Hearing the Music!

Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation

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Could it be? Could the hold of the White Witch be loosening here in GR? I am pretty sure I heard birds chirping this morning. Furthermore, I am seeing pavement through the ice-trough that is our street! With the rise in temperature comes an anticipation for spring. We are longing for the day when we can throw open the windows, get out the buckets of Mr. Clean, and chase all the staleness and stuffiness of winter away. 

This season of Lent is similar. It is an opportunity to "open the windows" of our hearts and let the fresh breezes of the gospel blow through, chasing away the staleness and stuffiness that inevitably collects. I love the psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24 where he says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" This is a spring cleaning type prayer, an honest invitation to allow God to "clean house" in our soul. Not in a groveling sort of way that focuses on our effort or sees a need to deny ourselves to earn God’s favor. Rather, proper Lenten “cleaning” is a fresh application of the promises of the gospel joyfully brought to bear on our lives.   

What better place to look Scripturally for guidance in this Lenten season than the psalms! The psalms speak to us of life as we know it. They speak to us of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation; a cycle that seems to capture the story of humanity on a daily basis as we relate to God in the midst of a messy and broken world. During Lent this year we will learn how God uses the Book of Psalms to lead us through this ongoing cycle. Together we will explore how it teaches us to speak and sing to God in a way that expresses the full range of our emotions to God in prayer. Because psalms are prayers composed for singing, we will not only learn about them, but will pray with and from the psalms by singing them together in a variety of different forms. God’s people have been singing this biblical hymnbook to pray to God in worship for 3000 years since the time of King David. Jesus himself learned to pray using the language of psalms, and in his life and prayers we find their greatest fulfillment. As we learn the discipline and delight of following Jesus in the way of the cross during this season of Lent and preparing for the great celebration of Easter, we anticipate the guidance of God’s prayerbook.

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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

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

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