Are you ready for what is coming next?
In the Old Testament in the story of Joshua, we find the Jewish people preparing the enter the Promised Land. It had been a time of wandering and refinement up to this point. They had spent generations Geoff Mitchell, M.Div.under the oppressive boot of slavery. Finally God sent Moses to deliver them from Pharaoh. With a power not of this world, God parted the Red Sea and protected the Jewish people. Yet this protection led to 40 years of wondering in the wilderness, the discouragement of the people, and ultimately the death of Moses. So when Joshua takes over the reigns of leadership from Moses on the threshold of entering the Promised Land, he pauses to make sure they were up for the task.
Joshua 24:14-15: "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
You would think a nomadic people with a tattered faith would not need to be rallied once more as they finally enter the Promised Land. Yet Joshua makes the people pause and ask if they are truly invested in what God is about to accomplish. Fitting words for our church, I believe.
Sunday, September 11th, is the Grand Opening at our new location, 197 East Washington in Oswego. It will be a day of celebration, faith, and excitement. So much effort, prayer, sacrificial giving, and good old fashioned sweat has gone into making this day a reality. Yet even as we approach this much anticipated transition, I am asking our entire church to pause before God and renew ourselves to the mission in accountable ways. We much choose God together as a congregation for this building to become the Church.
Here's what God needs to choose to serve Him:
1- Choose to pray - Pray for our new space to be scared space. We are a culture that has lost the language of the sacred. Yet as believers we know that when the church gathers we encounter the Holy. Let us reaffirm our trust in a Holy, Sacred, and Almighty God who is seeking to change the lives of ordinary people. In this commitment, we pray for life change for ourselves and others, and we rise above the cliche of "we are finally getting our own building" and instead aim to pursue the God who is always pursuing us and others.
2- Choose to serve God. Unless you are out of town, be at worship September 11th. This is a great opportunity to share Jesus through serving as the Church, and an unparalleled opportunity to invite people to come and see. An invitation to the grand opening is something to which people will be receptive. God started Big Life to share Jesus with people who need faith. Recommit to that mission through sharing an invitation and serving as the Church.
3- Choose to renignite your spiritual growth. The natural tendency in us all will be to believe we "have arrived". That had to be what Joshua felt when he shared this message from God. Yet we believe God deserves better from our daily lives. If we only ever bring the same intensity to our faith that we have now, or have had in the past, we will soon fall flat and stagnate. Renew your commitment to growth - growth in your relationship with God - growth in your consistency in worship, growth in your generosity, and growth in your invitational and welcoming efforts. Choose this day to grow.
4- Choose to be a person of welcome. Anticipate a wave of visitors the first few months. Some people show up because of intentional invitations from people of our church. Others came to the garage sale and were interested in what we are doing. Some will appear for the pure novelty of the new location. Others will be dragged there by God to hear what they need to hear. I want you losing sleep over these folks' spiritual welcome at Big Life. Intentionally welcome all people- step away from your familiar conversations each week to say hello to someone you do not know. Embrace your responsibility and know we are all spiritually accountable for how we receive people that God sends to our church. Preaching and worship are important, but most people move from visiting to belonging because of the welcome they received from people NOT employed by the church. God is raising the bar for us in these next few months. Let's make the most of it. Choose to be God's person of welcome.
Tonight is a big meteor shower. Little bits of dust and ice and mineral will fly through the atmosphere leaving a stunning show of light and fire for any who look up into a clear night sky.
It's incredible that we as humans, lumpy bits of protein and fat and minerals might look up into the sky and be amazed. Maybe we will take our children out to teach them about the universe.
Or we might sit in our homes built of wood and metal and concrete and watch images and sound flash into little electrical boxes in front of us and find rest.
Or we might jump into our metal and rubber gas-burning machines to go to work to find purpose and provide for our next meals and upkeep of our homes and machines.
My point is this, our lives are extraordinarily... ordinary. Even with all the incredible things around us, we create and strive and push, yet we all live with a nagging sense that "there has to be more." As complex and incredible as our ordinary lives are, we are all missing out... until we turn towards God.
God has embedded this incredible universe, and us, His creation, with hearts and minds that long for him. We are incomplete without a relationship with our Creator; it doesn't matter what we attempt to fill that void with, we remain incomplete without God's supernatural love and power.
I have heard faith described like an onion, that the deeper you dig, the more you know, the next layer you turn over - only reveals more richness and depth and beauty and power.
Our hope for you is simply that you seek God. If you've been a person of faith since you were young, or if you are just starting to pursue God, just look for Him. Get hungry for Him. Know you need Him. Everything rich and good and full of beauty in our lives flows from Him.
We often look at people who do big things for God as though they are cut from a different cloth. It is easy to believe we are excluded from the miraculous, earth shaking faith we think we see in others.
However, God is our ever present Counselor. God is interested in our daily life. God wants to be included in our morning coffee, our commute, our work, and our conversations. Put faith in the middle of how we REALLY spend our time, relationships, and money.
When you string together these ordinary moments, checking in with God, sharing His love and counsel, it IS extraordinary faith. It builds deep confidence in His care. It develops unshakable trust. It opens our eyes and ears to His leading - that we will need at more difficult times.
On the cross, Jesus changed everything. The scriptures say that the "curtain in the temple was torn" as Jesus died. The curtain was placed in the temple to allow some holy leaders to have access to God, and to keep everyone else out.
Don't put up a curtain in your life. Seek God in your ordinary moments... and in doing so build an extraordinary relationship with the living God.