Devotional

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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Without Hindrance

Jubilee Fam,

This Sunday, we come to the end of our time in the Book of Acts. I invite you this week to spend some time reading from our last text in Acts 28:16–31. Let your hearts steep for a little bit in the story's final chapter as an act of preparation for worship on Sunday. Be sure to give good thought to how this life-shaping narrative ends because it highlights an essential message Acts means to communicate with clarity and conviction. It also supplies Luke’s purpose of his two-volume work (Luke-Acts) with the firmest of all grounds. Carve out some time between now and Sunday and linger on the last two verses —He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:30–31).


When we started the series way back in January (can you believe that? The year has gone by fast!), we described the book as the story that unpacks the Acts of the Risen and Ascended Lord through his Spirit-empowered people. Chapter after chapter, we read how the Lord Jesus enacted his reign as it marched from Jerusalem to Rome, where we will end. No matter what obstacles arose in the story, the end of Acts captures the gist of Acts. Jesus' kingdom marches on, ultimately, without hindrance. The risen and ascended Lord reigns now and always. This ought to be a great comfort to us. Nothing will stop the advancement of our King’s reign! This is why the end of Acts fits so well with the beginning of Luke. Going back to Luke 1:1-4, you will find the gospel author’s purpose statement. He wrote his two-volume work so that Theophilus, the original recipient of his work, would have certainty concerning the things he was taught (Lk 1:4). Kingdom advancement to the very heart of Rome without hindrance supplies the fuel that provides Theophilus with assurance and us down to this very day. It has been a joy walking through this book together. I hope that it has stirred up your holy imagination for great gospel exploits to see the reign of our King enacted in our neighborhoods and among the nations. Though we finish the story that Acts portrays for us on Sunday, kingdom advancement marches right past Acts 28 to the very ends of the earth. And guess what? We can play a role in that advancement! That, brothers and sisters, is simply outstanding!


Much love,


Pastor Lew

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Hope

Jubilee Fam,


Let me talk to you about a steeple and an editorial I’ve dipped into this week. Welcome to my world of random objects that someone connects in my mind—first, the editorial. There is an organization called the Institute For Advanced Studies in Culture that has a website called The Hedgehog Review. I like to go there from time to time because it offers critical reflections on contemporary culture that I find insightful. Their Fall Journal is on the theme of hope, and the cover displays artwork from George Frederic Watts, whose painting is entitled with the same theme. In the Editorial, the author quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1959 sermon, Shattered Dreams, where the civil rights leader describes Watt’s painting as that which “depicts Hope seated atop our planet, but her head is sadly bowed, and her fingers are plucking one unbroken harp string.” King asked, “Who has not had to face the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams?” Here is what stood out to me from the editorial — 


Infinite hope, hope against hope, is nothing less than what the great Christian thinker Søren Kierkegaard understood as authentic hope. By contrast with worldly hopes that focus on transitory goods such as success and happiness, authentic hope is nothing less than the will to live in faithful relation to the ideal of eternal and unchanging Good. To live without such hope, the Sage of Copenhagen held, is not only to live in despair but to abandon the task of becoming a self, a true individual. The great danger of our time is the loss of such hope.


The editorial ends by stating, "hope may be the most demanding virtue — and, in our time, the one in greatest need.” What do you think about the sentiment that “the greatest danger of our time is the loss of such hope?” Let’s put aside for the moment that it seems like everyone is telling us what the greatest danger of our time is. Interact with the thought that the loss of hope is one of those dangers in our time. Do you feel that? Do you sense them from your neighbors, colleagues, fellow students, and family? This could be a great conversation starter with people about their sense of hope these days. Let’s say you get into that conversation, and someone shares the sentiment that hope is dangerously lost these days. And let’s say they ask you where hope can be found. What would you say? 


Now, let me talk to you about a steeple. On the way to church on Sunday, as I approached the Lowry Hill Tunnel on 94, the steeple on the United Methodist, which I see every time I go through the tunnel, stood out to me for whatever reason. When I saw it, while practicing safe driving skills, of course, I instinctively looked up. I am not a church architecturalist or the son of one, but from what I can gather, the intention of church steeples is to direct the attention of the one who gazes at it to look up. The gathered worshipper is not simply looking up at the sky, though. She is symbolically looking up at the one who made the sky. She is looking up to the one who answers the query of where hope can be found. Hope is found in the triune Godhead! The steeple calls the worshipper to look up and beyond himself — to look up and beyond her circumstances — to the one who is the very ground of our hope. Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He remains faithful forever (Psalm145:5-6). Do we live in an age of lost hope? I guess the answer depends on where you are looking. 


Jubilee, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope (Rom 15:13)…even in the seeming age of lost hope! 


Pastor Lew 

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Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Jubilee Fam,


How does Paul do it? How does he keep going? With the topic of our Women’s Bible Study on Sunday mornings in mind, how does Paul persevere time and time again when he suffers for his gospel witness? In one of his letters, once again defending his apostleship, Paul unpacks all the trials that came to him as an apostle of the good news of Jesus Christ — 


But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches ( 2 Co 11:21–28).


Once again, I ask, how in the world does a person keep going as a witness to King Jesus, and these things happen? How tempting would it be to give up? There is a new book connected to the same series that produced Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers called God Shines Forth: How the Nature of God Shapes and Drives the Mission of the Church. In this book, the authors' introductory chapter, entitled The Great Admission, describes what they see as a genuine struggle and discouragement for evangelism that many Christians experience. They write, “Here is the great admission that many of us need to make: when it comes to the Great Commission, our hearts aren’t really in it.” Their thesis is that “the problem at the root of all our struggles with mission is almost certainly right at the beginning: with our view of God…unless we honestly find God to be beautiful and enjoyable, we’ll have nothing worth saying to the people around us.” Their thesis may not cover every reason a Christian might struggle with evangelism, but their diagnosis and suggested remedy are worthy of engagement. Is it a sight problem? Is it a taste problem? Have we tasted and seen that God is good to such a degree that we, by nature, bubble forth with words that call people to taste and see what we have? 


Let me end where I started and go back to the questions concerning Paul’s perseverance through persecution stemming from his Gospel witness. How does Paul keep going in his witness despite the many challenges? I think the authors of God Shines Forth are on to something. Paul has tasted and seen the goodness of Christ. This is what makes his testimony so striking. His gospel work flows from his experience with Jesus. In Ephesians, he calls it the unsearchable riches of Christ! In Philippians, he says, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” He was so enamored with Jesus that what naturally flowed out was his desire for others to be enamored with him also, even as he experienced trouble after trouble after trouble due to his witness. He was so taken up with Jesus that endurance through the persecution was the way forward versus hitting the sidelines in resignation. This is profoundly encouraging to me. There is no need to guilt one another into sharing the gospel because it is our “duty” as a Great Commission Christian. No times ten thousand! The much more beautiful work is to feast our eyes on King Jesus and, in joy and satisfaction, join him in enacting his reign. When you taste a good meal, it is natural to want to tell someone about it.


So Jubilee, let’s keep deeply drinking from the unsearchably rich fountain found in Jesus. Let’s keep feasting on him as the greatest of all meals. Let’s keep aiming to taste and see that our Jesus is good. It is from our experience of Jesus that gospel conversations will naturally overflow as we encourage people to enjoy the same meal that we do in our beautiful Lord. 


Pastor Lew

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We Are Made for Joy

Jubilee Fam,


Three things interact with each other as I sit down to type to you. I call them things because they comprise an event and words. This past weekend I was honored to speak at Bethlehem College and Seminary’s inaugural Godward Life Conference. I want to encourage you to mark your calendars for it next year. It was an excellent time for intergenerational ministry aimed at ages and stages across the board. The plenary talks centered around Piper’s mountain of a book called The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God. Piper starts his book with a quote from Henry Scougal, who wrote, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” That is worth giving your thumbs a break from doom-scrolling to sit and ponder over for some time. Piper takes Scougal and extends his thought toward God. “If it is true for man, may it not also be true for God? Is it not also the case that the worth and excellency of God’s soul is to be measured by the object of his love?” This question produces the title of his book. What are the pleasures of God? What is the object of his love? Piper then explains that the object of God’s love, the pleasure of God, rightfully  is himself, for if there were a more excellent object, then God would cease to be God. This matters a lot for a ton of reasons. I recommend the book to you, so you find out. One reason why it matters is that our joy depends on God’s happiness. It is God’s happiness in himself that is the foundation of Christian happiness, Piper writes, as he unpacks it another way in Desiring God, “Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? We would relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try to bother him, or maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor…Children can’t enjoy the fellowship of their Father if He is unhappy.” 


Joy is on my mind for two reasons this morning. First, over the years, I have aimed to get acquainted with an author named Frederick Buechner (I’ve heard it pronounced Beekner). I came across a quote of his this morning concerning joy — “We tend to think that religion is sitting stiff and antiseptic and a little bored and that joy is laughter and freedom and reaching out our arms to embrace the whole wide and preposterous earth which is so beautiful that sometimes it nearly breaks our hearts. We need to be reminded that at its heart Christianity is joy and that laughter and freedom and the reaching out of arms are the essence of it. We… are made for joy and anyone who is truly joyous has a right to say that he is doing God’s will on this earth. Where you have known joy, you have known him.“ What stood out to me is that “the heart of Christianity is joy", which I take to mean happiness. Connecting Piper above, how can that not be the case? 


The second reason that joy is on my mind is that sometimes, if I can keep it real, it seems like joy is hard to come by when life brings circumstances that I didn’t order to my table. My message at the conference was on God’s happiness in his sovereignty and providence. I probably should say that it can be hard for joy to come when in God’s wise providential plans, circumstances arise that I don’t care for. Tuesday morning, I entered a place of struggling with joy as we tasted the brokenness of this world afresh through someone breaking into and vandalizing our car. I can’t say I felt happy then or even now as we stare at the process and hassle of having the vehicle fixed due to someone else’s sinfulness. Here is the third thing that is swirling in my mind, interacting with each other. David Mathis’ words comfort me when the thoughts arise that since I claim to be a Christian whose happiness rests on God’s happiness, I should be a champion at having joy, even in trying situations. "Shame on you," the accusatory thoughts ring loud in my head, "because you shouldn’t struggle with having joy the way you are if, truly, you are in the one who is happy himself.”


In his recent article Not by Head Alone: The Warm Heart of Justification, Mathis writes that joy in God grows with time. In the season of life where joy and happiness in God wanes and is challenged, it is good to know that joy can grow where it has withered due to the brokenness of this world. Joy can spring forth like flowers after a cold winter of trying circumstances. More biblically stated, joy can spring up IN and DURING the cold winds of trying circumstances. Favorable circumstances are not the foundation of a Christian’s joy. Our happy God is the foundation of our joy, which grows with time and is the heart of Christianity.


Praying for your happiness in God come what may, Jubilee, 


Pastor Lew

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Run the Race of Faith Together

Jubilee Fam,


I hope you set apart some time this week to chew on the text Pastor Dan walked us through this past Sunday. It was a wonderful travelogue of a person worthy of our emulation in many ways. Pastor Dan gave us six actions to practice with each other as we run the race of faith together as a family. They went by fast on the screen, so I didn’t capture them. If you didn’t either, here they are below for your consideration and encouragement in obedience. These 6 points are excellent actions that craft and shape a community of Jesus’ people to a place where his person and work are glorified!

  • Look for every opportunity all day long to speak wise and gracious words that point one another to life.
  • Commend others continually to God (praying for them) and help them understand the gracious character of God who is Holy, Holy, Holy, and yet calls sinners to himself. Be ever speaking the word of God’s grace. Give them the gift of God.
  • Remind one another that it is God who mercifully starts and who graciously finishes our salvation.
  • Show the church how they must find contentment in God alone and not covet the things of this world.
  • Remind them that work is a God-given gift so that they might have something to share with others, especially with the weak.
  • Allow Jesus to speak with his authoritative words and parables; show him as the example of the one who came to serve and not to be served.


Much grace to you, Jubilee,


Pastor Lew

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Teaching that Aims at Discipleship

Jubilee Fam,


I hope you are well! I’m looking forward to worshipping together this weekend after being away. Pastor Dave and I traveled down south to celebrate our brother Joshua Taylor’s wedding (see pics here: onetwothree!) along with Jessica, his new bride. It was a great time! This Sunday we start Adult and Youth Sunday School which play an integral role in why we exist as a church. Under the sway of Matthew 28:18-20, we say that Jubilee exists to grow as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. A barometer of our growth is our obedience. In making disciples we are to teach one another to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. Our Sunday school classes avail us of the opportunity for teaching that aims at discipleship. Last week Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries dropped their State of Theology Survey. You will find it here. Let me encourage you to read it. It highlights the need for churches to have robust spaces where theological teaching and development occur within the life of the church. We hope that our Sunday school classes over the years will be one of those spaces. 


Learning to obey with you,

Pastor Lew


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We Give Thanks to God for You

Jubilee Fam, 


One of the great lessons in the faith and the community of Jesus’ people is given to us by the apostle Paul. Let me use 1 Thessalonians 1:2 as an example. After Paul’s greeting, he started an extended thanksgiving section where he said of the Thessalonians, “We give thanks to God always for you all.” Romans 1:8, same thing — I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you. What might be a surprise is that even the Corinthians, who could prove to be a challenge at times, were reasons for Paul’s thanksgiving — I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:4). The giving of thanks for fellow believers is a wonderful spiritual discipline that Paul modeled and commended. He highly recommended it (2 Tim 3:10)! 


This past Sunday reminded me why I want to follow Paul’s example and communicate my thankfulness to my Jubilee family. It is consistently a joy to worship together regularly. That is a constant source for giving thanks. I am thinking of the conversation we had after we worshipped together. I entered our family meeting with a conception in my mind that my Jubilee fam can handle hard conversations in a Christ-ward and edifying way. After we were done, I told a bunch of people that what I expected from my family proved to be true. There are still conversations to be had. There are still decisions to be made. There are still hard choices ahead in not only the topic of our discussion but whatever may come our way in the future. Amid all of these realities, I thank God for the way we were able to converse with one another this past Sunday. Thank you for your presence, your care, your passion, your compassion, your listening ear, your humble posture, your challenge, your great questions, your embrace, and your Christlikeness. 


The elders give thanks for you, Jubilee. 


Pastor Lew


P.S. Jonathan (J-Dub) Worthington shared this with me and permitted me to pass it on. May it encourage you as an example of enacting the reign of the king in life and lips that aim for compelling and courageous conversations fueled by the person, proclamation, presence, and promise of our Lord. 


Last week I met with a dear brother named Paul. a 56-year-old who has begun taking classes with us and who helps lead a large network of churches in a city near here. Paul's story is incredible: his wife is the principal of a private Christian school in their city, just like ours. Paul and his wife have both spent time in prison, with Paul's longest sentence being one year. I asked him if they tortured him at all in prison, and he said, "Well, not like you mean, but with hard labor they did: many days were 18 hours straight of hard labor, with the guards yelling terrible things at us. But near the end of my incarceration, they became much nicer. I shared the gospel with them and they said that this gospel is much more compelling to them than the boring ideology shared by their leaders here.” I also asked about how being detained that year was for his kids. Paul replied, "My 10-year-old daughter, when she found out about it, said, “I guess the Lord has something for Daddy to learn while he's in there." This inspiring story illustrates how you can pray for believers here: for Spirit-led courage and perseverance to glorify Him no matter how or in what situation. Please pray that they will stand strong and be ready to face any cost for His name's sake and for reaching the unreached of Asia.

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In Prayer, Bring God Before God

Jubilee Fam,


Sometimes you say things in a moment and forget that you told them. After Pastor Walt led us so well through Psalm 25, I asked him if he recalled something that resonated with me. I could tell by the puzzled look in his eyes that he didn’t remember saying it. I was almost in awe for a second because such insight flowed from the brother’s mouth like a fount of wisdom…and he didn’t even remember dropping the mic like that!! Granted, this is how I felt. Let me bring to your mind what was very insightful to me. It's short but potent. Remember that Walt asked four questions of the text for our good: 1) To whom will I lift up my soul? 2) For whom will I wait? 3) To whom will I appeal? 4) Whom will I fear? These are the type of questions that will never run dry and are applicable in every season of the soul. Don’t forget these questions, Jubilee. It was during question 3 that Walt highlighted how, in prayer, David BRINGS GOD BEFORE GOD. That was the line right there! In prayer, we bring our sorrows, concerns, questions, appeals, joys, thanksgiving, and praise, among many other things, and we bring GOD BEFORE GOD! In other words, in prayer, we talk to God about who he is in our lives and who he is in the midst of our circumstances. We bring his promises before him in prayer as we look to him to do what he said he would do, which is ours in Christ Jesus. We bring God’s character and promises with us to pray and pray God’s character and promises to him in faith. 2 Samuel 7 is a story that illustrates this tremendous prayer strategy. The LORD just informed David that he would build a house for him through a covenant that would establish David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam 7:1–17). In response, and rightfully so, David offers a prayer of gratitude to the LORD. Let me quote it in its entirety for your mediation. This type of prayer is widespread in Scripture. Once our eyes see it, it will pop up everywhere. I commend this type of prayer to you. 


Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. 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. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

2 Sam 7:18-29 


Much grace to you Jubilee,


Pastor Lew

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