Hearing the Music

A Whole New World

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What do you think when you think missions? Mark Noll, writing in The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (IVP Academic, 2009),* comments that, "A few short decades ago, Christian believers were concentrated in the global north and west, but now a rapidly swelling majority lives in the global south and east.” He goes on to posit that if you were a Christian Rip Van Winkle and you were to wipe "a half-century of sleep from your eyes [after awaking this past week] and tried to locate your fellow Christian believers, you would find them in surprising places, expressing their faith in surprising ways, under surprising conditions, with surprising relationships to culture and politics, and raising surprising theological questions that would not have seemed possible when you fell asleep.”

And this my friends is good news! As our hearts sang with Psalm 72 last week and with the prayer that the whole earth would be filled with His glory, we find that the Lord is indeed building his Kingdom. Noll goes on to cite encouraging facts including this one: “More than half of all Christian adherents in the whole history of the church have been alive in the last one hundred years." Imagine that. In the last 100 years the entire, throughout-history, Christian population has doubled!  

I punctuate with an exclamation point because we need to recite this stupendous encouragement in our conversations and shout this loudly in our living rooms. So often it seems that we are morose and downtrodden watching our nation’s news cycle. I sometimes feel like I am presiding over the funeral of Christendom with some of the conversations I have with believers. But, our God is on the MOVE! We just fail to see it because we are not looking in the right places. Again to quote Noll, "This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called 'Christian Europe'. Yet in 1970 there were no legally functioning churches in all of China…”

So, this Sunday let us expand our hearts and minds as we come to worship this God of the cosmos. Let us pray and sing and join our voices in longing for our God to be known. May we be encouraged to see ways that God is on the move and may we be freshly energized to join the throng exulting Him before the nations. As part of our missions focus we welcome this Sunday Serge missionaries to London, Chris and Josephine Hatch, who will be joining us in the adult institute hour to talk about world religions. From the pulpit, we will be looking at Psalm 63 and the soul’s longing for God; a longing that invites mission.  

 

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

Preparing for the King

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I am sure most of you noticed that the president came to town this week.  
From roadside stands hawking t-shirts and placards, to secret service ensuring security, to crowds gathering from early morning on, Grand Rapids was transformed for his arrival. 

This week we will be digging into Psalm 72.  It is known as a Royal psalm, a celebration of the true King of Israel. It concludes with these words: "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!" (Psalm 72:18-19) In a similar way to the way that GR was prepared for the arrival of a president, the whole earth is being prepared for the arrival of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The earth is being, and will be filled, with his Glory! 

This is the story that we are in. We are invited to think “whole earth" big with our lives, our church, etc. We are preparing for the arrival of the King! More than t-shirts, we point people to robes of righteousness. We invite people to join us in line, to gather with the throngs so that we may greet the One who comes in perfect righteousness, justice and compassion.  

To that end I am grateful that the motion to push forward with mission at Christ Church by making our facilities a place for the “sparrows and swallows" of the world to find a home overwhelmingly passed this past Wednesday (referencing Psalm 84). I am grateful that there was an embrace of a continuing commitment to church planting. Preparing for a King gives us a lot of work to do in the coming months and years, but we take heart that it is the King's work!  

Photo by King's Church International on Unsplash

Think Big, Think Long, Think Biblically

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Picture yourself with one of your hands reaching forward and upward as you pursue Jesus. In that same picture, your other hand is extended behind you as you take someone along on that journey. This is leadership. This is discipleship. Does the picture describe you? Are you pursuing Jesus and calling others to come along? Then perhaps you are a leader.

On Sunday morning Pastor Addison will lead us through Psalm 32. The psalmist praises God for the ways He deals with our sin then after the “therefore” in verse 6, describes how we are to respond to that: with bold prayer, with trust, by yielding to God and through rejoicing in Him. At the PCA Women’s Life-giving Leadership Conference in February, Lynnette Hawkins and I learned that forgiven, life-giving leaders respond like this by:

THINKING BIG – Do I aim to do something that is doomed to failure unless God is in it or do I play it safe? Do I ask God to do “exceedingly abundantly more than I can ask or think?"  

THINKING LONG – Do I lead others in the light of eternity or are my investments short-term and short-sighted?  

THINKING BIBLICALLY – Do I take advantage of opportunities to listen to good teaching, to study God’s Word for myself, to ponder it, apply it, memorize it, talk about it with others, and pray about it? Do I allow it to convict and correct me? Does it inform everything I do?

Here are three other takeaways from the conference:

  1. We serve an amazing God, and He is at work in powerful and life-giving ways.  

  2. We are part of an amazing denomination. From work being done on college campuses, at Covenant Seminary, in the military, overseas, in engaging disability with the Gospel, in pursuing justice and mercy, through publications, in small and large churches, through church plants and a host of other ways, the Word is being declared, lives are being changed and the Gospel is going forth.  

  3. The PCA is full of amazing women (and men, too). We met many leaders that fit the description in the initial picture. They are strong, humble, wise and godly, and they sacrifice much so the Gospel goes out.

Lynnette and I were privileged to be in their company and our prayer is that we will be servant leaders who pursue Christ and continually invite others to join us on the journey. Here are the large group talks and seminars from the conference which can be downloaded and listened to at your convenience! There is a lot of wonderful information packed into these talks.

Photo by Dineslav Roydev on Unsplash

Posted by Cheryl LaFleur

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