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First Sunday Reflections

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“First Sundays”...that is what we are calling the first Sunday of each month this summer. On the first Sunday of each month, we are holding our worship service under the tent followed by a picnic.

Even though it was very hot on Sunday, the time together was truly special.

As we slowly come out of the isolation of the past fifteen months, the prospect of being together on a regular basis is encouraging and life giving.

There are two thoughts that are sitting with me in light of this past Sunday. 

First, I thought of how the New Testament refers to the church as “the body of Christ.” We are the visible presence of Christ on earth. That is a profound truth and there is a lot of mystery wrapped up in that truth.

Over the past fifteen months, we have all benefited from the digital church experience. It has been a blessing and it has opened new opportunities for the church that will no doubt last beyond COVID. 

But I was reminded on Sunday that there is something about being together as “the body.” Church was meant to be embodied. There is something about worshiping together, praying together, eating together that can only be fully captured when we are “in body” together. 

As we make our way back from this prolonged fifteen months of “hibernation,” I hope you come to savor and relish the beauty of the body of Christ – the church gathered - and the blessing that is gained from being together. 

I am looking forward to when we are all back together again.

The second thought I took from Sunday has to do with our witness. I loved the idea that our neighbors could see and hear us gathered for worship. 

I know of one neighbor who was walking by during the service and was approached by someone in our church. After a brief conversation with this neighbor, the person from our church prayed with her. 

Now, every time she walks past the church, she won’t just see a church building but she will have a face to go with it. She will not just see the image of an institution, but she will see a congregation of people. And most of all, she will have felt cared for and loved. 

That is the church “incarnated.” That is the church in flesh dwelling among the people of the community. I pray for more encounters like that this coming summer.

It just felt good to be together! 

Knowing God

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Charles Spurgeon once wrote: (by the way, he was 20 years old when he wrote this.)

“There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of God. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity…No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.” 

I wonder if this is what Moses was referring to in Deuteronomy 3:24. “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand.” 

Only begun? 

Moses was near the end of his life when he said this. If anyone had a unique window into the inexhaustible glory of God, it was Moses. 

Here is how Deuteronomy summarizes his life at the end of the book in Deuteronomy 34. And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.”

Moses knew God “face to face.” God performed amazing things through Moses. And yet, here is Moses confessing, “you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand.” 

I hope this encourages you to put time and effort into knowing God. Paul says that this effort of knowing Christ is of surpassing worth compared to everything else.  

Furthermore, the result is not just that we grow in knowledge, but it is a great source of comfort as well. Here is how Spurgeon closes out his comments.

“And while humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quiet for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Spirit, there is a balsam for every wound. Do you want to lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of God.”

May I make a recommendation? I am not exaggerating when I say that I think every Christian should read the book Knowing God by J. I. Packer. In fact, it would be a great summer project. It is one of the top five books I would recommend to anyone. 

There are 99 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the “99 Days of Summer” make it a goal to read the book Knowing God

Weekly Habit #4 – Sabbath Rest

Rest! Who doesn’t long for rest? These are inviting words. 

The idea of “rest” is something we look forward to with the coming of summer. We long for rest.

There is a rest that is readily available to us on a weekly basis. It is rooted in the rhythm of the seven-day week of creation. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

And yet the idea of “sabbath” rest is more than just a physical break from work and activity. It is also a spiritual rest that we find in our relationship with Christ. Hebrews 4:10 tells us that we have “entered God’s rest.”

One of the ways we “strive to enter that rest” is by practicing the habit of taking a weekly Sabbath.  We need this weekly habit of rest. We need it physically and we need it spiritually. 

By resting from our work, we recognize that God is the one who keeps things going in the world.  God is the one who sustains the world. By taking a Sabbath rest we readily recognize our limitations, and we express our trust in God.

But sabbath rest is also a gospel practice because it reminds us that our relationship with God doesn’t hang on what we do – the work that we accomplish – but on the work that Jesus has done for us.

We can rest because God has done all that needs to be done.

To help us enter this rest, there is the weekly rhythm available to us of Sabbath rest. It is a day to rest from your work. It is a day to come together with others to worship God. It is a day to spend in community with others.

When is the last time you gave any thought to how you prepare for a day of rest? When is the last time you have been intentional with how you will rest: body and soul? Give it some thought.

Rest!  Who doesn’t long for rest?  It is there for the taking every week. Go for it!