Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Cost of Freedom

I know it's late, but I wanted to recap the main idea from the sermon last Sunday.  

Using the story of the Exodus, I landed on this idea: 

God doesn't just want to set you free, he wants to keep you free.

After the Israelites were set free from being slaves in Egypt, they found themselves in the desert where they became slaves to their own devices.  Some of them trade one type of slavery for another.

It started small, they complain about water and God provides.  Then they complain about food and God provides them with Manna.  They complain about not having meat, so God sends them quail. More quail than they can handle.

Each time they complain their attitudes escalate to the point of thinking they were better off as slaves in Egypt.  God constantly reminds them to trust Him by obeying Him and the people continue to complain and distrust God.

With the last complaint about meat, God gives them so much meat they get sick off of it and some of them die.  Numbers chapter 11 recounts the story and ends with their bodies in graves of their own cravings...their desires, their cravings, their lusts (the KJV word used for cravings) lead to their deaths.

The Israelites who craved meat allowed that craving to get the best of them.  They were set free from slavery only to find themselves in another kind of slavery.

Don't we often do the same thing?  God has set us free from guilt and shame and sin and death and made a way for us to resist temptation.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to convict us, lead us, guide us and be our advocate.  Yet, we often allow our desires, our cravings, our lusts to move us into dangerous territory of prisons of our own making.

God doesn't just want to set you free, he wants to keep you free. 
And it takes being intentional about staying connected to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit for us to remain in the freedom Jesus offers us.

In John 8 Jesus says it this way (31-32): "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Paul said it this way in Galatians 5:1: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

The cost of freedom is discipleship.  Discipleship is remaining in a a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by being intentional about staying in love with our savior. 

He doesn't just want to set you free, he wants to keep you free!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sermon Recap: No Pain, No Gain

Jacob wrestling with some sort of "God-man" in Genesis 32:22-30 is a fascinating story.  I loved preaching on it this past Sunday to kick off our new sermon series:  

The video will be available by Wednesday morning here.

Jacob is so worried that his brother Esau is going to kill him and his family that he prays for God to save him then devises a plan to keep at least some of his family safe in case his fears come true.

It's in this state of fear and worry that the "God-man" initiates a wrestling match with Jacob.  

Commentator Terence Fretheim nails what I think is the point of the encounter:

At the moment of deepest vulnerability and worry for Jacob, God enters into the very depths of the struggle, binding God’s self to Jacob at that level.  Jacob is about to embark on a life-long struggle and he now knows that God the wrestler will be at his side.  The willingness of God to struggle with Jacob affirms a divine commitment to stay with Jacob.  God’s promise (from 28:15) involves not a passive presence, but an active, engaged relationship.

God doesn't initiate this "wrestling match" to get Jacob's attention because God already has his attention (Jacob's prayer just a few short hours before this proves the point).  God initiates this wrestling match to take Jacob's relationship with Him to an entirely new level.  So much so that he changes his name from Jacob (which means "schemer") to Israel (which means one who wrestles with God).

God is the great pursuer of our hearts and even if it takes wrestling with us to bring us to a deeper relationship with Him, that's what He's willing to do.  

In the wrestling, it's our willingness to hold on to God (just like Jacob did) that will bring transformation to our lives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Something New

We have been in transition at Covenant Community Church for at least the amount of time I have been here (a year and a half).  I have heard that even before I arrived it felt like this church was in transition.

Transitions have their frustrations, but they also have their benefits.  You often do not see the benefits of the transition until you have moved out of that season.

The biggest benefit of this season of transition happened on June 1st.  That's when we welcomed two new staff members who solidify our team and will be instrumental in moving us out of transition and into the church God is calling us to be.

It's exciting to see the season of transition ending to make way for a new season with these two incredible women on our team: this is Ginny Allison and Shonnie Streder (and her family).

They have only been here two weeks and I can already see the difference their presence is making.

We inundated them with bonding time as a staff by holding an overnight staff retreat their first weekend in town.  

We also officially celebrated their arrival this past Sunday with a church-wide potluck lunch.

It's so exciting to be in this season, I can't wait to see what God has for the future of Covenant Community church!

Here's to the benefits of transition and to a new season of becoming the church God is calling Covenant to be!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Permission to Fail - Sermon Recap

The Youth Pastor of Covenant Community Church - Ryan Robertson - preached this past Sunday.  He did a great job telling the story of Peter's denial (John 18:15-18 and 25-27) and Jesus' restoration of Peter ( found in John 21:15-18)...he also created a new word for us all to use: Shilt - A combination of shame and guilt.

It was graduation Sunday and the point he wanted to get across is that it is okay to fail because God uses our failure to grow us and shape us.  It is unhealthy to stay in the "shilt" when we have failed, therefore God always points us towards healing. Failure is not an "if" but a "when."  And if we let failure grow us rather than define us, we move towards healing.

There's even objective science behind the truth that failure grows us.  In her book Mindset Carol Dweck talks about how failure actually leads to more synapses firing off in the brain which creates more connections in the brain and actually grows the brain.  Isn't that so cool! God has designed the human brain in such a way that failure leads to growth.  

Ryan's point was not "go fail," but it was "you will fail and it's okay, God uses it to grow you and shape you."  The way Jesus handled Peter's failure was not to deny it, but to address it.  However, Jesus didn't address it in a way that Peter had to dwell in it...Jesus addresses Peter's failure then pointed him towards purpose, towards something good and meaningful.  He restored Peter by acknowledging his failure and then by leading Peter towards his future.

Give yourself permission to fail knowing God's grace for you is enough to cover you and God's purpose for you is enough to move you forward.