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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 Christ, when he comes to judge and to reign, to deliver us forever from even the slightest touch of our enemies. Take a few minutes this weekend to consider and rest in the work of Christ for you. Let’s gather on Sunday with minds and hearts already engaged with gospel truth, ready to declare it with (and to) our brothers and sisters as we make much of Jesus’ name together. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Luke 1:68-75.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 12th, 2021.

In the Old Testament, in the book of Micah, there’s a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Scripture notes that this would take place despite the fact that Bethlehem was “too little to be among the clans of Judah.” Christ entered the world a lowly and seemingly insignificant place. This is indicative of something at the very heart of the gospel: Christ came for the lowly, the weak, the needy. In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds the church at Corinth that not many of them were great in the world’s eyes; they weren’t powerful, didn’t have great pedigree. But that’s exactly who God calls to himself. He’s chosen the weak and lowly so that none of us might boast in ourselves, but in him. Those who esteem themselves as great and worthy fail to see their need for Jesus. The gospel humbles us as it confronts us with our sin and weakness and helplessness apart from Christ. But then it lifts us up in our new identity in union with Christ, joint heirs with him, sons and daughters of God who are free from the power and condemnation of sin. Praise the Lord that Jesus was born into the world to seek and save the broken, lost, and humble. Let’s boast in him as we reflect on all that he’s done for us, and all that we are in him.

To prepare for Sunday, read Micah 5:2-5.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

December 5th, 2021

As Christians, we live in the constant tension of “already and not yet”. Christ has already come, save us from our sin, and defeated death, but sin and death remain all around us, and even in us. The kingdom of God has already come, but we await the full consummation at Christ’s return. We’re already citizens of heaven, but we’re not yet home. And the list goes on.

The Advent season presents a unique and stark reminder of this tension. During Advent we remember that darkness is still present, and still powerful. We exist in and struggle against the darkness of sin, shame, and suffering, against the powers of this age that rage against our God. But the darkness no longer rules or defines us, and it will not have the final victory. We are members of the kingdom of light, and, in the midst of the “not yet,” the “already” reminds us that Christ will come again and put an end to all that is sinful, broken, and wrong. Here is the promise of Advent: there is hope, there is joy, there is rest, now in part and soon in full, for the Light has broken through the darkness. 

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 28th, 2021

We’re coming to the end of a week where, culturally, we think about thankfulness, and things that we’re thankful for. This is a healthy exercise for anyone, but particularly so for Christians. In fact, the Bible tells us that it’s good for the people of God to give thanks to God. As we do so, we both glorify him as he deserves, and we ground ourselves in the truth of his goodness. We’re built up in faith, love, and joy in God when we remember his constant goodness to us. 

In Psalm 103, we find a list of expressions of God’s goodness that, according to the psalmist, rally our souls to thanksgiving and worship. The Lord is gracious, forgiving, healing, providing, merciful, faithful, patient, and abundantly loving. These are not abstract characteristics; this is the way that relates to you and to me. That anchors our souls in the storm that is life in a fallen world, and it calls us to whole-hearted praise. Before Sunday, take a few minutes to consider God’s immeasurable goodness to you, and then we’ll gather Sunday to declare these things to each other, that we might not forget all his benefits. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 103:1-14.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

November 21st, 2021

Jesus famously stated that to follow him means to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. A disciple of Jesus doesn’t count anything as more valuable than Jesus. If you’re anything like me, that’s both exciting (as we see the worth of laying down our lives for Jesus) and a little intimidating (as we see how far short we often fall of this call). I want my own good, interests, and comfort - the opposite of denying myself. But there’s gospel encouragement here. Jesus doesn’t need our perfect surrender, our perfect denying of ourselves. Discipleship is a reorientation of our lives to follow Jesus; it’s a posture of submission to his lordship. That’s what happens when we become a Christian. Then, as we’re sanctified over the entire course of our lives, we live out that posture. We become more aware of and aligned with the reality that Jesus is Lord of every part of our lives. The reality of what Christ has done for us and who we are in him both inspires and empowers us live for the One who saved us, rather than for ourselves. So, we look to Christ, remembering that he is our life and righteousness, and we go about the hard, Spirit-empowered work of denying ourselves and taking up our cross. 

This is where our Sunday gatherings come into play. We get together with a bunch of other people pursuing self-denial and Christ’s glory, and we encourage each other with all of these truths. The Spirit actually forms our discipleship as we worship in community, as we are reminded of who Jesus is, who we are in him, and that we have the privilege - and power - to live as his disciples, for his glory. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Mark 8:34-38.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

 

*****

November 14th, 2021

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 47.

A couple weeks ago, Pastor Matt described the worship of God’s people in Ezra’s day as “anything but subdued” as they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. That’s a common theme throughout Scripture; God’s redeemed people worship him with enthusiasm, with, as Psalm 47 puts it, shouts and loud songs of joy.

Just think about this for a second: we come to together to worship the God of the universe, who is worthy of all glory simply because he is who he is. But this great and holy God loves us and gave his Son to save us from our sin. Why in the world would our worship be subdued? The greatness and goodness of our God cultivates wall-shaking, roof-raising worship from God’s people! I’m incredibly thankful that we have a church that engages and continues to pursue and grow in worship like this, with loud songs of joy and praise. Not every church is like this! May God continue to grow us in joyful, enthusiastic expression of praise for who he is and what he’s done. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 31st, 2021

Last week, we talked about abiding in Jesus as the center of the Christian life. One of the ways we abide in Jesus is by gazing at the cross. As we consider the Lamb of God slain for us, we come face-to-face with our sin that demanded such a payment. But we’re overwhelmed at the love and grace of holy God who would rescue us from sin’s grip and from his own wrath by giving his Son to die in our place. And we find rest in the reality that Christ’s work is finished. He has already won the victory over sin and death and hell, and, because we are in Christ, we no longer fear their power or penalty. On Sunday, we’re going to Matthew’s account of the crucifixion and resurrection, as we cast our minds to Calvary. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Matthew 27:32-28.10.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 24th, 2021

What does it mean for Jesus to be preeminent in all things? It means that he is over all, and that all things culminate in him and for him - that the entire universe is ultimately aimed at his glory. As Christians, then, we live our lives with Jesus square in the center. And as a church, we live out our mission with Jesus square in the center. Every single thing we do as believers, whether individually or collectively, is to be done for the glory of Jesus. That’s a lofty goal, and one of which we continually fall short, but that’s our pursuit, our heartbeat.

When I think about gathered worship, I see it as something of a rally, a short time where a group of people pursuing the glory of Jesus come together to remind each other of Christ’s work and beauty, and to call each other to aim our lives the way they’re supposed to be aimed. We sing to the One who’s worthy of every song we could ever sing, and we stir each other up to live for the One who’s worthy of every breath we’ll ever breathe. 

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

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 17th, 2021

As God’s people, we have the sacred privilege and duty to testify about what God has done. Psalm 96 reminds us of this, calling us to tell of his salvation from day to day and to declare his marvelous works among all the people. But for us to be able to declare what God has done, we actually have to be thinking about what God has done. That might sound a little bit obvious, but don’t we often take for granted God’s gracious works? I know I do. Too often, it’s easier for me to remember the times I feel like God didn’t come through for me than it is to remember all the things he’s done, beginning with salvation and continuing with countless other examples. But the Christian life is one of remembering. We are to constantly recall God’s goodness and faithfulness, and in so doing to be stirred to worship and built up in faith.

On Sunday, we’re going to declare the marvelous works of the Lord. Let’s make sure we’re ready to do that by taking time this weekend to think about some of the ways he has worked in us and for us. And then let’s remind each other of his goodness as we magnify his name on Sunday.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 96.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 10th, 2021

How often do you think about the fact the God of the universe knows you and loves you? We’ve heard about it for so long that it starts to feel ordinary, something we take for granted and move on. But stop for a minute and let this sink in: you are known and loved by God, who reigns in sovereign power over the whole universe. He cares for you, both as a part of the whole of humanity and, perhaps even more stunning, as an individual person. This is what the psalmist contemplated as he penned Psalm 8. 

    “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

He’s awed by the personal knowledge and care of the One who spoke everything into existence. God is mindful of us in the same way, and he’s expressed this visibly by sending his Son to redeem us. Romans tells us that in Christ nothing can separate us from the love of God. This should do something to us, something in us. It draws out our worship, certainly, but it also builds our faith. Every inch of the universe is under the Lord’s control; he does whatever he pleases and works all things to the counsel of his will. And the counsel of his will is for our good, because he has set his affection on us. Maybe we could say it like this: the God who promises to work all things for our good is both powerful enough and loving enough to do so. So, brothers and sisters, look up, be astonished, and take heart. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 8.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

October 3rd, 2021. 

If you’ve been around church for very long, you’re probably familiar with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. But the story isn’t really about a wayward son, at the end of the day; it’s about a faithful, loving, merciful father. After his son metaphorically slaps him in the face, asks for his inheritance (as good as telling his dad, “I wish you were dead”), and then squanders the inheritance on all manner of sinful living, the father eagerly welcomes him home. He runs to meet his son as soon as he sees him on the horizon, and, when his son asks just to be one of his hired servants, the father clothes his son in his finest robes and throws a party, because his son has finally returned. 

As Jesus told this parable, he was, of course, teaching us about our heavenly Father. We play the part of the son in the story, having raged against God’s glory and righteousness and rule. We spent our lives - even those of us who saved at a young age - chasing after sinful pleasures and freedoms. But our Father graciously and eagerly welcomed us to himself. Like the father in the parable, he clothes us in the finest robes - robes of Christ’s perfect righteousness. He forgave our sins and adopted us as his sons and daughters. 

This is stunning, but perhaps equally stunning is the fact that God continues to relate to us like that. While we can’t lose our place in his family, we often stray from him in yet another vain pursuit of pleasure and life apart from God. Yet his perfect love does not waver, even when our faithfulness does. Time and time again, we find our Father patiently calling us back to himself, as his lovingkindness leads us to repentance. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Like 15:11-24.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 26th, 2021.

We’ve dived deep into the gospel over the past few weeks in Romans 8. We’ve done some heavy theological lifting, and it’s been incredibly encouraging, hasn’t it? But we say often that theology “done right” always leads to doxology; that is, the more we know about God, the more we’re moved to worship him. Praise God that we are part of a church that practices this; our church family wants to know God deeply and respond with whole-hearted, joyful worship. 

As we gather this week, we’re going to simply reflect on the gospel that’s been preached from Romans 8. We’ll celebrate the fact that Christ, as our representative and substitute, has undone the damage of our first representative, Adam, in the garden. In Romans 5 we read that in Adam all die, but in Christ we are made alive. Where Adam failed to obey God in righteousness, and we have likewise followed in sin, Jesus has succeeded. As Pastor Matt said two weeks ago, Christ not only bore the penalty for our sin, but he credits us with the positive righteousness that God requires. A second Adam, a true and better Adam, has lived in our place as our representative, and we gain all the blessings and benefits of the gospel for all eternity in him. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Romans 5:12-21.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 19th, 2021.  

In a familiar passage in Revelation 5, we read a description of a heavenly scene, of saints and angels gathered around the throne worshiping Christ. That's a scene we will be part of for all eternity, and Sunday mornings are rehearsals for it. In a small taste of what we’ll do in eternity, we gather with a diverse group of people to remember and respond to the glory of Christ. We testify that he is worthy to sum up all things in himself, and that he deserves all glory and honor and power because he died and rose for us. In so doing, we join the song already being sung in heaven, and, with our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus, we see the light piercing the darkness of a sin-cursed world. It helps us long for and prepare for the next world, without sin or pain or sorrow. 

To prepare for Sunday, read Revelation 5. 

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

September 12th, 2021

This Sunday, we’ll read responsively from Psalm 51 in a time of corporate confession. If you’ve been around our church for any length of time, you know that we consistently talk about our sin and have regular times built into our services for us to acknowledge and confess our sin. This is a vital part of what it means to be in community as followers and worshipers of Jesus. We are, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “a fellowship of sinners.” Confessing together that we are still struggling with sin encourages us in the fight. We link arms with our brothers and sisters, standing in solidarity in both the struggle and in resolve to, by the grace of God, forsake our sin and pursue holiness. 

But confession should also encourage us to turn in desperation and confidence to Christ. The gospel tells us that God no longer remembers our sin against us; instead, he sees us as righteous in Christ. Christians are not left hopelessly bearing the weight and condemnation of sin. For this reason, we’ll never end a service with confession! We confess, but we turn our attention to our Savior’s righteousness imputed to us, and to his ongoing work of pleading his own blood and righteousness for us before the Father.

To prepare for Sunday, read Psalm 51.

 

Grace,

Pastor Joseph

*****

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 Jose