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.