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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

Steppin' Out

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I titled this week’s update “Steppin’ Out” for a couple of reasons. First, this week in our journey through Exodus, Moses finally steps out into the presence of Pharaoh. We will be exploring Exodus 5-7:7and observing the dynamic moving of both God and our own hearts as seek to we bring God into presence of the nations.

The second reason I entitled this “Steppin’ Out” is that I wanted to share with you a testimony of how God is working in the hearts of our brother and sister, Mark and Joy Jurries, with regards to the journey God is calling them along. Here are Mark’s words:

This summer we have been diving into the book of Exodus, and in so doing we have been confronted with many callings. The calling of the Hebrew midwives to be faithful to God and preserve life. The calling of Moses’ parents to seek to save his life. The calling of Moses to lead the children of God out of Egypt, with its many twists and turns over 80 years. We have been challenged from the pulpit to apply this story to our story being lived out day to day in 2019.

As Moses was confronted with a renewed call from God later in his life, over the last few months, Joy and I have been wrestling with what seems to us a clear call of God to lend our support to the new PCA church plant being organized in Hudsonville under the leadership of Jeremy Visser, We have had conversations with many, and many have been praying for us as we have considered this new direction. Thus we have felt very confirmed in this decision and have much peace that this is the Lord’s will for us at this time.

This move is only a possibility because of the spiritual growth and formation that we have experienced during our years at Christ Church. We have been so blessed by the sound preaching from the pulpit each week. The fellowship of the saints, as we have loved and been loved, has been so precious to our family, and frankly what makes this transition difficult to anticipate. Years ago we learned From Pastor Walter what was for us a new concept– the ministry of presence. The presence of so many both very familiar faces, and some not so familiar, does indeed minister each week as we gather to worship.

It has been, and continues to be a tremendous blessing to be called to serve as an elder here at Christ Church. I am very aware of the truth Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 4, that we are jars of clay, cracked pots. It is a humbling thing to realize that somehow God uses my weak and feeble efforts to minister to others. The Christ Church session has been gracious and will be sending me as an “elder on loan” to this work, so I remain an elder under the authority of the session here, and am still available to help on occasion at Christ Church, though the focus of my labors soon will be with the new church plant

We are excited to see the growth of the PCA in greater West Michigan, presently in Ottawa county, but hopefully in the not too distant future reaching every population area in our region. We no longer live in the day when we can look at Jenison or Cutlerville and assume the majority of those residents are Christians. The suburbs and rural areas need the gospel just as much as the big cities do.

Please pray for Joy and me as we make this transition. This is somewhat easy to talk about in theory, but the practical reality of anticipating not worshiping regularly with so many that we have come to love dearly is difficult. Grace, Betsy, and Harrison will be staying at Christ Church, so that will give us more incentive to stop in from time to time. Pray that we will be used to help this new group grow into a Christ-centered church, where the love of Jesus, love of fellow saints, and love for the lost would be evident.

Blessings,
Mark Jurries (and Joy)

What an encouraging testimony of faithfulness, growth and a willingness to step out into a call that comes with sacrifice and uncertainty. Obviously, not having Mark and Joy in the regular life of our body will be a loss, but the gain of the Kingdom is greater by far. So let us pray for and encourage our friends as they take this step of faith.

And in the end, may we too draw encouragement and strength from the testimony of our friends, even as we rest on the promises of YHWH to be with us. May we all “step out” into the journey that God has for us.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

He Ascended Into Heaven

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When we speak of things we believe, we think of the Apostles’ Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty. I believe in Jesus Christ his only begotten son…", and so it goes until we come to these important truths,  "…(I believe Jesus) ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from there he will come to judge the living and the dead". One of the most under appreciated days of the Christian calendar occurs 40 days after Easter (which was yesterday), namely the day of ascension of Jesus to heaven.

Of course, Good Friday, Easter and even Pentecost get the headlines. And while every “Day” is important in its own way, I would posit that as far as the day-to-day of our lives go, Ascension Day, and the truths it represents, should be held in our high esteem. It is on Ascension Day that we recognize the supreme Lordship of Jesus. We remember that as the king now ascended to his throne, he is defeating all his (and our) enemies. We do not need to cower at our newsfeed or at interacting with our neighbors who are so different from us. We remember that his is a kingdom of restoration and renewal. We recall that even now he is making all manner of things new. What an encouragement as we deal with wreck and ruin in our lives; wreck within and ruin without. We remember that not a hair can fall from our head without his will. He knows our weaknesses and our frailties, he remembers that we are dust. We look to him as the source of justice in a world that still sorely lacks. We know that one day our king will return and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father!  

So journey on. Wherever your road is taking you. Journey in confidence that you serve a risen and ASCENDED king who even now has taken the throne.


Photo by Tony Wallström on Unsplash

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