Monday, March 27, 2006

75th Anniversary is almost here. . . so what?

I'm hearing great things about Steve's sermon yesterday. I give thanks for the chance to get away, knowing that God's Word will be preached in my absence, as well as in my presence. I don't worry, I don't fret, I just pray. Thanks Steve.

Steve is also doing a great job helping the folks he works with understand the value and purpose of our 75th Anniversary.

(Its obvious that some just still don't get it? How about you? Perhaps, you'd find it helpful to listen to the message the message where I laid out our vision for the 75th Anniversary!)

Here's an excellent post and a comment from the college ministry blog, "the source" . . .

The closer we come to the the 75th Anniversary, the more I am convinced of the power of this time of remembrance and celebration and ministry to reform and renew our lives individually and corporately. In a recent discussion with Ted Malley I was reminded that I need to continually keep the purpose of the 75th before us all that we might might be stirred to action because of God’s faithfulness. Thank you for the humble reminder Ted! I think this is true for you our students especially as your time at Grace tends to be shorter. The purpose of the 75th celebration is to look back upon God’s faithfulness to past generations that we might reorient ourselves in the present and continue a legacy of faithfulness for future generations. Remembering what God has done reforms us in this moment the Lord has given us that we might pass the baton to others.

Since that conversation I have spent time in reflection and prayer over how to keep the biblical nature of such a celebration before us. I’ve decided over the coming weeks to share a passage of Scripture each week that is relevant to remembering God’s faithfulness. In addition to the passage, I will write a brief devotional thought on it to cause us to reflect on God’s Word and His steadfast loving-kindness toward us His people. I have been richly blessed through this exercise already and am eager to share some of what God has revealed to me.

Before I share some thoughts this week, I commend the following passages to you all to reflect on God’s call on our lives to remember and reflect on Who is and what He’s done:

* Genesis 9—God’s covenant of the rainbow which symbolize His covenant of mercy and grace toward every living creature.
* Exod. 12:14-32—The Feast of Unleavened Bread which celebrates Israel’s redemption from slavery.
* Exod. 31:12-18—The Sabbath commanded as a covenantal reminder that the LORD is Israel’s God—the One who created the world.
* Numbers 15:37-41—Tassals placed on the Israelites clothing that they would remember God’s commands.
* Deut. 16:1-21—the Feasts of Passover, Weeks and Booths—Reminders of God’s acting in their midst.
* Josh 4:1-13—Memorial stones that commemorate Israel’s crossing of the Jordan. A physical reminder so that their children would ask “What do these stones mean?”
* 1 Chron 16 (note esp. Vv. 7-36)--The Ark is brought to Jerusalem with celebration of God’s glory, delivery, covenant, provision of the Land, creation and everlasting loving-kindness.
* Neh. 1:4-11—the memorial power of God’s Word to point His people to Himself.
* Psalm 42—Remembering God’s faithfulness in the midst of trouble, harm and distress.
* Psalm 77 & 78 (A powerful duo!)—77—Remembering God’s mighty deeds in the face of feeling forgotten by God. 78—God’s mighty deeds of redeeming His people despite themselves—God’s faithful loving-kindness is certain!


Reflections on God’s Faithfulness

Throughout the history of Redemption God has used memorials and celebrations to stir His people to renewed and continued faithfulness. May the 75th do the same for us! I was particularly struck by Deut. 16:1-21—the Feasts of Passover, Weeks and Booths—Reminders of God’s acting in their midst this week. We may ask if God’s people should make such a big deal and throw lavish parties to “remember God’s faithfulness.” Deut. 16 speaks to that very issue. Here are three God-ordained lavish parties designed for God’s people to remember His faithfulness.

The Feast of the Passover was intended to recall the specific events by which Israel was redeemed from Egypt. For seven days the people were to eat unleavened bread to remind them of the fearful haste with which they left Egypt. Then they were to sacrifice the lamb and eat it.

The Feast of Weeks followed the Passover as a feast of thanksgiving. The point here is for the people to remember their former slavery in Egypt and to bless the needy—the Levites, foreigners, orphans and widows. The people were to bring an offering in accordance with their blessing—no determined amount!—with which to feast and joyously celebrate God’s good gifts to them. While the Passover is a solemn affair, the Feast of Weeks was an extravagant party in which all the people rejoiced.

Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles was a seven day camping excursion to remember God’s provision during Israel’s time in the wilderness. Again, this was a happy celebration for God’s people to celebrate His sovereign provision. Again the needy are pointedly to be remembered in this occasion. Israel is commanded here to annually rejoice in acknowledgement that their blessings are from God. For seven days they were to feast and be full of joy because of God’s provision.

As I think of the 75th—from our special weekends to our celebration dinner at the end—I think of it’s parallel to these feasts. May we remember how God has delivered us from our slavery to sin and death. May we remember our own neediness and God’s intervention for us that it may spill over to others. May we rejoice and celebrate the Lord’s provision of our property, the facilities, financial blessing, ministry opportunities and the resources with which to pursue them for 75 years! May this serve to stoke our own faith in our generation. May the Lord be pleased to empower Grace so we continue to see lives, families, our community, and the world transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

May our college-age community join in with us!



And the comment from a college student . . .

I must say that I was skeptical when I heard about the 75th anniversary plans. Even more so when I learned how much of the budget was being poured into this endeavor. Couldn't the money be put to better use elsewhere? Have we solved poverty and disease and can now divert that money to church celebrations? It seemed to me to be a waste of my tithes.

Last quarter I decided to start reading through the entire Bible starting with the beginning. That endeavor(I'm not quite done yet) has been one of the most rewarding things I've done in awhile. One of the things I realized while reading changed my view of the 75th celebration.

Those poor Israelites could not keep it together. It seemed like every other chapter, they were turning away from God to pursue their own interests. Why? It's because they forgot the wonders and miracles God had performed in the past. So, once they turned away, God needed to remind them once again. Often this came with a deadly cost.

Then I thought about my own life. The times when I am most discouraged or likely to abandon my walk with the Lord is when I am too caught up in the things of this world and lose sight of where God has brought me. Remembering God's blessings and provisions is one of the key elements in keeping me walking with Him.

It is important to remember what God has done not only in my life but the church as a whole. Hearing about God working in other's lives is just as encouraging.

What is the greatest commandment? Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. A key ingredient in working toward this is to remember.

2 comments:

Tim Weaver said...

That was great. Thank you for sharing that.

Both the college student and Steve (and the preaching) Biblically show what we are doing and why. My personal goal for this time is to allow the Lord to use the lives of Leroy Persson and Dr. Bob and MANY others who have gone before (and are still going) to inspire my heart to run after the Lord in radical ways like they have done. I want to see what they saw in the Lord. I think it is good to see the sacrifices that others made in time, money, and reputation for the Gospel. Let it shake me out of my comfort zone.

(Shameless plug for the 75th portion of the Grace site.) If you want to read some of the neat things that God has done through His people at Grace Church, go to graceslo.org and click on the 75th anniversary. Go to the history section and read the articles by Dr. Bob or Violet Persson. They show what God was doing back then and the same God is calling us.

Robbin said...

I have been at Grace Church since 1970 - I was a teenager then. Hard to believe how fast the time has gone. One thing that stays with me, especially now, is the fact that other people have been here longer. When I came, there were all these 40-50 year old "senior saints" (never thought I'd see the day). These faithful, godly people have been here, a part of the fellowship and serving where needed. One of those is Rossye Wiles who has been making sure we had sharp pencils, enough offering envelopes and more recently, Bibles, when we came in to sit down for worship. She even cleaned out the bulletins and other papers people left behind and put them in her blue bin, and then brought them over to the office to recycle. Every Monday, even holidays, she was here. And she never complained - well, there were the times when there was so much trash, her blue tub was too heavy to carry. And then when she couldn't get the broken pencils out of their slots because someone had "borrowed" her tweezers. The last couple of weeks, though, she has not been able to come. We don't know when she will be taken HOME, but it could be soon. We had run out of envelopes and she was worried that she wasn't doing a good job. She was sorry for doing a shabby job. Those envelopes finally came in and I took one over to show her and I said, "Rossye, the envelopes came. We will put them in the pews for you, okay?" And she just had this smile and said "Oh, good," in a quiet voice. And now as I think about it I see that I am now one of those Senior Saints and have been for a few years (There! I admit it!). I am now the one who is passing down what I've learned from God and trying to show the Way to our young people. What a privilege! And what a task, but what examples I had all these years! So, please come learn more about the history of this church because it doesn't stop with just these people. The college group has history and so many other areas that you can't even imagine. Happy 75th Anniversary, Grace Church, and many more years ahead.