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It’s a Great Big World Out There!

Today is my first day back in the office after a three-week study leave, and it’s great to be back! You may be thinking, Well, it must be nice. I’d sure like to get a three-week “study leave” (a.k.a. “vacation”). I understand. There are blessings and challenges that come with the territory of serving as a pastor, and one of those blessings (at least for this pastor) is to take some time in the summer to teach and study. I don’t take it for granted, and I pray the benefits to our church’s health and ministry far outweigh any issues that may arise from my absence.

On the home front, we are greatly blessed at East 91st Street Christian Church (E91) with a fantastic teaching team who stepped up and preached while I was gone. Thanks to Dave Faust (Associate Minister), Pastor Eric Whitaker (friend and local preacher), and Adrian Fehl (Executive Pastor). When I visit other churches when their senior pastor is out of town and someone else preaches, I’m reminded of what a blessing we have at E91 with others who provide excellent preaching.

If you’re a part of the E91 church community, I want you to see yourself as an integral part of our ministry that reaches around the world. E91 has always been a strong advocate for the multiplication of leaders and ministries as evidenced through church planting and our numerous mission partners. One of those partners is TCM (tcmi.org), a fully accredited, graduate-level seminary that exists to multiply disciples and leaders. Their main campus is outside of Vienna, Austria, but they have extensions throughout Eastern Europe. It was at one of those extensions in Bucharest, Romania that I had the privilege of teaching a small group of pastors a course on evangelism.

After a week of teaching, I had the honor of preaching in a church in Bucharest, and then I traveled north to Oradea to meet with our own Andy Baker, director of Remember the Children (remember-the-children.org). This ministry supports the national work of orphan care, church planting and leadership development in Romania and Tanzania, and I was able to witness their incredible impact first hand.

I spent time with orphans who literally were rescued off the streets and some out of human trafficking. When I heard their stories, my heart broke but my spirit rejoiced that they are now in a safe place where they are loved and cared for in the name of Jesus.

I met pastors and church planters who serve faithfully in the work of bringing the Good News of Jesus to the hurting and brokenhearted, and I saw their faithfulness in being the hands of Jesus to restore hope and participate in the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom in their lives and communities. I walked through a Roma (gypsy) community where the Light of Jesus Christ is overwhelming the darkness and the entire community is being transformed.

Every time I travel I am reminded of how big our world truly is and how extensive is God’s mission and work. It’s a joy to be a part of a globally-invested church.

I share all of this with you because I have a conviction. I heard someone say many years ago, “In order for the sun to reach further, it has to shine brighter at home.” And that’s my prayer for all of us. May the Light of Jesus Christ shine even brighter in your life and mine. May our church be a beacon of light that glows with such warmth and brilliance that it penetrates our community and world. And may this light multiply in and through us, so that even a young orphan in Oradea, Romania will receive its radiance, and others will stand in awe before the illumination that comes from the Light of heaven.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

No Exaggeration!

Most of us exaggerate now and then, using expressions that would be outrageous if taken literally. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” “I have told you a million times not to do that.” Hyperbole isn’t meant to falsify or misrepresent the facts, but to intensify them. We exaggerate our points in order to drive them home.

John ends his Gospel by noting, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). New Testament scholar Leon Morris comments, “With this delightful hyperbole he [John] lets us see that there is much more about Jesus than we know.” How could John provide an exhaustive account of every detail of the Son of God’s ministry? How could any author include every noteworthy thing the Lord said and did? How can anyone say enough about the praiseworthy qualities of Christ?

His teachings are unsurpassed. Language experts estimate that the average person uses about 16,000 words per day, which adds up to hundreds of millions of words over a lifetime. But how many of our words will others remember after we are gone? One hundred years from now it will be remarkable if anyone remembers even two or three sentences we spoke, but Jesus’ brilliant insights have remained relevant for 20 centuries. Think of his stories and parables, like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Consider his pithy one-liners, like “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Think of the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. It’s no exaggeration to say the world has never seen another teacher who compares with Jesus.

His deeds are unparalleled. Jesus proclaimed “the good news of the kingdom” and healed “every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). At one point in the Lord’s ministry, “The whole town gathered at the door” while Jesus healed the sick and the demon-possessed. On two separate occasions, he fed 5,000 and 4,000 men, “besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21, 15:38). It’s no exaggeration to estimate that during his three-year ministry those directly affected by his miraculous deeds numbered in the tens of thousands—and in the centuries since, the life-changing power of Christ has continued to impact millions.

His creativity is unfathomable. If it sounds like John is exaggerating when he says the whole world could not contain the written records of all Christ’s deeds, remember: Christ made the world! “Through him all things were made” (John 1:3). “For in him all things were created” (Colossians 1:16, 17). It’s not surprising that the world cannot contain the one who created it in the first place.

In light of his surpassing wisdom, moral excellence, sacrificial love, and resurrection power, it’s no exaggeration to speak of the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ. The most reasonable response is to join with Simon Peter and say, “Lord, you know that I love you.” In the words of William Barclay, “Human categories are powerless to describe Christ, and human books are inadequate to hold him. And so John ends with the innumerable triumphs, the inexhaustible power, and the limitless grace of Jesus Christ.”

NOTE: As I finish up my study leave, I’m grateful for another excellent contribution from Dave Faust (originally published on April 8, 2018 at lookoutmag.com/week-15-application/). I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences of the past month with you in the coming weeks. 

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