Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

What to write for a greeting on Good Friday? Is it Happy Friday?

My prayer is that this week has been a week of allowing the space in our lives to be filled with the truths of Christ. That you would let the paradoxical truths of the Gospel pervade your being.

Melito of Sardis captures the paradox of our faith in an Easter Sermon. Melito is not a household name, but he held a foremost place in terms of Bishops in Asia in the 2nd century due to his personal influence on Christianity and his literary works. It was said of him that his “whole walk was the Holy Spirit”. So through the centuries I offer his thoughts to you this Good Friday for your reflection:

“And so he was raised on a cross, and a title was fixed, indicating who it was who was being executed. Painful it is to say, but more terrible not to say ... He who suspended the earth is suspended, he who fixed the heavens is fixed, he who fastened all things is fastened to the wood; the Master is outraged; God is murdered.”

“Who is it that contends with me?
Let him stand in opposition to me.
I set the condemned man free;
I gave the dead man life;
I raised up one who had been entombed.
Who is my opponent?
I am the Christ
I am the one who destroyed death,
and triumphed over the enemy,
and trampled Hades underfoot,
and bound the strong one,
and carried off man
to the heights of heaven,

Friday, March 16, 2018

Comfort amid March Madness

March Madness is truly upon us. Not only are there basketball games happening all day (Go MIZZOU - sorry had to) but Gracehill is preparing for soft launch this coming Sunday. Easter is ever approaching and there is also this little little thing called life that is still happening day by day. Some of us find ourselves in the middle of lenten fasting, a task that can prove to be very difficult, dare I say, mad at times? Some of us are preparing for the madness of a church plant launching. Some of us feel like vagabonds, wondering what else 2018 is going to hurl our way. All of us are in the throws of life. Which begs the question, where does one look amidst the madness? How does one live in the madness?

Comfort. That is what we long for when we are in the throng of madness. We look for something, someone or some situation to soothe us, console us, to bring cheer in or through the madness. A national championship, a vacation, physical healing, all examples of mediums that can result in comfort.

This Sunday at Christ Church we are delving into our last installment of our intentional look at the Holy Spirit in our Upper Room series. Andrew will preach on the Holy Spirit as Comforter. Consider these words from Jesus in John 14;
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”
What’s remarkable about this passage is what Jesus leaves with his disciples. Peace. Shalom, the Hebrew word that peace derives from had a much more rich direction than our word and translation peace. Shalom conveys the absence of conflict, but it also, at the same time, conveys the notion of positive blessing, most pointetly in terms of a right relationship with God. One might say its a “two-for”, both comfort from turbulence, AND blessing in Union with Christ.

Here we find true comfort, provided to us through The Comforter. So whether you are scrambling through your taxes, managing a household of kids, preparing details for a church plant, fumbling through a full calendar, or sitting alone - wherever you find yourself in this March madness, remember we have the peace, the comfort and the blessing of The Comforter working through us.

“And this is his work [The Holy Spirit] to the end of the world—to bring the promises of Christ to our minds and hearts, to give us the comfort of them, the joy and sweetness of them…”
(Vanhoozer, Communion with the Triune God)

~ Addison Hawkins

Friday, March 9, 2018

Foundation of Consolation

Many of you know that today and tomorrow we will be greeting the family of Mark Kolk to offer our sympathy, share in grief, remember a life well lived and ultimately reconnect to the Source of Mark’s hope and ours. We come together as a community; individuals whose lives have been woven together to love one another and bear one another’s burdens.

But we are not alone in this burden bearing. As we have been learning through this Upper Room Discourse of Jesus’, he has given us another Paraclete. That word, paraclete, is translated helper, comforter, advocate, counselor in the various translations. Literally it means a side-caller, one who comes alongside to speak for us and to us of things that are greater than ourselves.

Part of the question is why don’t we call to mind more readily the presence of the Holy Spirit? Why don’t we invite the help that is so readily offered? John Owen put it this way in his book Communion with the Triune God:
I deny that ever the Holy Spirit does absolutely and universally leave a believing soul without consolation. A man may be darkened, clouded, refuse comfort—actually find none or feel none; but radically he has a foundation of consolation, which in due time will be drawn forth. 
We have a “foundation of consolation”! We may not always experience it, but for the believer, it is there and will be drawn forth in due time. What a gift it is to lean into this foundation during our grief. Whatever your grief is, whatever questions you have, whatever pain you are in the midst of, know that the paraclete is with you.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Youth. Not Wasted on these Young.

“Remember your Creator during your youth: when all possibilities lie open before you and you can offer all your strength intact for his service. The time to remember is not after you become senile and paralyzed! Then it is not too late for your salvation, but too late for you to serve as the presence of God in the midst of the world and the creation. You must make take sides earlier—when you can actually make choices, when you have many paths opening at your feet, before the weight of necessity overwhelms you.”

Jacques Ellul, Reason for Being: A Meditation on Ecclesiastes

A couple of years ago we brought on Addison Hawkins to help us think through and provide some intentionality in welcoming college students into our community. He, along with his wife Lynnette and more recently Ruthy and Simon, have been doing just that. And not only welcoming them but discipling them as well.

To get a better sense of how things are going I thought I would share a “by the numbers” look that Addison recently gave in his session report:

I was so encouraged by that list. I think we all know how critical the college years are for faith formation. Steve Garber in his book The Fabric of Faithfulness, which seeks to explore the factors that influence the sustainability of faith through the college years and beyond, identifies three key ingredients for said sustainability: 1) Worldview formation - does the student have a view of the world that distinguishes truth from falsehood and incorporates a narrative that makes sense of good and evil, death and life, success and failure. 2) A nurturing community beyond the campus in which the student can continue to draw from and grow in once the college years are done. 3) Mentors who can give a vision for what faithfulness can look like as the years play out. What better place to gain all three of these is there than in the local church!

So praise the Lord for these young people and pray for them! Pray specifically that leadership would emerge, both from within the group as well as from these “mentors” who would walk with these college students. Specifically we have a desire to expand our hours spent on downtown campuses to even more intentionally connect with students, many of whom are unaffiliated with church. And don’t be afraid to pull some of these folks aside and introduce yourself, invite them over, take them to a movie, whatever … They need people like you in their lives.