The Tapestry of Providence

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day’s bulletin quote for meditation was titled, “The Tapestry of Providence”.  Mrs. Linda Renner was reminded by it of a lovely poem on one of her favorite bookmarks which I’d like to share with you for this week’s email devotion:

“The Weaver”
– Author Unknown

My Life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.

Remembering the story of Joseph and how truly wonderful (although terribly difficult) were the events of his life, we are beginning to see in the morning sermons through Genesis how God worked all these “providential preparations” for Joseph’s own good and the deliverance of his people.  This Lord’s Day, we will see Joseph again in a high position, having more than plenty to go around for all who came to him to live.  He is a glorious type of the Messiah; we will be reminded that “Jesus has plenty of grace” to go around to all who come to Him to live for ever and live abundantly.

May we hear the Lord when He says to us what He said to Paul when he lamented over his providential thorns:  My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  And may our response to Christ be the same as Paul’s: Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

As we continue to walk by faith, may we trust that we will see more clearly along the way (with more to look back on and marvel over after each strand of the Weaver’s work) what was quoted by A.W. Pink in the bulletin: “God is taking the tangled threads of our lives and ‘making them work together for good'” (Romans 8:28).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

On a Wing and a Prayer

For Lord’s Day December 18, 2011

Dear Saints,

I got a call late Thursday night to inform me of what had happened to my Mother. She had left on the plane that morning. I dropped her off at the San Diego Airport and we said our goodbyes. She was to fly straight to Philadelphia. She did not. Something went wrong.

The pilot apparently got on the intercom and, in a very slow and somber voice, said that he had an announcement to make that he had never had to make in his thirty-plus years of flying. He then said the airplane was fine, and they had enough gas. Then he repeated very carefully that he had an announcement to make that he had never had to make in his thirty-plus years of flying. Apparently even the flight attendant was scared, as she had no idea what was about to happen.

Imagine how you would feel with that announcement as you looked out the window over the mountains with no safe place to land. It was said that you could hear a pin drop in the cabin. Hearts were in throats.

My mother thought she was going to die. She did not. Something went wrong with the pilot’s eye.

The poor man’s retina had detached. He had determined it was not wise for him to try and fly the next five or so hours all the way to Philadelphia. They landed in Phoenix, switched pilots, got folks new tickets, and were back up in the air. My Mother made it to Philadelphia. She did not catch her initial flight, but caught the next one from there to Stewart Air Force Base in NY, near where she lives. She had quite the story to share when she finally called me late Thursday night.

It is interesting that the pilot announced the situation the way he did. He sure had people scared. Folks imagine he was in a bit of shock, perhaps even evaluating his life and career while he shared the news, as it sounds probable that he’ll not be flying again. Please pray for him. He made a wise decision to keep people safe (and perhaps it will save his eye from going blind).

What if that was you in the cabin? And what if it wasn’t the captain’s retina that had detached, but an engine? What if you looked down over the mountains and knew it would be the last thing you set your eyes on in this life? Would you be ready? Ready to meet your Maker and Judge? What if you had it announced to you that you were about to die? Could you handle it? There will be such a day with such an announcement, and if not just before we die, afterward. Our departure from this life is the first death. There is a second death on Judgment Day awaiting those who have not made peace with God in this life by being reconciled to Him in Jesus Christ. They will look over the earth on their way into its fiery belly, never to return.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Heb 9:27)

 Think about it. And come to worship Jesus tomorrow, Who brings healing in His wings.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Face Your Fears to Conquer Them

For Lord’s Day, December 25, 2011

Dear Saints,

Face your fears this week saying the following verse five times in the morning when you wake, five times at your lunch break, and five times before you go to bed.

    I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.(Phi 4:13)

Look into the mirror the first few times.  Look into the sky the next few times.  And if you are struggling to trust God with something specific and acute currently, say it loudly at your moments of greatest doubt and temptation.

I’m not suggesting this idea as a magic self-help, feel-good behavioralistic formula.  What I am suggesting is that you will internalize and believe it more and thus serve Christ and His body better.  I submit that you don’t believe this verse like you could.  Pray over how you’re dealing with life this week and see if you think I’m mistaken.

It has been noted that the more one says something or hears something, the more they believe it.  Say things enough, and people believe (even if it’s a lie).  And we act on what we believe.  We see that principal at work in the political races going on.  How about we apply it to the Truth in how we run our race together in and for Christ this week?  It could be a much more exciting and victorious life together that gives the Lord of Glory more glory — if we believed more in Christ to get us through, and didn’t turn to other things that don’t help us, actually.

Believing is seeing, beloved.  Help yourself actualize this truth more by actually saying it outloud in prayer.  See if it doesn’t actually change your life for the better, and thus the lives around you.  The Spirit works in you through His Word, and this week, He is reminding you that you can do all things through Jesus Christ which strengtheneth you.  Frankly, during this oppressive holiday season, many of us need that reminder!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Reading Your Bible in a Year

For Lord’s Day, January 1, 2012

Dear Saints,

We enter a New Year together this Lord’s Day! As we begin the next year of our Lord, I encourage you to try reading the entire Bible through 2012. Even if you don’t make it through entirely, you’ll read more than you likely would without a plan. If you have never read the whole Bible, this is a good time to give it a try. The Lord will reward you.

Elder Huffmaster has found an online Bible reading schedule that he recommends. This week, the e-devotion will be his testimony of using a Bible reading schedule to share with all of you and encourage you to read your whole Bible in 2012 with a plan that will help you do so. The links to online reading schedules follows below with the weekly links to the bulletin, etc.

Here’s what Elder Huffmaster has to share:

2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen”

How many times have I sat down and thought, “What should I read today?” Then I spend some time trying to figure it out, and eventually get frustrated and I either fail to read anything or I read a familiar passage and then close the Bible and go away somewhat unsatisfied. Then maybe I pick up a devotional book on the Bible; while these are good and have their place, and I have been blessed by these books, I don’t want them to take the place of my Bible reading. Nothing should ever take the place of regularly scheduled reading through the Bible.

My problem was that I didn’t have a plan. If you struggle to read your Bible, perhaps this also may be your problem. Often, we don’t approach the Bible with a plan to read it through in a daily disciplined manner. Often, we just pick something without giving it much thought and read it. We read it in a disjointed way and we don’t get much out of it.

My goal is to read through the Bible at least once a year. I want to read through God’s Word in a disciplined way to remember it, to learn from it, to pray it, and to apply it in my daily life.

Some things that I have found out this year following a schedule:

  • I have found that a schedule doesn’t make me read. I still have to make myself do it. It takes a certain amount of time and discipline every day. But the more I follow it, the more I am blessed.

  • I have found a schedule gives me a good place to start everyday. That helps me to be more consistent in my reading.

  • A schedule isn’t written in stone. I can make adjustments to it so it can fit my needs. I can add to it if I like and read more, or reduce the amount that I read so it is more manageable. I control the schedule and it helps me. I don’t have to stop just because I read my scheduled reading for the day. Do what you can manage and grow from there.

  • I have been blessed by using a schedule because it gives me structure that I need to succeed. I don’t have to spend any time or energy thinking about what I am going to read. I just follow the schedule and read it. I know what I need to read that day to meet my goal so I don’t have to be distracted by considering what to read. I simply follow the schedule.

  • Having a schedule also gave me a reason to get up in the morning because I know what’s there for me to read. I have something to accomplish.

  • Following a schedule also keeps me from ignoring the less interesting parts of the Bible, because if I follow it I will read the whole Bible.

  • A schedule helps me remember where I read something, because I can remember what day I read something and go back and find it easier.

  • A schedule helps me to chart my progress and to see improvement. When you make progress, it is encouraging and a reason to praise the Lord. If you follow the schedule, then you will read through the Bible yearly. How motivating!

  • It also makes me pray more, because I desire that God would bless my efforts as sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

  • A schedule helps me to stay on target with my reading, and the more I read the more God allows me to grow in grace and knowledge. The more I read, the more God brings His Word to my mind in time of need.

  • I have rediscovered that God’s Word gives you things to pray about, because God is speaking to you when you read it.

  • What is best about a schedule is that it helps me to stay on course and read the Bible on a regular basis. Reading the Bible on a consistent basis helps me greatly in my walk with the Lord and in my prayer life. I think about God more, and that is a real blessing.

I did not start this schedule last January, but I do plan on starting it again this coming year. Lord willing, I will have success.

It is important that you find a schedule that is manageable for you. If the schedule is too ambitious then you will not do it. You will likely become overwhelmed and stop — like trying to lift too much weight too soon. If it is too easy, however, you might stop because it isn’t a challenge — like working out with too light of weight and seeing no improvement. The point is, a schedule works, so find one what works for you and enjoy!

Here is a web site that has many plans to pick from if you don’t have one already. I’m sure you can find one to fit your need.

http://www.intothyword.org/pages.asp?pageid=53493

http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/

May our Lord bless you in your daily reading of His precious word.

Thanks for the example and encouragement, Elder Huffmaster!

Here also is a Bible Word List and Reading Scheme that the Trinitarian Bible Society provides free online: http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/bwl.pdf It helpfully supplies definitions of some older English words in the King James Bible before then providing a suggested reading schedule.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Resisting Temptation

For Lord’s Day, January 15, 2012

Dear Saints,

I’d like to share with you some excerpts from a book by John Owen entitled, Temptation Resisted and Repulsed. Elder Huffmaster noticed it in our library recently and was curious about it. By his report, it is a short book and easy to read and he highly recommends it. I asked him to share something with me that he particularly liked that I could share with you. We all face temptations daily until we get to heaven. Knowing why and how to deal with it is helpful for us in our Christian walk. Here is how John Owen guides us (as highlighted by Elder Huffmaster):

“ … God allows man to be tested to show himself to man. Until we are tested, we think that we are living on our own strength. It is however, God alone who keeps us from falling by his preventing grace.

We do not realize the power and strength that God puts forth on our behalf, and the sufficiency of his grace, until we compare our trials with our weakness.

Many men do not know what is in them, or rather what is available to them, until they are asked to do something utterly beyond their strength. The duties that God has for us along our ordinary path of life are not in proportion to the help and relief that is laid up for us in Christ. By God’s strength we are able to perform the most difficult tasks even though we only have the ability for the small ones.”

With those thoughts, let me remind you: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Redeem Your Time

For Lord’s January 22, 2012

Dear Saints,

Paul writes:

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:14-16)

How can you redeem your free time, beloved? When God affords you moments, how will you maximize them for your good and His glory? Being that you live in the Spirit, how will you walk in the Spirit when you find opportunities at daily rest stops along the way? To exercise your faith unto bearing godly fruit? Make the most of your time. It will make your time most meaningful. And such a walk begins taking deliberate “baby steps”: He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)

May you glorify God by redeeming your quiet times to make the most of the time you have (this could be your last hour on earth). Even within these dark days, it can be a glorious life to enjoy as you serve Christ’s kingdom deliberately, having promised to live within His promises.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

All Things Work Together for Good

For Lord’s Day, January 29, 2012

Dear Saints,

Jesus spoke to us last Lord’s Day evening in Romans 8:28-30 about our unbreakable, irreversible union with Him that is based on His forelove for us and thus His purpose and plan for us most certainly being worked out in our lives for eternal life.  We learned therefore that God is indeed working His good plan for you in everything — including the evil things.

If we can appreciate this lesson, we can live with more peace and deeper hope and greater expectation.  A powerful example is shared by Marcus Loane in his book on Romans 8, entitled The Hope of Glory (this is in our library), about John Chrysostom’s terrible death.  Chrysostom was an Early Church father who was renown as the “Golden Tongued” preacher at the impressive St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople.  Considering his exalted reputation for godly gifts and powerful preaching as a man of influence, it is sobering to see how he ended his days, and how he embraced the humiliation of it all alone:

He was driven out of Constantinople [for preaching against the vanity of the emperor’s wife] to become an exile in a lonely village in the Taurus mountains where he passed a wretched winter of suffering and privation.  At length he was compelled to set out once more on foot with two guards who were chosen for their harsh and callous spirit.  It took three months to reach Comana Pontica and the journey was a lingering martyrdom for one whose strength was now worn out.  The guards hurried him on without a pause until they were forced to halt for the night at a wayside chapel.  He asked again for a further respite in the morning and was driven out for three or four miles [in a blizzard with lack of warm clothing] until he collapsed with fever.  They managed to retrace their steps as far as the chapel, but death was close at hand.  John Chrysostom passed peacefully away as he voiced the words of his favourite doxology: “Glory to God for all things, Amen.”  Men who give the glory to God for all things find that all things minister together in God’s plan to work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

May we have this kind of resolve and peace at the end of our life, no matter how it ends.  And let us trust that such new resolve in peace in this promise begins with what we do next as we step away from our computer screen. 

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.(Rom 8:28).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Wise Wardrobes

For Lord’s Day, February 5, 2012

Dear Saints,

I remember back in high school, one of my wrestling buddies challenged a cheer leader not to wear make-up to school for just one day, and if she did, he’d pay her $50. She wore a lot of make up, which we all thought was so unnecessary, so he tried to encourage her to experience that she didn’t need it. She refused to take the offer. That was surprising to us. Seemed like such a simple thing to do. And $50 is $50, especially for someone in high school. Obviously, she had self-image issues. It was too bad because the amount of make-up she wore really didn’t represent who we knew she was on the inside. But it definitely did misrepresent her.

This relates to the morning sermon last Lord’s Day on Gen. 24:64-65: Don’t hide your inner beauty. An important way of opening up on the inside is to not trust the way the world portrays beauty on the outside. And not to mimic it.

I recently read this in my NT devotions:I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. (Rom 16:19)

Beloved, may you have lots of experience and knowledge in things that are good, including presenting yourselves in Christian modesty. That is God’s wisdom. And may you be unfamiliar with worldly things. May you be considered a prudish simpleton for not knowing much about the latest and greatest this and that or him and her. Because you are too busy setting your affections on heavenly things and God’s people. On Christ the Lord and the advancement of His eternal Kingdom through a world that is passing away before our eyes. No one will be dressing in heaven like the world dresses itself.

Remember what we considered in family visitations in 1 Tim. 4:8. The only things you can take with you after you die are the spiritual things of God that you exercise yourself with. The kind of Spiritual fruit that results from such holy effort does not spoil before your death, nor before the Resurrection. Everything else either withers or rots or will be burned off.

Be wise unto that which is good so that you do not bring shame on the outside and end up hiding your inner beauty. Let the light of Christ shine through you. Let it shine by how you present yourself on the outside. Let it shine by what you do to develop your self on the inside, seeing your Christian beauty for all that it is – and all that it can flower into before the watching world and fellow Christians looking for godly models to follow. Like Isaac and Rebekah.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Worry Robs You Today

For Lord’s Day, February 12, 2012

Dear Saints,

I’d like to ask you all, how much does worry dominate your life?  I venture a guess that the answer is a good amount.

This guess I think is likely accurate because I remember my preaching professor, Dr. Prutow, saying one of the most meaningful sermon series during his time in ministry was that on worry.  It also is one of his most listened to series on his sermonaudio page.

I recently heard Dr. David Jeremiah (right here in Santee) give a message on the radio about worry.  I found it very insightful and encouraging.  If you struggle slaying the giant sin of worry (the series of these messages is entitled Slaying the Giants), I encourage you to give a listen.  One thing he said that stood out to me is how Satan uses worry in our lives:  “It doesn’t rob tomorrow of its sorrow, it robs today of its strength.”  He also said Jesus teaches that worry is irreligious, unchristian, and acting like we don’t have a Father in heaven and a family on earth.  Wow.  He has lots of great things for us to consider in this message I’ll refrain from typing here.  But if you find yourself often giving yourself over to the sin of worry, let these messages help you subdue your anxiety to the glory of King Jesus:

Dr. Jeremiah’s message on worry (pt. 1 of 2):  http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio_player.aspx?id=658

Dr. Jeremiah’s series (Slaying the Giants): http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio_archives.aspx

Dr. Dennis Prutow’s series on worry and anxiety: http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?seriesOnly=true&currSection=sermonstopic&sourceid=rptsprof&keyword=Worry+and+Anxiety&keyworddesc=Worry+and+Anxiety

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Mat 6:34) (King Jesus’ command to us, not a suggestion).

Dr. Jeremiah has a helpful comment about this verse.  It’s not that Christian’s don’t have times of worry.  But Christian’s should visit worry, not stay there.  We should not move in with worry.  For, as he says, he knows people that he believes worried themselves out of life early.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Totally Rely on God

For Lord’s Day, March 4, 2012

Dear Saints,

As we move on in our Genesis sermon series to Isaac and now Jacob, I would like to share a few last thoughts about father Abraham that did not make it into the sermons but are helpful for us to meditate on in our own walk of faith in Christ, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

Victor Hamilton notes that Abraham is a bridge figure between primeval and patriarchal history, “between the origins of the nations of the earth and the origins of the chosen nation.” And that chosen nation will be the beginning of Christ’s conquering of all the nations (God’s promise to Abraham and the meaning of his name change).

Dillard and Longman write, “ … the focus of the narrative [of the Abrahamic story] moves from the entire world to one person who will found a nation.” Paul House also notes that “ … this father of the Israelite people begins the process of initiating a single nation and salvation for all people.” That’s important. What we continue to see in Genesis is God’s sovereign choosing of certain people. A narrowing down of genealogies from within a chaotic world that always seems like it is about to engulf and devour the “puny” Church in each age — even the true church within the visible church (such as at the time of the Reformation). This is why Paul refers to Abraham so often in Romans and Galatians to prove that true Israelites are those who have the faith of Abraham in God’s righteousness (Gen. 15:6), and not faith in their own righteousness before God.

This week, we will see that God will narrow down His promised lineage even to within one womb (He chooses Jacob only) instead of between two wives. We will see that Paul has a lot to say about this story in Romans 9 relating to election. God is in sovereign control of His redemptive history. And we should simply stand in awe of Him for it and be thankful to have been chosen by His free grace according to His own purpose in election that stands in every age.

A.W. Pink gives us some meaningful nuggets for further consideration of how Abraham and his life with God should inform and motivate our own:

Surely we shall be richly repaid if we devote our most diligent attention to the prayerful study of the life of such a man.” We do need our mentors and models to follow in the faith.

It was not until the utter depravity of man had been fully demonstrated … that God dealt with Abram in sovereign grace.” God uses all things for our good and the backdrop of His glory.

The Lord’s commands are rarely accompanied with reasons but they are always accompanied with promises, either expressed or understood.” He adds that God’s promises replace and improve loss involved with obedience to His commands. You will never regret refusing to live like slaves by serving King Jesus.

As sons of Abraham by faith, may you totally rely on God and His promises, beloved. Your hope in Him and obedience to Him will be greatly rewarded in this world, but especially rewarded with gifts that last in the heavenly city built by God.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

How to Listen to a Sermon

For Lord’s Day, March 11, 2012

Dear Saints,

How should one listen to a sermon? The email below poses and answers this question. It is something I mentioned recently at a Wednesday night study that I had received and would forward as worth your considering to prepare for listening to God in worship. An important thing to remember is that each of us has a responsibility to prepare to be active listeners. Just like anything else in life, we get out of the sermon what we put in to listening to it for personal application.

As I read the email below, I thought of something else that is helpful for Bible study that also could be a useful tool for you in listening to sermons. Ask yourself two questions as you study and listen: 1) What am I to learn to believe about God?; and 2) What am I to learn that God requires of me to do? Of course, I hope you’ll give attention to the title that I state at the end of my introduction and conclusion in each sermon (also in the bulletin, and the main point of application intended for you to take with you). But these two questions are helpful also.

My Hebrew professor gave the above instruction as a helpful nugget in learning and applying Bible texts, and this is exactly how the Larger Catechism is divided in half. Question 5 says that the Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man. And the Larger Catechism expounds on the first idea (what to believe about God) with questions and answers 1 to 90. Then there is an actual subheading that instructs we will now expound on the second stated emphasis of Scripture (how we are to obey God) with questions and answers 91 to 196. This is a good way to think about and interact with God’s Word (of course always asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind). It is always wise to let the Larger Catechism guide you in such meditation of the main things God reveals to us in the Bible both in personal study and actively being engaged as a responsible listener in worship. On that note, one of the Larger Catechism’s question and answers gives more specific instruction on how you will most glorify God and enjoy Him in how you listen to Him in worship (and then live for him throughout the week):

What is required of those that hear the word preached?

Answer: It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

You might find the brief article below beneficial to prepare for this Lord’s Day (the idea of the article came after reading a book about how to read a book).

May we all come to hear the Lord Jesus Christ (with Whom God the Father is well pleased) with reverence and awe as He takes us up into the heavenlies and upon the unshakable Mount Zion (Hebrews 12 – we will see our morning text referenced and applied there).

Semper Reformanda

How to Listen to a Sermon

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 09:56 AM PST

Editor’s Note: In the coming months, reformation21 will be reprinting some of our classic articles. This month’s selection comes from January 2002.

Shortly before college I read Mortimer Adler’s little classic How to Read a Book.  That may sound like an odd title.  After all, how could somebody read the book unless they already knew how to read?  And if they did know how to read, then why would they need to read it at all?

How to Read a Book turned out to be one of the most important books I have ever read.  Adler quickly convinced me that I didn’t know how to read a book after all–not really.  I didn’t know how to ask the right questions while I was reading, how to analyze the book’s major arguments, or how to mark up my copy for later use.  

I suspect that most people don’t how to listen to a sermon, either.  I say this not as a preacher, primarily, but as a listener.  During the past thirty-five years I have heard more than three thousand sermons.  Since I have worshiped in Bible-teaching churches all my life, most of those sermons did me some spiritual good.  Yet I wonder how many of them helped me as much as they should have.  Frankly, I fear that far too many sermons passed through my eardrums without registering in my brain or reaching my heart.  

So what is the right way to listen to a sermon?  With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.

The first thing is for the soul to be prepared.  Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday.  However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before.  It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach.  In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word.  This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.

The soul needs special preparation the night before worship.  By Saturday evening our thoughts should begin turning towards the Lord’s Day.  If possible, we should read through the Bible passage that is scheduled for preaching.  We should also be sure to get enough sleep.  Then in the morning our first prayers should be directed to public worship, and especially to the preaching of God’s Word.  

If the body is well rested and the soul is well prepared, then the mind will be alert.  Good preaching appeals first to the mind.  After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does his transforming work in our lives (see Rom. 12:2).  So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged.  Being attentive requires self-discipline.  Our minds tend to wander when we worship; sometimes we daydream.  But listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God.  It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear his voice.  We should not insult his majesty by looking at the people around us, thinking about the coming week, or entertaining any of the thousands of other thoughts that crowd our minds.  God is speaking, and we should listen.

To that end, many Christians find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand.  Although note taking is not required, it is an excellent way to stay focused during a sermon.  It is also a valuable aid to memory.  The physical act of writing something down helps to fix it in our minds.  Then there is the added advantage of having the notes for future reference.  We get extra benefit from a sermon when we read over, pray through, and talk about our sermon notes with someone else afterwards.

The most convenient place to take notes is in or on our Bibles, which should always be open during a sermon.  Churchgoers sometimes pretend that they know the Bible so well that they do not need to look at the passage being preached.  But this is folly.  Even if we have the passage memorized, there are always new things we can learn by seeing the biblical text on the page.  It only stands to reason that we profit most from sermons when our Bibles are open, not closed.  This is why it is so encouraging for an expository preacher to hear the rustling of pages as his congregation turns to a passage in unison.

There is another reason to keep our Bibles open: we need to make sure that what the minister says is in keeping with Scripture.  The Bible says, concerning the Bereans whom Paul met on his second missionary journey, “that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11; NKJV).  One might have expected the Bereans to be criticized for daring to scrutinize the teaching of the apostle Paul.  On the contrary, they were commended for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.  

Listening to a sermon–really listening–takes more than our minds.  It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God’s Spirit.  Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us.  Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God’s grace, and reassure us in the faith.  But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise.  We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise.

The last thing to say about listening to sermons is that we should be itching to put what we learn into practice.  Good preaching always applies the Bible to daily life.  It tells us what promises to believe, what sins to avoid, what divine attributes to praise, what virtues to cultivate, what goals to pursue, and what good works to perform.  There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word.  We are called to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; NKJV).  And if we are not doers, then we were not hearers, and the sermon was wasted on us. 

Do you know how to listen to a sermon?  Listening–really listening–takes a prepared soul, an alert mind, an open Bible, and a receptive heart.  But the best way to tell if we are listening is by the way that we live.  Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard.  As the apostle Paul wrote to some of the people who listened to his sermons, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2-3; NKJV).

Dr. Philip G. Ryken is the president of Wheaton College. Prior to assuming this post, Dr. Ryken was for many years the senior minister of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The author of numerous books and commentaries, Dr. Ryken’s latest book is Loving the Way Jesus Loves (Crossway, 2012).

Andrew Evangelism

For Lord’s Day, March 18, 2012

Dear Saints,

May the Lord give us all more witnessing opportunities in our daily lives that we can be giving prayer support to as a church. May we be looking for such opportunities that are simple but packed with potential.

I am reminded of some of Rick Phillips’ comments in the opening of his book, Jesus the Evangelist, which the men studied last year about this time: “A true Christian church is not only evangelical, in that it holds to the biblical gospel, but it is evangelistic—it zealously spreads and shares that gospel. This means that to be a Christian is to be called as an evangelist … All Christians are called to evangelism.”

Now, don’t let that intimidate you. Relational evangelism is particularly in view in Phillips’ book. That is, simply living and talking in a way that gives opportunities to share the Gospel. That’s what happened with Mike at work. Let me encourage you to follow the example of Phillip in evangelism: Speaking of having found the Messiah in Jesus, he said to a skeptical Nathaniel, “Come and see”. Nathaniel did, and encountered Jesus. As well, Andrew told Peter they found the Messiah and brought him to see Jesus. Wow, how the Lord used Peter after his conversion! Such simple invitations were used mightily by God.

I’m trying to do this more and more myself. I really enjoy talking about Jesus with people. But initiating the conversation is not my forte. You know what I’ve committed myself to more and more? Simply handing a church card to passers by when I enter or leave the Church during the day, saying, “Come and see” essentially, inviting people to come hear and worship Jesus with us. When we go to the nearby parks as a family, we make a point to bring church materials and pass them out to people we meet, and essentially just invite them to church. This may not seem like much, but it could be in God’s providence. It was when Andrew did it. And, in fact, it was for Rick Phillips. He came to Christ when a lady he only met briefly once invited him to church. It took months, and she may never know how the Lord used it, but it brought Phillips to church and then to Christ as he was brought before the pulpit. Here’s how he shares his story:

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to our usefulness is the false belief that our witness does not matter … One person who might think poorly of her witness is a woman whose words were instrumental in my own salvation. I do not know her name and doubt that I could recognize her. One day, as I moved into an apartment, she was moving out next door. I carried one box of books to her car. After thanking me, she asked whether I was looking for a church to attend. My body language made it clear that I did not appreciate the question. So she quickly stammered, “If you are ever looking for a church, I would recommend this particular church a few blocks away.”’ With that, she drove off and I never saw her again. I have often imagined her kicking herself for her weak attempt to witness. But a few months later, when the Holy Spirit had prepared a way for the Lord into my heart, I remembered her words, went to that church, and, hearing the gospel there, I believed and was saved. You may think you are just one “voice” and that your witness doesn’t matter. But if Jesus is the Word your voice brings—and if He is living in you and you know Him—then your witness is mighty to cast down strongholds and lead dying sinners to salvation.

That church Rick Phillips went to and was converted at was the historic 10th Presbyterian Church in Downtown Philadelphia (where Dr. Barnhouse and J. Montgomery Boice were pastors). Later, he served as a minister at this church. Now he is a Presbyterian pastor in South Carolina, and his preaching is heard nationwide on the radio program, God’s Living Word. He serves on the board and is a writer and regular speaker for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (and its Reformation21 blog). He has spoken at my seminary when I was serving there with the Reformation Society of Pittsburgh, and his very important writing, “Covenant Confusion”, is listed on the resources page of our website. That lady who invited him to church likely is unaware of how the Lord used her in Pastor Phillips’ life, and so many others through him. May you be motivated by this true story to be like Andrew, and simply say in your own way, “Come and see”, to people who providentially cross your path. If you only give a church card and invite people to come and sit under the preaching (which Shorter Catechism 98 points out is especially how the Word is made effectual to salvation), who knows, in God’s timing, what the Spirit might do with that. And remember, you together are the body of Christ. So this is the other important reason to say, “Come and see Jesus” in public worship. Who knows what God might do …

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Difference Between Justification and Sanctificaiton Matters

For Lord’s Day, March 25, 2012

Dear Saints,

What do you think about the following statements from Reformed pastors/writers?:

I’m about as good as I’m going to get, and I’m tired of trying.”

You are “free to cuss and spit … You are free. You can do it right or wrong. You can obey or disobey. You can run from Christ or run to Christ. You can choose to become a faithful Christian or an unfaithful Christian.”

On sanctification: “God works his work in you, which is the work already accomplished by Christ.” [Notice the word “already” and the use of “Christ” and not the “Holy Spirit”]

The son [The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:18-19] intends to say, ‘Father, I know I don’t have a right to come back into the family. But if you apprentice me to one of your hired men so I can learn a trade and earn a wage, then at least I could begin to pay off my debt.’ That was his plan.” [In a book entitled, The Prodigal God !]

Scary, aye? These are quotes within the most recent Trinity Review I just received. It was providential timing for its topic, because it shows the serious problems that arise when one does not properly discern and articulate the difference between justification and sanctification, which last Lord’s Day’s evening sermon was specifically to explain as guided by the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 77.

You can see from the above quotes a good example of how “Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?” is a question that is still very relevant to the Church in our day. Often, the Trinity Review rightly tackles the issues of Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul related to vast problems in contemporary “Reformed” circles that confuse justification as (or mixed with) sanctification (as do the Catholics). Here, the Trinity Review deals with another contemporary problem of thinking of sanctification as similar to justification, but in the reverse (sadly by some pretty well-know names in the Presbyterian Church in America, critiqued in this article by one of their own). I hope you see further that mistaking justification with sanctification, or vice-versa, is potentially deadly.

This recent article also gives helpful explanations to remember on the matter:

First, we ought to avoid N.T. Wright’s mistake that “seems to define faith as faithfulness.” They are not the same thing, and there are different Greek words for “faith” and “faithful” in the NT.

Justification is a once-for-all legal declaration of righteousness received by faith alone in what Christ has done, and sanctification is an on-going work of mortification of sin and a living unto holiness by means of the Word and Spirit He gave us.”

“ … justification is about Christ’s substitution, but sanctification is about my transformation.”

As A.W. Pink is quoted, unlike justification, sanctification is “intentional obedience”.

Remember beloved, justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness into your moral bank account outside of you as a once-and-for-all completed legal act by God based on Christ’s finished work in this life. Sanctification is the infusion of God’s grace and power inside of you for ongoing growth by the work of the Spirit using your works until you attain complete perfection at the resurrection in the life to come. As LC 77 explains, while the two doctrines are inseparably linked in your union with Christ, they differ, and the difference really matters.

If you’re interested to read more, here is a link to the full article online: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=282

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Salvation Secure

For Lord’s Day, April 1

Dear Saints,

Once saved, always saved.” Is that something you can take to the bank for yourself? Absolutely. You cannot lose your salvation. This is where the Larger Catechism, Q&A 79, will guide us in worship this Lord’s Day evening. Meditating on our secure salvation should serve as a great comfort to us after we just dealt with the fact that our sanctification in this life is imperfect (LC Q&A 78).

But this doctrine of eternal security because of our unconditional election in the Covenant of Grace often is harassed by Arminianism, which teaches (logically) that since man’s salvation is based ultimately on his choice rather than God’s choosing, then man can later choose to opt out and thus lose his salvation. Misunderstanding what choice is, the Arminians believe we can only be saved if it is by our own uninfluenced choosing. Such an idea runs rampant in American churches, causing Christians to doubt the surety of their salvation in the end. A.A. Hodge has a helpful critique of this Arminian way of thinking in his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 17, “Of the Perseverance of the Saints” [the “P” in TULIP]:

The Arminians themselves believe that the saints will be rendered secure from falling from grace when they go to heaven, and yet that they will be none the less perfectly free as to their wills. If the two are consistent conditions in heaven, they can be none the less so on earth.

This is a quote worthy of our meditation to fully appreciate a very good argument against the idea that you choose your own salvation and thus you can lose it (a conclusion which I have heard an Arminian vehemently proclaim). If God Himself will keep you from sinning in heaven and yet you will willing not sin, there is similarly no contradiction that in this life it is God alone Who made you perfectly willing through His gift of faith to be saved by Christ.

So, in the glorious, sovereign person and work of Jesus Christ, “You can’t lose” (Evening Sermon). For, as sons of Abraham, “You are never alone” (Morning Sermon).

Also, related to the above devotion, you might find helpful the following article that demonstrates the harmony of God’s predestinating and empowering our freely willing Christ for salvation: Determinism and Responsibility, by Gordon H. Clark (available on our Resources page along with many other helpful articles on doctrine and practice). Dr. Clark points out in this article that what he highlights is what Calvinists need to understand well to handle the key Arminian argument of contrary choice being necessary for man’s responsibility against the Reformed and Biblical doctrine of Predestination and Unconditional Election. It is a brief, excellent resource.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Brigthen Up

For Lord’s Day April 8

Dear Saints,

As we have finished the Larger Catechism section directly discussing justification and sanctification, I thought this Proverb was a nice summary of a few things for our meditation:

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. — Proverbs 4:18

Remember that Jesus Who justified you has made you once and for all just and righteous in your union with Him. Thus, Jesus by His Spirit is now shining His light through you in this dark world. And that light must not dim, but brighten. It must not flicker, but burn hotter and taller. As justified saints, you will most certainly be glorified because the path you are on and can’t be taken off is one of progressing in sanctification by the command of your King and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:30). Your walk before God must be the same as your father Abraham’s: bearing evidence of a maturing faith that shines more and more meaningfully as you see the Day approaching.

Like Paul, may you who have Christ’s righteousness and not your own pursue perfection until the resurrection, glowing more and more with Christ’s grace and glory. This is the sanctified walk in the Holy Spirit of those who live in the Spirit of Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Polishing People

Dear Saints,

I want to thank you for staying committed to Christ and this local branch of His Church.  I was thinking of you all and how Christ will surely reward you for your faithfulness to one another while I was reading an article in an e-newsletter I received this week.  It talks about how we should go out of our way to stay with our church through rough times, and how God especially uses such commitment and experiences for our own personal benefit.  The author gives this lovely illustration:

Discipleship is like a rock in a rock tumbler. The rock is shined the more it bumps up against all the other rocks and water. Over time, the process turns a rock into a gem.

The article, entitled “Not So Fast – advice to those considering leaving their church”, shares how you are beautiful in Christ.  And that Christ is making you more beautiful in special ways for sticking it out together.  Liked polished precious stones.  Keep shining God’s glory together, beloved.  This is your final destination:

And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;  The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.  And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Revelation 21:19-22)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Rain for Prayer

For Lord’s Day, May 13, 2012

Dear Saints,

In my private morning devotion, I noticed something when singing a Psalm. It’s getting better with repetition. Now, I’m not commenting on how it sounds, especially early in the morning. But I had sung it with Jennifer going to bed the evening before, and earlier that day too. It’s a Psalm that’s ministering to me right now. But I noticed this morning that the more I give myself to it, the more it gives itself to me. The more I work with it, the more I internalize it. Practice makes perfect, as they say. And the more we pursue perfection until the resurrection, the more of the next life we enjoy on this earth.

It got me thinking about Elijah praying for rain. I took a while:

And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand … And it came to pass … that … there was a great rain … (1 Kings 18:42-45)

Beloved, seek the Lord’s showering of holiness in your life by pursuing Him diligently, with your whole heart. Don’t give up. Keep trying. I believe those who just won’t quit are the ones who get the most blessing. Don’t expect miracles the first or second or third time. Discover the glory of plodding and see what God produces in your life day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

Pick a Scripture and read it seven times and pray over it seven times (maybe in one day or maybe over one week). Or sing a psalm of the month seven times and work on memorizing it together over the month. I’m not suggesting a magical conjuring formula here, but simply the marvelous method of Scriptural meditation. Remember that this was Isaac’s evening example to us a while back, and along came Rebekah in the caravan.

Such dedicated devotion is what we call spiritual “disciplines”. Godliness comes with exercise (1 Tim. 4:7). In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney (the same fella who wrote the Family Worship book we studied last fall in the men’s group) lists the following spiritual disciplines/exercises to consider: Bible Intake, Prayers, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence and Solitude, Journaling, Learning, and perseverance in them. Perhaps you would be helped by considering one of these activities and giving yourself to it in special dedication for a month and see what happens. I bet you’ll feel a holy mist come over you if you do, and that you’ll like what you see it grows for you inside and out. In particular, look for that spiritual fruit you said you wanted to see more of back during January family visitations (and what exercise we thought might help it grow). Keep cultivating and don’t give up. You’ll be so pleased with the fruit it bears by year’s end. Don’t let the fact that they’re green and small right now set you back. Growth is happening within, and more grows better with cultivation.

Here are some other Scriptures to motivate you toward what will greatly benefit you, your family, and your church:

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: (Proverbs 2:1-11)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you … (James 4:8)

Pray for spiritual rain to grow spiritual fruit in your lives, beloved. Pray again and again. Meditate more and more, on the same things. Pursue God. You will be especially blessed the more you go after His presence in your life.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Fullness of Joy in the Presence of God

For Lord’s Day May 27, 2012:

Dear Saints,

This Lord’s Day evening we will hear Jesus say to the thief next to Him on the cross, “Verily (truly) … Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise”. In union with Christ by faith (looking to Jesus and asking to be with Him in His Kingdom), we go immediately to a blissful place upon our death. We leave this world of sin and misery behind us. And we go into a more glorious communion with Christ, face-to-face with our blessed Redeemer.

These thoughts have me thinking again of Psalm 16:11: “ … in thy presence is fullness of joy …”. This verse proclaims something we no doubt experience as we approach God in personal and family worship. And what we especially experience as we come together as God’s spiritual temple and Christ’s body in Sabbath worship in the heavenlies on the Lord’s Day. But we will experience this joy so much more when we leave this earth and immediately enter paradise: God’s most direct comfortable presence.

This is why Paul, who actually got an unusual glimpse of paradise first hand (2 Corinthians 12:4) couldn’t wait to go back there: “… having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” (Philippians 1:23).

To be with Christ in the presence of the Holy Father, even waiting for our resurrected bodies on the Last Day, is far better than being here, beloved. To be next to Christ in His flesh, is far better than slowly dying here in our own corrupted flesh. In God’s presence is fullness of joy, and the closer we get to His glory, the better off we are. It makes me think of what one of my daughters spontaneously proclaimed in family worship one evening around the dinner table a while back after we talked about what heaven would be like: “I can’t wait to go to heaven!” Amen, sister, says Paul.

Let us consider God’s attributes to excite our expectations for Paradise on the Hill of the Lord. The Westminster Confession, chapter 2, and the Shorter Catechism Q&A 4, guide us in contemplating some of God’s attributes that should make us look forward to being closer to Him in heaven in a way we can’t fully enjoy here. I encourage you to meditate on His attributes to prepare for worship, and heaven:

God is: Glorious. A Spirit. Living. Perfect. Pure. Invisible. Immense. Almighty. Free. Gracious. Merciful. Long-suffering. Abundant. Forgiving. Transcendent. Blessed. Sovereign. Autonomously self-existing. Wise. Powerful. Holy. Just. Good. True. And God is all of His attributes infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably! As well, God is all of His attributes absolutely: all at once. He has and always will be all these things, and more. Remember, we will be in God’s presence basking in His wonderful attributes by our union with Jesus, Who is Himself the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. All things are to Him, through Him, and for Him. So He says to the thief, you will be in paradise today, because you will be “with Me”.

Let us indeed “Be preoccupied with paradise”, beloved. Our heavenly home where Christ prepares a place for you and me. For as Paul knows (now firsthand once again and this time forever), it is far better to be with Christ! As this comes up in relation to WLC Q&A 85 this Lord’s Day evening, we can rest assured that for the Christian, death is no longer a punishment, but a glorious transition. Death for us is God’s loving deliverance. We need not fear death as Christians, but look forward to it when we learn our Christ-ordained mission is finished and He is ready to immediately let us rest in fullness of joy: His own heavenly presence!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Spiritual Flossing

For Lord’s Day June 10, 2012

Dear Saints,

My dentist this week gave me a lesson in flossing. When she’s looking inside my mouth, there’s no hiding I need to floss more. Now, I’ve been doing better than I used to do because she’s been holding me accountable (I’ve been at the dentist four times since February to begin dealing with my teeth after a decade of denial). There’s no hiding if I floss or not. When I do, my gums are pink and thin, and don’t bleed when she works on mis dientes. Pero, when I haven’t been flossing daily, my gums are red and swollen and bleed when she applies the tools of her trade. You know what I’m talking about (admit it!).

Recognizing that it is easy to put off, even with the dental floss staring at me when I’m quickly brushing to go to bed tired, she gave me some advice. Keep some floss at different places in the house to remind you and where it’d be convenient to do so briefly. Maybe where I read my books, watch a program, for instance. A place where you notice it and are more likely to pick it up at the time. Made sense to me. Not sure I’ll be flossing while exegeting, but it did make sense. Remove the obstacles of fatigue and forgetfulness by putting something that’s actually quite easy to do and always very worth while at a place you’re most likely to encounter and engage.

Made me think about devotions. Where might you put your Bible, Westminster Standards, and devotional books to more naturally stop and open them up and do some spiritual maintenance? To sink your teeth into something more meaty than magazines, TV, and video games more often than not? How can you strategically place Bibles around the house: near the kitchen table, in the living room next to where you lay the remote, by your bedside on TOP of everything else on your night stand right in front of where you reach to turn off the lamp? How about keeping your Psalter next to you so you might sing something to start the day with?

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. (Psalm 61:8)

Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. (Psalm 86:3)

Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. (Proverbs 8:34)

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11)

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. (Psalm 47:6-7)

I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. (Psalm 145:1-2)

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Well, I sure do like it when I floss more regularly. It doesn’t hurt if it’s a habit. And it heals if it’s a habit. My teeth feel much better (breath probably is better too, but don’t ask me to prove it). I sure do like it when I spend daily time with God too. There’s no hiding it, at least from my family, when I don’t. Much less spiritual plaque collects up. Much less bleeding over things that shouldn’t be stuck between my teeth anyhow. Much more meaningful meditations with fresher experiences of God’s grace and glory. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Give us this day our daily bread”. He gives it to us. Do we put it in our mouths? Do we chew on the kinds of things that will clean our teeth and sharpen them for spiritual things?

Well, pardon the mixed metaphors in this devotion. But let’s see how we can put some simple dentist discipline into our devotional life. We’ll all be the better for it. And Christ’s body will be more clean, holy, and fresh in our service and witness to the Great Physician.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Signs for the Senses

For Lord’s July 1, 2012

Dear Saints,

Thank you for your prayers for our safe travels on our vacation trip to and from Atlanta. We just returned last night, and it is great to enjoy the cool ocean breeze of the Pacific Ocean again after driving through the desert. We are looking forward to seeing and worshipping the Triune God with you all this Lord’s Day.

As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper after evening worship, let me share another nugget from Gordon Keddie to prepare your hearts for communing with Christ in His specially ordained way. In chapter 2, on “Visible Signs”, Keddie shares:

God acts in the Supper, precisely as the Holy Spirit speaking in the Word applies the truth represented in the sacrament to the believer’s heart … God acts in our actions, as these are faithfully expressed in our coming to the Supper. God enacts our blessing … His grace is conveyed to the believing soul, as he or she comes obediently, willingly and discerningly to the Table of the Lord.

These [sings of the bread and cup] visibly illustrate the written Word of God, by using signs to seal God’s promises to his people.

God’s beloved, know that there is something real and meaningful going on as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. What we are doing together is full of eternal life. While the bread and wine are symbols, they are not empty of meaning and efficacy. These signs are Christ’s way of truly communicating life-sustaining grace to us through all our senses. May we in all our senses, by faith, respond in thanksgiving and be fed more of the accomplished Covenant of Grace.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Follow the Narrow Path

For Lord’s Day July 8, 2012

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day evening, we began the last “mini-series” through the first half (officially) of the Larger Catechism on what we are to believe concerning God. This last series covers the topic of Judgment Day. You were encouraged to “Be Left Standing” based on Christ’s words about the End in Luke 21:34-36.

We continue this Lord’s Day evening and the next with the LC and Scripture on Judgment Day. In preparation, I strongly encourage you listen to or watch this sermon by Missionary Paul Washer on the same matter. It’s a powerful, controversial message labeled “shocking” that was given to more than 5,000 youth at a conference, and has since been downloaded more than 180 thousand times: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=52906154239

I came upon this gripping sermon (which I believe is the most listened to on SermonAudio) Monday morning looking for a sermon for me to sit under. The sermon is based on the following text:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:13-27)

One thing that really stood out to me in Pastor Washer’s sermon was a comment he made on verse 13. He said that we have neglected in the American church to notice that it is not only a narrow gate we enter, but a narrow path we follow in being Christians. That’s worth meditating on today as you live your life for Christ into this Lord’s Day’s worship.

To get the context of what led to this message based on what he witnessed at the conference prior to preaching, visit http://tinysa.com/pw/background for a 12-minute interview. It’s sad and striking.

People don’t want to hear messages like this much anymore. I hope and trust you do. I plan on watching this again with my family within the next few days. My girls were looking over my shoulder at times watching it, and were captivated, volunteering “That’s powerful”, and saying they want to watch the whole thing another time. It is good that the church pays as much heed to Judgment Day as the world might. After all, not all who say “Lord, Lord”, will enter heaven. And remember in the text with Luke above that Jesus was preaching to worshippers in the Temple, who wisely came back to hear more (vs. 38).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

People Change in Christ

For Lord’s Day, July 22, 2012

Dear Saints,

They say that people can’t change.  But in both our messages from God this Lord’s Day, the very opposite will be held out before you.

In the morning, we begin to see Jacob showing some humility, honesty, and maturity.  He acts differently toward Esau and God than he had 20 years ago.  He’s a different man now, and he keeps changing.

In the evening, Paul exhorts us to go through an ongoing metamorphosis (the Greek word behind be ye “transformed”) by what we do with our bodies and how we think.

In both cases, the foundation, motivation, and obligation of and for genuine change is God’s sovereign grace for His elect.  We grow in His unceasing covenant mercy that we sing about 26 times in Psalm 136.  Jesus Christ changes people.  He changes you.  Once for all in justification, and on and on in sanctification.  Real and abiding change for God’s glory and our good.  In and through His mercy.

Change is the call and life of the Christian.  And, while change can be hard, scary, and even painful at times, when we see what we’re like on the other side, we see it’s all merciful.

Don’t forget that God is not done with you.  There is the already and the not yet of the Kingdom of Heaven in each of us until the resurrection.  Christ has changed you.  Christ still changes you.  For, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13).  You’ll see in both texts that such change happens most wonderfully on the inside and most noticeably on the outside when you and I respond to mercy.  You probably needed to hear you can still change this week.  And you probably needed to hear that you are changing this week.  And you probably needed to be reminded how this change is always possible and actual: His mercy endureth forever.  

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Certitude of Certainty

For Lord’s Day, August 5, 2012

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow evening we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Following is another excerpt from Gordon J. Keddie’s book, The Lord’s Supper is a Celebration of Grace, to prepare your soul:

“A seal pledges the validity and certainty of the thing signified … the symbols of the Lord’s Supper — bread and wine — are pledges of the validity of Christ’s death as an atonement for sin and the certainty of his purpose of salvation for all who will believe in him.  They are, observes Herman Hoeksema, ‘as it were, the oath of God, which He will surely fulfil.'”

Those of you at last Wednesday’s teaching on The Revelation of John may remember that I quoted Gordon Clark from a lecture series, where he made the distinction between certainty and certitude.  Certainty being the absolute fact of reality, whether or not we are aware or convinced or assured of the fact.  Certitude is our being confident of the fact, and it can increase (The Revelation is to give us more certitude of the certainty of Christ’s victory and thus, in Him, ours).

The Lord’s Supper is meant to give you increasing certitude of the certainty of your salvation by virtue of your union in Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.  To know that His sacrifice was accepted as perfectly (and solely) valid on your behalf by the Father to be reconciled and at peace with Him.  May you grow in your assurance by being assured of the fact of your salvation in Christ as you partake of the bread and wine, beloved.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Products of Pride and Humility

For Lord’s Day, August 12, 2012

Dear Saints,

After last Lord’s Day’s sermon on Genesis 33:1-16, “Humble yourself for peace,” I noticed a theme in my devotions through Proverbs this week.  It was said in the sermon that peace is a product of humility. Proverbs has a lot to say about what results come out of humility — or rather, what humility must proceed to produce desirable results.  Notice …

  • Proverbs 15:33 says that humility comes BEFORE “honour”.  One becomes noble by becoming humble.
  • Proverbs 18:12 makes a parallelism of contrast with humility: what comes before destruction? “A haughty heart”.

Thus, the opposite, undesirable results also follow the opposite of humility:

  • When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
  • Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)
  • Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
  • A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Proverbs 29:23)

May the Lord give us humble spirits, that we be upheld in His honor and uphold the honor of Christ.  For,

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Proverbs 22:4).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant