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... Love the Lost

Dear Woodside… Love the Lost

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” (Mark 2:17, ESV)

Who did Jesus spend much of his time with? Good people? Holy people? Not-So-Bad-But-Just-A-Few-Degrees-Off people? The answer to this question really caused Jesus a lot of trouble and tension within his community. Mark records for us in his Gospel the calling of Levi (or Matthew) to discipleship with Jesus. As soon as Mark tell us that Levi followed Jesus we find ourselves in Levi’s home with his friends and Jesus. There is Levi, the scoundrel, traitorous, thieving tax-collector, his friends… and Jesus.

The reputation of Levi’s friends was evident as well. Mark tells us that they were “tax collectors and sinners.” Mark isn’t using the label “sinners” here in the generic “we are all sinners” manner. He is saying that the people that hung out with Levi, and were at his house, in his life, were primarily known for being notorious sinners. Their lives were identified by gambling, abuse, violence, law-breaking, immorality, and every shade of sin in between. Think about this kind of reputation, they were known primarily as evil people — THE sinners.

And where was Jesus in relationship to this household crowd of wickedness? He was reclining at the table with them. He was sharing a meal of friendship with those who were sick sinners. To have a meal like this with “sinners” was a deep violation of cultural and religious norms for Jesus’ day. He wasn’t affirming their sin, but he was loving those who were known as sinners.

This is the very reason for the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders. They were frustrated and condescending to Jesus because he spent his time with them and loved them. In fact that was essentially what Jesus declared as his mission to be, “not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus was there to love the lost.

Our posture towards notorious “sinners” today can be to hold them at arms length. We might work hard to keep our distance from them because we are somehow afraid that they may get us dirty by our relationship with them. But consider the way Jesus loved the lost. He ate with them, he spent time with them, he befriended them. He came not to call the self-righteous, clean-in-our-own-eyes religious people. Jesus came to the broken, the wrecked, the sick, the sinners.

My hope is that our relationship towards sinners would be the same as Jesus’ relationship. I pray that we would be in their lives, that they would be in our lives, and that by our friendship we could share the good news of Christ with them. That kind of life with sinners might make the stuffy and self-righteous uncomfortable but Jesus came for the lost. So we, as his disciples, are called to love the lost as well.

Let me encourage you to be people who love the lost. Christ has been gracious and loved us, not because we were lovable. I long to see our church be a place where the lost are known, loved, served, and ultimately saved because we are place where broken people can come and taste and see the deep, deep love of Jesus. Woodside, let’s love the lost!

This Sunday at Woodside

This weekend we will continue our Exile series in 1 Peter by looking at 1 Peter 4:12-19. Here’s the songs we will be singing which you can listen to on Spotify before we gather:

  • 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Great Are You Lord
  • Found In You
  • Holy Spirit

Bring Candy!

Our Trunk or Treat event is coming up very soon (Oct 24). Let me strongly encourage you to bring a few bags of Halloween candy and place them in the Trunk or Treat container in our lobby. This is going to be a great afternoon of fun and grace to love the lost and bless our community. We need your help to be fully prepared and ready to do this! So bring a few bags of candy this week so we can give them away on Oct 24. We are also still in need of volunteers and help to pull this off. Let us know how you can serve by signing up —> Click here to sign up and serve on Oct 24!

As I have been spending some time on vacation this week with my family I have been praying for you and look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we gather to worship together. Please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can pray for you. May Jesus be our focus and our glory!

In Christ,

Jeremy

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,
Jeremy