Loving God for Himself Alone

This week I preached on the bigness of God from Isaiah 40:12-26. That because he is so big we can trust him with our lives. Now all of us that claim faith in Christ can on the surface agree to this and let it warm us on a Sunday morning, but how does it help us on a Monday afternoon?

Normal pressures of life punctuate the worship gathering and we swim back into the soup of the clamor of smaller things demanding to reign in our lives. We believe God is big enough to care for us, but how will the bills get paid? We believe God holds all of creation in his hand, but what if our adult children never speak to us again? We believe nations are emptiness before God, but what about the burden of our tax liability?

The list could go on, and sure it would be specific to you, external demands, responsibilities, emotions and the overall sense of exile without end weigh us down. Can we really turn to Jesus with all of this?

It is far too easy to turn faith into a transactional relationship. I believe in God so he gives me a job, or I pray hard and long enough and I will finally be delivered…etc. But is believing in and following Jesus worthwhile if none of the externals are dealt with? Do we love God for himself alone?

The thinking brings to mind one of the most popular of Bible stories. The fiery furnace. Disobedient to the cultural demands of worship at the golden image which would make their own faith in God private, the three Jewish young men are brought before the king.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16–18 (ESV)

They profess how big God is – big enough to deliver them out of the fire – but what’s more, they profess that even if he doesn’t they won’t bow to the fake gods. Even in the breakthrough doesn’t come, even if I remain in the valley, if I live and die in exile, I will still only worship God.

It is bold faith.

Yes, God delivers them. They are freed from the furnace and in many of our own “furnaces” God works to free us. But friends he is worth worshiping because of who he is. We don’t need the addition of circumstance or the change thereof.

Come what may, we will worship. Let’s say that. Let’s live that. Let’s rejoice when we come out the other side. Let’s look up and behold our God and gain an eager vision for eternity with him – the promise he is big enough to deliver. Let’s love God for himself alone.

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.

Anticipating… no longing for Christmas

Something rather strange has come over me this fall. If you have known me for long enough, you would know that the preparation and celebration of Christmas, at least in my opinion, is meant for a very specific block of the calendar that falls just after Thanksgiving and ends immediately after Christmas dinner. My wife has called me a Scrooge, and I have been fine with the title.

Enter 2016. This has been an interesting year. On the home front it has been wonderful. Our big focus was adoption and now Adia is home with us and advancing by leaps and bounds. The big kids are great with their sister and all three are such a joy to parent. Stacy has taken on so much and handled it all with grace and poise. Even the dogs are doing awesome!

For all of its goodness 2016 has also been a hard year. Sickness and hospital visits/stay for the littles. Some difficult transitions of families from our church. And friends that have faced devastating prognoses, relocations, heartbreak, death, you name it. Add a layer of political and racial unrest in our country and wham… we are ready for something better.

So I sit here typxmass-treeing in a room fully decorated for Christmas. I have been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks and all around I can’t wait for Christmas. The food, the laughter, the joy, the glorious reminder of Immanuel the God with us; all of the wonderful things Christmas promises. In fact I am thankful that I have the longing for them because it tells me I am built to long for better, for truer things.

This is what Christmas should be for us. The thankful anticipation we have on this side of the cross. Thankful for the accomplished work of our redemption by the Savior that entered the scene as a child born unto us. Anticipating his return, the final restoration of all things, the end of sin, heartbreak, cancer, war and hurt. Reminded of it in every sip of egg nog and song sung round the fire…pit.

I invite you to join me in the longing. The celebration of what we have been given and the future we will see. Anticipate it with me. Revel in the goodness of a God who dwells in our mess, in the pain, in order to rescue us from it. Go ahead… sing Silent Night and rejoice!