"In Christ" – Series through Ephesians begins this Sunday


This Sunday we begin a new series through the book of Ephesians. This little letter has been considered one of the greatest treasures of the New Testament for thousands of years. Some have considered it to be the “crown and climax of Pauline theology.” And there is no doubt about it, Ephesians is deep and rich with gospel truth.

At the heart of this letter is the phrase “in Christ.” This is one of Paul’s favorite terms in all of his writings, but especially so in Ephesians. What he means for us to see and understand is that to be a Christian is not merely an intellectual idea, but rather a positional reality. That is, being made a follower of Jesus by grace through faith, we are actually “in Christ” or one with him. This is absolutely incredible! Pastor and commentator Kent Hughes says, “Ephesians reveals the position and job description of the Church in effecting God’s new order. It answers the question, what does it mean to be in Christ, and what does this demand of us?” (Emphasis mine).

It is this amazing theme that we’ll be delving deeply into over the next 30 weeks or so. It is our hope and prayer that this study will help us to know Jesus more intimately than ever before and also compel us to make him known in the every day details of our lives.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday as we kick of this sermon series by publicly reading the entire letter together during our gathering.

Christ is all!

Pastor Mike

Jesus Is The Better Man

Titus 2 is a rather difficult text to preach. It’s a very pointed chapter in regards to how the Christian life is supposed to be lived. The danger through this chapter is that we could easily miss the finished work of Jesus (the gospel) and swerve into various forms of legalism that wouldn’t be helpful for anyone. 

Last Sunday, we looked at knowing what’s good for men. In order for men to “live the good life,” we need sound doctrine, we need to know we’re men, and we need a clear vision for what manhood is. Culturally, all these are difficult to come by. But not by any means impossible. 

Helpful Resources
On Sunday, I said I would create a list of resources that I’ve found helpful. Here are some of my favorite:

I don’t listen to other preachers like I used to, but on occasion, I still like to listen to a few of these guys. Recently, I’ve been listening to Ray Ortlund. He’s a father figure in the Acts 29 network who’s incredibly wise. One of the important things with listening to preachers online is not to allow them to replace your local pastor. These are incredibly gifted men who are speaking into their specific contexts. They won’t cover things I might cover, and I won’t cover things they might cover. On another note, I’m not trying to preach like any of these guys, so don’t expect me to. 
Tim Keller
Matt Chandler
Ray Ortlund
Harvey Turner
John Piper

I think I could list out hundreds of books that I’ve found helpful over the years. I won’t do that though. There are books for just about everything you could imagine, and you need to be careful. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes said: “Of making many books there is not end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Solomon isn’t saying, “don’t study.” He is saying that endless study will not ultimately satisfy us. Only Jesus can do this. So here are some books I’ve found influential:
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem: This book is HUGE. But don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s made so you can search a specific topic you want to research. 
The Cross of Christ by John Stott: This book will make make you cry. Just saying. 
Prodigal God by Tim Keller: This is one of the most clear presentation of the gospel I’ve ever read! (And anything you read by Tim Keller is gold!)
What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp: I just read this book a couple months ago. I wish I would have read it years ago. If we can put the things this book talks about into practice, our marriages will change!
Tender Warrior by Stu Webber: Just an all around good book on what it looks like to be a godly man. 
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: This book will challenge your mind, but it will also shape your thoughts about being a Christian in a profound way. 

I’ve also found books by Martyn Lloyd Jones to be helpful. The Puritans are challenging, but great. Read men like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Richard Sibbes, and so on. Charles Spurgeon was known as the Prince of Preachers in the mid 1800’s. His stuff is great too.

I could go on for days. If you want a good book recommendation for a specific topic, just let me know. And if I don’t have one off the top of my head, I’ll do so research for you. 

Other Podcasts:
If you’re interested in free online classes, iTunes university offers some great ones. Reformed Theological Seminary, and Covenant Theological Seminary have great free courses. Again, if you have more questions about this stuff, just ask. 

Jesus Is The Better Man
Ultimately men, we must continually be reminded that Jesus is the better man. We could listen to sermons, read books, and take classes all day long. We could do everything to live a better life, and honestly be all around “good guys,” but without Jesus we are still lost and without hope. He is the image of what it looks like to be a man, and he was the man in our place that we cannot be. By faith in Christ, God looks upon you and sees you as he sees Christ. This is the good news that begins to deeply change us. When we fail, we can turn to Jesus because he was successful. Where we’re successful, we can glorify Jesus because he has made our success possible. He is our risen hope for what it looks like to be new men. Trust him.   


Yesterday, we started our series through Nehemiah. As it looks right now, this is going to be a 16 part series. For our time together, we looked at two points: Nehemiah's Context, and Nehemiah's Call. If you missed it, you can head over to our sermon page and give it a listen.

In this blog post, I want to list some of Nehemiah's key themes, as well as look at why this is an important book for us in our current context.  

Nehemiah's Key Themes

There are four main themes that we'll see over and over through Nehemiah. They are:

  • Nehemiah's doctrine of God.
  • Nehemiah's passion for Scripture.
  • Nehemiah's experience of prayer.
  • Nehemiah's experience in leadership.

There are certainly many more sub-themes that we'll see throughout the book, but these are the key themes which drive everything else. As you read through Nehemiah, watch for these themes. Nehemiah was a man with an incredibly high view of God which the church today can certainly learn from. He was a man devoted to God's word–it is clear that the whole of his life was informed by Scripture. He was a man who prayed–on just about every page of this story is some mention of prayer. He was a strong leader–there are few people today who can rally people behind a vision the way we'll see Nehemiah do it. 

Nehemiah's importance

One of the questions many have asked is, why Nehemiah? On one level the answer is simply, why not? We believe all of Scripture to be God's word and profitable for our maturing and health as followers of Jesus. The other reason to study Nehemiah, is that it is incredibly relevant to our time as a church, and culture. For example:

  • Nehemiah had to deal with the discomforts of change. God called him to a task 800 miles from where he had likely lived his whole life, and the task was going to be anything but easy.
  • Nehemiah had to deal with fierce individualism.
  • Nehemiah lived in a culture where the social injustices were extreme because many favored their own materialistic possessions over caring for the community at large.
  • Nehemiah lived in a pluralistic society. God's Word, commands, and people were marginalized.
  • Nehemiah's people, the Jews, though steeped in the religion of Judaism, knew very little of God's actual word. The same holds true for much of the church today.

As you can see, many of the issues Nehemiah dealt with are the same issues we deal with. Raymond Brown, in his commentary on Nehemiah, summarizes it well saying,

"Nehemiah lived heroically on the frontier between two worlds: human life as God intended it to be and as people have chosen to make it."

The gospel in Nehemiah

All of Scripture is ultimately about Jesus. Nehemiah is certainly no different. As we study Nehemiah, we need to always keep the reality before us that, though Nehemiah is the heroic figure of this story, he's simply a shadow of the Great Hero to come about 400 years later. Jesus would be born into human history and he alone would have perfect passion for God's holiness, the perfect view of Scripture, the perfect experience of prayer, and be the perfect leader. Jesus alone is our great intercessor and he alone can fully redeem and restore us back into a right relationship with God because he alone lived a life free of sin. He died the death we deserve, rose victoriously from the grave, and is continuing to make a people for himself.

I'm praying we learn much as we work through the book of Nehemiah, and I'm praying you are served well as we learn together about a people redeemed to redeem the nations!