Dear Woodside… Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)

Many of you this week have responded back to me about how the text from Sunday’s message, Matthew 18:21-35, has had you thinking about forgiveness and what it really means, and what it most deeply looks like. I will readily admit that it has been a passage that God has used lately to humble, challenge, and change me as well. As I have reflected on Jesus’ story I want to be the kind of person that reflects the love of God in the way I love, and specifically forgive those who have wronged me.

I mentioned on Sunday seven ways that the seventeenth century Puritan pastor, Thomas Watson talked about “gospel-forgiving” and wanted to bring those to your mind again to help solidify what that looks like. Watson writes in his work The Lord’s Prayer that we forgive others…

“When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. This is gospel-forgiving.”

To break it down Watson says:

  1. We strive against all thoughts of revenge - we are out to get back at the people who have wronged us.
  2. We will not do our enemies mischief - we won’t wrong or harm them.
  3. We wish our enemies well - we desire that they are strong, prosperous, healthy.
  4. We grieve at their calamities - it breaks our heart to see them hurt
  5. We pray for them
  6. We seek reconciliation with them - we want to “be at peace with all men.”
  7. We show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them - we desire to do good to them and bless them.

This is how Christ has forgiven us. He didn’t seek revenge but cried out “Father forgiven them!” and then laid down his life for his enemies. Furthermore, Watson asks “How must we forgive?” and then lays out three simple ways:

  1. Forgive sincerely, from the heart. No pretense or show. As God has sincerely forgiven us.
  2. Forgive fully. Keeping no record of wrongs but completely forgiving the other person as God has fully forgiven us all our sins.
  3. Forgive often. We often sin against God, we are called to often forgive our neighbor.

I know God has been “taking me to school” on forgiveness lately, and I know for many of you the same is true. I am praying that the Lord will work within us deeply to be a people of true “gospel-forgiveness” and display to this world what real grace looks like as God has forgiven us.

Gathering Sunday

I’ve been really thankful for this series on relationships, and hope that it has been an impacting series for you as well. This Sunday we are in Philippians 4:11-13 looking at how our lack of contentment in Christ can really damage our relationships with one another. Our songs of worship are listed in this week’s Spotify Playlist so you can be more familiar with them. We are singing:

  • My Lighthouse
  • Christ Is Enough
  • Came To My Rescue
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Jesus, Thank You

I hope you’ll be with us on Sunday morning at 9:30 and 11am.

Giving Thanks

Also, this Sunday evening we are gathering with our Farmington Hills and Dearborn campus at 6pm for worship and giving thanks together. We will gather at our Farmington Hills campus, 28301 Middlebelt Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 for a time of worship, hearing how God has been working among our campuses, fun and celebration together. I hope you will join us on Sunday night.

Also, on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve we will have a family gathering together at our campus at 7pm. The Thanksgiving Eve gathering is one my favorite times to celebrate as a church God’s goodness and kindness. We’ll sing, read Scripture, hear from one another and have pie together on Wednesday night. You won’t want to miss this time together!

I hope you have a great rest of the week. As usual, if there is any way we can pray for and serve you please let us know! May the Lord bless and keep you and produce within you a heart of “gospel-forgiveness” as you see the grace and forgiveness of Christ.

In Him,


Dear Woodside... Live At Peace

Dear Woodside....png
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18, ESV)

Before I jump in on this Scripture that has challenged me lately, I want to thank you so much for the opportunity last week to spend some time away with Stephanie, Allison and Ethan. We enjoyed a week in Missouri with our extended family and were grateful for that time with them. I was also able to recalibrate my own personal practices of being in the Word and prayer and the time away allowed me to sharpen those practices more carefully. I am grateful for the time away to refresh in that way.

A few weeks ago we began a series in the Word on relationships and the common issues that cause relational meltdown among us. If you haven’t been able to catch the series yet, or maybe missed one of the messages you can visit our SoundCloud page and listen to them there. One of the things that I have noticed since we began this series is that many of us have suddenly began experiencing relationship frustration. It seems like the Lord wants to work in our lives to strengthen and improve our relationships with one another. Often we want to point the finger at our adversary and blame him for attacking our relationships, but at the same time the Lord brings the word to us to convict and challenge us so that we will be more like Christ as we humble ourselves to him. All of that to say the relational conflict we feel right now is part of God’s timely operation through the Scriptures to help us grow.

Now - about that verse above - it really puts us in a box. Paul tells us that we have a relational obligation towards one another. That obligation? It’s to live at peace with all people. That call to live at peace with all people however has a starting point; “as far as it depends on you.” That might feel like an escape clause, as if to say, “well you tried your best and relational peace isn’t happening so you’re off the hook.” But I think Paul is really raising the bar in that statement. As far as it depends on me requires that I proactively work for and pursue peace in my relationships. I have to do the labor of making peace with those I am in turmoil with.

Sometimes we like to shift into the “passive” mode, especially in conflict, and just let the struggle sort it self out. Yet, Christ shows us how to pursue peace with one another. He didn’t sit passively by, he came to his enemies (us!), he served his enemies, he loved his enemies, he gave himself fully for his enemies. There was not one moment of passivity in Christ’s pursuit of peace with us. He came, lived among us, suffered at our hands, died because of our sin, and was raised to life for our justification! Peace was accomplished by his work.

As we consider our relational tensions and challenges I want to encourage us not to sit back and hope that peace is made, I want to encourage us to pursue peace - to really work for it. We need to humbly set aside ourselves, lay our “rights” and agendas down, and actively pursue peace in every way, as far as we can, with others. This glorifies Christ and displays the beauty of the gospel.

This Sunday

Sunday morning we will be tackling the fourth issue that often destroys relationships; unforgiveness. Our text is Matthew 18:23-35. I am praying our Father humbles and gives us grace to be forgiving people, as we have been forgiven much. We’ve posted on Spotify the list of songs we will sing as we worship God together. Specifically:

  • My Lighthouse
  • This Is Amazing Grace
  • Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)
  • Blessed Assurance
  • Holy Spirit

Thanksgiving Opportunities

One other thing that I want to highlight is the two opportunities as a campus we will have to celebrate Thanksgiving together. One is a joint Thanksgiving Service on Sunday night, Nov 22 at 6pm at our Farmington Hills campus. We will be worshipping and celebrating together with our Farmington Hills and Dearborn campuses together that night. It’ll be a great night of celebration together at what God has done among us at Woodside more collectively. You won’t want to miss that.

The second opportunity is at our campus on Wednesday night, Nov 25 at 7pm. This will be a more intimate time of celebration and fellowship together. We’ll have pie and refreshments after as well. Let’s be sure to gather as families and share and give thanks together!

I am praying that the Lord shows you much grace through the rest of this week. I am looking forward to worshipping with you and serving you this coming Sunday.

In Christ,

Dear Woodside… Love Strangers

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2, ESV)

The word we translate in English “hospitable” is one of my favorite Greek words in the Bible. Xenophilia— At its root this word means “love for strangers.” It’s the idea of embracing, welcoming, serving, and blessing those who are not known well or accepted. It is one of the most tangible expressions of kindness that we can give. It’s no surprise that the Bible talks about Christians being people that love strangers.

This concept often runs contrary to our upbringing. I was often told as a child not to talk to strangers, or take candy from them. Yet on Halloween I am going to let my kids walk around the neighborhood, talk to strangers, and take candy from them. Consistency, huh!

Apart from trick-or-treating however we don’t often converse or spend time with strangers at all. We don’t know them, they could be dangerous — or different! Loving people we don’t know is really difficult. It means more than a warm greeting, to really love a stranger means inviting them into your life and space and world. The Biblical concept of hospitality is more than inviting people you like and know over to your house for dinner — it’s a radical embrace of those who are different and unknown to you.

The writer of Hebrews encourages the church to “let brotherly love continue” and to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” The reason he gives for that is by referencing Abraham’s act of hospitality that ended up being a visitation from the Lord himself. Furthermore, our hospitality displays the gospel of Christ. Jesus loved us (strangers) and gave himself to us (dangerous people!) when we were not worthy of that love and grace. We reflect a hospitable (loving strangers) God by our hospitality to others.

I say all this to encourage us on towards further hospitality. This last week I was encouraged by several notes from newcomers to Woodside who experienced a “warm welcome” and found our embrace of them to be very welcoming. One of those notes came from a family that live across the street and came to the Trunk or Treat on Saturday. They returned because they felt loved! I’ve heard this sort of story frequently about our church.

I hope this encourages you because it made my heart smile and rejoice! I’ve been to cold, unwelcoming churches before and its hard to connect and listen and even know others. Thankfully, I do not see that here! I hope that you will, as we gather on Sunday mornings, lovingly welcome, serve, and bless those who are new and unknown among us. Stick around after the worship service and get to know those you don’t know. Come to the early service and grab a cup of coffee and meet people who are strangers to you. If you meet a new person invite them to have lunch with you after the service! We have much in common, in Christ, to give and to encourage and to share with one another. Thank you Woodside Bible Church for being a place that already loves strangers, may we grow and continue to excel in this way!

Prayer Update

Thanks for praying for Kelly and David Havrilla - please continue to do so. God gave them some amazing wisdom and Providentially acted on their behalf as they were making some important decisions. Please continue to pray for her healing and for wisdom for them.

This Sunday:

We are continuing our series on relationships this week by looking at James 4:1-10. You might wonder why you get into fights with other people so often. The Scripture profoundly speaks to how we can walk in love and harmony with others. I am excited to open God’s Word to us. As we gather we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper and singing together. Here’s this week’s song list that you can listen to on Spotify and be prepared for gathered worship:

  • Found in You
  • This I Believe
  • Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)
  • Your Glory
  • Restore My Soul

Don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night. Otherwise you will show up an hour early to worship… and that’s okay too…

I am praying for you this weekend and am excited to be together Sunday morning to worship Christ. Thank you for being hospitable to those who are new among us. Let’s continue to grow and display Christ in that way. 

Dear Woodside... Hope In God

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10, ESV)

This afternoon I’m sitting in my office with a bit of a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I am firmly confident that we would prefer to tackle the issue of suffering within the laboratory of a Sunday morning worship service on a more theoretical playing field. You know what I am talking about; it’s easier to talk about suffering rather than to experience it. And yet, as we’ve seen over the last few weeks from our series in 1 Peter, trials are a tool that God uses to purify our faith and make us more like Christ. The theoretical will become practical for us at some point. This week it seems that suffering and trial been more practical for some at our campus than theoretical. As I’ve heard about job loss, death, cancer and sickness this week at our campus you can understand the lump in my throat and tears.

Yet, over the last month this concluding statement in Peter’s letter has deeply resonated with my heart regarding you for a few reasons. For one I’ve experienced, in part, the truth of this verse in my own life, particularly in the last year. But more so because the hope and future that is promised here is powerfully compelling. The joy and stability that are offered here are magnificently beautiful. Consider what Peter tells us about God’s grace in the midst of our sufferings.

First, Peter declares that he is the “God of all grace.” Every joy, good, mercy, and hope that we long for comes from God. Even in the midst of trials and sufferings God’s grace and lovingkindness is coming for us in those afflictions. As Isaiah spoke of Christ he described him as one who would not break a bruised reed nor extinguish a candle wick that has just a smoldering, smoking fire to it (Isaiah 42:3). He is the God of all grace who will not break and destroy his suffering children.

This is why the second half of the verse is so important. Because we feel the pain of suffering, of loss, and of affliction we stand on shaky feet. Some of us are doing well just trying to keep upright due to the affliction we are experiencing. Yet Peter points us to the restorative hope we have in Christ. The God of all grace is the one who HIMSELF will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” This is what we desperately need in our afflictions.

I know that some in our body this last week have felt the opposite of “restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established.” Because of what’s happened the feeling is more like “lost, denied, weak, and insecure.” I get those feelings. Yet the reality of this verse is that God is the one who bring restoration to what we’ve lost through our sufferings. He is the one who will confirm the calling and identify he’s given us. He will use our weaknesses to show his strengthen and in turn strengthen us for all glory. He is the one who will displace our insecurity and forever give us a name that cannot be taken from us. He will firmly establish us with him forever!

I want to encourage you today to take this verse to heart. Memorize it. Meditate on it often. Let the truth of it sink deeply down into your heart so that when the suffering and afflictions come you’ve got some hope to stand on. God’s grace is coming for you! Bank your hope on the God of all grace and allow him to show up for you in his kindness. Our best days are ahead in Christ.

Be Praying:

With that, I’d like to ask you be praying specifically for a couple at our campus who are walking through a deep valley of trial right now. 
Kelly Havrilla — Today I received a call from Kelly’s husband David that her last cancer scans revealed two new growths in her body that have to be treated. Kelly and David are praying about and pursuing options towards treatment but would deeply covet your prayers for wisdom and complete healing. Furthermore, they have asked that you pray that God would give them grace to be able to make decisions in a manner that displays the gospel of Christ. Would you please seek God’s face for grace to heal Kelly! 

This Sunday:

Sunday we will begin a new series in the Word together entitled U & I. We’ve all seen relationships of various kinds break down and crumble due to a variety of different problems. Recently our campus pastors got together and identified six things we felt were the top relationship destroyers. Over the next six weeks we hope to tackle them and show how the gospel gives us hope to repair and rebuild our relationships. This series isn’t just about marriage or dating or singleness. It encompasses every kind of human relationship we could have.

Here’s what we will be singing on Sunday morning:

  • Your Love Never Fails
  • Came To My Rescue
  • Place of Freedom
  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
  • The Heart of Worship

We’ve placed a playlist on Spotify so you can listen beforehand as well.

I am praying that God continues to show you deep grace and upholds you deeply in the midst of trials and afflictions. I am so thankful, extremely thankful for this church and for your partnership with us in the gospel. It’s a privilege to serve you. Our best days are ahead in Christ! Trust him!

In Christ,

Dear Woodside... Approach the Throne

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” (Psalm 3:3–4, ESV)

What we believe about God will reveal itself in how we approach God. For some the emphasis of their belief in God is that he is so great, so huge, so powerful that his concern or interest in our lives is really minimal. God is so holy and different that the only thing he really sees about me is my failure and sin and so that just makes him grumpy that I’m such a rebel. Stated another way, God is so transcendent and perfect that I am just an annoyance to him because I am so finite and sinful.

The other side of the spectrum is that God is so loving, so compassionate, so merciful and kind that I can cozy up to him like my best buddy and have snuggle-time with friend Jesus. God exists to make me feel good about myself and boost my self-esteem and therefore I can just go to him and he will give me everything I could every want or desire. God is so close that he doesn’t demand or challenge me in any way because he wouldn’t want to offend me.

On the one hand people who see God’s transcendence without seeing his nearness miss the goodness of the gospel that Christ became a man and loved us. He drew near and befriended us as sinners. Those who only see the greatness of God have a hard time praying because they feel like he is Judge and Executioner before he is Father. On the other hand those who see God only as near and close and lovey-dovey fail to see the goodness of the gospel that Christ died to satisfy the rightful wrath of God upon my sin and he died to bring justice and righteousness. Prayer for a person on this side of the spectrum falls into emotional request without awe, confession, and adoration.

The Psalmist calls us to pray. “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me. (Psalm 3:4). But he call us to pray to a God who is great and glorious as well as good and gracious. He describes God as “a shield about me” — a powerful protector, as well as a God who is “my glory.” These descriptions speak of God’s transcendence. Who can protect, who can be another’s glory? Only a greater one.

And yet the Psalmist speaks of God’s nearness as well. He is the “lifter of my head” (v. 4).

Perhaps you have struggled in praying lately, and perhaps that has more to do with your view of God than it does your schedule or ability or anything else. You are either viewing God as a great threat to your life, or a broken ATM machine that isn’t giving you the feel-goods you think you deserve. We struggle in prayer because we don’t see God rightly.

I think this is why Jesus invites and encourages us to pray to “Our Father in Heaven.” He tells us that when we pray we speak to God in terms that are both transcendent and close. As I had time to spend with my dad last week I was reminded of times when my dad corrected me, challenged me, and even disciplined me. It was all for my good. I also remember the times he encouraged, befriended, and was close to me. Good earthly fathers reflect the nearness and transcendence of our Heavenly Father to their children.

The Father gifts to us himself, so that we could come and pray to him. We are invited to go to our Heavenly Father and receive much grace in our time of need. I want to encourage you to draw near to God. To see him as great and glorious as well as good and gracious. Will you pray? Will you seek the face of the one who answers from his holy hill? Will you look to the one who sustains you? Or will you go at it on your own this week? Seek the Lord, call upon his name!

I am praying with you and for you.

Sunday’s Coming

This week we will conclude the Exile series in 1 Peter by looking at how we might endure together in the midst of a hostile world. The sermon text is 1 Peter 5:1-11. We’ve also created a playlist on Spotify so you can hear beforehand the songs we will be singing:

  • Only King Forever
  • This Is Our God
  • Came To My Rescue
  • Revelation Song
  • Lamb of God

We’ve also been recording the sermons so if you miss any of them in this series you can listen to them on our SoundCloud page.

A Sweet Reminder

We have just a little over a week before our Trunk or Treat event on Oct 24. I hope you are planning on being part of the fun and festivities that day. We’re still asking everyone to bring candy to fill be able to give out to the kids that come to each car. Last Sunday our students and a missional community distributed five-hundred door hangers into the surrounding neighborhood to invite our community to join with us. I am praying that we can build some great relationships and see lives changed by the grace of God. If you haven’t already please bring some bagged candy this Sunday and drop it off in the “Trunk or Treat” container.

Also, ladies Saturday is the Mug & Muffin at 10am at our campus. For you men I expect to see you eat my go-kart dust at our “Grand Prix” up at JD Racing in Novi on Saturday night at 7pm. Both events are going to be a great time of building relationships, laughing, and sharing life together. I hope you will be part of the shared-life together.

I am praying that the Lord will be the one to sustain and satisfy you with himself this week. Please let me know how I can pray more specifically.

In Christ,