No way! A disagreement pandemic.

The vaccine saves us, or not? If there is one thing the pandemic has brought us, it is an explosion of disagreements. Everybody seems to know better. Everyone has their own opinion.

What does this mean for when we get together as a church? How do we go about our differences? I propose not an answer, but a way. We will find that the gospel of Jesus Christ shows us this way. A way to discern and process this together. The way of truth, wisdom, and love. The Jesus Way.

If there ever was a time to walk this way it is now. Because this is the way we show the world the way out.

The way of truth, wisdom, and love

No way!

Some say the vaccine saves us, others are not so sure. Some say following the covid safety rules shows good citizenship, others don’t seem to mind. Some say God is sovereign so there is no risk in gathering, others say God is sovereign and he instituted the authorities. Some say it is just a pandemic, others say there is more going on that we can see. Some say the rules do more harm than good, others say these protect us. Some say the vaccine uses new technology and are nervous about that, others don’t seem to mind. Some say enough is enough, others prefer to wait a bit longer just to be sure.

I am sure we all agree that there is no one clear answer to all of the questions the pandemic has raised. I am sure you have heard so and so say this, and another article saying that. There is a website on this and a post on that. A myriad of voices and opinions, of which many claim to present the one answer sometimes substantiated with Bible verses. What are we to make of this as Christians? Clearly, Romans 13 plays into this, but how to balance that with for example Ephesians 5:19, which was hardly possible this year? How to balance courage and caution?

In this article, I will not present an answer. Wiser and more qualified people have attempted to answer some questions already (for example John Piper in Coronavirus and Christ). I will recommend a way; a way to discern and process this together. A way which I believe is biblical. The way of truth, wisdom, and love. The Jesus Way.


In a time when many distrust everything, it makes all the difference for us believers to know that there is truth that is TRUE: the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the truth that saves us and sets us free. But you will find that Jesus and the New Testament writers were crystal clear about the fact that there would always be false teachers and prophets around, out to deceive believers and obscure the truth of the gospel (e.g. Matthew 24; Mark 13; 2 Corinthians 11; Galatians 3; Philippians 3; Colossians 2; 1 Timothy 1 and 4; 2 Timothy 3; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 4; 2 John; 3 John; Jude; Revelation 13 and 19).

Classic examples of false teaching, which are still around today, are the attempts to obscure grace by preaching either legalism or licentiousness. And the undermining of the Person of Christ, by doubting either his humanity or his divinity, which lead to false explanations of God who is Trinity. Even today there are ‘Christian’ leaders who say that God does not judge because he is love, thereby inadvertently saying that Jesus did not have to die on the cross. And other ‘pastors’ who say that Jesus was only a wise teacher who served us with inspiration, not salvation, so don’t worry too much about holiness.

Then there have been many who have claimed to be prophets and led people astray with disastrous results. Often this has been around claiming to know when Jesus would return (1). Jesus and the apostles talked straight about truth; which includes both doctrine (truth defined) and ethics (truth lived out). They confronted what was false head-on. And they used strong language to make the point (read for example Jude). They took a stand for truth. But when there were matters that were not essential to the truth of the gospel, like eating particular foods, drinking wine, or on which day the church should gather, they said not to pass judgment on one another. Even not to put a stumbling block in the way of a fellow believer, as you wouldn’t want someone to sin against his or her conscience (Romans 14).

How do we know whether a matter is essential to the truth of the gospel or not? How do we know what is right and wrong about current issues? When do we judge and when don’t we judge? We will need to work this out together with humility towards God and one another (Philippians 2:12), humility towards church history, humility towards the wider church and humility towards the leadership of our local church and the church family whose job it is to teach sound doctrine, which provides clarity and safety (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). And we will need wisdom.


But what is wisdom? J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, helpfully points out that wisdom is not an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next. That kind of thinking burns you out trying to figure out which sign says what, where you should go, whether you took the right turn in life. Yes, God can give unusual direction to our lives, for example through prophecy or a sense of calling. But that is different from trying to read a message about God’s secret purposes in every unusual thing that happens to us.

J.I. Packer continues to describe what wisdom is, drawing from Ecclesiastes: “The real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgment that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all… The truth is that God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives.”

So what is wisdom? From Ecclesiastes: “Fear God and keep his commandments (12:13); guard your steps, draw near to listen, be not rash with your mouth, let your words be few, let not your mouth lead you into sin (5:1-7); do good (3:12); remember that God will someday judge you, so avoid, even in secret, things of which you will be ashamed when they come to light (11:9, 12:14). Live in the present, and enjoy it thoroughly; present pleasures are God’s good gifts (7:14, 9:7, 11:9). Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do and enjoy

your work as you do it (2:24, 3:12, 5:18, 8:15, 9:10). Leave to God its issues; let him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you (11:1-6).”

God who made this enigmatic and complex world, who orchestrated the exodus and the cross, knows what he is doing and does it all well, even if for the moment he hides his hand. We can trust him. We can rejoice in him. We can thank him. Even when we cannot discern his path. Even when we live with questions.

To be wise is to confess the wisdom of God and to show determination to hold onto him no matter what. This kind of wisdom helps us not to be weighed down by the unknown or paralysed by fear or give up on it altogether (Psalm 112:7; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10). I believe this is what Jesus meant with “stay awake” when he talked about his imminent return (Matthew 24:42). This wisdom helps us to make the most of every day, faith-wise. It is realistic yet filled with hope. It is about resting in God’s sovereignty yet stewarding our talents diligently. It helps us to seize every opportunity to do good, to pursue holiness, to always be of good courage, to shine God’s light wherever we are, and to hold onto truth with our eyes open.

We are to look carefully at how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). So lots of wisdom is required. And the great thing is that when we realise our lack of wisdom, we may ask God who promises to give it generously (James 1:5)!


So, we have found that there are essentials and non-essentials of truth and that both require different responses. We unpacked the wonder of wisdom and discovered we desperately need it. But if we had all truth and all wisdom yet not love, we would be nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). Paul’s most quoted words usually end up at a wedding, but are more fitting for our situation:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

How do we exchange views with someone who refuses to be vaccinated? Or someone who feels unsafe even when restrictions have been lifted? Or someone who says enough is enough? How do we react to a brother or sister who is outspoken or confused or unsure? How do we go about all our concerns and opinions and questions or lack of any of these?

Love is the way, yet not love as a feeling that comes and goes. Not love that seeks to make a point, to push, to be loud and heard. No. This is about divine love. This is sacrificial love. This is the Father’s love shown by Christ’s example, which the Spirit empowers us to know and share (Ephesians 3:14-21). Love that is slow to speak and quick to listen. Love that seeks to live a quiet life yet also loves truth and hates conceit. Love that lays down your life for your brothers and sisters, but also love that casts out fear. Love that compels you to help and give and give and give. Love that makes you vulnerable, because you might get hurt, yet is courageous because it endures all things. Love that pursues unity relentlessly. And love that counts others more significant than yourself (1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 2:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; James 1:19; 1 John).

If there ever was a time to obey the commandment to love like this, it is now. Let’s walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2).

The Jesus Way

In this time of confusion and conflict, of discomfort and disunity, of suffering and strife, the church has a profoundly different message: the gospel of Jesus Christ. This truth directs us to the right way, God’s wisdom teaches us how to walk that way, and divine love helps us to walk together with God and with one another. This is how we show the world the way out: it is the Jesus Way (Acts 9:2, 24:14 and 22).

How do we do this? Let’s start with prayer. Below you can find a wisdom Psalm and hymn that help us to humbly pray the Jesus Way: “O grant us wisdom from above, to pray for peace and to cling to love”.

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”

For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:

in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.

You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;

yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.

Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!


The perfect wisdom of our God Revealed in all the universe:
All things created by His hand
And held together at His command. He knows the mysteries of the seas, The secrets of the stars are His;

He guides the planets on their way
And turns the earth through another day.

The matchless wisdom of His ways That mark the path of righteousness; His word a lamp unto my feet,
His Spirit teaching and guiding me. And O the mystery of the cross,

That God should suffer for the lost,
So that the fool might shame the wise, And all the glory might go to Christ!

O grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love, And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty. Each strand of sorrow has a place Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say: “Your perfect will in Your perfect way.”


(1) A theme that often returns when the world is in crisis, for example: We’ve Been Here Before: Lessons from the Church’s Responses to the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919

Thanks to:

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 1973
John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ, DesiringGod, 2020
Stuart Townend & Keith Getty, The perfect wisdom of our God, 2011

Two stories for Redeemer’s next season

1. Hot air balloon

If church can be likened to a hot air balloon, then currently the balloon is flat on the ground. Yes, we are grateful we had online meetings, life groups still connecting, and prayer flourishing in zoom calls. But the gathering of believers and our public witness was seriously impaired by the pandemic. We are about to gather again! We are about to see church restored and revived again. That’s where the picture of a hot air balloon fits in well. To see the balloon raised and filled with fiery air, to rediscover the joy and awe of flying again. Visible, attractive, and moving where the wind takes us. With fresh faith to see, in due time, new balloons rising.

Here are two things that help us to prepare for the balloon to fly:


Psalm 85 provides us with language to pray for restoration and reviving. We remember God’s favour from before the pandemic (verse 1). We keep remembering how God forgave us through Jesus’s sacrifice (verses 2-3). We express our hearts, that we do not understand in difficult times and that it sometimes feels like God has turned away his face (verses 4-5). Yet we hold fast to how God has revealed himself, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (verses 10-11). And we expect restoration, reviving, and salvation from him. That he will show us his steadfast love again and that many may rejoice in him again (verses 4, 6-7).

We join the psalmist in his longing that God will speak peace, healing and wholeness again to his people. And that we know that God is with us again (verses 8-9). Yes, goodness and fruitfulness come from God, truth sprouting from the ground and right living pouring down from the skies (verses 10-13). God brings it all. That’s the blessing we long for! Restored, revived, rejoicing, together walking on his path. Lord, revive us again!

Consider your ways

The Jews had returned from exile, built Jerusalem’s wall and laid the foundation for the temple. Yet by Haggai’s time they still had not completed building the temple. As years went by the temple remained in ruins. Rebuilding one’s own life was the priority and it was hard work, it took all their energy and focus. Then came Haggai, who was a restorationist prophet, bringing God’s voice and heart into the situation.

“Consider your ways,” God said (Haggai 1). Look up! The problem of your toil isn’t down here, but up there. With me being ‘homeless’ amongst your temporary rebuilt homes. The actual story is that I am not around and not in the picture, not at the heart of my people. Do you remember my covenant? Who would look after you?

The Jews heard God and obeyed. And God confirmed powerfully: I am with you! And God worked like ‘energon’ (Philippians 2:13) in them, both in the leaders and everyone. The Spirit of God moved in the people and the people took action. Their spirit was awakened, a desire so intense that work on the temple began immediately.

Lockdown might have stirred your desire to join the gathering of the church, but with the habit of gathering on Sundays gone, it might have resulted in different priorities. For example: rebuilding your own life. Haggai reminds us that believers are only whole when God is put first in life. Haggai says that rebuilding life starts with restoring the temple.

Why this emphasis on rebuilding the temple? In Haggai’s days, the Old Covenant still counted, and the temple and its rituals were central to the right way of engaging with God. Otherwise sins remained unatoned, guilt would pile up, and distance grew. God had hoped that exile had stirred a hunger to come back to him, to rebuild the temple once back in Jerusalem. But for years the people were occupied elsewhere and forgot about God… again.

We might think, well, that’s Old Covenant talk. Then we remember Jesus saying: “Do not be anxious about what you shall eat, drink or wear, but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

In the New Covenant, God explains that we can only come to him through Jesus. If we forget about Jesus and his cross and start engaging with God on our own terms, we join the people from old. Too busy with life, too much ruin around us, too weighed down with circumstances, too occupied with ourselves. But God is a jealous God and he wants the very best for us, and that is himself. Come back to the temple, to Jesus, and his body, the church, and remember that you are his temple, too, where his Spirit dwells!

“Be strong, work, for I am with you, my Spirit remains in your midst, fear not,” God said (Haggai 2:4-6). Upon entering the promised land, God said to Joshua to be strong and courageous, because God would go with him. Like in Acts, God being present with his people caused them to be courageous when facing opposition and difficulties.

So it is for us, when many things don’t yet work, feel uncomfortable, don’t look like they used to, even when glory seems far away, God is near and faithfully with us. God’s Spirit still brings unity, still helps us to love one another, still awakens us to keep looking up and remember God’s mission – a radiant church displaying God’s Life and Love through Jesus and his body in the power of the Spirit. Haggai reminds us to consider our ways and set out to get the balloon flying again.

2. Table

At the heart of the Christian faith is a table where bread and wine are served. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are proclaimed, his salvation is taken in, the bread sustains our souls on the road to God and the wine gladdens our hearts as a foretaste of eternal life. The simplicity of this meal reminds us of the lavish banquet that awaits us when Jesus returns for his Bride. Around the table we sing of God’s faithfulness and tell stories of God’s goodness, we share life and shed tears, we celebrate and lament, and pray for power, and we invite many to join following God’s own example.

In Isaiah 55:1-6 we find God’s compassionate invitation to the table:

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.”

“Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;

and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.”

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near.”

And this reminds us of Jesus who said: if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, whoever believes in me, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38). And whoever feeds on this bread will live forever (John 6:58). And that the invitation is to be made on the main roads, to invite as many as we can find (Matthew 22:9).

This is on our mind when we start to gather again. The refreshment of our souls with good food. The sharing of testimonies, the catching up, the singing. We are thirsty and hungry and many around us, too. We can’t wait to gather around the table again!

We love the simplicity yet richness of Christian community captured in this table picture. It will be like a slightly chaotic oversized family reunion where everyone pitches in to make it happen. Not like going to the movies where you criticise the cast and leave your popcorn on the floor and run for home.

Come, taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8). Come to the feast, there is room at the table! Come hungry, come thirsty, come ready to help out!

Every Sunday?

After 18 months without church on Sunday mornings, why would we want to revive the habit of weekly church attendance? What’s the point of gathering anyway? Why not join every now and then? Or why not prioritise Bible study and prayer with a few friends?

Four Bible pictures help us to rediscover what church is about: the people of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God. These show us that we are the church. And that we gather to God, to one another and for the world.

These pictures show us that the church is filled with mind-blowing, soul-reviving and heart-captivating vision. In a time like this, the church stands as a living message of divine hope. I want to be a part of that. You, too?

What is church again?

Out of sight, out of mind. An apt saying for a year and half without church gatherings. The habit of attending church on Sunday mornings is no more. And now that we hope to gather again after summer, it is time to consider our hearts. What do we find there when we think about church? Is it anticipation? Or hesitation? Or even doubt? Some can’t wait to join in with the crowd again, others look ahead with reservations for safety or simply because we aren’t used to large groups of people any more, or because we quite like sleeping in on a Sunday morning.

What or who do we look to in order to prepare well? What does God say? What is church again? Why do we gather all together?

Here are four pictures from the Bible, a psalm, and a hymn to help you refresh your memory and prepare your heart for (re)gathering.

1. God’s people

We gather

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)

God has always been gathering and saving a people, not just a few individuals. In Genesis, he promised Abraham to turn his descendants into a great people. In Exodus, we find them as slaves, but God brings rescue and forms them indeed into his people, marked by the Passover and the Presence of God on their way to the Promised land. The rest of the Old Testament tells the story of this nation set apart for God’s glory. And that God regularly brought them together to meet; to assemble. For example at Mount Sinai to hear God’s law (Exodus 19), at the annual festivals (Deuteronomy 16) or at Jerusalem for David’s final speech (1 Chronicles 28).

This idea is captured in the Greek translation of the Old Testament word for “assembly”, ekklesia, which is used to refer to the local church in the New Testament. It is simply the term for a gathering, but in light of the Old Testament it carries the meaning of standing together as God’s people.

Jesus had this in mind when he said – “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) and told his followers to “gather in my name” (Matthew 18:20). Paul affirmed this when he said: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). And Peter explained the gospel by saying that God’s mercy brought us into the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-10; see also Ephesians 2:11-22).

This means that now we are God’s people, who are saved by his grace, empowered by his Spirit and fed by his word, who walk by faith and stand together on his promises, who enjoy and share God’s love, who gather as church of Christ. Believers go to church because we are the church. A local church is an assembly of God’s people. Without meeting, there is no church. Of course we gather, that is what makes church church!

2. Temple of the Holy Spirit

We gather to God

“In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

God is omnipresent. He is present everywhere. But he also chooses sometimes to localise his presence, as he did surprisingly for Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6). But now, we get to be the place where God dwells by the person of the Holy Spirit. Because we are ‘in Jesus’, the church is now God’s dwelling place on earth, the new temple. This means that when we gather in his name, we can expect that he will be with us.

God is with us from the beginning of our gathering. In fact, it all begins with God. God gathers us to himself first and foremost. Matt Merker puts it like this: “God the Father grants us to honour him in and through our mediator, God the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What brings us into the presence of God is the death and resurrection of Jesus alone. So “God serves us before we serve him, he ministers to us, he blesses us, he reveals himself to us, he pours out grace upon undeserved grace. Then, we serve him with the strength that he alone provides.”

The gathering not only begins with God, but it is also for God as he gathers us to bring glory to him. We get to praise him with gravity (reverence), gladness (rejoicing), and gratitude (recognition). And we get to enjoy communion with him, which also brings him glory. We encounter God through Jesus by the Spirit, who is with us in our fellowship, when we sing, during the sharing of bread and wine, and when the gospel is preached.

But we also encounter God through one another as we are filled with the Spirit. In God’s temple, we all play a priestly role (1 Peter 2:9). We offer two types of sacrifice: praise to God and good works to bless God’s people (Hebrews 13:15-16). And that brings us to our next picture.

3. Body of Jesus Christ

We gather to God and to one another

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

God surprised the cosmos with the incarnation of his Son. God became man in order to save mankind. The surprise continued when we found out that we are saved through union with Jesus. By faith we become one with Christ, one with his death and his resurrection, one with his body. We do not belong to ourselves, but are members of Christ’s body, and get to live this out (Colossians 3:1-4).

This means that we do not gather as individuals seeking to worship God by ourselves, but as a body to encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The aim is to see the body grow up in every way into Christ, who is the head. And this happens when all believers play a part in this ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). All are gifted, every member of the body is needed (1 Corinthians 12). Some gifts serve from the platform, but most flourish in the pew.

When you welcome one another you show God’s kindness. When you sing you serve your brothers and sisters around you to look up and remember God’s faithfulness. When you pray you stir your fellow believers to have faith for God’s power to save. When you prophesy you bring God’s heart into the everyday of the saints. When you testify from the Bible you speak hope into the body. When you gather ready to build up you show that you have put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:11-17).

When we will safely (re)gather together, we will all have covid-year-stories to tell, and likely different opinions. Let’s hear Paul, when he said: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, vaccinated and unvaccinated, insane and sane; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11, adapted)

God’s desire for Christ’s body is that it may reflect his heart, so the world may recognise the Son in us. So, empowered by the Spirit who brings this to fruition, let’s seek unity and:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13; also see Romans 14:13-23)

4. Embassy of God’s kingdom

We gather to God, to one another and for the world

“We are ambassadors for Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

God’s people we are, but we are also exiles as we aren’t home yet (1 Peter 1:1). Being an international church we have many nationalities represented, but actually we are exiles who belong to the same heavenly country. When God promised Abraham many descendants, he also promised to bless them in order that they might bless the world. It has always been God’s plan that his people show his kingdom amid the nations of the earth.

The world is complex and confusing, full of frustration and futility. The pandemic shook many nations. But we are grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28), we abound in hope (Romans 15:13), we know our King will make all things new (Revelation 21:5). The church is an embassy of this kingdom. It means that the church serves to show what God’s kingdom looks like, it is a preview of the coming new creation, it is a living message of divine hope. We represent God’s heavenly kingdom. We are Christ’s ambassadors.

This means that when we gather, we gather as ambassadors and not as consumers. We come to honour the King and make him known; Jesus gets centre stage, not us. And this also explains why we value and submit to the Bible when we come together, as ambassadors faithfully apply the policies set by the King.

Church is like a festive gathering of exiles in a foreign land, which means that church is countercultural, we teach our constitution (sermon), we eat and drink kingdom food (communion), we sing our national anthem (hymns and songs), and we celebrate heaven’s culture of faith, hope, and love (fellowship), yet we welcome everyone to come and join, as we believe it will do them good.

This is how the church serves to show Jesus to unbelievers, to be the light of the world.

Let’s (re)gather!

After a year and a half of lockdown, will the church be able to stand again? Will it be revived and flourish? Well, our God is in the business of resurrection and he is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and he has always shown himself to be faithful to the church.

Why? Because the church is the gathering of his people, the temple of his Spirit, the body of his Son, and an embassy of his kingdom. But also the bride of Christ awaiting the return of the Bridegroom. And the flock of the Good Shepherd; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. What a mind-blowing, soul-reviving and heart-captivating vision!

Let’s (re)gather to God, to one another and for the world!

Psalm 100

A (re)gathering Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Hymn of the Church

O Church of Christ, invincible, The people of the Lord, Empowered by the Spirit’s breath And nourished by his word.

His covenant of grace will be
Our portion evermore,
For He who called us will not change, Our help and our reward.

O chosen people called by grace,
The sons of Abraham,
Who walk by faith and things unseen, And on His promise stand,

That every nation of the earth Will hear about this love
That causes broken hearts to heal And pays our debts with blood.

O Church of Christ in sorrow now, Where evil lies in wait;
When trials and persecutions come This light will never fade.

For though the hordes of hell may rage, Their power will not endure;
Our times are in the Father’s hand, Our anchor is secure.

O Church of Christ, upon that day When all are gathered in,
When every tear is wiped away With every trace of sin;

Where justice, truth and beauty shine, And death is passed away,
Where God and man will dwell as one For all eternity.


Thanks to:

Vaughan Roberts, True Worship, 2002
Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters, Sovereign Grace Ministries, 2008 Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership, 9Marks, 2012
Matt Merker, Corporate Worship, 9Marks, 2021
Matt Boswell & Stuart Townend, Hymn of the Church, 2014

Redeemer Stories: Meet Ann & Carla (Our new Redeemer Board Members)

Name: Ann Twene
Nationality: British
Favourite Bible verse: Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.’

Name: Carla Hesseling
Nationality: South African (trying to become more Dutch)
Favourite hobby: cycling and swimming

  1. What is your new role on the board of Redeemer International Church The Hague?
    Ann: Human Resources
    Carla: I’ve taken over the role of Treasurer.
  1. What are you looking forward to in the next season with Redeemer?
    Ann: For spiritual revival in The Hague and beyond.
    Carla: I’m looking forward in the next season to seeing God bring more people, including those we would love to know Jesus, and finding restoration and healing in knowing him. I’m also looking forward to God moving us into new mission in more locations in the Netherlands in multiple languages.
  1. What have you learned about God and who He is in this past year-plus of the COVID pandemic?
    Ann: Trusting God every day and leaning not on my own understanding
    Carla: In last year personally I’ve learnt how God always has a better plan than we do and I’ve learnt partly (still learning) to wait on Him.
  1. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    Ann: Recently, my elderly mother had some test at the hospital and they found that she had a kidney abnormality. My mother is a devout Christian and we prayed together about this and she said she wasn’t worried because God is in full control. When she went back after a week for another test the doctor said he was puzzled as to why the abnormality had completely disappeared.
  1. What are you thankful for?
    Ann: My daughter giving her life to Jesus, I’m proud of her!
    Carla: I’m so thankful for God’s provision beyond our understanding.

Redeemer Stories: Meet the De Jong family

Name: Joshua, Gerlinde, Salem & Azize
Nationality: Dutch
Favorite activity: Discover new places and go on holiday.

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
    We both work three days a week and the other two we are home with our kids. Gerlinde works in Leiden at the hospital in eyecare and Joshua works for Redeemer. He also has his self employed business in IT on the side. Salem, our oldest, has been going to school now for over two years and will start ‘group 3’ after the Summer. Our youngest, Azize, will start school after the Summer and we are both looking forward to the limited free time it will give us at home in the near future. In the beginning of the pandemic our lives, as many others, were brought to a halt. But with the kids returning to school and daycare, life at home has taken back it’s normal form. We enjoy discovering new places in the Netherlands but also abroad while going on holiday. That last part we’ve really missed and we are looking forward to a time we get to travel safely again. Up till that time we’ve been discovering our province and things around Pijnacker. We love our little town just between Rotterdam and The Hague and the community we have around us.
  1. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
    It’s so true that God doesn’t forget us and uses our situations for His good. God has remained the same and he didn’t have to go into lockdown. While we had to quiet our lives, he has been there with open arms for us to grow deeper with him. But we also believe he has been using this time for us to grow closer with our neighbours and that the Holy Spirit is using us to be a good influence in our neighbourhood.
  1. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
    This past season, where social contacts have remained mostly digital, we’ve had the privilege of seeing our neighbours quite a lot and have spent time doing “life together”. One of our prayers before the pandemic has been to have a meaningful relationship with them. While the nation was in lockdown our kids have been playing around in our neighbours gardens, which meant we have gotten to know them well.
  1. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    During the last Ashburnham (2019) we both felt that God had spoken to us about our neighbours and to invest into the relationships we have with them. To be open for the Holy Spirit’s prompting and for him to use us. And now looking back we see that God has opened up many doors in our relationship with them.
  1. What are you thankful for?
    We are thankful that we are healthy and that God always provides. Such a short sentence, but such a deep truth. Lastly we are thankful we can almost go back to church. We have really missed out on meeting all of you! We feel God wants all of us to be connected into the community. It’s good to have a community around us like what we have described in our previous answers. But we long to also be into community with our friends and family in church. Our kids have asked us many times when we go back to church (the Nieuwe Kerk). As much as we have enjoyed watching Ollie and seeing our community on the television, we long to see you all soon, already now at the Sunday evening prayer evenings or in the upcoming Sunday morning meetings very soon.

Redeemer Stories: Meet the Danso family

Name:  Richard, Lolu, Kristin, Benjamin and Jeremiah Danso
Nationality: Ghanaian
Favourite hobbies: road trips and walks in the forest

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
    We are blessed with 3 wonderful children. So although the world seems to have slowed down the Danso household is still very busy. We work 4 or 5 days a week so most week days are a rush to get the kids to school and get to work. Due to the nature of our work, we need to be physically present at work most days of the week. At the end of the day we get to enjoy our evening as a family at dinner time. On Wednesdays we have life group at our home in Alphen aan den rijn. We are so happy that the restrictions have been slightly lifted. Since we are a small life group,it’s been nice to meet together again in person. We always look forward to the weekend when we get to be “lazy” after a busy week. We enjoy a Pyjama day as a family, movie night on Fridays, go out on a bike ride or work in the garden together amongst many other things.
  2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
    In this season one of the lessons we have learned is that God is still working in peoples lives and doing big things despite the fact that we don’t get to see or hear testimonies as often as we did before the pandemic. Hearing testimonies of Gods faithfulness in peoples lives has always been a faith booster for us. Not being able to see people/other Christians as much as we used to and hear about how He is working on the lives of others made it sometimes difficult to believe and hold on in faith like we used to before the pandemic. As we have been able to be in contact with more people, we really see that God didn’t go on a break and He has been doing wonders in peoples lives. This has encouraged us to continue to have faith in God and hold on to His promises.
  3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
    Our parents and siblings live outside the Netherlands so staying connected with them hasn’t really changed since the pandemic.Being a part of  Redeemer church, we have met friends that have become like family. Since we live quite far from Den Haag, we have really missed being around our friends from Redeemer and haven’t been able to stay connected or see as much as we love to.
  4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    God gave us a breakthrough  and answer to prayers for our last born son.  For over a year he couldn’t sleep through the night… he woke up every two hours and this was very exhausting. But thank God now he sleeps much better at night and only wakes up once.
  5. What are you thankful for?
    We are thankful for Gods protection. On the 23rd of May we joined Malieveld prayer event in The Hague. Upon returning home we realized that we left the front door wide open. We are thankful that nothing was taken from the house. Praise the Lord!

Redeemer Stories: Meet Katherine

Name:  Katherine Voorvelt
Nationality: South African
Favourite book: YouVersion Bible App

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
    This is a difficult question for sure.  So much has happened in my life since the start of the pandemic that almost every day held unexpected things, so there was no real pattern of day-to-day same activity at the same time. Except perhaps that I went to sleep very late each night and woke up very late each morning. This habit, and not a good one, started before the pandemic now that I think about it. It started when my husband died and I retired. The pandemic did not help me kick this habit, quite the opposite in fact. I am only now regulating and disciplining myself in this area with God’s help.
  2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
    Oh my gosh! Where to begin? I have been reminded of the steadfast love of God in a very real way.  I have learned more deeply how much He loves us to love Him, and rely on Him fully in our strengths and weaknesses. Our God just loves to be loved, trusted, believed and obeyed.  I was so blessed that Pieter Jan preached using the Book of Acts last Sunday regarding faith and obedience. This is currently what I have been strongly reminded of in the past couple of months, through the Word and through my intimate times being with the Lord and praying for help and direction regarding certain real difficulties I was experiencing. I also learnt afresh and deeper about how indescribably massive God’s forgiveness is and the humongous act of love Jesus did on the cross and also coming to earth and living as a man amongst us to birth the Body of Christ.
  3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
    I don’t think I have struggled with the “lock-down” and restrictions due to the pandemic as much as some. Only because for a while prior to the pandemic I was physically restricted from going about and around, so it was not a shock for me. I was also used to connecting with dear friends, family and prayer partners outside of The Netherlands using the wonderful tools afforded us like WhatsApp and so forth.
    However, the most wonderful things is that many very dear friends here in The Hague visited me very often one-on-one, and when I went into isolation a couple of time, I found a way in my home to meet with a friend or family by placing chairs on either side of a glass door in my passage, so it was safe.
    Much good praying, chatting, testimony sharing, trouble sharing, and Word happened as always even during this weird time we find ourselves living in.
  4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    Shooowhee Oh yes! I don’t know where to start. Perhaps I will start by saying that while I can testify a lot to God answering prayers and break through situations, I think it behooves me to say that these past few years have been the hardest in my living memory. I was challenged by so many difficult circumstances and events.  I felt like that song “I get knocked down, get up again” was written especially for me. But GOD, my Redeemer… my reason for living and indeed even being alive… he was with me through it all. I cannot go into all the testimonies and stories, you would be reading this “until the cows come home”. So I choose to speak of the greatest of my testimonies of God’s unfailing love in recent months.
    I have struggled with a severe eating disorder since I was a small child. It was affecting, for many years, my physical and emotional health more than I can say.  It drove me time and time again to the Lord, repenting and asking for help.  I had on a number of occasions felt I had some victory, as I would lose weight, and eat healthily even for a few years, but always I felt this band like barbed wired wrapping my brain and fear that I would fail and start the disorder behaviour again… and sure enough I would.
    Then, when I all but gave up hope of being delivered of this killer disorder, my daughter told me to stop saying I was trying my best, but to just get on and stop it! I was shocked and embarrassed and not a little hurt. Then she insisted that I confessed that “It is done, it is finished”. It was really difficult for me to confess this but I did. As I said it, I remembered that it was what Jesus had said on the Cross! “IT IS FINISHED”. Being delivered from the eating disorder was part of why He took the Cross on my behalf!  A day or two later I realised that the barbed wire around my brain was gone, for the first time since I was a little girl, it was just gone.  It is indeed for Freedom sake that we are set free…. free indeed.  So that’s the faith and now the obedience – to walk in this incredible freedom. IT IS FINISHED!
  5. What are you thankful for?
    I am so grateful for all of the above, and more, for what the Lord is busy with in my family.  What would we do without God? I hate to even imagine.

Redeemer Stories: Meet Franz

Name: Franz Tapia Chaca
Nationality: Born in Peru, naturalised as Dutch in Sint Maarten
Favourite hobby: Getting to know and spending time with church family. Second favourite: studying the Bible with church family. Third favourite: cooking new dishes (for others) 😉

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?

My current day-to-day is taking each day as it comes, striving to be faithful in all things!

I began a job at a warehouse in October. I work here 4 days a week. Specifically, we receive the Albert Heijn shop returns, i.e. paper, plastic, and beer bottle recycling, as well as food waste and lots of unique things used in the AH shops. Depending on the item, we work with machines to stack or clean them accordingly. I’ve gotten used to the manual nature by now, but still very few days I can go to sleep sore! Interesting estimate: each day, 30-60 years worth of daily food (nutritional value) for one person is thrown away at this one centre. Crazy!

When I’m not working, I’m filling out applications for further study or another job. I’ve mostly focused on MSc applications to study Bioinformatics and Systems Biology. Since protein folding structures were predicted with amazing accuracy simply from their amino acid sequences last November, I’ve been fascinated by the potential of artificial intelligence in solving problems using the big data in biology. I have a Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering. I want to use my God-given talents to serve others, and in this new technology I see a growing opportunity to really change people’s lives with respect to their healthcare! So it would be a pleasure to study this through an MSc, or work further in biomedical research again! Each day I strive to lift my eyes to God in trust for my next step, and I’m learning to trust him more.

Besides these things, I cook, meet and read the Bible with my beloved life group (Students & Young Adults <3), and I’ve been learning to play the guitar just a bit! On Friday lunchtimes, I join the Student Life Mission Possible evangelism group, and we mainly meet outside De Haagse Hogeschool. On Saturdays, I co-lead a Bible study group of three through Romans. We’re now on chapter 11! On Sundays, I get to join the evening prayer meeting – prayer with church family has lifted my soul many times!

About a year ago, I was coming to the end of a 1-year ministry traineeship at Christ Church Mayfair in London. I began following Jesus there four years ago (30 April 2017)! I ended my internship last August. I then moved to the Netherlands in September to grow closer to my two brothers. With the pandemic, we also had to adjust to ministry in distancing and online! Back then, my day-to-day involved weekly bible studies, organising zoom logistics, attending staff meetings and going to Cornhill Bible college one day a week. Cornhill was the weekly highlight (besides in-person Sunday services…)!

  1. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?

– Colossians 3:23-24: My job has many times felt totally insignificant! But according to God, it isn’t. I have learned to view it in perspective of things above (3:2). God has been teaching me that I ultimately work for him, and that I am to do it with all my heart! So I can rejoice that God promises me an eternal reward for my wholehearted faithfulness at my job. Since starting to recall these verses, I have put better effort, and I’m thankful to have consequently received the respect of my colleagues and supervisors and their appreciation of my work!

– 1 Chronicles 16:27: I was recently reminded that in Christ, I have complete, uninterrupted access to joy. Joy is found in the presence of the God, and he is ever with us in each of his persons (Is. 41:10, Mat. 28:20, 1 Cor. 6:19). So, I wish to keep coming back to him at every moment!

– 1 Timothy 1:15: I have learned more of the grace of God. Many times I feel like David (Ps. 51:3), when I am reminded of all my sin. But I have learned to remind myself each day of God’s sweet grace like Paul did. In his letters, Paul expresses his undeserving of every blessing he has in Christ, because he persecuted God’s church (1 Cor. 15:9, 1 Tim. 1:13). But he continually dwelt upon the grace of God, and this grace strengthened him to work harder than the apostles around him (1 Cor. 15:10) and to struggle, even through imprisonment, for the sake of the church (Col 1:29).

  1. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?

Family: I’m staying at my older brother’s place. Before September, we hadn’t lived together for 5 years, besides the occasional visit home while I was studying in London. It was very nice to celebrate Christmas 2020 together with him and my little brother with lots of food. I was in charge of catering 🙂 We also have occasionally watched movies together. I’m thankful for all the time we’ve gotten to spend so far, because our relationship has developed a lot since I first arrived. He’s recently returned from Sint Maarten after 2 months. I gave his place a thorough clean, and he appreciated it! My little brother lives in Tilburg. I don’t get to see him much, but once I spent a few days at his place. It was fun! In February, I got a chance to visit my family in Sint Maarten after 1.5 years – they threw me a birthday party with lots of foooooood. It was also nice to go out with them for dinner from time to time. See my collage for pictures 🙂

Friends: I’ve been fortunate to have made lots of new friends since moving to the Netherlands! I didn’t know anyone well except for one person at first (Ronald), but I was warmly welcomed to Redeemer and my life group. Since joining the Students & Young Adults life group, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with them mostly every week, for which I have been very thankful. I’ve also gotten to know and meet other Redeemer members during the week or online! See my collage for highlights with Redeemer members this past year! 🙂

Colleagues: I have gotten to develop beautiful friendships with some colleagues over tram rides, lunch breaks and complements/encouragements. I’m very thankful for the Christian brothers I have here, whose presence has encouraged me. Also, I’m thankful that I get along very well with one Christian brother, and that I get to talk with him about spiritual matters on train rides, such as marriage. He’s preparing to propose to his girlfriend!

  1. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?

Since Feb 2020, while I was in London, I have been reading the Bible (first John’s Gospel, now Romans) with Lucian. He is now in Romania. My co-leader, Brian, is in Hong Kong. We believe that Lucian has come to put his faith in Jesus! It’s been our prayer since we began reading the Bible with him, and God has been gracious. Now, he’s displaying submission to God’s word (Rom. 8:7), and he prays with a childlikeness and humility that refreshes and lifts up my soul every time! We now wish to help him settle at a church to be fed more locally, and for him to exercise his God-given gifts for the upbuilding of the church.

On a different note, God’s grace has kept me persevering in him. In December, I watched a scientific documentary that completely shocked the foundations of my faith. I felt that I could no longer believe in God, that I could do whatever I wanted, and that I could no longer trust anyone in the church. I was beginning to think about walking out from all the relationships I have developed over the past four years. I questioned the foundations of everything, including the purpose of continuing to live. Fortunately for me, I had strong feelings and anxieties that I couldn’t shake. I was trying to come back to Jesus. In desperation to find comfort in a Bible verse, my eyes fell upon Jesus’ words to Thomas instead: “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). I kept doubting, however. Each day, I was trying hard to hold on to Jesus’ words “I am the way, the truth and the life”. One day, as I was struggling inside and working, I finally decided to message, and not avoid, a very close friend in whom I fully trust. About a year ago, I was being discipled one-to-one by him, and we became very close. Somehow afterwards I remembered an objective event that God worked through his life. Together with all the science I had been presented with, I had to take into consideration this individual, objective event. This gave me the footing to cry out to God to help me believe in him again, and he helped me. Just over an hour after sending the message, I was fine and confident that God lives, because he is active according to his will in people’s lives.

  1. What are you thankful for?

I am most thankful for God’s grace. I am also thankful for my work, which has allowed me to remain in the Netherlands when it looked like I couldn’t, and to build relationships at Redeemer. I am thankful that my family relationships are growing.

Redeemer Stories: Meet Trevor and Bettie

Names: Trevor and Bettie Nielsen
Nationality: Dutch (naturalized from South Africa)
Favorite food: Italian and Moroccan

1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
Having spent more than 20 years working/living in several faraway countries (Vietnam, Indonesia, Romania, Turkmenistan, Serbia, Albania, Kenya) which exposed us to much travel, cultural differences and many interesting experiences (weather, food, habits and traditions, etc), before the slowdown/lockdown related to the COVID pandemic, this has taken some getting used to. Our days are now much slower, quieter, less active with the daily highlight being feeding the cat!! We have, however, started walking more than we did before the pandemic.
Trevor joins the Redeemer prayer meeting every weekday morning and Sunday evenings and is busy with the study of the Book of Revelation. Bettie connects with 2 women’s Bible study groups on a weekly basis.  And we do a lot of reminiscing about faraway tropical beaches which we plan to visit once the COVID restrictions allow this.

2.  What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
We learned that God keeps His word.  He does not change and he remains faithful. We thank God every day even when life is sometimes not easy and He has honoured that.
He has kept us healthy and has met all our physical as well as spiritual needs.  We have come to realize that the more one seeks Him, the closer He comes. He spoke to us about things that needed changing in our lives and issues that needed to be addressed. We have both come to a deeper appreciation of His word and the value of prayer.  We speak more to Him and He speaks more to us.

3.  How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
Connecting to other Redeemer members has been difficult.  In fact apart from a few times that we’ve had some of them over to watch the Sunday morning online church service, we’ve restricted our contact to our children and grandchildren once a week. Before the summer  we sometimes met with our Lifegroup in the park near our home. Thereafter contact was only through Zoom.
We have learned a lot about Video conferences, Zoom meetings, Facetime, WhatsApp and Skype! We connect regularly with our friends and family all over the world. We are so thankful to the Lord that this technology is available.

4.  Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
Our big story about answered prayers is that despite being in the vulnerable group we have had absolutely no problems with COVID, with ‘flu’ or any other physical health issues. We are so thankful for God’s constant protection and provision.
Another answer to prayer is when Trevor lost his wallet containing credit cards, debit cards vehicle licenses etc. during a visit to a town far from home, God miraculously answered a very short simple prayer and a stranger, who had earlier found it, brought the wallet back to us as we were sitting in our car with everything in it!

5. What are you thankful for?
We are thankful that we were given this extra time to spend in meditation, studying God’s word and prayer.  We have both grown much closer to our Lord!

Redeemer Stories: Meet Ihor and Marine

Names: Ihor and Marine Okhrimenko
Nationality: Ihor is Ukrainian and Marine is French
Favourite hobby: We both like running, one can say sport is our hobby.

1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
We recently married so our honeymoon or like the Dutch say ‘Wittebroodsweken’ 😉 were at home. We tried to work out or go running 3 times a week but don’t always succeed. We keep on trying.

2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
We’ve learnt to be more trusting the Lord with ‘holy uncertainty’ about the future. Lord Jesus is very generous and loving God. He cares even for smallest details too, as well as the ‘big picture’.

3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
Not easy. There will be no Zoom and Microsoft Teams in heaven!

4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
Our biggest testimony of 2020 is about goodness of God and His provision of clarity, conviction and confirmation about us meeting and getting married. Optically it looked like a very short period but it was as clear as day. In June 2020 we did not know about each other at all. We were engaged in October and married in December 2020.

5. What are you thankful for?
Simple things that are actually very big things, if you think about it: clean water from the tap, bread on the table, roof over our heads. Knowing that we are loved and cared for by the God of the universe!