Covenant Members Survey

This is the survey that was passed out at our Covenant Members Meeting on June 10th. If you were unable to attend or have yet to turn in your survey, we would appreciate your feedback.

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Blessed are the Meek

April 29
Blessed are the Meek
Matthew 6:24-33

The fear that pervades us all is that the earth is being passed out, carved up, divided and everybody is getting their piece but me. The talented, the good looking, the well educated. But Jesus says in my kingdom its just the opposite. Blessed are the meek - the quiet; the gentle; those who are easily imposed upon; the submissive - they’re the ones who’ll inherit the earth!

Click here for this week's Sermon Discussion Guide.

Blessed are those who Mourn

April 22
Blessed are Those who Mourn
Luke 19:37-42

Click here for this week's Sermon Discussion Guide.

Jesus announces that people of the kingdom are people who mourn. But what does that mean?

In John’s gospel, Jesus weeps at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. In Luke he weeps over the city of Jerusalem. And in the sermon on the mount he declares, “Blessed are those who mourn.” These were not a few moments of weakness. This was an essential part of Jesus’ message. Mourning and grief are at the core of the gospel. 

Now of course, the good news is not that it is good to be poor, brokenhearted, or to mourn and grieve. The good news is that even in the midst of your spiritual poverty, broken-heartedness and mourning heaven is coming to you! This is a powerful declaration of a brand new reality. A gracious invitation to all who mourn.

Blessed are those who thought they had missed out. 
Blessed are those who thought they did not measure up.
Blessed are those who thought they had no hope to be blessed.
Because now, through Jesus Christ, the life of heaven has arrived.

But not only that, mourning will be one of the core characteristics of those who have inherited God's kingdom. Once you've caught a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven (peace, justice, reconciliation) and the way it contrasts from the kingdoms of this world (war, famine, racism, violence) you begin to mourn.

In the face of our own sin and the sin of the world we grieve. But we are not mourning for something we do not have. We are mourning for something we do have, but not yet in full. 

“The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence… The mourners are aching visionaries.” - Nicholas Wolterstorff

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

April 15
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Matthew 4:23-5:3

This weekend we began a new series on the beatitudes, Jesus' introduction to his most indelible sermon. Nowhere does Jesus talk more clearly about what it looks like to follow him than in the Sermon on the Mount. It's a provocative and counter-intuitive announcement about what happens when God shows up: The poor, the meek, and those who mourn are called blessed.

The Beatitudes are not rules that need to be obeyed in order to be rewarded or things to avoid if you want to make it to heaven. They are an announcement about a new reality, the life of heaven, bursting forth into the world.

Blessed means not just happy, it means God is on your side. Every other religion asks the question, “what good thing must I do to be blessed?” But Jesus Christ is announcing, “blessed are those who there is no reason why they should be blessed!” The favor of God is now pouring down on all the people who do not deserve the favor of God.

Click here for this week's Sermon Discussion Guide.

Habits of Surrender

“Christian spiritual formation is about learning in advance the language of God’s new world.” - NT Wright

Spiritual formation is about developing, in the present age, the character which anticipates the life of the age to come. This often involves doing what does not come naturally. Certain behaviors must be “put to death” in order to make way for our new “habits of life.”

Spiritual transformation does not occur by accident or without intention and effort.

This is what the apostle Paul means when he encourages Timothy to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:8) and what Peter means when he instructs us to “grow in grace” (1 Peter 3:18). If you want to learn a new language or play a musical instrument or run a business you must practice. Spiritual formation requires this same intentionality and practice. Spiritual disciplines such as solitude and silence, fasting and prayer, or study and service are the means to living out God’s vision for our lives.

Spiritual disciplines are all training us to do one thing; surrender.

Our willpower is easily fatigued. We can use our will to override old habits for a time, but habits will always beat our willpower in the long run.This is the brilliance of twelve step programs like AA. None of the steps say, “Try really, really hard not to drink.” Instead of mobilizing the will its followers learn to surrender their will. If you try to overcome addiction by willpower alone it will beat you. But if you surrender your will to a higher power then sobriety becomes possible.

Spiritual disciplines are about replacing my self-centered habits with habits of surrender.

  • Solitude is about surrendering my need for attention
  • Prayer is about surrendering my will for His will to be done
  • Generosity is about surrendering my need for money or security
  • Simplicity is about surrendering my need for the latest gadget or device
  • Fasting is about surrendering my need for food

These habits train us to be people who are able to surrender to God.

“I submit my tongue as an instrument of righteousness when I make it bless them that curse me and pray for them who persecute me, even though it “automatically” tends to strike and wound those who have wounded me. I submit my legs to God as instruments of righteousness when I engage them in physical labor as service, perhaps carrying a burden the “second mile” for someone whom I would rather let my legs kick. I submit my body to righteousness when I do my good deeds without letting them be known, though my whole frame cries out to strut and crow. And when I do, I offer up my body as the place of God’s action.” - Dallas Willard

The only way to glory is through humility.
The only way to freedom is through submission.
The only way to victory is through surrender.

The Battle for Hope

1 Peter 5:5-8
And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

In his final address in this letter, Peter tells us three important things to avoid: pride (v.6), anxiety (v.7) and the devil (v.8). Is it possible that Peter is changing subjects every sentence? No. In fact, Peter doing exactly what Paul does in Ephesians 4 when he says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t let the devil have that kind of foothold.”

In other words, there is a battle for our hope. There is an enemy. A personal, supernatural force for evil called the devil. 

In his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis argues there are two equal and opposite mistakes people fall into when it comes to the devil: over-belief or under-belief.

It’s either an unhealthy, superstitious fear where people see the Devil behind everything. Or else they just laugh the idea of a devil off as part of a premodern, unscientific, ignorant view of the world. We’re either deathly afraid of the devil, or laugh him off as fiction.

But you never see the Bible really dealing with the devil in that way. Scripture teaches that the devil is not the primary thing you need to be concerned with, however the devil is wrapped up in almost everything wrong with you and the world.

The Bible says the devil has a foothold in our lives through sin. Satan and your sin are bound up together. Therefore, the way to deal with the devil is to deal with your sin. 

There is always more to your sin and your problems than meets the eye. Paul says, “We battle not only with flesh and blood but with powers and principalities” (Eph 6). There is always a demonological dimension to our problems. However, the primary way you deal with the devil is not through exorcisms, prayer rituals or formulas, but by getting rid of his footholds. 

Scripture says, deal with your pride, anxiety and resentment and that’s how you resist the devil.

Peter says in order to hold onto your hope and resist the forces of darkness in your life you must clothe yourself with humility (v.5) and cast all your cares onto God (v.7). In other words pride and anxiety make us vulnerable to the enemy. 

First of all, pride. Peter says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (v.5). Peter is defining pride as resistance to the grace of God. Pride, by its nature, is anti-grace. Pride thinks it is above the grace of God and therefore grace can not flow to the proud because pride blocks it.

The antidote is to clothe yourself with humility. Clothing yourself means you actively put it on. You don’t just wait around and say, “Man, I just hope I’ll be a good enough Christian that I’ll become humble someday.” You regularly remind yourself of the grace of Christ and act in accordance with it. 

A truly humble person is so satisfied with the grace of Christ and their identity in Christ that they are not thinking about themselves. They are not always so wrapped up in their own worries or their own problems and therefore they are free to think of others. To love others and serve others. Not looking for anything in return.

Clothe yourself with humility. It’s a daily discipline.

Secondly Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (v.7). Anxiety is a refusal to see how much God loves and cares for you. Worry always stems from an overconfidence in your own opinion. You think you know how things in your life should be going. Therefore it is impossible for you to trust God when things aren’t turning out the way you think they should. 

That’s the reason why, the antidote to anxiety, is also humility. You learn to say, “God, I don’t know why this is happening, but I know you care for me and I know you are working all things together for good.” You learn to humble yourself under his mighty hand.

Hope is a battle and there is an adversary prowling around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him; resist fear and pride and resentment; resist his footholds; and he will flee from you. (James 4:7).