Our Town Hall Meeting and All-church Dinner ended with a sweet time of fellowship this past Sunday evening, and our time together may have been a turning point for our fellowship here at Northpoint. We have been through a lot of changes in the past few months, and we have some challenges to face as we move forward, but by God’s grace and sustaining hand, we are moving forward to “Restore, Rediscover, and Rebuild” our body here at Northpoint Church.We have so much to be thankful for: a strong church family, many effective ministries, and a great staff serving the church, and God will build on this foundation.
Speaking for the leadership team at the meeting, we realized that over the past year we often fell short of who we needed to be—knowing that there is no effort that isn’t accompanied by errors and shortcomings—but in our failures are lessons God desires us to learn. And after praying for guidance, here’s what we think He’s teaching us:
1. Clarity – Going forward, we plan to make our direction and expectations clear from the start. Of course, there will be corrections and adjustments along the way, but it’s always best to have clarity and unity.
2. Communicate – We’re going to improve our communication: more often, more focused on listening, dialogue and discussion. We’re going to going to listen more and seek out as many viewpoints as possible.
3. Relationships – We recognize how important it is to build and maintain relationships, with our staff, with our leaders, with our congregation—and with each other.
4. Expand – We’re going to expand leadership and bring in more voices: we’ll grow the size of the Elder Board, we’d like to add to the pastoral staff, and engage the ministry directors more often to sit at the table and work with the elders on the direction of the church.
5. Labor at the Task – We’re all going to work very hard, and this is a call to all of us, everyone who attends Northpoint. This is a call to labor at the ministry, to love, to support, and to encourage one another.
Restore, Rediscover and Rebuild
Over the next two or three months, you’re going to see gradual changes here, but we’re going to start on restoring our relationships before we move outward to other goals. The pictures and graphics below chart our course together for the months ahead:
Each phase has important goals and they build on each other: as we gradually complete one, we’ll be ready for the next. And as you can see, everyone at Northpoint has a part to play in finding God’s will for our congregation. Please be in prayer about your part as we grow forward together.
Tim East, Elder
On Behalf of the Elders
Abide in Christ
Abide in Christ: Our Relationship with God
full. – John 15:1-11Christ calls us to bear fruit in our lives and in the world. We bear fruit only when we abide in Christ. Pray that we at Northpoint will abide in Christ and that He will abide in us, so we can bear much fruit. Pray for Christ’s words for yourself, your family, our church, and whomever God lays on your heart.
• I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Bearing Fruit is the Father’s purpose. Ask Him to accomplish it.
• Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. Christ’s Word cleanses us. Praise God for your salvation and security in Christ.
• As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. We only bear fruit by being connected to Christ. Pray for a spirit of dependence that remembers: Without Him we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
• If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. The consequences of not abiding in Christ are severe. Ask God for a healthy and holy fear of Him.
• If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. Abiding in Christ brings answered prayer and glorifies God the Father. Praise God for using you to bring Him glory. Expect Him to answer when you pray.
• As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. The Father’s love comes through the Son. Abide in Christ’s love by obeying His commandments, as Jesus did.
• These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Serving the Father’s purpose brings joy. Receive the joy He has for you now and forever.
Abiding in Christ: Things to Remember
1. The Father’s purpose is for us to bear fruit.
2. He prunes branches that bear fruit and discards branches that don’t.
3. We bear fruit when we abide in Christ and He abides in us.
4. If we don’t abide in Christ, we are thrown away, wither, and are burned.
5. Abiding in Christ brings answered prayer.
6. Bearing fruit glorifies the Father and proves we are Jesus’ disciples.
7. We can do nothing apart from Christ.
8. The Father’s love flows from Him to the Son and from the Son to us.
9. We abide in Christ’s love by obeying His commandments, just as Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and abides in His love.
10. Abiding in Christ brings us Joy.
Abiding in Christ: Prayer for Northpoint
1. Our Pastors and Directors: Brent Whitefield, Scott Williams, Terilyn Brown, Geoff Grant, Taylor Mendoza, Tamene Menna, and Marty Wiegman;
2. Our Lay Elders: Tim East, Steve Flood, Mark Kiker, Mike Russell, and Vinoj Zechariah:
3. Our Church Staff: Michelle Balga, Bob Brown, Andria Brucks, Jacob Williams, Carolee Jefferson, Josh Figureoa, Amber McEwen, Mark Norland, Corie Saunders, and Teri Vaughn
4. John Sloan, Brent Whitefield and their families: Seek God’s Grace and guidance and blessing as they serve Him in the churches where He is calling them.
5. Our Church Body: Ask God to give us the joy of seeing Him accomplish His purpose in us at Northpoint. Pray that we will learn to abide in Him, bear much fruit, and glorify our heavenly
Northpoint Prayer Ministry
– Each week, Dave writes a monthly Bible reading plan and weekly Bible and prayer focus, Prayer Life. The preceding is the latest Prayer Life installment. You can pick up both offerings at the Information Center in the Foyer on Sundays, or sign up there to receive them via email. You can also click here to find the archive.
Getting Unstuck – A Call to a Shared Vision
Hello Church Family,
King Solomon once wrote, “The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city” (Ecclesiastes 10:15). A man without direction is a fool who is stuck. In the New Testament, the wise are associated with Christians, and the fools are associated with non-believers. Christians are going to God and His city. In going to God, Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, pay the same prices for groceries, get the same distresses, and are buried in the same ground, yet with each step, the believer is preserved by God.
However, it is possible to be reminded of the providence of God and yet still be stuck. Even an entire church can be stuck. One visionary, Will Mancini, has claimed the cause for being stuck: “I remind churches all the time that the church in North America is over-programmed and underdiscipled. And in case you are wondering: programs don’t attract people; people attract people.” In other words, many churches feel stuck, yet they run to programs, and not to a vision of disciple-making for the answer. Feeling stuck as a church comes from a lack of a shared vision.
A shared vision gives clarity, inspiration, and conviction. Through much prayer, the key to getting unstuck and remaining unstuck is a shared vision. Much of this has to do with the fact that God is a God of vision. The book of Isaiah is full of pictures of the future that God puts before us. The Minor Prophets, such as Haggai, Nahum, and Micah, are filled with pictures of where God is taking His people. And in the New Testament, we see Jesus giving a vision to the apostles, to Paul, and to the entire church.
There is tremendous power in vision. Consider the powerful illustration of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist, who survived the Nazi death camps of World War II. During his time in the concentration camps, he was sustained by his vision of reuniting with his wife and lecturing after the war on the psychological lessons learned in captivity. Frankl found that vision was a means of survival. Lack of vision meant death, but the power of true vision meant life. Prisoners who had died “lost all hope for a future and were inevitably the first to die. They died less from lack of food or medicine than from lack of hope, lack of something to live for.”
Think of the power of vision that resulted in hope for the Thessalonians. This led to one of the most incredible statements in the Bible made by the apostle Paul: “For we know brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you. …” (1 Thessalonians 1:3-5) Paul essentially is saying that he knows with certainty that the Thessalonians are saved. How could Paul make such a statement without seeing what was in their hearts? The answer is in the next verse: “because our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” In other words, the Thessalonians were consumed with a Spirit-given, Word-empowered vision in the gospel that resulted in steadfast hope.
However, the Bible also makes clear that a plan must be set in place to make the vision a reality. It’s been said that vision without execution is a daydream, and execution without vision is a nightmare. Jesus alludes to this in Luke 14:28-30: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Jesus’ final words are frightening. He implies here that planning is not only good but will spare someone significant embarrassment, massive stewardship problems, and even life-threatening situations.
So if shared vision is the key to getting unstuck, then it’s fair to say that Northpoint Church needs a vision, and not just a vision, but a plan to go along with it. Although I am not paving the way for our vision, my desire for you is that you would be a part of the process of finding one.
Here is how that might look:
1. Receive a vision from God for the purpose of direction. I am not suggesting by any means that we should all sit around or go out into the desert to wait for God’s audible voice, and to await a vision of chariots of fire. I am suggesting that God gives specific vision, perhaps starting with the glory of God, to a church who prays and prays a lot. God is faithful to answer the prayers of His people.
2. Get focused and motivated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as I said before, vision is good but is useless without a practical plan. At Northpoint Church, more than ever, we need all members to serve, give, and minister in the church. This is not to be done by our own ability, but by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to take advantage of the summer: serve the church, serve our leadership, make disciples, plan a Bible study, read a book on prayer, and most of all, be satisfied in Jesus.
3. Aim for unity. The vision that I am proposing is not a personal and individualistic vision, but a shared vision. It is not enough for one person in our congregation to have a vision while the rest do not. As a body of believers, we are called to a shared vision because in Christ, unity matters.
4. Remember the unimportance of practically everything. Ministry without clarity is insanity. Think of the number of things Jesus accomplished in his short life on earth, yet he didn’t heal every person, he didn’t cast out every demon, neither did he teach everywhere. God had given him a vision for His people, and He completed it. While He accomplished His vision, it was also the one that was given to Him. Jesus understood the unimportance of practically everything—that is, everything else other than what the Father gave Him to do. In His case, vision involved laying down His life for His sheep.
Student Ministry Director
An Update from the Elders: Transition
Hello Church Family,
As most of you know, we are in a period of transition here at Northpoint, and this will involve stabilizing and clarifying our ministries focus. While it may be difficult, this is healthy for any church to engage in from time to time. Over the next month, we will be bringing on an interim pastor who will play a pivotal role in re-energizing our efforts to “make disciples who make disciples.” We are hopeful as we watch God’s will unfold over the years to come.
Some of you may have heard that another transition is happening in our staff. Brent Whitefield will be stepping aside from his position as the Pastor of Missions and Outreach at the end of June. God has called him and his family to a new ministry in Florida where he will have responsibility for mobilizing disciples for the work of ministry locally and globally. A number of things relating to this new opportunity made it clear to him that it was the Holy Spirit’s guiding work. Brent emphasized to the leadership team that this transition is not directly related to John’s departure. He reinforces and supports the elders’ efforts to stabilize and move forward. In his seven years here, God has given Brent valuable experiences to draw on as he undertakes his next role in ministry. He will be here for the next few weeks to help make a smooth transition and to continue our teaching commitment in northern India. His last day will be Sunday, July 1.
From Brent: “I wanted to thank you all for your love and care for my family these past few years and for allowing me to minister and lead. Being a pastor here has been a great joy and privilege, and I have made friends who will be with me a lifetime. I trust that each of you will pray for and support your elders and pastors all the more in the days ahead, and for the wisdom in selecting new leaders to carry on the work of making disciples who make disciples. I believe that as a church, the best days are ahead; I can’t wait to see how God will use this body to be a light to this community and to the nations.”
At the end of this Sunday’s service, Brent will make the announcement. And then right after, the elders will be up at the front to answer questions that you might have about transition plans.
Mark Kiker, Elder Chairman – On Behalf of the Elders
An Update from the Elders: Hard work, Patience, Prayer, and Love
Hello Church Family,
As God continues to work His will and purposes here at Northpoint, it’s a good time to thank Him for providing for us and to pray for His continued guidance and direction. That’s something we can be so thankful for here; God’s people are praying and seeking Him, which is so important right now.
God has promised to give us His wisdom. As James says so clearly: we should ask God, and He will give generously to all without finding fault—and we are certainly seeking that now.
In this light, we, your elders, want to share with you where we’re heading as a church; while much is still to be discovered, a plan for the weeks and months ahead is coming together.
First, we need to restore and rebuild our trust and relationships, and that’s where we are going to focus our attention right now. Nothing is more important than our love and fellowship based on trust, and changes in ministry can put some strains on those bonds. So for the next month to six weeks, we’ll be working diligently, meeting with leaders, staff, and members of our congregation on this. You won’t see many dramatic changes during this time; we need to renew our strength that comes from unity.
Next, we’ll start to expand our conversations and rediscover who we are and who God wants us to be, what defines us as a church, what are our strengths, and where do we need to do better. Again, we’ll be listening, praying, talking, and perhaps a little dreaming about what God might lead us to be and to do.
During this phase, you will see some gradual changes as we bring in an interim pastor to minister on Sundays and during the week, and we will gradually make small adjustments, especially to improve areas that need shoring up.
The third phase—and this might go through the summer—will be to rebuild. Guided by what we have learned, and prayerfully seeking God, we’ll start to move forward together in clearly defining what we want to be, and begin looking for a new lead pastor.
All of this will take a great deal of hard work, patience, prayer, and love for one another, but every day we see these very qualities being displayed. All around our church the works of the ministry continue: caring for one another, bearing each other’s burdens, forgiving, loving, and encouraging. We are God’s church, we are a loving church, and God has promised us that we will fulfill the good works that he called us to before the foundations of the earth—to His glory and our joy.
Rehearsing the Gospel
Hello Church Family,
Chelsea and I enjoy canoeing more than any other hobby. There is something serenely beautiful about being on the water, slicing the calm with the paddle, hearing the ripples skirt along the boat. As much as Southern California allows us, we try to get out and keep our strokes and skills in practice. Canoeing requires repetition, and canoeing well requires keeping this practice in a regular rhythm. Knowing the strokes and learning how to “read the water” is all incredibly useful information, we’re intentional to grow in those areas and thankful when we do. However, it is the practice, the consistent rehearsal of canoeing that makes this an enjoyable hobby rather than a burdensome workout.
I would propose the same is true of most skills. Whether it is practicing your golf swing, painting a landscape, planting a garden, or building a picnic table, repetition and practice are the driving motions of learned concepts. You could watch a hundred videos on how to throw a curveball, but the theory alone will not produce a great pitcher.
In Paul’s letters, specifically those to the Colossians and Ephesians, we receive a vision for living the Christian life in community. Regularly rehearsing our faith in Christ together. Paul invites the church in Colossae to “take off” their old self, identifying the earthly manner in which they once walked, and to instead put on love. He writes:
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
As James K. A. Smith says, “putting on Christ takes practice” and isn’t it true that we tend to move toward what our hearts truly desire? Jesus seems to affirm this reality as he asks his first disciples, “What is it that you seek?” or “What do you really want?” (John 1:38) and similarly when he thrice asks Peter, “Do you love me?” (John 21). This call to put on Christ, to put on love, could be the habituating or rehearsing of our new identity, being in Christ.
This is my desire for our weekly gathering as Northpoint Church. I long to gather with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for the very purpose of:
– putting on love,
– letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts,
– putting on thankful hearts,
– letting the Word of Christ dwell in us,
– teaching, correcting, and warning each other in wisdom,
– singing psalms and hymns together,
– giving thanks to the Father in Christ.
I have recently become fond of employing the word liturgy in a more broad application. A lot of the time when we hear “liturgy” our minds ping back to “high church,” smells and bells of Catholicism, or rites and rituals of the Episcopalian church; but the term liturgy most simply refers to a particular arrangement of service or practice.
Chelsea and I have certain liturgies we perform when we canoe: we take the canoe off our car in a certain way, enter the canoe a certain way, paddle together in a particular rhythm, stop and proceed using certain set steps, and so on.
Similarly, when we gather to worship, our desire is to rehearse the reality of our identity in Christ. We have liturgies that aid us in practicing this “putting on the character of Christ”. Perhaps you have even identified these rhythms in our corporate worship:
– we recognize God’s perfect, holy character and his creating power,
– we recall the fall and remember our past rebellion and our present sin,
– we celebrate and embrace Christ as our atonement and redemption,
– we anticipate the future day when all will be made right and we will dwell with Christ himself.
Whether we rehearse these truths and respond to God’s goodness in song, reading, hearing the word, partaking in communion, or celebrating God’s grace in baptism, we desire to habituate bearing thankful hearts in Christ and finding our identity, both individual and collective, in Christ. Amidst all these things, we receive God’s grace, wisdom, and revelation in his Word. We respond in thanksgiving, and we feast on the Bread of Life together.
There is immense value in our gathering weekly to “put on Christ” together. Putting on Christ takes practice, and it can only be rightly done in the presence of other believers. My prayer is that our Sunday gatherings would grow us and aid us in our love for God, our hope in Christ and our dependence on his Spirit.
Director of Worship
The Hope of Heaven
Hello Church Family,
In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote: “We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.”
More than half a century after they were written, Lewis’ words still resonate today. In our current sermon series on 1 Thessalonians, we are confronting a community of believers who were not shy or reticent about discussing heaven. In fact, one of the pressing concerns of the apostle Paul in his letter is the impatience of the believers for the return of Christ and their reunion with him. The Thessalonian church was a group of people who had staked everything on the hope of eternity with Christ. They would never have dismissed yearning for heaven as ‘pie in the sky.’ Rather they were a body actively waiting, with great expectation for the return of Christ.
We do not know when Christ will return. We are not invited even to speculate on when it will be. Yet, while it is certain that we are closer to that blessed event than the Thessalonian church was, what is our level of expectation? Are we still a community which is waiting for the Lord with eagerness and anticipation? Does our excitement manifest itself in urgency in witness and service? Do we love Christ so much, that our reunion with him is the most exciting thing we can imagine?
What some dismiss as ‘pie in the sky’ is the great hope of the believer. The Thessalonian church was a great model of what a hopeful community of believers looks like, prays like, witnesses like, and waits like. May God fashion us into a body of Christ-followers who long for his return, our hope firmly fixed on our promised future in his presence.
An Update from the Elders
As we continue to work through the transitions that have come to us since Pastor Sloan resigned, we have talked with many of you. We have heard sorrow, confusion, grief, disappointment, understanding, and resiliency. And we see people trusting in God and desiring to pray and serve. Many have defined this as a time of dependency on the Lord and watchfulness as we see His will unfold. We look to Him for guidance, direction, and comfort. As many of you are long-term attendees and members, there is a stability in the fact that our community will continue and we will grow closer to the Lord and each other.
The Sloans are in transition also. Some of you have asked what is next for them. Pastor John has taken a senior pastor position at a church outside of Huntsville, Alabama. He has already begun filling their pulpit and will be planning his family’s move at some point. Pray for the Sloans as they make arrangements.
As we call on God for direction, the elders have devoted themselves to prayer and seeking our next steps. Some of the items discussed include more conversations between the elders, pastors, and our ministry directors. These two groups provide leadership and reflect a servant’s heart as they work with all of you in the harvest fields of our campus and community. They bring insight that will help the elders guide through this time.
As elders, we will be increasing our focus on prayer and providing more opportunities to gather together. You will hear about prayer times that you can join; maybe get a prayer list that can guide your supplications. One such opportunity is the Weekly Prayer Meeting that happens every Monday evening at 6:00 p.m. The group meets either on the Heritage Patio or in the Commons. It is a one-hour, structured prayer time, open to anyone who wants to come. Please consider joining. Call the Church Office for more information.
The preaching schedule has been laid out, and we want to share that with you. Some names might swap around, but here is the tentative outline. As you know, we have begun a series working through that book of 1 Thessalonians. This will take us into June, and we will plan more as we approach the end of the book.
|4/29||Brent||I Thess. 2:13-20|
|5/6||Scott||I Thess. 3|
|5/13||Taylor||I Thess. 4:1-12|
|5/20||Brent||I Thess. 4: 13-18|
|5/27||Scott||I Thess. 5: 1-11|
|6/3||Brent||I Thess. 5: 12-28|
On Monday, April 30, the leadership team will begin to vet the ministry partners that we might bring in to assist. As the Lord wills, these persons or teams will help us map out our steps in seeking an interim pastor. Our denominational leaders are calling this person an “intentional interim,” meaning that the person will have a defined role to play as he preaches, teaches, and helps us along the road toward our next lead pastor. When the new lead arrives, the interim will step away.
Please pray for us, the process, the ministries, and the congregation, as we seek to heal, stabilize, and then move forward. We covet your prayers. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, please feel free to talk to us, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Elders,
Mark Kiker – Elder Chairman
A Message from Your Elders:
Dear Church Family,
To everything God has created, He brings seasons of change, and we are going through such a time now. As difficult as these transitions are, they ultimately work for our good and God’s purposes.
As you may know, on March 11, John Sloan tendered his resignation and is now pursuing his next chapter in service to the Lord. We all are thankful for the years of ministry and leadership that John provided and the transformations we saw in many relationships and individuals. We are also saddened as he and his family move away.
The remaining staff pastors, Brent and Scott, will continue as they have with shepherding, counseling and leading. They, along with others, such as Tim East, Mike Russell, and Taylor Mendoza, will anchor our preaching ministry for the next few months.
Our current framework for moving forward is to bring in a full-time, interim pastor who has the experience of providing wise shepherding to a body that is going through transition. This will happen in late summer and provide a consistent pulpit ministry. We will continue to use our gifted pastors and leaders in the pulpit as well. This transitional pastor may also assist in leading staff and provide administrative support to ministries for continuity. He will then step away once we find our next lead pastor.
We will continue to work with ministry partners who can help us through this transition. We are receiving counsel and assistance from the EFCA Western Region staff. The EFCA (Evangelical Free Church of America) has deep resources that will come alongside our elders and pastors. We may be bringing in a team to help us formulate a ministry plan. This effort will take time to reach the recommendation phase. They may do an all-church written/online survey, conduct interviews with ministry leaders, and gather demographics on our congregation and community. We will then focus on the opportunities and suggestions identified by their efforts.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. There is much to be prayerful about. There will be much to research, ponder, and decide. But through it all, we are confident that our great God will show us His unfolding will. Join with us in prayer as we seek Him.
Much more will be communicated as we make progress. Feel free to talk to any elder or staff pastors at any time. You can also email us all at email@example.com.
Our TAGD for this week is a reposting of what Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach, wrote for Easter last year. Enjoy.
The Unique Message of Easter
Easter is a wonderful occasion for Christians. Not so much because it is a “holy day.” As Protestant Christians, we are not altogether comfortable with the notion of holy days in the first place. There is nothing intrinsically more holy about this Sunday than any of the other 364 days on the calendar. Nor does the importance of Easter lie in the fact that it is a “holiday.” Every religion has its holidays, often occasions for revelry that are only thinly connected to the original event that they celebrate. Christians don’t do holidays terribly well anyway. Easter is a fairly subdued event in the West. If you like celebrations with gusto, observe Muslims at Eid, Jews at Purim, or Hindus at Holi.
Rather, the significance of Easter is that it calls us to remember and reflect on the one event that sets the Christian faith apart from every other faith. The one historical fact that, if true, renders all competing truth claims about God false: the resurrection of Christ. All other religions in the world are essentially wisdom traditions: organized attempts, through holy men and holy books, to offer prescriptions for living lives that will please the gods. All the faiths ever devised are man’s attempt to make their best guess at what God is like and what he requires of us. Christianity is unique in that there is no guesswork: we know who God is and what he requires because we know Jesus and what he has done. And through the resurrection, Jesus proved that he is no holy man pretending to be divine, but that he is indeed a member of the Godhead itself. Therefore the word of God is not the shifting sand of human “wisdom” but is a person, Jesus Christ. We can have confidence that his word never changes, never needs to be updated to suit the times of the spirit of the age.
The resurrection is one of the best-attested facts of the ancient world. So well does the evidence line up in its favor, that were it not a miraculous event, nobody would have any doubt about its historicity. And it is this fact that makes Easter the most significant event in the history of the church and the world. It is the thread that holds the whole sweater together. Because the Christian faith is based on the Word of God in the person of his son, Jesus, its whole validity and significance ride on the truth of the resurrection.
Other faiths do not live or die on the basis of historical facts. They can be molded to suit the evolving human view of God. As those who believe in and have staked their eternal destiny on the resurrection, we do not shape God’s Word to suit our tastes. We cannot. Nor do we create our own wisdom, because we have Christ, who is the wisdom of God. As Christians, we do not make up our faith as we go along because Christ is alive and with us by the Spirit of God.
So as you celebrate Easter this week, remember: Christ’s resurrection vindicates all of his claims about himself, it allows us to know, with certainty, who God is and what he expects. Most importantly, it gives us a living hope and an example: proving what Christ has done for us in his victory over sin and death, and showing us how we must then live in light of this truth. Your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members who don’t know of or believe in the Easter message cannot know God or have a relationship with him. And they may never hear unless they hear it from you. Won’t you tell them?
This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Scott Williams, Northpoint’s Pastor of Adults and Families.
A few years ago, I heard a message that changed my perspective on sin and the struggle with sin. Dr. John Henderson gave a talk here at Northpoint to many of our churches leaders, and he started off his remarks with this: “Whatever rules your heart rules your life.” He went on to explain that in Scripture, the heart is seen as the home base for all our meaningful thoughts, feelings, and actions, and that ever since the Fall, our sinful nature is rooted in the heart. Often times, when we discuss sin, we define it too narrowly by only thinking of it in terms of specific actions. Sin is not just specific actions that we do, but it also involves our deeper motives and desires behind those actions.
For instance, look at what Jesus says in Matthew 15:17-20: “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” One of the things that Jesus is emphasizing here is the location from which all sorts of sin flows: our actions flow out of the desires of our heart. So, in order to truly deal with our sinful actions like slander, theft, or sexual immorality, for example, we must look for change at the heart level.
This can only truly begin, of course, when we become a Christian. Upon trusting in Christ, the Scripture says that our heart of stone is taken away and we are given a new heart. Upon salvation, one of the things that happen is that our motives and desires are renewed. However, on this side of heaven, we will still battle with our old sinful ways. Paul says in Galatians 5:16-17: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.” According to Paul, the believer now lives in the very real struggle of either gratifying the desires of flesh or gratifying the desires of the Spirit. This, then, brings us back to Dr. Henderson’s astute observation that whatever rules your heart rules your life. In other words, if we live gratifying, or being motivated, by selfish motives, then it is sin that is ruling us. But if we live gratifying the desires of the Spirit, then it is Christ who is on the throne of our heart.
What are some of those sinful desires that can rule our hearts? There are many, but here are a few: we can be ruled by lust, which, broadly speaking, is the desire, or craving, for something that is outside our grasp. Lust can be seen as a craving for approval through money, sex, status, possessions, and the list can go on and on. We can also be ruled by a sense of fear of losing whatever we do have. In that case, our lives are ruled by a fear of poverty, suffering, disapproval, disrespect, or loneliness, for example. Yet another selfish desire that can fight for the rule of our heart is the desire for pleasure, or comfort, where we seek out only those things that satisfy that need.
While each of these desires at some point fight for the rule of my heart, the one that resonates most is pleasure. And not just not just in a physical sense, but in the sense that I can tend to evaluate the things in my life through the grid of, “Is this pleasing to me?”
Employing Dr. Henderson’s observation opened my eyes to a whole host of ways that my heart is motivated and ruled by a sinful desire to be pleased. I am pleased to be proven right. I am pleased to be liked and respected at church. I am pleased when I can come home to a quiet home, which with three small kids, rarely happens. I am pleased by music that speaks to me. I am pleased when a sermon points out the sin in others but not my own. I am pleased to be in control when I want to be, and not in control when I don’t want to be. I am pleased when my wife wants to watch “Suits” instead of “Call the Midwife.” The list of things where I seek comfort and pleasure can truly go on and on.
How often do many of us evaluate our marriage, our friendships, our work, and maybe even the church, through the sinfully selfish grid of, “Is this pleasing to me?”
BUT HE GIVES MORE GRACE. What beautiful hope-giving words those really are. It is so encouraging to know that God not only forgives our wretched self-seeking and self-pleasing ways, but he also supplies us with that which will be truly satisfying and pleasing through Christ. In fact, it was Christ who promised to give us living water so that we might never thirst again. It is only when Christ is on the throne of our heart that our motives will be driven by him, and when we will find our satisfaction in him.
Thoughts Inspired by Diminutive Heroes
I have been praying for you this week, that God would “strengthen you and show you a sign of his favor” (Psalm 86).
I have a sister who lives in Middle Tennessee. She and her husband have a house on 27 acres of wooded land, which includes a volleyball court, a basketball goal, hiking trails, a barn, and even cows. It’s a veritable hillbilly Disneyland. So most of the time there are more than enough options to keep nine kids—her five and my four—occupied when we visit.
However, the last time we made the cross-country trek, it rained almost every minute. Literally. And I’m not talking about the gentle spritz that we experience as Southern Californians; I’m talking about bone-drenching, bucket-filling, baseball-sized drops, the kind that soak your clothes in a matter of seconds.
So, as parents, we were huddled in the living room trying to figure out what to do with all these kids. Since six were teenagers at the time, we knew that just about every suggestion would be met with, “Meh. That sounds boring.” So we said, “Let’s go to the movies.” The first showing of the day was pretty cheap—a prerequisite when you’re buying a total of 13 tickets!—but we only had two choices: Minions and Ant-Man. The overwhelming choice was the latter. Since movies about superheroes who shrink down to the size of a bug and ride on the backs of giant ants to save the world from evil yellow jackets don’t tend to stick with me very long, I don’t recall much about that story. But I do remember one line, where the villain says as he faces impending doom, “The things I’ve done can never be forgiven.”
Even though it was a movie for young adults, I think that sentiment is one that people of all ages share: there are things that I’ve done that can never be forgiven. Who hasn’t felt that way at one time or another? I hear this statement as a pastor all the time. And I get it.
This week, our ladies of WOW studied the so-called Parable of the Prodigal Son. And I heard that Holli Worthington did a terrific job of explaining it. It’s a powerful story of rebellion, restoration, mercy, and forgiveness.
But it’s not the first of such kind in the Bible. Not by a long shot.
The book of Hosea gives a similar account concerning the children of Israel. Repeatedly, they run from God, dishonor him, “whoring” themselves out to cult prostitutes (Hosea 4:12-14.) They show no regard for the Lord who redeemed them. Instead, they worshiped and sacrificed to gods of wood and clay.
Consequently, throughout this book, we read about God’s horrific judgment that he promises to bring on his people for their idolatry, and he does, in fact, discipline them severely. But following every one of God’s judgments, it seems, are reminders of his steadfast love and the completeness of his forgiveness.
Every time God says, “I’m going to wipe you out because of your idolatry,” he says afterward, “But how could I destroy the people I love. I won’t let you wander off forever. I will woo you, and win you back to me. My love for you will never fail. You will be called mine again.”
Every time the people of Israel repented, God instantly forgave them. There was no sin too great; no offense too egregious. One Old Testament scholar says, “There is no hesitation in the divine response. It is almost as if God longed for the occasion to speak of salvation rather than judgment.”
We might say it this way: there is a relentlessness to God’s forgiveness. God delights in restoring his wayward children. It’s almost as if he cannot wait to do it. To be sure, God is not impetuous; he never gets swept away by his emotions, but his love is real. It is deep. It is rescuing. It is freeing. And his forgiveness is boundless. To his perpetually recalcitrant people, God says:
“I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow” (Hosea 14:4-7).
Perhaps you can relate to the conviction that your sins are beyond forgiveness. Take heart: God’s forgiveness is yours in Christ. Completely. You don’t have to earn it or even show that you deserve it. Our God is one who loves to forgive the repentant; he is eager to lift up the broken.
By God’s grace, he yearns to mend our broken hearts are restore our hope. This is not a consequence of willpower or doubling down on our efforts to be better. Instead, it is accomplished by the Lover of Our Souls, the one who allows us to say, “Great is thy faithfulness.”
The Body of Christ – One Body, One Family, One Heart for Each Other
To start our conversation, I want to share a few thoughts about my family at home. As the father of three daughters, I have enjoyed watching three completely different young ladies growing up in front of their mother and me. Laura and I are amazed that there can be so many differences when they have all grown up in such similar circumstances. Their personalities, interests, and gifts take them and us in so many different directions. The same can be said about my marriage with Laura. Our differences are both a strength and a challenge at times. At the end of the day, however, our entire family comes together to eat around the same table. In our diversity, we understand and appreciate that we are still one family.
My family at home is a simple example of family, but it is not unlike the body of Christ. Each one of us being a son or daughter of one Heavenly Father. From 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, we read: “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” The entire chapter of I Corinthians 12 addresses this reality in much greater detail.
From this, we learn that our Father delights in diversity, and at the same time, sees us in unity. It is in Christ that we have become one. And, it is by the Spirit that this happens.
We must contrast the life in Christ with the world’s effort to produce a similar unity. If you have lived in the world for at least a decade or two, you realize true spiritual unity is alien to the world. It desperately desires unity and peace, but in its attempt to nurture tolerance and peace, it produces division and tension. The difference between the two is in the One we are longing to satisfy. In Christ, the object of our affection is our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the world, the object of our affection is the self or a personal worldview we expect the world to conform to.
It is important to understand these two distinct realities because living a life with God and our Christian family as the objects of our affection will be realized in its fullness when we are in heaven with Christ and with each other. In Colossians 3:1-4 we read: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
We are to live our lives here like we will be living them in heaven. Paul calls us, in Colossians 3, to put on the new man (and woman) that we will be when we are with Christ above, in glory.
What will this reality be like? In one word, it will be love. In John 13:35, we understand that Christ’s disciples are known by their love for one another. We are told in I Corinthians 13 that when everything else has passed away, faith, hope, and love will remain (the greatest of these is love), and finally we see love in Colossians 3:12-17: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
The language of the new covenant in Christ is a language of family, a language of relationship, and a language of love, which necessarily characterizes our family. As we are conformed to His image, we prefer and serve one another, giving glory to God in the presence of man, and building up the Body of Christ unto maturity. And, when He finally calls us home, we will take our new nature with us, having already become one with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am thankful for each of you, and I pray that the body of Christ would be a pure reflection of His love for us.
This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Geoff Grant, Northpoint’s Worship Director.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waiting is the Hardest Part
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,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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!
The rest of NP News for 1.4.2018 can be found on the “This Week” page at http://www.northpointcorona.org/this-week/
A New Year’s Prayer
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.
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.
This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Taylor Mendoza, Northpoint’s Director of Students Ministries
Does the Bible tell One Story?
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.
This week, Pastor John hands
‘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,