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Pastor’s Note: Moving Toward Shalom


The night our family returned home from Thanksgiving, I had just drifted off to sleep when one of our daughters came running into the room sick to her stomach. There would be no more rest the remainder of the evening. Over the next several hours, all three of our girls woke up sick and took turns keeping the rest of us awake. The shalom of our home was shattered by the stomach bug.

“Shalom” is a Hebrew word that refers to the holistic wellbeing God created us to experience – intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, peace with those around us, deep enjoyment of God’s glorious creation. Sadly, since the Fall we live in a broken world where our own sinful natures and the cursed creation war against experiencing that shalom God intends for us.

Every day in our world shalom is interrupted by things much more serious than a stomach bug. Gun shots bring chaos into the lives of many. Medical diagnoses shatter dreams of others. Many battle generational poverty, a lack of good employment, and unjust governmental systems. Others struggle against mental illness that leaves them depressed, confused, or alone. Every day in Huntsville betrayal wreaks havoc on relationships. Every day in our city parents struggle to feel the dignity God created them to have, and children struggle to experience the love and support they need.

The good news of the gospel, though, is that God is passionately committed to restoring shalom. He hates unrighteousness, injustice, oppression, and sin – but through Jesus Christ He has promised to renew and restore his creation so that death and all the other effects of the Fall are defeated forever. Even now He is working through his Spirit and his people to bring his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, and Jesus tells us we must pray for, long for, and work for that reality.
That’s why we’ve entitled our Express Grace Conference this year “Moving Toward Shalom.” The grace of Jesus Christ brings shalom into our lives and relationships with God, and it gives us shalom to share with our neighbors. As individual lives are restored to their Creator and others around them, communities are transformed into places that increasingly reflect the gracious and peaceful kingdom of God.

“Moving toward shalom” is much bigger than one conference or ministry. You’ll read in this issue of Branches about many ways God is working here to create the kind of true community only the gospel can create. As we each experience the grace of Jesus restoring our relationship with our Father, we need other brothers and sisters in small groups, in the midst of parenting battles, and in the struggles of youthful years to help us live in the shalom of God’s kingdom.

Then we can ogether share restored relationships with a community in need of transformation – personal, corporate, and systemic. This is the focus of our Express Grace Conference – equipping and mobilizing us to be the people of God on the mission of God particularly here in Huntsville. Our heart is that we together would be inspired and enabled to bring kingdom shalom here so that Huntsville would be more and more like heaven – where we all know God, rejoice in his glory, and experience his goodness.

Gospel community is a community on mission together – taking the good news of a shalom-restoring God to everyone around us. So, while there are top-notch speakers coming to Southwood for this conference (see more inside), they will leave Huntsville afterwards, and we will be the ones God calls to carry the gospel to our neighbors and city day in and day out. Don’t let anything short of a stomach bug cause you to miss this chance to pray, dream, and learn together about what that can look like!