Sermon December 31, 2013: Year of consolidation

Posted in Sermons
[Dr. Roberto Miranda]
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Date: December 31, 2013
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

I wanna share with you a Word from the Lord tonight, a Word which I hope will bring a point of reference in the sense of a, like a framework for what I see the Lord calling us to in this coming year.

I'd like us to turn to the Book of Genesis chapter 13 please verse 1 to 4 and this deals with a moment in the life of Abraham in the journey in which God was bringing him, verse 1 says: "So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, and with him his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. And from the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he first built an altar, and there Abram called on the Name of the Lord."

The Lord put this Word in my heart as I considered what to share as we look forward from this moment and as I was looking forward to what God was calling us to and also looking back over the last three and a half years since we first broke ground here in this spot, in faith trusting that the building could be constructed here the word consolidation came to my spirit. This word for consolidation has to do with the idea of taking a person, we talk about in evangelical circles, of when a person comes to Christ of them really being rooted in what they believe, of being solidified so that if their base is solid they are not going to be taken away easily by any influence.

But the idea of consolidation could also refer to the need to tighten up things that are bit loose once things have been put together. Think about another image: someone in the old days who is selling corn or flower or sugar or rice or something like that, you have it in a big container and you need to shake and shake until it settles down to the true measurement, the consolidated measurement of what it really is.

I'm a believer that when God calls to start something new we need to take a moment to solidify, to deepen, to affirm the ground in which we are standing before we move forward. And along with having a vision of constantly taking new ground and opening new vistas for the Work of God we need to solidify the ground that God has already given to us so that there is a solidity as we move forward.

Sometimes before we go forward we do need to go back and of course, in New Year our inclination is to speak in aggressive terms, militant terms of moving forward in that way and we all expect all this kind of optimistic visionary, aggressive proclamations to which we respond: hallelujah, amen; but those of you who know me know that at the same time along with being I believe in being sober-minded and speaking to the reality of what I believe God is doing at this time.

And that's why this particular passage in the life of Abraham really spoke to me about where we are at right now. We see at this point in the journey of Abraham that we don't even know how many years and how many miles he had already covered in this journey of faith to which God called him.

We meet Abraham in the previous chapter where God appears to him and calls him to leave everything and to follow Him and in that journey God would teach him how to trust and teach him things about faith but he didn't know exactly where he was going when he obeyed and left. Now God had made some certainly big promises to him but he didn't explain the details of exactly how Abraham would live and how it would all pin out as he obeyed and went.

We think about in our own journey as a Church when God called us to undertake this project of building, this structure and the different types of big promises God had made to us, we knew that God had called us, we knew in general what He wanted us to do but we also knew that we would meet a lot of unexpected adventures along the way. We had the conviction that God wanted us to extend our tent, extend our space for God to bring growth, that God wanted to bring a large and varied family of God that would congregate here in this space, but we know that when God calls us somewhere it's not just the destination that He has in mind that He cares about but is the process of how we get there, it's what happens and unfolds in us and through us as we go through the journey.

In fact I'd say that God is even more interested in the process, in what happens in our lives and how we are formed in fashion as we obey Him and follow what He has called us to do. What God really cares about is the process of forming us, of fashioning us to be more and more like Jesus. The end result is a done deal, He's made promises, He will fulfill those promises but it's along the way that we become the people that He has called us to be.

You've heard me talk again and again about how our God is a God of journeys, a God of travels, of long processes, physical ones, geographical ones but also spiritual ones in which He does something in us, interior journeys where He fashions us as we follow Him in the direction He wants us to go, and there is no better example of this in the Scripture than the journey of Abraham, a physical journey that is also a journey of faith and of formation as a man of God.

And I believe that is what has been going on in the life of this Congregation in the past few years and specifically in his life as your Pastor going through the process of being formed, fashioned into trusting Him in a new way. At first glance I believe God has wanted to infuse into this Congregation a sense of vision, that if we see the greatness of what God would do we don't let ourselves be intimidated by it, that we don't limit ourselves to what we see in the moment but that we live by faith and vision of what could become through the Power of God.

If we only live believing in what we see and have in the moment we'll never become fully what God has called us to be. What distinguishes a man or a woman of God in a Congregation of faith is that ability to see by faith what is beyond the horizon, what is it that God is preparing down the road.

God will always work in us according to those longings, that sense of dissatisfaction, those longings and yearnings that He has put in our heart. Very rarely will God visit and work for a person who is satisfied, who is complacent with what is already the status quo of their lives and just to clarify, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be grateful and contempt with what God has given us at the moment, I'm not talking about that kind of satisfaction and gratitude that God does call us to have in the moment.

What I'm talking about is that faith that calls us to be grateful about what God has already done, we have that same yearning and faith and optimism in what He will do, in what He desires to do in the future in our lives, the two can go together.

Some of you may know that God had already put in my heart a desire or a sense that we needed to build this structure in this spot before we had even completed work on that first temple that we have been meeting in up to now. Now I was grateful for what God had already done over there, that was a gift, we are grateful for that but I knew that as soon as we came to the point of filling up that sanctuary twice on a Sunday then it was time for us to grown within it, move into a larger space that could fulfill the new things God wanted us to do in this Congregation.

Looking into this and making investigations at least eight or nine years ago this wasn't a plan that occurred to us in the last minute. It was a good twelve or thirteen years ago I remember (laughs), it was a good twelve or thirteen years ago that God was putting in the Pastor that inclination to meet with our architect and construct the model and think about what God would build.

And we were not naive about all the advance thought and planning that it would require and in that sense I was right, it was complicated and challenging, we have had to overcome a plethora of giants in this process, I don't have the time to go down the whole list of all the giants that have been defeated in this process. I don't know if you have seen a particular movie, Alien right? where the monster gets killed and it keeps coming back in different forms and they gotta kill it again, yes I confess I have seen it; don't watch the movie but that's what it's like.

The bottom line is: we need to be that visionary Church, that Church that sees beyond the present moment, that sees beyond the horizon to what God would do next through us and God in the process has wanted to teach us another thing and that is patience. How many times have we thought we would already be here in this place?

I remember two years ago in this service talking about how beautiful it would be to celebrate the New Year in this structure which was of course last New Year right? we would have a public confession time but there may be people who started to have their doubts of wondering when we would be here. But God has taught us patience through the process, that the great visions of God will require of that long term patience and perseverance, comes with the territory.

And God has also wanted to teach us something that is not exactly the same as patience which is the idea of persistence. When I think of this type of persistence is the type of determination that in spite of discouragement, exhaustion or feeling like I can't go another step we are going to push through it until we complete what God has given us to do.

I think a man or woman can't be a true spiritual warrior that they need to be until they have learned this kind of persistance, this need to put one foot in front of another and keep pushing in faith that God is with you, and how can a Congregation acquire this quality, this nature of persistance that is so necessary for them to fulfill what God has called them to do?

The only way to acquire that quality is the exercises that force us to develop those spiritual muscles of faith and perseverance and patience: "I will stay with this because God has made a promise." And another element that needs to come forth in this process of fulfilling the visions God has given us is the generosity of God and this Congregation has had to learn generosity of giving in these three and a half years much more than that for many of you.

How many years in this process have we needed to come before you as a Congregation and invite you to be generous and to give financially to this construction? and the Pastor confesses that coming before the Congregation and talking about these financial matters is something I detest, something I abhor doing, that nothing in me wants to do it but having to do it has been a faithfulness to the Lord of pushing through those natural inclinations and saying: no, we are going to push further. And I have been humbled again and again by people in this Congregation who have given above and beyond not just once but twice, three times in this process way beyond their means of what they would have dreamed possible because of their commitment to the vision that God has given us here.

And I can say this firmly and in full confidence: God will not use any Congregation in this city or anywhere else that has not learned to be generous with the purposes of the Kingdom of God and this is a principle that works in the individual level as well. In individual you as a man or woman of God cannot be used by God if you are overly cautious and conservative with your time and resources when it comes to the purposes of the Kingdom of God, it's impossible. You as an individual must also learn to give courageously, daringly, imprudently if you want to be a vessel in the Hands of God.

The purposes of God cannot be fulfilled in this Congregation unless we have come to be people who have yielded our limits of what we will give and trust God with in how He will use us to fulfill His purposes, and I wanna encourage you my brother and sister in this year to broaden your capacity, to trust God that as you give to Him above and beyond that He will fulfill His purposes in and through you.

Dare to open the kinds of channels and portals through which as you give generously it opens up space through which God can pour blessing through you for the purposes of the Kingdom and also in your own life as well. How many people here have lived this first-hand that as you are generous with the purposes of God He takes care of what you need.

So these things and so many others are the things God has worked in us as a Congregation through this long journey the way Abraham was formed in his walk of faith. Time and time again when I come to the point of: ok God is that good enough, haven't we gone far enough? God pushes me beyond my resources and my abilities even to the point of humbling me, of removing my false sense of dignity so that I learn again and again to depend on Him alone.

You have heard me refer to the eight chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses reflects on what God was doing with the people of Israel through their desert journey. It says in verse 2: "You will remember how the Lord, your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands."

And you see how God was using a physical journey to do something in their spiritual personality, their own formation and inner journey as well, because God is interested in the formation of the man or woman or as a Congregation, that's the purpose of the journey.

In the Word says: "He humbled you causing you to hunger and then feeding you with mana which neither you nor your fathers had known to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." And this intense exercise is comparable to the training that a owner might give to a loved animal causing it to hunger to learn to depend of the owner feeding it so that a bond would be formed, a bond of trust knowing that: this is the one who will take care of me, and so it's a process, a process of bonding and attachment that is necessary however difficult it may be.

Very often these processes of testings and trials of long ways we have to go through sometimes in life, they have a purpose because it's God. Even after a long desert we learn where our help comes from, we learn who's the one we can depend on, that's the person that God can then use.

In verse 4 it says: "Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years." God's miraculous provision for that was miraculous but simple, the food He gave them was miraculous bread in the desert but it wasn't tasty, luxurious food; the clothing they had on, it wasn't royal clothing but it didn't wear out for forty years so, it was simple but it was sustaining and miraculous nonetheless.

So also about the provision for us in this process and I say this with all gratitude to the Lord, He is taking good care of us but there has not been a magic solution coming out of nowhere, millionaires have not appeared and written checks for millions of dollars to get us out of a fix, the provision has not been spectacular but it has been sufficient and it has been miraculous nonetheless.

Now: the vast majority of people here can have no appreciation for the miracle that it is that we are in this place for the small amount of money that has been spent for this, it's a miracle, it's a miracle. Just in savings the way this building has been built it's as if God had dropped five million dollars out of Heaven, they are the savings that have happened.

The original agreement with the bank only foresaw as doing these two floors, the fourth floor wasn't even in the realm of possibilities when we initially made the arrangement with the bank for the building. The money that was acquired through the bank and through other source of raising was only taking into account this sanctuary and not all the other things that happened on the fourth floor and other places, but I felt very early onto the process that God gave me instructions that: No, we will work on that fourth floor now, not some day in the future, jump right in now and just do it all trusting that God will provide.

I didn't tell them the fact that God had given me instructions, I didn't want them to freak out, they know now of course how it's all pinned out. I knew that God was able to make it happen so that that fourth floor could be finished as well, for the glory of the Lord it has happened, that fourth floor is done.

So God hasn't provided through magic, spectacular solutions of million dollar checks, the solutions have come through using wisdom and dealing with human resources through the humble generosity of it's people, things that are not spectacular but are miraculous, absolutely miraculous provision from God. And we can't skip verse 5 that is also part of this training process, this says: "Know in your heart that as a man disciplines his son so the Lord, your God disciplines you."

We need to always remember that the God we serve is an extremely awesome holy God and we need to walk carefully realizing that in the ways we offend Him inevitably in our lives there is discipline, there is training that comes and this is part of God's good process of a Father with His son, of His discipline in our lives.

Now we see here God speaking to the people of Israel who had rebelled in many ways and would continue to do so and God would need to punish them sometimes in spectacular ways later on in the Scriptures. We have to really also ask ourselves and I have to ask myself as the main leader of this project and you also, each of us as a Congregation we have to ask ourselves: Lord whatever way we may have offended You by act or commission or anything we may have done somehow in our hearts to offend You and to grieve Your Spirit in this process of construction, we ask Your forgiveness and we acknowledge Your Holiness and we come humbly before You and ask You to cleanse us as we finish this journey.

It's important for all of us as a Church and for us as individuals and us as Pastors to take personal inventories, to have healthy introspection and as this process and I think back over the past three years thinking: what could I have done differently? in what ways have I failed and not done things the way God wanted? and come before God and humble myself before Him and I trust that God reveal anything I need to see.

I was thinking that for a moment when we were worshipping and I looked back at the Congregation, you know: God wants and only for His Glory to make of this Congregation a sign and a witness in this city and He wants us to be an example, He wants us to be a source of inspiration and a model for His Glory, not for our glory because that is part of being a model knowing that it is not because of anything that we deserve but is for His Glory, but you know: one of the things He wants us to be as difficult as it is, is to make every effort to be a holy onto God.

He wants us to in this time of American history, in which we are abandoning and throwing by the wayside so many principles of the Scripture and we are modernizing the Gospel on unwarranted, illegitimate sorts of ways and everyone of us is tempted to do the same He wants us to stick to the Truth of His revelation. And that means that we will be very weird people, we'll be very rare in this city if we want to do that but people will be intrigued when they see us holding on, holding fast to the Truth of Scripture in a very humble and assuming sort of way, for serving God and making every effort to do so.

You know God wants us as a people in a way that we walk before Him, the way that we dress, yes: the way that we dress is important both men and women, the way we have fun and enjoy ourselves, the way we talk, the way we relate to each other; the way we relate to our families, in our marriages, with our children, that we hold fast to the principles of the Scripture.

And this Congregation, God is hitting us, He is breaking us, He is crushing us to hold on to that holiness, to be a separated people, different and intriguing because we are very different from the world around us and even the Church around us, much of the Church around us and I say that God knows with great fear and trembling and with a great sense of humility and also with a sense of: Lord, have mercy on us because we are not what You need us to be, we are not what You want us to be and what You need us to be but it is important that God punishes or disciplines us, very important as well.

Maybe next Sunday I'll continue you know with these thoughts. We see that Abraham even after his failures offending God, sinning even then God showed grace on him and brought some great welfare even with safety. In this Congregation God has had mercy on us and at this stage after this years we are more blessed, we are a different Congregation than we were three and a half years ago.

We see that Abraham after all of his journeys around Canaan and going down to each of the failures, making mistakes he then comes back and travels back to the same spot where he started and worshipped God at first and builds an altar there. "He came back to the place where his tent had been earlier between Bethel and Ai, where he first built an altar." And right there at that spot Abraham called on the Name of the Lord again.

Then at this point I believe we are at a similar place of consolidation, at coming back around to old altars we built in the past, of revisiting certain principles of who we are and resetting ourselves for the conquest He's prepared for us as a Congregation.

And there are things, practical things in past years that we haven't fully developed. I'm gonna confess that this journey has exhausted me the Pastor is saying, emotionally, spiritually and physically and the Congregation is tired in certain other ways too due to the journey. It's time for us to find our way back to the altars of who we are before God because the things God has for us moving forward are great, the promise is made affirming heaven but it's time to reaffirm who we are.

And this Sunday I encourage you to come with your hearts open, this Sunday at night and be here as we talk about some of those elements, those old altars that we need to revisit and consolidate our redemption. Midnight is coming we gotta get rolling here. We are gonna be a warrior people ready for all, amen.

Let's take our hands and let's just wait upon the Lord for a moment here, I have great expectations about what the Lord wants to do with us and through us in the next months and the next years, let's just ask the Holy Spirit to visit us. Take a moment and think about your family wherever they are whether it's in Africa or Latin America or the Caribbean or Europe or Asia, wherever you come from, tonight think about your places of origin and your families here in America evidently as well and let us pray, let us pray for our Church, let us pray for the city of Boston, let us raise a clamor as we wait for this coming year; let us pray that the Lord will make of this Congregation something powerful for His Glory.

We remember Lord our brothers and sisters, our mother, father, we remember our loved ones wherever they might be and we bless them. Our countries of origin Lord, this city of Boston Father we declare the Glory of God coming upon this city and this Congregation Father being used by You mightily for the advancement of Your Kingdom. Visit us Lord, if You do not go with us do not take us away from anonymity Father.

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