From Garden to City National Community Church's reading plan to read through the bible in one year! en Copyright 2011 2011-03-14T14:15:40+00:00 Final Thoughts From Vatican City Some final thoughts post-Garden to City. Filmed in Vatican City. 2011-03-14T13:15:40+00:00 A Season of Discovery For fifty-seven years, the people of God in Judah were ruled by evil kings. Manasseh erected idols, worshiped false gods, and sacrificed his sons. His successor, Amon, was so bad that his own servants conspired against him. Enter Josiah. Made king at only 8 years of age, something was different about him. For some reason, he made a decision to walk with God. When he was 26 years old, he issued a command to repair the temple. “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 34:15) That one statement from the mouth of Hilkiah the priest changed a generation. The most important document to a people—the book of Deuteronomy—the story of the Exodus and the Law written hundreds of years earlier to remind an emerging generation on the brink of the Promised Land of who they were, whose they were, where they were going, why they were going there, and how they were to live once they got there—had been lost. How long it had been lost, why it had been lost, how it had been lost—all questions with no answers provided in the text. But when the Law was rediscovered, the king tore his clothes and called for the prophet Huldah to give counsel. The result: King Josiah gathered all the people and read aloud the Book of the Law. He made a covenant with God to follow him and him alone. And He reinstated the Passover. Today, we come to the end of our year (and a few days) Garden to City adventure through the Bible. Our prayer is that you have had a King Josiah experience. That you have rediscovered—or perhaps discovered for the first time—the Story of God. And most importantly, we pray that it has made a difference in your life. King Josiah understood who he was, the role he was called to, and the people entrusted to him only when he viewed those things against the backdrop of the Book of God. The same is true for us today. While Garden to City may have appeared to be primarily about getting us all through the Bible, the more important priority was that we get the Bible through us. When we started in Psalm 119, we realized that on 10 different occasions the writer declared that he delighted in the Law of the Lord. That means that reading Scripture was not simply a one-time project for him. Or a year-long goal to check off the list. It was a life-long immersion in the transformational words of God. As we conclude this adventure through the Bible, don’t stop reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the words of this Book. Find ways to continue to talk about, put it into practice, and wrestle with it. The Story began in the Garden and will end in the City. We live in the in-between. The now and not yet. And life in the in-between only makes sense when we view it against the backdrop of the Bible—the Story of God. 2011-03-09T09:00:16+00:00 Grace In The Gap In the beginning was… shalom. Everything was the way it was created to be.  It was good. The creation account shows God’s creation being satisfied and whole – in work, in community, and in God. Then it fell apart. We all know the story. We have brokenness where wholeness once was. All creation seems to know it. The apple left the taste of an appetite that cannot be satisfied. The state of the fall is an insatiable, unquenchable desire for more. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that God has put eternity in the hearts of men and that trying to satisfy that longing with a substitute is meaningless, in vain, and futile. It is like chasing the wind. The tragedy in the Fall is that people move from their delight and dependence in God to trying and failing to find that satisfaction in something else. It always backfires. CS Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” That’s the reason we did From Garden To City. To be introduced to this other world, to God’s story… to God. There’s a pattern: creation, fall, redemption, and recreation. But what about today? Creation: check. Fall: double check. Redemption… half check? A sometimes check? Fullness, the recreation has not yet come. Somewhere in the redemption process, we learn that faith comes with a level of risk. The risk is living like the gospel is true in a world that screams its falsehood. It’s having the guts to pray, “your kingdom come and your will be done in my generation, in my life, in my city on earth, as it is in Heaven”. It’s a risk to go through the process of redemption. It’s a risk to live out the commission given in a perfect setting to “fill the earth and subdue it” within the context of a fallen world. There are beautiful things like friendship and love that seem to hint at the fullness we long for, but there are also unanswered questions and things we don’t understand. We find ourselves squished in the tension between what Christ has accomplished and experiencing that victory in full fruition. In the gap between the garden in Genesis and the city in Revelation is God’s story of his grace. The crux is the person and work of Jesus Christ. We have glorious glimpses of how it ends and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit, but He is still writing his story. In Chronicles 20, the Israelites learn about God’s faithfulness in the gap. They learn to praise God when surrounded by barriers and battles (specifically the Ammonites). God says in 20:15-17: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s… You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed… the Lord will be with you.” In the tension, God reminds them something about himself that is still true today: He takes our struggles upon himself and we become free worshipers. That’s the point of his story. 2011-03-07T19:23:10+00:00 2 Hours & 15 Years 2 Chronicles takes us through the beginning of Solomon’s reign as king, answered prayer of receiving wisdom from the Lord, blessing of wealth, and the provision given for the construction of the temple.  In Chapter 5, Solomon, the elders and leaders, and all of Israel witnessed the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the Holy Temple – the fulfillment of a promise made long ago. Last night we held NCC’s third All Church Celebration at the historic Lincoln Theater on U Street. A time of praise, worship, vision casting, and fellowship; I strongly believe the novelty has not been lost on NCCers how special it is that a few times a year, we get to assemble as one body and worship God together in as beautiful a place as the Lincoln. Something that resonated with me from Pastor Mark’s message last night was his description of walking this prayer circle (square) around Capitol Hill in 1996. He said “The prayer walk took him 2 hours and God has been answering it for 15 years.” I believe that’s what Chapter 5 is – a long-awaited moment of the fulfillment of God’s promise. A sacred time where all of Israel could assemble, give thanks, and praise the Lord. Many times when I pray, my attention span and patience to wait for the answer to a prayer is a couple of weeks, a few months, at best when it has been job-related. However, it took Israel years to get to this point. Yet it did not deter from their thanksgiving, humility, and spiritual memory of the promise God made to their forefathers. In parallel, it has taken 15 years to get to this point of God’s miracles of property blowing us away left and right. It took hard work, moments where the leaders and the congregation really had to sweat it out, and an overwhelming feeling of insignificance of the task at hand. It took discipline to exercise patience and fruit of the Spirit in discerning the ins and outs of negotiating deals with various individuals. And it took faithfulness to get our feet wet and not fear looking foolish because the Lord would make a way. And now here we stand as Pastor Mark put it, like Joshua, pointing our spear towards opening a café in Berlin; launching a 6th location in DC; taking concrete steps towards a Dream Center; and praising God for giving us a city block and now Ebenezers free of financial debt. While it took 15 years to be at this point, this is not about property or finances. Perhaps it also took 15 years to understand and give glory to God for His miracles, His provision, His faithfulness, His goodness. In Verse 11-14 it says, And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,   “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud,(O) for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God. I love how last night we were able to come together regardless of our location and celebrate as one body, a microcosm of the greater body of Christ. I love how we brought our cymbals (drums), harps (electric/bass guitars), lyres (keys), and trumpeters (voices) to recognize and praise God for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do in this city through this church. There was one point where we were all bellowing to the “Whoa Oh Ohhhhh” and I legitimately could not believe how loud our roar was. In such a good way! I wish we would always praise God like that. And maybe we should. He has brought us to this moment where we know where our spear points and we know the miracles to praise God for but like Pastor Mark said, we shouldn’t rest in those miracles but prepare for God to do even more amazing things. Huzzah! Are you ready? ALL IN ya’ll. 2011-03-02T21:48:02+00:00 Chronicle: an account of history, story, historical record. Today I struggled with the reading and figuring out honestly what I was reading. There was a lot of naming of mighty men and meetings with leaders and calling of relatives to Israel, all very important. However I was still struggling. Ironically the definition of chronicle is an account of history, story and historical record. Most historical records don’t make you rethink life and its big questions…or do they? 1 Chronicle 12: 38-40 actually did make me dig a little deeper. The passage says that these men came ready to fight if necessary, united and determined where everyone was of the same mind. These verses actually made me think what am I ready to fight for? Today’s reading was a challenge for me and sometimes it’s hard to find the meaning let alone communicate that meaning to others. At times listening and mediating to music helps me. Listen then read on my friends! Hillsong - came to my rescue 2011-02-25T22:19:50+00:00 What’s in a name? Well, at first glance, it can seem that 5 chapters of countless names might be a pretty boring read. And if you’re not paying attention to the details, that might certainly ring true. But what I love about these genealogy chapters in 1 Chronicles, are the little stories that follow a few of these names. It’s cool enough to have your name in the Book of all books, and to go down in History as one who shaped the beginnings of mankind, but to have a cool story about you in the Bible takes the cake. However, not all stories are positive. Check out a few little blurbs from today’s reading, that will forever etch these characters in History! 1. “Cush fathered Nimrod. He was the first on earth to be a mighty man.” (BEAST!!) 2. “Now Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death” (ouch!) 3. “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” These chapters close out with talking about the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh who had valiant men, that conquered their enemies in war, because they cried out to the Lord for help. Then, you have the half-tribe of Manasseh break faith with God, and God uses a king of Assyria to take them into exile. So, my point is this - If YOU were to be written in God’s story, would it be a blurb about a man or woman who was faithful to the Lord, and God prospered you… or would it be a clip about someone who didn’t trust in the Lord and failed to keep the faith? Food for thought. 2011-02-23T14:58:09+00:00 Now Choose Life! I am going to cheat a little.  Today’s reading is technically Deuteronomy, chapters 31-34.  But I was so moved by a Scripture in Deuteronomy 30 that I have to focus there.  Going back a few weeks…I was reading “Soulprint” and Pastor Mark writes how our earliest memories are often some of our most defining.  He encourages an exercise to try to remember some of your very first memories.  As I was going to sleep that night, I tried to think of the earliest things I could remember.  Well, turns out, many of those memories were not pleasant!  I found myself pretty discouraged at the idea that these might have defined me.  I actually feel like God, in his redemption, has protected me from many early memories.  Still feeling a little bothered by the memories I had kicked up, I recently attended a women’s conference with Speaker Christine Caine.  Christine found out as an adult that she was actually adopted and had been left as an infant, unnamed and unwanted at a hospital.  She shared that we have a choice of whether to be a victim of our history, our family story, our past…OR to be redeemed by our Lord.  In passing, she mentioned this verse that grabbed my heart with such force that I felt like the Lord had intended it specifically for me.  Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” I heard the echo of the words: NOW CHOOSE LIFE!  Friends, we have a choice!  We can choose to be victims of where we come from or to be redeemed by our God and enter fully into the blessing He intends for us!  What a miracle, what a gift!  2011-02-22T18:38:12+00:00 I Do Declare Deuteronomy 25-27 are chapters full of declarations - strong declarations of laws and decrees for living in functional and just community and also ones for living in relationship with the Lord. Chapter 26 caught my eye in particular because in this passage, God gives specific instructions for how Israel is to place the basket of firstfruits before the Lord in the dwelling of His name (1-2). God also gives specific verbiage for how Israel is to present this basket of firstfruits (3-11). Each time the Israelites present this basket to the Lord and make this declaration, they reaffirm their spiritual heritage and also their destiny as children of God. Recently, I have become more interested in studying and understanding liturgy. Growing up in an evangelical-hybrid denomination, we did not practice traditional liturgy. However, when I began dating my husband, visits home would often place us at Catholic mass on Sunday morning. Unused to liturgy, I felt awkward and naïve responding; unsure what I was actually responding to and whether I could participate in the practice at all. Today, visits home continue to place us at Catholic mass on Sunday mornings. While it is not beholden to being Catholic, I am developing an ever-growing grasp of the greater body of Christ and their practice of liturgy. In so doing, developing an appreciation of it and its function in individual and corporate faith practice. The pastor declares an attribute of God or a portion of His story. In so doing we respond reaffirming who God is and submitting to His Lordship over our lives. In Deuteronomy 26:16-19, it says “The LORD your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to him. 18 And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. 19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.” Slowly, I am learning to declare. 2011-02-20T18:37:56+00:00 Promises, promises… Did you know that God promises the new land to the Israelites 69 times in Deuteronomy?  That’s a lot of promises.  In fact, it comes out to be a little over 2 per chapter.   What kinds of things do you promise?   “I promise to keep in touch. “I promise to be home by 7:00.” ”I promise I won’t tell anyone.” “I promise to keep this short.” I don’t know about you…but out of just those four promises….I am a pretty horrible promise keeper.   I am seriously the worst at keeping in touch. (Sorry friends and family!)  I am almost always home later than I expected.  (Sometimes a girl loses track of time while shopping for shoes!)  I probably will tell someone.  (Just being honest.)  But I do occasionally keep things short.  (Mostly because I hate talking on the phone.) Thinking about the way I make promises, all willy-nilly like, makes me so grateful for the faithfulness of God!   Deuteronomy 7:7 -9 reminds us of this.  It says, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”  But there is something else in there that is really cool!  Not only does Deuteronomy remind us that God is forever faithful but that he is merciful too.  You see, God chose the Israelites out of pure grace.  He didn’t select them because they were so impressive (7:7).  He didn’t select the Israelites based on how good they were (9:5).  And he certainly didn’t choose them due to their faithfulness (9:24).  But instead, God chose the Israelites because he loved them and because he had made an absolute promise to their ancestors.   Pretty amazing. What’s even more amazing is that God is faithful and merciful to me in the same way.  He didn’t choose me because of my impressiveness.  He didn’t choose me based on how good I am.  And he didn’t choose me because of my faithfulness.  Rather, he chose me because he loves me.  In fact, 1 John 4:9-10 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” One thing I can promise…my God is forever faithful and overwhelmingly merciful.  2011-02-16T14:18:52+00:00 No thanks to me Often times when I am given the opportunity to blog about Scripture, I’ll hunt and hunt within a passage until my eyes get crossed, for something that is so profound, that I’m positive whatever my spin on it is, will enlighten the way that humanity thinks about that certain passage, from the most sacred book of all time. Not this time. See, right from the beginning of this text, in Deut. 9, the very first 6 or 7 verses spoke to me and made it clear what I needed to write this morning about. Moses was telling the children of Israel “It’s not by YOUR righteousness” that God is giving this land to us. In no way, could the people think that because of their actions, and what THEY had done, was God giving the land of promise to them. However, it was because of the UN-righteousness of the people that were living in the land. That just sticks out to me, for some reason. One of the coolest verses throughout the Bible, in my opinion, is Proverbs 13:22, which says “the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.” There are many times where we look at what the ungodly in this world have, and it’s easy to think “Man, how are they so blessed?” That’s probably what the Israelites were thinking as they were looking upon the Canaanites and the sons of Anak. But righteousness will endure, and God has a bigger plan. There is nothing on this earth that He doesn’t possess. I’m reminded of the verse Psalm 24 “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” He has the final say over who possesses what. I think it’s important for us to realize that even though it may sometimes appear that the unrighteous prosper, God will have the last word. As we live to honor the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, He will remain faithful to us, and will bless His people - NOT because of our righteousness, but because of His holiness. 2011-02-16T12:58:31+00:00