“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.” Psalm 48:1-3
The stories of our lives are often best told by using the places we have been as hooks on which to hang the details and drama of life.
Grand Rapids, Chicago, San Francisco and St. Louis figure prominently into our family narrative. God has been gracious to us in each of these places. Five years ago we moved to Louisville, where Trent pursued and completed a Master of Divinity at Southern Seminary in view of serving Christ and his church as a more faithful pastor. In the year since his graduation, we’ve visited Ethiopia twice to pick up our children, adding that to the list of places important to the Hunter family.
Now, add to the list, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Yes, that was an announcement.
On August 10, we will pull out of Louisville for Albuquerque where Trent will serve as a Pastoral Assistant to Ryan Kelly, the pastor for Teaching and Preaching at Desert Springs Church.
Here’s the story.
Since February when our son came home, we have been unhinged from the ground in Louisville. Actually, since May when our lease was up. So, we’ve been available to move out and into ministry. Correspondence with Ryan about this role began late in May through a mutual friend. Our conversations led to an invitation to visit and to preach during a Sunday service. We were pleased to accept.
Kristi and I visited Desert Springs from July 9-12 (Read about the the church here, a cool conference they do annually here, and listen to Trent’s sermon on Ephesians 3:14-21 here). In Ryan, I found a man whose ministry of the word I am happy both to support and model, and whose leadership as a husband, father and pastor are exemplary. We are like minded on essential and many non-essential theological and practical matters. Since my job would be to directly assist his ministry, all of this was important to us. Among the elders at Desert Springs, we found a group of men whose leadership we could embrace with enthusiasm and without reservation. And in the congregation at Desert Springs, we found a people who embrace and display the gospel. They love Christ, they love the Scriptures, they love one another, and they love orphans. We were actually approached by two families adopting from Ethiopia!
Then there were a number of smaller issues whose cumulative effect decided the matter: Albuquerque has real road runners, southwestern food is great, real ghost towns exist within about an hour’s drive, front yards are for rocks and cactuses instead of grass, the church parking lot is a popular landing spot for dozens of balloons at the International Balloon Festival, and Albuquerque has it’s own dormant volcanoes where the pastor, his wife and their four children ride around on dirt bikes.
So, on July 13, we accepted an invitation to come and serve.
Our ultimate hope in this move, and in any move for that matter, is summarized well by the mission statement of Desert Springs Church: to spread the glory of God broader and deeper. When Jesus told his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” he meant for his disciples to spread the glory of the Trinitarian God broadly throughout the earth (Matthew 28:19). When Jesus continued, by saying, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” he meant for his disciples to have an increasingly deeper knowledge of God’s glory in their hearts so to embrace everything that he commanded by faith.
No doubt, it will be terribly difficult to leave Louisville, Kentucky. This is a good place. We moved here a married couple of two years and today makes seven. Our family doubled here. We have friends from work that go back five years, with whom we’ve shared in weddings, funerals, meals on the town and afternoons helping one another move. And there are friends at our church with whom we have prayed and talked and laughed and cried for as many years, many of whom we speak with nearly every day. They supported us in our adoption, filled our fridge and mowed our lawn when we were over seas and welcomed our children at the airport. And from Louisville, we’re an afternoon drive from all of our immediate family.
What kind of sane person can leave such a place?
By pulling out of Louisville, there is a sense in which we are leaving home. But there is also a sense in which we’re not leaving home at all.
We’re just moving from one place to another within “the city of God!”
The “city of the great King” about which the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 48 was the city of Jerusalem. And this city, in all of it’s physical beauty, with it’s towers, it’s citadels pointed beyond itself to the glorious church of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, believers have come “to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22).
And wherever the church gathers, they gather as an outpost of that kingdom in this world, looking forward to the day when “God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” and when Jesus says, “behold, I am making all things new,” and when Jesus says to the thirsty, “I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (Revelation 21; Isaiah 65; Jeremiah 31). In our time, the church is a spring in the desert, offering eternal life to the world, because she has received living water to eternal life from Christ himself (John 4:14).
The old Jerusalem was like a giant arrow pointing down through history at the day when all things will be right, when the desert of this parched world will run with water (Isaiah 43). Even Abraham, whom God called long before the earthly Jerusalem was established, “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). So in leaving a place we love, we can remember that all of our happiness anywhere in this age is a shadow and foretaste of the happiness we will know when we are with Christ in the age to come.
The Psalmist tells us to “Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.” Jesus tells us to be his witnesses to his glory “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
There are many places that are precious to our family, but this place – Jerusalem, the church – is our favorite. The church is, as the sidebar category on this blog reads, a taste of heaven. And in moving to another place within this city, we will observe it’s beauty from a different vantage point, so better to tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever!
Jesus has witnesses in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We met them. And we are honored to join these friends in a place across the city, and with them to spread God’s glory broader in this world and deeper in his church.