Hearing the Music

Sided by Side

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"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

Philippians 1:27

What are you striving for these days? Personally, I have been thinking a lot about this verse and what it means. I have been trying to keep my walk shoveled, (yet again), trying to keep the salt off of my car, and just trying to stay warm. I’ve been trying to keep up with all of my commitments. Winter can put me in survival mode. But what am I truly striving for?

Paul reminds us that our real purpose is to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel. What a noble purpose God has given us in this life! Our great Savior has gone before us and now has given our church community a commission to be His ambassadors to a waiting world. We get to do this right here in Grand Rapids. But God’s heart is for this whole world. We also get to be part of His work by striving side by side with the missionaries that Christ Church supports.

During Lent, (Yes, Ash Wednesday is coming on March 6th!), we have the opportunity to strive with our missionaries in prayer as a church community.

A booklet entitled, Praying With Our Missionaries through the Season of Lent is available for your use. It is comprised of 40 entries highlighting missionaries and their prayer requests. Each entry features a scripture, song, hymn, or thought that is dear to one of our missionaries. It also gives specific prayer requests for the day. Please consider making this part of your daily routine for the next five weeks.

The last week, (April 7th through 14th) will culminate in our Missions Festival, Beyond our Doors: Missions 2019. We are excited to see what will happen. 

It is our hope that our own faith will be strengthened as we pray together with our missionaries. May they know that we are” standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side” with them.

Alice den Hollander for the Missions Committee

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

in Rest

Snow Days

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       "Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath while still in this world, unless one is initiated in the appreciation of eternal life, one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come… The essence of the world to come is Sabbath eternal, and the seventh day in time is an example of eternity."

(Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath)

Well, that was quite a spate of weather this week! I hope you enjoyed your snow days off from school, church, work, etc. Snow days, while an inconvenience in some ways, are such a gift of unexpected time: time to rest, bake cookies, clean a closet, go into your prayer closet, talk with friends or family, take a nap, read a book, watch a movie, etc. In other words, snow days are a wonderful picture of God’s gift of Sabbath.

Author Peter Scazzero practically and helpfully talks about the Sabbath principle as follows:

Stop. Sabbath is first and foremost a day when we cease all work — paid and unpaid. On the Sabbath we embrace our limits. We let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world. We recognize we will never finish all our goals and projects, and that God is on the throne, managing quite well in ruling the universe without our help.

Rest. Once we stop, we accept God’s invitation to rest. God rested after his work of creation. Every seventh day, we are to do the same (Genesis 2:1 – 4).

Delight. After finishing his work in creation, God pronounced it, “very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was not an anemic afterthought — "Oh, well, it’s nice to be done with that" — but a joyful recognition and celebration of accomplishment. As part of observing Sabbath, God invites us to join in the celebration, to enjoy and delight in his creation and all the gifts he offers us in it. These innumerable gifts come to us in many forms, including people, places, and things.

Contemplate. Pondering the love of God is the central focus of our Sabbaths. What makes a Sabbath a biblical Sabbath is that it is “holy to the Lord.” We are not taking time off from God; we are drawing closer to him. Sabbath is an invitation to see the invisible in the visible, to recognize the hidden ways God’s goodness is at work in our lives.

In a busy world where we are often on the run to obligations of various sorts may we learn to embrace God’s weekly snow days - His Sabbath.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Flowing to the Word

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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.

 Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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