Hearing the Music

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Here's to a Hope Filled Year

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There is something special about ringing in the new year. No matter if you celebrate in the early seconds or a few hours later when the sun rises. It’s an opportunity to re-new, to re-focus, and depending on how your previous year went, either build on top of it, or start a fresh. There is so much joy and hope that can come at the start of the year. A recent study showed that only 3% of Americans planned to not celebrate New Years Eve in 2019. That means the vast majority of people were celebrating New Years Eve in some form or fashion. It’s safe to say that there aren’t many other events, beliefs, or decisions that bring so many of us together. Hope is contagious.

This week we are going to look at Isaiah’s account of the Holy City in chapter 60. There are so many aspects of the prophets vision that are remarkable. It’s a full account of a city full of goods, commerce, technology, a diverse swath of people, kings and rulers serving the people, gold, frankincense, imported woods and of course, the glory of the LORD. Of the twenty-two verses that portray this Eternal City, it is the second part of the concluding verse that sticks out to me this new year.“I am the LORD, in its time I will hasten it.” To be haste is something our culture is overly familiar with. However not in the same way we are called to think of it here. No, instead we are hasty with decisions, with the way we move about in our work, our family lives, from one activity to another. We hastily look to those in power to free us from injustices, we want hasty decisions that go our way. In other words we live in a fast paced culture that wants us to keep up. 

The LORD says, “in its time, I will hasten it.” The maker of all things, who created the earth and the contents it contains in six days, says…in its time… 

As this new year begins, this is a reminder that YHWH is working. The things we long for, like the Holy City, which releases us from sin, pain, death and the like, are coming. Yet they are coming on the LORD's timing. It’s a call to press into that reality this year, to be faithful in our worship of Him, glorifying the LORD in all that we do and remembering that “in its time, I will hasten it.” It’s right for us to hope and long for that time and place, it will be glorious beyond explanation. It’s also right for us to wait on the LORD's timing. So here’s to a new year, full of God’s grace and glory.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Posted by Addison Hawkins

God's Presence

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Most of us are familiar with this scenario: a child is fed, washed up, teeth brushed, prayed over, and tucked in. Everyone says goodnight. You know what happens next...

“Mom!”  

And thus begins a series of appeals. Another drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, a stuffed animal (who you thought had been forgotten, but who is apparently very important), and the list goes on. 

As a parent, I remember going through the motions – getting the water, finding the beloved stuffed animal – only to realize that what my little one really wanted was just for me to sit down and stay for a few minutes. 

My child just wanted my presence. 

And so it is with me and I suppose with most of us. I have this notion that if I could just get this or that thing, or if I could just sort out a certain problem, then I could breathe easier. My life would be better. But what I really need is presence.

The whole summer has been filled with this theme. At Arts and Rec camp we saw over and over again that the Lord was present with his people, and that God promises us a heavenly city called The Lord is There. In our Exodus series we have learned that although God does not promise to take away our troubles, he promises something better. He promises to be with us, to be present. 

And he is. He is present with us by his word, by his Spirit, and in the fellowship of his people.

I am thankful that these are the actual things that can make us breathe easier. These are the things that make life better. And I am thankful that God offers his presence to me through you, the church. May God help us all to draw near, to consider one another, and to gather together (Heb.10:22-25) so that in this way, as the body of Christ, we are the hands and feet of Christ. In this way we see his face tangibly.

So, just like that little kid, someday I might need a drink of water or a long-lost teddy bear. I might someday come up with something else. But what I truly need, every day, is the presence of God.

Thank you for being Jesus to me. 

 

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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

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