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 Grace for Stiff-Necks

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Exodus 34:8-11 (p. 141)                                                                 June 11, 2017    

Moses bowed to the ground and worshiped.
“O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,” he said,
“then let the Lord go with us.  Although this is a stiff-necked people,
forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

Exodus 34:8-9


Covenant living begins . . . .

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God . . . .”
Exodus 34:6-7

  1. God reveals his  CHARACTER — ours is a promise making God
  2. I  REST  in his presence (covenant keeping has always put the priority on love over law!)

. . .  when God does begins to work

“The people around you will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.”
Exodus 34:10

  1. Salvation lesson:  JESUS’  righteousness matters
  2. Theology lesson: WORSHIP  makes us peculiar
  3. Prayer lesson: Waiting (40 MORE days!!) is how covenant works
  4. Following God lesson: The veil is gone! à 2 Corinthians 3:12 (p. 1797)
    — legalism = “the ministry that brought death”  à  because it is fading away, “condemnation”
    — gospel brings righteousness à we are being transformed with ever increasing glory


More good teaching on Exodus 34:

Bob Deffinbaugh’s  Exodus sermon “A New Beginning” at

Ligon Duncan’s messages on Exodus at

Tim Keller’s “How to Talk About Sin” at and “When Sin Is Grievous and Grace Is Stunning” at

Eugene Peterson on “waiting in prayer”

Prayer trains the soul to singleness of focus: for God alone my soul waits. Another will is greater, wiser and more intelligent than my own. So I wait. Waiting means that there is another whom I trust and from whom I receive. My will, important and essential as it is, finds a will that is more important, more essential… In prayer we are aware that God is in action and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place and when my heart is prepared, I will be called into action. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts. Waiting is our participation in the process that results in the “time fulfilled”.

~ from EARTH AND ALTAR by Eugene H. Peterson

Reading this week: Covenant living today

Consider the people of Israel . . . .
1 Corinthians 10:18

Monday: Exodus 34:11-17; I John 2:15-17, The Pride of Life
How do you discern whether desires come from the world or from God?  Which godly desires are you feeding today?

Tuesday: Exodus 34:18-20; 1 Peter 1:13-21; Redeemed
How do you live out being redeemed?  What evidence have other’s seen in your life that you belong to Jesus?

Wednesday: Exodus 34:21; Matthew 12:1-14; Sabbath mercy
Which Sabbath principles do you find most challenging?  Which Sabbath practices do you find most refreshing?

Thursday: Exodus 34:22-24; Hebrews 10:19-39, Gathering!
Why did God’s people change from three times yearly to weekly meetings?  How do you prepare to get the most out of our meetings?  To what “good deeds” are you being encouraged?

Friday: Exodus 34:25-26a; 1 Corinthians 6:6-8; A little yeast
How has Jesus’ sacrifice blessed you this week?  What “old yeast” are most serious about eliminating from your life?

Saturday: Exodus 34:26b-28; Matthew 5:17-20, Small letters
This “young goat” command is one of the “small letters” in the Ten Words.  What “small letter” matter of holiness have you found most important in your walk with Jesus?

Reading for May 21

Reading this week: The Christological Tabernacle

Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.      Exodus 25:8

Monday: John 14:1-14, The Courtyard to enter
In what ways has Jesus “welcomed” you into relationship God?  When did you find the right way?

Tuesday: John 15:1-17, The Basin for getting clean
How have you experienced the “already clean” that Jesus promised in John 15?

Wednesday: John 6:32-40, The Table for God’s provision
When did you sense this special provision from God?  How did this differ from the “daily bread” of God’s everyday provision?

Thursday: Hebrews 7:11-28, The Altar of God’s intercession
This fire never went out because we always need God’s help.  When were you most in need of Jesus’ intercession?  How did you know Jesus was interceding for you?

Friday: Ephesians 1:15-23, The Lampstand for enlightenment
When were your eyes first opened to God’s hope and power?  How is this power most real in your life?

Saturday: Hebrews 9:1-14, The Ark where atonement happens
How confident are you that Jesus’ blood has been applied for you?  When did that assurance become real?   How has this assurance enabled you to “serve the living God?”

It feels a little strange to be writing this as I’m planning leave for Creston, Laurie’s hometown, after our December 23 Christmas service.   Then Christmas has always included travel – Mary and Joseph, the Magi, pilgrims for the past two thousand years – so I shouldn’t be surprised.  Fitting also for a year filled with travel and milestones: 50th birthdays, Laurie and Becca in Europe, an anniversary in Hawaii, and, maybe the biggest milestone, no more teenage daughters.  Thank you for traveling through this year with me, and ending this 2012 journey celebrating the Advent of the King just seems to fitting!

We are thankful for a year of family blessings including Opa’s continuing recovery from heart surgery, good health for Bill and Karlene in Creston, Oma’s bounce back from knee surgery and success for our girls at Janiki and George Fox.  I’m looking forward to a 2013 filled with graduations and new opportunities for our family.  And always ready to visit daughters who are overseas!

As I look back on 2012, I am amazed at how God has worked in our ACRC family – one way I measure this is by the depth of the questions I’ve been getting.  Do I have to pray even for seemingly capricious government bureaucrats?  Yes!  How do I love my difficult family members?  It’s a ministry!  How do I respond to personal and family trials?   Consider this ministry pure joy, brothers and sisters!  Thank you for praying and thinking through with me the big challenges facing our families and community.  I have been tremendously blessed seeing your gifts being celebrated, especially in worship, and the plans proceed to open facility to our community.   Watch for more paint, plaster and hammering in 2013!  And, to top it off, your generosity has been incredible.  Needs are being met; God is getting the credit!

Our family’s annual holiday open house will be on Sunday afternoon, January 6 – a true 12th Day of Christmas Party.  We’ll have the coffee, hot cider and Nanaimo Bars ready from 2 to 5 p.m.  Please join us for an afternoon of fellowship and end-of-the-Season cheer.

Keep the Advent faith, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC

Fakkema Girls

Ana, Becca and Emily on Creek Street, Ketchikan, Alaska, on Oma and Opa’s 50th Anniversary Cruise

The Importance of 40

Why Christians have always prepared for the Easter

People prepare for the important things.  John spent months preparing for the California bar exam, Joni is preparing for a new baby by nesting, and I’m already preparing for our anniversary trip to Hawaii.  Yes, the important things.  And there’s nothing more important than the cross and resurrection of the Easter story!

Ash Wednesday is the traditional beginning of the Christian season of preparing.  God chose the number: 40 years in the desert and 40 days in the Judean wilderness.  Forty is the number for getting rid of the old and getting ready for the new.  And God chose the focus of that preparation – not the empty tomb but the empty cross.  Paul explains the importance of the cross this way:

 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  (Galatians 6:14)

 The cross is where I remember Jesus’ finished work of my redemption – he’s not there!  The cross is where we identify again with Jesus’ mission and his method: his mission of salvation and his method of self-sacrifice.  The cross forces us to pause between the parade of the Palm Sunday and the party of Easter, reflecting the cost of God’s love for us.

Jesus still invites us to prepare for power of the Easter story.  This season of Lent, our 40 days of preparation, we will be following Jesus to the cross, and we are invited to join Jesus in taking up our cross and following him.  The 40 day countdown has started.  Let’s get ready for the resurrection!

For the kingdom, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC

The Importance Of New

The wonderful connection between newness and heaven!

I remember a 16 year-old coming in to my office and announcing, “New clothes, new hair, new me!”  I was still a novice (from the Latin, novus, for “new”) and didn’t recognize how hard this young man was working to change himself so that he would fit in.  New has always been difficult.  And staying the same can be too painful, that’s why New Year’s resolutions are such big business – I know the gym will be busy for the first few weeks of January

New has also been more than a little confusing.  Does it mean just a better one (as in “new and improved”), does it mean the next one (as in “new edition”), or does it mean strange and unfamiliar (as in “visit a new place”)?  Even the time of “new” has confused.  The English speaking world didn’t celebrate the New Year on January 1 until 1792 when it was moved from March 25 by Pope Gregory (ask Sue Turner or Ed Fakkema for all those details!).  That meant that George Washington has two birthdays.  And that is confusing.

But for us, this “new” thing isn’t confusing at all; it’s about what God is doing:

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  (Ezekiel 26:26)

And just so we don’t forget how this works, God gives this New Covenant in a language that won’t let us forget.  When Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must “be born again” (John 3:3), that could just as easily be translate “be born from above.”  God gets involved so that we can be new!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It’s not the new hair, new clothes, or new resolutions that change us, but God’s reconciling love.  What a great way to start the New Year!  A new heart, a new spirit, a new me!

For the kingdom, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC

The blessings of outward-focused ministry

Having more than 10,000 bikers show up outside our building brings up some interesting ministry opportunities:  A cousin who didn’t believe a Christian Reformed Church could be that welcoming; Bro Paul witnessing to a local biker club leader; meal and worship shared with our Roadhouse partners.  But Oyster Run also illustrates the essential moves of outward focused ministry in the twenty-first century— from building to mission field.  Bringing the gospel to bear on real needs in our community means taking that gospel to where the needs are.

The question used to be: “How do we get the unsaved into our building?”  But as I was dreaming about outreach with our deacons, it became clear that reaching out would mean going to senior centers, schools, and the Red Cross.  If reaching bikers, we’d have to learn about protocol; if reaching unchurched twenty-somethings we’d have to learn to appreciate the indie music scene and good coffee.  Or, as Paul put it:

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.   I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
(1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

We are becoming pretty good about serving and loving each other, and to that Paul would say, “Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10)  But the next blessing, our next step of corporate obedience, will come when we take that same love to our community.  Because as much as God loves those who are already in the church, that much he loves those not-yet worshipers to whom he sends his church.

Even after ten years of ministry in Anacortes, I’m still not sure which of the many outreach opportunities will be ours, for which need the Spirit has particularly gifted and resourced our ACRC family.  That is the challenge I have given our deacons – to lead us into this “all things to all men” ministry so that we can build the kingdom and share in its blessings.

With you in the mission, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC

Celebrating Maturity

Moving from “Relevant Dude” to “Spiritual Father”

The title of the article grabbed my attention: “From Relevant Dude to Spiritual Father.”  Keith Miller, one of my favorite writers, reflects on the difference between competence and relevance (what he calls Boomer values) and the desire of the Millennials (those young adults just entering the work force) for deeper relationships with their pastors.  The coffee shop, not the committee meeting, is the key paradigm for ministry.

This new pastoral role, according to Miller,

depends on (1) spiritual maturity, born of prayer and experience; (2) an intimate knowledge of another person’s life and spiritual condition; and (3) an ability to speak the truth in love in a personal way: “Warn those who are lazy.  Encourage those who are timid.  Take tender care of the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)

And that makes this pastor happy.  This is a ministry that depends less on being conversant in pop culture and more on the spiritual disciplines.  This is a ministry that is more “spiritual father” and less “relevant dude.”  This is the ministry model of the New Testament where Paul understood that maturity in the church wouldn’t happen without spiritual fathers and mothers:

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as our does for you.   May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.  Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living . . . .
(1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:1)

1 Thessalonians is a celebration of maturity in the church.  As I have been preparing messages and Growth Group lessons, God has given me a vision of growing maturity in our church, built on the Spirit’s gifts being released and on the ministry of spiritual fathering and mothering (it’s not gender specific!) in our congregation.  That’s what makes this pastor excited.

Paul said it this way about his spiritual children in Thessalonica: “For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.  How can we thank God enough for you?”  (1 Thessalonians 3:8)  That is my hope and prayer for our ACRC family this fall.

With you in the mission, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC

Why Eldad and Medad still matter for the Pentecost church

I was praying with two of my Pentecostal pastor friends this week when we learned that in the native community we are all lumped together as “Pentecostals.”   They jokingly welcomed me into the Pentecostal family, but the deeper truth was clear to all of us.  Pentecost ties the church together.  We all share the same Spirit (see Ephesians 4:1-6!).

The wonder of Pentecost is not found in the ecstasy of the experience but in the universality of the experience.  Moses found this out when the Spirit fell on the seventy elders in Numbers 11.  Two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, prophesied in the middle of the camp, in Moses’ place:

 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.”

 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake?  I wish that all the Lord’s people were my prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

(Numbers 11:29)

Well, Moses, that day is here.  Rather, it’s been here for almost two-thousand years.  Since Pentecost the Spirit has been putting God’s people to work, empowering and emboldening us to take the gospel where it hasn’t been before.  Moses knew that seventy prophets were better than one.  And seventy ministers are better than one still today.  I’m as excited as Moses about this!

In the next few weeks there are several wonderful opportunities to put our Pentecost power to work.  First Baptist Church is in need of team leaders for VBS, June 27 – July 1, and our Swinomish neighbors are looking for literally hundreds of volunteers for their July canoe voyage celebration.  I’m praying for so many ministers at work that, yes, it makes us pastors “jealous” for ministry.  That is the Pentecost church at work.

With you in on the mission, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC

Why talking about resurrection matters in the modern world

It is just a few days until Good Friday and Easter, the highest of the Christian holy days.  Just a few days, yet there is barely a whisper of resurrection on the street.  There are lots of bunnies and eggs, 18th Century European traditions that reflect our pagan rather than Christian heritage.  Easter parades are intentionally empty of any spiritual meaning.  And the high school scheduled a make-up tennis match for Friday afternoon.  Of all places, MacDonald’s might make the biggest cultural accommodation to faith – the fast food giant orders extra fish during lent.

Even pastors can fall into the “name that womb, name that tomb” trap of holiday preaching – something new is born in us at Christmas, something in us dies at Good Friday, and something comes to life in us at Easter.  Fuzzy and warm sentiments, kind of like bunnies and pastel eggs, are nice, but they miss the point of Easter.  It’s about Jesus’ resurrection.  Resurrection means that Jesus wins, that God’s promises are true, that hope is real and that we will follow Jesus in resurrection living:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. . . . For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  (1 Corinthians 15:20,22)

We bring this message of resurrection to the world, even as this week is declared “Earth Week” and the kids hunt eggs and eat chocolate bunnies.  Without the warm fuzzies, Hallmark will be out of business, but without the resurrection “we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Of the miracles in God’s story, resurrection is the one we take to the streets.  I don’t start the skeptic on whether Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, and the incarnation is terribly difficult to prove.  But resurrection is public.  The cross and the empty tomb demand explanation, and the church is the place for the answer.  As Peter preached on Pentecost, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 3:32)

The cross and the resurrection are the heart of our message and our living.  To steal from Linus, that’s what Easter is all about.

With you in on the mission, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC