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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 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 me