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,

How Christians Should Respond to Ebola in the United States

Probably since March this last year Ebola has been a topic of conversation in my family. Never did I expect or think that my mom would contract the disease, be airlifted to Emory University Hospital or undergo the ordeal she did. We are exceedingly thankful for God’s mercy and kindness towards us in all the ways he provided to secure mom’s recovery and health. In recent days we’ve heard and seen more news of other American contracting the virus and even here in the United States. Unfortunately there is a high degree of panic about this virus, even among Christians. But this isn’t the way it should be, especially for those of us who follow and trust Christ. For Christian’s this “panic” about Ebola isn’t warranted. Let me explain:

Christ is Sovereign Over Viruses

Let’s start with thelogically understanding who our God is. He is the ruler over all things. As Paul states it, “things visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:16). Our theology must start with Christ and with Christ as King over all, including microscopic biology and viruses. Jesus is king over Ebola. This epidemic and global outbreak does not take him by surprise or warrent fear or trembling from the Godhead. Christ is king over Ebola. Additionally this does not mean that God is some evil, malificent diety. Ebola is a product of the fall. It is a product of a broken and sin-filled world. Christ is still king over it, and he will bring justice and righteousness.

Christ Does All Things for Our Good and His Glory

This was the reality that anchored me during the entire ordeal of my mom’s illness, dad’s quarantine, and the uncertainty of the entire situation. I hear much fear from Christians who are afraid that they will get it themselves. I didn’t want my mom to get it, and yet it happened. Why? Romans 8:28 reminds us that, “For those who love God all things work togehter for good.” Mom contracting this illness, as difficult as it was, was for her ultimate good and for God’s ultimate glory. Some might say that God will never give your more than you can handle. That’s not accurate. God will never give you more than He can handle, and he will supply everything you need to stand and endure the trials he gives you to walk through (Romans 8:32). Suffering is an essential part of the Chrisian life, and how we walk with Christ in that suffering shows our faith and trust in him. As dad and I spoke over the phone when mom was sick in Liberia, “God has chosen to give us this trial, and by his grace we will come through it well.” The point I’m trying to make is that, as a Christian, you will only recieve from God’s hand what is for your ultimate good and for his great glory.

Faith Does Not Preclude Us From Understanding

Christianity isn’t an irrational, unscientific, blind following. Faith always seeks understanding. This means it is important to be well educated about the scientific and medical means by which Ebola is transmitted. As I talked with an EMT friend here in my city a few weeks ago, it would be wise for him (and us as well) to understand how Ebola is transmitted (contact with an infected, symptomatic person’s bodily fuilds). It’s important to understand how you can and cannot get Ebola. Drop the conspiracy theories, government bashing, and the irrational goofiness of zombie films. It’s wise to study the science of how the virus, how it spreads, and what you can do to be proteted from contracting it. Trust Christ and understand the world that he has made well.

Compassion Must Preceed Fear

Ebola is a horrific disease. It strips people of their humanity and dignity as persons. It kills. And yet people, humans, made in the image of God are dying of this virus all over the world. The poorest of the poor are without help and hope in Western Africa. Ebola isn’t a nameless, faceless disease. It infects real people. People that are loved and cared for. As Christians we should be known for our compassion, gentleness and love first and foremost. We should be like firefighters who run into danger to save people. The world needs our love, even if it costs us much. They need to hear and see us put our faith into action and say, even if I contract this disease and die, I will love and serve. This is how Christ served. He came into our sin-filled lives, made contact with us, and provided the remedy and cure for our sin, even though he died an even more horrific death than Ebola gives. This gospel message motivates and shows us how we might love and serve others in Christ’s name.

Christians, lets us care for and have compassion for those who are suffering. Let’s not raise panic or live fearful lives from something we cannot control. Let us look to Christ, understand this world, and roll up our sleeves to love and serve the suffering and sick.