Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year of Our Lord 2010

The New Year is a time of reflection and anticipation. 2009 was a challenging year for our church. We had our trials and sorrows but we also had much joy and delight, in large measure because of you. The elders thank God for you, and we also thank you.

A Broader View of the New Year

A linier view of history is a Christian view—we are going from something to something. As we come to this milestone on the calendar that we call New Years' Eve, it's the perfect time for us to both reflect on the past and to anticipate the future. The Kingdom of God is progressing—it's growing. Millions have gone before us; perhaps millions will come after us. We are part of the stream of Christian, or redemptive history.

Diversity and Complexity in the Church

If we could visit churches throughout history in their various geographic locations and cultural contexts we would find that, on the one hand, we were uncomfortable with the oddities that surrounded us—the people, the buildings, the music, and the worship. On the other hand, we would also be struck by the incredible unity—a thread of commonality found among all the people of God, in all times and in all places—a sort of conspiracy. We would find much we disagreed with, much we agreed with, and much we simply didn't understand. The same would be true if we visited other Christian churches in our own community. This is not to say that our differences are unimportant, nor do I wish to suggest that we should ignore these differences. I am simply asserting that Christendom is incredibly diverse and complex. Moreover, individual Christians are diverse and complex. Yet, we must confess, that in spite the incredible diversity and complexity, the Church of Jesus Christ has been directed by Him to accomplish all His holy will throughout the ages.

Grace Covenant Church of Nacogdoches, Texas is a tiny part of the ocean of God's kingdom that covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. We must remember that we are part of God's covenant people, and therefore, we are an important part of His Kingdom. Nevertheless, we must also be humbled by the fact that we but a tiny part of that Kingdom. Just as it is personally essential to be individually humble and to be servants of all, so too, as a church, we must likewise be humble servants of all. Right doctrine must be adorned with righteous living—this makes the gospel attractive.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

This is not easy work, but it is essential work. Individually and corporately we have been blessed by God. Let us be careful to remember where our blessings come form. Let us be careful to share those blessings with others.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Promises and Advent

Advent is actually a time of remembering. It's about remembering that God, our heavenly Father, kept His promise; that He bound Himself to us; that He gave us a future. In fact, we learn from redemptive history that He always keeps His promises. One of His essential attributes is that He is a covenant-keeping, or promise-keeping God. And thus we sing, "Come Thou, long-expected Jesus."

The Bible is full of promises, but there is one central promise that's not only the reason we celebrate advent each year, it's the reason we meet the first day of each week and it's really the reason behind every celebration we have. "The Promise" is what keeps us going. We are "children of the Promise." And because of "the Promise," all the other promises have meaning. Promises made and promises kept are what bind people together; marriage vows, baptismal vows, church membership vows. Through these promises we surrender part of ourselves and commit or promise ourselves to other people; people who are different than we are. People we love to be with sometimes and people we love to get away from other times. What holds us together is not that we always agree or enjoy each other in the marriage, in the family, or in this congregation. What holds us together now and for the long haul is this amazing thing called a promise. The promises we make in our best moments are what keep us going in our worst moments. The promises we made when things were joyful and optimistic are what keep us going when things become painful and discouraging.

When we promise and keep our promises, we imitate our promise-keeping God. We are His people. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul says: "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." All God's promises are fulfilled in what God has done for us in Jesus. Whenever we make a promise and try to keep it, we're acting like God Himself. Whenever we promise to be a loving and faithful spouse, regardless of the circumstances, we're imitating God. Whenever we promise to be there for our children, even when they push us away, we're imitating our heavenly Father. Whenever we promise to be faithful church members, hanging in there with each other through difficulties, we're imitating God. Why keep our promises? Because they create a future for us in the face of all the unknowns. Because they bind people like me and you into marriages and families and congregations. Because these promises shape us into the likeness of our Lord who has promised us, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

So, as we remember "the Promise" at advent, let us stand on all the promises we have for the future in Christ and let us keep our promises to one another.