
Did you ever cry out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?

Just a moment’s worth of thought should convince anyone that the Christ of the New Testament – the One who fulfilled over three hundred prophecies concerning His First Advent -- truly is the Messiah! (Our questions are – of course -- based on Old Testament prophecy.) The Word of God is so absolutely true and accurate and worthy of our trust and dependence.

Will the real Messiah please stand up? He has stood up! … From his humble beginning in Bethlehem to the cruel Cross of Calvary where he paid the price for our salvation. He has stood up for us. Will you stand up and identify with Him?

- Pastor Mark

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mail Call! Tracking the Message of Messiah

Have you ever had to track a letter? You know – to find out if and when it was received, who signed for it, etc.? Nowadays the United States Postal Service offers us Proof of Delivery, Delivery Confirmation, and Signature Confirmation. You can pay extra for Certified Mail, Registered Mail, Track and Confirm, and Return Receipts. It’s all very complicated if you ask me. Maybe this is why postage rates keep rising. (Makes me wish it were 1935. Remember? …3¢ Stamps?) Today, it’s all about accuracy and reliability.

It’s not a fact we ponder daily, but grasp this: Any person living anywhere in the world who has mail service can be singled out from the rest of the world’s population by simply addressing an envelope to them with a few identifying details (e.g. first name, last name, street, zip code). Talk about accuracy! There are over Six Billion people in the world! That is a one in 6,481,159,714 chance… not the greatest odds, but the system is reliable. Still, we still take our chances with the mail. Why else would we pay for Proof of Delivery?

Now, let’s look at this whole concept of accuracy, reliability and chance in terms of the Biblical prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. There are 333 prophesies in the Old Testament pertaining to the coming of Jesus Christ; and every single one of them comes together and is fulfilled in the New Testament with His Advent. Statisticians have applied the theory of probability to the chances of the fulfillment of only 50 of these detailed predictions (that’s only 15% of them). They tell us that the chances are less than one in 125,000,000,000,000. (That’s twelve zero’s and that’s 125 Trillion.) Forget about chance and probability here! These prophecies are accurate facts!

It is an unmistakable and unparalleled miracle that the birth, life and ministry of Jesus Christ were all foretold and prewritten hundreds of years before they actually occurred. It is no wonder Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures. . . for they testify of me.” (John 5:39) Christianity is not a contemporary, modern-day religion. It is based on the fulfillment of accurate, precise and reliable Old Testament prophecies. Can you imagine someone giving accurate and precise details of – let’s say – Abraham Lincoln or Billy Graham some seven hundred years before they were born? It’s unheard of!

Over the years, co-workers and friends have tried to impress and amaze me with the writings of Nostradamus and others. But after reading a few of these “predictions,” the only thing that impresses me is that they bear neither the uniqueness nor the precision of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. It makes me sad that people are so quick to accept, rely on, and live by the over-simplified and generalized statements of a common man, yet refuse to “search the Scripture” when it comes to Christ. Christianity is an irrefutable fact!

The next time you address an envelope, think about how that envelope will – with great probability – reach its intended recipient at a precise destination. In the same way, the prophets of the Old Testament wrote to us – selecting you and me from all of history – to hear the good News of Jesus Christ. The News is precise and reliable, using identifying details just as we do on envelopes. And if you understand math, you’ll know that the probability of its accuracy and reliability is far greater than that of even the U.S. Postal Service.

- Pastor Mark

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Do You Recall From 1935?

Remember when stamps were 3¢? I’m afraid I do not. That was the cost of a First-Class U.S. Postage Stamp in 1935. Throwing out a date like that sounds pretty archaic to most of us. I wasn’t around in 1935, but since I am a history buff, I asked Esthermay to find out what was going on in 1935. She consulted our computer, did what she calls an “Internet Search,” and Ta-Da! She presents me with a four-page run-down of the year 1935….

In 1935, the Nazi’s rejected the Treaty of Versailles and introduced compulsory military service. They enacted laws against Jewish people to prevent what they called “racial pollution,” and at the same time, started a breeding program to produce an Aryan Super Race. The land of Persia became Iran; and Mussolini invaded Ethiopia.

On the U.S. scene, President Roosevelt opened the second phase of the New Deal, calling for Social Security, better housing, equitable taxation, and farm assistance.

In the world of science, Dupont chemist Wallace Hume Carothers created nylon, the first completely synthetic fabric. Aircraft-detecting radar was pioneered by Robert Watson-Watt in England; and the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to James Chadwick for the discovery of the neutron.

George Gershwin brought us Porgy and Bess, Henrietta Leaver of Pennsylvania was crowned Miss America, and – almost certainly one of the most significant events of 1935 -- Minnesota finishes the season as the NCAA Football Champions!!

Alas, one very worthy item did not show up in our Internet search. The event went unnoticed in both the scientific- and political-worlds; but in God’s eyes, this event was momentous! 1935 marks the foundation of Crane Community Chapel. It was in 1935 that a burden was placed upon the hearts of a few godly people in Austin, Minnesota; and the vision for a Union Sunday School in the Crane Addition was born in the heart of John Hormel. John had a fervent desire to establish a place of worship to reach the children in the neighborhood near the factory. He envisioned both a place where the Gospel would be clearly presented, and a place where those who found peace in Christ could be joined together in Christian fellowship.

A small building was purchased in 1935 and Rev. Joe Matt Sr. and his wife Amanda were invited to assume the shepherding of this ministry. Ten years later, the pastorate was turned over to their son, Joe Matt, Jr. The church was incorporated on July 18, 1950 and Joe and his wife Della continued the vision birthed in 1935.

That simple vision continues today! Seventy years later, we remain steadfast to reach the lost with the Gospel through the work of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, AWANA, and our Teen and Youth Programs. Let’s celebrate 70 years! . . . and may we never lose the vision.

- Pastor Mark

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Same Havest Field... Just a Few Acres Over

Appreciation is an expression used so commonly in our speech today that it sometimes becomes a real challenge to express true heartfelt gratitude. That’s where I am today – challenged to express my appreciation. I am so grateful and pleased with the support and confidence that Crane Chapel has given me through the vote last Sunday. I look forward to being your full-time Pastor with both thanksgiving and humbleness. Thank you for calling me as your Shepherd.

I find it so unique that I have been called to serve a congregation in the same community where I have lived and worked for over fourteen years. Typically, a pastor will come to a church and community as a complete stranger – cold turkey, if you will. In a sense, I’m just moving over an acre or two in the harvest field.

It was over fourteen years ago that circumstances -- which I thought at the time, were unfortunate and ill timed -- forced me out of full-time ministry. I had pretty much given up the idea of ever pastoring a church again. The words of Jeremiah as he cried out in despair over his own ministry indeed matched my own feelings:

“…His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
- Jeremiah 20:9

Even though the fire and passion were in me, I was not able to preach in a pulpit or serve a congregation as a “pastor.” I laid aside the notion of ever serving again in full-time ministry and instead sought to diligently share the Good News of Jesus Christ on the factory floor at Hormel, and simply serve as a church worker in a variety of ministries. God has definitely used me -- and prepared me -- for fourteen years. Those unfortunate and ill-timed circumstances were used for God’s glory!

God tells us that “the gifts and calling are without repentance,” and I am so humbled in this season of my life that God gives second chances. The fire in me has never abated and I now have the honor and joy of serving Him in the same community, but with a new emphasis. As your Pastor, I will seek God’s wisdom daily. My desire is to keep alive the mission of Crane Chapel, which was put into action seventy years ago by the Matts: To bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the City of Austin and its surrounding communities. I will do my best to present clear Biblical teaching and encourage evangelism. And as your servant, I especially look forward to the ministry of visitation and to becoming better acquainted with each of you and your families.

In this season of my life, I am also grateful and very blessed to have such a talented helpmate in my wife, Esthermay. She compliments the ministry and supports me in so many ways with her unique gifts and abilities. We make a great team. Where one of us lacks, the other is abundantly gifted. We keep each other humble that way.

In the future, if you visit my office, you’ll catch sight of a fourteen-year-old Hormel hard-hat. I’m keeping it as a reminder of my service to Him there. It’s a part of my past that I am not ashamed of… I will never quit praying for my Hormel co-workers.

“For we are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field, God’s building.”
- I Corinthians 3:9

-- Pastor Mark

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Source of True Thanksgiving...

"The First Thanksgiving"
Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (1915)

God’s Word tells us that one of the signs of the last days is the ingratitude of mankind. The Apostle Paul wrote about it in II Timothy 3:2: "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, UNTHANKFUL, unholy.” Without knowing that these words come from God’s Word, you might credit them to a modern-day pundit observing the decline of society. The words rightly describe the hearts, minds and attitudes of many people in our world today. Makes one wonder when Thanksgiving arrives each November, whether people understand what it even means to be thankful? What do we really understand of Thanksgiving as observed and established by the First American Puritans in 1621?

It’s certain we’ve all committed to memory our elementary school version of the story of the Pilgrims. The simple narrative has served as the plot for millions of skits, plays, books, movies, and television shows. If you’ve taken in enough of these rudimentary renditions of the “Thanksgiving Story” you may have a distorted perception of history. Rarely do these accounts address the appalling circumstances and untold human sufferings of the Massachusetts Colony. Let alone the Christian values that sustained the Puritans through all their heartache! Do public schools even teach that the Pilgrims were the first American Puritans? Even the famous Jean Louis Gerome Ferris painting commemorating the first Thanksgiving is misleading. The idyllic scene belies the reality that the Pilgrims faced. Governor William Bradford’s words don’t exactly correspond either with the placid scenes of feasting and merriment that our children have come to identify as Thanksgiving. The Governor’s own personal tragedy often goes unnoticed. His own wife drowned as they disembarked the Mayflower, leaving him a widower with a one-year-old little boy. What else was there in this New World to “sustain them but the Spirit of God and his grace?”

They had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or
refresh their weather-beaten bodies; no houses or much less
towns to retire to. . . . And for the season, it was winter.
What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness?
What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and his grace?

Governor William Bradford
December 1620

What was it about theses first American Puritans that caused them to endure such harsh and profound adversity and still establish and celebrate true Thanksgiving? And what can we borrow from the Puritans to sustain us in today’s world of ingratitude? Without boring you with a lot of sixteenth-century European history, the Puritans were the breakaway group of Christians who sought to “purify” the Anglican Church – bringing it in line with the simple Gospel presented in Scripture. As petitioners to King James I put it in 1603, the true church ought not to be "governed by Popish Canons, Courts, Classes, Customs, or any human invention, but by the laws and rules which Christ hath appointed in his Testament." The Puritans – by every account – believed in the Sovereign Creator and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – in Salvation by Grace – and they were truly THANKFUL!

The foundation and source of true Thanksgiving may well be the Puritan values of the first Americans. Sadly, Puritanism today has evolved into a satirical label for "what's wrong with America." Some think that too much Puritanism survives and that it hinders “free thought” and violates a “separation of church and state.” There are others who sincerely believe that the breakdowns of our society are the direct consequence of the dilution of Puritan disciplines and ideals. Many Christians believe that in the name of “tolerance,” our Puritan heritage has been censored and effectively edited-out of the history we teach our children. Regardless of your political view, it is an undisputed fact that no other philosophy or thought has had a more permanent effect upon our nation's government, education, literature, sense of mission, church governance, ethical responsibility, or religious vision than has Puritanism.

What happened specifically over the last nearly-four-hundred years to misshape our nation into a culture of ingratitude? It’s simple. As a nation, we no longer rely on the significance, the implication, nor the worth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heritage! Our nation is established upon it! There can be no real Thanksgiving unless there is a right relationship with God. The more we know, accept and welcome his Son into our lives, the more real Thanksgiving there will be in our lives. The measure of one will be the measure of the other; and Thanksgiving will no longer be a holiday in November, but an everyday practice. The last Thursday in November can then be devoted entirely to the recognition and appreciation of football. Or, in the case of all you non-football fans, devoted to the good-natured complaining about all the football!

On Behalf of Pastor Mark,
-- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen

Beauty Where You'd Least Expect It...

Little children have adorable, beautiful feet. My little kids’ feet are soft and warm and cute and their toenails are clear and smooth. When you get old, you get calluses and bunions and crooked toes and thick yellow toenails. Funny isn’t it, how age turns something so sweet into something, well. . . not so sweet? Women polish their toenails – I guess that makes their feet prettier than a guy’s. Even so, in today’s world, feet are generally not considered the most beautiful and striking feature of the human body.

Now let’s suppose you lived in First Century Rome or Jerusalem in 700 B.C during the Prophet Isaiah’s ministry – long before the time of Dr. Scholl’s. People walked everywhere in Bible-times and nobody had beautiful feet. The roads outside the cities were rocky and dusty, and city streets were utterly filthy – I’m pretty sure they didn't have those big street cleaner trucks like we do today. People either went barefoot or wore sandals, and since they walked whereever they went, their feet took a lot of abuse. Feet were certainly considered the ugliest part of the body. People washed their feet before they went into their homes and they always left their sandals outside. I imagine their sandals were a lot like my hunting boots – there really is no way to get them clean enough to wear inside the house. Bottom line: Feet in Bible-times were an everyday episode of some sort or another – and usually not a pleasant one. Feet were a downright ugly nuisance!

Here’s one of the beauties of God’s Word – an ordinary, everyday thing – like the whole notion of feet – has been turned it into a lesson. Here’s what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:15: “... As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!’” He refers to Isaiah 52:7:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring
Good News, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who
proclaim Salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

The message of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so perfect and good and precious and valuable that even the feet (remember: Ugly!) of the person who brings it are beautiful! But look at what Paul says in Romans 10:14 – just before extolling feet: “…how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” Paul is telling us that we’ve got to get up off our chairs, and actually use our feet before they can be beautiful.

My little boy does have adorable, beautiful feet – but he can’t walk very well. He staggers and stumbles. He’s only a year old. So although his feet are beautiful, they are inadequate. On the other hand, I’ve got old, not-so-pretty feet. They’ve served me well over the years and I’ll keep them – They are beautiful in my Lord’s eyes when I’m carrying His Word! How are your feet doing? Want instant-beauty? Think of just one person who you know that needs to hear the Good News. Now use your feet!

-- Pastor Mark

Monday, October 31, 2005

More Positive Sermons Please...

More Positive Sermons Please

My father-in-law shared with me about the time he preached a sermon on the reality of Hell. Following the service, one individual approached him and admonished him, contending that Pastors should preach “more positive sermons,” and that Christians need to focus on God’s Love…not God’s Wrath.

Arguably there are pastors who will pacify listening ears with soft-pedaled messages on God’s Love and Goodness…. I apologize: I am not one of them. (Neither is my father-in-law.) The reality is that the Bible has a great deal to say about Hell. In fact, it has more to say about Hell than about Heaven. There are more passages that teach about Hell than teach about Heaven; there are more verses that describe the conditions of Hell than there are verses relaying the glorious setting of Heaven. To discard the subject of Hell is to refuse a portion of God’s Word. To reject God is to accept Hell.
People need to wake up to the reality of Hell. It was John the Baptist who cried out to the religious crowd, “…Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath.” (Matthew 3:7) True Believers know that the Bible -- both the Old and New Testaments combined -- promises Hell for sinners. The Apostle Paul tells us that even those who say they are Christians but persist in sin with no remorse will not enter Heaven. And if you don't go to Heaven, the only place left is Hell! To reject God is to accept Hell.

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.” - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NIV)

There are far too many people side-stepping the reality of hell. Some excuse themselves from the subject altogether – they simply deny the reality of Hell. Others theologically rationalize and declare, “God is too Loving to send anybody to Hell” -- they simply choose to see themselves as more wise than God. Still others choose to blame preachers for using “scare tactics” to unsettle people and force their repentance -- they simply refuse to acknowledge their own lost state. And there are -- of course -- those who mock the reality of Hell, turning the whole notion into comedic banter and unsettling jokes.

In today’s message, Christ offers a very vivid and dramatic story about a man who dies and wakes to find himself in Hell. In his utter misery, his one desire is for someone to go warn his five brothers about Hell so that they don’t also end up there when they die. His request is not granted. Even so, the man’s brothers are given the Scriptures. With God’s Word, they are fully equipped to understand the plan of Salvation, to accept it, and to avoid Hell altogether!

When you think about it, there is nothing more positive and loving than sharing the simple plan of Salvation. How is it anything but positive to steer people clear of this place called Hell? The Word of God is very plain. You must decide whether you believe the Bible or not. If you believe the Bible, you have to believe in Hell. To reject God is to accept Hell.
-- Pastor Mark

Friday, October 21, 2005

Religious But Lost

Religious But Lost
It was a moving testimony. It triggered a real spiritual awakening on campus. I remember well. We had a guest speaker present a series on the “Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” The speaker shared his personal testimony about growing up in a Christian home, attending church, and going on to Bible College and Seminary. He became ordained in an evangelical denomination and accepted a call to become a pastor. It was during this pastorate that he realized he wasn’t really converted. He wasn’t saved! His story was gripping to all us pastor-wanna-be’s. The response was soul stirring. This speaker did ultimately come to repentance and true faith in Jesus Christ. But not before he came to the realization that he must be born again!

Such was the case of Nicodemus when confronted by Jesus:

“Marvel not that I say unto thee, ye must be born again.”
- John 3:7

Now put yourself in Nicodemus’ shoes. You are the “cream of the Jewish crop.” You could not dream of having life any better than this: You are a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin (the highest legal, legislative and judicial body of the Jews), and the most renowned Bible teacher of your day – the “Billy Graham” of first century Jerusalem. Can you imagine being Nicodemus and having Jesus tell you that all of this is not enough to get you into the kingdom of God? This is precisely what Jesus did in John 3:16, the most widely quoted verse in the entire Bible:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If a man like Nicodemus is not good enough for the kingdom of God, then who is? There are millions just like Nicodemus -- people just like the pastor who spoke at my college -- who are diligently striving to do good things for God so that they can get into heaven. It’s sad how so many religions -- and cults! – have at their heart a philosophy of good works – the notion of doing good and “religious” things to make yourself worthy of heaven. But what did Jesus teach? Follow the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus yet again:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It’s very simple. It’s incredibly clear: We can do nothing to receive eternal life except believe! Being religious is not the same as being a Christian. A few years ago, a book was published (based on the Book of Romans) entitled “How To Be Christian Without Being Religious.” It attempted to show that you could be a Christian without having to act “religious.” The sad truth is that more people in our world are Religious Without Being a Christian. They are lost.

So, I ask you, “Are you religious but lost?” Multitudes of good religious people are not going to make it to heaven -- people who trusted in their works to get them to heaven, rather than in His work—the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. One more time:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

-- Pastor Mark

Friday, October 14, 2005

Just an Ordinary Garage

Just an Ordinary Garage

Was it just another garage? By and large, Dad’s garage was just another ordinary garage. It’s where he parked the car and kept his tools. Our mail-slot was there along with a milk-shelf; and our dog spent a lot of time there. Generally, you wouldn’t classify a plain-old garage as a tool of ministry. So the story of this particular garage being used for the Lord is quite noteworthy.

See, after my parents were saved, their lives were dramatically changed. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). My parents’ “old ” friends in the neighborhood started avoiding them. I don’t think this bothered them much, but they did desire to leave a spiritual impact in the area. So Dad transformed an ordinary garage into a ministry to win souls.

The garage became a “hang-out” for kids in the neighborhood. Dad loved boxing, so he provided a heavy bag and a speed bag along with boxing lessons. We had weight-lifting equipment and chin-up bars. Dad installed a homemade backboard and rim. He let all the kids use his tools for bike repairs. He even let us use his welding machine! The garage became the neighborhood Vo-Tech, Gymnasium and Clubhouse all rolled into one! I still remember planning fishing excursions with the guys. We’d all sit around the garage as if it were a boardroom. And after our fishing trip, we’d be back for a wonderful Fish Fry in the backyard! As far as ordinary garages go, ours was pretty notable.

The garage door was always open. Others in the neighborhood cringed at the thought of their homes becoming a “hangout.” As a rule, their doors were usually closed. Their yards were nicely manicured too. Ours: not so much. Our yard was a football field! For all the fun we had, everything was sustained with God’s Word. Gospel literature was left on the milk-shelf. An old blackboard was the ideal spot to share Bible verses on Salvation. I don’t think my parents ever missed an opportunity to witness to anyone who visited that garage.

Such fond memories of the garage! . . . Dad is with Jesus now and I don’t see Mom very often. But when we do get together, we love to reminisce about all the fun we had out of that garage. And we praise God because many of those kids of yesteryear are in the faith today simply because we shared Christ with them by allowing our garage to become a “hang-out.” Some of those kids received more love in our garage than they did in their own homes! The Goossen family is sprawled out all over the United States today, but because of our parents’ salvation, we impacted lives in our hometown of Hoyt Lakes, MN over a generation ago. Who knows how far the Word has now spread by now.

Scripture records the impact of just one soul on a hometown in Mark 5:18-20:

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (NIV)

Jesus had been ministering is a very pagan area. He didn’t expect great crowds to follow him. But by sending the Gaderene away with the Good News, Jesus expanded His ministry to those who would not have otherwise been touched. Who are you touching? Whom will they touch? Is your garage door even open?

-- Pastor Mark

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Stranger on the Emmaus Road

The Stranger on the Emmaus Road

The story of Christ witnessing on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:17-34 is my favorite Bible story. I love sharing it. In fact, the first time I met my wife, I shared it with her, not knowing at the time that in her attic she had an old tattered and unframed copy of the Robert Zund art print depicting the story. I’ve since learned that Esthermay is a bit of a collector. She has all sorts of treasures hidden away: garage-sale junk and old broken stuff that most folks just throw away. She tucks these treasures away and brings them out at just the right time (cleaned-up, fixed-up or rearranged) as a gift for someone or a seasonal addition to our home.

The time came for me to ask for Esthermay’s hand in marriage. I nervously drove to her parents’ home and did it the old-fashion way in the tradition of chivalry. Sitting there in her parents’ dining room, I again shared my favorite story of Christ on the Emmaus Road. They both listened agreeably as I went on and on. . . . My future father-in-law then motioned for me to look at the wall. Right there in front of me was the Robert Zund print! Am I observant or what?!! (Perhaps, just nervous on this particular day.) The print had been in their family for years; and the one tucked away in Esthermay’s attic would also soon become a Goossen family heirloom.

If you’re thinking ahead, you’ve already figured out that the old unframed print in Esthermay’s attic was eventually transformed into a gift for me. It came out of hiding on our first Christmas together. It had been, of course, beautifully matted and framed with an attractive gold-plated inscription. It now hangs in my study at home. I treasure it. And I will always love the message that it inspires: The importance of witnessing.

As we settle in for our study on The Whiten Harvest Fields over the next weeks here at Crane Chapel, we will realize and appreciate that witnessing is the essential tool in our work. This morning we will look at the key elements of witnessing from the story of the Emmaus Road. Like Jesus, we need to first understand the importance of Contact with people (vs. 15). We need to grasp the significance of the actual Communication we have with people (vs. 17). We need to learn the value of the Content (vs. 17) of the Scripture that we share with people. And finally, we need to see that the goal of witnessing is the Conversion of those to whom we witness.

We don’t know with certainty exactly who the two people were on the road with Jesus that day. What we are told in scripture is that Jesus “drew near and went with them.” (Luke 24:15) We all travel a symbolic Emmaus Road and we all come in contact with strangers. Are you like Jesus? Do you draw near? What inspires you to draw near to others? For me it’s this wonderful story. In essence, this passage is my life’s mission-statement. I want to be like Jesus: courageous and confident in sharing the precious Word of God with everyone I meet. How about you?

-- Pastor Mark

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Christ: A Seeker of Souls

Christ: A Seeker of Souls

When you run your errands in and around Mower County, do you “people watch?” And do you pigeonhole people? Do you do it without fully comprehending what you’re actually doing? You know: “Oh, there goes a Welfare Mother…Elderly Woman… Professional Businessman…Weird Teenager…Minority… Wealthy Retiree…Likely Criminal…Busy Stay-at-Home-Mom….” Do you ever just see an ocean of lost souls?

If we’re honest, we all have the tendency to classify people. Oh, but if we could have the same compassion and vision for the lost as Christ!! He had a mission to seek and to save the lost. And once someone was saved, Christ prepared that person to go and bring yet more lost souls to Him. Christ commenced His ministry by seeking followers. His words in Matthew 4:19 say, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” During His ministry, His followers were sent out to the lost sheep of Israel (Luke 10:6). Later on, the same followers were sent into the highways and hedges to compel anyone they could find to come to Christ (Matthew 22:9). See a pattern here? Christ was seeking souls.

Besides breaking most of the customs of the day, Christ shattered racial and social boundaries to bring the Message of Salvation. Of His most-cherished workers were those of “ill-repute.” (e.g. The Samaritan Woman, and a “crazy” Gadarene.) Christ was always on the lookout for souls -- whether up a tree (Zacheus), under a tree (Nathaniel), the local Tax Office (Matthew), the community well (The Samaritan Woman), or a cemetery (the “crazy” Gaderene). Christ was always looking for and winning souls! No pigeonholing of people-types here!

Christ’s soul-seeking mission affected even His perspective on the everyday, ordinary things of this earth. When He saw a grain field “white already to harvest” (John 4:35), He instead saw the harvest field of souls. When He heard about a lost sheep, a lost soul came to his thoughts. When a women’s dowry coin was missing and later located, it became an illustration of lost soul found. And when a prodigal son came back to his father, it became a beautiful account of His Father’s heart receiving a lost and sinful soul.

Christ’s final words a He ascended up into Heaven were, “Go and make disciples. . . . ” Let’s start right here in the Whitened Harvest Fields of Mower County. Let’s stop pigeonholing those people that we encounter throughout our days. Instead, let’s start seeing them as Christ did: as a lost soul.

Anticipating a Harvest in Christ,
Your Fellow Worker,
-- Pastor Mark

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Whitened Harvest Fields

The Whitened Harvest Fields

There is an old children's story about a “Little Red Hen” who decided to bake some bread. After asking all of her animal friends to help with various tasks like gathering the wheat, grinding the wheat, kneading the dough, and baking the bread; she finally did the whole thing herself because no one was interested in helping. Yet after she had baked such a wonderful loaf of bread it seemed that everyone was willing to help eat it. But the Little Red Hen was wise; she told her friends that she would be enjoying the whole loaf for herself!

Sadly, many Christians have adopted the same attitude as the Little Red Hen’s animal friends. The Lord calls each of us to the harvest fields for work. But it seems there aren’t very many volunteers. The work is hard – and it takes a valuable investment of time, talents, and resources. Too often we see neither the importance of the labor nor the consequence of our lack of it. Funny though, isn’t it, how once a ministry shows success, it seems everyone wants a piece of the "wonderfully baked bread.” Jesus said:

"The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” -- Luke 10:2

What exactly do the words “whitened harvest” mean? It means that it is nearly past harvest time. A white harvest in the wheat field means that the waving, golden grain is no longer golden, but even the stock is turning white. Being overripe, the head is opening up and grain is falling to the ground. Does it seem sometimes that the world around us is “falling to the ground?”

Our falling world – our harvest field – is Mower County; and it is ready for harvest! Souls are falling to the ground. Like Jesus, we need to pray for our whitened harvest fields, asking God to move us with compassion for the unsaved. Matthew 9:36 illustrates for us the concern Jesus has for the lost: “But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Do you see people fainted and scattered? And do you share the compassion of Jesus for them?

Say not ye, ‘There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?’ Behold I say unto you, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the field; for they are white already to harvest.’ ” -- John 4:35

Just as there is a right time for farmers to bring in the harvest, there is a right time to begin the harvest of precious souls. And before the fields are ready to harvest, they must be plowed and sowed and tilled. There are teachable moments -- receptive times in the hearts of the unsaved. We need to understand this and prepare accordingly.

As we go into the harvest season of 2005 here at Crane Chapel, we will begin to understand and prepare as we begin a sermon series on The Whitened Harvest Fields. We will learn from our Lord the Need to harvest souls. We’ll study and absorb the Master’s teaching as He Looks at and deals with all types of souls in the whitened harvest fields. We’ll understand the need for Compassion. We’ll study about the necessity of Praying for our harvest field. We’ll examine scriptural commands to Go into the fields and consider our role as Workers. We’ll learn and understand that there will be Weeping as we go into the fields: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy….” --Psalm 126: 5-6. And finally, we will appreciate the Sure Result of our work in the harvest fields. Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

As we move through this series on the harvest of souls, we will be singing the words of a beautiful hymn. The words seem so appropriate to our study. Let these words resonate in your heart over the next weeks and pray that God will indeed “lay some soul upon your heart.”

“Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me;
And may I nobly do my part
To win that soul for Thee.”

Your Fellow-Laborer in the Fields,
Pastor Mark Goossen

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Final Words...

Final Words . . .
We’ve all heard stories about the mother who receives a tender letter from a son on the battlefield within days of his ill-timed death. My own mother-in-law has such a box of cherished letters written home to family by her brother Paul. I will meet him some day in Heaven! We all give careful attention to the words that are written to us from someone we love who is far away. When a friend or loved-one leaves us, we cling to those last spoken words. The same holds true for the precious words spoken from the deathbed of someone dear to us. Final words are lovingly received and treasured forever.

In Peter’s final message to us in II Peter 3, he exhorts us in four areas. He encourages us to make a Commitment to God’s Word, a Commitment to His Second Coming, a Commitment to Evangelism, and a Commitment to Holy Living. Like so many passages of Scripture, we have here a set of essential elements for living the Christian life. We need to take these four Commitments seriously. Let’s receive them lovingly and treasure them forever!
Over the next few weeks as we go into October, we’re going to begin a series of sermons entitled “The Whitened Harvest Field. We’ll hear some practical messages on sharing Christ with others. Please come -- and invite someone to join you.

Your Servant,
Pastor Mark

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Great and Precious Promises

Great & Precious Promises . . .
The last “precious” in our sermon series is found in II Peter 1:4: “Whereby are given unto us, exceeding great and precious promises. . . . ” A promise is defined as an assurance on the part of another of some good for which we become dependent on that person.

This past summer I promised my wife and children that I would put together a sandbox for our backyard. We found a big old tire and hauled it home. We lined the ground underneath it with plastic and filled the thing with play sand. Selah and Shepard love it! They’re both so disappointed when it’s time to go inside. When parents make promises to their little children – the child is expectant, excited and gracious. It’s a precious thing to witness.

In the context of II Peter, the great and precious promises referred to are not for earthly physical things. The promises are for those treasured and eternal possessions that our Heavenly Father bestows; those things that come along with our salvation. No other promises to His children are so precious as the wonderful blessings that accompany the Good News of salvation – The pardon of sin. The power to live a brand new life. The support we receive in and through our trials. And the glorious promises of resurrection and immortality !!!

What would the believer’s world be without these promises from the Father? Will His promises stand? Will He deliver? And will we – like little children promised a sandbox -- be expectant, excited and gracious? Remember: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken to us to the glory of God.” --II Corinthians 1:20

- Pastor Mark

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Family of God

The Family of God. . .

What comes to mind when you think of “family?” Hopefully, thoughts of love and affection come to mind. Our Savior -- in His incarnation -- chose a simple and humble family in which to grow in “wisdom, statue, and favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) But when Christ commenced His ministry, He was indeed building another family: The Family of God. On one occasion during His ministry, Christ’s earthly family came looking for him to speak with Him. Jesus asked the people nearby, “Who is my mother?” and “Who are my brethren?” Jesus then pointed to His disciples and said, “Behold, my mother and my brethren.” What a precedent the Lord laid down for the “Family of God!” Are you apart of that family? (John 1:12 – 13) Hopefully, you are experiencing it here at Crane Community Chapel and finding brothers and sisters in the Lord who share the precious faith, hope, and love that we have in Christ.

In His Family,
The Goossens

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Blueprints . . .

Crane Chapel’s Rebuilding Committee is becoming quite familiar with blueprints. The beauty and design of a blueprint is that it pre-thinks and plans out the details of a building so the end result is a stable building that performs the way it was intended. It would be inadvisable -- even foolish -- to construct a building without the specifications of a blueprint.

In the Word of God we have a blueprint to help us build-up and bless those around us. We are blessed ourselves when we follow the blueprint laid out in God’s Word. Scriptures teach us how to be godly men and women who are the “salt” and flavor in our society for Jesus Christ. It is very precious to God when we have godly attitudes. Our marriages, our homes, our jobs, our churches, and our society are all affected. When we have the right attitude, we are living the kind of lives that God intended.

Our hearts feel the pain and loss suffered by those in the Southern part of our country this last week. When we are tempted to say, “Where is God in this mess?” we need to -- by faith -- take heart in a loving and faithful God who is in control of every detail and can bring order out of chaos. God demonstrated this often throughout His Word. In Romans we read about “goodness and severity.” Both can lead mankind to repentance. We pray for God to increase His family through this tragedy. We also pray for comfort and strength to all those involved in the situation.

We Serve a Faithful and Loving God!
- The Goossens

P.S. David and Nancy Matt were such a blessing to us this last week. We are truly thankful for their ministry to Crane and the way they are allowing God to use them as “salt” in their lives today in Indiana.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How God Opens Doors...

How God Opens Doors. . .
And Leads us in Paths of Righteousness

In July, God opened the door for us to serve Crane Chapel and I have so enjoyed these past several weeks of getting to know you as your Interim Pastor. Most of you, however, have an advantage at this point since I’m up front on Sundays doing all the talking. Unless I’ve had the opportunity to visit with you one-on-one, you know more about me than I know about you. Please come up and talk to me after the service about things that interest you. That will help me get a sense of you. I am interested in your family and its unique stories, paths, and drama.

My path to you is its own unique story and it is only in hindsight that I undoubtedly see that God’s hand has been moving and opening doors of ministry my entire life. I was born in Mountain Lake, Minnesota and my dad moved our family north to the Iron Range when I was just a baby. I spent my childhood in the Aurora/Hoyt Lakes area of northern Minnesota. My parents were saved when I was only seven-years-old so I was able to witness firsthand the work of an Almighty God in the cynical and hardened hearts of my own parents. Today, my father is with the Lord and my mother carries on her own unique ministry to the women of her church in Campbellsville, KY.

I attended Pillsbury Baptist College in Owatonna, MN. This is where I first felt the call of God to preach. I went on to seminary, earning both a Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degree. Then God directed my path West. My father took a job with Exxon and I followed the family to Wyoming where I took my first pastorate in Douglas. The Lord then led me to California where I served as the Senior Pastor at a church in Jackson for about six years. In the years since, I’ve gained precious experience from the pastorate, from filling numerous pulpits, serving in interim positions, and serving in various church ministries.

God gives us each an individual mission field. These mission fields represent a vast range of environments. As many of you know, the focus of my ministry since 1991 has been the factory floor at Hormel. I find it incredible how God opens doors to further His work. Last Spring, I begin to feel a burden to enlarge my ministry – specifically as an Interim Pastor – wherever needed. We began praying and within weeks, God opened a door! We went through it. Now, we wait on the Lord for His direction for our future. It is truly remarkable that the congregation God has called us to serve has such a rich history with Hormel Foods.

Although I’ve not publicly introduced my family, you’ve already heard much about them in my preaching. I do – like most preachers - use illustrations from my own life in my sermons. What many of you do not know is that my wife Esthermay and I are still (yes - at our age) “Newlyweds.” God wove our separate and unique paths together in December 2001 and we were married six months later.

My wife Esthermay (Bentley) brings her own unique story along with some beautiful assets to our marriage. She is the organized one with the gift of administration and discernment. She keeps me organized, prepared, and well dressed. Esthermay is a native of Indiana, but did graduate from Austin High School. Some of you may remember her father who managed the Social Security Office here in Austin in the 1980’s. His career kept the family moving across the Midwest. Esthermay is a graduate of Northwestern Bible College in St. Paul, MN and Indiana University-Indianapolis. She also attended Anderson University in Anderson, IN. Her path has given her a mixture of ministry experiences from counseling to political activism to music performance. Before becoming a full-time-stay-at-home-mom and wife, Esthermay combined her law degree and counseling degree when she held the position of Victim/Witness Coordinator in the Mower County Attorney’s Office.

We have two delightful and precious children: Selah and Shepard. Selah just turned two and Shepard will soon mark his First Birthday. Our children are truly God’s gift to us considering that Esthermay learned years ago that she would be unable to bear children. But. . . here they are! They have blessed us and it is our heart’s desire to raise them in a godly home with Biblical values.

My prayer today, as I reflect on my time as your Interim Pastor, is that I can continue to provide the preaching, pastoral care, and spiritual leadership needed so that the church leaders are relieved of any anxiety in this area. Their focus is – as it should be -- on the future of Crane Chapel. I am only a servant and a guest in your pulpit for the time.

I don’t have office hours – you’ll find me on the factory floor “preaching” in my hard-hat. But please feel free to contact us. Our phone number is 582-3199 or (cell) 440-3282. E-mail is Feel free to call, drop by, or drop us a line. We are here at Crane Chapel for a season and a reason:
We are here as your servants. . . .

-- Pastor Mark Goossen

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Faithfulness is a Rare Gem

“Faithfulness is a Rare Gem . . .”
This thought was impressed upon me this week as I observed the faithfulness of Crane Chapel’s members functioning together as a true Body. ·Board members prayerfully planning church direction ·The Building Committee pouring over the blueprints of a new church facility ·Paulette Lewis along with all the volunteers enthusiastically gearing up for the start of AWANA this Fall !

Faithfulness was genuinely evident to me when I was borrowed a 1985 Crane Chapel church directory. It was remarkable to see that so many of today’s members were just as active in service twenty years ago. Certain things have definitely changed. Let’s just say, “Youth is fleeting.” But your faithfulness is surely not fleeting.

In the world, it is rare to find a truly faithful person – just as it is rare to find a perfect diamond. The word "diamond" comes from the Greek word "adamas", which means indestructible. Diamonds are made of carbon, one of the softest materials on earth. But when carbon is under extreme pressure buried deep below miles of rock and exposed to temperatures over 2,000° F, it changes into a beautiful diamond. Amazing, isn't it, how God produces diamonds?
Amazing too, isn’t it, how God produces faithful servants?

There is a call in Scripture for those in ministry to be faithful:

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”
-- I Corinthians 4:2

Let’s give praise to a Faithful God who is working through faithful people bringing fruit unto His Glory!

Your Servants,
The Goossens

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dear Church Family...

Dear Church Family . . .

Did you know that there are over 2,700 photographs taken every second around the world? That’s over 200 million memories captured every day and well over 85 billion new memories each year. And these statistics from the United States Department of Commerce are five years old! That's a lot of photos! And what role do all these pictures play in our eternal existence? Why do we do it?

Crane Chapel has pictures this morning from the past week’s Vacation Bible School. We’ve captured some precious memories. Why’d we do that? The answer is simple: We take pictures so that we can remember!

As we partake of Communion this morning, let’s remember the words from I Peter 2:24 and let’s keep Jesus Christ fresh in the photo albums of our hearts and minds:

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Not only do we look back and remember during communion, but also we are encouraged to look forward to His coming: “Do this ‘till I come.” . . . And unlike an image from a camera, Christ’s return does have eternal significance!

In His Love,
The Goossens

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dear Church Family...

Dear Church Family . . .

We send our warmest greetings to you today and hope you receive a blessing from the services – Sunday School, Worship Time and a message in the Word. In our study of I Peter, we are now coming to the heart of the book. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the proper attitudes we should have as we share Christ within our government, our places of employment, our home, with friends, etc. There are many great insights we can learn from God’s Word in these matters.

Someone shared the story of a picture that now hangs in the meeting room at Matt’s house. The actual picture survived the fire even though the frame is now blackened and the glass is broken and very smoky. The portrait -- that was not harmed at all -- depicts Christ as a builder! I couldn’t help but think of Christ’s words to Peter:

“. . . I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
- Matthew 16:18

In His Love,
The Goossens

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Note from Pastor Mark

A Note from Pastor Mark . . .

It’s hard to believe how fast the summer is going. Especially when we start talking about the Mower County Fair! Let’s pray that God will use the Crane Chapel display along with the literature that is passed out during the fair to his Glory.

I had the privilege of attending a board meeting this past Tuesday. It was long, but I felt the spirit was good. Crane Chapel has so many dedicated servants. It was also good to see enthusiastic volunteers as they planned for Vacation Bible School.

We have much to pray about, though in all things we rejoice that God’s Word will not return void, but accomplish its purpose in many hearts.

. . . so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”
-- Isaiah 55:11(NIV)

In Christ’s Love
Your Servant,

Our sympathies go out to the Getchells in their loss.
May they experience God’s comforting love.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

To the People of Crane Chapel

To the People of Crane Chapel:

Thank you for the privilege of serving you in the time that God allows. We are eager to serve and look forward to matching names and faces as we get acquainted with each of you. We hope to pass on to the people of Crane Chapel both a Passion for God’s Word and a Vision of being a witness of the gospel to the lost.

A few days ago we were sharing with Devon Voigt. We read together from the Book of Lamentations about Jeremiah as he viewed the devastation of Jerusalem. Despite the hardships, Jeremiah encouraged himself in the Lord:

“. . . His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is Thy faithfulness. The lord is my portion. . . therefore I will hope in Him.
--Lamentations 3:22-24

We were very excited to hear the history of Crane Community Chapel and what God has done through you. We pray it will continue! …we are here as HIS servants.

Yours in Christ,
Mark & Esthermay Goossen
Selah and Shepard