Dear Woodside... Live At Peace

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“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,
Jeremy

Give Thanks! — My Wife

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Today I want to rejoice in the great gift that the Lord has given me in my wife. Just over ten years ago my grandmother played match-maker and introduced me to Stephanie. Granny told me there was a woman in her Sunday school class that she wanted me to meet and was convinced that she would be my wife. Not knowing what that meant I dodged my grandmothers request for a whole week and did everything I could to avoid meeting Steph. I was an utter idiot.

We’ve been married almost ten years now and the Lord’s grace to me in Stephanie has been evident over and over again. What a faithful friend and companion. She has never ceased to stand by me and encourage me. Even through the trials of this last year, she has been a friend, lover, and blessing. When Psalm 103 talks about the Lord satisfying us with good things, she is my “great thing.”

I have seen her walk through trials of her own this year, and have been moved by the way she grew deeper and deeper in Christ. Her devotion to the Lord is evident is all she does. As a mother I can think of few better. Her love, care, and direction towards our children is a blessing to me and them. She would balk at believing this, but Proverbs 31 is a excellent description of who she is.

I cannot thank the Lord enough for his grace in giving me Stephanie. He is good and always give us what we need. His kindness to me in Stephanie is something that daily humbles me. In no ways am I worthy of such a gift as her. In every way she is a blessing and strength to me. As I reflect on God’s kindness to me one of the greatest gifts of his grace is my wife and best friend Stephanie. I love her with all my heart. 

Give Thanks! — My Parents

Today I simply want to give thanks for my mom and dad. Often, it is easy for us to over look or take for granted our parents. We’ve known them all our lives and have been privy to their instruction, discipline, encouragement, and counsel all along the way. I suppose I am not any different in that regard myself. God has used the events of our lives in this last year to remind me of his grace that he has given to me in my parents.

More than anything I am thankful for the ways that my parents have remained faithful to the gospel all throughout my life. Dad prayed with me nightly before I’d go to bed, all the way up until I was eighteen. He presented the gospel to me as a four year old in the back of our station wagon when I asked for a story. Mom would pray privately every day for my brother and I that we would be strong men of the faith and useful for the Kingdom of God. She encouraged us to be students of the Word and to hide the Scriptures in our hearts. My parents weren’t about just the externals of religion, they wanted to see the gospel transform our hearts.

Their love for Christ was evident beyond just their desire to see their two sons know and love Christ, they wanted to make a difference with their lives for the sake of the gospel. The love of Christ was the compelling force for them that caused them to give up their lives and go overseas to work with those in need. They keep showing us, even after we’ve left the house, what it looks like to lay down your life for others.

You are probably familiar with my mom’s story that has unfolded over this last summer. God’s grace in saving her life is another display of his kindness to us. I am so grateful that my mom is alive. I am thankful that I can still glean wisdom from my dad. I am thankful for God’s grace in giving me two incredible people as my parents, who love me unconditionally, and more than anything love Christ and desire to glorify him with all that they are. I am especially thankful for the grace of my parents this year. 

Give Thanks! — The In-Laws

I don’t know what it is about two families being joined together because of marriage, but it seems that there is often difficulty. Two upbringings, two ways of doing things, maybe even two distinct set of values. Spending time with the “in-laws” is often the butt of many jokes, and the frequent reason for many awkward family gatherings.

But I don’t have that issue. My in-laws are simply fantastic. I’ve never been anything but accepted, loved, and included with them. I’ve never not enjoyed being with them. For me being the son-in-law of Ed & Debbie has been another movement of God’s grace in my life. Their home has been a refuge for me and my family time and time again. Christ’s love radiates from this house, even by the way they serve and take in strangers. I was one of of those stranger/drifters strolling through town eleven years ago. As I met and won their daughters heart they welcomed me with open arms. They demonstrate the real meaning of Biblical hospitality.

Over the years I have seen them love, give, serve, support and encourage not just my family but so many others. Ever since I’ve known them they have served in their local church, “adopted” international college students, and given of themselves over and over again. Their love for one another as a couple is obvious and real. Their love for their family, and those beyond their family is tangible and seen.

I’m thankful today (and this weekend) for my in-laws, Ed and Debbie Love. They truly exemplify the love of Christ and are gifts of grace and kindness from the Lord to me. 

Give Thanks! — Gospel-Centered Discipleship

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Just over two years ago I received an email that piqued my curiosity. Somehow or another I had been put on a email list for an organization called “Gospel-Centered Discipleship” which I knew was an Internet resource committed to producing long-form articles to help “make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.” Jonathan Dodson was the founder of the organization and his book by the same title had been profoundly helpful to me in my ministry.

When I got the email asking for article submissions and even book pitches I was intrigued. I liked to write, and I wanted to use my gifting to serve the church. Here was an open invitation to produce some materials that would benefit not only my local church but hopefully many others. I decided to respond and run a few ideas around to the editors for some articles. They were eager and excited that I would be willing to share and began to dialog with me about my ideas. Ben Roberts and Brad Watson began to encourage me to write more. They encouraged me to write a book. 

As I wrote, they began to provide helpful and more concrete edits for everPresentAfter completing the initial manuscript and sending it in, Jonathan Dodson jumped back into the process and gave some helpful and strong critiques to my first attempts. The book needed more focus and he challenged me to go back and rewrite most of it to make it a stronger book. Brad encouraged me to learn to “write tight” and make my manuscript as strong as I could.

As I labored in the late nights and during parts of my family vacations I was encouraged by the team that was very excited about the project. A new executive director, Brandon Smith hopped into the process towards the end along with Mathew Sims and began to help in the promotion and final editing of the book. As we worked together I saw they encouraged and cheered me and the project along. Launch day came and the book was met with an encouraging reception.

More than anything though, it wasn’t my idea or my execution of the idea that brought the project along or made it what it is. It was the team of editors, thinkers, and encouragers that walked along with me in the process. I am grateful for Jonathan’s push back on initial manuscript to make it a better book. Brad, Brandon, Mathew at the others at GCD have been strong supporters and encouragers. I’ve learned a lot, and grown to become a better writer because of their help.

Beyond my book, GCD produces a new long-form article three times each week from men and women all over the world who are committed to “making, maturing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus.” These articles have been wonderfully helpful to me at many different points along the way. In fact the book Make, Mature, and Multiply is a wonderful “best-of” compilation that serves those who will learn well.

Today I want to give thanks to God for GCD and all the editors, writers, and friends there who have glorified Christ by their work and helped me become a better writer as a result. I am in no way a great writer, but I’ve advanced mainly because of their support and encouragement. I hope that you will put GCD’s website in your queue of regular reads on the web and learn and grow as I have.

For more visit Gospel-Centered Discipleship.