Friday, July 13, 2018

See you on the dance floor.


Tonight as the Big Band plays, I expect we will see some really young kids out on the dance floor. Maybe we will also see some folks out there who danced to those tunes back in the 1940’s when they were first popular. Some of those guys could probably teach us some moves!

What a delightful image of the church -- gathering together, enjoying good music, out on the same dance floor -- the tiniest of tinies together with the oldest folks in our church family.

Isn’t it marvelous?

When we gather together to worship this Sunday, look around you. Find some kids. They’re the ones standing on their chairs during the songs so they can see the worship leaders. They’re the ones crinkling packages of fruit snacks during the sermon. They’re the ones waving the colorful flags during the closing song.

This is just as it should be.

This is the church. This is the body of Christ.

Each Sunday morning as a church body all the generations gather together, worshipping and soaking in God’s word. Some of us are still and quiet, some of us wiggle and ask questions. And all of us are on the same dance floor together.

~ Debbie Bukovietski






Friday, June 29, 2018

Accessorize


In Titus 2 the apostle Paul lays out instructions for the church community in Crete with regards to life style. He exhorts older men and women to be active in the discipling of younger men and women. He exhorts bondservants to be submissive to their masters in everything, so that in everything “they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” (cf. Titus 2:1-10) Like finding just the right accessories to complement our outfit and bring out our eyes, so our lifestyles are to bring out the beauty of the Gospel which we have been given!

It is this Gospel that Paul goes on to say is both the “why” and “how” for pursuing Godliness. Here are his words:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14) 
Why do we pursue godliness? Because Christ gave himself to redeem us! In whose power do we pursue godliness? By the power Christ has given us in redeeming and purifying us!

As we head towards Independence Day this next week, may we recognize that our true freedom is to be the people that God has made us to be in his Son. And may the loudest and most vibrant firework be the illumination of the Holy Spirit as we follow the path of Godliness he lays out.




Friday, June 22, 2018

Patient, Hopeful Trust


Let me start with a confession. In the outworking of ministry I regularly fight an internal battle between the felt urgency to accomplish what I believe God is calling us to do and the patient trust that God is working out his will and plan in his time. There are many facets to this struggle, but I now focus on how this struggle affects our ability as a community to serve together.

In Numbers 20, Moses was leading the people in the wilderness and seeking to provide food, and in this case water, for the people. God showed him a way forward that involved him speaking to a rock. Moses grew frustrated that things were not moving more smoothly, particularly that the people were being difficult. In a fit of frustration Moses said, “'Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?' And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice.” (Numbers 20:10-11) Some of you know that it was this incident that prevented Moses from leading the people into the promised land, despite his many years of faithful service.

What is the issue here? Is it not the struggle mentioned above, that of Moses’ felt urgency to move things along versus waiting on God by doing things his way? Again, I share this with you in way of confession. I really relate to Moses here and the frustration that he experiences as he works to serve God’s people. Striking a rock in frustration doesn’t seem that radical.

As ministry leaders, our desire is to shepherd well as we seek to follow the Lord. There is much work to be done. The places to jump in and serve feel endless in our context. There are task-oriented jobs such as office admin, building maintenance, and finances. There are people-nurturing opportunities ranging from nursery, to teen discipleship, to shut-in visitation. We need people to handle God’s word, to show hospitality, to share musical gifts. And the list goes on and on and on.

Recently our staff talked about walking this line of needing to get things done and trusting God to work in his time. I am grateful for my colleagues and was encouraged by their insights. Betsy Bray captured much of the conversation with these words: "have a hopeful trust that calling servants to work is God’s business under his control. As leaders seeking to fill needs, we must focus our trust in God, who calls each to the work prepared in advance by him. It takes the pressure off us to be convincing, and leaves it between the person and God. Our work comes of praying for our needs, and praying for future volunteers to be prepared to respond in faith to the call to serve...

...no work for God is without cost. Trusting that “God doesn’t call the equipped, rather he equips those he calls” means embracing the adventure of seeing God work things out after being obedient to begin (or even after agreeing to pray about the possibility of beginning!). The idea of obstacles being in the way of saying "yes" to serving God is an acknowledgment of the existence of a working enemy (who is already defeated). Obstacles exist for whomever God is calling to serve, so ultimately it’s not about only saying "yes" when the path is perfectly clear, rather it’s all about the call."

These are wise words and I am grateful to have such colleagues. I hate it when the urgency of tasks overtake the care for people and the patient trust in God. I hope you will forgive me when that inevitably happens. My prayer going forward is that together we will look to God's leading and fulfill with joy the roles that he has, and is, calling us to.

A final word here. In Numbers 20, again verse 11, we are told, "and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.” This is a tremendous outpouring of blessing that God gives to his people despite their rebellious hearts, and despite the anger and poor leadership of Moses. It is a reminder that God strikes straight blows with crooked sticks, and truly this is our hope going forward!



Thursday, June 14, 2018

All the People Said Amen


I am coming to you from Atlanta this week, this year’s home of our denomination’s General Assembly (GA). GA is a wonderful time of reunion and refreshment for folks in the trenches of ministry. It is a chance to share ideas, to pray with brothers and sisters, and remind ourselves of why we do what we do. GA is about affirming the things that are important to us as a denomination, like a commitment to the Scriptures as the authoritative rule for faith and practice. Like the rightness of t marriage being between a man and a women despite what others may be saying. Or like the importance of loving all people and seeing their gifts utilized, whatever their background or ethnicity. GA is unique among many of the Reformed denominations that you may be familiar with because of its larger size. Every church across the country can send all of their pastors (TEs) as delegates and at least two elders (REs). Hence the assembly has over 1200 voters! While it is unwieldy at times, and debate can be ponderous, every church truly has representation and the actions taken are representative of the denomination. ByFaith Online our denominational magazine, has regular updates for those interested.

Missionally I have been encouraged. Sometimes being in MI and a bit isolated from much of what is going on in the denomination, I forget just how passionate the PCA is when it comes to church extension and reaching the culture for Christ. ​It is encouraging to know that as we take up the opportunities given to us in our little corner of the kingdom, that we are joined with sisters and brothers throughout the world pursuing the same goals.


Friday, June 8, 2018

What are you doing Sunday 8:30 or 10:30?


So what are you doing this Sunday at 8:30 or 10:30? My hope of course, is that you will be attending one of our worship services as these are the summer hours that begin this Sunday!

On the one hand, the above sentence was ​a ​clever way of reminding you that our summer worship hours start this Sunday. (Hint, Hint. Don’t miss it!) On the other hand it really is an expression of the hope of my heart. Weekly worship is so key for our life as believers. Worship is what we were created for. And while it is true that all of life is worship, focused, praise of God weekly, is a clear way to fulfill this calling. Gathering for worship is also where we avail ourselves of the means of grace, i.e. - word and sacrament, where we are met by Christ and sustained in our journey through the days of our weeks. It is here where we encounter the blessing of Christian fellowship, true koinonia, in which we find those true soul mates that walk with us through life. So yes, my hope is to see you Sunday.

Pastor Steve will be picking up the story of God working in and through his people in Genesis 25, focusing on vv. 19-28. We will be reminded again that while his ways are not our ways, he does have a plan and we can trust him.

A final word, as much as you need worship this Sunday, don’t forget others need you as much as you need them. We are all mak​ing our way to Zion together!




Friday, June 1, 2018

How Wise, How Strong!


Lisa and I were talking the other day and noting that apparently we were under the mistaken impression that with summer upon us things would slow down a bit. In some ways just the opposite has occurred. Graduation parties, mission trips, General Assembly, weddings(!), even things like vacation, all add layers to our life. Then go ahead and throw in the unplanned stuff of life, illness, kids in crisis, house projects, car failure, you name it, and we often catch ourselves coming and going. In the midst of this, I sometimes wonder, “Am I hearing the voice of the Lord?” “Am I really following his path?”

As much as we ask these questions personally, we ask similar questions corporately as a church. Attached are documents pertaining to our proposed capital campaign and the ongoing search for an assistant pastor. These are huge initiatives where we look for the Lord to guide us. On top of that, we continue to pray for and support Gracehill as they look toward a public launch date. We look forward to summer picnics and getting out to engage our community. We seek to care well for one another as the body of Christ, especially as we see people wrestle with recent diagnosis and surgeries. In the midst of it all, we ask ourselves, “God, are you with us?”

As we dive back into Genesis this summer, it is instructive to note that God always shows up for his people. In chapter 24, Abraham is again in trouble as he sees his life coming to a close and Isaac still not married. How will the seed survive? Will the promises come to fruition? But, Abraham has learned a thing or two in his sojourns. And, in the midst of crisis he affirms his faith in YHWH in the presence of his servant, "The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you… “ (Genesis 24:7). God sees! God knows. God acts.

A lot is going on in life, and the way forward is not always crystal clear. We may not even be certain we are hearing his voice. But, what is crystal clear is that our God is faithful. He who brought us this far will continue to guide us.

Paul Gerhardt in an old hymn, Give to the Wind thy Fears, puts it appropriately this way:

Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command;
Then shalt thou, wandering, own His way,
How wise, how strong,
how wise, how strong
How wise, how strong His hand.




Friday, May 25, 2018

Grace in the Shadows


Our brother, Daniel Eguiluz, will be installed as a pastor among us this Sunday. Like a graduation, an ordination looks back as a celebration of sustained trials necessary to get to this point, as well as looks forward. After all, the ordination is really just a beginning with most of the story yet to be written.

So, we wonder what will the story look like? Being called as a pastor is to be called to carry out a role in a community of equals. In other words, there is no clergy/laity distinction as a pastor is not inherently more holy than a plumber or a stay-at-home mom. But, like each of us, a pastor has a particular role to play in the community to which he is called. They are to handle the Word, be diligent in prayer, enter the difficult places, seek green pastures, and always point to the finished work of Christ. Eugene H. Peterson, one who has reflected much on the nature of pastoral ministry, offers this reflection in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant: an Exploration in Vocational Holiness:

Pastors enter congregations vocationally in order to embrace the totality of human life in Jesus' name. We are convinced there is no detail, however unpromising, in people's lives in which Christ may not work his will. Pastors agree to stay with the people in their communities week in and week out, year in and year out, to proclaim and guide, encourage and instruct as God works his purposes (gloriously, it will eventually turn out) in the meandering and disturbingly inconstant lives of our congregations.

This necessarily means taking seriously, and in faith, the dull routines, the empty boredom, and the unattractive responsibilities that make up much of most people's lives. It means witnessing to the transcendent in the fog and rain. It means living hopefully among people who from time to time get flickering glimpses of the Glory but then live through stretches, sometimes long ones, of unaccountable grayness. Most pastoral work takes place in obscurity: deciphering grace in the shadows, searching out meaning in a difficult text, blowing on the embers of a hard-used life.”

Perhaps it is a good time to stop and pray for pastors and congregations. These are perilous times for pastors and we need your prayers, daily. It is so easy to deviate from the vocational calling Peterson describes above. But pray for yourselves too, both as individuals and as a community, for it is truly together that we seek grace in the shadows. May God give us eyes to see!

If you want to read ahead we will be exploring this pastoral ministry a little more through 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16.