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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The Power of Grace

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

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Gospel Transformation & Treasure

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

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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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Encouragement in light of Resurrection Power

I had the honor of speaking at our sunrise service yesterday.  Here are some thoughts that I shared as we celebrated the empty tomb together. As our pastor has been preaching through portions of Acts in anticipation of Easter, I have once again realized just how central the resurrection of Jesus was to the message the Apostles first proclaimed.  In fact, the resurrection served as the context for everything communicated to the church in the New Testament.  I, on the other hand, have come to realize that I only seem to think of the power of the resurrection as something occurring only on the day that Jesus rose from the dead.  If I apply it to my own life at all, perhaps just in the context of the day God saved me.  However, over the past week or so, I have been reminded that the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead is the same power that exists within

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What to do about ‘Noah’

I’ve read several reviews of the upcoming movie ‘Noah.’ All I have read confirms exactly what I thought would be the case, that is that the movie does not at all convey the Scriptural story of the historical Noah, the story of the Ark God commanded him to build, or the story of the flood that occurred in his day. This news has not shocked me one bit. I have seen knee-jerk Christian reactions, bashing Hollywood and the film’s writers, producers, directors, actors, etc, angrily calling for Christians to boycott the film. I have also read more level-headed Christian leaders who present the film with the reality that it is, namely a piece of fiction adapted from a story from the Bible. So far, I have not read anyone associated with the film even suggest that the film depicts the Scriptural story of Noah. In fact, I have read where the director has stated that the film is absolutely not

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A Picture of Gospel Faithfulness

My daily reading/journaling included the narrative of Noah and the Flood from Genesis 6-7 recently. As I read through that passage for what has to be the hundredth time, something stuck out to me that I had never really paid attention to before. I noticed that the phrase, …[Noah] did all that God commanded him… is repeated 4 times in those verses. It is stated in verse 22 of chapter 6, as well as in verses 5, 9, and 16 of chapter 7. For the first time I realized how powerful this simple statement reads in the context of Noah. I realized that the faithfulness to which God called Noah is the same faithfulness that he calls his people to today.

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.