Devotional

Find Our Hope in the Songs of Jesus

Hi Jubilee Family,


It was a joy to be with our church family again on Sunday! Thank you for the gift of our sabbatical and the love you have shown Amy and me upon our return. We love you! 


Tim Keller has a helpful book on the Psalms called The Songs of Jesus. The introduction reminds us of the Psalms' important role throughout church history. He states: 


"The Psalms were the divinely inspired hymnbook for the public worship of God in ancient Israel (1 Chronicles 16:8–36). Because psalms were not simply read, but sung, they penetrated the minds and imaginations of the people as only music can do. They so saturated the heart and imagination of the average person that when Jesus entered Jerusalem it was only natural that the crowd would spontaneously greet him by reciting a line from a psalm (Mark 11:9; Psalm 118:26). The early Christians sang and prayed the psalms as well (Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:26). When Benedict formed his monasteries he directed that the psalms all be sung, read, and prayed at least once a week. Throughout medieval times the psalms served as the most familiar part of the Bible for most Christians. The Psalter was the only part of the Bible a lay Christian was likely to own. At the time of the Reformation, the psalms played a major role in the reform of the church. Martin Luther directed that “the whole Psalter, psalm by psalm, should remain in use.” John Calvin prescribed metrical psalms as the main diet of song in worshipping congregations. Calvin wrote: “The design of the Holy Spirit [was] . . . to deliver the church a common form of prayer.”


Jubilee, may we follow the saints' example who have gone before us and find our hope in the songs of Jesus! 


Longing to sing with you again,


Pastor Toph

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Put Our Confidence in the Working of God

Jubilee Family,


Pastor Lew shared with us on Sunday a simple study method we can use as we look at the texts of Scripture. Remember the four questions?


  1. What does the text say about God?
  2. What does the text say about us?
  3. What does the text proclaim to us?
  4. What does the text call us to do?


Our text from Acts 17 reminded us that God’s Messiah, his anointed one, the Christ had to suffer, die for the sake of justice, and rise from the dead. And then the text told us plainly that Jesus is that Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ.


Our text also shouted out that God is at work in the lives of his people. As Paul preached the word, the Spirit of God came upon many with full conviction and they turned to the Lord both in Thessalonica and in Berea in the midst of much persecution.


Our text proclaims to us that we all need a Savior and that Jesus has overcome sin and death. A message of salvation with Jesus as the central figure is proclaimed for all who recognize their need.


Our text calls us to respond in faith and join with the saints of Thessalonica and Berea as followers of Jesus the Messiah.


So what is your need today? Where do you want God to work in your life today? Where is sin getting the upper hand in your life today? Sin must be crushed in our lives. We heard that God’s means of our salvation (Jesus) had to bear the pain of death that we might be over-comers. But there has to be a repentance, a turning from sin and sinful patterns. Many in Thessalonica and Berea did not turn. They continued in their pursuits even as sin pursued them. How are you responding to the display of God’s mercy?


There is no salvation given to us but that which comes to us in the person of Jesus. We are called to put away what is not of God and put our trust and confidence in the working of God on our behalf through Jesus. Walk by faith Jubilee even as you battle the crushing works of the evil one and of your own flesh.  


Along with the saints of Thessalonica and Berea, let’s pursue the treasure of this Christ as we allow his word to change us through the power of his Spirit working in us from one degree of change to the next always in pursuit of Jesus!


Engaged with you,


Pastor Dan

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The Gospel Is Not Snake Oil

Jubilee Fam, 


I am still chewing on Pastor Nick’s opening illustration on Sunday concerning the Gospel. He started his sermon off with the miracle elixir from Professor Thaddeus J. Schmidlap, whose oil can immediately relieve various ailments ranging from rheumatism to frostbite. Lo and behold, this magical medical marvel is for all types of God’s creations, from humans to beasts! Nick asked a good question. “Who would believe that one concoction can do so many different things for many different kinds of people?” Nick rightfully called this sham of a product snake oil, which proved too good to be true. Nick showed us from Acts 16:11–40 that, like Schmidlap’s elixir oil, the Gospel promises to do many different things for many different people. The massive difference is that the Gospel is not snake oil. It comes through and does amazingly diverse work in the lives of countless people. We are proof of that, just like Lydia, the slave girl, the jailer, and Paul was. 


I just wanted to remind you of Nick’s excellent opening illustration! In our wrestle with sin both within our hearts and the hearts of others, our hope is that there is an answer that goes deep to the heart of multiple problems for all types of folks like you and me. Far from being snake oil, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ not only saves all sorts of people but also sanctifies all kinds of issues in our hearts and those we are in a relationship with. In his timing, the Spirit of Jesus has not come across a heart yet that is not responsive to the Gospel that does so many things for so many people. Trust in his work Jubilee. 


Pastor Lew

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God's Guidance

Jubilee Fam,


So much lands on the cutting room floor between preparing for the sermon and having a finished product for Sunday morning. An example is a quote from John Stott’s commentary on Acts that I didn’t get to use on Sunday, so I’m going to take this opportunity to share it with you. I was helped by it and hope the same for you. The quote is in connection with Acts 16:6-10. There are many takeaway points we can gather from our text from Sunday. One of those takeaways is insights into what we can learn from the story about how Paul and his team decided which direction to go. How do you determine the direction you ought to take in a situation, especially if it involves something you can’t go to a chapter and verse in the Bible for guidance? Check the quote out below for some good pointers — 


Some important principles of divine guidance are, in fact, exemplified in the experience of Paul and his companions. God led them by a combination of factors, over a period of time, ending when they pondered their meaning together. First came the double prohibition, somehow barring their way into both Asia and Bithynia, and leading them to Troas, whose harbor faced west to Macedonia. This was followed by the night vision calling to Paul for help. These circumstances were the basis for their discussion, as they asked themselves and each other what these things indicated. They then put two and two together, the negative (the block to Asia and Bithynia) and the positive (the appeal to Macedonia), and concluded that through these various experiences, God was calling them to go over to Macedonia to ‘help’, that is, to preach the gospel there.


From this, we may learn that usually, God’s guidance is not negative only but also positive (some doors close, others open); not circumstantial only, but also rational (thinking about our situation); not personal only, but also corporate (a sharing of the data with others, so that we can mull over them together and reach a common mind). Indeed the verb symbibazō in verse 10, translated ‘assuredly gathering’ (av), ‘concluding’ (rsv, niv, neb) and ‘convinced’ (jbp, jb), means literally to ‘bring together’, to ‘put together in one’s mind’ (GT), and so to infer something from a variety of data.


What I appreciate about this quote is the combination of factors that go into seeking the Lord’s will in our decision-making process. We take note of the circumstances, put some good thought into the situation and do not act rashly, and, significantly, chop it up within our giving community so we can think about it together. This pushes against our tendency to be individualistic in our decision-making. This doesn’t mean we have to talk to everybody, but wisdom does call that we speak to somebody and trust that the Lord also guides us through the community of the body. These factors, of course, don’t cover all that needs to be done in making wise decisions, but they are good bases to cover.


Much grace to you, Jubilee,

Pastor Lew

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Gospel Arithmetic

Jubilee Fam,


I am struggling to wrap up an overdue paper for a class I am taking on the Pentateuch. The paper is on Genesis 35:1-15, where Jacob returns home after his 20-year exile because, in line with his name, he deceived his brother Esau and cheated him out of not only his birthright (Gen 25:29–35) but also his blessing (Gen 27:1–45). That seed planted in the ground came to fruition when Jacob found himself on the receiving end of deception from Laban (Gen 29). The deceiver had been deceived. Additionally, Jacob saw that his deceptive ways were stitched into his sons' DNA (Gen 34). I came across this quote that I plan on using in my paper. The author contends that from Genesis 1:1–Exodus 19:2, we read, by and large, about the history of the relationship between the LORD and Israel before the covenant at Sinai is made. He finds right in the center of this story the Jacob narrative (Gen 28:5–37:1), of which the passage for my paper is a part. Ok, here is the quote within that context (It is a little lengthy. Bear with it and chew on it a bit for reflection) — 


The placement of Jacob’s story at the center…is logical enough since it is here that Israel as a nation is born. On the other hand, this highlighted story is also the most embarrassing, marked by moral and ethical failure, deceit, cowardice, greed, murder, and deep family rifts. This is probably not coincidental, and it serves to reinforce another major theme found throughout the Book of the Law — that Yahweh has chosen Israel in spite of its unworthiness and weakness (Exod 31–34; Deut 4–11). Standing at the very center — a center that could have been filled with a glowing account of Israel’s ancestor Jacob and his courage and faithfulness — is the presentation of Jacob as a man of weakness and failures, who is graciously helped and protected by Yahweh despite his unworthiness. The implied message here is that it is Yahweh, not Israel’s ancestors, who deserve Israel’s admiration and gratitude as the hero of its history


This, Jubilee, is why the Gospel is such good news. The bottom line is that we are more like Jacob than Jesus in and of ourselves. We don’t bring anything to the table except our need for Yahweh to work in our lives despite our imperfections. This is why the gospel is not Jesus plus something we add. There is nothing we can add to the perfect and finished work of Christ that saves sinners by grace alone through faith alone! The gospel is Jesus + nothing = salvation. Rest in this gospel math Jubilee. Boast in it because it spotlights the worthy one. And share it near and far. The places where the Lord has sovereignly placed you are filled with folks who need to learn this Gospel arithmetic. 


Thanks for helping me think through my paper!


Pastor Lew

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Resources for Encouragement

Jubilee Fam,


Here is something else from my time at the Writer’s Summit…I’m just playing! I’ve written enough, at least for now, about it. I want to share two waves that encouraged my soul this week as I surfed the internet!


The first is an Ask Pastor John podcast entitled How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? The question comes from 2 Corinthians 10:5, where Paul talks about taking every thought captive to obey Christ. I have, for years, wondered what this means and how to do it. Piper’s answer in the podcast was a category changer for me.


The second one kicked me in my pants while moping around in discouragement over what seems like a never-ending assignment. Instead of working on it, I decided that the best course of action would be to check out who was fighting on Twitter. I came across this speech that one of Duke’s coaches gave to her team. Here is a taste to pique your interest — "Don’t wait for life to get easier. Handle hard well.”


Now that will preach!


Much grace to you,


Pastor Lew

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The Changer and Director of Winds and Seasons

Jubilee Fam, 


I am still gleaning from my time at the Writer’s Summit last week. Let me share with you some thoughts that Jon Bloom, a teacher, and co-founder of Desiring God, shared during his session. If you haven’t interacted with Jon's articles, here is a sample and a high encouragement to pick up this brother’s work. Jon’s workshop was entitled Writing Through Winter. It was close to 100 degrees outside when he spoke, so his title was very interesting for the sweltering temperature. He was writing about the four seasons of faith which can descend and change in a believer's life in a moment. Just because the calendar tells us it's summer, the state of your faith may say otherwise. There is no correlation between the calendar and the seasons of faith. In the spring, faith blossoms. In the summer, faith flourishes. In the fall, faith wanes. In the winter, faith is dormant, stagnant, and latent. It might feel like you are going through a faith crisis of doubt as the winds of winter blow in this season. What do you do when you enter into the winter season of your faith? Jon’s first encouragement was that we ought not to be surprised when a faith winter hits. That will preach. Jon’s central encouragement to us was to write in the winter because writing could be a means to the end of exiting the cold season to one where faith feels the warmth of spring and summer again. He told us to write our way to hope in God and use the gift of writing to remind our souls that God has not left us. This is good advice whether you consider yourself a writer or not. Writing can be a means of grace, but it is just that, namely, a means. Where does the grace to change seasons come from that might flow through writing, prayer, fellowship, fasting, etc.? 


 I’m going through the Book of Exodus and was greatly encouraged by the abilities of the One who changes the seasons of this world and the seasons of our faith. Ironically, this encouragement comes from the eighth plague of locusts that overtook Egypt in Exodus 10:1–20. Encouragement from a plague, huh? Ride with me. Pharaoh still refuses to let God’s people go. His people see the handwriting on the wall and implore him to let Israel go — Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” Pharaoh’s hard heart still refuses. At that, the LORD commanded Moses to bring on the locusts, and the words that encouraged my soul began.So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locust (10:13). There were so many locusts that Moses used creational language to describe them. Do you remember Genesis 1:1 about how darkness was over the face of the deep? Here in Egypt, darkness was over the face of the whole land because locusts covered the entire ground. How many locusts do you think it takes for that to happen? The locusts destroyed everything green. Nothing was left, and finally, Pharaoh relented. He repents and asks Moses to ask the LORD to remove “this death from me” (10:17). Moses does so, and listen to this language — And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not 👏🏾 a 👏🏾 single 👏🏾 locust 👏🏾 was left in all the country of Egypt. 😳 Not one. As I reflected on Jon’s session and this passage in Exodus 10, I was greatly reminded that the one who can direct the wind that brings countless locusts and then command the opposite wind to come and scoop up every single one of them is the one who can direct and command the winter season of faith to change to seasons where my faith blossoms and flourishes. This is my only hope, and yours, when we find ourselves suddenly or for an extended period in the winter season of a faith that feels cold to the touch. So, is it winter in June in your life? Is your faith dormant and despondent? By all means, utilize the many means of grace that our good Father uses to give you what you need in any season. Remember, though, it is the Lord, the changer and director of winds and seasons, that your hope must rest in. He will keep you in the winter and change the season to summer. Our hope rightly rests in the one who commands the winds. 


Pastor Lew

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"To Be Edited Is to Be Loved"

Jubilee Fam,


Earlier this week, I had the privilege of participating in a Writer’s Summit that was quite encouraging both in the craft of writing and, even more, in the camaraderie of writers who aim to use words, even discomforting ones, for the joy of those who read our words. It truly is an astonishing reality that all of us can use the vehicle called words to drive messages that will build up or tear down a human soul. Whether they are words on the written page, on a text message, vocally from our mouths, insightfully from a blog or article, or rashly from social media, let it land on you afresh that swords or salve come out of our mouths with each syllable. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Prov 12:18). 


One of the sessions that challenged me the most was entitled To Be Edited is to Be Loved. Now that will preach…even though few of us would at first want to sit and listen to that sermon. The session encouraged us to seek the editing process because it makes our writing the best it can be. The question that hovered over the session was, “Are you editable?” This is a heart question that dives deep into one’s attitude. Are you editable? This question is not just for writers. It is for all of us. Are you editable? Can you take corrections to your character so that you can be the best possible version of yourself? Our Triune God is dedicated to our sanctification, so the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are committed to editing us for our Christlikeness, which is love! To be edited is to be loved. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence (Prov 15:32). Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent — Jesus, your Lord (Rev 3:19). Those whom I love, I edit. It is never easy to receive an email back from an editor on an article I submitted. It is also not easy to be corrected by the Lord through another fallible human being in need of editing themselves. However, to be edited is to be loved. To be the best possible version of ourselves doesn’t mean anything to me unless what is meant by it is Christlikeness. Because being like Christ is the aim of our lives, being edited to look like him, though challenging, should be welcomed feedback. Jubilee, let’s aim to be editable. 


Pastor Lew

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Jubilee + Juneteenth

Jubilee Fam,


What is the relationship between Jubilee and Juneteenth? This Sunday, not only do we celebrate Father’s Day, but we also commemorate Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, which became a federal holiday last year. Juneteenth calls our nation to look back to June 19, 1865. On that day, the Union army brought the word of freedom to Galveston, Texas, that slavery had been abolished. It, no doubt, would have been to the utter shock of the enslaved people that their freedom was established two years before through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Can you imagine that? Can you fathom that though declared free, you endured the horrors of slavery for an additional two and a half years? Juneteenth, which combines June and Nineteenth, celebrates the declaration of General Orders 3, which U.S. General Gordon Granger read as the following — “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Why should we celebrate Juneteenth? Of the many reasons, one includes the name of our church — Jubilee Community Church. The name of our church is a proclamation of liberation. Listen afresh to Jesus’ inaugural sermon as he began his ministry, of which we are great recipients. 


And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16–21


Jubilee and Juneteenth go together because both are proclamations of liberty — the latter from slavery and the former from the slavery of sin! In other words, when we reflect on Juneteenth, it should point us back to the Greater Juneteenth when a greater proclamation of liberty was made, not from a U.S. General but the King who says, “Whom the Son sets free is free INDEED!” So, Jubilee, Happy Juneteenth! Not only do we celebrate fathers this weekend, but we also celebrate the Father who sent his Son to set us free and declare our liberty in him! 


You might be asking how you can partake of Juneteenth this year? That is a great question. Below you will find two videos to watch with you and your family called Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom and Why Juneteenth Should Matter to the Church. This is a great place to start learning more about the holiday. Also, check out these two links (here and here) to some activities around the city this weekend to consider going with some friends! 


Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom


Why Juneteenth Should Matter to the Church 


Jubilee + Juneteenth


Pastor Lew

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Bringing About His Kingdom Through Us

Jubilee Fam, 


Over the past few weeks, we have seen cherished brothers and sisters leave us as they head into different chapters of their lives. It has been hard to see them go. As I reflect on whether they were with us for a short journey or for a long time, I am thankful to our good Father for pouring grace on us through them for as long as they have been with us. Each of them expressed their love for the Jubilee family to a tee. I got a sense that, in the partial words of an immortal boy band — arguably the best of all time — it is hard to say goodbye. 😉 As that sentiment was expressed in many ways, I implored them to pray for us as we came to mind. It is to no credit at all in and of ourselves that their experiences were life-giving and Christ-exalting among this church called Jubilee. That is the work of the mighty Spirit who we see on the pages of Scripture in the Book of Acts. I asked them to pray that the Lord would continue to pour out a unique grace on Jubilee to be a community where saying goodbye is sorrowful because of the joy we have experienced together. I want to thank you, Jubilee, because often, I hear how many of you spend your lives in the service of one another. Whether you can sense it or not, as Zack told us on Sunday, the Lord is bringing about his Kingdom through you, and we give him glory. Let’s keep it up, brothers and sisters. Don’t let the weariness of the various seasons of life sidetrack you. Let’s continue to make Jubilee a hard place to leave as we endeavor to love one another through the thick and thin.

As you know, it won’t be easy. There will be plenty of opportunities to both extend grace and receive grace. Forgiveness will continue to be a necessity. Joy, however, will accompany us on the way as we run the race together, calling each other to keep our faces in our Savior’s face. 


Grateful for your example,


Pastor Lew

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