As I look back over the last week at Synod, I realize that each day I sensed a unique blessing for that day. So as I review these daily reflections I would like to frame them in the context of daily blessings.
Thursday June 11, 2015
The blessing of the family
I am a people person!! I love meeting new people and reconnecting with other friends. While I don’t know exactly what heaven will be like, I imagine myself surrounded by loved ones and friends, going from person to person greeting them and hugging them as we rejoice in coming together again. With that picture in mind, let me say that is what Synod is like – a little piece of heaven. Tonight delegates from all over the US and Canada came together at a welcoming reception to celebrate God and His call on our lives. Old friendships were rekindled and we started forming new friendships that will transcend national boundaries, ethnic diversity and cultures.
Already on day one, this is feeling like a family reunion – a place where you are welcomed, accepted and valued. The uniting power of the blood of Jesus Christ causes an almost instantaneous bond of fellowship and unity. The need to belong is innate in all human beings. It is in Christ that we find than need met at its most fundamental level. We are children of the One True King, brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to each other. This is indeed a small picture of what we will get to experience for eternity and I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of it.
Tomorrow morning at 8:30 we will begin the first session of Synod 2015, but tonight we celebrate God, each other, and the joy of being family.
Friday June 12, 2015
The blessing of leadership
Well, the day has finally come for Synod to begin. I have felt like a little kid waiting for Christmas, but the day finally came and I got my present……at 8:30 this morning Synod 2015 opened with praise and worship. What a glorious time we had! Great singing and an amazing message and time of prayer.
Then we got down to the business of practicing how to use our computers to vote, get reports, etc. Remember there are an awful lot of old people here who aren’t totally conversant with technology. ☺ After selecting a full slate of officers in the plenary session everyone adjourned to their committees to work on the reports, mandates, and overtures before them. Now that may not sound very exciting to you, but discovering how powerfully God is at work through so many of the agencies and programs of our denomination, makes one deeply grateful to be Christian Reformed.
One of the reasons for this gratitude is the quality of leadership with which God has blessed our denomination. The gift of spiritual leadership is defined as “the Spirit-given ability to lead others by seeing and casting a ministry vision, setting and communicating goals and inspiring and directing people to work together toward goals.” We are so blessed in the CRC to have men and women with this spiritual gift who use it generously and faithfully to help build God’s kingdom. What blesses my heart even more is that I have found these gifted leaders to be people of humility, submitted to God’s leadership, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. I am also grateful that God has called all of the delegates to a role of leadership. May He find us humble, submitted, and open to the working of the Holy Spirit.
I can’t wait to see what day two is going to bring…..there I go again, feeling like I’m waiting for Christmas. ☺
Saturday June 13, 2015
The blessing of prayer
One of the things I love about this Synod is the way it is bathed in prayer. For a month before we left to come to Iowa, some of the delegates from the Grand Rapids area met regularly to prayer for Synod. It was a time of empowering and preparation for this week and I was deeply blessed through that experience. I have found that same culture of prayer here in Iowa. Today I began the day in the prayer room at Synod. As the fervent prayers of God’s people rose to God, I had a sense the Spirit of God was unleashed to empower and rest upon the delegates, advisors and leadership of Synod. From the prayer room I went to the opening plenary session where we worshiped and prayed again and the Spirit’s presence was palpable.
After the brief plenary session we were dismissed to our advisory committees where we dealt with a number of issues facing the church and made recommendations that will be addressed on the floor of Synod this week. Before we began the hard work of thoughtful deliberation and consideration of the items before our committee we spent time in prayer as a committee, prayed during our deliberations and ended our meetings with prayer. These committee rooms were holy places of prayer where the Spirit of God was invited.
After a delightful picnic hosted by the President of Dordt College we met for one last plenary session. At this session we spent at least half an hour in prayer again…..prayer, prayer and more prayer. That is how I like to do business. God is going to do a mighty work and we are along for the ride!!
Sunday June 14, 2015
The blessing of Sabbath
Sabbath…what a beautiful gift from God. How I treasure this time to slow down and allow one’s self to just be in God’s presence, to listen to His voice, to rest in His peace. What a blessing it has been to experience Sabbath with my fellow delegates at Synod. The extra physical rest of getting a later start to the day was a definite gift as was the opportunity to linger at breakfast over a good cup of tea and enjoy good Christ-centered conversation. Delegates then went to different churches in the area who not only blessed us with the opportunity for worship, but also gave us the gift of hospitality by hosting pot luck dinners.
Once back on campus I took advantage of the Sabbath rest to enjoy the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude as I dwelt in the loving arms of my Abba. These are precious holy moments to me when I can just be with God delighting in His presence knowing He delights in me coming.
At 4 PM we all gathered at a local church for a Synodical Service of Prayer and Praise. Just as I cherish times alone with God, I am also deeply blessed in times like these when we gather and with one voice proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
This has been a blessed Sabbath. Now I feel totally energized to do the work God has called us here to do. Thanks be to God!
Monday June 15, 2015 –
The blessing of unity and diversity
The name of this website is “One Faith, Many Faces.” I experience the reality of that every time I look across the floor of synod and my heart fills with joy and gratitude to God for this glimpse of what eternity will look like. The delegates, advisors, denominational staff and fraternal delegates are a visible celebration of our diversity. We are different ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures. We are male and female. We cover a wide spectrum of ages and come from varied backgrounds. We have differing opinions and vote differently on various issues. Our personalities and approaches to life are unique. Make no mistake, there is wonderful, glorious diversity at synod!
Yet in the midst of all of this diversity there is a holy unity based on faith in and love for Jesus Christ. We have unity of purpose (to glorify God), unity of passion (to live faithfully and obediently before Him), unity of vision (to build God’s kingdom), and unity in our foundation (the word of God). We are very aware that what binds us together – the blood of Jesus Christ – is strong and more powerful than anything that could ever try to separate us.
The diversity makes for interesting discussions as we discuss and vote on recommendations from various committees and the unity keeps us talking to each other when the vote is over. Today we also celebrated the diversity in ministry as we heard from several of the agencies and ministries of the CRCNA and we celebrated the common goal of proclaiming the gospel. I want to proclaim here and now that God is mightily at work in our denomination. He is being glorified. His kingdom is being built and the gospel is being proclaimed. Praise be to God!!
Tuesday June 16, 2015
The blessing of hope
Have I mentioned how much I love being at synod? ☺ Well, I do!! Today my heart was filled to overflowing with hope: hope for the church, hope for the future, hope for the world, and hope for revival.
Hope for the church because synod approved the appointment of two new seminary professors who will be training future leaders of the church. These young men (they all look young to me ☺) were articulate, grounded in Reformed faith and theology, and passionate about helping to educate our future pastors. Our church is in good hands.
Hope for the future enveloped me as the Synod 2015 declared 44 men and women to be candidates in the CRC. The joy and gratitude of the moment was palpable on the synod floor as we laid hands on the candidates and prayed for them. Our church is blessed indeed!
Hope for the world because synod voted to combine World and Home Missions into one agency that will be more efficient and powerful in ministering in the global and local contexts. By coming together we will be even stronger as we strive to bring the message of the gospel as well as fight for justice and righteousness to be restored.
Hope for revival stirred in my soul as I listened to seminary President Jul Medenblik share what is happening at the seminary. The portion of his report that inspired me most was his report about the collaboration between Calvin College and Calvin Seminary in providing seminary classes with the prison system. Here inmates are trained to be pastors and shepherd church plants that are occurring within the prisons. These pastors then minister to their fellow inmates. This program is having a powerful impact and people are coming to salvation and revival is happening
How I wish you all could experience synod and experience first-hand the hope and assurance that God is blessing and using our denomination. His kingdom IS coming!
Wednesday June 17
The blessing of balance
Today was our last full day at synod. The feeling of family that I mentioned in my first entry and grown and been strengthened as the week has progressed. It will be hard to say good bye to everyone tomorrow. This has been a very good week. I have been personally blessed beyond all measure and I believe we did some very good work here that will bless the church for years to come.
Today I would like to reflect on the gift of balance that I have witnessed here at synod – especially as we dealt with weighty and sensitive matters that elicited much discussion and deliberation. We heard reports from the committee studying persecution and liberty. We made a number of changes to various church articles. We passed a recommendation to begin the process of changing the Board of Trustees over to a Council of Delegates, and we discussed how to be pastoral with people who deal with sexuality issues. There were a wide variety of opinions and discussions were impassioned, but over all of that two concepts were kept in good balance: truth and grace. What we decide must ultimately be grounded and founded in the truth of scripture, but that truth must always be presented with grace and love. That is what I experienced today. It is that balance that will keep our church alive, vital, and growing. It is that balance that will draw others to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is that balance that balance that will build God’s kingdom and bring Him glory!!!
Photo Credit: Karen Huttenga, The Banner.
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