Dear Woodside... Look To Christ

Dear Woodside… 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18, ESV)

Lets be honest with one another — we need to change. Both you and I have many things within our lives, our behaviors, our hearts, our minds, and our attitudes that need change. Today on Oct 1, 2015 we are not fully mature, fully perfect, fully Christ-like people. Each of us wrestles with doubt, discouragement, anxiety, grief, greed, lust, jealousy, pride and a thousand other various shortcomings and sins. We need to change. 

So how will we do it? Some may suggest that we grab hold of the doctrine of “sola-bootstrapa” and exercise a copious amount of discipline and willpower to overcome the sin that so easily entangles us. If we just try harder, figure out the right strategy, engage in the right discipline or have the right accountability partner that change will happen in our behavior and our hearts. Admittedly, to some degree we can change our behavior by picking up and developing new habits. But can we really change our hearts? 

Last night our Missional Communities asked this question, “How do we change?” and then looked at Paul’s clear answer in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. The answer that the Bible gives is that change comes from the Holy Spirit as we put the eyes of our hearts onto Christ. Paul states that by “beholding the glory of the Lord” we are changed into Christ’s image. 

I want to encourage you to make this the regular means for spiritual growth and maturity in your life! Look to Christ. Try and get clear views of the goodness and magnificent beauty of Christ. As we saw in 1 Peter 2:9 this last Sunday we have a mission to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” To be able to proclaim those excellencies, we must see Christ as excellent. We must see his glory.

I want to encourage you to put your eyes on Christ this week. Through the Scriptures, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the amazing grace of Jesus, his power, mercy, authority, joy, and glory. That is where we will find the deepest and greatest power to change and be transformed from one degree of glory to another. It’s by looking to Christ that we will find that we become like Christ!

This Sunday at Woodside

As we gather to worship this Sunday we will be signing some great songs about Christ’s glory and power. Here’s the song list that you can listen to on Spotify:

  • Found in You
  • Christ Is Enough
  • Presence
  • Your Glory
  • This I Believe 

Dr. Bruce Ware, professor of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be preaching this Sunday out of the book of Isaiah. I know it will be a powerful and helpful word for us as a church. 

Reaching Plymouth

One other thing I’d like to encourage you to be apart of is the “Trunk or Treat” event coming up on Oct 24. We’re very excited about serving, blessing, and loving our community. This is going to be a great way to invite and bless the neighborhood with fun games, candy, costumes, food, and other festivities. We could really use your help. You can do this by signing up to have your car available as one of the “treat” sites, hosting a game, bringing candy, and so many other things. We want “all hands on deck” to engage and love one another and our neighbors. Click here to sign up and serve on Oct 24!

We will have a large container for packaged candy in the lobby on Sunday over the next few weeks as well so you can bring in candy all month leading up to the event. 

I hope to be able to write these little letters to you each week to encourage you and connect with you more at the church. I am excited for what God is doing in our midst and how he is moving among us to help people belong to Christ, grow in Christ, and reach the world for Christ. Please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can be praying for and encouraging you! See you Sunday!

In Christ,

Advent: Taste and See

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11–13, ESV)

“What are you waiting for?”

Advent asks that question of us. If we would slow down and listen the question is being asked over and over again. “What are you waiting for?”

Many of us, myself included, often find ourselves waiting (or wanting I should say) the good gifts of the Giver. We long for salvation, perfected bodies, sinless souls, heaven, and the end to misery, pain, and injustice. We want good things. But do we want the source of those things? Do we want the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes (James 1:17)?

I suspect we might, although we don’t know it enough to articulate it well. The gifts are, as C.S. Lewis put it, beams of light that trace back to the sun itself. The gifts make us long for the Giver. But I don’t think we know it well. The restoration of our broken and ailing bodies tells us of One who was resurrected from death itself. The healing of the soul tells us of One who has conquered sin by his sinless life. The joy of heaven tells of us of being in the presence of the One who is peace and joy and glory. The bringing of perfect justice tells us of the King who will right every wrong and reign over us all in the Kingdom come, making all things new. We long for these gifts, but they should really point us to the Giver.

Paul told Titus that the first Advent of Grace (God’s bringing salvation to all through Christ — Titus 2:11) prepares and trains us to wait now for the second Advent of Glory (the appearing of our hope, which is Christ himself — Titus 2:13).

This causes me to ask a question of myself, do I find Christ desirable? Or, do I long for and eagerly wait for Christ himself? Strip away all the the good gifts that I desire and long for, do I look forward to being with Christ forever? If not, why? What keeps both me and you from desiring Christ? Surely, one reason it is our sinful hearts that desire all sorts of other things beyond Christ. This is the great work of Satan to distract us from the best while causing us to settle for the good. Yet, another reason I find that keeps me from desiring Christ is that I haven’t tasted of Christ frequently. I find that I tend to lose my desire for Christ when I haven’t reflected on his “excellence” with regularity.

Consider our cravings for certain types of food (for some reason right now I’m hungry for a juicy steak). We find our desire for that meal increases as we contemplate it with increasing frequency. We might have in our mind that the meal is of particular splendor and taste. We salivate thinking about the goodness of the meal. It is the best we’ve ever eaten. In our minds we meditate and fixate on the meal and when we have it the joy is increased because the actual meal was better than our mind made it. The point is, if we aren’t meditating on Christ regularly, and particularly who he is, then we are starving ourselves of desire for Christ. No wonder the Psalmist tells us “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Frequent “tasting” of Christ births deeper longing for Christ. If we merely taste the gifts we will have a sugar rush of joy, but miss the greater delight of the Giver himself.

Advent as a season is for us to increase our appetite for Christ. It’s a time for us to reflect on the “excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). In so doing we will increase our expectation and longing for the Giver himself, and not just his great and wonderful gifts.

So let’s find a banquet table of Christ himself. Let’s look at the glories of Christ. Let's gaze upon his wonderful and diverse excellencies. As Jonathan Edwards put it, let us find the “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.” Let’s pause looking for the gifts and find the Giver himself. As we do, and as we wait, our desire, and our eagerness for that second Advent will only increase. We will sing and worship and rejoice in the Giver himself.

This is who we are waiting for. 

Advent: Waiting for the Giver

Last week I enjoyed the splendor of one of America’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Growing up, on Thanksgiving morning we would watch it and see the huge balloons, floats, bands, and celebrities march through the streets of New York City. It was a part of the ritual of Thanksgiving day. Last Thursday was a special moment to be able to actually watch the parade in real life.

As we watched the parade roll by I began to hear a common refrain from my children. “I’m cold. Is it over, can we go yet?” Yes, it was cold. Yes it was a long parade, but I didn’t want my kids to miss anything. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our family. As they watched and sometimes let out a little cry I realized there was a major incentive to keep them there; Santa.

My kids love to see Santa. We aren’t a “Santa is the reason for Christmas” family but we do allow them to have fun and enjoy the mystery of a dude who brings gifts from the North Pole at Christmas time. We teach our kids about the real St. Nick (you know the one who loved Jesus, was a pastor, served the poor, and beat up a heretic). But we have fun with it too. Seeing Santa is just fun.

Every time that I mentioned to our kids that we were waiting for Santa to show up at the parade they quieted down, quit their whining, and enjoyed what was in front of them. They knew the coming of Santa was the end of the parade and that they could endure the cold and enjoy whatever was in front of them while they waited. So they waited it out. And we had a blast.

As I’ve been thinking through this month and season of Advent I’m eager to get to the end as well. The month of waiting in front of me through difficult circumstances is not something I’m looking forward to. I want to get to the end of it, flop on my couch (wherever it will end up), and enjoy the world in front of me. But for this season I have to wait. And this is a completely Christian posture. We must wait.

Romans 8 tells us that we are waiting:

We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” (Romans 8:23, NLT)

We wait for our redemption. We wait for our adoption. But more than anything we wait for Christ. The parade the other day becomes a parable of Advent for me. It’s not just that I’m waiting for a new job, a home, a glorified body, or heaven. I’m waiting for Christ. Moving through this month of waiting then must become for me a season of expectation no so much of God’s gifts, but of Christ himself. I need to be waiting for Christ.

My prayer for this next month is that as I wait, and endure, and walk through this strange month I would enjoy the things that God places before me. And as I wait I pray that I would become more and more eager to see Christ. The parade may have ended with Santa, but our lives begin when we see Christ. This month of Advent I am waiting for Christ. May he come and display his glory well for me to see.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6–9, ESV)