Monday, February 08, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: We're Not in Kansas Anymore!

Yesterday, I preached my first message as Lead Pastor at Covenant Church.  Beginning today and continuing each Monday morning, I want to use this space to remind our own folks of what we studied together, and encourage its continued application.

If you aren't part of the Covenant family, you are welcome to listen in anyway!

Along with my first Sunday, we began a series entitled "We Are Covenant!"  In too many churches in the west, the lion's share of emphasis is on individual Christians living a "victorious life" (however each tradition defines "victorious"), but very little emphasis is put on the church as a unified body.  Yet when the New Testament writers speak to churches, in most cases they are addressing not several hundred or several thousand people so much as ONE body of believers.

Likewise, though our church is made up of people from a variety of backgrounds--each uniquely created by God to fulfill the purpose for which they were created--that individual purpose can only be truly fulfilled within the community of faith that is the church.  And for that to happen, each local church must solidify its own corporate identity as a body.

For the next several weeks, that's what we will be working on as a church body.  Who are we?  Where are we going?  And to answer those questions, we first have to answer this one:  "Where are we?"

The truth is, we live in strange times--unprecedented times.  A few years ago, our family experienced our first earthquake.  My friends in California were all laughing at my panic at what turned out to be a comparably small shaking of the earth in Maryland.  Still, when you have never experienced the ground shaking underneath your feet, its hard not to panic a bit.

And the thing about an earthquake is this:  Its inescapable.  You can take cover from a tornado.  You can see a hurricane coming and run away.  But earthquakes are sudden, and they affect the very foundation on which we stand.

Culturally, we are experiencing an earthquake.  The ground is shaking underneath our feet.  We feel it in the cultural influence that the church seems to have lost.  We sense it in the increased violence of our world.  We identify it in the moral confusion that permeates society.  And we just aren't sure of what to do.  Because when it comes to our current situation, there is no "wise old man."  We are the first to be here.

But we are not the first to ever face a time of monumental transition.

Moses writes Deuteronomy for the purpose of re-stating the Covenant relationship between the people of Israel and their God.  The Covenant hasn't changed, but as Israel moves from a nomadic life into a period of conquest and settlement, and eventually into a permanent land of their own, the Covenant needs to be re-applied.  They are about to face new challenges and the occupation of a new land.  They aren't living in the wilderness anymore!

In the same way, followers of Jesus now find ourselves living in a very different environment--a rapidly changing one.  But Deuteronomy 29 calls us back to four things that never change--four things on which we can always stand as we seek to live faithfully into the future:

1. The Faithfulness of God.  We are a people who tend to measure our confidence in terms of past reliability.  Its why we go to Angie's list before hiring a contractor, or Urban spoon before trying a new restaurant.  In verses 2 and 3, Moses is reminding Israel of God's track record.  Though they have lived in the wilderness for an entire generation, they have never gone hungry.  Because in 40 years, God has never broken a promise, failed to follow through, or failed to protect His own people! When the future is uncertain, we look to a God who is certain.

2. The Sinfulness of Humanity.  We are a broken people, and we have always been a broken people.  Contrary to progressive views of history, that isn't getting better!  But conservative views of history also have it wrong with their calls to "go back" to some vision of the good ole days.  When we understand the problem of sin, we will also understand that this problem isn't solved by going forward into continued moral chaos, or going backward to segregated lunch counters.  The world has always been broken, and the world will perpetually look for the answer.  God's people have it!

3. The Call of God's People.  Moses' challenge to Israel is to be as faithful in applying and following the Covenant in the promised land as they should have been in the wilderness.  That requires understanding the Covenant (the nature of our relationship with God).  It also requires a keen understanding of the times in which that covenant is to be applied.  Nothing is more useless to God than a culturally "tone deaf" church.

4. An Assured Victory.  Israel had defeated enemies that were supposed to be unbeatable, because from beginning to end, their history had been one consistent record of Divine miracles.  Likewise, we live in a "brave new world," but Jesus will continue to seek worshippers, and will continue to redeem and transform the lives of people through churches who are faithful to Him by loving their communities and the world.

With unprecedented challenges come unprecedented opportunities!  And the choice is clear:  We can pine for the old world that once existed, or we can throw our arms around the world where God has placed us--a world we believe Jesus died to save.  If we choose the latter course, we can see people delivered from addiction, marriages healed, school systems, hospitals and college campuses transformed by the power of the Gospel.  We can, and will, see God's people working together to love, serve, and share the greatest message in all of human history.

I can't wait to get started!

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