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As we move forward into another new year, I think of God’s promises as being something like handrails: they provide a sense of security, giving us something to hold onto when we stumble as well as marking the way forward along the path God has laid out for us. 

These promises are eternal and unfailing. God’s “handrails” have been with us in the past, are with us now, and will be with us as we follow him into the future. Whether holding on tightly in times of challenge or hardly at all as we run forward in step with the Spirit, they will guide our journey along the pathway.

God’s will for our lives is that we should not fall off his path into the capricious, chaotic void that surrounds us. As our Contemporary Testimony, Our World Belongs to God, reminds us, we live in a world where “Satan and his evil forces seek whom they may scatter and isolate, but God, by his gracious choosing in Christ, gathers a new community—those who by God’s gift put their trust in Christ.”

It is through this new community that God works out his promises, and it becomes one part of the handrails that guide us. So as I look to the new year with the assurance of God’s promises, I also look to the new community. By seeing what it’s been up to and is presently focused on, I can catch a glimpse into the future.

Sometimes I worry about the trends I see in our world—trends like decreasing participation in the church in North America. Synod 2017 drew our attention to the issue, asking that we become better versed in church planting.

When I look around the new community, what I see gives me hope. I am encouraged by people such as Rev. Jose Rayas at Valley Ridge Community Church in Socorro, Tex., as he and others pursue church planting and community development along the southern border of the United States. And I am heartened by Rev. John Bouwers at Crosstowne Church in Milton, Ont., where he is spreading the vision for church planting in Eastern Canada via an emerging Church Planting Institute.

Our pathway forward includes many examples such as these, and I believe one part of Christ’s new community—the Christian Reformed Church—is faithfully moving into the future God has in store for us.

Looking further afield, I wonder how we can express more completely our unity in Christ with ecumenical partners. A number of delegates from East Africa attended Synod 2017, and they stayed afterward to consult with CRC and CRC-affiliated church leaders. For many of these ecumenical partners, their growing number of congregations is far outstripping the number of pastoral leaders they can produce. 

I am encouraged that the Timothy Leadership Training Institute, an organization closely affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church that took root in Africa in the 1990s and has developed rapidly throughout the world, is being used mightily by God in many such places. I believe this part of Christ’s new community—the CRC—will faithfully respond with this and other ways to assist in pastoral development that is contextualized to each situation. 

These are just a few examples from me. I challenge you to name your own fears and anxieties, then look around to find the handrails God’s promises provide in his new community. Grab hold, and step forward with the Spirit. And remember this prayer attributed to St. Patrick:

   Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
   Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
   Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
   Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
   Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
   Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
   Christ in every eye that sees me,
   Christ in every ear that hears me.
   Salvation is of the Lord.
   Salvation is of the Christ.
   May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.

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