Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Babies, Farts, and a God Who Delights

Over Thanksgiving, I met my four-month old nephew for the first time. It was a delight: I was able to hold him while he was going to sleep, change his diaper, and the best of all—to make farting noises and watch him crack a big smile each time. (I am convinced that this is one of an uncle’s primary roles—along with roughhousing as nephews grow bigger.)   

As I reflected on this time, it was interesting to notice that Paul didn’t have to do anything for me to delight in spending time with him. He couldn’t carry on a conversation, throw a football, or help me brainstorm a sermon idea. And yet I had a great time with him. In fact, pretty much all he could do was smile. But that’s the most rewarding thing to my brother, sister in law, or the rest of his relatives: When we made a silly face or funny noise, seeing him smile was an incomparable delight.

How easily do we forget that God delights in us before we can do anything? He knit us together in our mother’s womb (see Psalm 139:13), and He claims us as His own in Jesus. In Mark 1:11, the Father tells Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” And believing in Jesus, we have been claimed by God as His own beloved sons and daughters—before we have done anything. He delights in us, and He delights to see us simply smiling up at Him in response.

How easy to forget that we are not called to be so different from my nephew. In the busyness of doing things "for God", we often neglect to rest in His delight in us as His son or daughter whom He loves. Yes, Paul will grow up and be able to do more than smile, but one would hope that this mutual delight would remain at the core of his relationship with his parents and others who love him.

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Belonging to and following Jesus, this promise is ours to claim (see 2 Corinthians 1:20). We are called to grow in using our gifts to serve God and others, but must never forget this core truth that our Father delights in us before we can do anything. And perhaps what He desires from us right now is a simple smile in response to His delight in us.

December Update from New Hope

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you to each of you for your prayers, encouragement, and support of New Hope in this past year. I am grateful for your partnership in whatever form that takes, and pray that God blesses you as He provides for all your needs in this upcoming year.

A few news items from this past month...

Fighting Well: We just finished our study on a biblical approach to conflict (using Peacemaker Ministries’ curriculum, “Resolving Everyday Conflict”). It was a good time as a group, both with the teaching as well as the discussion times, and the subject matter was relevant to everyday situations. It’s often easy to pretend conflict doesn’t happen, or to implicitly assume that following Jesus simply means being “nice”. As a middle child, I gravitate toward the role of peacemaker, but have been learning the importance of actually engaging in healthy conflict and not just seeking surface peace. Conflict is inevitable, and as Christians we have been equipped to handle it well. This study addressed how to navigate conflict—not just avoiding or attacking, but actually engaging in healthy conflict in light of the gospel.  

Sermon Series: After an Advent series on what it means to get ready for Christmas (and for Jesus’ return), we will return to the story of David in 1 Samuel. I have found it a privilege (and for some passages, a healthy challenge) to be preaching straight through a book/narrative, as it means engaging with topics that I might naturally shy away from. But the whole of Scripture is God’s Word, and sometimes the most challenging passages give the glimpse into God’s character and work in our lives that we most need.

Building Search: We continue to look for a more permanent worship space, and in early January I will meet with another pastor in the area to discuss a potential location. We appreciate continued prayers for clarity in mission and direction in this upcoming year, and discernment in the building search (that it would be in service of what God wants us to do and where He would have us be). In a recent budget meeting, it was profoundly encouraging to see the unity and shared vision among leadership team members—and the shared desire that the budget reflect the mission God has given New Hope.

Thank you for taking time to read, and for any prayers. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly should you have any questions, or find yourself in the Bangor area.   

In our Lord,