Please be sure to read (or at least scroll) down to the latter part of this update to see important prayer requests and announcements, including church potluck this Sabbath, and a Sabbath afternoon hiking trip!
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
December 28th, 2022
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Hello dear brothers and sisters,
I hope your Christmas celebrations and gatherings with loved ones and family members this last weekend were a joy and a fulfillment to you!
Now we are in the somewhat strange “limbo week” between Christmas and New Years, in which society’s kind of on vacation, but plenty of us still have work to do. I think that, rather than reflecting on Christmas (which the past couple devotionals have been focused on), or on the new year (which the next one will be), I will take a ‘pause’ this week to focus on our concept of God.
God is of course the God of Christmas: the one who sent his only Son to earth in love for the purpose of salvation (John 3:16), and He’s also the God of new opportunities, new creation, making all things new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21:5)
But, for the in-between times, just what kind of God is it that we love and serve?
Is it the ‘entirely fluffy’ god, the god of only certain selected Bible verses? An edited god, made after our preferences?
Or, for some of a different mindset, is it the mainly stern and demanding god, who’s also edited, crafted, formed under a different set of preferences?
I hope you can see where I’m going with this: we want neither of those above-mentioned partial gods, we want the Actual God: the Living God! The real, active God who intervened so many times in Israel’s history, in Jesus and the Apostles’ ministry, in the early church as recorded in the book of Acts, and countless other times through history, including the Reformation, the 1st & 2nd Great Awakenings here in America, in the founding of our church, and continues to do so in innumerable and unrecordable times & places around the world!
I mention this, because, in our mid-week prayer & book discussion group, we are currently in the portion of Patriarchs and Prophets that reflects on the stories & lessons from the book of Numbers, one of the toughest portions of the Bible; which contains numerous stories that many of us just wish were not there! There seems to be a lot of harshness, without a lot of redemptive stuff there. (I, for one, am finding myself thankful that we have a recent commentator in Ellen White who helps us understand the intended lessons and purposes of God in those accounts there).
Whether through subtly avoiding parts of our Bible, or outright ignoring them, we can find ourselves attempting to ‘edit’, or ‘modify’ who it is that we worship. We chalk-up certain attributes to God, but not other ones that are clearly stated! (See Exodus 34:6-7 for a stark example of this).
I once heard summarized by a kind of humorously cynical person: “God creates man in His image. Man rebels and falls into sin. Man then turns around and makes God in his image.” This is of course overtly true in idolatry (how many Buddhist and Hindu (not to mention Catholic) statues have the human form as the basis for their designs?). But I think many Protestants and Adventists do this as well, only on a more subtle level!
So: I want to be resolved in the New Year to take my concept of God from the Word: receiving it from the Bible, not generating it in my mind and then attempting to conform portions of scripture to it. Because this is where the power and vitality will be: when we are tapped into the real God, the real author and creator, perfecter and finisher of our faith! As intimately as a grape branch is attached into its vine. (see John 15 for Jesus’ illustration of the vineyard).
Though some parts of God’s Word to us may be tough to receive, we will find that they are just as vital as the ‘favored’ spots of ours. And over time, I believe we will find that the Living God is not merely the god we wanted; but rather, so much more than that: the God we really need!
For, undoubtedly, it will be this God who saves us: the one who gloriously and climactically invades earth from the heavens, who exists in external reality, not the one we conjure up in our minds to agree with our own opinions and conclusions.
I started with quoting the Isaiah verse above to emphasize how different, how much more categorically outside our best ideas is the greatness of God. I see him saying in that verse ‘Don’t just magnify your best thoughts and concepts upward, and consider that to be me: I am of a whole different type and scope and definition than your categorizations!’
So: I hope you’ll join me in loving and affirming and following the One True Eternal & Living God! Who by definition cannot be contained, defined, adequately summarized or conceived of, and who certainly cannot be represented by any earthly forms. He is truly high and exalted, unapproachable (except by his gracious invitation), and fundamentally different, operating on a whole nother level than we!
Alright: I’ve probably gone overboard in my effusiveness. But I pray that some of it is enlightening and inspiring to you. I pray you’ll be resolved to affirm the God who lives outside our heads & best concepts, who dwells in unapproachable light (1st Timothy 6:16).
As always, I pray a blessed week for you and your families, a good end to your 2022, and a prosperous and fulfilling 2023.
Pr. Mark Tatum