Friday, September 29, 2017

Men, Women, and God

As Christians, we’re adopted sons and daughters of the living God—that’s the gospel, given to us freely, and always our primary identity!

But this world is fast-changing and complex, and when we attempt to live our lives faithfully in response to the gospel, things can get… messy. Some of the most basic questions have to do with how we see ourselves as men and women. What does that exactly mean in today’s contemporary society? How can men and women relate to each other at home? In the church? How can we address modern misconceptions? How can we respond to past abuse and hurt? How can men and women use their unique gifts to respond to God’s call?

Our church cares about these issues and has a history of equipping and listening to both men and women, even as we wrestle with faithful application. Our denomination, the PCA, is also thinking deeply and critically about men’s and women’s roles as they pertain to the church. This past summer at our General Assembly a report was received that digs into these issues. (The report is long. Of course you are welcome to read the whole thing, but you might also start at pg. 58 and read through the pastoral letter and the recommendations.)

In order that we might be informed and equipped to lean into these issues we have planned a two day event for Friday Evening, October 20 and Saturday Morning, October 21, to share Biblical observations on women, men, and God, as well as dialogue about the application of these principles in our homes, world and church. We have invited Mary Beth McGreevey to join us. Mary Beth is a teacher, scholar and contributor to the PCA report. She will share some of her own story, talk about the formation of the report and what it means for the PCA, and be the featured speaker for a Women’s Fall Brunch on Saturday. Our prayer is that it is a good time of coming together for Christ Church as we seek to be faithful and winsome in engaging these issues.

Friday, September 22, 2017


To consecrate something is to formally designate something or someone to a religious or divine purpose. We see in the following verses that Saul and Barnabas were formally designated for their work of missionary church planting by the church at Antioch.
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)
So why are we talking about consecration? As most of you are aware Christ Church has been laying plans with respect to church planting for some time now. Recently we have made some progress in identifying the location and the nature of the work that we are targeting. Christ Church members have started to raise their hands and say count me in. And over the summer we have constructed a staff team to serve these efforts. In the spirit of the church in Antioch we would like to commission these folks to this work this Sunday.

Addison Hawkins, Ruthy Rodriguez, and Daniel Eguiluz all are playing key roles in providing servant leadership to our fledgling efforts. They, along with others at CC, have sorted through demographics, talked to community leaders, visited restaurants, businesses and homes; all of which served to lead us to pursue a church plant in the Belknap community of GR. This is a rapidly changing community that is relatively under-churched in GR. It is a strategic location from which to reach current residents and extend existing ministry efforts to college students and the medical community. More information will continue to emerge as we follow the Lord’s leading forward.

But back to consecration. As a church we would like to set apart these three staff servants to this work. Sunday we will have a time of prayer in the service which we will invite all who want to come forward to do so, lay hands on these dear ones, and together as Christ Church, commit ourselves to this work. Sometimes I wonder what it was like to be in Antioch as Paul and Barnabas were sent out. This won’t be exactly the same, but God is still at work and the Gospel is still going forward unhindered! (cf. Acts 28:31).

Friday, September 15, 2017

How does your Garden Grow?

I realize that fall is not the time to be talking about planting gardens. Fall is the time for harvest​ -- harvesting what was planted, nourished and cared for during the course of the year in the ecosystem that is our gardens.

Paul uses a similar imagery for the people of God in I Corinthians:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

The overarching emphasis of these verses is that of God’s work to bring to about the harvest. But it is also important to note that God utilizes servants like Paul, Apollos and others like Priscilla, Aquila, Luke, etc… to plant and nurture the field at Corinth..

What about the field at Christ Church? Or even more broadly in Grand Rapids? I believe God is at work planting and nourishing. I see this work in your lives. I hear it in our conversations. I meet people, new people finding the rich soil of the Word in our midst. All praise to Him!

And God is faithful to bring workers. I am humbled by the hours of service ​that ​faithful Sunday School teachers dedicate at all levels. Bible studies have qualified and faithful leaders. C-Groups are poised to flourish. Ministry teams pray and plan. Elders and deacons serve in so many ways. Our finances are watched over and stewarded with care. And there is staff. Faithful servants in the office and in the halls. Ministry staff that has served through the decades (Steve, Susan, Scott) alongside new workers for new fields (Addison, Daniel, Ruthy). Even now God has given us the opportunity to nourish a sapling in our field for probable transplant into another field (intern Simon Boenaidi). It is quite an ecosystem, humming with life and balance, each part critical to its sustainability regardless of its visibility.

But in all things let’s give praise to the Lord of the Harvest for the work he is doing in and through our field!

Friday, September 8, 2017

I have been thinking about you ...

Have you ever had someone tell you they were thinking of you? It is a relatively easy thing to say to someone, but it is so encouraging, so empowering to be on the receiving end. In Christian parlance we often “upgrade” our thoughts to prayers. Paul recognizing the power of being thought of in this way says, “Brothers, pray for us (1 Thess. 5:25).” What an encouragement it must have been to him to hear that he was indeed thought of and prayed for!

But note that the converse is also true. Precisely because we love to be thought of, we also hold keys to one of the more powerful opportunities that we have to engage those around us. When we think of/pray for those around us, and let them know we are doing so, we draw close to folks and are often invited into deeper levels of relationship. This, of course, is true for those who are part of the family of God, but is equally true for those who are outside of the family of God, perhaps even more so. Just this morning, conversation with a waitress concluded with “say a prayer for me.” I happen to know she is not attending church right now, but is craving the type of remembrance that we in the family of God can often take for granted. God has given me an opportunity to pray for her and follow up by letting her know. While I can often be overwhelmed by the thought of being active in outreach and all that it might entail, perhaps this is as good as place as any to start, “Hey, I have been thinking about you.”