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.

Much Desire Yet So Little Time for Words

There are a small number of websites/blogs that I follow through an aggregate reader. Giving me the opportunity to read and learn from a varied collection of voices each day. And I so desire this. I want to be on top of the latest news inside and outside the church. I want to understand theological wrangling that helps me see Jesus in right and good ways. I want to gain the ability to use all of life as an illustration in the stories I tell and write for myself.

The thing is, I don’t have the patience, or more culturally appropriate, the time for all the words these people are writing.

If I wanted 12,000 words on an issue I would buy a book not subscribe to your blog! There are headlines that draw me in, with excitement I begin to wade through text but then a kid asks a question, or has the volume of their morning cartoons too loud. Slack pings another notification that demands attention. Whatever else happens and I fall to distraction. I get off-track and give up. Because there are too many words.

So what you are left with is a partially-read wanna-be that has a stockpile of desire to take in more content, to be refined, but has so little time for words.

And lest I become my problem (wait, I am the problem) I will end it here.

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.

Consuming the Bread of Life

Today I preached from John 6, specifically verses 22-58. It is a wonderful text and one that is truly vital for, I think every believer in Jesus, and certainly me. It has been an encouragement in my walk and pursuit of Christ.

The text has a confounding bit mixed in with some amazing theological encouragements. The declaration that the Father gives those that believe in Jesus to the Son and those that come to him will never be cast out. What grace, what joy to be included in this number.

The confounding piece though is that Jesus tells the crowd that is seeking after him that they need to eat him, consume his flesh, drink his blood.

Now the crowd did have some mixed motives for tracking Jesus down and attempting to force him to give them miraculous food. Just the day before he fed more than 5,000 and they sought more free lunches. But they were after temporary things and Jesus was set to provide something permanent and satisfying. Himself.

So he says that he is the Bread of Life. He is the sustenance, the provision, the life-giving portion for those that believe.

For those that reject Christ, this is a good place to throw a punch. The Savior claims you have to dine on him.

Of course when we have a fuller view of what took place during Holy Week, the death on the cross as foretold and the resurrection, we gain an understanding of what Jesus meant. That he must be seen, trusted, and pursued as the only thing, One that satisfies. That meets the internal desire for more. And that trust is in his body broken for us and blood shed to cover our sin and disregard of our creator.

This is then what we consume. A steady and daily diet of reminder of what Jesus accomplished for us. That we have been forgiven and called to life in him. That what aches in us is only satisfied in him.

As we head into Holy Week (the days leading up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday) perhaps John 6 is a good place to linger. To meditate on Christ’s words and his promise. That we would consume the Bread of Life.