Thursday, May 24, 2012

Moving Forward!!

When I began this blog I decided to call it "Truth and Grace," because God values both of these.  John writes in the first chapter of his gospel, "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).  Of course, John was not implying that there was no grace or truth in God's law; to the contrary, the law pointed to Jesus by pointing out the reality of sin and of God's judgment against it.  That was both gracious and truthful, for in so doing the law points us to our need for a Savior and to Jesus as the only Mediator between God and man.  Apart from the truth of God's Word, beginning to end, we would not know the truth about our sin or God's wrath against it, nor of His gracious offer to forgive those who trust in the cross of Christ as the payment for their sins.

Grace and truth go together; each pointing to the other.  In our day, however, "grace" has become defined as God's willingness to overlook sin and His unlimited love in forgiving people whether or not they believe in Jesus.   Such "grace," is no grace at all, for it is based on lies rather than the truth.   Paul spoke about this to the men of Athens in Acts 17:30-31:  "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.  For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead."  There is one way to escape God's just judgment and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

In recent months the leadership and confessing members at Lighthouse have been confronted with what appeared to some to be a choice between grace and truth.  We have even been called names by some who believe that we are not being loving by calling all sexual activity outside of the marriage of a man and a woman to be sin, including homosexual behavior.  But the Bible tells us that we must expose sin and seek to lead people to Jesus Christ for forgiveness.  That is both loving and gracious.  We have all sinned and continue to struggle with our sinful natures, but the Spirit of God brings freedom to those who draw near to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is this good news, this truth, that God calls us to proclaim.

Meanwhile, we are in the process of leaving the church building which Lighthouse erected in 2004.  In an article in the Advance concerning the most recent events, Rev. Steve Smallegan was quoted as saying that the leadership of Lighthouse "broke the law" by re-filing our Articles of Incorporation without the permission of the Zeeland Classis.  The members of Lighthouse and others who read this blog post should know that this is untrue.  We withdrew from the RCA on December 31st, 2011.  We then re-filed our Articles of Incorporation as a non-denominational congregation.  We requested once again that the Zeeland Classis allow us to retain our property, property which the members of Lighthouse had paid for and hold the mortgage to.  Rumors that the Zeeland Classis contributed to the building in any way are also untrue.  The Zeeland Classis could have chosen to release our property.  There is no state law requiring them to claim a congregation's property as theirs.  Those who have said, "That's the way it is," do so based on the Articles of Incorporation of the Reformed Churches of America and the RCA's Book of Church Order, not based upon the Word of God or the laws of the State of Michigan.  We have chosen not to dispute their claim, but rather to move forward, trusting God to continue to provide for our needs, as He has done and is doing.  When Seventh Reformed Church in Grand Rapids was removed from the North Grand Rapids Classis in 1995 after not paying their full assessments, they were allowed to leave with their property and the Classis stated that this was a gracious act on their part.  The Zeeland Classis could have chosen to do the same.  In this whole process, which began in 2010, we have sought in every way to be both gracious and truthful.  Ultimately, God is the Judge of all those involved.  It is our desire to serve Christ alongside all those who trust in Him and who stand upon the truth of His Word, proclaiming His grace at every opportunity.

I want to close this post with a personal note, particularly to those who may not know me.  I grew up on a farm in Iowa and at an early age felt God's call to preach His Word.  I tried to avoid God's call, knowing that I was incapable of doing what God was calling me to do.  In 1973, with much fear and trembling, I gave in to God's leading and entered seminary.  This Sunday marks 35 years in pastoral ministry.  In all humility, I confess my own sin and acknowledge that anything good I may have accomplished has only been done by the grace of God and by the power of His Spirit working within me.  I am a weak vessel.  Having said that, my confidence rests in my God, who through His Son Jesus Christ has saved me from His judgment and has cleansed me by His blood shed on the cross.  My boldness comes from the awareness of His power at work within me and I must be faithful to His call to proclaim the truth.  During this whole process, no one has claimed that either I or the leadership of Lighthouse have done anything but stand on the Word of God.  My ordination vows were first to Christ, second to His one Church, thirdly to His Word and finally to the Reformed Church in America, in submission to Christ and in accord with His Word.  I have kept those vows.  Those who say otherwise are speaking untruth.  Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).  Those who accuse me or us of wrongdoing will stand before the same One who will judge the living and the dead.

It is the task of the Church of Jesus Christ to proclaim the whole truth of God's Word.  May the Lord of the harvest find us faithful to offer His grace to all, speaking the truth in love and trusting Him to accomplish His eternal purposes in us and through us, for HIS glory!!

In the truth and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Pastor Steve

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