Sunday, April 22, 2012

Now You Know

Third Sunday of Easter

"Good morning! I love the chatter that takes place," Brad declared. "It’s nice to have this celebratory mood, and then we transition into worship. Next week I’m going to start a series on the book of Ephesians. Today we’ll look at what’s at stake when it comes to following God."

1.       Next week is our semi-annual meeting. This will be an important one as the building committee presents the vision for the building project and recommendations for the near future.
2.       Last Kids Club is this Wednesday.
3.       Rummage Sale next week at Twig Town Hall.
4.       Covenant Park Bible Camp coming. Next Sunday is the last of the days for least expensive rate.
5.       CHIC is in fund raising mode. Give and pray for the kids who will be going to CHIC this summer. Starting next week the kids will be selling shares of stock as an investment in the lives of our young people.

Brad thanked Darlene for over 37 years of service playing piano here at New Life Covenant. Then Chuck shared a passage from Psalm 135 to introduce the time of worship. The trio of Ken, Darlene and Chuck sang Through It All he trio and followed with Without Him, a gospel favorite written by Mylon R. Lefevre that Elvis Presley once recorded.  Then the congregation sang several songs from the silver songbook.

As the offering was taken we were reminded that it is more blessed to give than receive and that Christ withheld nothing on our behalf.

Today’s Scripture reading was from Acts 3:12-19 which preceded a time of prayer and lifting up the many needs on our hearts.

Now You Know

Brad began by asking us to turn with him to Deuteronomy 30:11-20

In this passage Moses is at the end of his life. Israel is on the verge of entering the Promised Land, but he is aware that he's not entering in. So he gathers the people of Israel, who have spent forty years wandering the wilderness up to this point after the miraculous exodus from slavery in Egypt, and he makes a final exhortation. These are people who were not a great group. They were afraid of the pharaoh, worshiped a golden calf when they got bored at Mount Sinai, complained about their supernaturally provided manna, got jealous, were stiff-necked. In short, they were a lot like you and me.

But God loved them.God's dream for the human race, a loving community of transformed human beings, rested on this little group of stiff-necked people. And Moses realized he wasn't going to be around to steer them any more. They were going to have to "get it" for themselves. So he gathers them together for a final message to instill in them a sense of urgency for what's at stake. He distills it down to a single choice, a choice that every human being makes as much as a hundreds times a day.

"The word is very near you," Moses says. It's not up in heaven so you have to figure out how to ascend there and get it. And it's not across the seas. "It is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you life and prosperity or death and destruction...." (read the passage linked above)

Moses is an old man, has learned he is not going into the Promised Land. So he gathers the people and outlines for them his final thoughts. Moses tells them what’s at stake. 

This is a story about a choice every human being must make every day. In big ways and small ways we make this decision. These words from Moses are God’s words to us today. There is a way that leads to life, and there is a way that leads to death.

It’s no casual thing. Moses calls heaven and earth to witness this. (vs. 19) We live every day in light of these words. 

One road is called life. Verse 16: "If you obey the commandments…" Obedience looks like this.  A. Love God   B. Conduct yourself in a wise and holy way.   C. Follow His guidelines, decrees and ordinances. Result: you will thrive. God’s blessing will be on you.

The Word is very near you and it is not difficult to understand. 

To paraphrase verse 17, if your heart turns away, it’s a loss of devotion. If you do not hear, and are not attentive to his Voice or strive to do his will, you will be led astray.

You don’t plan to offer yourself to the altars of success or any other false god. Instead, what happens is that you allow yourself to drift, to conform to this world. But disaster is the consequence, and loss... loss of blessing.

Why does Moses even bother to say this? If you were coming down a road and came to a fork in the road and it says life or death, who wouldn't choose the road marked "life"?

Sometimes, however, the things we think will lead to life lead to death. For this reason Moses is compelled to spell it out. Brad then shared story of how a ski trip cost far more than he expected. In another story he shared about talking to a man who had had emphysema and smoked his cigarette through the hole in his throat caused by his tracheotomy.

We do the same thing in our lives when we go down certain roads where we get mired because we're confused about what leads to life.

Maybe you have been dishonest in some area of your life. You know it was a decision toward death. You have to say, “God, today I choose life.”

For some of you this fork in the road involves your financial life. Giving to the poor and being generous leads to life. The clutching heart is the way of death. Is money something you use only for yourself? How does God want you to spend your resources? 

There are some choices that are neutral. But others produce life or death.

For some of you it has to do with relationships. Some of you have been gossiping. Some of you have been unforgiving. The Bible says this is a road to death.

Wedding vows and other important events need witnesses. Witnesses affirm the significance. Moses selected heaven and earth as witnesses regarding this threshold moment that would begin a new chapter in Israel's history.  “People, won’t you choose life?” Today, tomorrow and every day for the rest rest of your life.

Paul writes about these words in his letter to the church of Rome. "The nearness of God has come to us supremely in Christ, this offer of life. 

Today you can devote yourself to prayer or remain prayerless, you can be generous or horde, speak the truth or deceive. To lust or remain pure is a choice. For God’s sake and the sake of your own soul, and the people that we minister to, choose life.

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