Dear Woodside… Reset Your Reading

“But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”” (Matthew 4:4, ESV)

It’s April 21st. Do you know where your 2016 Bible Reading Plan is? You know, the plan you dedicated yourself to on January 1 and that you promised yourself you would get through this year? The plan that was going to be the plan to end all plans and demonstrate your growth and discipline and ability to comprehensively read the Bible in the entirety of the year. The plan that maybe got sideswiped by a week of sickness, busyness, and maybe a day or two of indifference? Yep - that plan… 

Now before the tidal wave of guilt crashes down upon you, let me encourage you; I’m right there with you. Not that I’ve given up or am so far behind in the plan that I’ve abandoned it. But I do know the difficulty of keeping up with the plan, and the frustration of getting behind in it. I will confess, I am behind myself in the plan too. But I haven’t given up. 

A few years ago I was encouraged to just keep working at these kinds of plans. Actually, the encouragement was to daily make some progress. Just read one chapter a day. Even if you only read one chapter a day you will still get through the Bible in the space of three years. How many people do you know who have read through the Bible in the space of 10 years, let alone 3? 

I want to encourage you in this because our hearts can lean a few different ways when our spiritual work lags behind. On one hand we can despair, give up, and fail to make progress because we feel the hole has been dug so incredibly deep that we will never catch up. If this is your present state of mind, you may be in danger of thinking that your acceptance before God is based on your performance. Remember, Christ has completed the work you failed to complete so that in him you are identified as perfectly acceptable because of Christ’s work. Don’t despair, continue to press forward because you are already accepted. 

On the other hand we can see the “law” of the Bible reading plan and believe that if we get back at it, catch up, and complete our Bible reading plan this year then we are really special. We might look with proud sorrow upon our meager friends who haven’t kept up like we have, and who haven’t performed like we have, and feel a tinge of judgment that they aren’t as close to God as we are. The reality is that even our righteous accomplishments are insufficient, and even filthy in the light of God’s holiness. We must repent of our self-righteousness. 

These two perspectives can be applied to any good work; we either despair of not doing the work, or rise up in pride because we did do something good! But our hearts need something greater — we need a righteous one who gifts his good, perfect work to us and we need a superior one who humbles us to see our need and call us to repentance. 

This is why the gospel must be central to all things for us. Christ must be the center. Our Bible reading is a means, a vehicle, by which we get to Christ and know Christ and grow in Christ. But it is by no means a substitute for having Christ. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for keeping up on their Bible reading plans but failing to see him in them (see John 5:39). And Jesus encouraged sinners to be sustained and nourished and grow by every word that comes from the mouth of God (see Matthew 4:4).

Let me encourage you, as I have, to reset your Bible reading plan and more importantly, reset your heart. Why are you reading? Why are you failing to read? What motivations stand behind your pursuit of engaging and embracing the Bible? May it be only because you long to see Jesus and be nourished by His word. May it never be to check off a box of superiority and self-righteousness. Let’s allow the gospel to reset our lives in every way. 

This Sunday

Sunday we will continue our pursuit of wisdom by receiving from the Proverbs instruction in regard to wealth. Our ambition is to allow Christ, who is our wisdom, to shape every area of our heart to be in alignment with him, including our money. To help you be ready to sing on Sunday be sure to check out our setlist that we’ve put together on Spotify to be ready on Sunday.

  • Mighty Warrior
  • Even So Come
  • Place of Freedom
  • O Praise the Name
  • Restore My Soul

India Mission Opportunity

Also, we wanted to be sure to remind you about the India Mission meeting this Sunday at 12:30. Lauren from our Life Impact team will be hosting the informational meeting in the conference room for any who are interested in going on a short-term, overseas mission trip to India with Woodside. The trip will take place in October this year and we are excited to see how God will use us to advance the gospel in India among those in need. 

May the Lord bless you as you head into this weekend. I am eager to see his grace speak into our lives again as we gather. Please let me know if there is any way I can be in prayer for you.

In Christ,
Jeremy

 

Dear Woodside... Get Wisdom

“Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” (Proverbs 4:5–7, ESV)

Of all the things that are valuable and desirable for us in every day life, the Bible speaks of wisdom as being the essential. Essentially the Wisdom writer says, if you’re going to get anything, then get wisdom — everything else is secondary to that. You might pause here and say, “wait, I thought love was the most important virtue, or righteousness, or justice, or mercy… why are you saying get wisdom above anything else? Here’s why:

Wisdom, in the Scriptures is the basis or the bedrock of all other virtues. Solomon asked God for wisdom and God was pleased to give it to him because from a heart of wisdom would flow a heart of love. A life of service or a devotion to compassion, justice, and equity are all fruits borne out of a heart of wisdom. The Proverbs demonstrate that the wise person is the person who is loving, merciful, compassionate, just, hard working, faithful, diligent, disciplined, righteous, and equitable. Wisdom becomes the means by which these other virtues are displayed.

Consider this, if we are people of justice but don’t possess wisdom in how to direct and display that love, we probably will end up being overbearing with a law, but never compassionate to those who are in need. Wisdom requires understanding all the angles of a situation to be able to rightly apply justice and mercy. The Pharisees were great lovers of the Law, but they weren’t wise — they didn’t know how to display mercy. On the other hand, if we are solely people of mercy, but never employ wisdom we can be taken advantage of, walked all over and mishandle the resources and skills God has given us to steward for his glory. We must be wise so we are compassionate and fair.

This is why the Holy Spirit in the Bible directs us to pursue wisdom as if it were above all else. If we don’t get anything else, be sure to get wisdom. This of course centers us on the gospel. When we really ask what wisdom is, and where real wisdom comes from the Bible gives us one direct and clear answer: Christ. Jesus is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). If we want to get wisdom, it most purely, doesn’t come from reading lots of books or having lots of experience in life, or spending time with older people (although those can be supplemental resources for wisdom). Pure and true wisdom ultimately comes from Christ.

How did Jesus know how to display mercy to an adulterous woman? It was because he is wise. How did Jesus know to rebuke the legalist stuck in their religiosity? It was because he is wise. How did Jesus know how to answer the traps set before him by the Jewish lawyers? It was because Jesus was wise? How did Jesus know how to receive and bless the little children? It was because Jesus is wisdom.

So run to Jesus. Get wisdom from Christ. Turn off the talking heads of the worldly philosophy and babble of political pundits. Get Christ. Stop listening to the cacophony of life coaches and religious tradesmen selling you a “best life now” and get Jesus. Run to Him for wisdom, pursue him like you would silver and fine gold. Be wise and consider Jesus the treasure in the field, in which you would give up everything you have to possess him. Be wise, get Jesus!

Wisdom Concerning Our Words

Sunday morning we will continue our Five° series and address the singular largest topic of the book of Proverbs; our words. As we gather for worship we will be singing the following songs and have posted them on our Spotify playlist so you can be more familiar (and sing on your own!) with our music.

  • Open Up the Heavens
  • Raised to Life
  • Good Good Father
  • O Praise the Name
  • Lord, I Need You

Also - let me encourage you to come to the 9:30 service this week… but you’ll have to join us then to find out why!

The Meaning of Marriage

Sunday night we will also begin an new Thrive class for the months of April and May at 6pm. This class will address the important reality of marriage and is intended for both married people and single people. The course will be part video dialog, part live discussion, and totally helpful for everyone! The class is based off of Timothy and Kathy Keller’s excellent book The Meaning of Marriage. The course is $10 and includes a copy of the book. We hope that you’ll join us, and even invite others to listen in and learn together about the value and importance of marriage from the Scriptures.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday and growing together in wisdom as we pursue Christ!

In Him,
Jeremy

Everything That's On My Mind (Almost) - Pastoral Wisdom

Just over a month ago our family moved to Michigan and began working with Woodside Bible Church to launch the tenth and newest campus in the city of Plymouth. It’s been a great season for us so far and we’ve seen the deepest works of God’s grace. Yesterday was our “All Staff” meeting where all the staff from the ten Woodside campuses gather together to hear vision, build up one another, and see how God is at work all over Woodside. Yesterday’s meeting also included our Senior Pastor, Doug Schmidt interviewing the pastor that he followed, David Anderson. One of the things that I value most is learning from older men in ministry. As David spoke he fired off tweet-like counsel and reflections that were a deep benefit for me. Here’s a few of the nuggests of his counsel that I gleaned yesterday:

  • Time is your friend, lead well by building consensus. 
  • Pray more - you will never regret spending more time in prayer.
  • Train individuals - don’t just leave your disciple-making to the pulpit.
  • Be prepared - start working in the word now!
  • You can sheer a sheep many times, but you can only skin a sheep once.
  • Be careful and wise as a pastor.
  • You have a ministry, not a job. Job’s are 8-5, ministry is 24/7
  • Build trust wherever you can. People need to know they can open their heart to you.
  • Invest in people, don’t use them. They are not stepping stones to build your little kingdom.
  • Love your family well.
  • Go on vacation.
  • Do the next obvious thing for the glory of God.

I love these thoughts and am grateful for opportunities to learn from faithful and fruitful pastors who have run the race well. May that be true of me as well. 

What Wisdom Looks Like

What Wisdom Looks Like

I read through the book of Proverbs this weekend. As I was trying to discern the right way through a difficult question I was asked I wanted to make sure my answer wasn't couched in cleverness or pragmatic, "well it sounds good so let's do it," philosophy. I wanted my answer to be anchored in real, Biblical reality. The question I was seeking to answer by looking through Proverbs is an altogether different story. However I did find something that I believe a lot of churches today would have a difficult swallowing. Wisdom doesn't really appear like today's "manly man."

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