*40 Days of Community*
*Setting the Table for a God Visit:*
*How to Get the Most Out of 40 Days of Community*
Transcript of Message by Lance Witt
September 25-26, 2004
We are so glad you are here this morning.
I want to say welcome to all of you who are worshipping in the venues around our campus this morning, and we are really glad you are here.
Over the last several months we have been getting ready for a special event around here called /40 Days of Community/ which launches next weekend.
Now if you are new to Saddleback or you are a first-time guest with us you going to get a good opportunity to sort of take an inside look of what we are going to be focusing on over the next couple months, and we would love to invite you to be a part of that.
As we begin I would like to engage your imagination.
I want you to imagine this morning that the queen of England is coming to California.
And that the queen in an attempt to try to really get a feel for American life has decided to have dinner with the typical American family, and you get the call.
The queen is coming to your house.
Now you wouldn't think of having the queen of England in your home without cleaning it from top to bottom without getting the kids bathed and prepared, probably buy new clothes getting your husband a suit instead of that old Hawaiian shirt.
You pull out the recipes that are your family favorites you spend all day in the kitchen preparing a meal that would be fit for a queen.
And then you set the table.
You pull out the fine china, the best crystal, and you gather the family.
Isn't that how your table looks every night?
Certainly is how it is at my house.
The family is gathered, and you wait for the guest of honor.
Well, in a way our church staff has been preparing over the last several months for a sort of spiritual meal.
They have been setting the table, so to speak, for a special occasion.
Every one of you has been invited to participate in this special occasion called /40 Days of Community/.
I am sure we are going to enjoy what's been prepared.
It's going to be fun doing it together.
But I also want to make sure that we are prepared for the guest of honor.
Because even more important than us meeting together and enjoying one another over the next few months I want to make sure that we also have a time that we meet with God.
We have been setting the table for a God visit.
To set the framework for our discussion this morning, I want to take you back to a story in the Old Testament that happened exactly 3,450 years ago.
It is a spectacular God-encounter that I find really intriguing.
I want us to try to understand what happened in that story.
As you know from the book of Exodus, it is the story of the people of Israel leaving the tyranny and bondage of Egypt and making their way to the promise land.
And God through Moses delivers the nation of Israel from the Pharaoh they cross the Red Sea and they are confidently marching toward the promise land.
They number a little over 2 million people by now and they have been on the road for 60 days in Exodus 19 opens with the nation of Israel 2 million people standing at the foot of this imposing mountain called Mount Sinai.
And the Bible says that Moses climbed the mountain in order to appear before God.
This begins one of the most intriguing God encounters found anywhere in the Bible.
From this story I want to draw out some principals and applications that you and I can use to think about how we can spiritually get ready for what's going to happen during /40 Days of Community/.
So let's jump in.
Here's number one:
Look back and remember God's faithfulness *
As we think about where we are headed in the next 40 days I would encourage you the starting place just to stop for a moment and remember what God has already done.
In fact the Lord says in verse 4 of Exodus 19 God says to Moses, /“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians you know how I brought you to myself and carried you on eagle's wings.”/
When a young eagle learns to fly the mother eagle often flies just underneath the baby eagle with her wings spread out to support and catch if needed.
What a great picture of God's faithfulness.
Always ready to be there in a time of need to support us when we are in trouble.
When Jeremiah talks about God in Lamentations 3 verse 23 he says, “/They are new every morning.”/
and he says, /“Great is your faithfulness.”/
God is faithful.
He is reliable.
He is trust worthy.
His word can be depended upon.
We see his faithfulness in the universe for every morning when you wake up and the sun rises in the east and the evening sets in the west it is evidence of God's faithfulness.
Every 24 hours when the earth revolves around its axis and tilted at a 23 degree angle and it creates the right atmosphere and conditions so you can live on this planet it is evidence of God's faithfulness.
And when each day the sun hangs in the sky for another day and you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin it is further proof God is faithful to keep the universe running.
Colossians 1:17 says this, /“He existed before everything else began and he holds all creation together”.
/ Jesus is the glue of the universe and were it not for his faithfulness the world in which we live would come unraveled at the seams.
God is not only faithful and running and controlling the universe, but I think about his faithfulness to our church and how over 25 years ago when Pastor Rick and Kay moved to Southern California and began a church in their home and to look back over the 25 years and see the faithfulness of God.
And the thousands of people's lives who have been changed as they have met Christ here, as they learn about their purpose in life and now to see a church that's not only as filled on the weekend but a church whose influence reaches to the corners of the earth.
You and I are a part of something pretty special and God has been faithful to this church down through the years.
But when I think about God's faithfulness it becomes really personal for me very quickly.
I think back to the time when I was just a 12-year-old kid and took God at his word John 1:12 says, “If we believe in him he will invite us to be adopted into his family that we can become his children.”
As a 12-year-old kid I took him at his word that God was faithful and he saved me and put his Holy Spirit in me and gave me purpose and joy and peace and contentment in life and fulfillment beyond anything I could ever have imaged.
I have walked with the Lord now for 34 years as I reflect over that journey it wasn't always been easy I haven't been able to always understand what God was up to but I have always seen him be faithful, faithful to meet the needs of our family, faithful in my journey with him.
I want to ask you to do something right now.
Take your outline, and I want you to write in the margin one area where you have seen God be faithful.
Maybe take just a moment right now to celebrate God's faithfulness in your own life.
Listen to these words from Deuteronomy 7 verse 9, “So know that the Lord your God the faithful God he will keep his agreement for love for a thousand lifetimes for people who love him and obey his commands.”
I hope when you look back over your life journey that you see God's faithfulness and that your heart fills with gratitude.
As we think about what God has in store for us in the next 40 days, I want us to remember how faithful he has been in the past and the same God who is faithful in the past will be faithful in the future.
Here is the second thing I want to encourage you to do:
Look ahead and celebrate your future*
Again the Lord says in Exodus 19, “/If you obey me and keep my covenant you will be my own special treasure among all the nations of the earth, for all the earth belongs to me and you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation.”
/ Now again remember who God says this to.
This was a vagabond group of nomads.
Sixty days ago they were slaves.
They were nobodies.
They were poor, they had no influence and no political clout and now two million strong God looks at them and says, “You are my special treasure.”
Here's a truth I want you to learn about them and about us that is you will be a cherished possession.
The truth about that is that some of us who are in the room today really just have a hard time believing that God thinks about us in that way.
You might look around and say to some people I can understand why God would feel that way if them.
I mean they are gifted, they are talented, they are put together.
I mean they even look like a special treasure.
God certainly couldn't feel that way about me.
If he really knows what's in my past and what's in my world there's no way he could feel that way about me.
My friend, the truth is he does.
You are valuable to him.
You matter to him just as anybody else in the room and he's just as crazy about you as he is about anybody else.
This makes me think about one of my favorite stories that was in the newspaper of a women in San Diego a few years ago who walking through her day noticed all of a sudden she was not any longer wearing her diamond wedding ring.
She thought she probably left if in the bathroom in the morning when she was getting dressed she would often take off her ring when she was putting on her makeup getting ready for the day.
She went to the bathroom, but no wedding ring.
She mentally began to retrace her steps and remembered the night before while she was doing work in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner that she had taken her ring off and set it up on the counter.
She walked into the kitchen, but no ring.
She began to try to figure out what could have possibly happened.
The only thing she could surmise is that when cleaning up the kitchen somehow she had wiped the ring off of the counter into the garbage can, which was laying at the edge of the counter.
She went to the garbage can there was absolutely nothing in the pail.
She called her husband and said did you take out the trash today?
Yes this is the day the trash men come.
I already pushed the bin out to the sidewalk you might see if they are still there.