September 2020 Newsletter Article

One of the books I am currently reading is A Way with Words, Using Our Online Conversations for Good, by Daniel Darling. I am reading it with a sense of urgency, because when I attended seminary there wasn’t a class in cyber-shepherding, and I need help pastoring I am reading it with a sense of urgency because our culture and community are divided like never before along many different lines and ideologies. I am reading it with a sense of urgency because so much of what I see and read on social media that comes from professing Christians is not good, not true, not edifying, not unifying, not honoring to God and not consistent with the character and words of Christ.
 
Darling recently wrote a short article addressing the inconsistency often seen between our online bio and our online words. In “Jesus in the Bio but Nasty in the Timeline?” Darling wrote:
 
A follower of Jesus myself, I normally like to see those words on someone’s Twitter profile. Lately, however, I’m reluctant to scroll down for fear that this same follower has cussed out a politician on the social media platform or tweeted nasty things at a person they disagree with.
 
How can people who claim Jesus as Lord act so mean?
 
First, we often think that because we are fighting for the right things – justice, truth, righteousness — that it doesn’t matter how we say what we say. The Apostle Peter, no stranger to impulsive talk, has a tip for us. He urged first-century believers to “have an answer for everyone for the hope that lies within you” but to do this with “gentleness and kindness.” (I Peter 3:15) In other words, civility and courage are not enemies, but friends. The loudest person in the room or online is not necessarily the most courageous.
 
Second, we go off the rails online because we forget the humanity of the person on the other end of that tweet. That person we are calling out or punching at rhetorically is not a mere avatar to be crushed, but a person, made in the image of God. Those with whom we disagree are not the sum total of their opinions. James, Jesus’ brother and another leader in the first-century church, urges us to consider the imago dei of the other before we unleash a verbal assault. (James 3:9)
 
Third, we often abandon kindness because politics has replaced religion as the primary driver of our discourse. We may have Jesus in the bio, but it’s the Republican or Democratic Party that is really in our hearts.
 
The collapse of religious institutions and the decline of church attendance have created a vacuum that politics is only too ready to fill. But politics makes for a disappointing god. It only takes and will never fully satisfy the longings of the heart.
 
How do we know we are worshipping at the altar of the 24/7 political cycle? When we make every argument a political one. When every aspect of life becomes read through a narrow ideological lens. When every criticism of our candidate is perceived as an attack on our hero. When we turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of leaders in our ideological camp.
As we muddle through the coming election season and a global pandemic that has divided Americans, Christians will be more tempted than ever to abandon civility.
 
Darling is right! Jesus diagnoses the problem perfect clarity: ….what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart (Matt 15:18). For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34).
 
Here is a straightforward and simple suggestion (actually it’s a Scriptural command!): Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).
 
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Quick to hear; slow to speak (or to type), slow to anger. May God helps us to do this, and may we be known as people who know the truth and who speak it with love, grace and clarity.

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June 2020 Newsletter Article

That’s Good, No That’s Bad is a children’s book about a little boy whose family’s trip to the zoo turns into an adventure when he rises into the sky holding onto a balloon and lands into all kinds of escapades with different animals of the zoo. That’s Good, No That’s Bad is also a comedy routine on old TV series Hee Haw.  (That’s Good, No That’s Bad is also a song I’ve never by a group I’d never heard of – Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs.)

 

That’s Good no that’s bad in some ways could describe the feelings church elders and leaders have as we try to navigate the transition back to where we were pre-covid 19. We’re riding high on the balloon toward getting back together and we say, “that’s good!”   Then we realize, “oh wait – there’s a lot to decide and get settled before we get back together – that’s bad!” 

 

Then we also realize, “wow – what’s good and what’s bad differs greatly depending on who you talk to or listen to.”   A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about these things, some of those opinions are strongly held.  

 

So for me as an Elder / Pastor of this church – here’s my primary concern: how do we work through this difficult season and guard the unity of the body as we should?  How do we maintain a God-honoring, Gospel-validating, neighbor-loving witness we are called to have? 

 

Over the last few days as I’ve have read various articles and observed social media here’s a few things I’ve noticed.  

 

First, a lot of people (Christians included) seem to have strong convictions about issues related to this pandemic.    There’s nothing necessarily wrong with having convictions.  Convictions are not the issue – but how you hold those convictions can be the issue; or more specifically, how you hold others up to your convictions, or how you treat others according to those convictions.   

 

Paul had a lot to say in Romans 14 and 15 about strongly held convictions and how they relate to maintaining the unity of the body, about not being divisive, about not passing judgment on those who have different convictions on non-essential matters.  At the end of this passage he writes, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5–7  

 

Your convictions concerning this pandemic should never threaten or damage your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.   

 

Second, a lot of people (Christians included) seem to have strong confidence about their particular positions or opinions related to this pandemic.  Have you noticed how remarkably confident so many are in their views right now?    I see much confidence, and not much humility.  Every day so called “expert” opinions are changing – and what is classified as essential by some is unnecessary in the opinion of others.  So perhaps a more Christ-like characteristic we could aspire to and exemplify would be humility.   The body of Christ, and the community we live in, will be better served by the church if our confidant stance and confident words are based on Jesus and his glorious gospel rather than the strength of our various positions on this pandemic. 

 

Third, it’s evident that a lot of people (Christians included) have little patience for those who would differ from them on their convictions and positions.   This has become a prominent characteristic of our national conversation, and we see this in many areas of life.  This global pandemic event is certainly no different.  Opinions are plentiful; strong opinions are prominent -and patience with those holding other positions or opinions is all too rare.  This should not be the case for those who have been on the receiving end of God’s patience.  Forbearance, not impatience, should be the distinguishing mark for us as God’s people.  

 

Covid-19 has proved itself to be a moving target, an enemy that even the experts acknowledge is elusive.  Personal convictions concerning Covid-19 are not bad – but those convictions must not divide us as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Christ-like humility should be a distinguishing characteristic for the church.  And if we are going to be known for our confidence, let it be our confidence in the sovereign loving care of God and the saving power of his glorious gospel.  Humility and patience help us avoid thinking the worst of people and acknowledges that the other side of a debate is sometimes right, and we are sometimes wrong. 

 

As we move forward our church is beginning to move back toward some sense of normalcy.  But for the foreseeable future this new normal will be very different from what it was three months ago.  All of us will have different opinions of what this should look like and how we should proceed.  So what Paul urged the Ephesian church is equally urgent for us today: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1–3).

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April 2020 Newsletter Article

I had surgery two weeks ago to repair an inguinal hernia. This surgery, like all the others, has reminded me how connected and inter-related are the parts of my body. When I hurt in one part –all of me feels the pain. (BTW – I’m doing good and recovery is progressing well)
 
The inter-connectedness of our physical body is an illustration of a spiritual truth. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26–27)
 
This morning I read an article by Erik Raymond in which he asks the question, How Can We Be the Body When Physically Separated?
 
This is a question the Elders and Deacons here at Westwood have been asking and working through for the past three weeks.
 
Millions of Christians around the world are answering this question during the increasingly restrictive measures deployed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. God’s people come together in myriad ways, but most primarily by gathering on the Lord’s Day for worship. But now, in this current crisis, we cannot.
 
How can we be the body of Christ when physically separated? While being physically present substantially enhances our fellowship in the body of Christ, it is not the exclusive sphere of our togetherness. In other words, the bond together as a body is not primarily physical but spiritual. This means that we as Christians can still do good to one another, even when we are apart.
 
Here are five ways we can be the body of Christ, even when we are physically separated.
 
READ
We need to spend time in the Word of God ourselves (Ps. 1). Neglecting to feed ourselves on the bread of life is spiritual suicide by starvation. In addition, neglecting the Bible is also to neglect the body of Christ.
Reading God’s Word – meditating on it, memorizing it, speaking it back into each other’s lives is essential for the health if the Body. Do all of this so you can have something to encourage your brothers or sisters with. Most of what people hear and see today is fuel for fear. Yes, there are real needs. Yes, there is reason to be concerned. Yes, people are hurting and confused. The answers people most need will be found in God’s Word. If you can take from your own freshly prepared meal of God’s Word and share it with others, then you will be serving them well. When we speak to one another, we need to say words that fit the need of the moment and give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29). To do this, we need to give ourselves to the daily reading of the Scriptures.
 
PRAY
Prayer is one of the most obvious things we can do. Being separated by space does not limit the service we can provide to each other in this way. We can take the prayers of Scripture and make them our own. The prayers of Paul are an excellent place to start. We can take the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9–14) and pray it for one another. You can use your church directory as a prayer list. Pray for members of your LifeGroup and Sunday School class. Pray for your elders and Deacons and their families also. While you may be personally quarantined, your prayers are not.
 
FIGHT
Since we are members of one body, it matters what we do with our physical bodies. There are implications for our union as a church. We are to pursue holiness and be intolerant of sin. The fighting I’m talking about is against our own sin. With the understanding that we are part of the body of Christ we then want to fight against sin that would pollute the body. Just like you wouldn’t want to do something that would hurt yourself, so too, you don’t want to injure the body. During the time of isolation for coronavirus reports indicate that all sorts of undesirable activities are increasing. Sins like drunkenness, abuse, pornography, and others are on the rise. As Christians, we don’t see this time as a season for moral laxity or self-indulgence but of holiness through self-denial. We are to fight against sin and put it to death because we are Christ’s (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). And if we are Christ’s then we are part of his body.
 
SERVE
Being apart can make serving more difficult. It forces us to be creative. Instead of meeting face to face, we can pick up the phone and call each other to check-in. We can also text, email, or video chat. Make it a goal of the intentional interaction to speak words of encouragement and grace to one another. Remind them of what God has impressed upon your heart. Tell them how you’ve been praying for them. Ask if they have any physical, financial, or other needs. As these needs arise, be in contact with your elders and deacons to advise of the needs.
 
GIVE
One expression of being a part of the body of Christ is the regular, joyful, and sacrificial giving to the Lord’s work in our local churches. The current crisis has far-reaching implications, and local churches like Westwood are not exempt. Even though we are not meeting publicly, the needs continue. I am thankful for way our members are demonstrating faithfulness in stewardship. Several new folks are utilizing on-line giving platform, and others are mailing their tithes to the church office.
There are many other ways the church can be the church when not gathered together physically. If you have any suggestions or ideas, I’d love to hear from you. God is in control, and he remains unflinchingly committed to his church. Let us seek his wisdom to do the same.
 
The basis for this article comes from Erik Raymond in a piece he wrote for Gospel Coalition entitled How Can We Be the Body When Physically Separated? I made a few changes that relate to us here at Westwood.

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The Prayers of Paul

How can we be the body of Christ without meeting face-to-face?  This is a question the Elders and Deacons here at Westwood have been asking and working through for the past three weeks. 

God’s people come together in myriad ways, but most primarily by gathering on the Lord’s Day for worship. But now, in this current crisis, we cannot. 

How can we be the body of Christ when physically separated? Prayer is one of the most obvious things we can do. Being separated by space does not limit the service we can provide to each other in this way.  We can take the prayers of Scripture and make them our own.  The prayers of Paul are an excellent place to start.    Here is a list of those prayers.  Read them, meditate on them, internalize them……pray them. 

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. [Romans 10:1]

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. [Romans 12:12]

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Romans 15:5–6]

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Romans 15:13]

I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen. [Romans 15:30–33]

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way— in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. [1 Corinthians 1:4–9]

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. [1 Corinthians 16:23]

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. [2 Corinthians 1:3–7]

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the

smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? [2 Corinthians 2:14–16]

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has give you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! [2 Corinthians 9:12–15]

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [2 Corinthians 12:7–9a]

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. [2 Corinthians 13:7–9]

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. [Galatians 6:18]

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. . . . [Ephesians 1:3ff.]

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. [Ephesians 1:15–23]

For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the

saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. [Ephesians 3:14–21]

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. [Ephesians 6:19–20]

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. [Philippians 1:3–6]

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. [Philippians 1:9–11]

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Phil. 4:6–7]

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. [Philippians 4:23]

We always thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [Colossians 1:3–14]

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. [Colossians 4:2–4]

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Thessalonians 1:2–3]

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. [1 Thessalonians 2:13–16]

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. [1 Thessalonians 3:9–13]

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. [1 Thessalonians 5:23–24]

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. [1 Thessalonians 5:28]

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. . . . [2 Thessalonians 1:3ff.]

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. [2 Thessalonians 1:11–12]

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. [2 Thessalonians 2:16–17]

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. [2 Thessalonians 3:2–5]

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. [2 Thessalonians 3:16]

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. [1 Timothy 1:12]

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. . . . [1 Timothy 2:1ff.]

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. [2 Timothy 1:3–7]

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus. [2 Timothy 1:16–18]

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. [2 Timothy 4:22]

Grace be with you all. [Titus 3:15b]

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. [Philemon 4–7]

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. [Philemon 25]


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February 2020 Newsletter: Maintaining Healthy Marriages

“As go marriages so go families; as go families so go churches; as go churches so go communities; as go communities so go states; as go states so go nations; as go nations so go entire civilizations.” (Gary J. Oliver, Ph.D.)

Several years ago our church members approved and put in place a marriage/wedding policy that states, Marriage is a high and holy relationship in the eyes of God. The church has a tremendous opportunity to minister to couples and families through the process of courtship, pre-martial counseling, wedding preparation and the wedding itself.  This wedding policy is established to recognize the scriptural standards for marriage and uphold them.

The document communicates to our members and the community Westwood’s position and policies concerning the institution of marriage and the availability of the Westwood staff and facilities for weddings. It covers several aspects of a Biblical understanding of marriage, what it is, who can be married, and how our church and pastors will be involved in the planning and celebration of Christian marriage. 

We want to be certain, as best as we can, that marriages start off in the right way.  But what about after the wedding?  How are we as a church doing in ministering to the couples in our church when it comes to the ongoing, day-to-day work of marriage? (And it is work – as anyone who has been married for a significant period of time will tell you!)

The sad reality is that many churches do very little to intentionally strengthen and equip couples to have Christ-centered, satisfying, and long-lasting marriages.   Here at Westwood we don’t want to be one of those churches.  Our deepest desire is that Westwood be a church that comes alongside the marriages within our church, and strives with them to be the kind of marriages that are a testimony to who Christ is and the difference that He can make in a marriage, the kind of marriages that will truly impact this generation for the gospel.

Our church is full of marriages like that!   This month three Westwood couples will celebrate a combined 164 years of faithful marriage!  (Richard and Jan Overguard – 63 years, Gail & Phyllis Clayton – 51 years, Gene and Pat Roz – 50 years)     We are thankful for each of these families and pray that there will be many more like them!   As a church we are called to do all we can to see that happen. 

Healthy marriages are absolutely essential for healthy families and help provide a solid foundation for Westwood to be a healthy, vital, and vibrant church that make a generational impact.   Our church’s mission statement of Grounded, Growing and Going applies to the marriages of our church in profound ways. 

Grounded: We want to help individuals and married couples continue to develop deeper gospel foundations that allow us to meet each challenge facing our marriages with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Growing: We want to offer opportunities for married couples to intentionally work on areas of a marriage that need vital maintenance. This includes programs like Sunday School electives, as well as special events like our marriage retreat. This also includes our men’s and women’s ministries and urging our men and women to be growing with other men and women within the context of small discipleship/accountability groups.

Going: We want to equip married couples to live out the mission that God has called them to, both individually and together, in the various vocations in which they serve (to each other, to their children in parenting, in their workplaces, to their neighbors, etc.).

Much of what we do to strengthen marriages is done quietly and privately – in living rooms and counseling sessions; in tear-filled conversations and heart-to-heart accountability meetings; in prayer-filled phone calls and truth-filled emails. 

Some of what we do to strengthen marriages is done publicly and corporately, like Sunday School classes and Lifegroups.  One such event is the upcoming marriage conference.  I hope you are registered to attend!  The conference will feature Dr. Tate Cockrell from Southeastern Seminary, and will include a catered meal on Friday evening and a continental breakfast on Saturday morning.  You can get more information and register for the conference here
 
 
-Pastor Gerald

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