Friday, January 11, 2019

Flowing to the Word


It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1–2)

Perhaps more than anything recently the Spirit has captured my imagination with the desirability of living in accordance with God’s Word. As our recent study of Micah made clear, the consummation of the Kingdom of God will coincide with people flowing to the mountain of God to live under the Word and to walk in its ways. Tired of going their own way, tired of running into the despair and dead ends that humans create for themselves, people will flock to their Creator and delight in his Word and his ways. It was this Kingdom that Jesus was inaugurating and teaching about through the parables that we have taken for study. These parables were designed to capture the listener and make him a participant of this gracious rule.

But it is precisely this “flowing" to the Word of God that so many of us resist. Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, in their book How People Change, put it this way, "More than any before us, an American today believes 'I must write the script of my own life.' The thought that such a script must be subordinated to the grand narrative of the Bible is a foreign one."

As we move into this new year may we increasingly become people of the Word. I recently heard one person put it this way, “Have you ever met a growing Christian who is not reading the Bible and praying with regularity?” As an aid, the Session has again made available a devotional book for us to pursue together as a church throughout this year. This year we have once again turned to Tim and Kathy Keller, who, this time, take us through the book of Proverbs. Filled with Gospel wisdom and practical application, we hope that this resource is a blessing to your household and an encouragement to an even greater pursuit of God’s Word.

We are grateful that Pastor McGee arrived safely this Wednesday. Pray for us as we head to Presbytery this weekend to complete his transfer into the Great Lakes.

I look forward to seeing you this coming Lord’s Day and anticipate the encouragement on tap from Matthew 13:24-43.

Friday, January 4, 2019

EnFolded


So just like that we're off and running in 2019! It is amazing how quickly things can resume their normal pace.

Speaking of normal, as we move into the new year we wanted to take a minute and talk about the ways in which we care for each other at Christ Church, in particular our elder fold groupings. For the past several years, the Session has arranged the elder folds around C-Groups. There are advantages to this to be sure - the top advantage being all members of a C-Group have the same elder. Conversely, the fluid nature of C-Group membership has meant that members were reassigned elders often based on the new C-Group they joined. And for anyone not in a C-Group, fold assignments were rather random. All of this could cause confusion as to what fold someone was in.

As Christ Church continues to grow numerically, the Session considered if there was a better way to handle these divisions. Many good ways to do this exist, but we had to choose one. So, going forward in 2019, we are moving to Elder Folds based on geography. As our membership stretches from Saranac to Holland, and from Middleville to Greenville, arranging folds in this manner hopefully will assist us all in being able to care for those who are closest to where we live.

As we think about caring for each other, the primary level is member to member care. This can mean someone who lives close to you, someone in your C-Group or Bible study, or other small group you are a part of. The next level of care is to call on the elder or deacon now assigned to you geographically, to put them in closer proximity to where you live. The outer level of care then involves calling on the pastors and ministry staff, often in crisis situations. Here is a diagram of what this type of care might look like:


In addition, we have also consolidated the number of folds and are moving to a team approach. Thus, each fold will have either two or three elders assigned to watch over those within that area. Hopefully this change will help us more effectively care for one another. Expect that your elders will be communicating with you soon.

We pray these changes will not only assist the session, but also all of us as individual members of Christ Church as we seek to care for each other. May God give us hearts to do so.

Belonging to one another is one of the great benefits of belonging to the Kingdom of Christ. Over the next several weeks we will be looking more closely at the nature of this Kingdom as we explore some of the parables that marked Jesus’ ministry. We begin in Matthew 13:44-52 and note the priceless nature of the Kingdom!

See you Sunday!

Andrew
(on behalf of the Session -with special thanks to Mark Jurries for his work on the fold redistribution.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Look what has come to the world!


Well, we have almost arrived at Christmas. There are only a few more shopping days left. Schools are drawing to a close. Traffic is getting lighter. Families are gathering. For many, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

But all is not idyllic in this fallen world. This week people will feel the loss of loved ones and the disappointment of family. Others will be reminded of financial hardship. All of us can look out and see the effects of global conflict, global poverty, and global injustice.

But it is Christmas, and that means GOOD NEWS! The best news in fact. Pastor Darrell Johnson puts it this way, "The early Christians looked out on a world as challenging, as frightening, as confusing, and as overwhelmingly broken as ours, and they did not say, 'Look what the world has come to.' What the world has come to is not the content of our message." Instead, Johnson points us to the true focus of Christmas: not "what has the world come to" but "look what has come to the world" - the Savior, King, and Redeemer. Johnson quotes the missionary E. Stanley Jones who said, "[The early Christians] saw not merely the ruin, but the resources for the reconstruction of that ruin.”

This is exactly the message of Micah that we come to this Sunday and again on Christmas Eve, when we will look at the nature of the promised Shepherd-King who will rule in justice and might (Micah 5:3-6). It is a message that culminates with the glad tidings that we have a God like no other, "...pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love" (Micah 7:18).

So whether you be merry of heart or struggling to find joy, ring the bells! Christ has come to the world!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Words


Lately I have been reflecting on the number of words that I use in the course of life. Part of it is an occupational hazard. Literally thousands of words per week are required in pursuing the vocation God has given to me. Then, there are the words at home, the words online, the words in the marketplace, etc. As we know, words have the power to build up or tear down, to clarify or confuse, to wound or to heal, to lead to life or to death. I often lament how frequently my words - intentionally, unintentionally, carelessly, or simply as a result of the difficulty of communication - have achieved the less desirable result over the more desirable. Over and over again, my words reveal my need of a Savior.

Contrast that with the perfect clarity with which God speaks. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Hebrews 1:1–4).

The Savior that we need; the Incarnate Lord that we welcome this Christmastime, is the perfect, final Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1,14). To borrow the words of Mary, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”! (cf. Luke 1:47)

So as we venture forth on a sometimes storm-tossed vessel of words in the tumultuous seas of life and relationships, may we find our anchor in our Lord, the Word of Life!

I look forward to seeing you Sunday. Pastor Daniel will be opening the wonderful prophecy of Micah (Micah 5:1-6) that points to a Savior arising from Bethlehem. Feel free to read ahead and soak in the wonderful words of promise!

Grace and Peace (good words to end on!)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Provision


How are you being provided for? In the season of Advent I often think on this idea of provision. We enjoy the provisions of the Lord in friends and family. We enjoy the provision of breaks in the middle of busy lives. Most of all, we bask in the provision of a Savior to a world in desperate need of saving!

Our congregational meeting this past Wednesday also highlighted the Lord's provision to us. We reflected on all the ways that God has provided for us as Christ Church throughout 2018: people to minister to and with, opportunities to teach and learn from God’s word, and the financial wherewithal to steward and pursue what we believe God has called us to. We see the provision of two new elders and the return of veteran leaders to respective posts.

While we give God thanks for providing all this and more, his provision is also not something we can presume on in ways that we may humanly expect. We know, for instance, that there are Christians suffering thoughout the world who are still loved by God. We know that we still deal with the effects of a fallen world in bodies that break down physically. We know the provisions in the crowded stores are not affordable to all. We also know that God’s people lose their way from time to time and face consequences of not walking in God’s gracious provision.

As we continue through Micah this Advent we will wrestle with a people who lose their way by focusing on these themes in chapters 2, 3, and 6. Feel free to read ahead and wrestle with our neediness even as we anticipate God’s greatest Provision, Jesus.

Friday, November 30, 2018

What is in a Name?


This coming Sunday we turn our attention for the next weeks of Advent to the book of Micah. "Micah" is a sentence name meaning "who - is like - YHWH".  Bruce Waltke, in commenting on the significance of this naming, says the following, "By this naming his parents constantly praised YHWH as being incomparable to any other deity. It also portends the prophets message. By artfully inserting his name in the people's hymn of praise at the end of his book (cf. 7:18), their prophet-son added luster to YHWH’s glory, who like Yahweh forgives his guilty people to be true to his covenant promises to the Patriarchs? God's memorial name initially became famous when he hurled the Egyptian army into the depths of the sea to keep covenant fidelity with the patriarchs. He will however add even greater luster to his name in the last days when he hurls Israel's iniquities into the depths of the sea to be true to his covenant with Abraham and Jacob."

It is an appropriate book for Advent as it connects us to a people in desperate need of a Savior, it reminds us of a God who will rend the heavens to come down, and it hints at the one who will save; one who is like no other, a ruler who will shepherd his people in grace and truth.

I hope you will read through the seven chapters over these next few weeks. We will be taking selections for each of the Sundays in Advent, starting with the opening verses of the book this Sunday.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Only For the Truth


Have you recovered from the tryptophan effect yet?  Perhaps you are still enjoying some family time, battling the malls, or right back at it with work. Whatever the case, I am sure that one’s moral center is being challenged as we interact with the world, either directly or through conversation.

I can hear you now, "Wow, that seems heavy for a post-thanksgiving reflection.”  Perhaps, but our moral center is always at work (and on display). I was reminded of this while prepping for Sunday’s message, and when I encountered these words from 2 Corinthians 13:8, "For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”  Paul is talking about a specific interaction with the church in Corinth, but it makes a general application concerning ethos. All our interactions, every decision, every choice that we make must correspond with the truth or run the risk of sinking into a morass of largely self centered ambiguity.

This of course raises the question of standard. If not ourselves, then what should we be looking to as our guide, or “rule”? The framers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism many years ago answered this in a very satisfactory way:

Q: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? 
A: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

When we say that the scriptures are the “rule” that directs how we are to glorify and enjoy our creator, we mean that it is the scriptures alone that provide the standard for our moral center. We mean that the Bible trumps man’s authority, church tradition, and our own opinions. We mean we will allow nothing that opposes God’s Word to dictate our actions or control our thinking. It means that we all must adhere to a standard of right and wrong formed outside of our own need for affirmation or self direction — “If it’s good for me, then it’s good; and if it’s bad for me, then it’s bad.” No matter how heart-wrenching or how socially, political, or culturally awkward it may feel, we must operate beyond ourselves.

This may put us at odds with those around us. We may feel out of step with the culture. We will have to make some hard choices. It is “rule” that applies to the highest levels of our country making decisions on foreign policy and big budgets, to the ways we interact on the playground, and to the people we host in our home. In every situation the tug toward expediency, safety, or immediate self-benefit will always exist. Rarely will these motivations align with the truth. It is the love of Christ which compels us to land with Paul: "for we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth."