The Ascension

Over the last 12 weeks, we have been in a series journeying through the Psalms of Ascent. Remember, this is a collection of psalms that served as a soundtrack for the Israelites’ travels to Jerusalem to celebrate the pilgrim feasts. These were songs that were sung over and over, not just so that they’d be memorized, but so they’d be lived.

Pastor Greg did a great job of reminding us where we’ve been over the last 12 weeks during the message, but let me take a moment and review it here as well.

  • Psalm 120 was about the fact that repentance is the beginning of discipleship.
  • Psalm 121 reminded us that our help comes from God, not from idols.
  • Psalm 122 called us to dwell on the calling to be people of peace.
  • Psalm 124 taught us about the freedom we have through a relationship with God, like a bird set free from a cage.
  • Psalm 126 showed how pain increases our focus and dependency on God, how God uses it for good.
  • Psalm 127 we asked the question, “Who’s building your house?”, and we were challenged to raise up God’s family and our own with His help.
  • Psalm 129 reminded us that we are “fighting from victory not for victory” because the spiritual battle has already been won by Jesus.
  • Psalm 130 taught us about “God working in the waiting.”
  • Psalm 131 we heard about humility, “staying low to grow.”
  • Psalm 132 was a call to understand that releasing our plans is necessary to embracing God’s promise.
  • Psalm 133 was a call to a “muy bueno” unity.

I hope reading back through the Psalms and the main idea behind them brings back some memories. I hope it stirs up some of the ways God spoke to you through this series. I hope it gives me hope about the way he’s going to continue to speak to you in the future.

When we designed this series, the overall goal was to encourage our church along the path of discipleship. Life is a journey, and these journey songs make a great Road Trip Playlist for our lives. They touch places deep within our heart that may be wounded, they give hope to desperate situations, and they call us to obedience in the face of challenge. Take some time today and think back through the Psalms and ask Jesus for one thing he wants to say to you through the review, and then ask him what he wants you to do in response.

I stumbled across one more song that I think is worth hearing. It’s a capstone or summary of the Road Trip. It’s entitled The Ascension by Phil Wickham. Click here to listen to it on YouTube.

Pastor Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

Receiving Blessing on our Knees

I love standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean. It reminds me just how small I am and how big God is! As I watch the waves crash on the shore, it is easy to recognize the power of our Creator, how he is worthy of praise and how surrendering to him releases me from my own need to control. When we worship, we often bend our knees and take a posture of submission, a posture of surrender. It is saying to God that we believe so deeply in his holiness and majesty that we are willing, sometimes for just a moment, to relinquish everything we are to his authority as we lift him high and bless his name. As we declare God’s holiness, we can’t help but be awestruck by the contrast between his majesty and our own human insufficiency.

Much of Scripture talks about praising God but the Bible also tells us that God, who created us and loves us beyond measure, longs to pour out his blessings on us, his dearly beloved children. In Numbers 6:24-26, God instructs Moses on how he and Aaron are to bless the Israelites by saying, “The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord cause His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His face to you and give you peace.”

When you hear those words, what posture do you take? Do you stand proud and say, “keep it coming?” or do you, in receiving God’s blessing, feel a sense of awe and a need to surrender? Could it be that surrender is not only required in giving blessing but also in receiving? Accepting blessing means that we stop and pause long enough to experience its magnitude, submit ourselves to the One who is giving the blessing and then receive it with open hands. When we pause and recognize that God’s blessing is a measure of his grace, we come to the realization that we did nothing to deserve it, but it is purely a gift from a loving Father. In receiving blessing with a pure heart, we fully surrender, on our knees, to the only One who is worthy of both giving and receiving blessing with no strings attached. Receiving blessing simply requires nothing but surrender to our Lord who is ready and waiting to offer his perfect blessings of love, grace, and peace.

Lynette Fuson
Director of Care & Counseling

Blessing our Creator

I’ve never met a person who didn’t appreciate a blessing or a word of praise, in fact, some people are so unused to getting it, that they really blossom when it occurs. Like a plant so dry and thirsty that when the rain comes it can’t help but bloom.  And when someone has spoken well of you and it comes back to you, isn’t that a special blessing?  In Psalm 134 God is commanding us to praise Him and speak well of Him. In fact, praising him and giving thanks is the most repeated theme in the bible.

All God commands us is for our good and his glory. He doesn’t need our serving or giving or worship, since he gives us life and breath and everything. (2 Acts 17: 24-25) When he commands us to sing or pray or love our enemies, it is for our good. When God commands us to give our money, it’s not because he needs it, but that we might find him to be our treasure. And in being the source of all our good and blessing he is glorified.  (Read Psalm 50) When we praise Him, we begin to understand the mystery of God’s perfect plan. “The God of hope wants to fill us with all joy and peace . . .”

What a great privilege it is to bless or praise the Creator of all things and recognize His character as He reveals it.  He wants us to look at Him until we see His glory and it fills us until it can’t help but be expressed in joy.  Psalm 145 reminds in verses 8-9 that . . .

"The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made."

In 13b-20 we’re reminded,

"The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.
The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

And when our gratitude-filled souls praise Him in good times and bad and recognize all He has done for us, we can’t help but love others and speak well of him and our salvation to others.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant

What Blessing the Lord Could Be

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Over the weekend I was listening to a lot of music that might be called “oldies” or Motown hits. One song stood out from Jackie Wilson, (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher. I have liked this song for a long time, it is catchy, has a good melody, and an uplifting message. In the story of the song, you can hear how the singer was blessed by this person’s love and how it changed his attitude and his outlook. Usually, we look to people or to God to do this for us. Psalm 134 however commands us to bless or praise the Lord.

 We are to bless him by praising him. Expressing our love, admiration, and devotion to him. Of course, practically speaking, we do this by singing, studying, praying, or engaging in fellowship. This pleases God, but as I look at Psalm 134:1, I see the sacrificial aspect of this command. People took time away from hobbies, work, and everything else to come and bless the Lord. The priests and probably some of the people were to devote the whole night to this action. Surely this blessing would have pleased the Lord.

Another aspect of following this command is how it not only blesses God, but it blesses all those around. God’s people being devoted in this way would reveal God’s glory to all their neighbors. It would allow us to be ambassadors to people who might not know him. Following Psalm 134 would reveal people living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus in all the normal aspects of life. Realistically what we might see if we follow this command is Psalm 96:2-3 lived out:

 Sing to the Lord, bless his name.

     tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,

     his marvelous works among all the peoples!

This act of obedience would be a wonderful way to bless God. Whether you sing or talk of what Jesus has done, we have a chance to talk about God’s love and reveal his glory to all those around us. This simple command is much more than feeling better (like the song I mentioned above), it is about being who he has called us to be. Take some time to think about how you could follow this command today.

Pastor Jeremy 
Family Pastor 

Our Purpose & Privilege

“You’ve gotta serve somebody” sang Bob Dylan in his song Gotta Serve Somebody, “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” It was (and still is) a surprising song for a musician known for his drug use and reckless living. Bob Dylan symbolized the anti-establishment, free-wheelin’ hippy love of the 1960s that seemed to be what America represented.

But this admission from Dylan, the icon of a society known for its flippant freedom from anything sacred, rings true: we were made to worship. This was long known to the people of the Bible. This is why the Psalms, including 134, are littered with commands to “praise the LORD!”

Isn’t it amazing to consider that God desires our praise? We, limited, finite, petty, and weak creatures compared to Him! And yet, this is what he made us for! To praise something is central to what it means to be human. This is why it is our purpose in life to praise God: for He alone is the object that is to be praised. Everything else is a distraction.

But this is the sort of mistake that most of us make: we end up praising the wrong things. The price of this is that we lose sight of the purpose God gave us. In fact, we begin to take on the qualities of the thing we praise.

Psalm 115:8, “Those who make [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

So says G.K. Beale in his book We Become What We Worship: “People will always reflect something, whether it be God’s character or some feature of the world. If people are committed to God, they will become like him; if they are committed to something other than God, they will become like that thing, always spiritually inanimate and empty like the lifeless and vain aspect of creation to which they have committed themselves.”

It turns out that our purpose in life is found when we fall to our knees and worship the only One who is worthy of worship. We could search every option in our pluralistic society, only to discover that each and every distraction only served to dilute our praise of the only One deserving.

Our lives will ring hollow until the moment we discover that not only is it our purpose to praise God, but it’s also our privilege.

Ryan Lunde
Young Adults Pastor

The Blessing of Unity

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. - Psalm 133

Those are the first and last lines of Psalm 133, the middle part consists of two similes that explain how great this unity is. Clearly, unity is a wonderful thing, but according to this Psalm, unity is the place where “the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” Unity is not just beneficial to us. It isn’t just a great byproduct. According to the Psalm, unity is a lot more than that. This Psalm suggests that being a person who dwells in unity is something absolutely central to what it means to be a human designed in the image of God.

How do I get that from these few verses? Well, think with me… when did God command the blessing or “life”? When did God bless humans and tell them to be fruitful and multiply? He did so in the Garden of Eden in chapter 1 of our book. It was there, in the Garden, that it says that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.(Gen 1:31). The Hebrew phrase that is used for that is tōv meōd… literally, it could be translated as “good, with muchness.” I love that phrase. It is God saying that He had done well and that His creation was just the way He wanted it to be. However, before God could say this, He actually said something quite opposite. In Genesis 2:18 (which is later in our text, but earlier in the chronology), God looked out on that same almost finished creation and declared that something was “not good.” It was lo tōv… it was ungood. It lacked the full blessing of God. Why? God, Himself explained, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” So, out of all the creation, the only thing that God found to be lacking in goodness, was the fact that this man was alone. You see, one of the interesting things about God is that He has never been alone. God doesn’t know what it is like to be alone. And I don’t think that God wanted His creation to be alone either. So, God creates a partner for the man so that the two of them could dwell in unity.

As we all know, that unity didn’t last very long, but it is still our goal. When men and women, brothers, sisters, friends, families, and churches live in unity, we actually begin to live the way that God wanted us to live all along. I think the point of all of this is to say that somehow, we represent God better when we are living life together, in unity with others. And this is most true when it comes to Christ’s Church. Unity is supposed to be our calling card. It is supposed to be the thing that sets us apart. So, let’s look inside our hearts today. Are you a person who dwells in unity? What can you do today to take a step closer to becoming a person who does?

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

Love vs. Opinions

We have the privilege of living in a country where we are completely free to voice opinions on everything from our leaders and their policies to whether or not we should wear masks. We also have the opportunity of listening to all of the different viewpoints of people who live in this country.  Is it possible that we get so carried away with getting our own views across that we don’t completely hear others or we miss out on moments to learn from each other? Isaiah 50:4 says, The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,  to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

Jesus was a listener. He listened to the woman He met at the well in Luke 24, he listened to the woman He healed in Luke 8, and in Mark 10 He listened to Bartimaeus, the blind man, even though the crowd tried to silence him. Jesus listened and as a result, people felt worthy, significant, loved, and accepted. He often responded as he did to Bartimaeus with a question that let the person know that they had been heard. Jesus loved people and no matter what, wanted them to know that they were valued.

Can we promote unity and make a difference in our families churches, and country by loving and listening to people as Jesus did? I believe we can. We can choose to prioritize relationships over the need to be right and pray that our responses reflect godly wisdom. We can agree to disagree when we value the relationship. Only with the heart of Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit can we share our viewpoint, yet listen well to the other side. And maybe, just maybe, we don’t need to voice an opinion at all, but just listen. Maybe making the other person feel valued above all else might require just listening.

I want to know both sides of the issues but most of all, I want to know God’s word and heart regarding it.  1 Corinthians 2:10 tells us that “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” And Psalm 147:5 says “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”

God loves us unconditionally and we are called to do the same, which means loving people like Jesus does regardless of their preferences or opinions. Let’s meditate on Psalm 139:4 today, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Lord, please help our words reflect your love and help us to be good listeners.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant

Like Dew

Unity is a beautiful thing. But unity that is seen in the midst of conflict brings hope of restoration, victory, and peace. Lately, as I have entered stores, watched the news, or just listened in on conversations, I have come to recognize that while some people’s opinions are disturbing to me, what truly bothers me more is the dissonance and confusion that comes from a total lack of unity. No doubt we each have our own opinions about politics, face masks, vaccines, racial tensions, worship styles, and the list goes on. What would happen though, if we focused instead on the fact that we are all children of God. Our Heavenly Father chose each of us to love one another, to declare the good news that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord of the world, to humbly serve, and to proclaim the glory and majesty of the Master of the Universe, our Creator, and King?

Psalm 133 portrays some interesting images. In verse 3 it says, “It (unity) is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!” So what does this dew do anyway!? A case study on dew says, “Dew forms a protective barrier on the leaf… making it more resilient in hot, dry conditions. Dew reduces heat stress in very hot environments.” Dew is a direct source of hydration in seasons of drought.

I would venture to say that we are currently in a season of drought. Could it be that the solution is as simple as dew or unity? Dew is said to be never causing damage; gentle, nourishing, and dependable. What I am not saying is that we should just back into our corner and keep all of our thoughts to ourselves. There is certainly a time to keep our words to very few, but God still requires us to stand for the truth and proclaim his word even when it may not be popular. That can be done though in a way that promotes unity rather than division. It’s a matter of what we are uniting around. Are we pushing our own agenda and trying to convince others that we know best? Or are we looking to God and his word as our source of truth? When we stand before the Lord, with open hands saying, “not my will but yours be done”, it is easier to let go and trust the very author of unity. The grass on the mountain did not manufacture dew for its own protection. The very giver of life is the one who gently covers the canvas of creation with his perfect protection and nourishment. He knows exactly what the land needs in a dry and weary season.

Are you looking to your Creator today to cover you with his protection? Indeed, some issues are worth fighting for. Ask yourself today though, is it a matter of standing up for the truth or a matter of preference? And even if you are standing up for the truth, do so in love, with a heart of humility and a longing for unity. Like the dew on the mountain, God graciously blesses his children who earnestly seek him with the blanket of his unifying love. For our God says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Lynette Fuson
Director of Care and Counseling

Like Oil

I remember the day almost vividly. I was a college student, and I was serving as a leader on a retreat for high school students. The speaker at the retreat was a charismatic leader named Brock. As the retreat was wrapping up, he pulled me aside and told me that he sensed God had a plan to use my life for the glory of His name. He encouraged me to walk in humility and holiness, and he sent me on my way. Those words became like a seed in my soul that Jesus watered and grew over the next three years as he confirmed my call to the pastorate.

When the psalmist wrote about the blessing of unity, he used imagery from the anointing of Aaron, the first priest. He wrote,

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes! (Psalm 133:1-2)

There are several reasons why unity is like oil. There’s a smell that oil carries with it and unity gives off a certain aroma. Oil symbolized gladness and joy, which unity certainly brings. However, in the direct context, the oil used on Aaron was used for anointing him for service, it was used to “consecrate” Aaron and set him apart. (Exodus 29) Anointing with oil was the Israelite's way of signaling to everyone that Aaron had a unique and important role to play in the community. It’s interesting that someone cannot rightly anoint themselves, they must be anointed by someone else, by the community. In the same way, we cannot commission ourselves for service, that must be done by someone else.

When Brock spoke that word over me 23 years ago, it was like oil. I think the psalmist is pointing to the reality that commissioning and consecrating for service is one of the functions and joys of community. It’s one of the most life-giving and beautiful parts of walking with each other. We see each other’s gifts, call them out, and commission them to use their gifts to serve the body. And that is a very good thing – it’s part of the reason we were created.

However, it’s not a part of togetherness that we experience often enough. Would you take some time today and think through the people God has put in your life? How can you affirm them, speak an encouraging word over them, or let them know what you see in them? Those words could carry power in their life just like Brock’s words carried power in mine.

Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor


How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

This might not be a shock to most people, but people are really, really weird and different!  Of course, I have my quirks, idiosyncrasies, and hang-ups; BUT other people are sometimes hard to live with.  Psalm 133:1 reminded me of the time when I first moved out with people I really didn’t know.  I knew my family’s rhythms and mannerisms, but now I was in an environment completely foreign with people who were closer to being strangers than friends.

It was hard to learn the right rhythms (imagine 4 people for 1 bathroom), routines (work and play), and diets (one guy was a vegan, no offense to vegans). We all had to learn how we were the same and how we were different. We had to accept the why behind the differences and we had to rally around our Savior, Jesus who really tied us all together. It was our faith that ended up forming the bond that smoothed away the rough edges of our togetherness.

What seemed bad and unpleasant became good and pleasant.  After compromise and concessions, we learned to be united even in confined spaces (we had very small rooms).  We learned how much we needed one another and that together we were stronger.  The lessons God taught while we initially lived together became a foundation to trust one another in the mess we were about to step into.  The trust that had developed gave us shelter for the storms (literal - hurricane and figurative - the arrest in a foreign country) we were going to face.  The trials we were about to face could not take away the unity we had by truly being together in life versus just being around each other.

You might wonder what the difference between togetherness and just being together is and it is subtle.  I look to Proverbs 17:17 a friend is for all times, but a brother is born for adversity.  The idea of togetherness or living together in unity is this idea that through all the ups and downs of life we are together, not just for a couple of hours a week or because it is easy.  This is why being woven together is vital for us individually and collectively.  We have come to the point where I have to ask, are we living together in unity with others?  How does that shape your life?  How does that give you hope?  Take a few moments to think about what it looks like.  If you feel like maybe you're missing something, there are so many wonderful opportunities at church let us know so we can join together.

Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor