Devotional

Pastors' Conference Reflections

Jubilee Fam,


Pastor Dan, Toph, Frank, Steve, and I are on the other side of the 35th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. It was a rich time of worship, prayer, fellowship, preaching, and teaching. Over 700 pastors and ministry leaders Assembled at the River Centre in St. Paul, coming from all sorts of ministry stories that include your fair share of joys, struggles, pains, victories, sorrows, aspirations, victories, and defeats. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love singing with you all when we gather for worship on Sundays. Our time is a weekly family gathering that is a rhythm necessary for the joy and progress of my faith, and since I am talking about us, the same applies to you. Worship, both in song and over the word, with ministry leaders in the trenches, though, is a powerful experience! The topic of the conference was the doctrine of humanity. What is man? Don’t think of males first and foremost in that question. Think Psalm 8:3–4: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 


The question that the conference aimed to discuss was what is man from a humanity standpoint? Who are we as humans? This is one of the central questions of the day, from understanding males and females as gendered beings to transhumanism. I walked away from the conference, realizing how important it is to have a robust theological anthropology — a vigorous doctrine of what it means to be human. Here’s a glance at some notes I took. You should ask Pastor Toph, Dan, Frank, and Steve what resonated with them! 

1 Tim 6:17–19: 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly lifeJohn Piper started the sessions by talking about the final condition of humanity. When it is all said and done, and Jesus has returned, and we are in the new heavens and new earth, what will that be like? It will be indeed life! He asked why this question was necessary. Because “an unknown end will not be loved.” If our final condition in Christ is known and loved, “it is the love of the end that gets every wheel [now] going.” 


Help your people love the appearing of Jesus. 


There will be no boredom in the new heavens and new earth. 


The Adam-shaped problem is solved by the Jesus-shaped solution. 


The treachery of the first Adam is undone through the scandalous death of the second Adam. 


We are not called to agree with God’s truth concerning males and females but to love God’s truth about it.


Complimentary pairs are what the story of the Bible is about. 


Sin is the hatred of God in our despising of our creatureliness. 


Sin is stupid.


Be more saved than you are smart.


Christians should be the happiest of all people.


Teach your people that they were made to be for the praise of God’s glorious grace. 


Teach your people that God’s mission for the church is to make disciples. 


The conference was a warm time of worship in the cold winter months of Jan and Feb! I was wonderfully reminded of how much the Triune God cares for those whose call is to care for the church! 


Looking forward to worshipping together on Sunday, 


Pastor Lew 

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The Church Is ____________.

Jubilee Fam,


The church is ___________________. Our goal in completing this statement is to think God’s thoughts after him. As we seek to elevate church our ecclesiology, the journey will take us into the Scriptures to see what the Triune God says about the church of His Beloved Son. It is revelation that renews the mind, all the more so since it is really easy for our experience to be the shaper of our conception of the church. Don’t get me wrong. We can’t get away from our experiences. We bring them each time we show up together to worship on a Sunday morning. Our church background is a blend of good and challenging experiences. And yet, our story with the church is not our primary teacher tasked with informing our ecclesiology. 


This past Sunday, we learned from Scripture that the church is the household of God, the gathered people of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the greatest truth imaginable about who Jesus is. We are God’s family who gathers with him in our midst as we hold up the truth of who Jesus is. What a remarkable aspect of the church to cherish in our hearts! What a powerful prayer request for the Lord to work this description of the church in us at Jubilee! What a goal to strive for together to be who we are! 


I thank our good Father for the many ways I have seen and heard about you loving one another as a family. I am often grateful at the end of our time together on Sundays as we gather as God’s people with his presence manifestly experienced. I glorify our God for the ways that the truth of who Jesus is has been and continues to be, by grace alone, lifted high by you. We are not a perfect church…yet. There will always be opportunities for growth at Jubilee Community Church. We will get some things right and some things wrong. And yet, what a joy it is to be a part of the universal church that finds an embodiment in this local church called Jubilee! I hope you feel the same as we travel through our series on the church. 


Last note. As a family, let’s set our hearts to learning together. Sunday school starts this weekend, and we are excited about the offerings of discipleship through education in the four available classes. Join us as we seek to grow in our knowledge of all the good things our Triune God has given us to learn as we seek to glorify the Father, the Son, and the Spirit together. If you are coming to the book discussion on Biblical Critical Theory, aim to read the forward, preface, and introduction for our time on Sunday (There is a link further down in this update that has the first 90 pages of the book). Oh! While typing this email, there are three copies of the book in the bookstall here at the church. They are 15 dollars!!! Yes, your eyes read that correctly! Fifteen 👏🏾 dollars 👏🏾!! 

 That is the lowest price you can find ANYWHERE (Much thanks to Ricky!!!). 


Happy to be in the church, 

Pastor Lew 

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In Splendor

Jubilee Fam, 


The church is_____________. I put this fill-in-the-blank sentence before you on Sunday to spark a necessary discussion concerning what comes to mind when you think of the church. How did you fill in the blank? The church is messy. The church is hypocritical. The church is blood-bought. The church is in progress. As we embark on our series on what we believe about the church, I hope that one of the first words that would fill the blank would be ‘beautiful.’ 


The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is beautiful. How does that sentiment land on you? Are you taken aback by such a statement? Do you wonder if that is indeed the case? Beautiful to whom and in what way? Though the whole world might look at the church and call her ugly, the one whose eyes matter calls her beautiful because he is making her beautiful for himself — Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 4:25-28). Though the world has no eyes to see, Christ is at work in his church to make her glorious, which, glory, by the way, is beauty. We, too, should look at the church with the eyes of faith and, even in imperfection, see growing beauty heading towards the day when staggering splendor will be her description because of Jesus’ work. 


Furthermore, the church is beautiful because of what Jesus is up to in her and what Jesus will look like through her. In his prayer, Jesus speaks of the church and says to the Father, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them (Jn 17:9-10). Jesus is glorified through the church in glimpses now imperfectly and thoroughly, then in perfection. 


It would take an eternity, if even possible, to see the church the way Jesus sees his church. That should not stop us from aiming to have increasingly high thoughts about the church, even in her imperfection, that her Lord will work out. Let’s not have low thoughts about what our Lord highly esteems. One day, the church will stand without blemish. We hope this series will aid you in saying by faith now, “The church is beautiful,” and pray to that end. “Nothing in the world is dearer to God’s heart than his church; therefore being his, let us also belong to it, that by our prayers, our gifts, and our labors, we may support and strengthen it (Spurgeon, “The Best Donation.”)


Pastor Lew

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Treasuring God's Word Empowers Us to Trust

Dear Jubilee Family,


It was a joy to gather corporately and praise Jesus together this past Sunday! Psalm 56 teaches us that treasuring God's Word empowers us to trust Him in tough times. Psalm 119 gives us 176 verses describing David's "love affair" with God's Word. The psalmist's Scripture descriptions portray them as having the power to calm our fears in terrifying moments. Here are a few worth meditating on this week: 


"My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!" (Psalms 119:28).


"I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!" (Psalms 119:107).


"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word" (Psalms 119:114).


"I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words" (Psalms 119:147).


"Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words" (Psalms 119:161).


Jubilee, let's pray we will fight our fears with faith this week by treasuring God's Word.


Pastor Toph

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The Father Is Working His Good Purposes

Jubilee Family,


It was a joy to worship with you on the first day of 2023! Is there a more excellent way to begin? Maybe we should do that every year regardless of the day on which the new year begins. Through song, prayer, the reading of Scripture out-loud together and through the Word of God preached, we declared to one another and to our God that he is strong, capable, the initiator of relationship with us, and we are weak, unable even to pursue that relationship apart from his presence. 

 

The beautiful truth we saw is that through Jesus, the Father yearns for us to come into his presence where he proclaims to us his vision for our lives. And then he invites us into that vision and asks us to walk with him, calling upon him all along the journey for the help, the wisdom, the courage necessary to complete the work he has begun in us. You see, he created us to journey with him as dependent children ever drawing from the abundance of his presence.  

 

And this is where the battle will always be for us. The demons of hell will fight against this kind of dependence, this kind of submission to God’s vision for our lives that is found in his word. They will sow lies in our minds with worldliness to create fear and doubt even as Satan did in the garden. They will do anything to turn our gaze from the presence of the Father. For you see, they know that as we remain in the presence of our Father with eyes fixed on him, calling out to him, a courage to do his will is created even when our good Father asks us to walk with him through a difficult valley. 

 

For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. (2 Sam. 7:27) 

 

Oh, may 2023 find us courageously calling on the Lord as David did with our eyes fixed on the Father who is working/building his good purposes in our lives.


Pastor Dan

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Dark-Conquering Hope

Jubilee Fam,


As we set our sights to worship on Christmas morning, I am reminded of how who we are celebrating infuses this season with dark-conquering hope. For many, the season that brings many folks joy is anything but a happy time. For some, amid all of the bright Christmas decorations, the season is dampened by darkness. There is a reason why the advent candles are a poignant reminder for use year in and year out. The light from the candles, especially the Christ candle, which we will light on Sunday, reminds us that the birth of our Lord dispels the darkness of sorrow that captures many hearts this time of the year. The true Light, which gives light to everyone, has come into the world (John 1:9). Darkness is passing away (1 John 2:8)! 


What is the relationship between light and hope? The prophecy in Isaiah 9 draws out the connection between the two — The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. What would you hope for while in deep darkness? Light!! Light is the key that opens the dungeons of darkness; however, it may descend — whether by sin or sorrow, pain or disappointment, grief or despair. The nature of light is that it shines in the darkness, and the feebleness of darkness is that it cannot overcome the light (John 1:5). This is why we say, “Merry Christmas!” Not as some sugary slogan that we parrot every December but as a powerful declaration that darkness has been given a mortal blow through the birth of Incarnate Light, and one day, the shadows will give way to the everlasting light of our Savior’s presence. So Jubilee, whatever you are walking through this season, especially if the times are ones of sorrow, by faith, declare, “Merry Christmas!” Say it to your soul. Affirm it with your family. Declare it to your neighbors. Tell your co-workers. Announce it with boldness as those infused with great hope this season! 


Looking forward to worshiping our King on Christmas,


Pastor Lew 

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Sin AND Grace

Hi Jubilee Family,


For our devotional this week, I want to quote a section of the book I referenced on Sunday. I pray it will cause your heart to soar again at the precious reality of what the promised "offspring" has accomplished for us. 


To speak of sin by itself, to speak of it apart from the realities of creation and grace, is to forget the resolve of God. God wants shalom and will pay any price to get it back. Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way. Moreover, to speak of sin by itself is to misunderstand its nature: sin is only a parasite, a vandal, a spoiler. Sinful life is a partly depressing, partly ludicrous caricature of genuine human life. To concentrate on our rebellion, defection, and folly—to say to the world “I have some bad news and I have some bad news”—is to forget that the center of the Christian religion is not our sin but our Savior. To speak of sin without grace is to minimize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, and the hope of shalom. 


But to speak of grace without sin is surely no better. To do this is to trivialize the cross of Jesus Christ, to skate past all the struggling by good people down the ages to forgive, accept, and rehabilitate sinners, including themselves, and therefore to cheapen the grace of God that always comes to us with blood on it. What had we thought the ripping and writhing on Golgotha were all about? To speak of grace without looking squarely at these realities, without painfully honest acknowledgment of our own sin and its effects, is to shrink grace to a mere embellishment of the music of creation, to shrink it down to a mere grace note. In short, for the Christian church (even in its recently popular seeker services) to ignore, euphemize, or otherwise mute the lethal reality of sin is to cut the nerve of the gospel. For the sober truth is that without full disclosure on sin, the gospel of grace becomes impertinent, unnecessary, and finally uninteresting.


Plantinga, Cornelius. Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (p. 198). Eerdmans. Kindle Edition. 


Pastor Toph 

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God Has Kept His Promises

Jubilee Family,


The work of remaining steadfast in the Lord is hard, and it is especially hard when the chaos of worldliness seeks to dissuade us from believing the promises of God. Pastor Lewis asked the question: “How will you handle hard?” He wasn’t asking whether or not you think you will handle it well. He was asking what you will do to prepare for it, and what you will do to remain in the fight for faith as ‘hard’ fills the milieu of your life. Hard happens often in this broken world.


The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of the faithfulness of God. God has kept his promises. The promises spoken to Isaiah in chapter 9 are being fulfilled: a child has been born; all authority has been given to him; his kingdom is an everlasting one in which his people are established in justice and righteousness; all of this is being accomplished by the zeal of the Lord. And so what we are doing at Christmas is what we need to be doing all year long. We are remembering the faithfulness of God. We are calling to mind the promises God has made, and we are studying the works he has fulfilled. As Pastor Lewis said: ‘Memory brings hope to the present situation.’ Meditating on the works of the Lord in the midst of hard and broken life situations allows our complaints to God (prayers of lament) and our confidence in God (worship/praise) to be wedded together into a solid foundation that enables us to stand firmly by faith in the storm of hard.


Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)


Take heart in our Lord, Jubilee, in this hard season of life even as we celebrate Christmas, and remember with one another the message of the angels: unto us is born this day a savior (and oh how we need a savior) who is Christ, the Lord!


Peace,


Pastor Dan

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Jubilee Fam,


Every year our country offers this rhythm of rest and thanksgiving that allows us to reflect gratefully. Please set apart some time this Thanksgiving holiday to consider the many blessings we can be thankful for, even amid circumstances that rightfully call for godly lament. I found this among my recent travels across the vast landscape called the internet: Wherever you find yourself this year, we invite you to remember with us that ’nothing good and true and right will be lost forever. All good things will be restored’” Recollect all that calls for thanks in your life and once you see how massive that list is, open your mouth with a heart full of gratitude and give thanks to our good Father, who is the giver of good gifts. Let me give you some texts for the encouragement of robust thanksgiving this season:


I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds (Psalm 9:1).

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30).

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds (Psalm 75:1).

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High (Psalm 92:1);

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever (Ps 118:1)!

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 (Col 3:17).

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess 5:16-18).


There are so many other verses that encourage us to be a thankful community of Jesus’ people. On behalf of the elders, know that we are exceedingly grateful to our good Father for you, Jubilee! We are thankful for the ways the Spirit is at work crafting and modeling you into the image of Jesus. We are grateful for the love you show one another. We are thankful for the unwavering support you give us. We are thankful for your prayers, sacrificial living, public witness, and love for God’s glory! This holiday, know that we have many reasons to open our mouths with a heart full of gratitude and say alongside Psalm 126:3, "The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” 


We love you, Jubilee.


Pastor Lew

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Habakkuk: Lament

Jubilee Fam, 


On Sunday, Lord willing, we are moving from narrative to poetry as we go from the Book of Acts to the Book of Habakkuk. "Why Habakkuk,” you might ask. You know my initial answer already, right? Why not Habakkuk? It is in the Bible, and we are whole Bible people. Another good reason to spend the next three weeks in this book is to interact with one of the most significant resources that ought to be in our toolkit as God’s people. We will consider how Habakkuk uses the prayer language of lament to deal with the brokenness he feels in this world. Do you feel the world is broken? We do. What can you do about it? One thing that we must do is lament. Check this description of lament below for your consideration. And above all things, spend some time reading this three-chapter book before Sunday. Meditate on it. Pray over it. Listen to it. Pray for the body to be transformed by it. Please pray for the preacher who will proclaim it! 


Lament speech is inherently relational and creaturely. Humans possess neither the mind of God nor the perspective of God (as he sees all, knows all, and is all in all). As a result, we must go to God when we are confused, or when we see injustice, or when we experience pain. Lament prayer is not God-denying language but God-affirming language that reveals a radical faith in God and a firm understanding of our dependence upon him for all things (Heath A. Thomas, Habakkuk, ed. J. Gordon McConville and Craig Bartholomew, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018).

Pastor Lew

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