May 2020

Occupy The Land

Dave Rodriguez

May 17, 2020

For 40 years they wandered through the Saudi Arabian peninsula, hundreds of thousands of them, making camp breaking camp, making camp breaking camp, fighting mini-wars, scrabbling for food and water. Until finally, mercifully, the people of God found themselves on the east bank of the Jordan River looking west into the Promised Land.
And here we find Moses who has led them all the way out of Egypt right to the doorway of their new homeland. A homeland he would never set foot in.

  • For reasons I don't fully understand even though they are clearly laid out in the scriptures, Moses would go no further with his people.

And so we have the book of Deuteronomy. A collection of Moses' last words... sermons, prophecies, reminders, warnings that would launch God's people into their Next Chapter.
From this book I am going to pull just 9 words. 3 today. 2 next week and 4 on my final message with you as Senior Pastor.
Before I go further...

  • Let's be honest ... It is absurd for me to somehow equate myself with the legend of Moses.

  • I am not disappearing up a mountain to die. I'll be back later this year to rejoin you at Grace as a civilian and dedicated volunteer.

  • But these 9 words and the thoughts behind them will help me summarize what I want to leave with you.

  • Not one thing I am going to say is new, novel or awe inspiring. You've heard it all before. It's just the core of what I've been trying to say for 29 years.

  • And I believe they represent the heart and soul of this great church.

So let us begin the Next Chapter of Grace Church in Deuteronomy 1
While you're looking that up... Deuteronomy: means "2nd law" Greek word

  • It is a collection of speeches by Moses:

    • A review of the story - how they got here.

    • sermons calling for faithfulness

    • Another collection of laws

    • And a final speech before he leaves them in the hands of Joshua.

It's right at the beginning of the book that Moses gives them their literal marching orders ...
Deuteronomy 1:1,6-8 These are the words that Moses spoke to all the people of Israel while they were in the wilderness east of the Jordan River.
6 "When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, "You have stayed at this mountain long enough. 7 It is time to break camp and move on. Go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the neighboring regions-the Jordan Valley, the hill country, the western foothills, the Negev, and the coastal plain. Go to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, and all the way to the great Euphrates River. 8 Look, I am giving all this land to you! Go in and occupy it, for it is the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all their descendants.'"
I'd like to summarize Moses' first challenge with these 3 words . Take the land!

  • Occupy = possess and inherit

He wanted them to establish a homeland, a place, a space, that was the beginning of a Return to Eden. A space rid of false gods and brokenness. A place of justice. A domain of God's presence and a beachhead for an invasion of God's rule into the rest of the world.
Take the land! This was a very big deal.
This idea of the people of God expanding the influence and representation of God into the world is a part of the storyline of the entire Bible.
Genesis 1:28 "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.
Genesis 12:2-3 I will make you into a great nation. All the families on earth will be blessed through you."
Isaiah 49:6 "You will do more than restore the people of Israel... you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
Take the Land!
But this idea of taking the land in the name of God is heard most clearly in the words of Jesus...
Matthew 28:19 you go make disciples of all the nations.
Acts 1:8 You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Jesus was saying Take the land!
OK... but what does that mean? How? What do we do? Say? What sort of invasion is this?

  • Note: what I am about to share with you is the most important concept I've ever taught in my 42 years of ministry.

  • When I introduced this in 2000 it fundamentally reshaped this church, and my life and it is the key to your own personal future. (which I will address next week)

So, how are we to take the land? What are we supposed to do to the "uttermost parts of this planet?"
Again... the words of Jesus...
Matthew 10:7 Go and announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is near!
Jesus implied the same in the most important prayer of all time:
Matthew 6:9-10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Go. Take the land. Inaugurate the Kingdom of God and invite the world to Return to Eden with us.
And Jesus wasn't messing around. He gave us great power and authority to make this happen:
Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
There is something inspiring about this but admittedly it is still a bit fuzzy... what is this Kingdom of God that we are to announce and inaugurate as we take the land?

  • As I grew up and even into my biblical studies I thought the KoG =

    • Some future reality when Jesus would come...

    • Other times I thought it was just synonymous with heaven

    • Still other times I thought it was a metaphor for spirituality

Then I came across Dallas Willard's book the Divine Conspiracy where I learned:
The Kingdom of God is his program for human history. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
His kingdom is not something confined to the inner world of human consciousness. It always pervades and governs the whole of the physical universe. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
The Kingdom of God is a social world full of peace grounded in justice. Daryl Guder, The Missional Church
The Kingdom of God will overthrow the status quo in nearly every way. Brian McLaren The Secret Message of Jesus
To take the land means to change everything in the name of Jesus.
To take the land means to launch a revolution.
To take the land means to bring all things under the rule of God.
And it begins as we, in Jesus name, heal this broken world. In 6 distinct ways.

  • History of the 6 broken places (a few weeks ago Tim told the story)

  • What I love about it...

    • Makes very clear what we are to do

    • Allows people to see where they fit and what they can do (more next week)

  • What I find fascinating is that each of the 6 have some connection with the pandemic. They point to just how horribly broken is our world right now.

    • We need to take the land with self-giving love!

Let's review briefly each broken place:

  1. Separation - human beings separated from the God of the universe

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Romans 3:23

  • This is the core broken place

  • Vast majority of Americans are not surrendered to Jesus...

    • 10% are other religions

    • 80% culturally Christian

    • 10% followers of Jesus

  • If we are to take the land we must engage with others and insist they follow Jesus with us!

  • Who is your "1"?

  • Take the land. And heal it.

  1. Isolation - (Tim's message) loneliness. Without community or family

God places the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

  • Early church drew people into community and love - and so must we.

    • Seniors, orphans, kids in foster care, your neighbor, your family...

  • Take the land. And heal it.

  1. Pain - physical, mental, emotional

Go and announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Matthew 10:7-8

  • Bring healing to physical pain Healthcare began with Christ followers bringing care to people in the plagues of early centuries.

  • Bring healing to mental pain ! State of young men and women today = institutionalized young adults of 1950s

  • And don't forget deliverance!

  1. Hatred - the radical elimination of racism

  • Not just racial but socio-economic

I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9

  • Racism and COVID19 - Asians, people of color not wanting to wear masks, disproportionate toll of the virus on people of color

  • Why we translate into Spanish and Arabic - why we sing in Spanish

  • Once when I told racists to "get out"

  • Take the land. And heal it.

  1. Decay - restore the physical creation to its original glory

God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! Genesis 1:31

  • Global warming is an even greater disaster than the pandemic

  • Pollution, loss of trees, species extinction,

  • Decay of the planet has a disproportionate impact on the poor

  • Take the land. And heal it.

  1. Injustice - taking on the huge swatches of poverty and inequity

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24

  • Poverty, abortion, human trafficking, homelessness, domestic violence, misogyny

  • Take the land. And heal it.

There was a moment in our history... early on... where this church rose to the occasion and decided to take the land... the CoMission.

  • 100 people

  • Tim and Mary Byers, Kevin and Suzy Roth... .

I believe that spirit is still in us. So...
Who of you will go... and lead people to Christ, and welcome a lonely person into your life, or come along side someone in pain, or take a stand against racism, or work to heal this physical creation, or give your life to fighting injustice?
Stand where you are!
And when we return in 6 months Penny and I will work side by side with you bringing healing to the 6 broken places of our world... we will take the land with you in Jesus name!