Why We Sing

I don’t think I’ve ever reposted one of my sermons, but the topic of praise and worship has always been very dear to my heart. With the current debate over whether or not we should obey Governor Newsom’s latest guidelines for the church, which bans corporate singing, I believe this message is appropriate.

I pray this inspires you with a biblical perspective on worship and causes you to be all the more mindful of Jesus and the praise He deserves.

(*This sermon currently only has audio)


Justice in Every Color

As red and blue lights flashed outside my neighborhood last night, I experienced a moment of reassurance and relief. Protests in Riverside have gotten out of hand, and you can feel the tension in our diverse community. Right now I’m so grateful for the men and women who stand guard over our community to ensure the protection of my family and property, even at the risk of their safety, and potentially their lives. 

#BlackLivesMatter calls for the defunding of the police and spreads an unsubstantiated narrative that unbiassed statistics and facts don’t support. Do black lives matter to me? Absolutely. Do the injustices of abortion, racism, sex trafficking, human slavery, corruption, police brutality, and so many other horrific realities break my heart? Daily. But I can never give my support to an organization that promotes victimhood and unjustly villainizes over 700,000 self-sacrificing people that wear the blue uniform with an unwavering commitment to protecting their communities regardless of the color, socio-economic status, religion, or background of the people they safeguard. Are all cops good? Of course not. Is there police corruption that demands accountability and justice? Most definitely. The reality is that there are wicked people everywhere, of every race, and every profession that should all be held accountable for their horrendous actions. But to insight hatred and merciless anger from one group towards another is neither just or honoring to God, yet that seems to be what #BlackLivesMatter has been most influential in accomplishing. Ask the families of black police officers David Dorn and Patrick Underwood where Black Lives Matters is to speak up for their tragic losses.

Today I stand in solidarity with all who suffer injustice and pray for a church that will be bold enough to rise above the cultural narrative and carry the truth of Jesus into every place they go and to every person they meet without partiality.

…God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3

Life through death (Good Friday)

At the cross of Christ…

Life came through death.
Fruitfulness came through pain.
Salvation came through suffering.
Victory came through sacrifice.
Hope came through despair.
Joy came through mourning.

So no… Hope is not lost. Through Jesus, life waits around every painful corner, and hope is always on the horizon.

John 12:23-24 – But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

Coronavrus: An Opportunity to Become Like Jesus.

This is a good season for the church.

Coronavirus fears will force our faith to be practiced.

Economic collapse will cause our generosity to be tested.

Circumstances outside our control will demand our prayer lives be consistent.

The abundance of needs around us will reveal the sincerity of our love.

As human efforts fail, our resolve to trust the Lord will be pushed to its limit.

Let’s remember that above all things, this unexpected and challenging time is a unique opportunity to become more like Jesus. Let’s not only pray for this to end, let’s pray that we learn all we need to learn before it does.

Run Toward Thanksgiving

It’s Turkey time again. As I try to do every Thanksgiving, I am contemplating the undeserved goodness of God toward me. If that doesn’t inspire thankfulness, nothing ever could! God’s blessings were certainly enough to inspire the first “Thanksgiving-ers.” Almost 400 years ago, in 1621, William Bradford and the pilgrim colony realized the blessing of their first fruitful season in a new land after enduring a severe and deadly winter. That was during a time when you didn’t wake up and have everything you wanted at your fingertips. You had to daily place your every need in the sovereign hands of God. When God met your needs, you were sincerely grateful that God supplied what was required to survive another day. After watching God supernaturally provide in a new land, the first pilgrims indeed deemed it appropriate to celebrate the faithfulness and provision of God!

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to 1863. Amidst suffering and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. He implored all Americans to “Ask God to commend His tender care to all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife… to heal the wounds of the nation.” As I look at the state of our nation today, I believe a return to the heart of those early Thanksgivings is in order. Very few people in our society recognize their Creator as the source of every blessing. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving today has one major obstacle in its path; HUMAN NATURE. People are naturally inclined to selfishness, which is the opposite of thankfulness. On top of that, Paul told us that in the last days, an unthankful attitude would mark the general population (2 Timothy 3:2).

When left to ourselves, we all tend to gravitate towards entitlement; toward spending on ourselves instead of expending ourselves for the sake of others. Instead of giving thanks, many people are far more interested in getting stuff. This sinful proclivity is why Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, urged us, saying, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” As Christians, we should be asking, “How do we carry the heart of Thanksgiving into our everyday living?” I believe genuine Thanksgiving comes from a humble heart that sees the large gap of grace between what it deserves and what God has given. During this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to take the time to pray, reflect, worship, and thank God for the many, many undeserved blessings in your life. Ask the Lord how you can carry that same thankful attitude into everything you do from day-to-day. As a result, you will undoubtedly find greater joy, contentment, and purpose in your life! I’ll leave you this Thanksgiving with words of the Psalmist from Psalm 107, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.”

From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
-Pastor Josh

Suffering, Faith, and Doubt

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 – Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.

It’s astounding to me how fragile our faith can be. Sometimes circumstances, trials, and difficulties can cause a shaking in the foundations of our faith and trust in the Lord. Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica are incredibly revealing. Paul was separated from the church but was deeply concerned that the state of their faith might have been in jeopardy. To ensure that he could stave off any attack of the enemy, he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them. What strikes me in this passage is the source of the shaking. Paul and his ministry team experienced great persecution and difficulty as they carried the gospel through the known world (see 2 Corinthians 11:26).

Upon hearing of Paul’s afflictions, it seems as though the church was experiencing a shaking of their faith. Perhaps they were asking questions like, “How could a loving God allow his servants to suffer so greatly?” Or, “If those terrible things are happening to Paul, would God allow them to happen to us?” These frightening and sobering questions were causing some to doubt the goodness, love, and even the reality of God. Paul’s response does not feed their doubt or give credibility to their insecurities. Instead, he addresses their questions and concerns with courage and truth.

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Diligence Through Discouragement

This week, the theme of discouragement has been on my mind. I’ve been reading through Nehemiah again and have observed that one of the enemy’s prime tactics is to try and discourage those who are working for the Lord. He knows that a discouraged worker can quickly and easily be immobilized. Perhaps you have experienced discouragement in your own life or ministry. If so, please read on!

I’ve always viewed the word dis-courage-ment as “a loss of courage.” Courage is that necessary thing that drives us forward each new day and gives us the strength to face the inevitable challenges of life. Courage is something that can easily be lost. When hope fades, courage can be forgotten. Courage can seem fleeting when the future appears dim or uncertain. When victory seems unattainable, courage can easily take wings and fly. When courage is lost, fear attempts to fill in the gaps. Lost courage is a dangerous thing for the Christian. A lack of courage gives the enemy free rein to trample over all the wonderful things God wants to do through our lives. It’s no wonder that the Bible commands us at least 25 times to be strong and courageous.

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Memorial Day Matters

This weekend should be a weekend of reminder. While we sit in front of our grills and enjoy a weekend of fun with friends, we must remember that the freedom to do such things (and so many more important things) has come at a high price to many.

Speaking of those who are chosen by God to enforce justice in this world, Paul tells us in Romans 13:4, “…for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

As much as we wish it weren’t the case, we live in a world that is full of wickedness. As Christians, we know that the only real hope for humanity is Jesus. Only Jesus can transform a heart and bring to life that which sin has destroyed. But peace on this earth will never fully come until the Prince of Peace returns. Until that day, the Bible teaches us that there will always be wickedness in this world because there will always be those who reject Christ.

So what and who does God use in a godless world to protect the righteous and punish those who practice evil? The book of Romans teaches us that God uses those who “Bear the sword.” Every Sunday or Wednesday when I go to church, every prayer meeting I attend, and every outreach I do, reminds me that my God-given freedoms as a human being still exist and that I get to enjoy them. I must also remind myself that in most of the world, others do not enjoy the freedoms that I possess. Why is this? Why have I been so blessed to have these freedoms while others around the world suffer under heavy oppression?

There are many reasons, but one of them is that for almost 243 years in America, there have been people who “bear the sword” with conviction and integrity— they care about freedom, justice, morality, and righteousness. These are men and women who have been guided by the principles that our forefathers founded this nation on; that there are things greater than yourself worth fighting for, and there are evils in this world worth fighting against. It is because of these men and women, who refused complacency and willingly offered their lives, that you and I can wake up in the morning and publicly worship Jesus without fear or retribution or persecution. Yes, I would worship Jesus regardless, but I am grateful that God has blessed me in a country that protects these freedoms, and so many more.

To the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives, and to those who are willingly offering their lives daily for my protection and freedom, I say thank you. Thank you for courageously caring. Though I may not know the letters that make up your names, I do know the principles that have guided your hearts. To every family that has shared in sacrifice through the loss of a son or daughter in our nation’s service, may God comfort your hearts and remind you of this truth, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And may we all remember the words of Abraham Lincoln who said,

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

Living in Sad Saturday

Traditionally, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday has been called Holy Saturday. It is considered by many to be a day of reflection on the completed work of Jesus at the cross.

The gospels tell us that the day after Jesus died was the Sabbath day. This, of course, was the Jewish day of rest. It also explains why Jesus’ body was removed so quickly from the cross. For the Jew, it was a defilement for a dead body to remain exposed for long periods. This is why Joseph of Arimathea rushed so quickly to retrieve and bury the body of Jesus before the Sabbath began at Sundown. Pilate, being obliged to keep the peace with the Jews, granted the request.

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The Reminders of the Cross

This Good Friday, the cross of Jesus reminds us…

That God was not content to leave us dead in our trespasses and sin. (Romans 5:6-8)

That true love goes deeper than mere words. (John 3:16)

That our sin really is much more gruesome and costly than we thought. (Hebrews 9:28)

That sin requires sacrifice and Jesus paid the full price in His own body. (Isaiah 53, 2 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 9:22)

That the devil was humiliated and his power of condemnation forever broken. (Colossians 2:15, Genesis 3:15)

That God’s prophetic plan of salvation has been completed (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53)

That the righteous requirements of the law have been fulfilled on our behalf and no longer condemn us. (Colossians 2:14, Galatians 2:21)

That we have been made innocent before God and freed from the power and penalty of sin. (Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7)

That we have been brought near to God. (Ephesians 2:13, 1 Peter 3:18)

That eternal life personally belongs to us. (Hebrews 9:12, John 3:16)

That we now have righteousness on our account that is perfect and not our own. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

That we are delivered from the wickedness of this age. (Galatians 1:4)

That we are forgiven and purified from every lawless deed. (Titus 2:14)

That our guilty consciences have been cleansed. (Hebrews 9:14)

That the sacrifice of Jesus was a willing act of love and obedience. (Philippians 2:8)

That Jesus was not an unwilling victim, but that He was God willingly laying down His life. (John 10:18, 2 Corinthians 5:19)

That God’s salvation is complete and irreversible. (John 19:30)

That we will never have to personally pay the penalty of our own sin. (Romans 6:23)

That we have passed from death to life, darkness to light, and from judgment to forgiveness. (John 5:24, Acts 26:18)

That sin no longer defines our identity. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

That we are no longer considered enemies of God. (Romans 5:10)

That Jesus is only and forever worthy of all authority. (Revelation 5:9)

That sometimes we must embrace suffering to find glory. (1 Peter 2:21, Philippians 3:10)

That Christ was crucified for me so that I might live a selfless life that is crucified with Him. (Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:14)

Can we add or contribute any effort to this great work of salvation? The answer is no. Why? In the words of Jesus, “It is finished!”

As you meditate on the cross and worship the Savior, soak in the words of this incredible song.