Renewal & Reality: Being a Part of God’s Great Story
The need for corporate renewal is a constant theme among most of the Biblical writers. The very fact that the challenge occurs again and again should warn us against two of our most common mistakes when we think about corporate renewal.
One mistake is that we tend to think that real renewal would be a once-and-for-all event, with everything thereafter being wonderful and right. The other mistake is we let our disappointment that it is not that way cause us to become either depressed or cynical with regard to the genuineness of corporate renewal.
Both our own experiences and the realism of the Biblical reports on their experiences give a quite different picture concerning renewal. Until the final renewal of all things, all other renewals will be filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, as well as circles and spirals. This does not mean that God didn’t really act, nor does it mean that corporately there wasn’t any genuine renewal of spirit and growth. It does mean that reality in this blessed and broken world is rarely a straight line for even the best communities.
Here is a summary of the events that took place during less than 12 months in one of the greatest corporate renewals—and greatest acts of God—in all of human history:
1. The Great Liberation of the Israelis from enslavement by the magnificent ancient empire of Egypt (Exodus 12-15)
2. Great rejoicing – the renewal of a people who looked lost for good (Exodus 15)
3. Great fear because hundreds of thousands of people are without enough food or water (Exodus 16)
4. The strong tribal group called Amalekites see this as a great opportunity to plunder and re-enslave this disorganized group of Israelis. (Exodus 16)
5. God gives a great victory over the Amalekites in response to Israeli courage and prayer. (Exodus 16)
6. Then follows the great gift of Torah at Sinai—God’s covenant making with these liberated slaves as the fulfillment and renewal of the covenant with Abraham. What a renewal! (Exodus 19-30)
9. Moses stays much too long. They people become fearful without their leader, and they decide that Yahweh needs to be represented by the form of the golden calf god that they were familiar with back in Egypt. (Exodus 30-32)
8. Yahweh tells Moses he will destroy them and start over in his promise to Abraham with Moses’ descendants. (Exodus 32)
9. Moses intercedes for God not to destroy Israel and start over—Yahweh relents (Exodus 32-33)
10. God and the people celebrate a great renewal of the covenant that had been so quickly broken (Exodus 34)
11. Then this covenant renewal leads to a huge heart felt outpouring of offerings of jewels, gold, cloth, building skills, architectural skills, and weaving skills as well as administrative gifts. The offerings are so large the leaders have to say, “Enough, we have more than enough!!” Talk about renewal! (Exodus 35-36)
12. But, only a few weeks/months later, the large majority of the people refuse to go up and receive the promised land, due to their fears (Numbers 11-12).
13, Yet—God says he will use this time of 40 years to prepare a people ready and tough enough to go receive the promise.
14. Throughout it all, God keeps moving toward blessing the world through the daughters and sons of Abraham.
15. In the community of God’s people, who are both blessed and broken, the sequence summarized above is what renewal tends to look like in the real world. Don’t let that be discouraging—it means God can fill people like you and me, fellowships like New Covenant, with his spirit of renewal right now. Let’s ask for it. Let’s be a part of the great renewals in God’s Great Story.
Grace and peace,