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Pastor John’s “Through a Glass Darkly”

2.15.2018
The Lord Is Our Banner
Dear Family,
There’s something spectacular about the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. At least I think so. Friday night, my husband and I tuned in to the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympic winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Tom lasted about 5 minutes before turning his attention to his iPad to scan his favorite news sites. But even he had to admit that the Olympic rings made of 1,200 drones were pretty amazing. Or maybe he was just excited because the ceremony was drawing to a close.
My favorite part of these events is watching the teams of ecstatic athletes march into the stadium under the colorful billowing banners of their countries. Smiles beaming, arms waving, selfies snapping—this is a moment they will remember for a lifetime. And every time I see Team USA enter the arena lead by the Stars and Stripes, each of our athletes proudly adorned in red, white, and blue, I can’t help but be moved by a wave of pride as well.
 
A banner or flag is something that identifies and unifies a particular group of people. It’s often used in situations far more serious than a game, with much more at stake than a medal. In military settings, a banner can serve as a rallying point for troops. Soldiers embroiled in battle can reassemble around their banner to find protection, receive aid, gain strength, and obtain orders to continue striving for victory.
How fitting that one of the names of God in the Old Testament is Jehovah-Nissi, which means, The Lord Is Our Banner. It only appears once in the Bible, in Exodus 17. The event takes place not long after the Israelites are miraculously delivered from Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Journeying through the wilderness, they come under attack from the Amalekites, a brutal and warlike nomadic tribe.
After 400 years of living as slaves, fighting a war was not something in the skill set of the Israelites. Under God’s direction, Moses assigned Joshua to marshal a band of soldiers from this fearful bunch. Meanwhile, Moses stationed himself on top of a hill overlooking the armies below. In his hand, he held the staff he used to strike the Nile, and God parted the waters saving his people. It was the same staff with which he had struck the rock at Horeb, and life-giving water flowed, enough for all the people.
Clearly, this battle was an unusual one. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel would win, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek would gain the advantage. As the hours wore on, Moses’ arms grew weary. So his brother Aaron and another man named Hur stood beside him, one on either side and held his arms steady. So together, Moses was able to hold the rod of God high until the sun set. That day, the people of Israel won an overwhelming victory over Amalek and his people. Talk about an unexpected upset!
This was a moment Moses wanted the Israelites to remember for a lifetime. There was no doubt as to who the true Victor of this battle was. Exodus 17:15 reads, “And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, ‘The Lord Is My Banner.’” It was to remind them that though they were weaker than their enemies, God would forever be their refuge and strength.
The New Testament describes our lives as believers as athletes in a race or as soldiers in battle. And as Christ-followers, we have a banner that goes before us, the King of Kings. In his name, we are identified and united. In the battles and struggles of life, we look to him as a rallying point, our place of strength, safety, and direction. The banner of the Lord is not a mere symbol; it is a promise of strength, power, and salvation. And the insignia on this banner is love.
So, are you feeling a little on the weak side considering the obstacles before you? Let us run to our God, our divine rallying point; and there find all we need to be victorious in his power and might and for his glory.
Under his banner of love,
Marti
 
2.8.2018

 

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Geoff Grant, Northpoint’s Worship Director.

Why Choir?

Hello Family,

Last fall, the Northpoint elders made the decision to apply some philosophical changes to the Northpoint Choir (for a summary of those changes, click here). Since then, the Northpoint Choir has been gathering and working to apply this philosophy. In leading the choir last season, I experienced a joyful community of singers who exude a vibrancy in worship and a zeal for remembering and celebrating the gospel as we spent time tuning our hearts and tuning our voices to serve the congregation in corporate worship.

Well, amidst these changes, I have had several thought-provoking and encouraging conversations. Often coming from people who have noticed the change in choir philosophy, these conversations could often be summed up with the question: “What then, is the purpose of the choir?” Before I answer, I have to say that I personally love choir. I love the sound of voices in harmony, dissonance, unity. Given that, I want to try to be objective in painting a vision for choir, as I am tempted to mix in my own love.

I am reminded of a passage in Nehemiah after the Israelites finish building the wall. Ezra and Nehemiah build up two choirs to lead the people of Jerusalem in singing God’s praise. The Hebrew phrase here that translates to choir is also often also translated as the company of them that gave great thanks. Ezra and Nehemiah each follow a different group of singers to different sections of the wall to “offer great sacrifices and rejoice, for God had made them rejoice with great joy… and the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”

I love the phrase, the company of them that gave great thanks, (as clunky as that is), and I love what that presses on our philosophy of choir. See, when we gather every week to study God’s Word together, we sing songs and hymns, pray together, collect the offering, fellowship, etc., we, the whole church, are this company of them that give great thanks. We gather to rejoice and to celebrate the ultimate sacrifice that has been made on our behalf: Christ. God has made us to rejoice; he has restored us! In a sense, the entire church body is the choir. We gather week after week to proclaim and celebrate our gracious God. We gather to feast on Christ, to place his selfless love before us, and to embrace his righteousness and acceptance as our true identity.

But what does this have to do with the Northpoint Choir? Okay, I’m getting there. But first some clarifying points.

The Special Song

Hebrews 10 tells us that the only pleasing offering to God is Christ. No works we do, no ritual we frequent, no beautiful song we sing is a worthy offering to God. The ultimate purpose of the choir is not to, in some way, contribute a fragrant offering of music to the Lord. When the choir sings a song for the congregation’s listening, that practice, in and of itself, is not what is glorifying to God. What is glorifying to God in this scenario? The hearts of those both singing and listening, contemplating the sacrifice of Christ, confessing their need for Christ, opening themselves to Christ, surrendering their priorities, desires, preferences, schedules, and relationships, etc., all to the lordship of Christ, is glorifying to God. This is the highest value of a special song. 

Beautiful Music

It is important to remember that God is not interested in how beautiful our music worship sounds. In fact, he is explicit to say, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters. And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” God is interested in our hearts, not our beautiful music. One could make an argument that God values beauty, which is demonstrated in his creative character (Genesis 1) and his attention to aesthetic detail (Exodus 25-30). But in the economy of new covenant, Christ-purchased, corporate worship, the values are different. It isn’t the beauty of our praise, but rather the brokenness of our praise that is a delight to God. So we can rule out that the purpose is to make our worship more beautiful or better for God.

“Well That Was Lovely”

Further, when the choir does something outside of leading corporate singing, like a reflective or devotional song, its end is not met in merely filling a time gap, or offering a moment of pleasant listening. What does the song point to? Our hope is that it will merely stir our affection for God. If it is beautiful, let us rejoice in God’s beauty. If it is difficult and dissonant, let us reflect on the fallenness of the world and give voice to our need for God. If it is thought-provoking, let our thoughts dwell on the ineffably gracious mind of Christ.

Ancient Future 

The Northpoint Choir does not exist merely to maintain a tradition. Rather, we remember, cherish, and honor the past, embrace and celebrate what the Holy Spirit is doing in the present, and eagerly anticipate what the Spirit will do in the future. I have been so encouraged by our corporate worship and the choir’s faithfulness in leading us. I am excited and ardently anticipating what the Spirit has in store as we continue forward in this new season.

To best understand the purpose of our Northpoint Choir, it is helpful to call to mind the purpose of our corporate gathering. In brevity, we gather corporately to:

  • Dwell in the proclamation of God’s Word
  • Confess our need for Christ
  • Remind each other of the gospel
  • Express our thanksgiving for Christ
  • Unify our hearts, in Christ
  • Encourage one another, in Christ
  • Celebrate our union with Christ

Another way it could be said is this: “We sing corporately to form our love for God and to be formed by our love for God.” – Isaac Wardell

At it’s finest, the Northpoint Choir will simply lead us into this celebration. It will aid in pointing the gathered congregation to Christ. The choir is a set group of brothers and sisters who sing with us on Sundays, whilst embracing this understanding of corporate worship. The choir will hunger and thirst for Christ and encourage the gathered body to do the same. Everything the choir does will ideally conform to these ends. Now, we will fail at this, as our flesh loves to impose its own will. I will fail at leading in this, as I can scarcely go minutes without sinning; my need for Christ is equally present on the table as everyone else—and THAT is the point! My hope and prayer for the choir is that God will build a community of singers and Christ-lovers who will be quick to praise, quick to confess, quick to repent, and quick to give thanks.

YOU have the opportunity to be a part of this community! Would you consider joining the Northpoint Choir?

Perhaps, you’re reading this saying, “I don’t think I’m quite there; I might be too proud or too opinionated to lead in this kind of gathering.” Well, if you are actually thinking something like that, you’re probably the perfect person to sing in the choir. Why? Because you’re proud and opinionated? No, everyone is proud and opinionated. What we desire are brothers and sisters who see their sin, recognize their need for Christ, and who want to invite others to do the same.

This season, the choir will rehearse for four Wednesdays (6:30 p.m.-8:15 p.m.), will lead corporate singing for three Sundays, and will lead the congregation in the Good Friday service. If you are interested in joining the Northpoint Choir, please send an email to me (Geoff Grant) at ggrant@northpointcorona.org.

In him,

Geoff

2.1.2018

Waiting is the Hardest Part

Hello Family,

Not long ago, Jenine and I walked into a local Jack in the Box, and we were surprised to see a separate kiosk from which a patron could order if he didn’t want to wait in line to talk to an actual person. (I know what you’re thinking: What possessed you to eat lunch at Jack in the Box? I’d have an easier time explaining the Trinity than answering that question.)

But this is a fast-growing trend. I just read an article this week in USA Today that revealed McDonald’s plans to open 1,000 new restaurants worldwide, and many will be equipped with self-service ordering systems.

Now, I’m not against expeditious food service or line-free ordering, but I do fear that our natural proclivity toward impatience is being pumped with steroids because, in part, of the speed at which we get the things we want. We are so used to pushing a button or even just making a voice command, and we are instantly accommodated.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m no Luddite. There are plenty of incredible benefits of technology. With Bluetooth, for example, I can call a friend, search for a song on my iPhone, and probably even take a selfie, all while driving (for the record, I’ve never tried the latter).

But here’s what’s happened: we have amalgamated so many cultural values to our everyday lives—one of those values being speed—that it’s become almost impossible for us to wait. For anything. And we want in the spiritual domain exactly what we have in the technological domain: instant gratification.

We’re not interested in persisting. And we’re certainly not interested in discipline.

Well, prayer is a discipline. It takes focus and patience. Martin Luther called prayer “the hardest work of all,” because it’s a spiritual act, done in the spiritual realm, where real, intense battles take place.

That said—at the risk of sounding melodramatic—tonight we go to war. Tonight we engage in spiritual battle, appealing to the Lord to hear us and answer our prayers. It will take effort and focus, but we believe that God will attend to our pleas.

Will you join us at 7:00 p.m., in Heritage Hall? It’s a small investment (only one hour), but the reward could be incredible because “we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15).

See you tonight,

Pastor John

 
1.25.2018

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Scott Williams, Northpoint’s Pastor of Adults and Families.

A Clean Heart

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:10-12

Hello Church Family,

This past week, I just happened to go on a long walk by myself on Tuesday night. There was the need to get some exercise, and also the need to just get away with the Lord. As I walked and talked with the Lord, listening to music on my iPhone, a playlist brought up “Create in me a Clean Heart” by Keith Green, that wonderful Christian singer from the 70s and 80s.My first thought was: Wow, this is an old song! But as I listened to Keith sing the words of Scripture, based on Psalm 51, I was immediately flooded with memories of a younger me. The first time the power of these lyrics hit me, I was singing the song in youth group (yep, that dates me a bit). Back then, there was such honesty in Green’s confession for needing a “clean heart,” a “right Spirit,” and to have the “joy of salvation” restored to him. As I walked last week, I remembered those times in youth group when I first trusted in Christ, first realized the depth of my sinfulness, and the first time I experienced the joy that only Christ can give. Those lyrics were part of what drew me to the Lord, and one of the reasons may be that we sang the song over and over again. It seemed like every time we met, we had to sing it, but even so, God used it to shape me and draw me to himself.

Now, fast-forward a few decades later, and the words from “Create in me a Clean Heart,” still resonate with me today, perhaps more so, as I now know Keith Green drew them from the original author, King David, in Psalm 51. David is described as being a man after God’s own heart. He walked many years with the Lord, and yet, he still struggled with sin and discouragement; he needed his joy restored. He was also prone to going his own way, living for himself, and seeking comfort in temporary pleasures. What a reminder this is, that no matter how long we have walked with the Lord, our heart still needs a good cleaning from harboring attitudes of self-reliance, finding comfort in other places, and seeking other joys. I know that can be true of me. Too often, I can come home and want to be left alone to watch the news, surf the Internet, or just decompress. Thinking that these temporary escapes will somehow restore and refresh me is certainly not true. When I give an honest assessment of myself, I see someone who all too often, works, parents, plans, leads, and relates out of a spirit of self-reliance and self-centeredness. As a result, I am left exhausted, frustrated, irritable, and sometimes joyless.

The verses from Psalm 51 offer hope. David penned them knowing full well, that God would not cast him aside, but would, in fact, restore to him the joy of his salvation. I am reminded every time I read or sing these words, that our God is faithful to redeem and restore those of us with dirty hearts. There is no greater joy than the joy that comes from being in God’s presence. What great words of hope: “restore unto me the JOY of your salvation.” They describe the total blessing and the intimate and personal relationship with the Lord. They describe a relationship that will uphold each of us in our struggle with sin and self-reliance.

So if you don’t have Keith Green on your playlist, then shame on you! Not really. But take some time this week to ask God to do his cleaning work in your life and to restore the joy that comes from being a child of the King.

In Him,

Pastor Scott

1.18.2018

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.

Why Human Life is Important to God

Hello Church Family,

This week, we will commemorate Sanctity of Life Sunday, affirming our stand for the dignity and worth of human life, and against the practice of abortion. The sanctity of human life is, of course, something that we should and do celebrate every week as we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. But what are some specific ways that we can participate as we reflect on the sanctity of life this Sunday?
Pray:
The most important thing that we as Christians can do is to pray. We need to pray for a revival in our land that will bring people to Christ, and in changing their hearts, give them a new concern and care for the unborn. We need to pray for our political leaders, who have it in their power to make changes, to pass God-honoring laws that protect the most vulnerable in our society. Pray for those who participate, one way or another, in the abortion industry to repent and seek forgiveness from God. Pray that the day will come when abortion will be so uncommon that a sanctity of life Sunday will no longer be necessary.Support:
Secondly, we should support the work of places, such as Corona Life Services, who offer a Christian alternative to abortion. Organizations like CLS are under tremendous pressure to water down their life-giving message to comply with godless government directives. Pray that they will have the courage to stand up for their convictions, and the ability to continue to operate with the spirit of Christ. Pray that the families with whom they interact will not only turn away from abortion but turn to Christ as Savior. We can also support them financially, through attendance at events and fundraisers, and with volunteer hours.Act:
As Christians, we can be agents for change through participation in the political process, organizing and attending marches and rallies, raising awareness about the cause. We should not be silent on an issue that is so near and dear to the heart of God. We should be thankful that through political advocacy, abortion has become more restricted in many states over the last few years, and the total number of abortions has been going down. We can hope that through continued, concerted action, the tide may turn decisively against abortion in our land. But our advocacy should not stop at the condemnation of abortion. We must also help with the alternatives. Namely, we should be at the forefront of advocacy for adoption, the most attractive alternative to abortion. Christians should adopt children themselves, support Christian adoption agencies, and provide support for adopting families. Recognizing that we ourselves have been adopted into God‘s family, we must always treat adopted children as first-class citizens in our midst.As we take time to reflect on the sanctity of life this Sunday, let us remember why human life is important to God: because we were fearfully and wonderfully made in his image, and reflect, however imperfectly, his glory. In upholding life, we glorify God, which is, after all, the chief end of man.

In Him,

Pastor Brent

1.11.2018
This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Marti Wiegman, Northpoint’s Director of Women’s Ministries.
 
Who Do You Say Jesus Is?
 
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
Last Sunday evening at the Golden Globes Awards, Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. Her impassioned and inspiring acceptance speech had the audience on their feet and the national media buzzing about a potential presidential run.
 
There was a lot to admire in Oprah’s speech, but there was one thing she said that really caught my attention. She made the comment that, “speaking YOUR truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” as if truth is a personal thing—you have your truth and I have my truth. That might sound good but it’s not sound thinking.
 
Sadly, this concept has found its way into the church. A number of years ago, the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life published a major study on religious beliefs and practices in the United States. One of the more significant finds was:
 
• 70 percent of all Americans believe that many religions can lead to eternal life.
But perhaps the most surprising discovery was:
• 56 percent of all evangelical Christians believe that many paths, other than faith in Christ, lead to God and eternal life.
 
More recently, LifeWay Research at the request of Ligonier Ministries (founded by R. C. Sproul) conducted a similar study with more stringent criteria. The study singled out those who called the Bible their highest authority, who said personal evangelism is important, and who indicated that trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way of salvation.
• Yet nearly 50 percent agreed that “God accepts the worship of all religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”
 
The author of the article reporting on this LifeWay study made this observation: “The most striking thing is how many of these folks evidently see no contradiction between their casual universalism and the evangelical creed that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.” (G. Shane Morris, “The Federalist,” October 10, 2016, “Survey Finds Most American Christians are Actually Heretics”)
 
In our society today, it seems so progressive to be accepting of everyone’s truth. But Romans 1 warns that when we reject God’s truth for our own ideas, proclaiming how wise and sophisticated we are, we actually become fools. It’s important to hold to a sound understanding of what truth is, including the related reality that opposing ideas can’t both be true.
 
For example, we all understand that you can’t say two plus two equals four, but also equals five and nine and sometimes 23. In the same way, you cannot bring contradictory statements of faith together and say that they are all true:
 
• Hindus believe there are hundreds of thousands of gods.
• Buddhists will tell you there is no personal God who can be known at all.
• Muslims believe in Allah, but he is not the God of Scripture, and they deny the death and resurrection of Christ.
 
Obviously many churchgoers today still think that there is room for more in heaven than Christ followers—for God-seeking people who do good and help others, whatever they call themselves. The Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Mormon, or just the nice guy next door who likes the idea that God and heaven exist but doesn’t believe much more. Certainly, a loving God wouldn’t do anything so horrible as to send good people to hell just because they put their faith in a power by another name than Jesus Christ.
 
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, he called out in agony to his Father, “If there is any way for this cup to pass from me, spare me.” And God sent an angel to encourage and strengthen him to endure the cross he had to face. Why? Because there WAS no other way, and there IS no other name, whereby we can be saved.
 
In Women of the Word, we have been studying through the book of Luke. This past week, we looked at chapter nine where Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them life’s most important question: “Who do you say that I am?”
 
Peter speaks up on behalf of the team and answers, “You are the Christ, the Messiah sent by God to be our Savior.” That’s the only right answer. Because Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
 
So let me ask you: Who do you say that Jesus is? It’s a question we all must answer, and that answer will impact us for eternity.
 
Let’s stand firm in God’s truth, in our hearts, in our church, and in our community. This is the truth—the good news: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in HIM should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
 
Living together in truth,
 
Marti
 
The rest of NP News for 1.11.2018 can be found on the “This Week” page at http://www.northpointcorona.org/this-week/

 

1.4.2018

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Tamene Menna, Northpoint’s Pastoral Assistant. Tamene holds a PhD from Talbot. He and his wife, Tigist, have three children: daughter Lelena, and sons Liam and Lucian.

Praying Together

Hello Family,

I grew up in Ethiopia, which is located in eastern part of Africa, also known as the “horn of Africa.” Ethiopia was a communist country for about 17 years. Many of the churches during that time were underground fellowships where Christians were harshly persecuted by the communist government. During these trials, the Christians met and prayed together for hours. Through corporate prayer, those Christians received the strength to remain faithful to Christ in the face of persecution and trial. Under similar circumstances, corporate prayer was central in the life of the church in the first century. The early Christians used to worship and pray together in the temple, in the synagogue, and in their house churches. Prayer matters individually and as a church body—we pray because we believe God is at work!

Speaking of praying together, one of the things I love about our church is it’s commitment to prayer. It has been a great joy for me to pray together with brothers and sisters in Christ who are passionate about seeking the Lord in prayer. The upcoming all-church prayer meeting (see below), led by Pastor John, is one of those holy places where we come together as one body to intercede for one another, our church, our ministries, and community.

Opportunities for prayer include:
• Church prayer meeting on Mondays @ 6 p.m.
• Pre-service prayer meetings on Sundays @ 8 a.m.
• Women’s prayer gathering on Wednesdays @ 11:45 a.m.
• Hour of Prayer, February 1 @ 7:00 p.m., Heritage Hall

I would like to invite you to join us!

In him,

Tamene

The rest of NP News for 1.4.2018 can be found on the “This Week” page at http://www.northpointcorona.org/this-week/

12.28.2017

A New Year’s Prayer

Hello Family,

A little over a week ago, Jenine and I went shopping to buy Christmas gifts for our four children.  Our goal was to start and finish this (daunting) task in one day, even if it meant staying out late to do so. When we arrived at our first destination, the Tyler Mall in Riverside, Jenine asked me, “Where do you want to begin? Do you want to start in a men’s section and try to find something for Quinn and Luke?” My immediate response was, “Where’s our list?” Jenine said, “You know how hard it is to shop for teenagers; I don’t have a list. Hopefully, we’ll see something that we think they’ll like.” I then replied, rather curtly, I’m sure, “Without a list, I have no idea where to even begin.” (I apologized later for my rudeness.)

I’m a list-maker. This is how my brain works. Writing things down helps me think with greater clarity and remain focused. This is one reason that I sometimes write out my prayers.

To be sure, God desires our unrehearsed and unguarded communion with him. As John Bunyan once wrote, “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” I echo those sentiments. However, if we’re not careful, we can get in a rut and neglect some of the key elements of biblical prayer (e.g., worship, thanksgiving, confession, supplication).

Biblical prayer should be both spontaneous and planned. Heartfelt and prepared. Sometimes we cry out to God when we don’t know what to say and trust that the Spirit of God will intercede for us, which he does (Romans 8:26). But on other occasions, it’s beneficial to write out our prayers or even pray through words that others have penned, such as the Puritan collection, Valley of Vision, or Kenneth Boa’s Praying Through the Scriptures. Written prayers help us to focus on what matters most to God.

With that in mind, I’ve included below the prayer that I prayed this morning. Rooted in and enriched by the aforementioned Valley of Vision collection, it is both a guide and a sample of one way to write out our prayers. I’ve changed the pronoun ‘I’ to the plural ‘we’ so that we can pray it together, even while we are in separate locations.

May God stir within our church in 2018 a greater dependence on him and richer joy in him than we have yet to experience.

In Him,

Pastor John 

Our Father,

We come to you now in desperate need of your sustaining power and endless grace. We have been hasty and short in our private prayer; we have been quick to rely on our own strength and planning; we have subtly moved you to the periphery. Awaken our hearts to feel this folly; to rue this lack of understanding of you and of ourselves.

Our first sin of the day, our insistence on autonomy, leads to many others: the neglect of those around us who are in need, the presumption that we are justified in our thoughts and actions, a lack of love for our neighbor, and worst of all, a lack of love for you.

Our reliance on our strength has led to countless failures on our part. Lord, help us. Keep us this morning from robbing you of the worship you desire, and of which you are alone worthy. Keep us this morning from having lofty notions of ourselves, while entertaining thoughts of you that are mundane, and ordinary. Keep us this morning from giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, while questioning your every motive. Keep us this morning from praising you with our mouths, while remaining spiritually aloof and disconnected.

With our voices we sing praises to you, and with our mouths we proclaim you as Lord, but our hearts are slow to feel. Gratitude eludes us.

Father, forgive us as we have dishonored you with our priorities, allowing our minds to be captivated by temporal things, while remaining unmoved at thoughts of your kindness. Your holiness. Your salvation.

May we never forget that you have our souls in your hands. You uphold us by your strong right hand. You give us everything we need, and indeed, so much more than we deserve.

Remind us of your unfailing love. Impress upon our minds the merits of Christ’s atoning work for our sin. Enable us to believe. Grant that through the lens of repentance we may see more clearly the beauty and sufficiency of the cross. Let your mercies draw us to yourself. Cause us, by your grace, to long for your coming.

Father, enable us to rest in this: to all who confess their sins to you, you are faithful and just to forgive. This is our assurance: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ; in Christ, we are free indeed. When you forgive, you remove our offenses as far as the East is from the West. For those who trust in you alone, nothing shall separate us from your love: not trials, nor victories, not failures, not successes, neither valleys nor mountaintops. For you keep us for yourself.

Be our portion. Give us more grace. Stir our souls to trust only in you. There is no peace so rich as to rest in the finished work of Jesus, the only one through whom we dare approach you, and the one in whose name we pray. Amen.

12.21.2017

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Taylor Mendoza, Northpoint’s Director of Students Ministries

Does the Bible tell One Story?

Hello Family,

In the fall of 2012, I was a freshman in the Bachelors of Applied Theology program at California Baptist University, where I experienced an awakening. One of my professors consistently used the word, meta-narrative when he referred to the Old Testament’s story arc. The phrase meta-narrative literally means master story or the biggest story.

My professor told us that the Bible tells one cohesive story from Genesis to Revelation. Even though there are many stories captured in the 66 individual books in our Bible, God was telling us one story. Much like Sauron’s Ring of Power in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, my professor argued that there was “one story to rule them all.” For example, it is not a coincidence that the biblical story starts in a garden (Genesis 1) and ends in a garden-city (Revelation 22).

Today among theologians, the idea of a master story is all the rage. They are wrestling with the question: Does the Bible tell One Story? The answer is an enthusiastic yes! The Bible was written by a myriad of human authors ranging from Moses to Paul. Yet, at the same time, 2 Peter tells us that no human author wrote on his own. The Holy Spirit inspired these men to tell one cohesive story (2 Peter 1:19-21). You could say that the Bible has one Divine Author, namely God himself.

Beginning to look at the Bible as one story may help you put your Bible together. It may cause you to see things that you may have never seen before. It takes your Bible reading from black and white to Technicolor. It brings clarity and shape to your understanding of who God is; what He is doing; and where this world will end up. Understanding the big story is the secret to finding Jesus in the Old Testament. And it is the hinge on which you can understand all of world history.

My modest yet revolutionizing proposal for you is this: Try Reading the Bible as one big story. Today, most theologians are in agreement that the one big story is “God’s wonderful plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.” Kevin Deyoung, who has written an excellent children’s book on this topic called, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher brings us back to the Garden, begins in Genesis and moves to Revelation painting a picture that explains the beauty and power of Christ in all the Bible. His book is highly recommended and a must-read for this upcoming Christmas morning.

Another way to think about this master story is to divide the Bible into four major chapters. Chapter 1 is Creation. Chapter 2 is The Fall. Chapter 3 is Redemption. Chapter 4 is Consummation. This was wonderfully displayed and masterfully articulated in our recent Choir Christmas Concert. The Christmas season is all about entering into God’s chapter of redemption.

Creation (Chapter 1)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth (Genesis 1:1). God is the creator of both the natural and supernatural world. God has always existed in perfect love (Ephesians 1:1) and has always been one, yet distinct in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God spoke and out of nothing the world came into being. He created man and woman in his image (Genesis 1:28) and gave them a purpose best articulated in the Westminster Confession: To glorify God (by) enjoying him forever. Adam and Eve enjoyed God with personal interaction and unhindered praise. God dwelt among his creation without separation or void.

Fall (Chapter 2)
Yet, despite all the wonders of creation, our first parents disobeyed God and exchanged the glory of God, for their own glory (Genesis 3). They were removed from the Garden of Eden, death entered the world, the relationship between Creator and creation was severed, and humanity no longer enjoyed God by glorifying him. Since then, not a single person has avoided sin, but rather all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10, 23). Paradise was lost. The wages of sin was death (Romans 6:23). Hell, along with eternal punishment, destruction, and banishment are the result (Revelation 19-20). And now all of creation groans inwardly longing for some sort of redemption (Romans 8).

Redemption (Chapter 3)
But God being rich in mercy and because of his great love, poured out his grace by bringing good news to those who have fallen (Ephesians 2). God has provided a way of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The perfect Son, the perfect solution, the perfect man would die a gruesome and humiliating death on a cross in order to redeem that which was lost (John 3:16; Col. 2:9; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ has paid our debt, he took our punishment as our substitute, and he became our blood sacrifice washing us clean. The snake crusher crushed the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:18-20) and bought at the price of his own blood his chosen people.

Consummation (Chapter 4)
The ultimate gift of such a redemption is the promise that we get God back. We are reconciled to God (Colossians 1:21-22). In the near future, all of heaven and earth will sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy. Worthy is the Lamb who was Slain!” All of God’s people from every tribe, language, nation, and country will stand together in worship to their great God (Revelation 7). And God will wipe away every tear, make all enemies his footstool, and create a new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22). Best of all, we will dwell with him again and we will see his face.

As you read your Bible ask yourself the question: How does what I am reading fit into the biggest story? What chapter am I in? Now, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ illuminate the Scriptures for you in such a way that you glorify him even more.

Merry Christmas!

Taylor

11.26.2017

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Scott Williams, Northpoint’s Pastor of Adults and Families.

‘Tis the Season to Be … Busy!

Let me ask you a question: Have you, in the last few days, weeks, or months, been tempted to answer the question of “How are you?” with the answer, “I’m doing good, but things are just really busy”? In today’s culture, busyness is almost seen as a sign of value. The notion is the busier you are the more important you must be. But let me just suggest to you that in our business, we can actually be robbing ourselves of some of the spiritual and relational fruit God wants us to receive.

When Jesus taught the parable of the sower, he made a very vital observation about how the things in our schedules can choke out our spiritual lives (Mark 4:1-20). In this parable, the sower threw seed, which represents the Word, on different types of soil, which represent the state of people’s hearts. One of the soils where the seed falls seems to be good and the seed even begins to grow until the thorns come. They make quick work of the new sprout and choke it out and it yields no fruit. In verses 18-19, Jesus says: “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” The worries of this world, and the desire for more and more things can have a devastating effect on our spiritual lives. Most of us in the church won’t fall prey to rank apostasy or heresy, but we all could be derailed by the worries that life may bring, and the desire to find our happiness in material things.

Pastor Kevin Deyoung, author of Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, in remarking on this passage says it well: “Jesus knows what he’s talking about. As much as we must pray against the Devil and pray for the persecuted church, in Jesus’ thinking the greater threat to the gospel is sheer exhaustion. Busyness kills more Christians than bullets. How many sermons are stripped of their power by lavish dinner preparations and professional football? How many moments of pain are wasted because we never sat still enough to learn from them? How many times of private and family worship have been crowded out by soccer and school projects? We need to guard our hearts. The seed of God’s Word won’t grow to fruitfulness without the pruning of rest, quiet, and calm.”

So as we enter into this glorious (but busy) Christmas season, let’s make sure we take time to let the seed of the Word sink a little deeper into our hearts. The adage, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” isn’t just a cute rejoinder, but it is what we need to remember and reflect upon. Not only do we need to remember that he is the reason for this season, but that he is the reason for every season. Let us continue to take time from our busyness to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Fighting busyness isn’t an easy task and it often takes the help and encouragement of other believers. That’s why this spring, all of our Growth Groups are going to be encouraged to read Kevin Deyoung’s aforementioned book. His work isn’t a “how to” on becoming less busy, but a needed explanation of the reorientation our hearts need to make as we fight against the dangers of life’s busyness. So be on the lookout mid-January in the Northpoint Foyer and pick up your copy of Crazy Busy.

By his grace,

Pastor Scott