A group of 30 youth and 20 adults participated in a service trip to Long Island, New York from Sunday, February 17th to Friday, February 22nd 2013. Read more
- About Us
The 2013 Winter Men’s Conference took place on Friday, January 4th and Saturday, September 5th. Over 175 men gathered from CRC, Christ Memorial Church, Redeemer Fellowship Church and other churches at Singing Hills Conference Center in Plainfield, New Hampshire. Men came from churches in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Read more
Dear CRC Family,
Friday was a shocking and sad day for our nation and particularly for our New England community. For many of us the event in Newtown, CT hit too close to home. Two current CRC members have family members who live in and around this area, some of whom attended Sandy Hook School (all are safe). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others that you and I know.
For many of us, especially those of us with school age children, the news of the school shooting can be quite unnerving. How would the gospel call us to respond? What is the gospel way of processing an event like this? Allow me to offer some somewhat off-the-cuff thoughts that you may find comforting and helpful.
This is a fallen world and we are fallen people. The only reasonable response when the proof of this falleness is thrust in our face is to weep. It is okay for your kids to see you weep over such a tragedy. It is a very human response and kids need to see us as “real”. After all, even Jesus wept in the face of death (John 11:35).
Similarly, let them know your tenderness, especially toward them. Give your kids a hug. Tell them that you love them. Tell them how special they are to you. Children need to know they are loved.
I don’t think that you should necessarily go out of your way to stir up discussion on these matters, but neither do I think it wise to shelter your kids from the reality of the fallen world; I don’t think that you can. If your children have questions, answer them. Certainly, be wary of sitting them in front of the television to watch endless coverage of this or any other tragedy (I don’t think that this is good for anyone, even us adults!!!). If they are old enough, they know (or will find out). Therefore, you need to answer questions that calm their mind and quiet their fears. Don’t pretend as if nothing has happened. As a rule the older the child the greater the level of explanation and detail—and perhaps the greater the need for you to broach the topic, to open the conversation. Take advantage of the teachable moment.
Though as I said above our kids need to see us weep, it is not helpful for them to see us weep without hope. Many of our kids (those old enough to have any substantive cognition of what happened) are troubled by this news. They may feel unsafe, anxious, maybe even afraid to return to school. Our anxiety and fears would only help to fuel this anxiety, and that would not be helpful. Playing into these fears can even become crippling. This is not walking in faith.
So how do we weep but still find hope? The gospel! The gospel of Christ is the only thing that I know that truly gives us substantive ground to weep but still live in hope. Let me tease this out.
The gospel tells us that this is a sad and fallen world. It is not the way it is supposed to be. Bad things happen. Very bad things happen. And absolutely horrific things happen! As Christians we do not need to pretend that this is not so. Of all people, Christians know this to be true. As Paul put it in Romans 8, quoting Psalm 44:
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
This is reality. In this world of sin, none of us makes it out alive. Not one. How despairing!!! But it is against this backdrop that we have arguably the most powerfully encouraging statement in the entire Bible. And the greatness of its hope is proportional to the degree that it faces the reality of our human predicament. The very next verses say:
“37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
~ Romans 8:37-39
We can face this real ugliness without despair, because we know there is more to the story. We have a confident hope.
Certainly, we know that God can bring good out of the bad. To know this is helpful. But our hope is bigger and more cosmic. We believe in the very reversal of death, because in principle it has already happened. Though we live in a world dominated by the destructive wake of the First Adam, the good news is that New Adam has already been raised (1 Corinthians 15). And through faith, we are in Him. This is the reason that we can have such hope. With the Apostle Paul we can taunt death itself, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15)
Do not be shy about directing your children to this hope and calling them to the confident faith that comes from calling on God in Christ. But more fundamentally, make sure that your own heart is being “built on nothing less”. Make sure you believe the gospel for yourself, and are not being driven to an unhealthy fear or an ambiguous anxiety. “Death is swallowed up in victory.” What else could we possibly fear?
Nothing is more reassuring to your kids than for them to know that you are not afraid. They will tend to follow your lead. If you act in fear and anxiety, they will act in fear and anxiety. If you react in compassion and hope, so will they.
I am sure that there are many factors that went into driving this young man to commit this sad and wicked act. There is already talk that he suffered from some type of mental illness. This would make sense. However, when we hear this, it becomes all too tempting to separate ourselves from him. Certainly, we may not suffer from a mental illness, but was it illness alone that drove him? It seems reasonable to assume that there was some sort of unresolved bitterness. We may be safe to separate ourselves from him as it relates to mental illness, but we must not separate ourselves relative to our struggle with bitterness and anger. This, if we are honest, is our struggle too. And we see, all too graphically, how deadly bitterness can be.
This event should compel us to do business with bitterness. Start with yourself. Stop being stubborn. Say you’re sorry to your kids, you’re spouse, you’re brother and sisters, your parents, etc. In doing so you might not only be releasing yourself from the burden of bitterness but also them. Unresolved hurt kills. Bitterness is murder in seed form. Kill the seed before it kills you (Matthew 5:21-26). Gently, tenderly and patiently, help your child get under the hurts of their hearts. Take the time to help them to process their emotions before the face of God.
The Scriptures tell us that sin is always crouching at our door. It wants to dominate us. And it does so by deceiving us into thinking that we are in control, that our perspective is the objective one, that the world revolves around us. Nowhere is this sin dynamic more powerful than in our response of bitterness. Sin tricks us into believing our own self-talk. Anger that grows from our own experience of hurt (real or perceived), more often than not is contaminated with the liquor of self-justification, distilled in the deep recesses of our hearts. And so our tendency is to devolve into greater and greater levels of self-intoxication. If it is not stopped, it will take us down to the pit.
What can break the cycle of self-pity and self-justification? What can break the spell of bitterness? Definitely not moral lecturing and religious adamancy! More often than not such posturing is itself a reaction of bitterness. And it only tends to impact the bitterness, causing the infection to go deeper. Bitterness begets bitterness. So what will break it?
Bitterness begets bitterness, but brokenness begets brokenness. The only thing that I have found that can open up the heart that is locked-down in bitterness is the penetrating power of the cross. The brokenness of the cross has the power to break the power of bitterness. How? On the cross, God dealt definitively with justice—the sins I’ve committed against God have been totally paid for, and God has offered the ultimately proof that He will deal with the sins that others have committed against me. In one fell swoop, at the cross God has proved both His love and His righteousness (Romans 3:25-26). In the cross I am both humbled and embraced. The injustice of my sin was so bad that for me to be forgiven required the execution of God. But His love for me is so great that He willingly offered Himself up. Knowing this gospel has the ability to melt our hearts even when they are bound in the greatest levels of fear, anger and self-obsession.
“Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”
~Jesus Paid It All by Elvina M. Hall
Indeed, Jesus is “the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease”.
So we need to let this gospel work it’s magic on us and our family members. But we also need to be on the lookout for one another in the church, as well as our neighbors in the broader community. Each of us has a divine obligation to one another. However, unfortunately, the sociology of Cain has corrupted the modern world. “Am I my brothers keeper?” was Cain’s dismissive response to God’s question (Genesis 4). The proper answer to the question is “yes”. No man is an island. To varying degrees and on varying levels, we are all in this together. Yet, in the modern world, where individual rights and personal privacy have been elevated to the highest good, it has become very difficult to truly care for one another, to have substantive communication and thus real community.
Nonetheless, looking out for one another is biblical. And it is necessary for neighborhoods, schools, communities and society to function healthily. Who can you reach out to, especially at this time of the year where experiences of loneliness and family/relational conflict can be magnified? Who can you welcome in and minister the gospel to?
One of the things that I absolutely love about our folk at CRC is the way that each of you genuinely looks out, not only for one another, but also for your friends and neighbors. A week hardly goes by that I do not hear from one of you, asking me to pray for one of your friends, or looking for advice as to how you can reach out to a particular neighbor in need. I am so delighted to be your pastor.
As I close, I encourage you to be in prayer for those directly (and indirectly) affected by this tragedy.
For the One who conquered death,
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5 (NASB)
A grateful heart is a happy heart. A grateful heart is a light heart. A grateful heart is an open heart. A grateful heart is a heart that has been set free from the burdensome myopia of self-obsessive grumbling.
We all intuitively know that this is true, and in some sense desire this. But, what needs to happen so that we can experience this gratefulness? What do we need to know in order to have this happiness for ourselves?
There are three things we need to know to be happy not only in this life but also in the next. Guilt, Grace and Gratitude.
Guilt. This may seem counter-intuitive but the first thing we need to know is our sin. Before we can know how to find happiness we need to accurately diagnose the great enemy of our happiness—the grumble of sin. We need to know the wickedness of our sin, that it is an offense against God and that, apart from grace, we are without hope of escape.
Grace. We need to know the wonder of our Savior, that though we are helpless in our sin and deserve to be eternally judged for it, He came and accomplished everything necessary to totally remove the guilt of our grumbling. Through His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has accomplished the impossible rescue. He’s not only saved us from the judgment of God but also from dead-end kingdom of self.
Gratitude. We need to know a heart that has been reworked to its very core by the surprising gift of God’s grace in Christ. We need to know an unshakable attitude of gratitude for the all that God has done for us, in spite of our undeserving status. And we need to know this not just intellectually but experientially. But how? This third point is totally premised on the first two; it is the outworking of being convinced of the other points first. The degree to which we do not experience this heartfelt gratitude is the degree to which we don’t really know (experientially) the first two points—we don’t really know our guilt and His amazing grace. So what do we do? We need to hear it again…and again…and again…
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
~Romans 5 (NASB)
Happy Thanksgiving! May you be ever filled with the grace of gratitude!
Now that the voting is over and we know who will be our next president, the Scriptures make it clear what the church’s first responsibility is: Prayer. In light of this I trust I will see all of you men at the men’s prayer time tomorrow (Monday) night at 8pm at the RW Black Center. Why should this be the priority?
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he gives instruction to the church:
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling… (1 Timothy 2 ESV)
What does this mean for us in our contemporary situation? In the previous post on the day after the election, we saw what we are to do (i.e. pray and give thanks for those leaders that God has placed over us) and to what end we are to pray (i.e. we are to pray for our leaders, so that we might freely and peaceably proclaim and practice the gospel). In this post, I want to explore why we are to pray.
What is the justification for such an attitude of prayer? Why are we to pray in this way? At least three reasons are given to us in verses three (3) and following. First, we are to pray this way because God desires all sorts of people to be saved (v. 4); God is no respecter of persons. Now, the use of this word “saved” tells us something significant about the nature of our relationship to God. It tells us that our coming to know the truth of God is not a matter of our moral, cultural or spiritual status but a matter of God’s grace. We do not reach God’s kingdom by our resume, but by His rescue. In other words, to find “qualified candidates” for salvation, God doesn’t look at our moral, racial, spiritual, political pedigree or positions. He simply looks at our need. It is only our pride that would lead us to judge and exclude others from the reach of God’s mercy—a maneuver, by the way, that tacitly denies the grace we profess to possess. God is an equal opportunity Savior. This is all the more powerful when you consider that cruel and “unchristian” way that many “kings” that Paul had in mind ruled. These were unusually times. Yet, Paul calls for prayers for them, because our God “desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” There is no relativism here (“the truth”), but neither is there any exclusivism (“for all people”).
So, we pray because God is no respecter of persons (He desires all sorts of people to be saved). But, secondly, we pray because there is, in truth, only one King. What do we mean by this? Notice that Paul in verse five (5) refers to Jesus with His title in front of his name. He says “Christ Jesus” and not “Jesus Christ”. This is really helpful, because it disabuses us of the notion that “Christ” is Jesus’ last name. It is not. It is a title. And what does that title mean? It means “anointed king”. So while Paul is calling us to pray for “kings and all who are in authority” he reminds us of the King of kings and His authority over the affairs of men. In effect Paul is saying that there’s only one sovereign God, only one ruler on earth—and His name is King Jesus. All other “authority” is derived from Him—King Jesus gives it and King Jesus takes it away. Therefore, when we call on the Caesar of Heaven and not merely complain to Caesar of Rome, we are actually petitioning the highest authority.
So, we are to pray this way because God is no respecter of persons, and because Jesus is the highest authority. Finally, we see that we are to do this because it is the way of Jesus. Notice that Paul just doesn’t say who Jesus is but also what Jesus did. Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 6). We see here again that Jesus didn’t merely act for the sake of a particular ethnic, political, or cultural group. Rather, He did this for all kinds of people—a diverse group that no man can count. Jesus “was slain, and by [His] blood…[He] ransomed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). But how did He ransom this diverse group? Did He do so at a distance or with little cost to Himself? No. He did so up close and personal. He did so at the cost of His own blood, His own life. So we too are to sacrifice our comfort, our convenience, for the sake of our friends and neighbors, whomever they may be. As the church, we are to engage our world as Jesus did, not seeking the place of prominence and privilege but service and sacrifice.
And what is the first task in this sacrificial service? Prayer!
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” (1 Timothy 2:1)
And this sacrifice and service is not futile. No!!! As we do this, indeed, we have absolutely no guarantee of earthly glory, but we do assure ourselves of eternal glory, which is the only kind of glory that is real and lasting. Which “glory” is your ultimate hope?
I look forward to seeing all of you men tomorrow (Monday) night at the time of men’s prayer. It is at 8pm at the RW Black Center on the first floor in the back of the building. Here’s the website link.
Bring a friend and encourage a fellow brother to join you!
For the Anointed King,
Dear CRC Family,
Now that the voting is over and we know who our elected officials will be for the next few years, the Scriptures make it clear what the church’s first responsibility is: Prayer. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he gives instruction to the church:
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling… (1 Timothy 2)
What does this mean to us today? There is much that I could say about this passage but allow me to emphasize two main points:
First, Paul calls us to pray for all people, but particularly rulers (i.e. kings and all…in high positions). What is amazing is that Paul was writing this as one living under the rule of Rome, a government that would eventually behead him and had already crucified Jesus. By Christian standards, Rome was often oppressive and cruel. Yet, Paul calls the church to pray with “thanksgivings” (v. 1) and not with “anger…or quarreling” (v. 8). If this were true in that ancient context, how much more for ours! Regardless of what you may think of the Republicans or Democrats (and Independents) and their policies, they all look pretty good compared to Nero.
So, we are to intercede for our rulers with thanksgiving, praying that we all “may lead a peaceful and quiet life”. This is the second main point. What are we to pray for? To what end? We are to pray for peace and harmony in our world. Presumably in Paul’s mind this peace is not an end in and of itself, but rather a means to an end, for he adds “godly and dignified in every way”. In other words we pray in this way, so that we may be able to more fully proclaim the gospel and live out its implications in our world.
Are you thanking God and praying for our elected officials, “godly and dignified in every way”? We have an opportunity to do that today, as it is our monthly Day of Fasting and Prayer. Here’s the link where you will find the listing of the various times and locations.
The Scripture makes it clear that this is our “first” responsibility. Are you being faithful in the “first” thing?
For the Eternal King,
The central illusion of modern politics is that if only people as virtuous as “us” had power, then things would be better.”
~Political Commentator David Brooks
We are on the verge of another rather contentious election. Indeed, there may be many real and serious things at stake. In light of this, I encourage you to go to the polls and vote. And as you do, thank God for the freedom (and responsibility) that you have to vote your conscience. Remember this is a relatively new “gift” in the long history of human society.
At the same time, I encourage you to consider this: Not only do we have the freedom and responsibility to vote, but also, as Christians, we have the freedom to not put our hope in our vote or in human political systems. We are free to trust God with the outcome in the “affairs of mankind.”
Am I suggesting some sort of detachment from the world, a sort of Christian isolationism? No. Far from it! Historically, Christians, having their hope fixed on heaven, have been able to have the biggest impact on their earthly society. Why? The reason is simple. It is love that really liberates us. It is love that really changes us, not having the right politician or policy. The “right” politician or policy without love is in the words of the Apostle Paul “nothing…a noisy gong” (1 Cor. 13). Unlike our non-Christian neighbors we have been uniquely empowered to engage in our earthly society in a humble and loving manner. Certainly, this begins with love towards God and then to our fellow believers (as we are learning in 1 John, this is mark of the authentic faith). But this love also spills over into the way that we interact with our non-Christian neighbors, even those with whom you may deeply disagree, and (according to Jesus) even those that may count you as their enemy (Matt. 5:43-46).
Now, how in the world are we able to do this? This is more than a tall task; it is an impossible task. It is for this reason that, even in this, we must look to the Gospel.
Over a year ago at the beginning of presidential election cycle David Brooks writing in the New York Times said:
“…over the past few decades, people have lost a sense of their own sinfulness. Children are raised amid a chorus of applause. Politics has become less about institutional restraint and more about giving voters whatever they want at that second…”
So, of course, you get narcissists who believe they or members of their party possess direct access to the truth. Of course you get people who prefer monologue to dialogue. Of course you get people who detest politics because it frustrates their ability to get 100 percent of what they want. Of course you get people who gravitate toward the like-minded and loathe their political opponents.”
Brooks (not a Christian believer) sees a problem that we as followers of Christ should be experts in—knowledge of our own sinfulness. If we are truly imbibing the Gospel message, we should know one thing for sure: we are sinners saved only by God’s miraculous grace. The Gospel message tells us: firstly, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all; secondly, if we say that have no sin, we are liars; and thirdly, if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, because Jesus Christ, the righteous, was brutally executed by the political powers of His day for us. Yes, our self-obsession is that bad that it required the death of God. But His love for us is so robust that He was glad to do it. This truth, when it truly hits our hearts, softens us and enables us to engage with one another in love and not with enmity. Christ died for us when we were His enemies. He loved us even in our hostility toward Him.
Moreover, this knowledge provides ballast to our listing selves, by giving us an eternal hope—one that goes way beyond the present election, by reminding us of God’s election of us from all eternity. Our hope is not ultimately dependent upon whether “our guy” (whoever that may be) is in the White House. When we understand the Gospel, we realize that we ultimately don’t need a President in the Oval Office; we need a Crucified King on the Eternal Throne. And, indeed, we have that! Christ crucified for us! Everything else pales in comparison…and it is this that pushes us toward love in the here and now.
For the King,
Vacation Bible School was held Tuesday, July 17 through Friday July 20 at the R.W. Black Community Center in Hanover. The theme this year was “Going for Gold: God’s Team in Action.” Eighty children from pre-kindergarten to 5th grade participated in the week’s events. Read more
On Wednesday, July 11th Christ Redeemer Church organized a day of community service. This service day was in connection with our Summer Youth Retreat. This year we sent out over 190 volunteers to 22 different locations to lend a helping hand to various public institutions and charitable organizations throughout the Upper Valley. Read more
Yes, critic! Turn thy lantern upon us, and let it glare into our very eyes; we are not afraid, truth is mighty and it can prevail, and if it cannot prevail in the daylight, we have no wish that the sun should set to give it an opportunity. — Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)