His Eye is On the Sparrow

For Lord’s Day, September 20, 2015

Dear Saints,

I have not had time to write a weekly e-devotion lately, but today I thought I’d share with you some photos of a special moment we captured while Jennifer and I enjoyed our anniversary lunch together at an outdoor cafe overlooking La Jolla Coves last month.  This sparrow family was busy having its own lunch just behind where we were sitting.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  But I’ll also give Scripture captions for each, some of which came to mind while enjoying what I hope you’ll enjoy below.

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Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

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Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)

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Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. (Psalm 84:3)

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Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her … (Jeremiah 12:9a)

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But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

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The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. (Ruth 2:12)

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Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, (Psalm 17:8)

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But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings …  (Malachi 4:2a)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Wise, Discerning Discipline

SchwarzkopfFor the Lord’s Day, August 2, 2015

Dear Saints,

A blunt but discerning leadership and parenting nugget is mined from General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a HeroHe shares the following story during his time as second lieutenant in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

In the summer of 1957 we had a huge influx of draftees, and we were working fifteen-hour days to get them properly trained and assimilated into the unit.  The worst soldier in the bunch was a guy from upstate New York.  He insisted that he’d been in a motorcycle accident and had sustained brain damage that caused him occasionally to become catatonic.  Given that he’d passed his draft physical, this seemed improbable, and we soon noticed a close correlation between this private’s catatonic fits and the prospect of hard work.  We’d be camped fifteen miles from the base, getting ready to march home, and the private would pass out.  Each time we’d carry him to the dispensary, but he always revived just before the doctor examined him.

The doctor was mystified; he couldn’t say what the problem was, but he also couldn’t say there was no problem.  Sergeants Montoya and Gonzales, Korean War veterans who supervised the recruits, did not think very much of this at all.  “Sir, that [guy] is getting over on us!”

I was concerned that if he did have a medical condition, the man could die: “Look, Sarge, he may be or he may not be.  We just don’t know and we can’t take a chance.”

So the sergeants improvised their own cure.  The troops lived on the second floor of the barracks, and every Friday night they had what was called a GI party–which entailed scrubbing the floor, waxing it, and buffing it to a high shine.  One Friday I heard screaming and raced upstairs and burst into the squad bay.  Montoya and Gonzales had the private hanging out the window upside down by his ankles.  He was in a panic, and Gonzales was yelling, “… It didn’t take you long to wake up this time!”  After that the private had no more catatonic fits, although the Army discharged him anyway, a few months later, as unfit for duty.

Sometimes you just have to get terribly and creatively direct to ferret out lazy, destructive, undermining, varmint-like tendencies.  Does this illustration seem extreme, non-pastoral, non-parental, and unscriptural?  Well passing over Hebrews 12:5-11 and Nehemiah 13:23-28, let us venture back in the Bible to consider King Solomon’s first wise and disciplinary tactic as a tough act to follow:

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. (1 Kings 3:16-28)

Notice that this extremely shrewd yet incredibly bold getting at the truth was King Solomon’s first wise judgment after God granted him the gift of wisdom for which he asked earlier in the chapter.

Am I saying to dangle disrespectful, deceitful, defiant deviants over balconies or to threaten to slice someone’s infant down the middle?  Of course not.  But the illustrated principle remains: sometimes moronic, incompetent, inferior nonsense must be squelched by morally responsible and effectual superiors.

Discerning when such daring measures are called for by similarly deplorable times takes great insight, so let us ask God for wisdom in leadership and parenting noting that there is a time for everything under heaven (including breaking down, as Solomon wrote elsewhere).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Remember Christ’s Redeeming Righteousness

For Lord’s Day, July 26, 2015

Dear Saints,

There is a quote that I will share with you in tomorrow’s morning sermon that is worth meditating on beforehand as we are reminded to remember that we are a chosen people and God’s peculiar treasure only because we are a redeemed people:

The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.
— Archbishop Temple (quoted by Eric Alexander in “Evangelistic Preaching” in Feed My Sheep)

May we remember in worship tomorrow that we only have filthy righteousnesses to offer the LORD (Isaiah 64:6).  Thus, may we humbly approach Him with nothing but the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness.  As Paul reminds us, we are Christians …

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Discerning and Doing the Will of the Lord as His People

JG Vos WLC Commentary CoverFor Lord’s Day, July 19, 2015

Dear Saints,

Before I put J.G. Vos’ Westminster Larger Catechism commentary back on the shelves, I thumbed through its pages for review and came across these statements that seemed quite poignant for the times of our nation. We the people need the ability to distinguish between good and evil by the use of the Good Book and Holy Word of Christ if we aren’t to go the way of the Roman Empire:

Where the Bible is known and believed, wickedness and crime are curbed, human life and property are secure, education is widespread, institutions of mercy for the care of the sick, unfortunate, and insane established, and civil liberty is honored and safeguarded … Where the Bible is unkown or almost unkown, human life is cheap and insecure; dishonesty is almost universal; men live in bondage to superstitions and fears; moral corruption and degradation abound.

Human opinions, reasonings, and philosophy are of no weight whatever against the statements of God’s Word.

All human schemes of betterment which are not founded on redemption from sin through Christ are foredoomed to failure. Permanent relief cannot be obtained by treating symptoms only, while ignoring the cause of the trouble.

… the civil magistrate may rightly, for civil reasons, prohibit the public propagation of atheism and of the denial of man’s moral responsibility to God. For a civil court to refuse to grant a charter of incorporation to an association the purpose of which is publicly to propagate atheism is no real infringement of civil or religious liberty. The success of such a corporation would result in the destruction of the moral foundations of human society and of the state itself. Civil and religious liberty do not include even the civil right to attempt to destroy the very basis of human civilization.

These fine assertions are also good timing to meditate on for our text tomorrow morning about the dietary laws in Leviticus 11. The continuity of their general equity today (WCF 19:3) teaches Christians to make ethically holy distinctions in life so as to be protected from the defilement of morally impure worldly influences, and thus to remain ethically pure and whole in the presence of our thrice holy God. The message for tomorrow will be, “Show Discernment to Show Who You Are and Who is Your God.”

May we come before the Lord Jesus with ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us, praying that He will help us rightly divide the Word of Truth in worship and in life. For in the evening, with the message “Apply Your Life to God’s Word” based on Psalm 111:10, we will learn that when we are simply willing to obey God without question (the answer to the “why?” of the arbitrarily chosen animals in Leviticus 11), He will reward us with good discernment.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Thomas Watson on the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

 

Watson Lord's Prayer

For Lord’s Day, July 12, 2015

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow evening we will conclude the Westminster Larger Catechism with the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer (Q&A 196). For a change, I won’t be sharing any quotes from Thomas Watson’s commentary on it during the evening sermon. But I’d like to give you some more nuggets mined from what he wrote regarding the sixth petition that are very powerful and encouraging considering we’ll learn that the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer guarantees that God will answer us in the affirmative as we seek to better understand what we are asking to be delivered out of.

In his book (two copies available in our church library) Watson instructs us that when we pray, “Deliver us from evil”, we ask in a “special sense” with a threefold notion: deliver us from the evil of our heart, from the evil of Satan, and from the evil of the world.

Deliver us from the evil of our heart:

  • “The devil could not hurt us, if our own hearts did not give consent. All that he can do is to lay the bait, but it is our fault to swallow it.”
  • “ … it was Augustine’s prayer, …Lord, deliver me from myself.”
  • Quoting Bernard: “Everyone is Satan to himself.”
  • “The heart of a man is the Trojan horse, out of which comes a whole army of lusts.”

Deliver us from the evil of Satan:

  • “While we are praying, hearing, and meditating, we are of his company, though uncertain how we came by it.”
  • “If when blasphemous thoughts are injected, you tremble at them, and are in a cold sweat, they are not yours, Satan shall answer for them …”
  • So the Devil doesn’t make you do anything. But often, he does suggest things to you that can get you down thinking they are your own original thoughts. This reality is helpful to realize so we can better resist the ancient tempter.
  • Besides what was shared about Satan influencing David last week, Acts 5:3 is another example of his planting thoughts: … Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

Deliver us from the evil of the world:

  • This is the main means of the Wicked One’s whispering in our ears.
  • “It is as hard to live in the world and not be defiled, as to go much in the sun and not be tanned. The opinions of the world are defiling … The examples of the world are defiling. Examples have great force to draw us to evil.” Ex. 23:2; Ps 106:35.
  • “The pleasures of the world, like opium, cast men into the sleep of security.”
  • “It is an evil world as it is a discouraging world. It casts scorn and reproach upon those who live virtuously.”
  • “It is an evil world as it is a maligning world. It hates the people of God.” Jn. 15:19. “The mark that is shot at is piety. Ps 38:20. The world pretends to hate the godly for something else, but the ground of the quarrel is holiness.”
  • “We may lawfully pray against the plots of the wicked, that they may prove abortive, that, though they have a design upon us, they may not have their desire upon us.” Ps. 141:9.

A few other thoughts worth passing on (remembering that temptations from Satan are enticements to sin with and for him):

  • “Leaving sin is not enough, unless we embrace righteousness … As it is in the body, it is not enough that the disease be stopped, but it must grow in health; so in the soul, it is not enough that acts of sin be forborne, which is stopping a disease, but it must be healthy, and grow in holiness.”
  • “See what the Scripture compares [sin] to … the vomit of dogs (2 Pet ii 22) … a menstruous cloth (Isa xxx 22) … the plague (1 Kings viii 38) and a gangrene (2 Tim ii 17).”
  • “The Hebrew word for sin signifies rebellion.”
  • “Sin … makes a man like a beast. Psa xlix 20. … When a man commits sin, he is the devil’s lackey and runs on his errand.”
  • “Sin breaks the peace of the soul.”
  • “Sin has shame for its companion, and death for its wages.”
  • “Sin is the spirit of witchcraft; it is the devil’s excrement …”

Thus, beloved, as you pray the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer (and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil) with the encouragement of its conclusion:

  • … exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
  • For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (Titus 2:11-15)

So let it be, so it shall be, so it is! (Amen!).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Heaven Rejoices When You Repent

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(Image source: https://newwaysministryblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/dbb2a-jump_for_joy_910.jpg)

For Lord’s Day, July 5, 2015

Dear Saints,

Like a father and mother and grandfather and grandmother and uncle and aunt and brother and sister rejoiced in the hospital at your birth, so did the angels celebrate in heaven when you were spiritually delivered.  And so they do every time you are delivered from evil.

Jesus says, I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (Luke 15:7).  Again, Jesus says, Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luke 15:10)

Beloved, be encouraged to know that not only did the angels rejoice over the salvation of other people, but they actually praised God when you repented toward Him and had faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. There was actually a moment when there was a party in heaven in your honor!

The “likewise” in the texts above refer to how the woman responded to being reunited to her lost coin as did the shepherd when reunited to his lost sheep. The series concludes with the father being reunited to his lost son who was restored to him because the young man came to his senses and repented and returned home (vss. 17-20).

As we study the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer tomorrow evening and learn to ask that we be kept from doing evil, be prayerfully motivated not to toy with temptation, as well as to be rescued from wickedness, by knowing that there is heavenly, angelic adulation over you every time you repent of a wicked thought or deed or life!  What’s more, the joy of God’s salvation will be restored to you (Psalm 51:8, 12).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Valley ShadowFor Lord’s Day, June 28, 2015

Dear Saints,

With the egregious Supreme Court decision about gay marriage now forced upon our land, here are a few things to be thinking about.

First, while some of the rhetoric of the LGBT movement is to no longer be held back by the past, this is nothing new or socially revolutionary (or evolutionary). From ancient times, homosexuals have tried to force themselves and their ways upon the righteous: revisit this sermon.

Second, the obsession with being accepted as “equal” is obviously absurd (where do such get their children? not from their own biological union, even now that it is formally legal).  Still, the issue is not so much equality as identity: revisit this Pastor’s Post. The audacious baiting of approving applause and authoritative sanction is really a desperate drive to drown out the unaccepting voice of The Supreme Judge still speaking to the conscience (Romans 2:15) that one is truly identifying with the Devil in such abominations.

Third, we should not be talking so much about God’s judgment soon to be coming upon our nation but God’s judgment having just been further manifested upon we the people. Read Romans 1:26-32. And read this post. While we should wonder how God might respond to the White House boasting of this new law coming upon our land “like a thunderbolt” as it illuminates itself in the colors of His covenant sign, the greater national sexual context against God’s Biblical Law has cultured such corruption. And it is particularly our fault. The Church throughout this nation has long been lukewarm for her first love and His marriage expectations. We just go with the flow cowardly and unthinkingly. Consider these words from my readings this week while wondering about the Church’s state of the union:

Men are more ready to follow the bad examples of evil men than to follow the good example of righteous men. The example of the ungodly is like a mighty stream and it requires both determination and effort to swim against such a current. Most men are like the dead leaves of autumn that simply float wherever the stream may take them. As the saying goes, ‘even a dead fish can swim downstream.’ (Richard Bacon, The Visible Church and the Outer Darkness)

Our culture is an amusement culture. I have at times pondered the word ‘amusement.’ ‘Muse’ means ‘to think.’ The ‘ment’ at the end of the word means ‘to be in the state of.’ And to put an ‘a’ in front of it makes the word mean ‘to be in a state of non-thinking.’ That’s really where our [church] culture is. (John Armstrong, “Preaching to the Mind”, in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Please for Preaching)

… people shun serious thoughts: ‘My people doth not consider.’ Hence it is they do not look after pardon. (Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer)

Luke 13:24 says to Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. John MacArthur points out that “strive” in the Greek means “to agonize”. We must agonize over our ethical steps to influence the direction of our country!

Notice that Psalm 23:3-4 speaks of our walking in paths of righteousness within the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Christian’s straight and narrow pilgrimage must not meander off into moral darkness on either side.

The horizon of our walk through this one nation refusing to be under God’s Law just got dimmer. But our Good Shepherd will comfort us with His crook after correcting us with His rod, and He will still lead us. He and we are the only hope for light at the end of the tunnel. Hold His Word before your path and feet, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (Philippians 2:15)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Marital Fidelity and Genes?

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For Lord’s Day, May 24, 2015

Dear Saints,

Yesterday, the same day that Mike and Erin (now the Delgados!) vowed before God and all of you to live in exclusive, life-long covenant faithfulness to one another, the New York Times ran an opinion piece that suggests it may not be biologically realistic to expect them to keep such a commitment, at least sexually.  That is, like laboratory animals, some people could perhaps be at a genetic disadvantage to keep conjugal covenant with their spouses.

In his opinion piece, “Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes”, Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, writes:

“We are accustomed to thinking of sexual infidelity as a symptom of an unhappy relationship, a moral flaw or a sign of deteriorating social values … But during my career … it turns out that genes, gene expression and hormones matter a lot.”

While Mr. Friedman makes many responsible disclaimers throughout the article, like all psychology, his speculation is built on a faulty foundational understanding of the origin of man, morality, and immorality:

“… We have long known that men have a genetic, evolutionary impulse to cheat, because that increases the odds of having more of their offspring in the world. But now there is intriguing new research showing that … Women who carry certain variants of the vasopressin receptor gene are much more likely to engage in “extra pair bonding,” the scientific euphemism for sexual infidelity … it is important to acknowledge that we live our lives on a very uneven genetic playing field.”

Here revealed is psychology’s anti-scriptural paradigm: the theory of evolution which denies humanity as made in the image of God, the idea of sin, and the reality of natural corruption passed down to us from fallen Adam as our real genetic problem that we all share.  As well, psychology (notice I give no adjectival nuance: see here) caters to the suggestive notion that we are victims and incapable of ultimately and objectively being held morally responsible and accountable. Slap a label on us so we can slap you with slander and slither by consequences if you say we have done something wrong (especially in court).

The truth is, according to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we are not only physical but spiritual and moral creatures. God holds everyone accountable to His moral standards and enables Christians to be faithful by Him Who is Faithful and True to us. The solution to our sinfully corrupt nature is salvation in King Jesus, and the theme verse commitment that Mike and Erin chose for their married life can and will keep them faithful: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).

Christ the King expects our fidelity not only to Him but to our human relations and commitments, especially marriage, because His Kingdom is holy. The Lord Jesus says elsewhere, … Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female … For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:4-6).

Christ calls us to faithfulness to our spouses as He is faithful to His Bride the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).  And so He calls on us to pray that we all would be faithful moral subjects of His Kingdom when He teaches us in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”. As we will learn by the guidance of the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 191 tomorrow evening, this petition includes asking “that Christ would rule in our hearts here.” Fidelity in body comes by fidelity in our hearts. May Christ rule there indeed that we would rule our deeds not by sinful impulse excused by the latest “science”, but by God’s holy, infallible, inerrant, enduring, eternal, Word, the only rule for faith and life.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Your Best by Choosing the Best

imagesFor Lord’s Day, May 17, 2015

Dear Saints,

Motivated by the church’s recent Homemaker’s movie night, we began reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress for family worship.  We are making a point to look up a Scripture that summarizes each vivid part.  The beginning of the story drew our souls back once more to Matthew 7:13-14:

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.

During our devotional discussion, we were reminded of how children often cry to their parents, “But everyone else is doing it!” and of the wise, parental, rhetorical reply that always follows: “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?”  The logic is obvious: just because many people are doing something does not make it a right or safe thing for us to join in with.  In fact, more often than not, it turns out disastrously for us.

As Jesus says to follow the narrow way, and as He is the Way, then if we truly are in fellowship with Him we will not walk under the cloak of darkness (1 John 1:6). The multitudes venture out at night with the Devil but we must stay safe under the cover of our covenant homes.

In our men’s study this week we read a sobering warning in Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State (chapter two regarding our natural sinful state after the Fall):

“Nothing is more plain, than that generally men choose rather to do what the most do, than what the best do.”

Beloved, that you would make it to the Celestial City, choose to follow the best — they alone will lead you along the narrow and only way to get to where the Prince of Peace will open His doors to you.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Narrow Way is Always Obvious

 

90425_jumboFor Lord’s Day, May 10, 2015

Dear Saints,

At our Homemakers Movie Night last month, something really stood out to me as helpful for our own Christian Pilgrimage that I’d like to review with you.  In the modern retelling of Pilgrim’s Progress, “Journey to Heaven”, a great pearl of wisdom was shared for how to make morally sound and safe choices that steer clear of temptation’s potholes.

While Christian regained his footing toward the Celestial city after getting lost and nearly dying several times along broader roads, he asked, “How will I know which way to go?”  He was answered, “You will always know which way to go. It will always be the narrow way.”

This is such a simple and important principle for our sanctified survival, brethren: when you need to choose what to do, don’t do what everyone else does or says to do.  You will always know which way to go.  It will always be the narrow way.

Satan will constantly tempt you to leave God’s path of walking with Jesus.  He will never cease to present you with an alluring alternative where majority rules.  Two ways will always stare you in the face. One will be well-worn by many a worldly boot.  Satan says, “Go that way!” and you will want to.  Myriad crowds rush by to get ahead of you and spin through its turnstiles.  You would be going with the flow — but at the end of the road it spills over a cliff into hot liquid rock.

Jesus says, “I am the Way” (John 14:6).  Very few find or follow Him.  And many who say they do prove instead to be driving by the world’s roadmap because they hug the same curves, pack the same bags, and talk about the same points of interest as they hang out at the same rest stops.

Choosing which way to go is not a complicated decision. But it is a hard one.  Yet it is the right one.  When you follow the Light, in stead of walking with the living dead your feet will be in step with those who live forever at the Resurrection.  Jesus says:

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. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Don’t let the Serpent seduce you.  You always will know which way to step if you are soberly and spiritually seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  Look for the narrow way.  Look for the path that is least traveled and of the greatest resistance.  That is always the way to go!  Whatever ethical choice you face in this life, always look for the small but sincere line of advancing and always go that way.

Don’t trick yourself into saying, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know where to turn!” Yes you do, Pilgrim.  The decision is always clear. There are two choices: one is sinful and one is Biblical.  You will always know for sure what to do.  If at times your eyes strain a bit when the sky grows dim and the air thickens around you, simply ask, “What are most people doing?” and then do the opposite.  Listen to which way the the multitudes are trotting and let them leave you in their dust.  Watch which way the masses point and let them wag their fingers at you as you solemnly wave goodbye and turn around to go the other direction.  You will always know which way to go. It will always be the narrow way.

Follow the footprints of Noah and Enoch!  Walk with the wise and you will find even along the way that you have chosen wisely and are becoming wiser (Proverb 13:20).  Beloved, your gait will quicken when you lighten your load and begin to hear the cloud of witnesses that chose this same path earlier on now cheering you on (Hebrews 12:1).  They will be worshipping with you tomorrow in God’s heavenly throne room, where Jesus will remind you that in truth you are never traveling alone (Hebrews 13:5).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Children Reflect Their Parents

DSC_0032 copyFor Lord’s Day, April 12, 2015

Dear Saints,

We had a hearty chuckle yesterday afternoon as I was getting ready to mow the lawn.  Isaac (nearly 2, going on 22), became hilariously excited, making driving motions with his arms and uttering engine noises with his voice to indicate that HE too was going to be cutting the grass!  He hadn’t even seen me get the mower out yet — he just knew what was about to take place watching my ritual of putting on work clothes and boots, and he wanted in!  No doubt about it, Daddio!  Step aside or lead the way!  So we brought out his personal machine of choice to join me in the labor. He was so funny, pushing that little plastic thing all around with purpose and pride (with its and his engine noises mixed with ecstatic, giggly cackles).  Jenn snapped a picture to document the fun.

This little tike’s merry antics reminded me of how much our children observe us and reflect us. They watch and listen and imitate.  It is the way they are wired, and in a covenant home, this is especially priceless if we are purposeful.

Isaac continued to impress his lesson upon me as we had family worship later that evening.  He clung to one of our little, black Scottish Psalters on his highchair tray like a treasured treat, and even though he had it opened upside down, he sang along with gusto (it was at least a joyful noise!).  By our example and patient coaxing, Isaac also has begun to pray his version of “Amen” and to say “Jesus”.  Praise the Lord.

The older children got a kick out of Isaac’s zeal for worship (he insisted on getting his psalter back to hold onto during our readings and discussion, and he pointed to Olivia’s empty chair with great concern for the covenant community as he hollered for her return from “powdering her nose” while we later sang another Psalm).  I told his brother and sisters that their little brother was copying them. He watches their example too, and they must continue to set a good one. It was a reminder for us all to lead this wee lad in the ways of righteousness, for he learns from all we do and say (and all that we do not do and say).  As well, he still likes to fling his arm around and “precent” during the singing of the Psalms, and this of course is his mimicking Mr. Kevin Huffmaster helping us sing in public worship together as Christ’s Church.

Our children do what we teach them by deliberation or default.  We are their models and they reflect us.  This reality is no different with our own Lord, Jesus Christ, who said:

… Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise … I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:19, 30)

Like Father, like Son.  Beloved, may we copy Jesus. That is, may we too reflect His Heavenly Father and Our Father Which art in heaven.  And thus, may we teach our children well (young and older), for they always reflect us.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Awful Public Execution of Hell and the Cross

DissectingFor Lord’s Day, April 5, 2015

Dear Saints,

We were all struck by the typology of the Burnt Offering in Leviticus 1:6-7 last Lord’s Day.

 

(Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissection)

Many agreed that the public execution typified by the flaying off of the animal’s skin and the deliberate dissection of it into pieces to be meticulously laid over the fires of the Brazen Altar is one of the scariest prefigurations of what hell will be for the unrepentant sinner who is not covered with the propitiatory (Mercy Seat) blood of the Lamb of God to satisfy the Father’s wrath and curse due to him or her for sin.

Mr. Delgado later shared a sobering insight as to how this type surely was alluded to by Jesus in Matthew 24:50-51 about Judgment Day and its aftermath upon an unbeliever:

The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As you know, the animal in the Burnt Offering served as the substitutionary sacrifice for the vicarious atonement of what the offerer should suffer in hell if not for the Lamb of God ultimately prefigured in John 1:29 (and all through Revelation).  The exacting, clinical, cutting execution of the helpless animal represented the open and eternal punishment of God upon those in hell.  This is what Jesus, in our place, experienced in His public trial and public execution on the Cross.  Remember what Andrew Bonar wrote about Leviticus 1:6:

… the deliberate infliction is the most awful feature of justice. It leaves the sufferer hopeless. The stroke is awfully relentless, determined, righteous! Such too were the Saviour’s sufferings.

Let us meditate on this horrific picture of hell and the cross as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper tomorrow evening in remembrance of what the Lamb of God did for us. Charles Spurgeon, in his March 31 morning devotion, gives us a frightening image to so prepare ourselves, with Isaiah 53:5 as his text, “With His stripes we are healed”:

The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture.  It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone.  The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten.  He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman licturs was probably the most severe …  My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body.

Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears, as He stands before you the mirror of agonizing love?  He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood.

Dearly beloved, may you more deeply adore your Beloved as He reminds you with graphic pictures in the Lord’s Supper of how He went through hell for you on the cross so that you will never have to endure the eternal public exposure and execution of God.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Medicine of Laughter

 

airtravel

For Lord’s Day, March 15, 2015

Dear Saints,

I ended up getting the cold that has been going around my family and I didn’t sleep Friday night, so I took to reading through our family’s collection of Mark Twain writings.  I like to read him a lot for a lot of reasons, but one for sure is his keen humor.  Presently, I’m reading Tom Sawyer Abroad, a fanciful tale of Tom Sawyer, Jim, and Huckleberry Fin (the narrator) flying over the world in a futuristic hot air balloon. (Image source: http://www.twainquotes.com/Airtravel.html)

Presently, these men find themselves gliding over the Sahara desert, often hovering above lions and camels.  Part of what Huck conveyed last night had me chuckling so much I couldn’t help but laugh over it with the family this morning at breakfast.  I’d like to share it with you as some self-depecrating humor since I identified with Jim while reading, knowing I’ve earned a reputation from Family Camp and Men Retreats (and lolling off while watching something with the family in the evening):

Jim begun to snore–soft and blubbery at first, then a long rasp, then a stronger one, then a half a dozen horrible ones, like the last water sucking down the plug-hole of a bath-tub, then the same with more power to it, and some big coughs and snorts flung in, the way a cow does that is choking to death; and when the person has got to that point he is at his level best, and can wake up a man that is in the next block with a dipperful of loddanum in him, but can’t wake himself up although all that awful noise of his’n ain’t but three inches from his own ears.  And that is the curiousest thing in the world, seems to me.  But you rake a match to light the candle, and that little bit of a noise will fetch him.  I wish I knowed what was the reason of that, but there don’t seem to be no way to find out.  Now there was Jim alarming the whole desert, and yanking the animals out, for miles and miles around, to see what in the nation was going on up there; there warn’t nobody nor nothing that was as close to the noise as he was, and yet he was the only cretur that wasn’t disturbed by it. We yelled at him and whooped at him, it never done no good; but the first time there come a little wee noise that wasn’t of a usual kind, it woke him up.  No, sir, I’ve thought it all over, and so has Tom, and there ain’t no way to find out why a snorer can’t hear himself snore.

I don’t mind if you had me in mind as the one sawing logs while you read.  I thought of this verse as the giggles settled this morning, and hope this silly story has blessed you:

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine … (Proverb 17:22)

I hope you had a good laugh as you prepare to let the joy of the Lord be your strength anew in worship tomorrow.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Do Something New

iStock_000038973906LargeFor Lord’s Day, March 8, 2015

Dear Saints,

Physical trainer Steve Conley says:

“I live by this quote: ‘If you want something you never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.'”

This is such a great “proverb” to think through while analyzing our daily walk. It’s just so true and practical.

What do you want to be different in your walk with the Lord? What do you want, for the first time, to have in your personal life? In your family life? In your church life? More joy? More courage? More peace? More confidence? More holiness? More fellowship?  More faithfulness?  More faith?  More self-control?  Better health?

So how will you achieve what you want but do not have? Yes, with the Lord’s gracious support. But how else? With your cooperation according to His Word. And more specifically, still?  By doing something you’ve never done. Most likely, if you’re still waiting to have something new, it’s because you’ve yet to do something new.

Here’s another familiar way of saying it, on the flip side:

What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result.

If we’re frank with ourselves, what we do habitually without a new result is a result of our reacting rather than taking initiative.  We default to the same old responsive behavior patterns that render the same old life products.  We need to take charge and lead ourselves proactively so we force new patterns against the flow of old spiritual currents. Then and only then will we catch the drift and benefit of what Mr. Conley is sharing with us.

Brethren, If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Proper Response to Sovereign, Gracious Mercy

For Lord’s Day, February 22, 2015

Dear Saints,

In Exodus 32-33, we have seen God’s frightening judgment upon horrible, idolatrous (and adulterous) sin.  And we have learned that our repentance is the only means of being restored to the LORD through the work of our Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we will see God forgives and restores the Church simply because He is gracious and merciful!  May we respond as Moses does to the LORD’s sovereign, unmerited favor:  And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. (Exodus 34:8)

Such a reverent response to mercy is almost unheard of today in the contemporary culture of the American church.  But R.C. Sproul challenges us not to presume upon God’s grace in worship:

“Reverence. This may be the most difficult. We are among the most casual and disrespectful people who have inhabited the earth.  That disrespect carries over even into our worship and prayer life. We tend to approach God as if he were our peer. We talk to him as if we were talking to our next-door neighbor, with no sense of awe, adoration, or reverence before him.” (Truths We Confess, vol. 2, 321)

J.I. Packer warns us that such “ … inattention is an insult.” (Concise Theology, 98).

Beloved of the Lord, may we respond to God’s sovereign, gracious mercy tomorrow like Moses—with reverence and godly fear, just as we are told in Hebrews 12:28 to respond to the LORD’s more manifest and magnificent mercy to us in Jesus Christ.

But, also, if we really appreciate what we have been given instead of what we deserve (Psalm 103:8-12), may we not be able to help ourselves but enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise, to be thankful unto Him and to bless His name (Psalm 100:4). For we already have more than we deserve (death, Romans 6:23), and thus we have plenty to be happy about. Dr. Sproul also shares:

“Dr. [John] Gerstner once gave a lecture on the joy of the Christian. He pointed out that joy should be the chief characteristic of every Christian … If God never bestowed another blessing upon me for the rest of my days, I would still have every reason to be joyful for the blessings he has already poured out upon me.” (Truths We Confess, vol. 2, 239, 40).

With all this in view, may we take to heart the call of Sinclair Ferguson’s closing application chapter of his book, A Heart for God, that we studied together this Wednesday Night: “Let Us Worship God!”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Reverence: The Soul of Christianity

For the Lord’s Day, February 15, 2015

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day evening, we were reminded to approach God in worship and during the Lord’s Supper with reverent attention:

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)

In both worship services tomorrow, we will be reminded that real reverence is a gracious heart issue that is observable in our gracious behavior.  What is more, reverence that is authentic in affection and actions–first in worship and then in life–is the heart of real Christianity.

Goethe writes that “The soul of the Christian religion is reverence …”, and Simmons says reverence is “the very first element of religion.” Tryon Edwards avers that “Reverence is one of the signs of strength; irreverence one of the surest indications of weakness.”

What will you say about your religion in worship tomorrow to yourself and to God within your heart? And what will you witness to God, to your minister, and to others by your behavior? What will you reveal about your soul to yourself, to God, and to your brethren?  Will you demonstrate that Christianity is your soul’s true religion by expressing its very first element, and that you, through Christ, are strong? May it be so.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Need for Strong Church Leaders

For Lord’s Day, February 8, 2015

Dear Saints,

It’s another tough Scripture to look at tomorrow as we continue hearing about the terrible Golden Calf incident at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:15-25).  We will see the need for “tough love” by strong men like Moses if the Church will survive God’s judgment for such things and avoid them in the future. And we will see how the church gets herself into such times of severe discipline and loss under “nice” but weak leaders such as Aaron.  Following are some thoughts from three different sources that together should help us prepare for the message, “You Need Strong Leaders”.

“Armed for the Fight Against Grave and Serious Error”, a sermon by John Calvin printed in The Trinity Review, October 2014:

… we all know how important it is to feel at peace with the world. (This is why many of us are blind to our faults, because the world flatters us.)

Too many people are continually on the prowl to see whether there is anything they can attack; their holiness amounts to nothing more than mocking one person or chiding another.

We must not fear anyone, for the zeal of God must rise up within us and overwhelm us. Even if it means that we acquire a bad reputation and become the object of all kinds of calumny and slander, nevertheless, we must enter into combat.

… even the greatest amongst us must bend his neck, realizing the devilish confusion that results when a man believes himself to be above reproof.

… when a sin is deepening and spreading because of silent acquiescence in it, we must deal with it. If we only respond when the illness is deep-rooted, we will be too late.

… if sin reigns we must deal with it at the appropriate time, for if we tolerate it, or make it a laughing matter, and then subsequently try to deal with it, we will be surprised to find that God has shut the door on us and that Satan has won. This is a just reward for our cowardice and coldness, if we are not prepared to heal the sicknesses which corrupt and infect the body of the church the moment we see them arise within her.

Little by little, the devil’s ways will become the order of the day and he will drag us along with him if he once takes hold of our loose reigns. If we see evil growing to this degree, each of us has a duty to stop its spread by showing that we prefer to go to war in the service of God than to have all the friends in the world and to please and gratify mortal creatures. Let us even make ourselves blind or remove an eye rather than offend God. May his truth and his glory be so precious to us that everything else is as nought in comparison.

“As Spiritual Mediator, [Pope] Francis Moves His Geopolotical Agenda Forward”, by Richard Bennett and Robert Nicholson, in The Trinity Review, September, 2014:

… any country’s civil order is based on the dominant religion of its people.

“The Line in the Sand”, in Solid Ground newsletter, Nov/Dec 2014, by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries:

As followers of Christ here in the West, our lives are not at risk . Far from it. We’re not faced with the ultimatum, ‘Recant or die.’ But sometimes in many small ways, I’m afraid we implicitly recant with much less incentive. We deny our Savior in the little things—the petty offense, the silent condescension, the hidden envy, the small bit of bitterness, the modest moment of pride.

The most important measure of our success as Christians is not our numbers or even our immediate impact, but our moment-by-moment faithfulness.

When ‘alien principles’ rule the church … ‘the church ceases to be the church.’ (Barmen Declaration)

My fear is that any Christian crossing the first line will cross the second for the same reasons: to be ‘tolerant,’ to be lauded as loving, to escape the brand, ‘bigot.’ Though not a fool, Paul was willing to be called one for fidelity’s sake, since the so-called ‘foolishness’ of the Gospel had the power to save those who believed (1 Cor. 1:18-24). Are you willing to wear the label ‘bigot’ for the same reason, even if it be libel?”

Let us ask God to expose the Golden Calves in our hearts tomorrow with such challenging words, that we would get rid of them and have no need to drink them and die by them.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Turn Over the Earth of Your Hearts

For Lord’s Day, February 1, 2015

Dear Saints,

photo-1Led by the Westminster Larger Catechism in the evening sermons, we have been considering the need to examine ourselves and prepare our hearts for proper worship and partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  Elder Renner and I recently were reminded of what that needs to “look like”, as we often say, while we were on a hike together.

Notice in the photo above from our hike alongside some farmland in Escondido the different colors of different sections of ground.  The light part on the right is what had not been turned over yet. It was hard and dry and covered by weeds.  The dark part on the left and in the background is the earth that was recently plowed by the tractor in the distance (top right). It is broken and moist and ready to take in water and grow tomato plants.  This contrast is a good illustration of what we learned in the sermon a while back on how to listen to a sermon per Westminster Larger Catechism 160.  Entitled, “Be Good Listeners”, the sermon took us through Luke 8:1-18 and the Parable of the Sower, where we learned that the distinguishing difference of the people who received the Seed of God’s Word and thus had it grow within them and produce fruit in the world were those who had “good ground”, that is, self-cultivated hearts.  Christian hearts are ground that has been turned up and over so that it is ready to be planted.  So the Prophet preaches:

… thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. (Jeremiah 4:3)

photo 2Fallow ground is not ground that has never been plowed, but ground that hasn’t been plowed in a while and thus needs to be broke open again so God’s Word can be sowed into in it and so it can receive rain from heaven to nourish growth and fruitfulness.  The light ground in these pictures was clearly plowed last year. But for a new season of sowing and harvesting, it needed to be plowed again.  So too, beloved, do we always need to freshly cultivate our hearts for worship and the Lord’s Supper to see God produce new fruit in us and in our fellowship.

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I will leave you with some thoughts on self examination before the Lord’s Supper that I trust you will take to heart in preparing your hearts for worship tomorrow and Communion after the evening service.  In his book, The Lord’s Supper is a Celebration of Grace, Rev. Gordon J. Keddie writes in the chapter on self-examination:

The emphasis here [2 Corinthians 13:5], as in 1 Corinthians 11:28, is not on whether or not they are Christians, but whether or not they are actively living as Christians who are heart and hand ‘in the faith’.  Are they living the Christian life? In other words, it is not the question of assurance of faith that is in view, but living in faith, daily, practically and consistently …

His question is not, ‘Am I a believer?’, but ‘How am I doing as a believer?’ or, putting it another way, ‘Am I recognizable as a believer?’

… If we approach the Supper thoughtlessly, carelessly, with unrepented sin, abusing the symbols of Jesus’ death, we in effect treat Christ lightly, if not even contemptuously … The English Puritan Thomas Doolittle highlights the seriousness of this matter in a most searching manner when he says, ‘I think a man who is not fit to die is not fit to receive [the sacrament].  A man should sit down at the Lord’s Table with as great care as he would lie down in his grave.  He should be as serious for his soul at this ordinance as he would be upon his dying bed.  You should go to the Lord’s Table as carefully as if you were going into another world.’

May these words stir you and I up to turning up tomorrow having turned over the earth of our hearts anew for a new season of personal and corporate growth.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Learn to Appreciate God’s Discipline as Fatherly Faithfulness

iStock_000019839795LargeFor Lord’s Day, January 25, 2015

Dear Saints,

In his chapter on the doctrine of adoption, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes:

The great lie of Satan is that if you really love a child, you won’t discipline him. In fact, normal discipline is often considered ‘child abuse.’ But the greatest abuse you can give a child is to let him do whatever he wants without any correction, chastening, or discipline. A truly loving and caring father will rebuke, admonish, and chasten his children. Similarly, God says that he chastens or disciplines his children because he loves them … The Father never writes us off. (Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. 2,)

This is a very important truth to swallow: not to discipline our children is the worst form of child abuse.  What is too often excused as loving patience will actually be exposed as selfish indifference.  When we neglect parental discipline, we actually are writing off our children.  And deep down, they know it and act out on it.  God’s Word says:

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:8)

There is a wonderful truth here to be embraced.  We are NOT bastards, we are adopted children.  God proves His faithful fatherhood over us by His chastisement and discipline.  So we are told in Hebrews 12 to appreciate His “tough love” to us as a sign that He has not written us off, and as evidence that He never will.

Let us come to worship tomorrow and pray, “Our Father” with a deeper reverence for His indefatigable parenting of us. And may we reflect His parental style and show our children that we will never write them off by our never defaulting to dismissive abdication, because we love them so much.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Proper Preparation for the Lord’s Day and Supper

Calvin SealFor Lord’s Day, January 18, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Photo source: http://myheartioffer.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html]

Dear Saints,

Thomas Watson writes, “There is no receiving a crucified Christ but to a consecrated heart.”

Watson is speaking to the vital need of preparing ourselves properly for our effectual taking of the Lord in His Supper (which will be our topic of Scripture study tomorrow evening by the guidance of Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 171)–but his words are also important to help us remember to prepare for public and private worship on the Lord’s Day as well.  This verse is an important one we will consider tomorrow evening:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Tomorrow, God will speak to us again in Exodus 31:12-17 about keeping His holy Sabbath holy, for such a lifestyle is a living sign of covenant life with Him in Christ.  It is not insignificant that as God “wraps things up” after forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai regarding all the moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws just before He gives him the stone tablets as the witnessing “receipts” of their agreement (next week, vs. 18), God reviews how important Sabbath-keeping is as a witness to their holy relationship with Him.  So it is appropriate for us to review how to prepare for Lord’s Day worship by the guidance of the Westminster Divines:

Westminster Larger Catechism 117:  How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified? A. The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day … in the publick and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

Westminster Larger Catechism 121:  Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment? A. The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it … partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labour to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.

Watson also writes, “We dress ourselves when we come to the table of some great monarch; so, when we are going to the table of the Lord, we should dress ourselves by holy meditation and heart consideration.”  This dressing of ourselves to meet with King Jesus in Person is spoken of in the Scripture above as “examining” and “proving” ourselves by quiet, thoughtful time in the Word and in devoted prayer.

May you give yourselves to such soul-searching tonight, beloved, that by faith you would truly receive the Messiah tomorrow.  And as you so prepare, may your meditation motto be that of John Calvin’s: “I offer my heart to you, O Lord, eagerly and earnestly.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Power of Piety is in Self-Denial

pietyDefinition(Image source: http://www.pi-e-t.com)

For Lord’s Day, January 4, 2015

Dear Saints,

Happy New Year!

As we prepare to worship together for the first time in the two thousand and fifthteenth year of our Lord, it is always helpful to renew ourselves in the new man by review:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

It is this new holy life in Christ that makes an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  It is called godliness. It is called piety.  Without piety, as we will see tomorrow, and without whole hearted praise, we are not a pleasing perfume to God nor our brethren. But with godly devotion, we please the LORD and, help His Body to smell good, and, in fact, empower ourselves.

In the book, The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art, Erroll Hulse spends some time addressing the common causes of “Pastoral Anxiety” in his contributed chapter, “The Preacher and Piety”.  The causes were not so surprising to me, nor would I think they would be to you.  However, the first remedy or cause of relief was surprising, but in an empowering way.  Reminiscent of the advice given by Jeremiah Borroughs in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and in Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot, Hulse focuses not on the behavior of others, but our own reactionary behavior as pastors, to identify the ultimate first cause of pastoral breakdown, which is a lack of self-denial.

Wow.  The way to not have a nervous breakdown is to break ourselves down.  We do the opposite of the world.  We do not pamper ourselves, but prop ourselves up with pious self-sacrifice.  If we don’t, he warns:

The influence of a materialist, pleasure-loving, prosperous society can be so strong as to erode the piety of ministers.  Gradually and unwittingly they conform to wordily standards and self-indulgence.  In other words the world molds them more than they mold the world … as soon as we overindulge, we commit sin.

And sin never brings blessing upon us (Romans 6:23; Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 152).  Hulse goes on to say that the pastor should be a model for others to follow.  And that example should be imitating Christ in self-denial, which he says must be “universal and constant”, while recognizing, “It often involves pain.”  But you remember the adage, “No pain, no gain”.  This is true for us in the process of sanctification and the stripping away of things that can break us down as much as any area in life in which we want to perform well and reap the rewards of excellence.  Self-denial’s immediate pain prepares the way for the delayed and lasting gratification of contentment walking with Christ, which is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

Hulse illustrates what we should imitate in dealing with our hardships, quoting Thomas Boston’s diary from Sept. 13:

Being under some discouragements at home … I began to be uneasy and discontent with my settling at Simprin–finding myself hereby carried off my feet as a Christian, I resolved to spend some time on the morrow in fasting and prayer.

You recognize, with me, that this is sadly the opposite of how we often deal with anxiety and its potential physical breakdowns and mental meltdowns in our modern day of vain, quick fixes.  We too often knee-jerk to gluttony and complaining, or should we say, we resign in both forms of self-centeredness. But such childish behavior stinks of Satan, and such tarnishing, treacherous actions based on stinking thinking only suffocate sanctified breathing.  May we instead give ourselves away to Christ by giving up our standard ways of dealing with disappointments, and find anew that we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us (Philippians 4:13, or, as Hulse shares, William Hendrisken aptly translates it as ” …. who infuses strength into me.”).  Christ renews us in Himself, but we only find Him anew in the pious giving over of ourselves to Him.

Should you not want to apply this remedy of resolve and just continue to react, don’t expect change that blesses when you live in the old self that Paul says to put off so that you can put on Christ and walk in His newness of life.  Only piety empowers, and piety is godliness, and godliness–imitating Christ Jesus–is self-denial and serving others.  If you are tempted to dismiss this wisdom and decline to empower yourself with piety, perhaps it will be helpful first to consider the other aspects Hulse lists as what leads to our own self-imposed breakdowns; he breaks it down into the following categories: our self breakdowns are not only due to a lack of self-denial, but are also caused by nervous tension, moral failure, pride and selfish ambition, and deviation from the truth and from reliance on the instituted means of grace.

May we prepare for Lord’s Day worship and the Lord’s Supper, by preparing to meet with the Lord in advance applying the sermon point of tomorrow’s sermon on Exodus 30:22-38 regarding the typology of the priestly Anointing Oil and Incense: “Perfume Yourselves with Piety and Praise.”  And may our motivation be, in addition to God’s glory as primary, our own enjoyment of Him and our own sanctified scent, for as Hulse also writes, “Piety is the guardian of the soul, not only the supporter, but also the nourisher …”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Responsible Parenting and Its Righteous Reward

Child prayingFor Lord’s Day, December 28, 2014

Dear Saints,

I have some very happy news to share with you as I have recently been given clearance by Mr. Allie to “go public” with some family news to further inform your prayers for them.  Please now add to your prayers the Lord’s blessing upon their new family addition, as Tim, Eunice, and Eli are expecting another child!  These verses always come to mind with such happy news:

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them … (Psalm 127:3-5)

As I mentioned to Tim while celebrating the joys of raising Christian children, I have been collecting notes for some time on responsible parenting and its righteous reward that I only just this week put together and uploaded to our website (under Christian Parenting on the “Duties Required” link of our Resources tab) available here.  Following is a powerful quote we just read last week in family worship (from the Thomas Chalmers Sabbath devotional book the Maxwells gave us a while back) that I inserted at the beginning of the collection of quotes on parental responsibility:

I have no right to look for miracles of grace in behalf of my children—if myself I will not put into busy operation the means of grace … Is it not a presumptuous expectation that He, at my request too, will make up for my neglect of the solemn duties which belong to me both as a master and a parent?—My God, I pray not for exemption from these duties, but for boldness and faithfulness and energy to acquit myself thereof.”

The positive side of the above admonition is that God is faithful to use His means, and we can cling to and expect His blessing on our application of His rule and rules as we parent our covenant children:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverb 22:6)

If I may, I’d like to share God’s confirmation of this parental promise to Jennifer and me even this afternoon at the oncologist’s office.  While I sat with Jennifer as she received her maintenance treatment for over an hour, the children did their school work (while watching their toddler brother) in the waiting room.  When we came out afterward to get them and return home, the receptionist said to me: “You should get a reward for ‘best behaved children’, because I rarely remembered your kids were there, they were so good and quiet.”  I was able to glorify God in response: “God is faithful to His promises.” And then, I remembered also to say, “Thank you.”  You see, it is all God’s grace, but He uses the gracious means of His Word in rearing His covenant children in our covenant homes and the household of His Church.  I knew I could count on my kids to behave. It is not that they are angels; rather, they are disciplined saints (sinners like us all who need God’s sanctified family discipleship structure).  I praised the children in the hallway for bringing such obvious honor to their parents and their heavenly Father, and pointed out to them how they gave a witness walking before the watching world to our mutual Master, Jesus Christ.

Beloved, may we all be responsible with what and whom God has entrusted to us, trusting that He will indeed bless us greatly with His little blessings to us when we steward and disciple them according to His Word.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Still and Know the Lord Almighty is With Us

For Lord’s Day, December 6, 2014

Dear Saints,

In our study of Sinclair Ferguson’s A Heart for God this Wednesday, I recalled two things I would have liked to share with you and so will offer as our weekly e-devotion this week.

The two things I’d like to share relate to what ministered to me the most in chapter 5 that we looked at, “The Ever Present One”:

Our consolation does not lie in what God might do, although we know He can do anything that accords with his holy will. Our comfort is that he is with us.  When the mountains in our lives are cast into the seas, here is our encouragement and strength …

He reminded us of what we love to sing in Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea … The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. (vss. 1-2, 7 [repeated in verse 11])

The following verse in Psalm 46 as the application of the above is thus very meaningful for us to live at peace within, with hope and comfort:  Be still, and know that I am God  (vs. 10)

First, I was reminded of what Elder Renner shared with me a few weeks ago for a potential weekly e-devotion.  The story of Horatio Spafford and the story behind his poem, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

I’ll let you watch the above video recommended by Elder Renner to be reminded of the story about how Mr. Spafford had stillness and peace while he mourned the great loss of his four daughters as he rode over their watery graves (having lost his son not long before).  But one other thing I have thought about a lot since this study I’d like to also remind you of here is the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1: What is thy only comfort in life and death?  Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Beloved, as you come to worship tomorrow, lay all your afflictions at Christ’s feet, and be still and know that He is God, and that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: In the video above, please note we of course do not support the violation of the second commandment at the end (which we are presently studying in our Shorter Catechism teaching and memorization time).

Don’t Try to Live By Bread Alone

iStock_000017068698LargeFor Lord’s Day, November 30, 2014

Dear Saints,

While at a the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual conference last week, I was really challenged by some closing words by Dr. Miroslav Volf of Yale Divinity School that I’d like to share with you as we prepare for our Thanksgiving Day Service tomorrow and our weekly feeding on the Bread of Life this Lord’s Day.

Dr. Volf quoted what our Lord Jesus Christ quoted as His Biblical defense against the Devil’s temptation in the wilderness:

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

While I did not agree with all that was said in the lecture, and I did not write fast enough to get his quotes verbatim, I was impressed when he exhorted us in his conclusion with something like this:

The greatest temptation [of the Church today] is that man lives by bread alone while treating God as a mere bread provider.  When we live by bread alone, someone goes hungry.  When we live by bread alone, the after taste is always bitter. But the bitterness is not from the bread, but by our own living by bread alone.

Before we enjoy our meals tomorrow, may we remember where we got them and go to glorify God and thank Jesus like the only of ten healed lepers did in Luke 17:12-19.  And may we find there in thankful worship that Jesus will say to us what He said to the thankful worshipper: thy faith hath made thee whole. And may we remember that when Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 against the Devil in Matthew 4:4, He hadn’t eaten for forty days and forty nights so that He could pass the test of temptation and remain righteous on our behalf.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Christ’s High Priestly Robe and His Unchangeable Priesthood

For Lord’s Day, November 16, 2014

(image source for below: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs084/1107177002582/archive/1110201535913.html)

Golden Garments 1Dear Saints,

While driving this morning, I was listening to a lecture by one of my professors about the priesthood of Christ as figuritively represented by the Old Testament high priest, especially his robe.  He spent a lot of time on Exodus 28 and the typology of the high priest, and pointed out something really important that I did not think of when I preached on the Golden Garments of the High Priest recently.  I’d like to share his insight with you, as I think it will lead nicely into tomorrow’s text (Exodus 29:38-46).

Dr. C.J. Williams (professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at RPTS) draws our attention to the following verse:

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it [Christ’s robe], but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. (John 19:24)

What should be noticed is that they did not tear Christ’s royal robe (which they had earlier mockingly put upon Him); rather they cast lots for it and then someone acquired it as one, whole, preserved piece.  John notes that this lack of rending Christ’s robe fulfilled the prophecy of casting lots to get them in Psalm 22:18.  But also, remember what we learned about the High Priest’s robe in Exodus 28:31-32: it must be made of one piece (like chain mail) with a special embroidery around the neck, so that it would not be rent.  This clothing design was to prefigure the eternal priesthood of Christ (which can never be rent; rather, it is forever finished and complete on behalf of God’s people whom Christ represents as Mediator eternally).

In our sermon on this text, we did consider what A.W. Pink pointed out: the high priest tore his robe in response to Christ saying Who He was, noting along with the tearing of the veil in the temple shortly thereafter that the ceremonial system was now expired in the finished work of Christ to which it pointed.  But here we see Christ’s robe not being rent (for His true priesthood will never expire nor need repetition of His sacrifice, also seen in the rending of Himself as the true veil of the true heavenly temple, per Hebrews 10:20).  These connections with Christ’s un-rent robe are yet another juxtaposition that teaches us what the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes, quoting Psalm 110:4:

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:8-10)

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6:20-7:1)

And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 7:15-17)

(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:21-28)

What is the point?  Jesus is clothed in a priestly robe that can never be rent, because He has an unchangeable, everlasting priesthood as promised by the Father to Him from all eternity (Psalm 110:4).  Thus, the reality of the typology of the Tabernacle system pointing to Christ and His Church is this: I will be your God, and you will be My people, forever!

Dr. Williams also taught that the priests who pointed to Christ never actually lived up to the priesthood of Christ.  God thus demonstrated that He would provide His true eternal High Priest by the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of His Son, as He said he would in 1 Samuel 2:35:

And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

We will see this eternal, personal relationship with you as the household (tabernacle) of God by virtue of His High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, highlighted in our text tomorrow.  So we are today reminded by Christ’s robe which is never rent that He has once and for all put you into a personal relationship with the Personal Triune God that begins here on this earth and will last forever in the New Heaven and the New Earth.  Let us personally praise Him together as His assembled tabernacle tomorrow on the Lord’s Day as we again have the privilege of tasting of the eternal Sabbath that awaits us!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant