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August 1, 2006

For many, September is a time of beginnings.  Summer has past and ahead lies a new school year, a new year of service with the church, a new round of holidays, and perhaps even a new career.

Vacation is long since over. Leaves which were new in the Spring begin to fall lifeless to the ground.  The cold of winter is felt.  Soon nature will hide behind bare branches. 

It seems as though death is necessary for life.  Certainly life is necessary for death.  Long ago it was observed, without fall there would be no spring.  Without spring there would be no fall.

Philip Yancey, in his book, “Where Is God When It Hurts” compares birth and death. "The walls are falling in on you.  Those soft cushions are now pulsing and beating against you, crushing you downwards.  Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched.  You’re falling, upside down.  For the first time in your life, you feel pain.  You’re in a sea of roiling matter.  There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear.  Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh the pain.  Noise.  More pressure. 

You hurt all over.  You hear a groaning sound and an awful sudden fear rushes in on you .  It is happening - your world is collapsing.  You’re sure it’s the end.  You see a piercing, blinding light.  Cold, rough hands pull at you. A painful slap. Waaaahhhhh!

Congratulations, you have just been born.

On this end of the birth canal, it seems fiercesome, portentous. And full of pain.  Death is a scary tunnel and we are being sucked toward it by a powerful force.”

Paul, writing about our life in Jesus, also ties together life with death. I>“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (Romans 6:8)

As Christians we know that the requirement to live the life Jesus offers us is to die to ourselves. While Paul is writing about our initial acceptance of Jesus as our Savior he is also reminding us that dying to ourselves is an ongoing process of dying to our own self-will while learning to continually follow God’s will for our lives.

Woody Allen once said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

One of the hardest struggles (if not the hardest) for us as Christians is to give God complete control of our lives. We don’t like dying to ourselves. But, it is the way through which God chooses to do His work of creating new life in us.

This time of beginnings is a good opportunity for us to consider life and death and life. Are we really beginning life - living it - as God would have us to live life? Are there areas of our lives (attitudes, desires, priorities, etc.) that need to die so that we can live as God intends?

The old sanctuary and gym are no more. Death. A new facility with a larger youth room, entry, prayer room, and sanctuary of increased capacity is rising. At this time of beginnings, where will God take us as a congregation? What will be the characteristics of His life in us? Will we lay aside our priorities and pride and let Him lead us - creating His ministry in us and through us?

As we come together to another September I would like to challenge you as I am challenging myself. What life will God create in you this fall? Where will He take you? How will you grow in Him? What newness will you experience because you have died to yourself and now live in Jesus?

September is a time of beginnings. It is also a time of death. But God brings life from death. May we in death experience the newness of His life within us.