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Holy Thoughts for Holy Week

"So the Pharisees said to one another, 'See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the world has gone after Him!'" - John 12:19

Palm Sunday begins what we often call Holy Week. For Jesus' sake, I've sometimes wondered why it isn't called "Hell Week."

It was Passover, the most exciting time of the year for the Jews. And this Passover was more exciting, more "electric" than any other Passover because Jesus was coming to town! He had just raised Lazarus from the dead. He had restored Bartimaeus' eyesight shortly before that. He brought a crowd with Him who had seen these miracles. Still another throng went out to join this entourage. Both groups came together at fever pitch and led the thrilling parade into the city, shouting hosannas, adoring their Miracle Worker, and waving palm branches which had been the patriotic symbol of victory for over 150 years, ever since Simon the Maccabee drove the Syrian forces out of Jerusalem. We shoot fireworks to celebrate our patriotism; they waved palm branches.

But not everyone waved or cheered. The Pharisees burned with jealous anger: "Look how the whole world has gone after Him." And Jesus Himself, the focal point of the parade, wept! He couldn't even enjoy His own parade!

Martin Luther once said, "No man ever feared death as much as this man." And no wonder: no death ever bore the wrath of God and the sins of His people. Remember what Aslan said to the children when they asked if anything could be done to save Edmund, the traitor. The great lion said, "All shall be done. But it may be harder than you think."

Perhaps we have overlooked the difficulty of "Hell Week." Perhaps we have minimized Jesus' difficulty because of His deity. But He was also humanity. This week I encourage you to watch Him weep over Jerusalem, sweat blood in Gethsemane, pray for the cup to pass from Him, and eventually die on the old rugged cross. The closer we look and the more we listen, I'm sure we will agree that it was indeed harder than we thought.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

More Than A Building

In recent days I've been thinking a lot about moving into our beautiful new facility. We won't have a sanctuary (yet), or a youth center (yet), or many other "bells and whistles" that other churches have.

But we will have a home! We will have our own place to worship, fellowship, pray, study, and break bread together.

And so it was that the Lord seemed to speak to me when I came across a recent speech by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the dedication of Hillsdale College's new Christ Chapel on October 3, 2019. As an aside, I was surprised to learn that Pat Sajak (Wheel of Fortune) is the current chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Here are just a couple of excerpts from Justice Thomas' speech:

"The primary purpose of a chapel is to provide a place where man can enter the presence of God. It provides a sanctuary in which a man can withdraw from the chaos of our world and seek a sacred stillness. For as Elijah learned on Mount Horeb, God so often comes to us not in the storms, not in the earthquakes or the fires of life, but in stillness–in a 'gentle whisper.'

"Students, faculty, administrators, and friends of Hillsdale, let this Chapel be more than just an impressive building. Let it be a place where people enter the presence of a majestic God. Let it be a house of worship, of prayer, of meditation, and of celebration before God. Let it be a haven of rest for the weary, a place of healing for the wounded, a place of comfort for the grieving, and a source of hope for the despairing and forgotten."

It's hard to improve on that! May Stephens Valley Church be all of this and more, for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Celebration Week

I want to alert you to our schedule for "Celebration Week," March 1-8, so all of you can mark your calendars. Please make every effort to be part of this exciting time in the life of our church!

First, though, our Council has decided to change the time of our service since some of you have told us you will have a slightly longer drive. As of March 1, Sunday School will begin at 9:30 a.m. The worship service will begin at 10:40 a.m. with a 20-25 minute break in between. These times were also chosen in anticipation of the time when we will need a second service which would begin at 8:00 or 8:15 without disrupting the new schedule. If you have any questions, please speak to your shepherding elder.

Here is the schedule for "Celebration Week":

Sunday, March 1 - Opening Sunday School and worship service
Friday, March 6 - Celebration Dinner
Saturday, March 7 - Open House
Sunday, March 8 - Dedication service

The Celebration Dinner is a time for our church to fellowship together and enjoy God's gift to us. There is no cost and childcare will be provided for preschoolers (reservations required). Bring your entire family. There will be special music, a few brief speeches, and a special video presentation. We will announce the menu closer to the date but the food will be great and the occasion even better! Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. and the food will be served at 6:30 p.m. We will aim to adjourn by 8:30 p.m. at the latest.

The Open House will be a casual time for us, our friends, and the community to tour the facility. Invite your friends. It is important that we be on hand to welcome visitors. We do not expect you to stay for three hours but hope you can give us a portion of that time. There will be refreshments. It will begin at 2:00 p.m and conclude by 5:00 p.m.

Finally, the Dedication service will take place Sunday morning, March 8. We will observe a special liturgy where we will thank God for the building, dedicate it to His glory, and beseech Him for His grace and favor upon our ministry. We will also have wonderful music including an orchestra and the opportunity to open God's Word together. Again, invite your friends. BE ADVISED: this is Daylight Savings Time Sunday so adjust your clocks and "spring forward!"

Some of you may be concerned about any potential delays. We know very well that something can always go wrong! However, we have been assured by our general contractor that there is every reason to expect the building to be ready by March 1. Thus, we are moving forward in faith. "The Lord is good to all and His mercies are over all His works." (Psalm 145:9)

Let the countdown begin!

Posted by Jim Bachmann