Our Goal: Knowing God through the Scriptures (May Newsletter)

In considering what it means to know for my dissertation, philosopher Esther Meek has provided me with such valuable insight. Over the last two decades she has developed something that she calls Covenant Epistemology wherein she seeks to recover the relational aspects of what it means to know. She speaks of knowing as a relationship, and because she is a Christian this relationship between the knower and the known is rooted in our relationship with God. While I will not get too deep into this system, I do want to share one aspect of it that has truly opened up to me what knowledge really is and how we should pursue it.

Meek refers to knowing as an event that takes place in three phases: knowing toward, knowing through, and knowing from. When we are learning something initially we are knowing toward that thing. At this point that thing is nothing more than a concept, something for us to consider. Now, we may study this concept to gain comprehension of it. We may memorize it. We may even come to affirm it as something that we suggest is true. But Meek wants us to see that we do not truly know it until we move through the other two stages.

We move from knowing toward something to knowing through it only as we decide to test it out—to exercise faith that the concept is really true. This is not only a willingness to affirm its truth with our lives, but to exercise that affirmation by acting on it as if it’s true. This is THE key to truly growing in full knowledge. Only as we lay out through a truth claim can we come to truly know if it is real and right. If we never actually lay out through it, we may affirm it with our lips, but it will never actually change the way we live.

The result of laying out through a concept and experiencing its truth is that we come to rest in its reality. This is another way of saying that we begin to live from it. We conform ourselves to what we have experienced and has been affirmed to us as what is true and real and good. This is a picture of worldview. This knowing event has shaped that worldview, perhaps even by altering it, as we have grown in our understanding of reality.

I realize this is philosophical, but I hope that you will consider this. I have struggled greatly in reading Meek because I am not very philosophical myself. But I believe that this truth about knowing is absolutely key to spiritual formation. Here’s the spiritual application of this. So often we stop at being content to know toward biblical truth—even toward theological truth (or truth about who God is). The Bible calls us to go further than that. Paul prays that our knowledge would go deeper than that. God has placed the Spirit within us to lead us not just to affirmation toward what is true, but to lay out through it in faith so that we might come to know through experience that it is certain, good, and what is really real. Only then can our knowledge of God begin to shape our lives as we begin to live life from the truth of who he is. He does not desire for us to know him in concept alone; he desires for us to yield ourselves to who he really is. He desires for us to know all things in light of who he really is.

Brothers and sisters, I want for us to know God–not conceptually, but relationally…fully! This is the why behind the way we shape our programs like Sunday School and Life Groups. This is the why behind the way we shape our weekly Worship Guide.  I don’t want us to know toward God’s love (for example) in concept; I want us to come to more fully and deeply know his love as we not only lay out through the certainty of that love by faith, but come to live from the knowledge of his love.

This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a rich conversation that we will begin to have together about what it means to pursue knowing God. I look forward to having that conversation with you and pursuing knowing him together!


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What Does He See In Her? (February Newsletter)

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been at events like parties, proms, dances, even weddings, where I see a couple and think to myself, “what does he/she see in her/him?  How could they be together?” Yea, I know this is not the kind of question I should be asking (I said it’s a confession).  Questions like this are usually based on shallow perceptions and/or opinions that are ill-founded, judgmental and critical.   

     What if we asked that same question about Jesus and his bride, the church?  What does He see in her?  I am not talking about the individual believer when I ask this question.  Yes, Jesus loves the individual, and this love has nothing to do with me or you being worthy or deserving of this love.  Romans 5:8 makes this clear: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

     Jesus loves the Church, his bride.  He also loves each faithful local church. He knows each church, with its flaws, weaknesses, and failures, and he loves, pursues, and shepherds it anyway. He sees his church with a timeless perspective that looks back into eternity before God spoke this universe into existence.  In Ephesians 1:4 we read, “….he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  When Jesus looks at his church, he sees those who love has bought with a price so high, with blood so holy, with a redemptive purpose so amazing that the angels stand in awe and stare at it with wonder (I Pet 1:12).  He sees his church as a radiant bride standing before him cleansed, unblemished and faultless.  He sees individual forgiven sinners saved by sovereign grace adopted into his forever family as sons and daughters.  He sees redeemed individuals as essential interconnected parts placed together into his body.  He sees his Church (universal) and each local church, as the assembly of his saints, his holy nation, a people for his own possession (1 Pet 2:9). 

     This is why he guards us with a jealous passion. This is why he walks among his church protecting, encouraging, challenging, purging, and disciplining.  This is what we are seeing in chapters 2 and 3 in Revelation.  He is walking within his church to comfort us in our suffering and confront us in our sin.  He is eternally devoted to his church, his bride, and he demands our devotion as well.  His heart is not distracted – not divided in his affection toward us, and he will not abide our distracted and divided hearts.  He blazing eyes see it and he calls it out.  He calls out the church who has forsaken its first love (Ephesus).  He comforts his church who is facing ever increasing persecution (Smyrna).  He knows the church that has compromised herself (Pergamum).  He knows the church that is tolerating immorality and the one that is tempted in that direction (Thyateria).  He knows the one that looks alive from the outside but is really dead within (Sardis).  He knows the one that is weak, but still doing good (Philadelphia), and the one that thinks it’s doing well but is really lukewarm and in terrible condition (Laodicea). 

     Every one of these churches he jealously and passionately loves.  He loves them enough to call them to repentance, to call them back into a love relationship; to call them back home. 

     I am so thankful for the sovereign guidance of God that directs the ministry of the Word here at Westwood.  He has led us to exposit his Word book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse.  His timing is perfect in this.  We’ve seen this over and over through the years.   Five years ago we were working our way through Isaiah during a tumultuous political year.  Week after week, passage after passage the message to us was God alone is our source of strength, He alone is the One who says, “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Is 41:10)   

     And now, five years later, we find ourselves once again in a tumultuous time, with a global pandemic and politics and other cultural issues calling for our attention, our energy, and our participation.  Now we find ourselves in the study of Revelation, and like those first recipients of this letter, we are surrounded by idols, icons and ideologies that distract us and tempt us to compromise.  They detract from the central mission and message our King gave to his church.  They distract us from our first love and seek to draw us into compromise and complacency.  Jesus sees this, he is calling it out and calling us to repentance. 

     Now, more than ever, most of the people in our country have little or no religious affiliation.   These “nones” who have no ‘religious’ involvement and no ‘religious’ friends, so they judge Christ and Christianity by what they see on TV and social media.  But what they hear and see is not the Jesus of the Bible, and not Biblical Christianity.  What they see is a watered down, polluted, politicized and compromised Christianity.  Jesus loves his church enough to encourage us in our faithfulness, call us out when we are unfaithful, confront us in our failures and call us back to repentance, to call us back into a love relationship; to call us back home.    I’m thankful we are in the book of Revelation, and I’m thankful we can count on Christ to lovingly and faithfully speak to us through it.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”   May He enable us to conquer and claim the prize. 


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Week of December 6, 2020

This Week’s Passage: Matthew 1
 
Use this daily guide to help you internalize this week’s passage & message!
 
Sunday [KNOW]:
In a journal, reflect on today’s sermon by finishing any or all of the following:
I never knew…
I was reminded…
A question I still have…
I was challenged…
I was convicted…
A truth I could share is…
 
Monday [KNOW>BE]:
Spend some time today doing the following:
  1. Select a portion of this week’s sermon passage to memorize this week.
  2. Write your selected portion and read it to yourself throughout the day today.

 

Tuesday [Be]:

In a journal, spend some time meditating and writing about the following:

  1. Read the sermon passage again.
  2. Write a prayer of response, guided by the sermon passage. (May include adoration, confession/repentance, thanksgiving, petition, etc.).
  3. Write your selected portion of the Scripture several times to aid in memorization.

 

Wednesday [BE>DO]:

Think about this week’s questions for group discussion.

  1. What do we learn about the gospel from the genealogy recorded by Matthew? How does this genealogy proclaim the good news of the gospel?
  2. How does reading the Old Testament help you in understanding who you are? Who Jesus is? Which part of this genealogy resonates most with you and why?
  3. In what ways are you intentionally preparing your heart for the Christmas season this year? In this unique year, what are the greatest threats seeking to distract your heart?

 

Thursday [DO]:

In a journal, spend some time considering the following:

  1. What insights have you had while internalizing this week’s passage?
  2. How specifically will you seek to apply its truths in your home/workplace/life in general?

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Week of November 29, 2020

This week’s Passage: Psalm 119:169-176
 
Use this daily guide to help you internalize this week’s passage & message!
 
Sunday [KNOW]:
In a journal, reflect on today’s sermon by finishing any or all of the following:
I never knew…
I was reminded…
A question I still have…
I was challenged…
I was convicted…
A truth I could share is…
 
Monday [KNOW>BE]
Spend some time today doing the following:
  1. Select a portion of this week’s sermon passage to memorize this week.
  2. Write your selected portion and read it to yourself throughout the day today.
 
Tuesday [Be]:
In a journal, spend some time meditating and writing about the following:
  1. Read the sermon passage again.
  2. Write a prayer of response, guided by the sermon passage. (May include adoration, confession/repentance, thanksgiving, petition, etc.).
  3. Write your selected portion of the Scripture several times to aid in memorization.

Wednesday [BE>DO]:

Think about this week’s questions for group discussion.

  1. How have you felt compelled through the study of Psalm 119 to respond yourself?
  2. Did the illustration about working your job or participating in a hobby help you understand what it looks like to embody the Word? In what ways has Psalm 119 let us to do this?
  3. I have the truths that we have learned about God‘s word through the study helped you uniquely during this difficult season this year?

Thursday [DO]:

In a journal, spend some time considering the following:
  1. What insights have you had while internalizing this week’s passage?
  2. How specifically will you seek to apply its truths in your home/workplace/life in general?

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Week of November 22, 2020

This week’s passage: Psalm 119:161-168
 
Use this daily guide to help you internalize this week’s passage & message!
 
Sunday [KNOW]:
In a journal, reflect on today’s sermon by finishing any or all of the following:
I never knew…
I was reminded…
A question I still have…
I was challenged…
I was convicted…
A truth I could share is…
 
Monday [KNOW>BE]
Spend some time today doing the following:
  1. Select a portion of this week’s sermon passage to memorize this week.
  2. Write your selected portion and read it to yourself throughout the day today.
 
Tuesday [Be]:
In a journal, spend some time meditating and writing about the following:
  1. Read the sermon passage again.
  2. Write a prayer of response, guided by the sermon passage. (May include adoration, confession/repentance, thanksgiving, petition, etc.).
  3. Write your selected portion of the Scripture several times to aid in memorization.

Wednesday [BE>DO]:

Think about this week’s questions for group discussion.

  1. “We are not pushed along by what we know; we are pulled along by what we love.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Do you see this idea in our passage this week?
  2. Read 1 John 4:16-21. As a group (or a family or individual), list all of the ways God’s love affects us. How have you experienced each of these affects in your own life?
  3. Looking back through the list you just made, If we allow our love for something(s) other than God to become supreme, how does that mis-aimed love affect us in these same areas? What should be our response to this?

Thursday [DO]:

In a journal, spend some time considering the following:
  1. What insights have you had while internalizing this week’s passage?
  2. How specifically will you seek to apply its truths in your home/workplace/life in general?

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Week of November 15, 2020

This Week’s Passage: Psalm 119:145-160
 
Use this daily guide to help you internalize this week’s passage & message!
 
Sunday [KNOW]:
In a journal, reflect on today’s sermon by finishing any or all of the following:
I never knew…
I was reminded…
A question I still have…
I was challenged…
I was convicted…
A truth I could share is…
 
Monday [KNOW>BE]
Spend some time today doing the following:
  1. Select a portion of this week’s sermon passage to memorize this week.
  2. Write your selected portion and read it to yourself throughout the day today.
 
Tuesday [Be]:
In a journal, spend some time meditating and writing about the following:
  1. Read the sermon passage again.
  2. Write a prayer of response, guided by the sermon passage. (May include adoration, confession/repentance, thanksgiving, petition, etc.).
  3. Write your selected portion of the Scripture several times to aid in memorization.

Wednesday [BE>DO]:

Think about this week’s questions for group discussion.

  1. Do you think you would pay closer attention or respond differently to God speaking through a human prophet than through the written Word? Why or why not? Do you think your present level of response to the written words of Scripture is an appropriate one?
  2. How much confidence would you say you have in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures? Would you say that the every day rhythms of your life match the level of confidence that you are willing to express in your spoken response?
  3. What is the real difference that you have experienced when you have consistently abided in the Word and in prayer? Can you say that your heart truly echoes what the Psalmist proclaims in v. 145-148?

Thursday [DO]:

In a journal, spend some time considering the following:
  1. What insights have you had while internalizing this week’s passage?
  2. How specifically will you seek to apply its truths in your home/workplace/life in general?

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