Friday, September 28, 2018


"For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
— 2 Corinthians 4:5–6

We have been focusing on the theme of comfort as we've been walking through 2 Corinthians, and how Paul develops that theme in light of strength and weakness. We have not looked as closely at Paul’s defense of his ministry, but that does not mean his defense is not important. In the two verses printed above (which come just before the verses we will be looking into this Sunday, namely 2 Corinthians 4:7-18) Paul again asserts that they are not building a name for themselves but they are “proclaiming” Jesus Christ as Lord.

Paul is fixated on the truths that have been revealed to him. He does not promote himself but sticks to these truths as they are set down in the Scriptures. These truths revolve around the person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who left the glory of heaven to pursue a rebel people and make them his own. This is the Gospel of grace. As I was reflecting on these verses I was reminded of the mission statement of the PCA (which I've been looking at a little more closely in connection with the Adult Institute currently happening). The mission statement goes like this, "Faithful to the Scriptures.True to the Reformed Faith. Obedient to the Great Commission". These doctrines of grace are the heart of the Reformed faith and at the heart of who we are as a denomination. And, like Paul, our purpose is to proclaim these truths. That is what it means to be faithful to the great commission. This outward proclamation of these truths was very much in the mind of the founders the PCA, and is ultimately the purpose of any church.

But note that in the end—we individually, we as the PCA, or any church of Jesus Christ—will only be able to shine the light of Christ to the extent that the light has shone in our own hearts and is the center of our life together. So let’s make much of Jesus! May his death and resurrection captivate us as a community as we see it in his Word. And may the Holy Spirit give us the overflow that looses our tongues and flings wide our lives to welcome in those in need of the light!

Friday, September 21, 2018


For those of you around last Sunday, perhaps you have been as taken by the notion of a God who raises the dead as I have been. I spent some time reflecting this week on the resurrection and simply want to pass on some fruits of that reflection. May they be a blessing to you as they were to me.

"Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep."
- John Chrysostom

A Starting Point for Renewal
"The resurrection is, of course, the point at which the question, 'What really happened?' becomes most pressing... Indeed, the simple truth is that the resurrection cannot be accommodated in any way of understanding the world, except one of which it is the starting point... The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the beginning of a new creation, the work of that same power by which creation itself exists. We can decline to believe it and take it for granted that we have only the old creation to deal with. Or we can believe it and take it as the starting point for a new way of understanding and dealing with the world.’
- Leslie Newbigin, To Tell the Truth: The Gospel as Public Truth

Joy Unspeakable 
"On the Day of the Lord—the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue—on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace."
- Tim Keller, King’s Cross

I look forward to seeing you Sunday. We will continue on in 2 Corinthians looking at chapter 2:12-17.  This is a wonderful section on the reality of the Gospel that both makes us captive and sets us free!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Session, Presbytery, Church, O My!

I had a great time this past Sunday in our adult institute class as I took a gauge on people’s understanding of the PCA in Grand Rapids. One of the questions that came up was about the way presbyterians handle church governance, and then this week for me turned into a very “presbyterian” week with session meeting Tuesday night and presbytery looming ahead this weekend.

For those of you new to the lingo, Session is the elders of a local church charged with serving the church by ensuring the centrality of the gospel message and overseeing the various ministries. We meet once a month (generally the 2nd Tuesday) to pray through the congregation, deal with congregational care issues that arise, hear ministry reports, and prayerfully give consideration to items of business before the body. As you can imagine, in addition to the everyday ministry cares, some of the “biggies” on the agenda these days are our staffing search, our capital campaign, and Gracehill. Each of these are being given support by teams focused on carrying forward the objective, but the session continues to monitor and make adjustments as needed. As reported recently, both the staffing search and capital campaign have hit visible slowdowns as we await outside response, either from candidates or from the construction company. But, they continue forward and we expect more visible progress in the days to come. Gracehill has recently made progress on a new and desired meeting facility at Coit Elementary School. We continue to seek to follow where God is leading as the public launch of Gracehill gets closer and the ministry becomes increasingly viable.

Presbytery is comprised of representative elders (both teaching elders and ruling elders) from our region who meet three times a year for various cooperative ministry endeavors, including the examination of ministerial candidates. We will meet this Friday and Saturday in Fenton, MI. Our own Addison Hawkins will be undergoing his final examinations for ordination. He will be examined in the areas of church history and sacraments, and will have to preach for the gathered presbytery as well. Presbytery has its moments of mind numbing minutiae, but it is important as the holding forth of the standard of the Word and sacrament is seemingly more of a battle in today’s culture than it has ever been.

Church is this Sunday as we will gather for worship again. Here we will exchange greetings with friends, fist bump with a five year old, open our copies of the Word together, and encourage those in despair with the confidence we have in a God who raises the dead. Feel free to read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ahead of time. It is just a few verses, but they are filled with a hope that touches down into the reality of our daily lives!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Here Comes the Bride

It is wedding season for Christ Church. Congratulations to Kray and Kyra Freestone who were married two weeks ago. Tonight Dustie Buwalda will become Mrs. Stephen Smithers. And, two weeks from tomorrow the little boy with big glasses that I used to pitch wiffle ball to will become a husband as Josiah marries Morgan. Americans love a wedding. Shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” or "Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings" or “Bridezillas" capture our fascination with the whole affair, but do they capture the heart of the wedding?

Biblically, there is little else that is so full of imagery pointing to our relationship with Christ like the relationship between a bride and a groom, and the wedding celebration. The prophets spoke early on of the relationship between God and his people in terms of marriage (cf. Ezek. 16, the books of Hosea, Song of Songs, etc...). Foundational passages in the New Testament, like Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19, again cast our eyes toward marriage as talking about the mystery of Christ and the church (cf. Eph 5:32). In this context, one of my favorite things about weddings is watching the reaction of the groom as he sees his bride walk down the aisle (check out a few reactions here). From beaming faces, to misty eyes; from incredulity, to barely contained excitement, these grooms give us an insight into the heart of a Savior so utterly taken with his Bride.

This is the point in which we come close to the heart of the wedding. As Lauren Winner puts it, marriage is a gift "designed to tell a story to the entire church, a story about God’s own love and fidelity to us.” This is not a shallow love centered on the romantic “coupling" of two star-crossed lovers. A love whose end is the meeting of my needs, fulfilling of my wants, completing me. Rather, it is a love that seeks the other through sacrifice and eternal commitment, and a love that redeems. My forgetful heart so needs this picture! May every wedding we witness and every faithful marriage we observe (despite their imperfections and human inadequacies) serve to strengthen our hearts by pointing to the Bridegroom who is taken with his bride.

Beyond the weddings, this week we begin a series on Second Corinthians. As we will discover, this is a book that explores the interplay between power and weakness. It is a book that looks at comfort in the face of affliction. It is a book that ultimately holds forth our God as the God of all comfort. Feel free to prepare yourself by reading 2 Cor. 1:1-7.