On Sunday our pastor led our congregation in a study of Isaiah 11:1-12. In this passage, Isaiah further expounds upon his prophesy of a coming child that he introduces in chapter 9, the One who will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6). On one level this prophesy offered encouragement to the Israelite people in that time who had been taken captive and forced to leave the land God had given to them. They could be reminded of God’s plan and his faithfulness to complete that plan. Even though things were bleak for them currently, God would return a remnant of his people to the promised land in order to finish what he had started through them. God had promised Eve that he would provide a seed of a woman who would crush the head of the serpent. He then promised Abraham that this seed would come from his lineage. Isaiah reminds the Israelite people that despite their own
God’s rebuke of his priests in Malachi offers a sobering picture of the reality of marginal giving for the Church today. To understand this, we must fully understand the context of this heavy passage in light of the entire biblical narrative. In his indictment, God accuses the Priests of “offering polluted food upon my altar” when they “offer blind animals in sacrifice…and those that are lame or sick” (Mal 1:7, 8). Now at first glance we may simply believe that God chastises his priests for the mere fact that they have broken his law, which indeed they had (see Lev 22:17-25; Deut 15:21; 17:1). True, the priests were guilty of offering what was easy instead of what was commanded; however, the context and very purpose of the sacrificial system in which the priests participated forbids us to stop at that interpretive level.
I realize this is a very thin line. We must not compromise the truth and we must continue to engage and combat sin within our culture; but, we also must find a way to do that without abandoning the call to love our neighbors. If we get this wrong and engage the wrong enemy, the church loses its evangelistic voice and begins to abdicate its responsibility to proclaim truth and the good news of the Gospel within the culture in a compelling way. Outsiders will be viewed as enemies who need to be destroyed or avoided rather than potential worshipers in need of redemption. The church will spend its resources in building its own subculture rather than invading the culture with truth, saturated in the love of Christ.
Jesus makes two very important promises to his disciples in John 14:12-14. It just so happens that these two promises
I have embedded a video below that has greatly convicted me. It is about 9 minutes long and includes an excerpt from a sermon by Allistair Begg. Begg’s incredible accent alone offers reason enough to watch all 9 minutes, not to mention the great beat in the background; but, it will be well worth your time for a number of reasons if you click play. Before you watch it, though, please consider some of my thoughts… I would consider myself a fairly political person. Most of the time you will find my radio dial in my car set to talk radio! I know, I’m boring. I enjoy political banter more than most, probably, and am generally interested in the happenings of the day. I consider myself a strong conservative, as well as someone who very much loves his country. Why am I telling you this? Because, as you watch the video below, you will understand my struggle with it. Although I
Awareness has been raised. The hashtag campaign is in full force. Celebrities and stars have enlisted in the fight. Bullying, in many ways, has become one of the key issues of our day. And for good reason. Bullying poses a real threat to young people all across our country. It has brought about trauma and tragedy. It is an issue that really must be addressed. However, can the pandemic of bullying be solved through celebrity shout outs and hashtags? Although all these things might raise awareness, the ultimate answer to this question is ‘no.’ The primary reason for this is that the anti-bullying message becomes convoluted and confusing when it comes from a culture of bullying. Consider the following.
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
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
In his sermon this past Sunday our Pastor, Gerald, spoke of one of the deepest reasons that we fail to share the gospel with others. He said that perhaps we have just come to believe that some people are simply too far gone. He reminded us that salvation is a supernatural work of God that can open the eyes of any person, no matter how heinous, apathetic or hateful we believe them to be. As he proclaimed this truth, a powerful portion of Les Miserable came into my mind. It includes a soliloquy by Jean Valjean just after he has been shown incredible mercy and grace by a priest who took him in. I was reminded of just how powerful demonstrations of grace can be in a rebellious life. As I went back and watched that clip, especially ValJean’s struggle with the grace he had been shown, I was reminded that often God uses such demonstrations of grace through us
One of the most well known declarations of the Apostle Paul can be found in Philippians 1:21. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Upon reading these words Paul offers his readers an opportunity to see his great internal struggle as he nears the end of his life. Although the work brings him great joy as he writes to what he considers to be the greatest fruit of his labor for the gospel, his body is worn and broken from the persecution and suffering for its sake. He knows that both avenues mentioned will bring glory to his Savior, as he has just stated in the previous verse, but if the choice were left to him, he cannot be sure which he would ultimately choose. The one thing he does, he continues to rest in the sovereignty of God, knowing that each breath provides him more time to complete ‘fruitful labor’ (v. 22). As I