When we open our new building, we will move to a new schedule: Sunday School at 9:00 am and Worship Service at 10:15 am.

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November 13th, 2022

We revisit Isaiah 6 fairly regularly in our services, because it’s a passage that shapes our gatherings. As Isaiah sees God’s glory and faces his own sinfulness, an angel, in a symbolic act, touches his mouth with a burning coal from the altar and tells Isaiah that, “his guilt is taken away, and his sin atoned for.” This is a foreshadowing of exactly what Pastor Matt preached last week: being made right with God is entirely God’s work, and not at all our own. Isaiah does nothing other than acknowledge his desperate situation, and he is forgiven. That’s the gospel! Christ’s life and death secure our salvation. As we heard on Sunday, we believe, and it’s counted to us as righteousness.

The holy God of the universe, against whom we have rebelled, and before whom we have no ability to acquit ourselves, has reached down to us in his Son. Christ atoned for our sins and offered us his righteousness as a gift. Who we’ve been, what we’ve done, and even who we are and what we will do, does not shift our standing before God. We are eternally safe in Christ. That is almost too good to believe! And, sometimes, we struggle to believe it. I certainly do! That’s why we constantly need to look at Jesus. As Robert Murray McCheyene said, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” As we prepare to celebrate the gospel on Sunday, let’s take ten looks at Christ, our hope, our life, our joy, our rest.

To prepare for Sunday, read Isaiah 6:1-7.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 13th, 2022

Psalm 145 says that one generation will declare God’s mighty acts to another, as they meditate on his glory and works. That’s part of what happens every Sunday: a bunch of redeemed people get together, spanning generations and life experiences, and declare to God and to one another how great the Lord is, and how gracious and powerful are his works towards us. We actively participate in drawing one another into the rhythm of worship - revelation of who God is and what he’s done, and response of awe, gratitude, and praise. That’s the beauty and holy privilege of corporate worship, and one of the (many) reasons Christianity is not a solo effort. We need each other, and we need to gather on Sundays to sing the Bible to each other and to testify to God’s power and glory and the way he’s worked in and for us.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 145.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 6th, 2022

The Bible tells us often that God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, because he “delights in steadfast love.” What an incredible character trait! Even the most kind and gracious human being, if the right buttons get pushed, gets pretty angry, pretty quickly - and, let’s be clear, there’s an appropriate time, place and expression of that. The Bible also speaks clearly of God’s righteous anger towards sin and sinners. But his bent towards his people is patience and forgiveness, because of of his steadfast love and his covenantal commitment to his people - something we’ve studied the last couple weeks in his promises to Abraham.

Sometimes, we fear that if we really believe or preach the depth of God’s steadfast love and forgiveness, we’ll end up being lax about our own sin. But in reality, the opposite is true; his patience leads to obedience. Honestly, how can we do anything but respond in faith and obedience? Brothers and sisters, let’s believe what God says about himself, let’s worship like people who know the depth of his grace, and let’s live in obedient response to the his unending, steadfast love

To prepare for Sunday, read Micah 7:18-20.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

October 30th, 2022

John’s gospel says that the true Light - Jesus Christ - has come into the world, and that the darkness has not overcome it. This is such good news for humanity, because there is darkness within and around us. But Christ undoes the darkness of sin and shame - both inside and outside of us. He breaks the power of sin and shame, granting us forgiveness, and giving us what we truly need and what every person who’s ever lived has ultimately sought - God himself. And he has begun the process of undoing the effects of sin and the curse in the world. We still experience the darkness, but even when it seems most oppressive, we have this hope: the Light has come into the world, and the darkness - whether inside or outside of us - has not, and cannot, overcome him, and one day he will come and extinguish all darkness forever.

To prepare for Sunday, read John 1:1-14.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 23rd, 2022

Hebrews 9 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins - a poignant reminder that our only plea before God is Christ’s sacrifice. Even if we’ve never committed the “big ticket” sins, and might be considered a pretty good person by any human metric, we couldn’t atone for our own sin or purchase our own forgiveness. Only Jesus blood could do that. And on the other hand, no matter the depth or extent of our sin, the blood of Jesus is enough for us to be forgiven. That’s the best news in the universe!

Let me encourage you with this: the blood of Jesus continues to speak for us. 1 John tells us that Christ continues to plead his blood and righteousness for us, as we imperfectly follow Jesus in the tension of being already saved but not yet glorified. This Sunday, we’ll confess sin together, then rejoice in the immovable truth that because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are forgiven and free.

To prepare for Sunday, read Hebrews 9:11-28.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

October 16th, 2022

Most of us are familiar with the vision of heaven in Revelation 5, with worshipers gathered around the throne declaring how great and how worthy Jesus is. After reading Revelation 5, on Sunday, we’re going to sing a series of songs taken straight from the passage, declaring and responding to the glory of Christ’s person and work from different angles. It doesn’t get much better than that!

One other thing I love about singing songs like the ones we’ll sing Sunday is that they give us a taste of eternity. There’s a very real sense in which every Sunday does that; we gather with God’s people, a small outpost of his kingdom, and feast together on the Bread of Life. But when we sing that the Lamb is worthy of all blessing and honor and glory, not only are we gathered with our eternal family; we’re singing the very songs that we’ll sing together around the throne forever and ever! 

To prepare for Sunday, read Revelation 5.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 9th, 2022

This Sunday, we arrive at the end of Noah’s story in Genesis, and God’s covenant with Noah. God promises never to destroy the world in the same way, and as a sign of his promise, a rainbow appears. The Jesus Storybook Bible (a fantastic resource for families with young children!) describes the scene like this: “God’s strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more - but not on his people, or his world. No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people. It was pointing up, into the heart of heaven.”

That’s a beautiful and powerful statement, isn’t it? God’s rescue of Noah and promise to Noah are full of gospel grace, and they foreshadow God’s ultimate rescue plan in Jesus Christ. God turned his war on sin towards his Son, so that we could be rescued. The wrath of God for sin came down on Jesus, that we might know the steadfast love and kindness of God. Jesus was punished that we might be welcomed. This is the gospel that we read in Genesis 8, and that we celebrate every Sunday. May we not lose the wonder of grace, and may we see with fresh eyes what our God has done for us in Christ.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 100.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 2nd, 2022

We’re going to sing a new song this week that helps us reflect on and respond to God’s goodness. The chorus says, “All my life you have been faithful / All my life you have been so, so good / With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.”

It’s so important to sing stuff like that, for a couple reasons. For one thing, the Bible just tells us to do it; we’re commanded to remember and praise God for what he’s done for us. But  our souls also need to remember his goodness, because it’s so easy, living in such a broken, messed up world, to forget that God is good. We need songs that help to anchor us in truth as we struggle and suffer and doubt. We need to tell our own souls and tell each other that God is always faithful and good, that his steadfast love is unfailing, and that he walks with us in darkest nights, holding our right hand, so we can say with Psalm 27, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I can’t wait to sing with you this Sunday, as we remember who God is and what he’s done, and as we praise him for his steadfast love and goodness.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 27.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 25th, 2022

John MacArthur says that, “The heart can only go as high in worship as it goes deep in theology.” That is to say, if we don’t know God, we can’t truly respond to him with our hearts, mouths, and lives. One of our songs this Sunday illustrates that truth perfectly, proclaiming things like, “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made,” and “When I think that God his Son not sparing sent him to die,” THEN sings my soul, how great Thou art. Our affection for and adoration of God are rooted in an ever-growing understanding of his majestic character and gracious works. Our worship services – and, in fact, our entire lives – are constant rhythms of revelation (understanding more about God through his Word) and response (worship and obedience). Our doxology flows from our theology! 

To prepare for Sunday, read Titus 3:3-7a.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 18th, 2022

Colossians 3:16 tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We could unpack an entire philosophy of worship from that verse (literally!), but that’s for another place and time. Today, I just want to draw our attention to the context of Colossians 3. The chapter opens with a call for Christians to, “Set our minds on things above” - basically, we need to remember remembering who Christ is, what he’s done, and who we are in him. As our new reality - new creations, raised with Christ, dead to sin and alive to righteousness - takes greater root in us, we begin to “put off” the attitudes, values, and actions of our old sinful nature, and “put on” more and more attitudes, values, and actions of our new nature. Over time, we look a lot more like Jesus! That’s what follows the initial call to remember who we are in Christ. Then, finally, we get to verse 16. The word of Christ - the gospel - dwells richly in us, and we respond to God’s grace and power with worship. And that worship happens in community; as we sing to God, we’re also singing to one another, reminding each other of the the gospel and of our new identity, which brings us back to the beginning. Our songs point our minds to things above and roots us in the gospel, and as those things happen, we are moved and empowered to obedience, and then to back to worship. When we sing on Sundays, it’s and act of both worship and discipleship. May God cause the gospel to dwell in us richly, raise up our songs to magnify the name of Jesus, and change us to be more like Jesus.

To prepare for Sunday, read Colossians 3:1-17.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 11th, 2022

The Word of God is our life and hope and teacher. It’s the way God reveals himself to us, and it’s the way we get an accurate understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The Bible tells us that we have nothing and can do nothing on our own, that we are lost and without hope apart from Christ. But rather than stranding us in hopelessness and sin, it turns our eyes away from ourselves and towards Jesus, the One who offers forgiveness from sin, reconciliation with God, a new identity, and new power to live the way God call us to live. Inevitably, as we are formed by the Word, we realize that we have nothing to boast about in ourselves, and we boast more and more in Christ.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 119:33-40.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 4th, 2022

The Bible employs some interesting and powerful metaphors. One of the most interesting ones, to me at least, is Jesus referring to himself as the Bread of Life, recorded in John 6. He said that whoever comes to him would never hunger or thirst, and that we can’t have eternal life without eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Jesus’ point is that he alone gives and sustains spiritual life. Just as food is a source of physical sustenance, so Christ is our source of spiritual sustenance. What do we actually, most deeply need? Jesus. He is the answer to our biggest questions, the satisfaction of our deepest longings. Apart from Christ, there is no life, no joy, no rest, but in him there is abundant life.

I’ve heard Sunday worship gatherings compared to a family meal.  Sometimes, we share communion, as we will this Sunday - a tangible expression of a meal. But every week, every single element of our service is intended, by God’s grace, to help us to feast on Christ, the Bread of Life. We do that through Scripture, so we read, sing, pray, and preach the Bible, and as we see the glory of Jesus there, we are sustained, satisfied, and empowered to be worshipers of Jesus who are growing in the gospel and going with the gospel. 

To prepare for Sunday, read John 6:35-40.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

August 28th, 2022

One of the most common ways the Bible describes our relationship with God is like a parent and child. In fact, Jesus said in Mark 10 that we must come to him like children to inherit the kingdom of God! Honestly, that’s kind if a humbling metaphor at first glance. Little kids are helpless and needy; they rely on their parents and caregivers for everything. But that does’t really bother them; they know, intuitively, that they’re needy, and that they need mom and dad to keep them safe and secure and thriving. Their weakness is actually freedom!

So it is with us and God. Yes, it’s humbling to see ourselves as little kids; it’s a tacit acknowledgement that we, like children, need something. We’re not in control of much of anything. But that is also freedom! Our perfect Father is sovereign over everything and unfailingly loving towards his children. We don’t need to occupy our minds with things that are too high for us; we can trust God to be God and to be good - because he always is. And, like little children in the arms of their parents, we find comfort and hope and rest in his loving care.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 131.

 

*****

August 21st, 2022

Psalm 96 tells us to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name”, and to “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” God’s holiness describes his absolute otherness. He stands alone in his perfections, in his power, his majesty, his glory. No one and nothing can compare to him. He alone is worthy of our worship, and he gets to tell us how we worship! We approach the holy One in reverence and awe; any other response is impossible if we have any sort of concept of his greatness. This is what happens in Scripture when people encounter the glory of the living God; they fall on their faces in awe and fear. We need that kind of vision of his glory; we need to grasp the splendor of his holiness. But that doesn’t leave us joyless. The Bible calls us to reverence and awe, and to shouts of joy and clapped hands; to fear and trembling and to loud crashing cymbals. Biblical, reverent worship is both awestruck and joyful, humble and celebratory. By God’s grace, may we worship like that - with minds blown away by God’s holiness, and hearts bursting forth to honor him as he is due and to thank him for graciously reaching down to us.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 96.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

August 14th, 2022

I don’t know about you (although I probably can make a good guess), but I need to constantly and consciously remember that God’s kindness and sovereignty are aimed at my good. The gospel promises that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ - not our sin, our pain, our circumstances, not other people, not even death itself. That’s such good news for us, as we navigate life in a fallen and very broken world, isn’t it? The very worst things that we experience - whether they come from inside of us or outside of us - cannot pull us from God’s grasp or separate us from his love.

That doesn’t mean we don’t suffer anymore. I think most of us get that; we’re not tempted by the allure of the prosperity gospel. But we might be tempted towards a mistaken understanding of God’s sovereignty that tells us we should be unmoved by suffering and loss. The gospel never calls us to not feel grief - Jesus himself experience deep sadness; instead, it calls us to hope and joy. Rather than creating happy-go-lucky optimists who refuse to acknowledge the world’s brokenness, the gospel creates people who are steadfast and hopeful in the midst of deep sorrow. It doesn’t create people who say, “Everything is amazing all the time,” but people who say, “Whether peace like a river attends my way, or sorrows like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul.”

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 8:31-39.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

July 24th, 2022

One of my favorite lines that we’ll sing this week says, “When Satan’s lies of guilt abound, the Savior’s love resounds.” So many of us, myself included, struggle with the feeling of condemnation, because we know how sinful we have been, and still are. We fear for our standing before God when we peer into the darkness that still seems to lurk within us. But the gospel assures us that, even through our past, present, and lifelong struggles with sin, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Christ’s righteousness has been applied to us, credited to our account, if you will, so our sin no longer defines us or impacts our standing with God. And our Savior himself stands before the throne, our representative and advocate, pleading the merit of his blood and righteousness as we do struggle through this life. He is both sacrifice and High Priest, as we’ll hear this Sunday from Hebrews 4-5. When the voice of the enemy whispers - or perhaps shouts - how sinful and unworthy we are, the voice of our Savior and High Priest cuts through even louder, reminding us that we are his, we are secure, and we are free from sin’s guilt and condemnation.

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 8:1-4 and Exodus 39:27-31.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

July 17th, 2022

The passage that Fred preached last week from Hebrews 2 quotes Psalm 8, which begins with this statement about God’s transcendent greatness - “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth?” Finite human begins can’t even grasp a fraction of God’s glory, and still it overwhelms us! He made the universe with a breath, he sees and knows all things, and rules over all things in righteous sovereignty. His power, his majesty, his beauty are unsearchable.

Like the psalmist, when we think about God like this, we’re left asking why he would be mindful of us or care about us. He doesn’t need anything from us, and we - individually and collectively as humanity - have spent our days running from God. So why would he be mindful of us? The only answer is love. The God of the universe is not just distant and removed, but personal and compassionate. In grace he stooped down to us, rebellious created beings that we are, and made a way for us to be right with him. We should be equally awestruck by the sheer greatness of God, and by the fact that this great God would reach down to sinners like you and me. May we never lose the wonder of those truths, and may we worship like people who understand who our God is and what he’s done.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 8.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

July 17th, 2022

Dating back to the exodus, God has built rhythms into the life of his people to help us remember and celebrate his works. In Psalm 111, we’re actually told that God’s works are studies by all who love him! In the Old Covenant, the calendar of God’s people was built around various feasts, each one meant to commemorate something important that God had done in redeeming, protecting, and providing for them. The early church, and some traditions today, follow a liturgical calendar that pushes their focus to certain actions and works of God at specific times throughout the year. Even in our tradition, celebrations like Christmas and Easter represent these historical practices. But, on a smaller scale, every single Sunday is a holiday of sorts, a break in the normal rhythm of life that allows us to gather with the people of God, to refocus and proclaim God’s glorious works. It’s often in remembering his faithfulness in the past that we’re stirred to worship and built up in faith that what he’s done before, he will do again.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 111, and take a few minutes to consider the great and gracious works of God for you. Consider the gospel, consider creation, consider the smaller things he’s done, or is doing, in your life. Think about the ways he’s providing for you, sanctifying you, caring for you, and then come on Sunday ready to proclaim that he is strong and faithful, gracious and merciful, always working for his glory and our good.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

July 10th, 2022

When describing the gospel in his first epistle, the Apostle Peter says something really interesting: he says that even angels long to look into our salvation. That’s pretty incredible! The gospel is so good that angels wish they could get in on it! Why exactly is that? It’s because we who are saved have the uniquely glorious experience of being brought to life. We were once far from God, enemies of God, but we’ve been reconciled to him and brought near. It’s in the gospel that God’s glory is most brilliantly displayed The gospel displays his love, his holiness, righteousness, grace, mercy, justice, sovereignty; it’s the perfect meeting of all his attributes and actions. And we get to partake in that display of his glory! We actually taste and see that God is good, because we’ve experienced the greatest expression of his goodness. Not even the angels understand his glory and grace like that! Peter explains that it’s this living hope - a product of the gospel - that gives us peace through the wild ups and downs of life and draws us to rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory.

This is why we never move past the gospel. It’s too good, too valuable, too important. Without it, we have have no power, no hope, and no joy. In fact, nothing in life really makes sense apart from the gospel, and our sin stems from getting our eyes off of Jesus, forgetting our identity in him and his work. We are people of the gospel; saved, shaped, motivated and equipped by its power.

To prepare for Sunday, read 1 Peter 1:3-12.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

June 26th, 2022

We’re going to introduce a new song this week, in conjunction with our series through Hebrews, that testifies to the greatness and glory of Jesus. His glory is two-pronged: on one hand, he is glorious because he is God. Hebrews 1:3 calls him the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. He made and sustains everything that exists, and as such he is worthy of our worship. The Son is inherently glorious by his very nature. 

But Christ receives another sort of glory because of his redemptive work. Hebrews 1:3 goes on to say that, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” If the Son’s glory is inherent to his nature, we might say that it is inherited in his work. He receives more glory, a different kind of glory, because he accomplished the work for which he took on flesh and came to earth - our salvation. Philippians 2 says that it’s because of Christ’s saving work that his name is above every other name. Jesus is glorious and infinitely worthy because of who he is and what he’s done. 

So as we consider the person and work of Jesus, we join the song of heaven to sing, “Holy, holy, holy is our God; worthy, worthy is Christ the Lamb. All my heart, all my soul, all my life is yours alone; holy is our God.” 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 110.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 19th, 2022

We often say that theology leads to doxology - that what we know and believe about God leads us to love and worship him. It’s a necessarily symbiotic relationship; I can’t really love someone without knowing them, nor can I truly know someone lovable without being stirred to love them. So, we must first know something of God. But, as we begin to see even a tiny fraction of his beauty, his glory, his majesty, his goodness, our hearts ought to naturally be drawn to worship him. But as we worship, and as our affections are stirred for God, we want to know him more, which leads us back to worship, and so forth and so on, for the rest of our lives. It’s so easy to get out this of balance - and equally dangerous. Theology that never hits our hearts is idolatry in the form of intellectualism, and “worship” that isn’t rooted in truth is idolatry in the form of emotionalism. As God’s people, we have the distinct privilege of knowing and loving God - theology and doxology fueling one another. That’s why we pursue true, rich, deep theology, why we fill our services with Scripture, and why we respond with songs and actions that engage our hearts with the truth. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Colossians 1:15-23.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 12th, 2022

One of the things we need to consistently remember is our utter inadequacy before God apart from Christ. The Bible doesn’t mince words when it describes our lost state; we read that our throats were like an open grave, and our paths were ruin and misery. That doesn’t mean we had no value; we did, as people made in God’s image and those on whom he set his affection. But it does mean that we were without any hope, dead, rebellious, bringing nothing to the table to participate in our salvation. In that state, God loved us and pursued us, sending Christ to live and die in our place. And, because Christ’s work was sufficient, we are absolutely assured of escaping God’s wrath and entering eternal life. 

Why do we need to remember this? Because we tend to fall into a ditch on either side of these truths. We begin to boast in ourselves in self-righteousness, or we question whether Christ’s sacrifice was really enough to save someone as bad as we are. But either way, our problem is sinful, anti-gospel self-reliance, and the antidote is getting our eyes off ourselves and on Jesus. Then, we’ll grow in then kind of confidence and peace and joy that the Scripture tells us is ours in Christ. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 3:9-26.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 5th, 2022

This Sunday, Fred Hofland, one of our new lay pastors, is going to launch a summer sermon series in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is full of OT references and citations that pointed ahead to Christ, and we’re going to highlight one of those passages in the worship preparation guide most weeks.

The opening of Hebrews cites Psalm 2, expounding on the majesty and rule of Jesus. He is the Lord’s anointed, the ultimate and final heir to David’s throne, the Ruler of God’s people and kingdom. Even though kings and kingdoms and all manner of the powers of darkness oppose King Jesus, they cannot win. His kingdom will endure, eventually exterminating the darkness entirely. He will judge his enemies; the psalm describes him as terrifying them in his fury and breaking them with a rod of iron, as he establishes righteousness forever. But, for his people, Christ’s reign brings great comfort. Rather than judgment, we receive blessing and peace and joy for all eternity. Our sorrow will turn to joy as Jesus wipes every tear from our eyes and does away with all sin and shame and pain. So, let’s worship the King, because he is worthy, because he is great, because he is good.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 2.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 22nd, 2022

I recently heard Alistair Begg, a pastor in Ohio, talk about the thief on a cross next to Jesus from Luke 23. Here’s a man being executed for unspecified crimes who’s told he’ll be with Jesus in paradise that very day. He has literally nothing to hang his hat on in hopes of enteral life; he simply trusts Jesus, and that’s enough! Begg’s point was the simplicity of the gospel. This guy didn’t understand the nuances of the doctrine of justification or imputation, he couldn’t explain the inerrancy of Scripture or the immutability of God. Yet, we’ll spend eternity together with him, because he simply trusted Christ. 

We’ll sing Sunday that, “Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus; naught of good that I have done, nothing but the blood of Jesus.” I’m not sure there’s a better illustration of that truth than the story of the criminal on the cross. But this is how the gospel works. We, too, bring nothing; we simply turn from our sin in repentance and to Christ in faith. That’s not to say that things like theology and obedience aren’t important; they absolutely are! But Christian growth is a response to what’s already been done for us in Christ. The gospel’s invitation is simple: come to Christ and be saved. Let’s remember and rejoice in Christ’s finished, sufficient work for our salvation. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Luke 23:32-43.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 15th, 2022

The end of Romans 5 says, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Chapter 6 then opens with a natural question: should we just keep on sinning as much as we can, so grace can keep abounding? Is God’s ever-abounding grace license - or even motivation - to sin? The answer is a resounding (if unsurprising) no. Paul tells us that our old self is dead, crucified with Christ, and in place of what he calls our “body of sin” is new life in Christ. Sin no longer has power over us; instead we have the resurrection power of Jesus at work in us, enabling us to put off sin and to put on righteousness. 

So, no, the fact that grace abounds even when sin increases does not give us freedom to sin at will. Actually, quite the opposite is true. The more we understand God’s grace in the face of our sin, the more we’ll be drawn away from sin and into holiness! The gospel gives us both power and motivation to please God; that’s why we talk all the time about “growing in the gospel.” So, we consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ, remembering and celebrating grace that pursued us while we were lost, continues to abound as we struggle with sin, and pulls us further and further away from our sin and towards our Savior. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 6:1-11.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 8th, 2022

Charles Spurgeon once said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throw me against the Rock of Ages.” We’re going to sing a line on Sunday that’s drawn from Spurgeon’s quote: “Who sends the waves that bring us nigh unto the shore, the Rock of Christ?” That line speaks of hardships in our lives, things that God sends and allows not to break us, not to destroy us, not to discourage us, but rather to move us towards Christ. We’re comforted by Christ in our trials; we find peace that surpasses human understanding. But something happens in the long-term, too: we grow in our hope and joy in Christ. The more we understand and actually believe that God, in his wisdom and goodness, is doing everything in and around us to do this kind of work in us, we, too, will be able to “kiss the wave” that pushes us towards Jesus. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 95:1-7.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 1st, 2022

The Apostle Paul, in pushing back against heretical, legalistic teaching that argued for salvation through observance of the law, makes a stunning statement in Galatians 2: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Where there was death, there is now life. Where there was sin and selfishness, there is a new desire and ability to please God. Where there was despair, there is endless hope and joy. Everything we are and everything we do is defined by Jesus Christ. Because of him, we are freed from the bondage of trying to atone for our own sins, and we are free and able to pursue holiness. This is the power of the gospel! 

Over the next couple days, let's pray that we would fix our eyes on Jesus, that we would be reminded of what he’s done and who we are in him, and be empowered to live, by faith, for his honor and glory. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Galatians 2.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 24th, 2022. 

Many Christians struggle with a sense of shame over our sin - the things we’ve done and continue to do - and our sinfulness - the fact that we still feel some disposition towards sin. Probably the most well-known scripture passage pertaining to this is Romans 8:1, which tells us, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” But there’s a song of confession recorded in Psalm 32 that tells us the same thing. It tells us how blessed a person is against whom the Lord does not count their sin. Do you hear the gospel ringing in that statement, even though it was written centuries before Christ came to earth? No human has ever been able to outrun or outwork their sin; our only hope is for God to not count our sin against us, and to count some righteousness outside of ourselves as our own. 

The psalmist goes on to describe his anguish when he tried to keep his sin hidden, then describes the freedom of confession. Here’s what he says: 

“Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” 

Do you typically imagine God acting like towards you after you’ve sinned? I don’t! I generally view God as keeping some distance from me, even after I’ve repented. But Psalm 32 assures us that God draws near to us as we confess our sin. Truly, as James says, he gives grace to the humble. He is eager to meet us in our contrition, to surround us with shouts of deliverance, and to cast our sin into the depths of the sea. We are promised that God does not remember our sin anymore. 

So, Christian, if God no longer remembers your sin, why do you? If God isn’t concerned with what you’ve done, why are you? Resting in the finished work of Christ, we can freely and quickly confess our sin, and fight hard to forsake it. Let’s remember and rejoice in the gospel. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 32.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 15th & 17th, 2022

Death is the scariest and maybe most powerful part of human experience, if for no other reason than its inevitability. No one escapes it; everybody dies eventually. But Easter is a celebration of death undone. Jesus, by his dying and rising, has literally taken away death’s sting; in Christ, dying is just the beginning, the doorway into everlasting life in the presence of our Savior!

This doesn’t mean that all Christians have a death wish, though. The gospel destroys the power of death, and in doing so, it gives us a reason to live. Our every breath, every moment, can be devoted to heralding the glory of the One who defeated death and to inviting others who are dead in their sins to experience eternal, abundant life in him. This is what Paul meant when he said that, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let’s worship like people who know what’s been done for us and what’s ahead of us as we celebrate the work and glory of Jesus this weekend. 

To prepare for Sunday, read 1 Corinthians 15:12-28.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 10th, 2022

One of the statements in the Bible that I find most stunning comes from 1 John 1:9: God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness. When we think about God’s justice, we almost automatically (and not incorrectly) think about his wrath towards sinners. But do you realize that the justice of God actually leads him to forgive and cleanse his people when we sin? Because of the cross, there’s no more wrath for us; Christ absorbed the totality of divine wrath for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation. So, it would actually be unjust of God to continue to hold our sins against us! John continues by explaining that this is so because Jesus is our propitiation and advocate; he pleads the merit of his own blood and righteousness before the Father, so that, even when his people sin (and we most certainly do), there is forgiveness and mercy, not condemnation. 

We have a tendency seemingly burned into us to question whether that’s true, don’t we? A voice inside of us whispers that Christ’s work can’t be enough for you or that, whatever “you” an “that” may be. But the gospel speaks a better and final word. We are free from the power and penalty and shame of sin. So, we look to Jesus, and we run to Jesus, because his blood and righteousness are forever enough.

We’re going to sing a version of “Come, Ye Sinners” this Sunday that includes two obscure, original verses declaring these truths. Here are the lyrics: 

    View him prostrate in the garden / On the ground your Maker lies 

    On the bloody tree behold him / Sinner, will this not suffice? 

    Lo, incarnate, God ascended / Pleads the merit of his blood 

    Venture (that means trust) on him, venture wholly / Let no other trust intrude 

To prepare for Sunday, read 1 John 1:8-2:2, listen to the song in our playlist, and take a few moments to meditate on Christ’s work as our substitute and advocate.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 3rd, 2022

Psalm 97 vividly depicts God’s greatness. It says that clouds and thick darkness surround him, that righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. He burns up his adversaries, and mountains melt like wax before him. And none of that is hyperbole! God’s strength and majesty are indescribable, unknowable. We, as God’s people, respond in reverence and awe. We should be overwhelmed at his transcendence. 

But, as his people, we receive all the benefits of this indescribable power. Just as the Lord burns up his adversaries before him, so, as the end of the psalm tells us, he sows light and joy for his people. Because of our God’s work for us in Christ, he preserves our lives and delivers us from the darkness of this world and of our sin. We stand in awe of the God of the universe, we fall on our faces in reverence, but we approach in confidence, because he is for us, not against us. We worship with both awe and intimacy, transcendence and immanence. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 97.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 27th, 2022

On one of many occasions when Jewish religious leaders complained about the relationship Jesus had with sinners, Christ responded with a parable about a shepherd who has a hundred sheep. One gets lost, and he leaves the remaining 99 in a safe place to track down the one lost sheep. Jesus’ point is that he pursues lost sinners. That’s really good news for us! We were unwilling and unable to pursue Christ on our own, so he pursued us. He tracked down the lost sheep and brought us home, though we had run from him and rebelled against him. 

He keeps on pursuing us, too. Though, praise God, we can never lose our place as his sheep, we are, as we’ll sing on Sunday, “prone to wander”; we often stray from our Good Shepherd, pursuing rest and joy in other pastures. But Jesus does’t let us go; he chases us down and graciously brings us back to the fold. That’s the kind of love the Shepherd has for his sheep. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Luke 15:1-7.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 20th, 2022

In Psalm 13, a song the people of God sang and prayed together, we read questions like, “Will you forget me forever?” “How long will you hide your face from me?” I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel those kinds of things sometimes, but I don’t want to express them. We know better than to ask a question like that, right? God doesn’t forget us! 

Here’s the really amazing thing about this psalm - it acknowledges that we do know better, and that’s exactly why we can ask the questions! Here’s how Psalm 13 ends: 

    “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
     I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” 

David asks these questions while he feels forgotten, knowing that God promises not to forget his people. He’s asking God to align his perception and experience with the reality of God’s faithfulness. Psalm 13 is a framework  to process and verbalize our suffering and our questions. On this side of the cross, we have an even clearer picture of God’s steadfast love. The person and work of Christ secure God’s steadfast love for us, and we know that nothing - not power, no trial, no struggle - can separate us from that love. So, with an even fuller understanding than the psalmist, we can ask God how long we will suffer, how long he will seem to hide his face from us. But we are grounded in the steadfast love of God, and we know that, no matter how dark the valley, our God has not forgotten us, and he will ultimately deliver us, whether in this life or in the life to come. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 13.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 13th, 2022

Ezekiel 37 records a vision of a valley full of dry bones. The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, and to tell them that he will breathe on them, put his Spirit in them, and they will live and know that he is the Lord. And that’s exactly what happens! The passage goes on to explain that this vision symbolizes of God bringing spiritual dead people to life; it symbolizes us! It’s the truth of Ephesians 2 - that we’re dead in our trespasses until God makes us alive in Christ - in a vivid picture that helps us to see and feel the immensity of God’s work in us. The bones in Ezekiel’s prophecy are long dead and decayed when the Lord breathes life into them. And he doesn’t just reanimate them like some kind of Hollywood-esque undead zombie with just enough life in it to eat everything in sight, and do pretty much nothing else. He brings the bones back to full human life, with new muscles and blood and flesh, with strength and awareness enough to recognize God as the Lord and to stand up into an “exceedingly great army.” That’s the kind of power required to bring our dead hearts to life! That’s the work God has done in us! He’s brought us to life that we may know and declare his glory. 

Matt Redman uses a catchy turn of phrase in some of his songwriting and speaking: he says that as we breathe in God’s grace, we breathe out his praise. I don’t know if he was thinking of Ezekiel 37 when he coined that phrase, but it certainly captures the same idea. The Lord has breathed life and grace into us, so we breathe out praise, declaring his glory with our voices and our lives. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Ezekiel 37:1-14.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 6th, 2022

We’re going to learn a new song this week taken straight from Psalm 62. It’s an anthem of hope and confidence, sung by the people of God in times of darkness and doubt and attack. There’s a little refrain that shows up twice in the psalm’s 12 verses that testifies that our souls wait for God alone, because he is our salvation and our fortress. It ends by saying that we shall not be shaken. As we talked about this passage before our worship team rehearsal on Thursday evening, someone brought up a really important point about that statement: it’s not a pep talk trying to convince ourselves that we won't be shaken; it’s a statement of fact based on God’s character. Our souls won’t and can’t be shaken, because God, our fortress, is never shaken. 

One particular statement in Psalm 62 has stood out to me in a different way right now than it ever has before. David writes that, “those of low estate are but a breath, and those of high estate are a delusion.” I’ve been thinking about the Ukrainian people, and the church in Ukraine, as they’re literally under attack. But even those who seem most powerful in this world are nothing more than a delusion in their rebellion against the authority and righteousness of our God. So, our Ukrainian brothers and sisters can wait on God because he won’t let them be shaken. And we wait in solidarity and sing in solidarity, even though we aren’t experiencing the same things they are. We, too, wait on God and trust in God, through pain and loss and trials and darkness. And he holds us, protects us, and sustains us. So let’s encourage our own souls and our church family as we set our hope on God alone. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 62.  

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

February 27th, 2022

Our culture is not all that well-acquainted with rest. We’re almost work-obsessed - incessantly pursuing success, doing everything we can to get ahead. There’s certainly something to be said for working hard; that’s a good and godly thing! But the Bible also tells us that we’re made for rest, both physically and spiritually. Rest reminds us that we have limits, that we need someone outside of ourselves to be and do what we are called to be and do. It reminds us that God is our ultimate provider and sustainer, and that the very best of our work cannot span the gap between a holy God and broken sinners like all of us. Put simply, we need Jesus to put an end to our spiritual rat race, as we constantly (and futilely) strive for God’s acceptance and favor. 

And Christ does just that! He describes himself as gentle and compassionate towards us, and he welcomes us in all of our weakness and sin and shame and need. And, in the midst of it all, he offers us rest. As we consider this rest on Sunday, and through the book we’re about to read as a church starting next week, may God help us to run to Jesus, weary and heavy-laden as we are. We’ll find unshakable, steadfast love, grace and mercy beyond what we can comprehend, and perfect rest for our souls. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Matthew 11:25-30.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

February 20th, 2022

As we come to the creation of man in our study of Genesis, I want to take a few moments to think about the significance of God us - not just corporately, but individually. Scripture tells us that God knew each of us before we were formed in the womb, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That means he made you with intentionality and with purpose. He knew what he was doing! Your personality, your talents, your appearance - all of these things are by the good design of a perfect and loving Creator, and they are the means by which you uniquely bear his image and pursue his glory. How simultaneously incredible and comforting is that? 

I’ll tell you how this works out in me. When I look around at more skilled worship leaders and musicians, I easily start to feel insecure and inadequate. And I’m certainly not alone in feeling that way! Don’t we all struggle with those sorts of doubts and fears? Don’t we sometimes feel like (although we’d never say it this way) God messed up just a little bit when he made us? But God has given me exactly the amount of skill and experience he intended, so that I could serve him in the place and role he’s called me to. And he’s done the same for you! Every single one of us is exactly who God intended us to be. We look the way he wanted us to look and talk the way he wanted us to talk and move the way he wanted us to move. So we can free from comparison, free to serve and worship our Creator as he’s wired us to do. As we celebrate God’s creative power, we also celebrate his very personal grace. Let’s worship, let’s trust, let’s rest. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 139.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

February 13th, 2022

Our weekly liturgy is intended to remind us of the gospel story. Certain passages, such as the one we’ll read in our service tomorrow, very clearly lay out the story. We start with God’s holiness, remembering that he demands and deserves our allegiance. The truth of God’s holiness confronts our sinfulness, and we are moved to repentance. But the gospel moves us from despair over our sin by turning our attention to Christ and the cross. Our hope is built as we behold the Lamb of God, who made atonement for us, bringing us into right relationship with God. Finally, we are called to respond, in a sense coming full circle, by worshiping and serving our holy God as he is due. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Isaiah 6:1-7.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

February 6th, 2022

Scripture tells us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The gospel grants to us blessings and promises that are spiritual, eternal - blessings so great that they can’t even be contained in their fullness by our present, temporal existence. Spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are things like eternal life and joy in the presence of God, freedom from sin and death, and a new heavens and a new earth without sin or suffering or injustice of any kind. 

This promise reorients us; it helps us to “set our minds on things above”, as Colossians 3 says. It pulls us away from our natural preoccupation with earthly things and earthly joys. It helps us to enjoy the blessings of this present life (and there are many!) in the way they’re meant to be enjoyed - as a small taste of the goodness of God and the eternal joy to be found in him as he gives us every spiritual blessing. We respond to these truths by worshiping. As John Piper puts it, God has blessed us so much that our echo is to bless him. The deeper we dive into the gospel, and the better we understand God’s gracious work to redeem us and to grant us every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus, the more we overflow in praise to the only One who could do this for us and in us.

To prepare for Sunday, read Ephesians 1:3-14.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 30th, 2022

Last week, Pastor Matt concluded his sermon with Romans 11:33-36, reminding us that, “From [God] and through him and to him are all things.” The glory of God is the end of all things, the very reason the creation exists. Ultimately, everything, everywhere will give glory to its Creator. Now, let’s stop and think about the significance of the fact that we, the people of God, actively participate in that right now. All creation declares the glory of God, but not with any knowledge of God; creation declares God’s glory by displaying his power and beauty. And one day, every human being will bow down to the Lord, though many will not do so willingly. We, on the other hand, worship willingly, knowing the redeeming grace and work and power of our God. We already get to do, in greater measure than the rest of creation, the thing that we are made to do! So, let’s pursue worship with purpose and excitement, both on Sundays as we gather and throughout the week as we scatter to offer our lives as living sacrifices of worship for God’s glory. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 11:33-36. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 23rd, 2022

Many of the songs of worship recorded in the Psalms have a seemingly paradoxical combination of lament and praise. There’s a pattern of worship in and through suffering. How is that possible for God’s people? The psalms answer like this: God’s people are able to continually worship because we are rooted firmly in his steadfast love. We rest in the assurance that God’s purposes are for our good - in the good, the bad, and the ugly. His plans are for his own glory, but he has intertwined his glory and our good. How incredibly gracious and kind is our God! It may not be easy, but, as we align our minds and hearts with the truth of Scripture and rest in the unfailing promise of God’s steadfast love, we can sing with the psalmist, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” We sing on the mountaintop and in the valley, in joy and in sorrow, because our God is infinitely great and worthy, and because he is infinitely loving and committed to his people. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 57. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 16th, 2022

There’s a well-known call to worship in Psalm 100. The last verse of the psalm offers the motivation for our worship: “the Lord is good, and his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.“ So, that’s where we’re going start on Sunday - reflecting on the goodness of God and responding in worship. And we can prepare before Sunday, so let’s intentionally reflect on his goodness and steadfast love this weekend. We see and experience these things most fully in the gospel, as we remember that God reached down to redeem us when we chose sin and rebellion, and made us his children, loved eternally by our perfect Father. And we continue to experience his goodness in countless blessings that he joyfully gives to his children - blessings that, if I’m honest, I tend to overlook and take for granted (and you probably do, too). 

It’s in setting our minds and hearts on the goodness and steadfast love of God that we’re drawn to worship, and even repentance for sin (Romans 2:4)! So, to prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 100, and meditate on how good our God has been to you. Let’s come together ready to exult in his love and faithfulness. 
 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 9th, 2021

We hear the phrase “new year, new you” a lot this time of year, don’t we? Everybody’s making resolutions, deciding to eat better, exercise more, quit some bad habit, form a new good habit, and the like. I get the point of the phrase and the resolutions; we’re trying to better our lives and our families and our circumstances, and that’s a generally good thing! But, as Christians, we’ve got something so much better than “new year, new you.” Maybe we could call it, “new year, same Jesus.” We don’t know what this year - or any year - will bring. But we have this steadfast hope: Jesus will be faithful through all of it, just as he has been all of our lives and for generations upon generations before us. Through all of the shifting circumstances of life, through our ups and downs, wins and losses, struggles, joys, pain, fears, Jesus remains constant. So, whether life looks good for you right now, or whether you find yourself facing uncertainty and darkness, turn your eyes to Jesus. Behold your unchanging Savior and Shepherd, and rest in his goodness. He will not and cannot change; he will not and cannot fail you. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Philippians 2:5-11. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 2nd, 2022

Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to combat an early attack on the gospel. False teachers were insisting that the Galatian believers follow Jewish law (specifically circumcision) to be saved and to rightly follow Jesus as believers. Paul fights hard against this heresy, reminding the Galatians of the gospel they first heard and believed - justification by faith alone in Christ alone, and of the truth that the spiritual work that began at their conversion will not be brought to completion by their own effort, but by the work of the Spirit. 

I doubt that any of us have asked whether or not we need to follow the Mosaic law to be saved. But we do slip into the same kind of legalistic thinking, don’t we? We so quickly start to question whether Christ’s work is really enough to keep us in right standing with God, and we begin to see our relationship with God through the lens of our own merit. So, like the early Christians in Galatia, we need a reminder that Jesus is powerful enough to save us and to transform us. Our own righteousness, or lack thereof, our best days or our worst days, do not and cannot affect our standing with God. Instead of working to earn salvation, to earn God’s favor and love, we worship and serve in response to the truth that nothing can ever separate us from his love. That is freedom! So, when we feel the weight of condemnation, when our internal voice of legalism whispers that we don’t measure up, we turn our eyes to Jesus, the One who saves us, changes us, and keeps us. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Galatians 3:1-7 and 6:11-15. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 26th, 2021

As we come to the end of the Advent season, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for God to continually be with us and near to us. His nearness does not end after Advent, nor does it even end after the ascension, when Christ was no longer physically on the earth. Because Christ came in the flesh, God is near to us, and we are welcomed near to God. Psalm 73 helps to understand and feel this truth in a really unique way. As Asaph, the writer of this psalm, sees the affliction and struggle of God’s people on this earth, he says that he is continually with God, and that the Lord holds his right hand. Isn’t that an incredible picture of how our God is near to us! 

One of my favorite things that my 15-month old does right now is ask to hold my hand when he wants to show me something, go up and down some steps, or go out in the road. What does he get when holds my hand? He gets connection, closeness, guidance, security, help. That’s exactly what God gives to his people. We run to him, hand extended, trying to walk down the front steps. And he lovingly holds our hand, leading us and protecting us, keeping us from falling. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 73.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 19th, 2021.

Luke 1 records a prophecy made by John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, concerning the birth of Jesus. He references OT covenants, prophecies, and blessings made to the children of Israel that all find their fulfillment in Christ. And, because their ultimate fulfillment is in Christ, all people - Jew and Gentile alike - who trust in Christ for their salvation share in the blessings. We can, honestly and confidently, claim Zechariah’s words as our own: God has shown us mercy, and we have been delivered from our enemies - our greatest enemies of sin and death and hell. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God has visited us, has made us partakers in the blessings of salvation, and has redeemed us to know and serve him. And, as we come to the close the Advent season, we are reminded once more that the final fulfillment of these promises is yet to come. We await another coming of Chris