Life Groups Are Not and Can Not Be the End for Spiritual Growth

As pastor of discipleship at Westwood, I have been struggling with something for some time now.  I believe our Life Groups are vital to the health and growth of our church Body.  I have heard many testimonies about how they have strengthened individual believers.  My family has benefited from taking part in our own Life Group.  I know that most people at Westwood know just how important Life Groups are in my view.  However, I want to make something clear.  Life Groups are not and can not become the end for Spiritual Growth and discipleship.  Let me explain what I mean. Although we focus on three very important values within our Life Groups–those being discipleship, ministry and mission–we simply cannot pursue all areas of discipleship within that one small group program.  Life Groups are wonderful for connecting families together, reflecting and applying what has been taught from the pulpit, intentionally ministering to each other’s needs, encouraging each other in the area

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What Would Your Spiritual Flipagram Look Like?

A couple of days ago, as is often the case, I found myself having to delete some stuff off of my iPhone in order to make room for a new update. If you have an iPhone, surely you can understand that process! First, you open the ‘usage’ part of the settings to see if there are any space-hogging apps that you can part with. Second, you go ahead and start hacking away at all of the temporary stuff, like photos and videos. One thing that I have found out about myself is that I am a picture hoarder. I hate deleting photos…especially ones of my kids! But, you gotta do what you gotta do, so you spend what feels like an eternity scrolling and checking pictures that can go. The worst part about this process is that with each rep it seems like you delete almost everything on your phone only to find out you have only freed like .02

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Looking at Each Other with Gospel Confidence

As in all of his letters, Paul begins his message to the Philippian church by giving thanks for them and offering prayer for them.  Verses 3-5 read, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” I began a new study with our students this past week working through this beautiful letter.  As I read these initial words for what seems to be the thousandth time, I attempted to look past my own familiarity with these words and really seek to feel the emotions Paul expressed in writing to his brothers and sisters.  His love for this church is obvious through his thanksgiving, his prayer, his transparency, and his encouragement. Paul continues in verse 6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it

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Am I a Disciple Maker? How can I know?

In the opening verses of 2 Timothy 3, Paul warns Timothy concerning godlessness in the last days.  The warning contains a sad list of the resulting realities of sin within a world filled with sin sick hearts.  The list includes love of self and money, pride, arrogance, heartlessness, slanderousness, treachery and reckless behavior, among others.  He encourages Timothy that the people he has described “will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all…” (v. 9).  Perhaps this should encourage us in a day that many believers feel incredible pressure to compromise the truth in order to be accepted. In light of this dire forecast, Paul offers the following reminder to his young brother in the faith: You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings…But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you

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Following Christ & the Nature of True Freedom

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:31-32, 36 Our pastor preached from this section from John 8 (vs. 31-38) this morning as we continued our study through this rich Gospel. In this passage, the Jews to whom Jesus spoke struggled to understand the freedom that he brought. As Gerald illustrated the essence of what it means to know and experience true freedom in Christ so well, two prevailing thoughts seemed to control my mind.

Grounded in Christ

   Our purpose statement at Westwood includes 3 elements: Grounded in Christ, Growing together in God’s Word, and Going for God’s Glory.  We desire as a church to see people grow as a disciple in these three areas, and we seek to shape everything we do as a church body around this vision.

Gospel Transformation: Genuine Friendship

*This current series of posts seeks to answer the question, “What should gospel transformation actually look like in our fallen culture?” Because of the internal transformation of the Spirit that takes place in the life of the believer, Christians should be the very best friends anyone in the world could possibly have. This thought is pretty simply, really. One of the terrible side-effects of sin is that it naturally divides. Sin is a relationship breaker. Our sinful hearts cause us to be self-centered and focus on our own happiness, even to the exclusion of others. Sin causes us to look at others as useful to that end. When they are making us happy, they are welcome to remain in our lives. When they serve as a hindrance to our happiness, we seek to remove them. Sin causes us to survey others as either useful or a threat to that happiness. We judge ourselves according to each other and often treat

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Discipleship & Identity (Part 3)

After the Apostle Paul draws his comparison between those who are outside of Christ and those who are in Christ, he provides great insight into how we should view self-expression. Ephesians 2:10 has opened incredible insight to me, and I have begun to share it frequently to students, both in corporate and individual settings. I want believers to embrace this verse as they think about who they are and the mission God would have them pursue in their own life. Before we get to verse 10, however, we are reminded of the reality of this shift in identity and how it came to be. A foundational truth in understanding our own self-expression lies in the fact that this change in identity is completely undeserved and unearned on our part. It is completely by grace. Because of this, we have no room for boasting…not only in our salvation, but also in our position, in our gifts, in our place in life,

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Discipleship & Identity (Part 2)

Before we can walk with Jesus we must understand who we are in Jesus. I believe that.  We need something to pursue before we will actually join the pursuit.  Now, I understand that knowing who we are in Jesus is something we will be learning all our life.  But, we need to communicate to both lost folks and new believers just who they are in Christ.  Salvation is not just a proclamation of faith or conversion, but rather an actual joining with Christ.  Paul understood this when he proclaimed, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, the One who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Ephesians 2:1-7 offers a wonderful picture to us of who we were before being rescued by Christ and who we now are

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