Happy New Year!

When I was a teenager, it began to dawn on me how incredibly stupid New Year’s Eve celebrations are when they’re celebrated in their normal way, with lots of drinking.  Growing up less than an hour from New York City, as far as I could tell, New Year’s Eve was just a seemingly good reason to head to Time’s Square, get wasted and watch some glowing ball drop at midnight.  All this while people acted crazy and the police were out in force to protect the drunken revelers from those prone to violence, from petty thieves and from pickpockets.  Even before God saved me, it all looked so stupid and futile. And much of it was.

Going into 2017, we have new opportunities.  2016 has been a year of some good things to be celebrated and some other things we wish never happened.  There were personal victories and defeats for most of us.  There were losses and there were gains.  As we reflect back on 2016, we can move forward in a couple of different ways.

First of all, we can dwell on the past and get stuck in our failures.  We can look at the mistakes we made or the losses we incurred. We can focus on the missed relationships we could’ve had or could’ve improved, missed income opportunities, and missed time spent with God etc….  All of that will create a cycle of defeat and despair.

The second way we can move forward is to reflect on the last year with gratefulness for all that God did, with yes, some regret, but not shaming ourselves for opportunities missed or sins committed.  We can reflect on the last year with hope and prayer that in 2017, God will help us to build on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned, sometimes in the school of hard knocks.  God invites us to move past our failures.  In fact, we don’t need to live in our mistakes and sins or to dwell on the past. God’s word teaches us to,

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Is. 43:18-19)  

What is striking is that these verses were originally written to Israel in the middle of her rebellion and unfaithfulness to God.   In other words, even under the Old Covenant of law, God was still loving and kind, faithful and merciful to His people for their mistakes and sins. Even under the Old Covenant of works, God still yearned to bless His people for their own good and for His glory.  He was doing a new thing.  He was about to make streams in the wasteland flow, a picture of the spiritual blessing, life and joy He was about to bring!  He was about to bless their mess, not because of their godliness, but out of His great grace!  How much more under the New Covenant of grace, will God bless us for our good and for His glory if we ask Him to in 2017. The new year doesn’t have to be meaningless and stupid.  It can be a year of renewed purpose, renewed commitments, renewed relationships, renewed opportunities and renewed joy in Christ.


May God grant you a blessed New Year!! Pastor Dave


The Prodigal

In Luke 15:11-32, we find the story of the prodigal son. The younger son in the story being discontented and perhaps bored with His Father’s estate, runs away from His father, his household, and his work.  He demands from his father to get what he thought he deserved “the share of property that is coming to me.”   Did the younger son heed the things he likely learned in life?  No.  In fact, it seems he tries to distance himself from everything he has known as much as possible.  He headed to a distant country and “squandered his property in reckless living.” And then he eventually became so desperate that he hired himself out and was sent out to feed pigs, something completely forbidden for Jews to do.  He became so hungry that he even starts to long for the pig’s food.

What did the son leave behind? In the father’s house, there was a meaningful identity.  Owing to the fact that he was His father’s son, there were certain rights and privileges attached to that.  Furthermore, there could’ve been intimacy with his father if he had just trusted, obeyed, and spent time with his father.  There was meanigful community and a mission as a one of the members of a household with servants which found purpose and dignity as they worked together for the father under his provision and authority. Aren’t these 4 things that all humanity craves, though they may not articulate it or express it the same way?

Faced with a crisis of hunger and famine, the son eventually comes to his senses because of the consequences of his selfish and rebellious living.  He longs for anything, even a chance at servanthood, to get back into His father’s house.  He’s even willing to lose the privileges of sonship, if only he can get some food into his belly to relieve his suffering.  So he plans out his repentance and confession of sin and comes groveling back to his father, ashamed of himself.

However, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  The good and gracious father loved him and for his own pleasure, fully aware of His son’s disobedience, loved Him.  He became joyfully undignified in his expression of love too, doing what an older man would not do.  He girded up His robe and he ran, a culturally frowned upon action at that time and place.  This was a father lavishing his love, not anger,  rejoicing that His son had come home.  Likewise, when we come back to our Father, there is no shaming, just love and acceptance.  We are truly “complete in Christ, “loved with an everlasting love” and “accepted in the Beloved.”

A major shift has taken place in the wayward son.  He’s no longer ready to demand what he thinks he deserves, but to beg for what he now realizes he is unworthy to receive.  ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’   The father hears him but ignores him and instead focuses on full restoration.  “The father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.   Author David Guzik writes None of the four things brought to the son were necessities; they are all meant to honor the son and make him know he was loved. The father does much more than meet the son’s needs.

For example, the robe speaks of a robe of righteousness, covering the filthiness of the son’s sin. Intimacy with his father and his identity was once again restored.    So it is with the believer in Jesus… As Isaiah wrote:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

And as Paul wrote to the Corinthians “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Then there’s the fatted calf which is killed so they can celebrate because his son has returned to the father.

And so it is with you and me Christian.  Neither shaming us, nor guilting us for our sins, failures, and backslidings, after restoring us to fellowship with himself, looking at His son’s righteousness clothing us, God actually celebrates us.  “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zeph 3:17   What should our response be?  Awe.  Amazement.  Love. Total Surrender.  Worship.  We love Him because He first loved us!