Thursday, January 2, 2014

Who is this God?

Several years ago, a hotel night clerk named William Young had an idea for a story that he hoped would teach his kids about God.  He decided to write the story down and give it to them as a Christmas present.  Several friends read the story and encouraged him to publish it.  Eventually, he did self-publish the story.  Somehow—no one ever really knows how these things happen—his story was “discovered” about a year later.  It became a publishing phenomenon, selling over 10 million copies, and was the number one fiction paperback on the NY Times bestseller list for a year and a half.  The name of Young’s book was The Shack.  It is the story of a man who has suffered an unspeakable tragedy, and then unexpectedly meets God face to face.  God in the form of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit spend a weekend with this man, helping him come to terms with what has happened in his life.  I am no publishing expert. I cannot tell you why some books sell and others don’t.  But I strongly believe that the success of The Shack had little to do with William Young’s literary abilities, although he is a fine writer.  It certainly wasn’t because of any strategic decisions on the part of publishing companies.  I think this book, whatever you think of it, exposed a hunger in our hearts to know God personally.  We all have different dreams and goals for our lives.  But almost everyone I know, no matter what their values, beliefs, religious affiliations or lack thereof, wants to know more about God. If they knew they had an opportunity to spend a private moment in the flesh-and-blood presence of the One who created them, knows all about them and controls the universe, they would put that at the very top of their bucket list. 

That’s what we will do this year at Westbury; we’re going to meet God.  We won’t just spend a weekend with Him.  We will spend this year getting to know Him better than we’ve ever known Him before.  The theme of my preaching this year is “Who is this God?”  I’m going to spend a year talking about His attributes, what God is really like.  Along the way, I am going to tackle some tough topics: We’ll talk about God’s wrath and His justice.  We’ll look at the doctrine of the Trinity and we’ll study the book of Revelation.  Yes, as a preacher, I am going where angels fear to tread.  But even if you attend every service, and even if I knock every sermon out of the park, it won’t be enough.  Knowing God isn’t something you can do by listening to a guy talk.  It’s not like a biologist studying a new strain of bacteria or a historian studying Alexander the Great.  You can’t approach it as a merely intellectual exercise.  You have to decide to set aside your own agenda and devote yourself to chasing God.  It’s an experiential process; you have to taste and see that the Lord is good.  So this Sunday, I hope to convince you to do just that.  I'll be starting this year's emphasis with a sermon called "Chasing God" based on Isaiah 55:1-6.
It's a new year, and most of us have made resolutions of some kind.  It's great to attempt to lose weight, to stop smoking, to exercise more, etc.  All of those can change your life in positive ways.  But why not make a resolution today to do something that will change eternity for you and for countless others who come in contact with you?  Why not resolve today to seek after God with all of your heart? 

Here are my planned sermon series for the year:

The One: God’s Holiness (January and February)

The Man Who Changed Everything: The impact of Jesus on the world (February through Easter)

Exclusive: God’s jealousy and our struggle with idolatry.  (Late April through May)

The Love You’ve Been Looking For: 1 John 4 (Late May through mid-June)

Accessible Glory: A study of the Holy Spirit (June through August)

The Long-Awaited Return: The Book of Revelation (August through October)

What is So Amazing About Grace? A study of salvation (October through November)
To Us a Child Is Born: An Advent Series on Isaiah 9:1-7

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