Hearing the Music

Words of Delight

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It is great to be back and enjoying these warm summer days in Grand Rapids. Dallas has its own charm, but it has nothing on West Michigan! Dallas was however a great host for our General Assembly where Addison, Bob La Fleur and I attended as commissioners. 

A great encouragement for me, particularly this year, was the sense from the men and women at the assembly, that though we may not agree on everything, we need each other. One of the great strengths of the PCA is our commitment to being a “big tent” denomination. We are Biblical and confessional, so there are limits to the size of the tent; but within those generous boundaries there is room for interpretation and disagreement. Of course, allowing for a big tent also comes with the challenge of how to disagree well. We have not always done a great job of this, especially with the advent of the internet and the now dominance of the social media age. It has become easier and easier to disparage someone else’s opinion or simply attack someone else, either through the spoken word, the written word or the ever present “share”.

Interestingly the framers of the Westminster Larger Catechism dealt with this issue as well. It comes through most clearly in their treatment of the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment, i.e. the prohibition against bearing false witness. Keep in mind that the Assembly was made up of roughly 120 ministers working together over a 10 year period. There were numerous disagreements, disputes and conflicts that arose during this time; continually harmonious it was not. But here is what they said at the outset of their answer to Larger Catechism 145: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature. Bearing false witness is about more than lying. All prejudicing the truth and the name of another violates the heart of our Creator from which the law is drawn. With the public judicature in our pockets (i.e. cell phones) these days, is almost as if they could have been speaking directly into our present age.

This Sunday at Gracehillwe will be taking up Ecclesiastes 12:9,10: Besides being wise, the Preacher (or Teacher) also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.Similar to Westminster these are amazingly apt words for handling disagreements, particularly in the age of polarization we live in. The Preacher was careful with his words. He did not easily post or share but took time to weigh and study and arrange. He was upright in his dissemination of truth. Another way to say this was that the teacher was pastoral, not simply stating the truth and letting the chips fall where they may, but considering the totality of his audience. He was careful not to prejudice the truth to serve his own interest. He sought to finds words of delight, or as other translations put it “pleasant words”, “words of grace”. This itself is a delightful concept.

And so the challenge comes from the Preacher’s pen to our lips and our fingertips. May it be that our words -- in personal engagements and public discourse, in our online communities and religious assemblies, wherever we as God's people might employ them — would be so full of truth and uprightly considered that they would always be experienced as a delight!


Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Gospel according to Bones

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Tonight is our Bones camp finale and production!  Like all scripture, Ezekiel is God breathed and useful for our instruction and full of Gospel encouragement. Below may you be encouraged as I have merged a few of the memory verses from Ezekiel with some modified Gospel prayers from Scotty Smith.

Ezekiel 14:11 – “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Most gracious and Almighty God, supersize the chambers of my heart so I might take in more of the wonder of this good news. You have drawn me to yourself with an unfailing, irresistible, powerful love—not because of anything in me, but because of everything in you. And now, because of what you have done for me in Jesus—once and for all, you love me with an unwavering, everlasting love. I cannot add to your love for me, and I cannot take away from it; because it’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus. I’m undone with peace. 

Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you.”

Most loving and gracious God, how often do I forget that you have given me a new heart and the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And when I forget, I start acting like a spiritual orphan, and I fall back into fear, and some form of self-salvation or performance-ism. Thank you for giving me your Spirit, Father. You sent him into my heart to constantly remind me that I am your beloved child. I’m not my own; I’m yours. Hallelujah! The Spirit is also faithfully at work in my life to make me like Jesus, for there’s no other way that could ever happen. Thank you, Father, thank you!

Ezekiel 48:35 “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”

Father, thank you, thank you, thank you for the promise of your perpetual presence. Though I do my best to wander from you, you make your home with me. When I’m afraid to be alone, you won’t let me be. When I want to be alone, you won’t let me be. When I need you to come through for me, you will. When it feels like you’re not coming through for me, you are. When I’m discouraged, you don’t despise, chide me, or revile me; you enter, engage, and encourage me. When I’m afraid you don’t say, “Buck up, be strong,” you say, “I understand, I’m here.” I praise and adore you.

What great and precious promises we have throughout the scriptures.

A Bi-Focal Church

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In early March the elders and deacons gathered for a day long retreat focused on prayer and processing the question of how can we be a church that is strong in both discipleship and evangelism, a place where we have great community together as God’s people and where we pursue the call of the great commission. We want to be a bi-focal church; i.e. we want to see both near and far. We want to see the things that are right in front of us, as well as those things that are currently beyond our purview. It was a good discussion; a challenging discussion. In each area there are things that we do well and ways that we can grow. But for all, the desire to be the bi-focal church was strong.

As we continue forward we are getting more comfortable with our new bi-focal prescription. We are learning to see our our life together through this dual lens. It is through this lens that I get really excited about the Bones camp this coming week. Here we have an opportunity to take the living, breathing Word of God and bring it into the lives of our young people in a powerful way. We believe that they will have a life long benefit from their exposure to the Book of Ezekiel. At the same time we can invite others in and welcome them in the name of the Lord. We can engage them with the same truths and invite them to believe this life changing gospel and belong to the community that God is building in us.

As we seek to wear these lenses, we recognize that we are striving to see like the Savior who saw those near and those far: 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility …. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.       Ephesians 2:13–21


Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash