This month we’ve sought to grow in our understanding of the priority of the church and the foundational values of community, serving, and giving.
Take time to re-listen or listen for the first time if you missed a message:
Life Together as the Church
Love One Another
Serving One Another
Also, don’t forget the Life Together Devotional Guide full of ideas to help you draw out the meaning of the biblical text, spark application and discussion, and provide ways to talk about these truths with children at home.
We hope you enjoy the above photos submitted by some of our care groups. If you haven’t captured your “care group selfie” yet, it’s not too late! We’ll be continuing to post photos in The Weekly and elsewhere as we receive them.
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November 14 2014 at 9:29 am 1 Comments
Photo courtesy of Good Samaritan Advocates
Chip Grange and Doug Duberstein, both attorneys and long-time members of Covenant Life, were recently honored for their work providing legal services to low-income neighbors through Good Samaritan Advocates (GSA).
Chip serves as a co-director of the GSA clinic held monthly at Covenant Life, and Doug Duberstein volunteers his time for those clinics as well.
Chip received the 2014 John Robb Christian Legal Aid Award, given each year at The Christian Legal Society’s National Conference in recognition of excellent service and longstanding commitment to Christian legal aid.
Doug was honored by GSA as Volunteer of the Year. The GSA ministry offers legal-aid clinics and other resources at two locations in Northern Virginia as well as at Covenant Life.
Chip is the co-founder of Gammon & Grange, a law firm based in McLean, Va., and one of the founders of GSA. Doug is a senior counsel with IBM Corporation.
When you see Chip or Doug, please thank and encourage them for their service to the glory of God.
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November 10 2014 at 9:04 am 0 Comments
Alone in a Strange Land
“My neighbor will talk to his dog, but he will not even say ‘hello’ to me.”
As I sat in the living room of my new friend from India (we’ll call him Rohit), the rawness of those words saddened me. Having lived in the United States for one year, working eighty hours a week, Rohit has yet to meet his neighbors or to have them even speak to him.
Just for a second, let’s try to put ourselves in his shoes.
Imagine moving to a country where the social norms and mores were as foreign as the language. Your nice white collar job has been replaced by one with twice the hours and three times the physical demand; so much so that you have lost 40 pounds and need to live with another family to make ends meet. Though the weight loss might be nice, laboring on your feet 80 hours a week has exhausted you such that your few moments of family time are spent trying to rest for the next day. Then imagine getting suspended from one of your jobs because an act of hospitality (perfectly acceptable in your home country) is interpreted as something intolerable in this strange new land. Imagine that the holiday in which your family celebrates the triumph of light over darkness is overshadowed by a macabre night of vampires, blood, ghosts and children(!) dressed as such demanding candy as they incessantly ring your doorbell.
That is a taste of my friend’s first year here.
God’s Take On It
Long ago, God’s people were told to look out for folks who were experiencing the above anxieties. He told his people to be proactive about caring for these folks and said:
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”(Leviticus 19:33,34)
Now, before the devil whispers to you, “That was the old covenant. You’re now in the new, no longer bound to such inconveniences,” ask yourself if you’ve heard someone—a carpenter’s son, perhaps—who said something very similar. Something like, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When Yahweh told the Israelites to treat the foreigner with kindness, he argued that they should do so because they too were once strangers in a foreign land. “Love your neighbors like you would want to be loved. Treat them like you would want to be treated. You remember how tough it was being in Egypt, right?”
With the holidays upon us, please consider reaching out to people like these in your relational network by inviting them into your home. It is a perfect opportunity to (1) show the love of Christ in action and (2) to tell of the love of Christ in word by explaining what you’re thankful for, and/or why we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
In working with international students and visiting scholars, I found myself constantly receiving gifts—ties, keychains and other assorted mementos—as a means of thanking me for teaching them English and/or the Bible. These giveaways were all clearly from the homelands of these dear people who had taken the time to pack their bags full of gifts for people who would invite them to their homes. More than once I heard stories of students returning home with the same gifts they had purchased in their country because no invitation had been extended.
Let’s seize the opportunity of the holidays to give these folks reason to empty the tchotchkes from their suitcases. May we treat our international neighbors better than we do our pets.
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November 9 2014 at 9:00 am 0 Comments
The Light Shines in Darkness
Question: What holiday is nearly eclipsed by Halloween every year? If you said “Thanksgiving” you get credit because costumes and candy are more heavily marketed than turkeys. But your credit is only partial because that’s not the answer I was looking for!
For Hindus in the U.S., the holiday Diwali (commonly known as “the festival of lights”) often falls in October and, predictably, receives little attention compared to Halloween, a holiday of darkness if there ever was one.
Sometimes called Dipawali, this five-day holiday can mean various things to the diverse groups (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and others) who observe it. Many see this as a celebration of the Hindu deity Krishna defeating the demon Narakasura. Others emphasize the defeat of Ravana (another demon) by the god-man Rama.
Differing interpretations notwithstanding, most at least see Diwali as a time to celebrate good’s triumph over evil or light’s victory over darkness. I think this is where we can humbly bring something to the conversation.
Do you have friends who might have recently celebrated Diwali? (This year it fell roughly between October 19 - 25). If so, consider asking them about it. Ask, “Do you celebrate Diwali? How was it this year?” Honestly listen and learn. Humbly ask for them to explain the holiday’s significance to you. If they don’t mention it, ask for them to explain what role “light” plays in the holiday.
After engaging them about the “festival of lights”, let them know you too believe that “...the light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). But tell them Jesus identified Himself as this light saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Tell them that Jesus made another bold claim when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me”(John 14:6).
Later in this or another conversation, you may wish to ask more questions as to what they believe happens to a person when they die and what role karma plays. (Karma means action or deeds). Responses frequently lean towards good karma outweighing bad for a favorable post-death outcome. Consider asking how much good karma is enough? Humbly share with them Jesus’ affirmation of good deeds, but that he taught what was most important was believing in Him (John 6:29). Let them know that Jesus had nothing but good karma and that He is both willing and powerful enough to remove your bad karma and give you his good.
More more could be said than can fit in a small article like this, but the above hopefully will get you started. Remember to be a genuine friend and frequently share what the Lord is doing in your life. Pray for your friend. They’ve been blinded by the god of this world, just as you once were. Pray that the Light of the World will shine in their dark prison to deliver them.
In closing, remember this: The self-identified Light of the World called you the light of the world, too (Matt. 5:13-16). Shine your light amongst the nations, brothers and sisters.
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November 6 2014 at 8:57 am 0 Comments
For years, my job required that I commute from Maryland to Virginia. As such, I joined thousands of other locals in experiencing the daily joy (read “horror”) of crossing the American Legion Bridge. I’m sad to say that I came to view that bridge as a real force of evil until I realized its absence would create a far less desirable alternative: no way of getting across. Bridges, I came to see, are good.
In many ways, Muslims and Christians seem to be on opposite sides with no common ground between them. Indeed our differences are many and pronounced. Take, for example, the fact that Christians believe Jesus to have been crucified (1 Peter 2:24), while Muslims object that it was only made to appear so (an-Nisa (4) 157*).
It seems the bridge is out.
But is it?
October 4 and 5 mark an opportunity for Christ-followers to build a bridge of conversation with our Muslim friends. The Islamic calendar calls these days Eid al-Adha, which is Arabic for Festival of the Sacrifice. This time commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. (as-Saaffat (37) 100-107)
So there is some common ground amidst all of the differences between us. Along with Christians, Muslims also believe in Abraham, Adam and Eve, Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus the Messiah and more (Ibrahim, Adam and Hawa, Musa, Yahya, and Isa al-Masih, respectively).
Begin to build a bridge to your Muslim friends by asking them about this holiday. Typically, it is westerners who are uncomfortable discussing religion, so don’t shy away from bringing it up. Remember to come as a learner and not one who is going to set them straight. Dialogue rarely occurs this way. Ask them about the story behind the holiday, how they will celebrate and with whom.
After your friend has explained to you the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, you can segue into telling them that true followers of Isa (Jesus) also believe in sacrifice. We believe in the Taurat (the Torah) which tells the story of Ibrahim, and we too believe God provided a sacrifice to take the place of Ibrahim’s son as does the Qur’an (as-Saffat (37) 107).
Tell your friends that God has used sacrifice throughout history. Tell them how God used sacrifice to cover the shame of Adam and Hawa’s sin (Gen. 3:21). Tell them how God used the prophet Musa to instruct the people to bring sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins (Lev. 4). Tell them how, through the prophet Isaiah, God foretold of the coming masih (Messiah) who himself would be a sacrifice. Tell them how the prophet Yahya (John the Baptist) identified Isa, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Why would Yahya call him a lamb? Tell them that Isa said he would lay down his own sinless life as a sacrifice for the sins of his people (Mark 8:31, 9:30-32, Matt. 20:17-19). Explain to them that it was not a dishonorable death for a prophet, but the most honorable thing anyone could do for another.
Reach out a hand to your neighbor by asking them about Eid al-Adha this year. Dialogue with them about their beliefs and share with them yours.
Bridges to your friends exist. By God’s grace, look for them and cross them. Doing so embodies the heart of Jesus who crossed (pun intended) the ultimate bridge to reach us.
*Unlike the Bible, the Qur’an is not a compilation of books, so when citations are used, the numbers refer to a sura (chapter) and verse (ayah). Another distinction is that the suras are more widely known by their names rather than numbers. Hence “an-Nisa (4) 157” means “verse 157 of the fourth chapter, which is called an-Nisa.”
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November 3 2014 at 2:30 pm 0 Comments
This past Sunday, Greg Somerville lead us in a time of prayer for Christians around the globe suffering in countries where believers are being persecuted for the sake of the gospel. In recognition of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, the Outreach team, in conjunction with Open Doors, USA compiled a list of prayer points to help us be better informed, to serve, and to pray for the top 10 countries where persecution is the worst.
Feel free to download the prayer point PDF, or pick up a hard copy at the church office.
Currently, there are 200 million Christians experiencing persecution in over 40 countries. These believers are experiencing suffering in many forms, from receiving the lowest paying jobs, to imprisonment and even death. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:9, they are “persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” When asked what they need the most, their most frequent answer is, “Please pray for us!”
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