To Be Comforters

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 (ESV)

To a people in exile, suffering under the weight and repercussions of their sin, far from home and seemingly without hope; prophets are called on by God to comfort them. To serve them, raise their eyes to see him and find hope.

This is a wonderful launch into a new section of Isaiah, an unfurling of chapters written and spoken to a nation in exile. But it is also a call for those that preach, that lead, that pastor God’s people today.

I think of the people in the pews, that might feel their own exile. The loss of expected gain. The struggle of anxiety or depression. The tensions of human relationships. The recovery from abuse or oppression. The drama of everyday life. It all piles on and when we gather to open God’s word, the true word that lasts, it it good news, the gospel we are meant to proclaim and reflect to one another.

I have spent enough days in ministry needing what only Jesus provides and sitting with people that are starving spiritually for the comfort only he can give. It is not a permissive gesture or false freedom to live for self, but it is grace that sustains, serves, and heals those that he loves. His people.

What can you give today? To your friends, to your neighbor, to those hurting and in need, to those celebrating and unaware? Jesus. Comfort that the striving can cease, that righteousness is won by him for us. That he is enough.

Hear of this comfort, this Savior, Jesus who longs for you, and gave himself up for you. That you can have peace, now and in eternity. Rest in him.

The Smile of the Father

My son, a six-year-old with more energy than I ever remember having, did something pretty normal today. But I noticed keenly the way it made me feel. It brought a smile to my face and I wonder if that is how it is as we stand before God and try to squeeze out a life.

He had finished his lunch and was immersed in one of his favorite shows, “Brick by brick” which is a series where you simply watch a guy build lego sets. But then his watching turned into creating. He asked his mom to video him, or at least set it up, and the next thing I heard was “I am Ewen and today we are going to build a lego 100…”

On his own, desiring to bring to life his set of legos and somehow inspire others by filming it. Now, I doubt anyone will ever see the video. But his effort brought a smile to my face. There is something about witnessing your child come into his own, to recreate and create from scratch that stirs your affections, warms your heart, makes you feel human.

This, as meaningful as it is to me as a father, is just a glimpse in the joy the ultimate Father has when those he created live for what he has called us. In fact, in Christ, the smile of the Father is always on you. The smile of an unexplainable joy. The smile of assurance. The smile of correction and care. Always meant to comfort, spur on and draw home his children.

From my smile to his. What a life it is we get to live… Let’s keep going.

Steady as We Go

It has been a tough weekend in the suburbs of San Diego. As you may have heard from news reports, a teenager, somehow influenced by hate, murdered a women and hurt others at a synagogue in Poway, CA. A block from San Diego City limits and just a short drive from Escondido where we call home.

We deplore hateful violence. There is no quarter for it in the church and we must actively and repeatedly communicate that such animus for other image-bearers is anti-Christ.

But it was so close to home. The alleged terrorist grew up in a neighborhood called Rancho Penasquitos, graduated from a good high school and was a member of a church in Escondido. A church, reformed in doctrine, certainly proclaiming the gospel, and meeting on the campus of respected seminary. The synagogue is the same neighborhood where members of our church live… this happened on our streets, where we do our best to flourish.

There will be much time for processing and working in the community for healing and I am thankful for the group of local pastors striving toward that end.

As I reflect on this today, I am struck by how quickly culturally we will move on from this tragedy and how active we must be to prevent it from happening again. But also that the gospel empowers us to keep on, to speak for justice in every day life.

Before my sermon at Reservoir yesterday I shared my joy at returning to the normal life of the church:

Coming off of Easter I was reminded in my own heart of the draw toward experience. The big Sunday, the whizbang sermon, the emphasis we put on special events. But more so I reflected on the reality that faith is lived out in community, in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, happiness and sorrows of life. And the gospel, the good news of Jesus speaks to and holds us up in all of it.

What relief!

It is a relief. Because we need holding up. We need spiritual power for every moment of life, especially those with such darkness.

So we press on. Clinging to Christ, our hope.

Passing on Passivity

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Hebrews 2:1–4 (ESV)

One conversation I always bristle at, and have had often, goes a little something like this: “I still love Jesus and I know I am saved, but since it is all about grace I don’t NEED to study Scripture or talk to other Christians about my faith, I don’t NEED to come to church on Sundays…”

As you can imagine this conversation is usually with someone that has stopped attending the gathering of the saints, or refuses to participate in small groups, or is confounded by their lack of growth and hope when they have no “Scriptural diet.” And I get it, I feel the same pull toward passivity all the time.

But this is not what we are meant for when we respond to the glorious good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us. We are meant to press into it not be passive about it.

Calling it mining the depths of the gospel or whatever you prefer, just dive into it and keep going. As the author of Hebrews offers, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

That’s the danger, drifting. Assuming and eventually losing the hope you have in the justification granted by Jesus, and certainly no experience of the sanctification promised. We even lose a sense of truth as we wander distracted by the lights and voices of our world.

If you find yourself tempted in this way, take up and read, see Christ in Scripture and in the community of believers around you. Find people that will stay on the journey with you. Pay attention to the gospel because you are prone to forget it. Do everything you can to prevent drifting away. Pass on the passivity.