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September 5th, 2021

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 33. 

This psalm is an expansive call to worship, and we’ll read it in its entirety to open our service this Sunday, but I want to draw our attention to just the first verse in preparation for our gathering. It says, “Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.” As the people who are counted righteous and upright because of Christ’s righteousness and uprightness, it “befits us” to worship. It’s normal, appropriate, and even expected that we “shout for joy in the Lord.” Why? It’s for several reasons, which the psalm goes on to explain. We also worship because of who God is. As his people, we know him uniquely; we have a distinct and clear perspective of his greatness. We worship because of what God has done for us. He has rescued and redeemed us because of his steadfast love. And we worship because of what God continues to do. The Lord faithfully shepherds us and leads us to delight in him and to rest in him. 

So, as the redeemed people of God, let’s raise our voices together in response to his greatness and grace. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

August 29th, 2021

We’ve probably all heard (and used) the phrase, “no rest for the weary.” What we mean when we say that is that one tiring, difficult thing after another seems to keep happening, with little or no breaks. Probably all of us feel weary right now, don’t we? We’re tired of constant arguing, tired of people suffering, tired of the sickness that we’ve been navigating for the last year and a half. But those things are just symptoms (no pun intended) of something deeper. Ultimately, we’re weary because of sin - both ours and others’ - and its effects on the world we live in. Because of sin, our desires become disordered, and we tire ourselves out pursuing peace and joy in the wrong things. We deal with seemingly endless suffering and sorrow. 

The gospel, though, promises rest for our weary souls. This rest can be found solely by knowing and trusting Jesus. Only Jesus can fix what’s broken and fill what’s empty in us. The Lord graciously calls us to run to him with our sin, our suffering, our sorrows, to come weary and heavy-laden. So, we continually turn our eyes and hearts to Christ, and we find perfect rest, for our weary, struggling souls. 

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

August 22nd, 2021

In preparation for our worship gathering this Sunday, will you take a few minutes to pray for our brothers and sisters in the church in Afghanistan? As the Taliban has seized control of the Afghani government this week, many Christians in the country face the very real threat of torture and death for their faith. They live in constant fear for their lives - fear that the government will hunt them down, or even that they will be martyred by a family member in an honor killing. As American Christians, we don’t even have a category for that sort of suffering and persecution. And praise God that we don’t! We are incredibly blessed to have extraordinary religious freedom. But may we not allow that to keep us from solidarity with the persecuted church (which of course extends far beyond Afghanistan). As we have said many times, we share more in common with a Christian in hiding in a closed country than we do with our unbelieving neighbor who looks like us and talks like us. We are God’s global family, and part of that family is suffering right now, at this very moment. 

So, this weekend, let’s pray that God will protect and sustain our brothers and sisters in the Afghani church. Let’s pray that they will remain faithful, even unto death. And let’s pray that the gospel would sweep through that nation, so that even the persecutors would repent and believe, like the apostle Paul. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 67. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

August 15th, 2021

The book of James is very clear that the cause of most of our issues - both internally, as we deal with sin and temptation, and interpersonally, as we deal with strife and tension - is our sinful hearts. We are tempted when our own hearts stray after things that dishonor God. We pursue the world, and in so doing, act like God’s enemies. We easily become self-seeking and self-serving, prioritizing ourselves and our desires over the people around us. All of us feel those tendencies deep in our hearts, don’t we? We don’t like to admit it; these things are ugly, and we know it! But they are most certainly present in us, a part of our daily experience and struggle. 

There is good news, though. James tells us in chapter 4 that abundant grace is available to the one who humbly seeks after God. The Lord is not sitting on his throne waiting for us to mess up so he can swoop in to destroy us; no, he patiently calls us to draw near to him in weakness and repentance. While he resists the proud, he gives grace to the humble. So, let’s as God to give us humble, repentant, submissive hearts that continually turn from our sin to him. Let’s ask for his grace to pursue Christlikeness and to be who we are called to be in Christ. 

To prepare for Sunday, read James 4:1-10.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

August 1st, 2021

This Sunday marks the beginning of a five-week sermon series called “The Golden Chain,” where we’ll examine five key truths related to our salvation from Romans 8:28-30. These verses, and their surrounding context, are full of lofty theology that challenges and shapes our thinking. But this passage also comforts our souls by helping us to understand how these rich theological truths ground our assurance, our confidence in God’s love, the certainty of our sanctification, and the hope of future glory. This is what good theology, rightly understood and applied, does! It fuels worship and trust and obedience. As we study God’s power and grace displayed in the gospel, let’s pray that we are formed in our minds, hearts, and hands - to know God better, love him more deeply, and serve him more fully. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 8:28-39.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

July 25th, 2021

One of the key things that Pastor Matt highlighted at the end of our series in 1 John, and one of the things that has resonated the most with our church family over the course of the series, was the truth that God unconditionally and unfailingly loves us. That’s really incredible, if we rightly grasp the greatness of God and the chasm that exists between his majestic holiness and our sinfulness and weakness. We are perfectly loved by the holy, sovereign God of the universe. He is infinite, righteous, and just. He created all things and rules over the universe in absolute, unquestionable power. He is, in every way, apart from and unstained by sin. And, without compromising any of his character or status, the King is also our Father. The Judge is our Advocate. The all-powerful God works powerfully for us, not against us. This sort of love is cause for rejoicing of the highest order! 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 145.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

July 18th, 2021.

How often do we think about the fact that, before we were saved, God was angry with us? That’s not a pleasant thought, and it shouldn’t be pleasant; the holy and all-powerful Ruler of the universe being angry with us is a terrifying thought! Scripture, thought, does tell us that he was angry with us, and rightly so, because of our sin. But Isaiah 12 describes God turning away from his anger to comfort us. Isn’t that incredible? I’m not sure I can come up with a greater, more stunning contrast than the heat of anger versus the gentleness of comfort. The Lord mercifully turned towards us in love in Christ, moving from wrath to comfort. The New Testament tells us that we are no longer slaves to fear and that God has not given us a spirit of fear. We don’t have to be terrified of the Lord’s anger anymore; he now comforts us with his love. Take a few minutes before Sunday to think about that and to thank the Lord for his gracious, saving work. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Isaiah 12.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

July 11th, 2021

Hebrews 1 tells us that Christ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high after he had made purification for sins. I want to consider what it means that he made purification for sins for a few minutes as we head towards Sunday. It’s a reference to the Old Covenant sacrificial system, where the priests were constantly offering sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of the people. But, as the writer of Hebrews points out later in the book, Christ’s sacrifice is better than the old sacrifices and system. His was the final sacrifice, a once-for-all atonement that made actual, eternal purification for sins possible. The work of Jesus is finished; there is nothing more to be added to it, nothing we can do to make it more or less effective. If we are in Christ, though we still struggle with sin, he has fully and finally purified us from our sin. We are no longer under its power or punishment. And think about this: God did this for us knowing fully every sin we would commit, everything he would be purifying us from! He knew the depths of our souls, and still he chose us, called us, and accomplished salvation for us!

To prepare for Sunday, read Hebrews 1.

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 27th, 2021.

In preparation for our gathering this Sunday, I want to take a few minutes to collectively meditate on the glory of Christ. Philippians 2 tells us that his name is above every other name, the only name worthy of every knee bowing down and every tongue confessing his glory and Lordship. This is true because no one else has done, or could do, what Jesus has done. He alone is God in flesh, displaying God’s glory and living among us. He alone is the Lamb of God, slain for sins and raised for our justification. He alone is exalted at the right hand of the Father, sustaining and ruling over every inch of then universe. Therefore, he alone is worthy of a name above every other name; he deserves infinite praise - as we’ll testify Sunday, we give him glory, but still he’s worthy of more. We have an incredible privilege, as the people of God, to participate in heaven’s song of worship to our Savior. Even though we can’t give him everything he deserves, he’s pleased with our offerings of worship! Even though we often come distracted, tired, and struggling, he’s glorified as we sing of his glory and grace. Let’s pray that CBC would, by the grace of God, make much of Jesus as we gather and as we scatter. 

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 20th, 2021.

While we certainly don’t want to wallow in condemnation over our past sin, it’s actually important that we look back and remember what we’ve been saved from, how great God’s forgiveness is. We’ve been shown overwhelming grace and mercy, such that we should never be able to forget it! There’s no greater blessing in the universe than to have our sins forgiven, to be made right with a holy and just God. He has removed our guilt and the punishment for our sin, instead laying them on his Son. Christ paid an infinite price because our sin was infinitely rebellious and worthy of infinite wrath.

Understanding what God has done for us in the gospel leads to worship; it’s inevitable! We’ll gather this Sunday to remember God’s gracious work and to pour out our praise in response. Before Sunday, take a few minutes to consider the depth of his mercy and grace towards you. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 32.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 13th, 2021.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, his preaching and our faith is all in vain, and that we are the most pitiable of all people. The resurrection is that important! If Christ wasn’t raised, Christianity falls apart; everything else Jesus said and did would be invalidated. In his rising, he sealed his victory over sin and death, securing our salvation (this is why Romans 4 can say that he was “raised for our justification”). If Jesus is not alive, we are still dead in our sins, with no hope of eternal life, no freedom from sin’s dominion. But Paul goes on to say that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and all those who trust in him are no longer dead in their sins, but alive in him! We do not bow to sin or fear death, because our Lord rose victorious. Our hope is eternal and unshakable because Jesus is alive. 

To prepare for Sunday, read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

June 6th, 2021.

One of my favorite extra-biblical quotes comes from an early church father named Augustine. He said, “O Lord, you have made for us yourself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in you.” That is to say, the deepest longings of our souls are met and fulfilled in Christ.  Every human being who has ever lived is locked in constant striving - striving to fill ourselves, fix something ourselves, or fix the world around us. It’s a tiring and ultimately futile pursuit; our best efforts are like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. We may look and feel a little better for a while, but we haven’t addressed the underlying issue, and the issue will eventually rear its ugly head again. 

Christ offers the full and final solution to all of our striving. Our search for meaning and joy ends in him. Our sinfulness and weakness are forgiven and redeemed in him, and he continuously sanctifies us. And he provides meaning and hope in the broken world we live in, promising to use all things for our good and to ultimately re-create the world in perfect righteousness. And, incredibly, Jesus invites us to come to him and experience this rest even while we’re still striving after the wrong things in the wrong ways! He doesn’t tell us to clean up our act, then run to him; he says to come while we’re weary, to come in the middle of our sin, our weakness, our doubt. It’s the person who recognizes their need, their restlessness, who finds perfect rest in Christ. As we head towards our service this Sunday, let’s ask God to to free us from our misguided, self-sufficient striving and lead us into deeper rest in Jesus,

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 30th, 2021.

John Piper has said that, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” The aim of our lives, and the rightful aim of all creation, is the glory of our Creator. But we have deviated from our highest purpose, and, to our shame, we’ve worshiped countless other things besides the only One who is truly worthy. As Christians, God has renewed that purpose and passion in us; though we do so imperfectly, we are now a people whose core longing is to glorify our Lord. Missions, at its heart, then, is about calling more people who suffer from the plague of misplaced worship to repent and believe, to see Christ as he is, in all his beauty, and to reorient their lives to do the thing they were created to do - worship the true and living God! 

This Sunday, we have the privilege of commissioning one of our members, Jasmine Kiernan, and sending her out for a year-long residency to prepare for full-time foreign missions. She plans to take the gospel to an unreached people group, and we all get to participate with her in calling more people to know and worship King Jesus. We’ll get to see God’s purpose fulfilled that people from every nation and tribe and language would shout his praise. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Revelation 7:9-17. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 23rd, 2021.

For some reason, as human beings, when we think about God, we default towards transactional, legalistic relationship. Our first thought is either, “What can God do for me?” or “What have I done for God to make him accept me?” If I feel like haven’t had a good enough week, haven’t read the Bible enough, have sinned a little too much, then I think I need to clean up my act before I can worship the Lord. Certainly, sanctification undoes this thinking over time, and the deeper we understand the gospel, the more we can fight back against that tendency. But the tendency still exists! But you and I bring nothing more to the table now than we did before we were converted. As unregenerate, hell-bound sinners, we needed Christ and nothing else; nothing we had or did could make us right with God. And likewise, when we come to him in worship, apart from Christ, we have nothing to offer. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t welcome us or our praise, though. In fact, it’s the opposite! Because we are in Christ, we are welcomed with open arms by the holy God, not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of who Jesus is and what he has done! Scripture tells us that our Lord inhabits our praises, that Christ himself is the One leading our worship, if you will, enabling and empowering our weary souls to praise the King. 

So, as you come to worship this Sunday, come empty-handed, but confident in Christ to worship the God of the universe. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 98.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 16th, 2021.

Psalm 100 tells us that we are God’s people, the sheep of his pasture. That’s a fairly common theme throughout Scripture that carries a lot of theological and experiential significance. A shepherd leads his sheep with tender care, guiding them to safe and lush pastures, as we read in another psalm. He protects his sheep from attacks and danger. And this is necessary, because the sheep aren’t able to do these things on their own! Without a competent shepherd, sheep die - quickly, but with a competent shepherd, they thrive.

Of course, we as God’s people have more than just a competent Shepherd; he is the Good Shepherd who perfectly tends his flock. Like sheep, we wander from his loving care and pursue things that ultimately lead to death. But our Shepherd faithfully chases us down, leaving the ninety-nine left in his fold for the one wandering towards danger. He guards us from spiritual wolves who threaten to destroy us, and he leads us to abundant life and fullness of joy in his presence. We are his forever, and he will keep us to eternity. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 100. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 9th, 2021

On Sunday, we’re going to learn a new song that comes straight from Psalm 34. This is a psalm of testimony, providing language for the people of God to rejoice in God’s mighty works for us. And it’s a very literal call to worship, as those who remember what God has done for them extend this invitation: “Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” 

One of the things I appreciate most about the song shows up in the bridge, where it says, “Let us bless the Lord every day and night, never-ending praise, may our incense rise.” Phrases like “every day and night” and “never-ending praise” describe something much more than just our songs! As we remind ourselves regularly, the way that we respond to God’s works for us is worship with every part of our lives. When we recognize the grace that we’ve been shown and are being shown constantly in Christ, we lay down our lives - imperfectly, to be sure - for the glory of God. We pursue a life in which every moment, every breath, is lived to proclaim his worth and majesty. 

Truly, we can say that we sought the Lord and he answered us and delivered us, that this poor man cried, and he rescued us. So, we invite each other to magnify his name, to make his praise glorious. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 34. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

May 2nd, 2021

There’s a lot of errant teaching out there about how the gospel relates to the pain and difficulty and sorrow we experience in a fallen world. Many people believe and teach that God’s purpose is always to remove our suffering, and that if we just believe and claim that enough, we will experience immediate relief. That’s pretty appealing! And, if we’re honest, even though we don’t affirm that teaching, we probably find ourselves functionally believing the same kinds of things, don’t we? We pray that God would relieve sorrow and suffering - and that’s good, we should pray for that! - and, when he doesn’t, we quickly question whether he’s failed us. 

But the gospel offers us a bigger picture and better hope in the midst of trials and suffering. It tells us that God is with us in our suffering, that he does not leave or forsake us. It reminds us that he is sovereign over all things; as Lamentations 3 says, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and bad come?” We don’t understand how his absolute sovereignty works, but isn’t it comforting to know that, whatever we’re experiencing, it’s not outside of God’s control? Beyond that, in his perfect goodness and love, he is working all things for our good. Sanctification is often painful, but God is using all things to form us to be more like Jesus, and to know and treasure Jesus more. The gospel tells us that God actually cares about our suffering. He is not detached or distant. Psalm 56:8 says, “[God] kept count of my tossing, put my tears in your bottle.” Hebrews tells us that Christ is a High Priest who sympathizes with us. Finally, the gospel guarantees eternity with no more pain, no more tears, no more suffering. Romans tells us that the our present suffering can’t even be compared to the glory that awaits in the presence of God! 

As we sojourn in a dark, broken world, full of difficulty and trials, may God teach our hearts to remember and believe these truths. The all-powerful God of the universe knows and cares about our pain, our struggles, our tears. He promises to be with us and to uphold us through deepest valleys, and to use all things for our good and for his glory.

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 8:18-30. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 25th, 2021

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 5:1-11.

This is a passage rich in gospel truth and promises, and it will guide our liturgy on Sunday. We’ll rejoice that Christ did not come to call those who falsely see themselves as righteous, but sinners. He redeems and works in those who acknowledge their need, their sinfulness, and their inability to make themselves right with God. We’ll remember the work of Christ that made our redemption possible - his living and dying in our stead that frees us from condemnation and wrath and makes us right with God. And we’ll testify to then peace, joy, healing, and rest that’s ours in Christ and that we will experience perfectly forever in his presence. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 18th, 2021. 

The further we go into 1 John, the more we’re going to hear about the love of God. We sometimes shy away from talking about God’s love for us, but, as Pastor Matt said a few weeks ago, it’s impossible to talk too much about his love. When God reveals himself in his glory to Moses in Exodus 34, he describes himself as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands.” Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people remember that definition. They’re constantly praising God for his steadfast love. In Ephesians 1, we read that it was “in love” that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be his children, it was love that brought Jesus to earth and held him on a cross for us. Nothing can separate us from this perfect, faithful, loyal love; it’s securely ours in Christ. 

This week, as we reflect on God’s love for us, we’re going to read a section of Psalm 136 responsively, where, 14 times, we’ll read a statement about God, followed by, “for his steadfast love endures forever.” May we praise God for his unfailing love, and may we find rest there. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 136.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 11th, 2021

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes that in Christ, we are new creations. The old nature has passed away, and a new nature has taken its place, one created and empowered by the Spirit living in us. We now live in freedom from the bondage and dominion of sin, freed to be and do what we are actually created to be and do! This new nature gives us the desire and ability to be like Jesus, to worship God with every part of our lives, as a grateful response to what God has done for us. Paul puts it like this: “The love of Christ compels us.” That’s a really incredible idea! What Christ has done for us and is doing in us through his Spirit creates our obedience; that’s why I say that it gives us both the desire and the ability to do what God commands. We don’t obey for God’s acceptance; rather, we obey because God has accepted us in Christ. 

This new identity has an inherently corporate dimension to it, as well. We are not re-created to be alone, floating islands of individualized theology and worship. Part of God’s purpose in the new creation is to create a new body, a distinct kingdom, made up of all kinds of people but united in Christ. What we do when we gather each Sunday is actually an expression of our new identity in Christ. We gather because God has gathered us, and we gather to affirm and edify each other as we remember who we are in Christ. 

To prepare for Sunday, read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

April 2nd and 4th, 2021

Each year on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we very specifically focus on the finished work of the gospel, remembering Christ’s death and resurrection. As we head towards these services this year, let’s think about the immensity of God’s grace and love displayed to us in the gospel. Although we had done nothing to deserve salvation, and frankly, we had done everything to deserve eternal judgment, the Son of God, in accordance with the Father’s plan, willingly laid down his life for us. Our sin was so great, so heavy, that the only way God’s wrath could be assuaged was through the death of Christ. When we behold the Lamb of God, slain for us, we should grapple with the seriousness and the ugliness of our sin that required such sacrifice! But the gospel doesn’t leave us there, wallowing in self-loathing over the depth of our sin. Though we are are wholly unworthy of God’s affection and acceptance, the One who is worthy lived, died, and rose in our place, so that we might be accepted by God. We have died to our sin and been raised up with Christ, loved by the Father with the same love he has for his Son. We have been given a new identity and a new nature. We no longer live in bondage to sin, and we no longer fear the power of death, because Christ has won the victory over them on our behalf. These are the truths we remember, declare, and celebrate this weekend. May God give us eyes of faith to behold the slain Lamb, the risen King. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Luke 24:1-12.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 28th, 2021

As we head towards our gathering this Sunday, I want to turn our attention to the sufficiency of Christ. Sometimes we’ll say or sing things about Jesus being everything that we have, everything that we need. 

Christ is sufficient for our salvation. He is all we need to be right with God - the Way, the Truth, and the Life, without whom no one comes to the Father. He is sufficient for our sanctification. John 15 tells us that we bear fruit by abiding in Jesus. 

He is our only source of true, lasting joy in our longing and rest in our striving. Augustine famously prayed that “Our souls are restless until they find rest in you.” Psalm 16 testifies that, “In [God’s] presence is fullness of joy.” And in Matthew 15 Jesus offers and invitation to come to him and find rest. He is our Rock in suffering, the One who walks with us, upholds us, cares for us, and protects us. And any earthly suffering pales in comparison to the eternal glory and joy that is ours in Christ. 

Jesus is everything we need for all of life; he truly is sufficient. This is the kind of truth that we need to preach to ourselves and to each other again and again, reminding our souls of our Lord’s invitation to come, weary and heavy laden, and to find perfect rest in him. 

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 21st, 2021

If you’ve been around CBC for any length of time, you know that we love old stuff! We sing old songs and recite old creeds and prayers all the time, because we believe it’s important for us to be connected to the past. We’re not on an island as Christ’s Church; we stand in a long, long line of saints united in Christ. And there’s so much theological and doxological depth to be had in the words of these past generations! 

This year, we wrote a brand new take on one of these old songs, a hymn by Charles Wesley called “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” We’re going to learn the new tune and chorus this Sunday, so we’re familiar with it for our Easter celebration in just a few weeks. Wesley’s text is one of the richest expositions of Christ’s resurrection in any song, ancient or modern. We’ll sing about Christ’s victory over death, his once for all sacrifice to save us, and that the power of sin and death has been undone. The last verse of the hymn is my favorite: 

    Soar we now where Christ has led, alleluia 
    Following our exalted Head, alleluia 
    Made like him, like him we rise, alleluia 
    Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, alleluia 

These words unpack what theologians call Christ’s “federal headship.” That’s a fancy way of saying that Jesus’ work was accomplished in our place - that he perfectly represented us in his righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection. Therefore, we participate in our Savior’s victory over sin and death; they have no more power over us. That’s a truth we can’t sing enough about! 

To prepare for Sunday, read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 14th, 2021.

The Nicene Creed testifies that Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God…of the same essence as the Father.” In a nutshell, this is an affirmation of Jesus’ deity. John 1 calls him the Word of God who was in the beginning with God and who made everything in the universe. He is worthy of our praise simply because he is God. He is the Light who has shined into our darkness - the darkness of sin and the curse - and has given us life. He is, John goes on to tell us, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (we rightly talk and sing a lot about this!). As we behold the Lamb, we also behold the eternally existent, all-powerful, creating, sustaining God. Christ is glorious beyond comprehension or comparison.

Let’s ask God to show us the glory of Christ this week. 2 Corinthians makes it clear that it’s only through Christ, by the power of his Spirit, that we’re able to see his glory. The Spirit illuminates the glory of God to us through the Word of God. So, we read the Word, we meditate on it, we sing, we pray it, we preach it, and we trust that God’s Spirit will do the work only he can do.

To prepare for Sunday, read 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

March 7th, 2021.

God’s wrath is an irreplaceable part of who he is. It’s part of why he’s glorious and worthy of our worship. His wrath is completely righteous; it’s the just and inevitable posture of a holy God towards sin. Scripture is replete with descriptions and predictions of God’s wrath. Sometimes, it’s expressed towards the people of Israel for their idolatry and covenant-breaking; sometimes, it’s expressed towards the enemies of his people. Ultimately, it’s expressed in eternal damnation for all who reject God. 

We can easily feel a little bit confused or even put off when we read these passages; they are often brash and even violent. But this really indicates misunderstanding on our part, not injustice on God’s! We undersell, if you will, God’s holiness, his righteousness, and his justice. And human nature is to downplay our own sin, to see ourselves as better than we really are. Together, these create a lethal combination, a broken metric that leads us to conclude that God is unjustly harsh in his response to mankind’s sin. 

On the contrary, though, the just wrath of God magnifies his grace, and vice versa. As we grow in our understanding of God’s right response to sin, the provision of Christ as our substitute becomes that much more beautiful to us. We’re going to sing Sunday that, “On the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” God’s wrath towards us is not diminished or forgotten; it has been absorbed by Christ! Jesus drained the cup of God’s wrath, so that we don’t have to drink it. We have taken refuge in the righteous Son of God, our substitute.

To prepare for Sunday, read Nahum 1. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

February 28th, 2021

We talk a lot around our church about being “gospel-centered,” meaning that the good news of who Jesus is and what he’s done defines everything that we do. The end of 1 Corinthians 1 gives us a nice, concise statement about gospel centrality, saying that, “Christ has become to us righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” We clearly see how Christ is our righteousness and sanctification, but we probably don’t think as much about Christ as our sanctification; that’s a little bit more difficult to understand on the surface, isn’t it? 

But the gospel is for our sanctification. It’s because we are united to Christ, with his power at work through his Spirit dwelling within us, that we are able to fight sin and pursue worship and holiness. In fact, those things are absolutely impossible without Christ’s power in us! Jesus defeated sin and dismantled its power by his death and resurrection, and, if we are in Christ, we participate in that victory! We are no longer slaves to sin, and we live in the resurrection power of Jesus that crushes sin and gives us new affections. The gospel orients and empowers us to live no longer for ourselves, but for God - to know and glorify him. This is  what it means for Christ to be our sanctification; this is the gospel for every part of life. 

To prepare for Sunday, read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

February 21st, 2021

When we think about God’s holiness, our minds tend to go straight to his sinlessness, his perfect righteousness. That’s certainly part of his holiness, but it’s not the entirety of what it means for God to be holy. The essence of holiness is otherness; God is not like anything or anyone else in his creation, in any way.

The prophet Jeremiah captures this idea when he declares, “There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might.” He compares God to the idols that the nations worshiped, stone and wood made be men, and concludes that they are “stupid and worthless.” In contrast, the Lord is the true and living God, the everlasting King. He rules in untouchable power over kings and kingdoms; he is sovereign over every molecule that has ever existed or ever will exist. And his wrath shakes the very foundations of the earth; no idol nor idol-worshiper can stand in the face of his indignation towards sin. 

Jeremiah ends the passage in a striking way. After expounding on the Lord’s holiness, power, and wrath, he says that this God is the portion of Jacob. This is significant for us, because this is true for more than just the people of Israel in the OT; it’s true for all the people of God, anyone redeemed by the work of Christ. The just wrath of our holy God has been satisfied, because he poured it out on his Son. Christ - the living God, the Sovereign over the universe - became man for our salvation, so that we could know him as our portion and joy and crown.

To prepare for Sunday, read Jeremiah 10:6-16. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

Febuary 14th, 2021

At the heart of the gospel is this truth: Jesus stands in our place. While we could unpack that from countless angles (all of them worthy of our attention!), I want to direct our thoughts to a familiar verse from last Sunday’s sermon text. 1 John 1:9 says that, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us.” Do you see the significance of that? God does not begrudgingly forgive and cleanse his children; it’s actually just of him to do that! The opening verses of chapter 2 explain why: Jesus himself stands before God on our behalf. He represents us, as both our substitute and mediator. God is faithful and just to forgive us because we don’t stand before God on our own merit, but on the merit of Jesus Christ. We have been declared righteous by the holy and just Judge, because of what Christ has done. But Christ himself is our Advocate before the Father, pleading his blood and righteousness for us. 

How good is that good news? If we have any sort of accurate understanding of ourselves, it is indescribably good! Were we to stand before God on the basis of our own righteousness, we’d be condemned immediately. Not a speck of sin can remain in the presence of God! That means that the human race is universally and unequivocally without hope. But Christ pleads for us, on the basis of his righteous life and sacrificial death, and we are eternally welcomed and accepted by the Father. Even when we sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us. And we are free to pursue holiness and obedience because we are accepted by God, instead of obeying to earn his acceptance. 

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

*****

February 7th, 2021

An important but sometimes neglected part of corporate worship is confession. As we behold the glory of our holy God in our worship gatherings, our sinfulness is clearly revealed. We see ourselves truly and accurately in light of who God is. But there’s an important communal aspect to our confession; it’s essential to what we call, “helping each other make it home.” We edify and encourage each other in our struggle with sin and in our pursuit of Christ, and we remind each other of our gospel identity.

We practice corporate confession many different ways in our services - usually through a song or a passage of Scripture that acknowledges our sin and points us to Jesus for hope and forgiveness. This week, we’ll have a very clear moment of confession when we read part of Psalm 51 responsively. We’ll ask God to have mercy on us and to restore to us the joy of our salvation. Then, we’ll rejoice in the truth that he is faithful and just to cleanse us of our sins because of what Jesus has done, and that, though our sins are many, God’s mercy to us in Christ is infinitely more. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 51:1-12. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 24th, 2021

There is nothing more important for the church to do than to behold the glory of Christ. He reveals to us the glory of the invisible God; he fulfills all the Law and Prophets. He heals the the sick and pursues the lost sinner; he causes all the powers of darkness to tremble. His death accomplishes our salvation, and his rising confirms that his redemptive work was indeed finished and sufficient, and it secures for us eternal life. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and his name is exalted above every other name in the universe. He rules over all things, working every circumstance for his glory, yet he cares for each of us personally, upholding and sustaining us as we walk in the path of the gospel. And he will one day come again in power, destroying his enemies once and for all and ushering in a new creation where justice and righteousness will reign; where there is no more need for the sun, because he himself will be our Light; where God will dwell with us eternally. 

It is our holy privilege and duty to meditate on Christ, to feast on the Bread of Life, to worship the One to whom every knee will one day bow in reverence. He alone is worthy! And it is in beholding and worshiping Christ that we find true joy and rest, that we find power to overcome our sin, and hope in the darkness of a sin-cursed world. Before we gather on Sunday to lift up the name above every other name, take a few minutes to meditate on the surpassing glory of our King. 

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 17th, 2021

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate the baptism of seven people in our services. Baptism symbolizes our new life in Christ. Scripture tells us that we have been crucified with Christ; the “old man” - our sin nature - has been dealt a death blow. We are no longer in bondage to sin; we’ve been freed from its power over our lives and from the eternal condemnation it brings. Now, 2 Corinthians tells us, “The new has come!” Where there was just the decaying deadness of sin, there is now new life, eternal life, in Christ. 

All of this is secured for us by Jesus. He died and rose as our substitute - taking our punishment on himself and then rising victorious over sin and the grave, that we too might be raised to eternal life. As we celebrate what God has done in and for those we baptize, we remember and celebrate that same work in our lives. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but we have been rescued and made alive. We are not under sin’s dominion; we have resurrection power alive and at work in us, conforming us to the image of Jesus. This is the good news! 

To prepare for Sunday, read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 10th, 2021

The book of Psalms - the hymnbook of God’s people in the Old Testament - ends with a triumphant call to worship the Lord, the final words of Psalm 150 saying “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” While the Psalm is simple, its implications are profound. Everything that exists, exists to declare the glory of God; this is the ultimate purpose of all creation. Scripture is replete with references to nature doing just that. How much more, then, human beings, who can actually know God and worship with understanding and intention! And beyond mere cognitive ability, Christians worship as those who don’t just know things about God, but as people who know him personally and have experienced his unimaginable grace and mercy in the gospel! 

So, as the people of God, we get to live out our highest calling as we worship. We have been given breath that we might pour that breath back out in praise. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to be part of a church that loves to sing, and a church that understands that worship is a way of life, not just something we do on Sunday. As we learn a new hymn this Sunday that unpacks Psalm 150, we reflect on God’s immeasurable greatness, and we remind ourselves of the privilege and responsibility of worship.  

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 150.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

January 3rd, 2021

On the first Sunday in this new year, we want to step back and remind ourselves of God’s abundant goodness and kindness to us. Psalm 107, which will be our call to worship this Sunday, says to, “Give thanks to the Lord…let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” It goes on to remind the hearers of various ways he has expressed goodness and grace to them. Though the Psalm is written in the context of OT Israel and uses examples from their history, we taste the goodness of God in the same ways. Like the children of Israel, we have been rescued and freed from bondage to sin and darkness. We have been led, hungry and desperate, to heavenly bread and living water. We have been carried through deserts and valleys, through deep trials and suffering, by our loving Shepherd. 

And, like the children of Israel, we are prone to forget what God has done. Even though we’ve seen God’s faithfulness before, even though he’s delivered us and provided for us over and over in the past, we question whether he can or will in the future. The Lord knows this is our sinful tendency; that’s why he tells us so many times to actively remember what he’s done, to remind ourselves and each other of his goodness. Then, we’re moved to respond, as the Psalm says, by thanking the Lord for his steadfast love and telling of his deeds in songs of joy. May God be glorified as we remember, retell, and respond to his steadfast love and wondrous works this Sunday. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 107:1-22.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 27th, 2020

The end of the year always causes us to reflect, doesn’t it? We think back on the past year, at what we’ve done, what we have’t done, how we’ve changed, the things that have happened around us and across the world. We think about the year ahead. It makes us stop and sort of take stock of our lives in a unique way. As Christians, this drives us to God. It reminds us that our days are in his hands, that his plans are greater and higher than ours, and that he works in higher ways than we can even imagine. We’re reminded that it’s in him alone that we move and have our being - that we are quite literally nothing without him. We’re drawn to trust in his living sovereignty that’s constantly working for his glory and our good. 

As we come to the end of probably the strangest year any of us have lived through, let’s ask God to use the trials of 2020 to teach us to number our days and to form us, individually and corporately, to know, love, and imitate Christ more and more. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 90.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 20th, 2020

I want to highlight a lyric from one of the carols we’ll sing this week - “O Holy Night.” The first verse says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” The world feels really weary right now, doesn’t it? This was a long, difficult year. The difficulty and the weariness aren’t new to 2020, but 2020 sure accented just how broken and weary our world is, didn’t it? Sin and darkness press in all around; all creation groans for redemption and restoration. 

But in the weariness, we rejoice, because a new day has dawned with the coming of Christ. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus defeated sin. He crushed the power of the enemy and freed a hopeless and weary world. I love the way it’s described in the song: “yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” It’s like we can see the sun beginning to rise in the distance. It’s not daylight yet, but the bright, warm afternoon sun will be here soon; the breaking of morning guarantees it. The darkness will end, sin will be no more, and there will be no more weariness, because the Savior, the Lamb of God, the King of righteousness, the Light of the world, has come. 

To prepare for Sunday, read John 1:1-18.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 13th, 2020.

At Christmas, we talk a lot - as we should! - about Christ as a little baby, weak, humble, and helpless. And the mystery of God in flesh is worth thinking and talking about! But, particularly as we read what the Old Testament said about the coming of the Messiah, we see another side of the incarnation, one of power and majesty. We read that the government would rest on the shoulders of this coming child. He would judge the wicked and punish sin, and he would establish his rule in peace and righteousness forever. That’s not something you pick up from your average Hallmark Christmas card or nativity scene! But, as we behold Jesus in the manger, we bow before an all-powerful King and Judge, one who is worthy of all honor and reverence and worship and obedience - Christ, the Lord. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Isaiah 9:2-7.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 6th, 2020

When Mary is told of Christ’s coming birth, she sings a song of praise, recorded in Luke 1. She testifies that God has looked on her humble estate and exalted her, that he who is mighty has done great things for her. Our souls resonate with her testimony and echo her words, don’t they? God has looked on us, humble sinners, in mercy. That’s Christmas! He who is mighty does a great work for people who rejected and dishonored him. 

He accomplishes this work through Christ’s own humiliation. Philippians 2 says that Christ humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and submitting to the Father’s plan even to death on a cross. As we are humble and weak, so our Savior became humble and weak, first as a helpless baby, then eventually in his death as our atoning sacrifice. But the story doesn’t end with humiliation; it ends with exaltation! Because Jesus died and rose, he has been given a name above every other name, a name that is worthy of eternal glory and adoration. And we, united to Christ, participate both in his humiliation and his exaltation; we are among the many sons and daughters who have been brought to glory (Heb. 2). 

Christ was humbled as we are humble, that we might be exalted as he is exalted. Truly, he who is mighty has done great things for us. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Luke 1:46-55. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 29th, 2020

The Advent season is an invitation to the people of God to both remember and anticipate. We look back at Christ’s first coming, rejoicing at the arrival of the Lamb who would bear our sins, and we look forward to Christ’s second coming, anticipating the day when our righteous King sets all wrongs right and makes all things new. We’re going to open our Advent celebration by reading from Isaiah 11 this Sunday. That passage foretells the coming of Messiah, but it paints a picture that we have not yet seen - one where righteousness reigns, and where fear and violence are undone. The “branch of Jesse,” as Christ is described in Isaiah 11, has come, and he has won a full and final victory over his enemies. But he will come again to consummate his kingdom and to destroy sin and death forever.

We’re also going to introduce a new song for Advent on Sunday called “O Come, All You Unfaithful.” The invitation of Advent is not to those who see themselves as righteous or faithful. Quite the opposite, Christ came, “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  This is good news for us, because not one of us is faithful. Not one of us is righteous, save for Jesus himself. That certainly isn’t to say that a song like “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is bad; it’s a great song, and we’ll be singing that in a couple weeks as well! But we don’t get a pass at Christmastime on reckoning with our sinfulness and brokenness. But, praise God, Christ was born to rescue the sinner. He came for the lost and weary and fearful and doubting ones. We come just as we are, and he begins to remake us, to form us into his image, for his own glory. As we sing this song over the next month, we testify and celebrate the gospel! 

To prepare for Sunday, read Isaiah 11:1-10. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

The setlist for November 22nd, 2020 can be found here

Psalm 103 calls us to bless the Lord as we remember the many benefits and blessings he has poured out on us. The first 5 verses give us a short list of these blessings: God forgives our iniquity, heals our diseases, redeems our lives from then pit, crowns us with steadfast love and mercy, and satisfies our souls with good - that is, with himself. These blessings are ours in Christ; they are gospel blessings. Nothing can take them away, nothing can change them. We are redeemed, welcomed into the family of God, and satisfied as we feast on the Bread of Life. 

We’re going to sing our way through these 5 verses on Sunday, remembering what God has done for us and blessing his holy name with all that is within us.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 103:1-5.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 15th, 2020

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 5:6-21. 

I’m going to be intentionally brief this week. Romans 5 is a rich, beautiful gospel exploration, so, before Sunday read through these verses, and simply spend a few minutes considering the depth of God’s love and grace. We were enemies of God, completely undeserving of grace and salvation. But where our sin abounded, grace abounded even more in Christ. Where there was death, there is now eternal life. We are blessed beyond measure or comprehension in Christ; may we remember and respond to this glorious gospel grace. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 8th, 2020

We are people of the Word. Our God has spoken, and what he has said defines us, forms us, teaches us, directs us, sustains us, changes us. In Scripture we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; we are assured of God’s steadfast love and unfailing promises to his people; and we are instructed in living a life worthy of our calling in the gospel. 

Sundays give us an opportunity to read, pray, sing, and teach the Word. We want the Bible to guide and fill everything we do in a service. In fact, this Sunday, we’ll sing songs that come from Isaiah 43 (How Firm A Foundation), John 17-19 (Passion Hymn), Revelation 5 (Is He Worthy), and Psalm 18 (O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer). We’ll be led in a prayer shaped by a psalm, and we’ll hear a sermon expositing a passage of Scripture.  

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 119:33-40, and ask God to give us a hunger and reverence for his Word, not just in our services, but in all of our lives. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 1st, 2020

Some familiar verses at the beginning of Hebrews 12 remind us to fix our eyes on Jesus, and the end of the chapter describes what we see when we do that: an eternal, undefeated King who rules an unshakeable kingdom. When we behold Christ, as the Scripture tells us to, we are reminded of our true citizenship, our true King, and our true hope. As we come to the end of a bitterly contentious election season and approach one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history, let’s get our eyes and our hope set on heaven. Let’s ask God to help us remember who we are in Christ, to unite us in him, and to fix our hope in his unshakeable kingdom and not human candidates, systems, parties, or policies. Only Jesus could redeem sinful people like us, and only Jesus can (and will!) right all wrongs. 

That certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t care what happens next Tuesday and beyond; we absolutely do. Faithful citizens of heaven make great citizens of earthly nations and kingdoms!   But the gospel calls us to lift our eyes to our King, to worship and trust in him alone. So, Community Bible Church, let’s pursue that, by the grace of God. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Hebrews 12. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

The playlist for October 25th, 2020 can be found here

Scripture is full of the idea of feasting. At the end of time, after the final judgment, the people of God partake in the marriage supper of the Lamb. But, while we do feast, in that sense, with God, there’s also a sense in which we feast on God. The Psalms call us to taste and see that the Lord is good. Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life, and says that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have eternal life. As God provided manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness, so he has provided himself to his people in the New Covenant. This means that every Sunday, we get together for a family meal. We join our brothers and sisters to feast on the goodness and grace of our Lord, to enjoy him and be satisfied by all that he is, and to get a glimpse of the eternal feast God is preparing for his people. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 34. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

The playlist for October 18th can be found here.

We’re going to teach a song this week called “Jesus is Better.” The truths in this song are so poignant for the season we’re living - a time when, more than I’ve ever experienced, at least, there are so many voices and ideologies, false hopes and counterfeit saviors, competing for our attention and worship and trust. The first verse reminds us that our hope is built on the Rock of Ages: 

    There is no other so sure and steady; my hope is held in your hand 
    Though castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this Rock I will stand 

In the chorus, we affirm that our allegiance and worship is due to Christ alone: 

    Glory, glory, we have no other King but Jesus, Lord of all
    Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring; we crown him Lord of all 

If we’re honest with ourselves, though, we have to admit that, while we know those things are true, it’s difficult or us to actually believe that they’re true. We resonate with the father in Mark 9 who, in asking Jesus to cast a demon out of his son, cries, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Our belief that Christ is our all-sufficient Lord, Rock, and Savior is mixed with unbelief. In the bridge, we acknowledge this, and ask that God would give us faith to believe what is true about Christ: 

    In all my sorrows, Jesus is better; make my heart believe 
    In every victory, Jesus is better; make my heart believe 
    Than any comfort, Jesus is better; make my heart believe 
    More than all riches, Jesus is better; make my heart believe 
    Our souls declaring, Jesus is better; make my heart believe 
    Our song eternal, Jesus is better; make my heart believe 

Let’s ask the Lord to make our hearts believe that Jesus is better than anything else we look to for joy, strength, and hope. To prepare for Sunday, read Matthew 7:24-27.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

The playlist for October 11th, 2020 can be found here.

In a culture obsessed with self-improvement and self-worth, the gospel offers a very different narrative. It does, indeed, give us worth, and it does improve us. But it has nothing to do with self! Our “improvement” and our worth are defined by Jesus Christ. He sanctifies us by the power of his Spirit, conforming us to his image, for his glory. And he makes us children of God, united to him in his death, resurrection, and reign. He has become for us, Paul says, wisdom and righteousness and sanctification. 

The world tells us to pursue meaning and purpose by looking within for self-improvement and self-esteem. The gospel tells us that meaning and purpose and joy are found in dying to self, being united to Christ, and conformed to his image. There’s no good in us apart from Christ, but, in Christ, we are complete, justified, co-heirs of all things. We stand before the Father not on our own merit, but on