Deuteronomy 4:7 “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
The future doesn’t look so good for us Christians. You’ve heard the statistics. Churches are shrinking at an alarming rate. It is estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of Christian young adults will leave the church by age 30. For every thriving mega church with 10,000 members there are so many little traditional churches that have closed their doors or hang on by a thread. The big numbers in the one do not nearly equal the numbers lost in the others.
You hear the news. Biblical Christian beliefs about love and marriage are more and more seen as grounds for lawsuits or public demonstrations. Twenty years ago calling a person a “Christian” was similar to calling them a good person in most circles. For more and more people it means, “This is a backwards, judgmental person who stands in the way of progress.”
For forty years in the wilderness, Moses had to keep convincing the people of Israel that it was a good thing to be God’s chosen people, followers of the Lord who brought them out of slavery. Life was not easy for this nation of shepherds. For most of them, their entire life had been a forty year camping trip in a desert.
But Moses helped them to see the clear advantages of being people who belonged to the Lord. The oldest ones listening to him were in their late teens when God dropped ten plagues on Egypt, then made a dry path of escape through the middle of the Red Sea. They saw enough food and water for 2 million people miraculously appear in the desert. They followed the pillar that looked like a cloud during the day and fire at night. Other nations had gods who kept their distance, acted like spoiled children, and occasionally did magic tricks once upon a time in a land far, far away. Israel’s God lived among them. He saved them over and over again. Which faith made sense to follow?
We serve and follow that same God. We may be tempted to think, “Our God doesn’t seem so near or so real today. We haven’t seen miracles like Israel saw.” Perhaps. But has he really grown fuzzy and distant? With Jesus, we have more, not less. We don’t have a mysterious voice thundering from a mountain, or an unapproachable pillar of fire out in a desert. We have God with flesh and bones, a man like us who laughs, and loves, and listens. He isn’t just present in our world. He is a member of our family, a distant relative connected to your very own family tree. It’s true, it’s been two thousand years since he lived and died to save us. But he lives again. An empty tomb just outside the old city of Jerusalem says it’s so. We have the eyewitness accounts of hundreds recorded by a half dozen or so reporters.
And he still shows up. He speaks not with one mouth, but thousands. We hear his voice in the voice of our pastors. He has left us with hundreds and thousands of pages of his love letters–more than dead words on a page, but living and active words, words in which he himself is living by his Spirit, words full of life and of power.
He still meets us personally, bodily, really during those precious moments when we stand before his altar and receive his Supper. There he whispers to our hearts, “I am here. All is forgiven. All is peace. All the blessings of my cross are your very own.” He doesn’t hide in a tent or temple. The same Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem now lives in your own heart by faith–not as a collection of historical truths, but as a person who has moved in and made this place his home.
“Still,” we might think, “I would like to see the power. I would like to see the miracles.” Open your eyes, my friends! If at this moment you aren’t in imminent danger of death because some enemy army is hunting you down, no miracle is required. That’s a good thing, right? Do you suppose God’s power isn’t involved in making your life so safe?
If you want more, get to know some of the sober stories from your contemporaries on the front lines of God’s battles today. Talk to someone on a mission field half way around the world. They will tell you about God’s power protecting them or confirming their message in our time.
Right now, we belong to the God who saves us. It doesn’t get any better than that.