In order to get us in the mood for the thoughts I would like to share with you, I need you to get some images in your mind; some snapshots of what it will be like when we meet for the first time in the new church. (We then discussed things like finding a parking place in the parking lot, walking into the Narthex and seeing the faces of your church family, figuring out where to sit in the sanctuary, raising our voices together in praise, etc….things only CPC folks would enjoy hearing about!)
With these images in your mind and holding onto the feelings that they invoke, I invite you to hear these words of scripture. This is probably a familiar verse to most of you, but the translation may be different. This particular translation struck me as being so appropriate for what we will be experiencing tomorrow morning. Hear these words from God in Isaiah 43:19, the New Living Translation:
19For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!
God is indeed doing a brand new thing tomorrow in Centreville, Virgina. In fact, as we know, He began this new thing long ago in the hearts and minds of this body of believers. Advent is a perfect time to think about new beginnings. Advent is traditionally marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing for that which has been promised. Our church family has been waiting for this day for a long time; learning to trust in God’s timing and His perfect will. There is something so beautiful, so divinely ordained, about us moving into our new building during Advent (despite it being the staff’s worst nightmare!) We have been anticipating this for a long time and God has been preparing us as a body of believers for how He intends to use this church during every bit of that time. Along with preparing us as a church family, I would like to suggest that He has been preparing each one of us individually for the role we are to play in this story that God is writing; this tale God wants to tell. Tonight, on the eve of this new beginning, we must each ask ourselves an important question: What brand new thing is God trying to do in ME this Advent? This is what I want to talk about this evening.
In 1999, I participated in a study that Rob taught called “Experiencing God.” This study, written by Henry Blackaby, really changed the way I viewed the process by which we are used by God in His Kingdom. The study lasted for 12 weeks, so I am in danger of oversimplifying the message, but basically we learned that God is constantly pursuing a love relationship with each of us and that God is always at work in the world around us. Through that love relationship with us…when we allow ourselves to be “caught” or “captured” by this God who pursues us…He invites us to join Him in His work. Now, this idea was life-changing for me. In some ways, it was almost a reverse of the way I had always viewed my relationship with God. All the years of my Christian journey, I had viewed myself as chasing after God and searching for His will for my life…ME chasing, ME searching. Through this study I saw that scripture shows us that it is GOD pursuing and GOD directing…my part was simply willingness and obedience. When I became willing to be caught, when I became willing to grow in that love relationship that God wants to have with me, when I became willing to have God open my eyes to the work He was already doing around me, when I became willing to join Him in His work as HE directed, my life began to change in dramatic ways. This was exciting! I began to notice God at work all around me and, never wanting to miss out on any fun, I wanted to be part of it. Within a very short time of telling God that I wanted to join Him in this adventure, I got pulled into His work at CPC in ways that I never dreamed I would. In the 6 ½ years since then, I feel like I have had a front row seat for the GOD show. The joy of seeing God at work up close and personal is what keeps me motivated to continue to seek ways to join in His Kingdom work.
I listened to a CD a few weeks ago by author, speaker, pastor Erwin McManus. In this particular message, he gave a wonderful description of how God uses a personal, growing love relationship with each of us to pull us, guide us, and invite us into His Kingdom work. When we are in a growing love relationship with God, according to McManus, three things happen: we begin to be Taught by God, Moved by God and Unleashed by God. These 3 things really resonated with me as being so true in terms of my own experience and the experiences I have witnessed in others. Let’s look at each of these ideas in the context of how they might impact this brand new thing God might be wanting to do in each of us this Advent.
Part 2 tomorrow! Stay tuned (sorry about the funky font; I am having trouble cutting and pasting this from my original document!)