A Disturbing Lack of Effectiveness

God in his dealings with the church betrays a disturbing lack of interest in effectiveness as we have defined it. He does not seem interested in numbers. The people he sends to us are not strategic at all. They are a rabble who look more like the laborers, hookers, and marginal people that Jesus consorted with in the Gospels than the gifted individuals we had hoped would fill our ranks. And they are far from effective.

John Koessler, The Radical Pursuit of Rest31-32. 

The Bohemian Temptation

This temptation [knowing better than God] presents itself today. We can sit and watch the Twitter feed, critiquing the methods, models, and ministries of others; from the comfort of our couches we can speculate on how it could be done better. We can devise all kinds of theories, read all the right books, engage in online debate, blog our opinions, yet the whole time be disconnected from actually having skin in the game. Even when our heart is for God’s kingdom, if we are not careful we can find ourselves critiquing from the sidelines of God’s activity within history. There is a world of difference between pundits and prophets.

Mark Sayers, Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014). 157.

Dear Woodside… Reset Your Reading

“But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”” (Matthew 4:4, ESV)

It’s April 21st. Do you know where your 2016 Bible Reading Plan is? You know, the plan you dedicated yourself to on January 1 and that you promised yourself you would get through this year? The plan that was going to be the plan to end all plans and demonstrate your growth and discipline and ability to comprehensively read the Bible in the entirety of the year. The plan that maybe got sideswiped by a week of sickness, busyness, and maybe a day or two of indifference? Yep - that plan… 

Now before the tidal wave of guilt crashes down upon you, let me encourage you; I’m right there with you. Not that I’ve given up or am so far behind in the plan that I’ve abandoned it. But I do know the difficulty of keeping up with the plan, and the frustration of getting behind in it. I will confess, I am behind myself in the plan too. But I haven’t given up. 

A few years ago I was encouraged to just keep working at these kinds of plans. Actually, the encouragement was to daily make some progress. Just read one chapter a day. Even if you only read one chapter a day you will still get through the Bible in the space of three years. How many people do you know who have read through the Bible in the space of 10 years, let alone 3? 

I want to encourage you in this because our hearts can lean a few different ways when our spiritual work lags behind. On one hand we can despair, give up, and fail to make progress because we feel the hole has been dug so incredibly deep that we will never catch up. If this is your present state of mind, you may be in danger of thinking that your acceptance before God is based on your performance. Remember, Christ has completed the work you failed to complete so that in him you are identified as perfectly acceptable because of Christ’s work. Don’t despair, continue to press forward because you are already accepted. 

On the other hand we can see the “law” of the Bible reading plan and believe that if we get back at it, catch up, and complete our Bible reading plan this year then we are really special. We might look with proud sorrow upon our meager friends who haven’t kept up like we have, and who haven’t performed like we have, and feel a tinge of judgment that they aren’t as close to God as we are. The reality is that even our righteous accomplishments are insufficient, and even filthy in the light of God’s holiness. We must repent of our self-righteousness. 

These two perspectives can be applied to any good work; we either despair of not doing the work, or rise up in pride because we did do something good! But our hearts need something greater — we need a righteous one who gifts his good, perfect work to us and we need a superior one who humbles us to see our need and call us to repentance. 

This is why the gospel must be central to all things for us. Christ must be the center. Our Bible reading is a means, a vehicle, by which we get to Christ and know Christ and grow in Christ. But it is by no means a substitute for having Christ. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for keeping up on their Bible reading plans but failing to see him in them (see John 5:39). And Jesus encouraged sinners to be sustained and nourished and grow by every word that comes from the mouth of God (see Matthew 4:4).

Let me encourage you, as I have, to reset your Bible reading plan and more importantly, reset your heart. Why are you reading? Why are you failing to read? What motivations stand behind your pursuit of engaging and embracing the Bible? May it be only because you long to see Jesus and be nourished by His word. May it never be to check off a box of superiority and self-righteousness. Let’s allow the gospel to reset our lives in every way. 

This Sunday

Sunday we will continue our pursuit of wisdom by receiving from the Proverbs instruction in regard to wealth. Our ambition is to allow Christ, who is our wisdom, to shape every area of our heart to be in alignment with him, including our money. To help you be ready to sing on Sunday be sure to check out our setlist that we’ve put together on Spotify to be ready on Sunday.

  • Mighty Warrior
  • Even So Come
  • Place of Freedom
  • O Praise the Name
  • Restore My Soul

India Mission Opportunity

Also, we wanted to be sure to remind you about the India Mission meeting this Sunday at 12:30. Lauren from our Life Impact team will be hosting the informational meeting in the conference room for any who are interested in going on a short-term, overseas mission trip to India with Woodside. The trip will take place in October this year and we are excited to see how God will use us to advance the gospel in India among those in need. 

May the Lord bless you as you head into this weekend. I am eager to see his grace speak into our lives again as we gather. Please let me know if there is any way I can be in prayer for you.

In Christ,


Dear Woodside... Get Wisdom

“Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” (Proverbs 4:5–7, ESV)

Of all the things that are valuable and desirable for us in every day life, the Bible speaks of wisdom as being the essential. Essentially the Wisdom writer says, if you’re going to get anything, then get wisdom — everything else is secondary to that. You might pause here and say, “wait, I thought love was the most important virtue, or righteousness, or justice, or mercy… why are you saying get wisdom above anything else? Here’s why:

Wisdom, in the Scriptures is the basis or the bedrock of all other virtues. Solomon asked God for wisdom and God was pleased to give it to him because from a heart of wisdom would flow a heart of love. A life of service or a devotion to compassion, justice, and equity are all fruits borne out of a heart of wisdom. The Proverbs demonstrate that the wise person is the person who is loving, merciful, compassionate, just, hard working, faithful, diligent, disciplined, righteous, and equitable. Wisdom becomes the means by which these other virtues are displayed.

Consider this, if we are people of justice but don’t possess wisdom in how to direct and display that love, we probably will end up being overbearing with a law, but never compassionate to those who are in need. Wisdom requires understanding all the angles of a situation to be able to rightly apply justice and mercy. The Pharisees were great lovers of the Law, but they weren’t wise — they didn’t know how to display mercy. On the other hand, if we are solely people of mercy, but never employ wisdom we can be taken advantage of, walked all over and mishandle the resources and skills God has given us to steward for his glory. We must be wise so we are compassionate and fair.

This is why the Holy Spirit in the Bible directs us to pursue wisdom as if it were above all else. If we don’t get anything else, be sure to get wisdom. This of course centers us on the gospel. When we really ask what wisdom is, and where real wisdom comes from the Bible gives us one direct and clear answer: Christ. Jesus is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). If we want to get wisdom, it most purely, doesn’t come from reading lots of books or having lots of experience in life, or spending time with older people (although those can be supplemental resources for wisdom). Pure and true wisdom ultimately comes from Christ.

How did Jesus know how to display mercy to an adulterous woman? It was because he is wise. How did Jesus know to rebuke the legalist stuck in their religiosity? It was because he is wise. How did Jesus know how to answer the traps set before him by the Jewish lawyers? It was because Jesus was wise? How did Jesus know how to receive and bless the little children? It was because Jesus is wisdom.

So run to Jesus. Get wisdom from Christ. Turn off the talking heads of the worldly philosophy and babble of political pundits. Get Christ. Stop listening to the cacophony of life coaches and religious tradesmen selling you a “best life now” and get Jesus. Run to Him for wisdom, pursue him like you would silver and fine gold. Be wise and consider Jesus the treasure in the field, in which you would give up everything you have to possess him. Be wise, get Jesus!

Wisdom Concerning Our Words

Sunday morning we will continue our Five° series and address the singular largest topic of the book of Proverbs; our words. As we gather for worship we will be singing the following songs and have posted them on our Spotify playlist so you can be more familiar (and sing on your own!) with our music.

  • Open Up the Heavens
  • Raised to Life
  • Good Good Father
  • O Praise the Name
  • Lord, I Need You

Also - let me encourage you to come to the 9:30 service this week… but you’ll have to join us then to find out why!

The Meaning of Marriage

Sunday night we will also begin an new Thrive class for the months of April and May at 6pm. This class will address the important reality of marriage and is intended for both married people and single people. The course will be part video dialog, part live discussion, and totally helpful for everyone! The class is based off of Timothy and Kathy Keller’s excellent book The Meaning of Marriage. The course is $10 and includes a copy of the book. We hope that you’ll join us, and even invite others to listen in and learn together about the value and importance of marriage from the Scriptures.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday and growing together in wisdom as we pursue Christ!

In Him,

Dear Woodside… Labor for The Harvest

“And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest…. behold, I am sending you.” (Luke 10:2–3, ESV)

Are you ready for a harvest? I know that I am. Often the Bible uses the metaphors of farming — planting, watering, growing, pruning, harvesting — to give us a tangible understanding of how things work in the spiritual realm. The metaphors of agricultural life were very relevant to the world of the Bible. That world relied on the diligent work of farmers for the provision of food and nourishment. Harvest was something that was always in view.

Yet, harvest doesn’t come without labor. Fruit isn’t reaped and enjoyed unless is it is properly planted, watered, and cared for. The delicate operation of gathering doesn’t yield a result apart from the energy and sweat of the laborer beforehand, and the good will of the Father above. So the equation goes: the farmers’ labor plus the Father’s sovereign blessing leads to a fruitful harvest. However, I am not talking about how to reap a bushel of apples come October. I am talking about reaping a harvest of lives redeemed from the pit of death to the kingdom of life.

Since you and I are not Father, and can in no way control the winds of the Holy Spirit’s operation and blessing, we need to think about our place in this Harvest Equation. Namely, we must labor for the “food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). We must do the work of a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6). We must plant, we must water, and we must rely on God to give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). All of this to say, we must go to work for the sake of the kingdom.

Let me put before you a challenge for this next month. Easter Sunday is the highest attended Sunday of any in the calendar year. One study has determined that one in five Americans are undecided about attending an Easter service, but are waiting for an invitation. The potential for the advancement of the gospel this month in our community is high, and so we must labor for the sake of the harvest.

Here’s a few ways that I want to invite you to labor for the sake of the gospel. Actually, they aren’t my suggestions, they come right from the leadership of Jesus. In Luke 10:2-3 he declares, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest…. behold, I am sending you.” Here’s how Jesus speaks of working for a harvest:

  • Pray for a harvest - One means by which we labor is prayer. We are persistent and direct in asking God to save sinners (“pray earnestly!”). We pray for specific people to come to faith in Christ. We will have a prayer guide for you this Sunday to help you pray over the next month.
  • Labor for a harvest - This is the where we must be intentional. We must invest in the lives of others, we must invite them into our community, to our worship gatherings, we must invite them to Christ! Again, on Sunday we will have some tools for you to be able to use to help invite others in this month, but we must go to work!

Friends, may we be compelled by the love of Christ to be laborers for the sake of the kingdom of God. May we go to work today for the sake of our lost neighbors, family, and friends. May God’s kindness and goodness wash over our community as people hear the gospel, respond in faith and believe in the one who conquered death on our behalf. Brothers and sisters, let’s labor for the Harvest!

Gathering Sunday

Let me encourage you to invite others to join us this Sunday as we launch a new series: “Fear Not. Alive Forevermore.” Over this month we will be looking at Revelation 1:12-18 and seeing how Jesus is the Warrior-King who by his life, death, and resurrection has conquered all our fears. Sunday, I will be calling us to see Jesus, the Holy One whom we should fear. Our songs are available on Spotify to help you be ready to sing. Here’s what we are singing to the Lord together:

  • Rejoice
  • Great Are You Lord
  • Grace So Glorious
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Restore My Soul

As we gather, let’s pray, seek, long and eagerly seek to see the Lord at work this weekend!

For the Social Folks…

One last thing, if you use social media at all (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) it would go a really long way to help us connect and encourage people if you leverage your social network for the sake of the gospel. Here’s a few ways to do that:

  1. Like And Share posts from our Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram. It just helps people know we are here.
  2. Check-In on Facebook when you attend a worship service. Communicating where you are on Sunday mornings is a means of raising curiosity and awareness of Woodside to your network of friends and family.
  3. Invite Others to follow our pages and to our posted events.

All we want to do is make our message (the good news of Jesus) and our love available to as many people as possible in our area, so “labor for the harvest” through social media too. If you’d like to use some graphics for our current series for cover images on Facebook, or profile pictures please feel free to download and share those images.

I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday, and laboring with you for the sake of the gospel this month. Let’s pray and work towards a great harvest!

In Christ,