Hearing the Music

Truths for 2021

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One thing continues to ring true as we enter the new year and inch our way along: Jesus is King! Many other “things” ring true as well - the sun is rare in the winter in West Michigan (it's shining as I write this, hallelujah!), snow is cold, politics are messy, 2020 was hard (and unwelcome in many respects), people are suffering, and church should be a safe place. That last one is a difficult truth to write. For many of us we do experience church as a safe place; a place where we can be vulnerable before God, friends and our community. A place we can turn to in times of need or struggle; a community to help us process and pray through situations. However, there are many people who don’t see church as a safe place. Victims of abuse, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or the like, can experience that abuse from within the church community and see church as unsafe. Recently a fellow member of Christ Church on a "healing journey” wrote the following letter that sheds light on some of this. It begins with a reminder from the Bible:

"Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known."          Luke 12:2

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence during her lifetime and nearly 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence during his lifetime. Recent investigations within Southern Baptist churches confirm sexual abuse to be as much of a problem within evangelical churches as it is in the rest of the country. When abuse occurs, the victims tend to wrestle with questions about God, such as: "does God care?" or "why doesn’t He do something?". Rachel Denhollander, a lawyer, former gymnast, and sexual assault survivor, expresses in her book "What is a Girl Worth?" that sexual abuse damages the victims forever. She shares, “I lived with the scars too, and I was wrestling with the reality that full healing doesn’t ever come" (pg. 226-227). While this may be true on this earth we have hope in a God who will heal all. Psalm 147:3 assures us:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Along with this, the Bible also tells us, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9). As a church we must strive to be a place of safety and healing for those who are hurting. We must seek to help the broken in mind, body, and spirit. May God give us wisdom and compassion as we humbly work in this ministry.

Love,
A fellow member of Christ Church on a healing journey

There are two aspects of this letter I hang on to. First, that “as a church, we must strive to be a place of safety and healing for those who are hurting.” Amen. The statistics are daunting, concerning and humbling. The results of investigations in the SBC and other denominations shed more light on this issue. Part of Jesus’ mission is to bring healing to the sick and needy. We are starting a new sermon series on Sunday titled “I Am”, looking at the 'I Am' statements made by Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Way, Truth and Life, the Resurrection and Life. Jesus is the King who has come and who knows His people's hurts, habits and hang-ups and enters into them. We must seek to trust wholly in Jesus in all circumstances.

The second aspect I hang onto is that our wisdom and compassion in this area must come from God, for He is the one who heals. It doesn't come from our own wisdom or from the world. The healing we provide is only a shadow of what God offers through a relationship in Jesus. As we seek God and as the Holy Spirit moves we will be a safe place for those who are hurting. 

Join me in praying for the hurting in our community who experience abuse. Let us pray that God would make Christ Church a safe place in 2021 and beyond.

 

Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

Posted by Addison Hawkins

Together

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The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favorite novels and I often think on Ma Joad and her relentless pursuit of keeping the “fambly” together through all of their challenges, despair and life moments. As we enter 2021, Ma Joad is coming to my mind again. I think we’d do well to catch some of her tenacity, and keep up the hard work of maintaining our unity as a church family during a global pandemic as we begin this new year....together.

There are many ways we’re fighting isolation as a church family: our Bible Studies, our C-Groups, Youth Groups, children’s Bible verse memory challenges, single women’s meetings and our varied worship offerings. Then there are the texts, phone calls and cards that are going out. But one thing is for sure--it takes work. It’s harder to connect. If you are struggling in any way, please let the church know.

One opportunity I’d like to highlight is our Together in Prayer group that meets via Zoom on Wednesdays 7-8pm. The group is mostly populated by those of us with older kids or empty-nesters, but all are welcome! It’s pretty simple--we say hello, we go to prayer, we chat a bit and say goodbye. Some people pray out loud, some stay on mute with the video off the whole time. But in that way we go before God in prayer together, and you are invited. Use this form to get the Zoom link.

Learning to pray is a journey for me. I’ve been surrounded by people who pray my whole life; I’ve had many, many people pray for me and my family (thanks be to God!!); I’ve talked about prayer and have prayed for others. But I’ve mostly felt guilty, inept and as if I wasn’t doing nearly enough. (rightly so!) I do not know the ways of Jesus going off by himself to spend time with his Father in the midst of his chaos. But I can testify that the Holy Spirit has been drawing me more and more into prayer, and teaching me to just do the next thing. And what I’ve seen is that He does work through our prayers. He likes to do that. Things start to move, and I can see it. It’s usually pretty quiet, but sometimes his presence is loud and without a doubt. (It feels to me as if we’re helping him in the kitchen--he could do his will much more easily without us, but he invites us in to use us and to train us.) I notice also that after a while I might change a longtime prayer over a situation to be more in line with God’s heart. This little app has been helpful to me: prayminder.com. It sends prayer prompts throughout the day. If you’re looking for something like that, I recommend it. Also remember our weekly prayer email. You can contact the church office to be added to the list to receive it if you don't already.

Noting big life events is an important way for the “fambly” to live together. We have had many entries for our family Bible this past year: births, adoptions and the dear ones who have died. Praying over these families would be a great way to live together with them.

This Sunday we celebrate Epiphany--the light of Christ going out to all the world. Pastor Addison will open Luke 2:10 with us; we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper; we’ll hear an Epiphany testimony. Let’s look for the ways God is drawing us together into himself through these things so we can move into 2021 and welcome others into our family. May we "fear not and behold the good news of great joy that is for all the people" this Epiphany Sunday. 

 

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Posted by Susan Guerra

Someone to Find Us

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Happy Friday

For the record, "Happy Friday" is intentional each and every week. It is not that I am never unhappy or that I am simply happy it's Friday in some "workin for the weekend" sense; no, it is more a sense of choosing to be happy whatever the circumstances may be. Choosing to be happy, because I have a Savior.

I ran across a series of Advent reflections* that capture both the need our fallen circumstances create, but also captures beautifully the provision that Christmas promises: 

"We can never really understand Christmas unless we understand how much we need that baby in the manger. Advent is a time to think about the ways that life without God is an empty husk …

For Christians, and nobody else really has much business thinking about Advent or observing it, there is something else. If there is no Christmas, there is no Cross, no answer to the problems of sin, separation, failure and pain. Advent is a time to think about what life would be like if we didn’t have faith in a Redeemer, a Savior who was ready, willing and able to complete the broken arc of our lives, forgive what is past and walk with us step by step to help us build something better in the time that is left.

Advent is a time to remember that we need something more than what we can summon with our own resources to make our lives work. It’s a time to remember how lost we would be if Someone hadn’t come to find us."

Thank God that Someone did come to find us. This week we will dive into our longest section of Isaiah 40 by looking at verses 12-26. Here we get more detail about the God that we were encouraged to “Behold” last week. Once again, our confidence grows beyond our circumstances as we realize this God that we trust in is incomparable!

 

Photo by Jack B on Unsplash

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