Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 What a sad death. I mean, poor Moses.  He’s come so far, and done so much!  He’s confronted Pharaoh, parted the waters of the Red Sea, met with God on Mount Sinai, guided Israel around and around the wilderness…  Now God and Moses are perched on a vista overlooking the Promised Land.  And God says to Moses… …look, but don’t touch.  Or, more accurately:  “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there” (Deut 34:4). And Moses dies!  That’s it!  That’s the end of his story! This is depressing.  Like if Neil Armstrong never made it to the moon.  Or Sir Edmund Hillary never summitted Mt. Everest. Or if Dan Marino never won a superbowl. Oh… wait. Yes, much like Dan Marino never winning a superbowl… Moses’ life has been all about the goal of leading these people to their own land, and he doesn’t get to claim that victory with them. And yet – this is weird – Moses’ story doesn’t end on a low note.  Listen to all the glowing words about him:  “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do…” (Deut 34:9-11). That’s not a sob story; that sounds like a celebration.  If Moses dies with his life-goal unfulfilled, why isn’t his a tragic ending? I’ll tell you why:  Because we’re not running a one-man race here.  These lives we live, they’re part of a relay race. In a one-man race...
What We Know About the Future

What We Know About the Future

Exodus 33:12-23 I’ve been wondering, lately, where we’ll go next. Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Family Life Center – 10 years of that two-story facility serving our church and the community.  But not just that; we celebrated the full payoff of the $800,000 loan we took out to build the Family Life Center. Many of our members seriously wondered if they’d live to see it paid off.  Maybe that’s why, in our budgeting meeting this past week, we actually looked forward to the  “mortgage payment” line item… so we could write a big, fat “0” in that box.  When we burned the note on September 17th, we talked about how we’d pass this blessing on – use what we’ve accomplished to even better serve God and serve others.  And I feel that potential.  With the debt paid, there’s a whole world of options open to us.  We can move on to the next big thing that God is calling us to do! …Except I’m not quite sure what that is. In some ways, that’s not really a problem.  God isn’t always calling us to a capital campaign; there isn’t enough land for that, and none of us would want to go through that again anytime soon, anyway.  Neither does this mean we have nothing planned for the future.  Rebecca (our Director of Youth and Facilities) is building our student ministries and exploring new ways to use that debt-free Family Life Center.  This week I had a great meeting with a church member about some new small group opportunities for 2018.  The missions...
The Most Important Person in the Room

The Most Important Person in the Room

Exodus 32:1-17 This is a low moment in Israel’s history. Moses has been up on Mount Sinai with God for forty days (24:18).  To Israel’s credit, that is kind of a sizable sabbatical.  If I were gone from my church for a month and a half I would assume that my congregation would make some big decisions in my absence. But I’d also hope they’d make some good big decisions. Israel does not.  They lose patience with Moses’ delay.  They come up with a big idea on their own.  They go to Aaron, Moses’ brother and second-in-command, with this big idea: “This ‘Moses’ – we don’t know if he’s ever coming back.  So let’s stop wasting time and make gods for ourselves.  Then let’s throw a festival for those gods – let’s have a big party!” This is a huge mistake, and if you studied the Ten Commandments with us last week you know why.  If not, you can flip back to Exodus 20 and see: Rule #1:  No other gods. Rule #2:  No idols. I mean, it’s not just that theses two are covered in the Ten Commandments… they’re the top two.  Israel comes to Aaron with the idea (bad enough), and then Aaron’s response is along the lines of, “Sure, why not?” These are the moments of disobedience that will push a parent to the snapping point, like:  I JUST TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT FIVE MINUTES AGO AND NOW YOU’RE DOING THE EXACT THING I SAID NOT TO DO!  God is our Father, the perfect parent.  So does God feel that flash of human rage...
God is great, God is good

God is great, God is good

Exodus 20:1-17 There’s a prayer we say together before dinner at night.  I bet you can guess which one.  I’ll even give you a hint:  we have two small children. Yep, you got it: God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food. By his hands we all are fed; Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen. (Optionally followed by:  Dig in!) I’ve said this prayer my whole life… but I don’t think I thought about it until recently, when Anna Carter Florence made mention of it in a book I’m reading.  All of a sudden I stopped to wonder: What does it mean that God is great and God is good? Do we only say that because it conveniently rhymes with “food”? I don’t think so; I think we say it because it means something.  Our God is not small and bad; God is great and good.  And that has consequences.  Consequences not only for our basic beliefs about the Creator of the Universe, but for the way God’s creation (that’s us) is supposed to behave. Do you want to know what those consequences are? Then let’s turn to Exodus 20, more commonly known as the Ten Commandments. To set the stage, God has rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  God has led them across the Red Sea.  God has given them manna from heaven to eat and water from a rock to drink.  Now they’ve arrived at Mount Sinai.  God has descended in a dense cloud, and spoken loud enough so that Moses and all of Israel can hear. And here is...

Why We Go To Church

Revelation 7:9-17 Today I want to talk about why we go to church. I mean, seriously.  What do we get at church that we can’t get at home?  Most weeks, I listen to a sermon on my iPhone.  I can get almost any preacher I want.  Adam Hamilton?  No problem.  Andy Stanley?  You bet.  Barbara Brown Taylor?  All day long.  Even those not tech-savvy enough for podcasts can get a good sermon from the comfort of their own TV rooms.  Preachers like Harry Emerson Fosdick and Billy Graham have been delivering sermons over the radio and television waves for almost a hundred years. Sure, there’s other stuff we do in church, too – but we can do most of that in our living rooms, as well.  We can pray.  We can read our Bibles.  We can sing (and if not, we can listen to music).  And let’s be real:  it’s work to get up and go to church, and sometimes we just don’t want to do it.  We’ve been getting up and getting dressed for our obligations all week long, and we just want a day to throw on a ball cap and go to brunch. Why bother going to church? I’m a preacher, so you’re expecting me to make a case for church.  And you’re right.  I’ve been convinced that church is important for a long time.  But just recently I did something that convinced me all over again that actually going church is worth the extra time and effort. I went to a college football game. Wake Forest was playing Appalachian State on their home turf in...