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

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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

God Hinders Sin but Helps Obedience

For Lord’s Day, October 12, 2014

Dear Saints,

Something stood out to me recently in the following verse:

And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. (1 Chronicles 15:26)

The bolded, underscored is a striking juxtaposition with what happened earlier in the story in chapter 13:

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. (1 Chronicles 13:10)

In one place, God seriously helped His people. In the other, God severely hindered them.  What was the difference?  David knew. The first time, he got Uzza killed by not carrying the Ark in the reverent way God had commanded in Numbers 4:15 and 7:9 (here is the Regulative Principle of Worship illustrated).  David admits this sinful transgression (breaking God’s Law, 1 John 3:4) when he directs them now in the right way to carry the Ark according to the Lord (see 1 Chronicles 15:2 and 12-15).

Notice that once they did it right there was much rejoicing as they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple.  Notice also that their rejoicing was delayed due to rushing it the wrong way earlier.  The whole reason they wanted the Ark back was that (as you know from our study in Exodus) it represented the manifestation of God’s special presence with His people, and they had seen it bless the people (other than the Philistines) who had it before they retrieved it.  But we see here that we cannot have God’s blessing if we try and steal it.

The lesson is clear in the juxtaposition of what God did to Uzza (and thus David and the rest of the people) with what God did for the Levites (and thus David and the rest of the people).  When we disobey God, He will hinder us in our sin.  But when we obey God, He will help us in His righteousness.  Beloved, let us always take the blessing of obedience (1 Samuel 15:22).

Keep this lesson in mind when we practice “Semper Reformanda” in the Church, that is, to get back to doing things the way the Bible says to (often lost in a history of sinful neglect by God’s people).  And keep the same lesson in mind as we support you in practicing “always reforming” in your own life according to God’s rule over you by His Word.  God will hurt you when you fight Him. But He will help you when you obey Him.  Or, as James says it (for it is always a matter of the heart): ... God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God Carries Us in His Hands

For Lord’s Day, October 5, 2014

Dear Saints,

We rejoice to share with you that we brought Jennifer back to the hospital today to take her chemotherapy pump off as the last “installment” of six months of her initial treatment.  My lovely wife has been so brave.  We thank God that the treatment is healing her, and that He has proven to be faithful to His promise not to give us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In fact, as always, God held us up through it all in His mighty hand.  Jennifer will need more medical care.  But a song by Moriah Peters, “You Carry Me”, playing on the radio just as we parked the caravan to run up and join Mommy in the waiting room was perfect timing to motivate me and the children as we enter this milestone transition with her.  We had never heard the (upbeat, cheery) song before: providential, indeed.  My youngest daughter (who it seems felt the poignancy of the lyrics overlapping the moment) said what I was thinking as the song lingered in our hearts while we took our toddler out of his car seat and shut the doors: “That was really encouraging.”  Let me share the chorus with you:

Every moment of my life
God, You never left my side
Every valley, every storm
You were there, You were there
I don’t need to know what’s next
You’ll be with me every step
Through it all, through it all
I can see You carry me

Here’s the song’s video:

As we were relieved to make it through this first phase of Jennifer’s treatment together, and as we have learned through it all to trust God a little better now facing the next phase (which should be less trying and more manageable), Psalm 31:15 came to mind with the bolded section above:

My times are in thy hand …

There’s great peace in that resolve.  I think that’s what my daughter was experiencing.  You know, I couldn’t remember any of the words to the song when we got home, so I asked her if she recalled anything. I searched the only lyrics that came to her mind, and found the song online — what stayed with her (obviously reaching her) were the bolded words above. She’s nine years old. That really touches me.  That really blesses me.

We found an interview with Mrs. Peters about the background of “You Carry Me”.  Along with speaking about marrying her husband (lead singer of For King and Country) in San Clemente, CA (where some of you live), she shared:

I often forget that God is faithful, and that I’m not alone, and that leads me to feel discouraged or afraid.  And I wanted the song … to be a reminder … that no matter what difficulty we’re facing, no matter how hard the storm or the situation, no matter how many questions we’re asking, no matter how many doubts we’re experiencing, that God never leaves … He carries us through those difficult times when we’re at the end of our rope, when we don’t have enough strength, He’s there to be that for us.

At the end of watching this interview, my daughter again said (as sprightly as before), “That’s really encouraging.”  May you be encouraged, beloved, that Jesus truly will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).  It is so empowering to be reminded as we go on with our lives, as shaky as they can be, that He yet promises to hold us securely in His hands. And so He surely does.

Here’s the interview:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: here is a live version of the song in Air1’s Studio:

We Can’t Say Can’t in Christ

For Lord’s Day, September 28, 2014

Dear Saints,

Recently, Elder Renner shared with me a video about gymnast, Jennifer Bricker, and her incredible life achievements.  What is most surprising and thus most impressive about her life is what might have curtailed her dream of being a champion gymnast: she was born without legs.

So how did Miss Bricker overcome her pretty significant natural obstacle? The love of her adoptive parents, and their one simple rule they required of her: never say the word, “can’t”.  Or, as she put it, “Can’t is not part of your vocabulary.” So what must she say, or live, instead? “I can”.

Here’s a video interview about her story (naturally, we regret and grieve the breaking of the Third Commandment late in the interview):

What a wonderful and inspiring example for we Christians to apply to ourselves so that we apply ourselves to Philippians 4:13:

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The context of this verse, as you know, is to not worry and to be content in all situations.  Certainly, in this amazing woman’s situation, it would have been tempting to let fear and worry and self pity be paralyzing all her life.  But it wasn’t, because she insisted on moving forward and living.  May you and I be motivated by Miss Bricker and cut out the “‘t’s” and focus instead on consistently putting together “c” “a” “n”. Especially in living a good, peaceful, and moral life in and by and for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: With a young and aspiring gymnast in our own house, we recently watched the “Gabby Douglas Story”.  While this Olympic Gold Medalist had different challenges, they were similarly hindering and potentially crippling in realizing her dream, had she not had a very similar family and personal resolve that also produced remarkable results.

Don’t Walk with Your Eyes Closed

Northern-Lights-GreenlandFor Lord’s Day, September 14, 2014





(Image Source:

Dear Saints,

This Lord’s Day we will see in the morning by the Golden Candlestick (or Lampstand/Menorah), that Christ always shines in us, His true Tabernacle.  The Holy Spirit will never run out in His Church.  We will also see that we, the true Tabernacle, are intended to shine His light before the world (Mat. 5:14, John 8:12).  In the evening sermon, we will be reminded that the way we keep shining (and thus survive in effectual salvation, persevering unto the end) is to keep holding God’s glowing Word out before us:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Perhaps you need help holding up the Bible before you so that you walk in the light and don’t bump around in the darkness of this world.  This week, I’d like to share the following song I wrote a while back. It’s not polished, but a friend of mine (Kenny Woods of WORD-FM in Pittsburgh, where and with whom I used to work, doing his excellent work on the keys) recorded it quickly with me in the studio after hours with some other “Song Sketches” just to have it.  I’ve been thinking about this song in light of tomorrow’s messages, especially the evening sermon with Psalm 119:105 as our featured text. I hope it will help you to meditate in Christ’s saving and enduring light:

“Walking With My Eyes Closed” (Words and music by Grant Van Leuven © 2002 Dumb Sheep Music):

Song Sketch Intro:
I think we all go through dry spells when we don’t turn to God’s Word for our daily sustenance and we thirst for the want of abiding in Him deeply.  I was in one of those seasons when I wrote this song.

Verse 1
It’s been days since I turned to where the answers are
It’s been weeks since I stopped … and asked for direction
Seems like God and my friends are very far away
I’m feeling lost, And lonely
And in need of connection
It’s almost like I’ve been…

WALKING WITH MY EYES CLOSED Unsure of where I’m going
WALKING WITH MY EYES CLOSED Feeling without knowing
God gave me two eyes to see, If I don’t use them the blame’s on me
He put His Word in my hand and in my heart, So I don’t have to be in the dark

Verse 2
My footprints make circles in the sand
I might as well be standing still
I’m ending up where I don’t belong, again
Grasping at the air, In need of reflection
Lost my sense of where I am, I’ve been …


I’m feeling lost , And lonely
And in need of connection
Lost my sense of where I am
I’ve been…


Walk in the Light, beloved.  Keep your eyes open, and your feet straight.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Uncover Your Opportunity Clothed in Crisis

wordcrisis1For Lord’s Day, August 10, 2014

Dear Saints,

Jennifer shared something with me that she just read which I found really motivating and I want to share it with you.

Are you familiar with the meaning of the Chinese characters that make up the element word for “crisis”?  The first character can be translated as “danger”; the second, as “opportunity”.  See the image above (source:  Do you see your crises as dangerous opportunities?  Maybe you should, as more than one American president has suggested pointing to this Asian insight in a motivational speech.

Now, an important disclaimer should be shared. Wikipedia notes: The Chinese word for “crisis” (simplified Chinese危机traditional Chinese危機pinyinwēijī) is frequently invoked in Western motivational speaking because the word is composed of two sino-characters that can represent “danger” and “opportunity”. However this analysis is fallacious because the character pronounced  (simplified Chinese;traditional Chinese) has other meanings besides “opportunity” … Chinese philologist Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania states the popular interpretation of wēijī as “danger” plus “opportunity” is a “widespread public misperception” in the English-speaking world. While wēi () does mean “dangerous” or “precarious”, the element  () is highly polysemous. The basic theme common to its meanings is something like “critical point”. “Opportunity” in Chinese is instead a compound noun that contains jīhuì (机会, literally “meeting a critical point”).

OK, so let’s understand “crisis” as as a “Critical Point”.  Even better, really.  Our most critical points in life surely are not safe, but they also truly can be major moments of revelation, release, reformation, and revival.

May we not uncover our crises and find the beginning of opportunities lying before our feet?

Maybe we should thus speak of a life crisis (midlife or otherwise) as a “Crossroads”.  Choosing Christ’s abundant life along His narrow way at every juncture will always reveal later that it was a new opportunity for growth in grace and sanctification (the pain bringing the gain). So long as we face our crises taking steps of faith directed by God’s Word, He will always draw us closer to His wonderful Self through afflictions’ detours (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75).  Robert Frosts’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, comes to mind considering where our crises should lead us:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

At what critical crossroad point are you standing?  We don’t choose the crossroads we face, but we do choose which path to take (the Lord helping us).  What opportunity is clothed in your crisis presently?  Are you looking for it?  Are you following its lead?  And what are you going to do with it?  Your crisis doesn’t have to be your breaking point.  May it become your new starting point.

I write this devotion while sitting with Jennifer during her eighth chemotherapy treatment, at which time she shared what she read with me about these Chinese characters making up the word for “crisis” while receiving her IV drip (for three hours before then getting her pump that she wears for the next two days at home).  This motivating concept she found was in a book handed to her today here, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, in which authors Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson describe the second Chinese character discussed as including the ideas of having an opportunity for change, nourishment, happiness, and community. But they also gave this qualification: a crisis is  “… a chance–not a guarantee, mind you, but a chance–to embrace life even while in the throes of serious illness.”

How are you handling your current crisis? Are you using it as an opportunity for new direction? If so, good things will happen.

You know, the reason the volunteer (herself a cancer survivor) handed my wife this book is because she was curious about another book Jennifer was reading at the moment about healing through special nutrition.  Jenn found this Chinese “proverb” in the making, if you will, by taking a look.  And due to the book she had brought with her and was reading, we have gotten a high end juicer to maximize vegetable and fruit nutrients in a modest and modified supplemental application of what is known as the Gerson Therapy.  To do so, we asked God to provide such a juicer used and much cheaper online, and He did almost immediately!  Not only is using the juicer going to help Jennifer now and proactively later, it will help me lose weight and it will help our children learn superb nutrition while they’re young.  As well, we found the machine we chose also makes incredible sorbet with frozen fruit (nothing added) — an absolutely delicious treat that gives us great fun!

By God’s grace, we are taking lemons and making lemonade.  Or rather, by God’s power and guidance, and with the love and support of you His saints, we are taking a sour providence and turning it into its intended sweetness.  What about you?

May you make the most of every difficult moment to witness for Jesus Christ, trusting that you will be able to say what Joseph said at the end of a long string of excruciating experiences: … God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:20)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Sanctification Via Sesame Street Motivation

CookieMonster Control Meself

For Lord’s Day, July 27, 2014

Dear Saints,

Lately, I’ve slowly been losing weight a little more steadily and sustainably.  I’ve been motivated by a number of things in my desire to be more sanctified both in body and soul, with which I’d like to encourage you for your own holistic growth in grace and holiness.

First, I am reminded that gluttony is a sin: Westminster Larger Catechism 135, 136, and 139, and Proverb 23:2: … put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. [See also Deuteronomy 21:20 and Proverb 23:21.]

Second, with 1 Corinthians 9:27 in mind, I also am stirred by what Jerry Bridges wrote in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness:

True holiness includes control over our physical bodies and appetites.

Michel Quoist, in his book The Christian Response, says, ‘If your body makes all the decisions and gives all the orders, and if you obey, the physical can effectively destroy every other dimension of your personality.  Your emotional life will be blunted and your spiritual life will be stifled and ultimately will become anemic.

As we become soft and lazy in our bodies, we tend to become soft and lazy spiritually … There is no place for laziness and indulgence of the body in a disciplined pursuit of holiness.

One way I’ve been experimenting with Mr. Bridges’ challenge and example (he shares how he overcame his own overindulgence with pies and ice cream) is to simply not put sugar or cream in my coffee — you know this is a BIG change for Rev. Sweet Tooth!  For about a month now, I’ve been pleased to find that I can control this craving, and that I have developed a special savor for coffee’s own flavor.  Because I made a choice, I chose correct follow-through actions.  On this note, Elder Huffmaster’s comment last Sabbath Class rings so true: “I will’s become I did’s.”

Third, I am motivated by the wonderful example of the Maxwell family, who, because of their newer nutrition commitments are not only looking greater but feeling greater, and their doctors confirm their health is much improved. I often think of them when I need to “rebound”, knowing, I can! (Philippians 4:13.)

Fourth, and lastly, baby Isaac and I recently came across a Cookie Monster video produced by Sesame Street that, frankly, is really helpful to remember the basics of self-control and self-denial (the mortification in sanctification that sets up vivification). Take a look:

In terms of applying the moderate use of good things as a spiritual discipline, may we all apply Mr. Cookie Monster’s mantra: “Me want it (but me wait)!”  Warning: you will likely struggle to get Cookie Monster’s song out of your head for a while, but that is the idea, isn’t it?  Mnemonic devices for learning and training in self-control is not just for kids!  And all the covenant children said, Amen!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Water Dripping on a Rock

Rock DripFor Lord’s Day, July 20, 2014

(Photo source:

Dear Saints,

Relational evangelism over time can be trying and tiresome.  It’s easy to want to give up. But I want to give you a few encouragements to keep being a witness to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, and with people in other spheres of your life.

First, remember what Elder Huffmaster shared in last week’s Sabbath Class: statistics show that the majority of people who come to church do so by influence and invitation of a family member or friend.  This doesn’t mean we should not exhaust as many outreach opportunities as we can, but may you and I exhaust ourselves reaching out to others with Christ as best we can.  For as we will be exhorted tomorrow morning, “Always Give Christ Your Best”.

Here’s another encouragement to keep witnessing to hard hearts.  In this recent article by Covenant Eyes, observe how a constant outreach over many years finally broke a pornography producer and by God’s sovereign grace made him a Christian:

Matt: I know your story is a long one, and we will probably get into it during the course of this conversation. But you left the industry. What was the breaking point or what was it that made you get out?

Donny: You know, I was really motivated by hatred towards God and towards Christianity, and a missionary group came into the pornography conventions that we had every year in Las Vegas, and over the course of 4 years really broke down my hatred. And once that hatred was gone, I couldn’t justify what I was doing anymore, and I had to finally cry out to God.

This story reminds me of what one of my seminary professors said ministry is like: water dripping on a rock.  Rocks are hard and don’t seem to change, but over time, a constant water drip can leave an indelible, unchanging mark.  Ministers need to keep dripping.  And you need to keep dripping  as you live and speak a witness for Jesus.  Rocky hearts can be carved into over time, and finally be broke open by the Gospel.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant


Worship Jesus for Real Rest

1214121230For Lord’s Day, July 13, 2014

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow we will be reminded about the importance of rest to provide for and protect God’s people in this life to make it to the next life.  And that rest is connected to the Sabbath, which means, “to cease”.

Come to Jesus tomorrow on His Holy Day of rest and be truly comforted in the fellowship of the Saints as you join your brethren in truly resting at His feet as we cease from our works and trust in and worship Him.

We will sing part of Psalm 16, in which David rests in the hope of heaven (eternal rest) because of the Holy One (Jesus, the Messiah).  May you come ready to taste and see that God’s rest is good for your soul as you sing King David’s words:

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.  Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:9-11)

I want to encourage you to think of rest like the ceasing of a storm.  Or, like the man, Legion, who was running around naked causing havoc until He encountered Christ, but was then put in His right mind, clothed and at peace.  Come to Jesus in Sabbath worship expecting to rest in Him like that, and He will not deny you of it, for He says:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-12:1)

Stormy souls have no peace.  Enjoy God’s peace tomorrow in Christ, Who only gives real and abiding rest.  He calmed the stormy seas. He can quiet your restless hearts. Only He can. Come to Him truly, by dropping everything else, for You Need Your Rest.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Habit of Holy Gazing and Sowing

For Lord’s Day, July 6, 2014

Dear Saints,

Last week, Christ reminded us in Exodus 22:31 to be holy unto the LORD, and our motivation is that Jesus has presented us as holiness unto the LORD in Himself as the true High Priest typified in Exodus 28:36 and 39:30.  Here are some helpful ways to, by God’s grace, grow in holiness by being conformed more to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29) through the Holy Spirit within you.

In his book, God’s Way of Holiness, Horatius Bonar writes: “… likeness to God is produced by beholding his glory” (2 Cor. 3:18), and notes that it involves three main things:

  1. Abide in Me: The Life. Jesus is the life, He gives abundant life, and a holy life comes by abiding in him or we can do nothing (John 15). “Only intimacy with God can keep us from intimacy with the world.” Thus, God, as a loving Father, chastens us for our profit to be partaking of His holiness. (Heb. 12:10)
  2. Learn of Me: The Scholarship. Remember what Dr. George Scipione highlighted in a recent Sabbath class: the student is like his master. Jesus says, The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as [like] his master (Luke 6:40). Study Jesus to be like Him.  “Exposing our souls constantly to this light, we become more thoroughly ‘children of the light’.”  This we do as Jesus prays we would in John 17:17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
  3. Follow Me: The Walk. A walk in which “we are visible on all sides”. Jesus says in John 12:26 on the way to the cross, “follow me”. He also says, “follow me”, in John 21:22, on his way from the cross. “To the cross, then, and to the crown alike, we are to follow him.”

Do not forget that holiness and godliness are Spirit-enabled habits of discipline.  In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges cites a well known verse worthy of our meditation and application:

Sow a thought, reap an act; [See 2 Cor. 5:10]
Sow an act, reap a habit; [See 1 Cor. 9:27]
Sow a habit, reap a character. [See Prov. 23:7]

Keep sowing seeds of Christ’s character within you by acting and thinking more like Him, beloved. Let me encourage you to keep your hand to the plow of holy habits with these words of the Apostle Paul:  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9 )

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Responsible for Our Responses

For Lord’s Day, June 29, 2014

Dear Saints,

I’d like to share something with you I found helpful (among many things) at the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship’s (IBCD) Summer Conference this week, entitled “Making Peace with the Past”.

Dr. Steve Viars of Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette Indiana (funny, as I was just in his neck of the woods early this week), shared from his book, Putting Your Past in Its Place, the following diagram (I typed it up since I wrote all over my notes: his is much nicer):


Microsoft Word - In What Occurred You Responded Diagram.docx

Notice what is the common thread in each “bucket”: our responsibility in our response.  You may or may not be responsible for bad things in your past, but you are always responsible for how you then and now respond to them Biblically.

Taking such responsibility is often an important part of putting our past in its proper place and not be haunted by it.  We as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) are especially responsible to put on the new man in how we respond to good and bad things that happen to us, past, present and future.  For we have been made holy and are to reflect God’s holiness.  Tomorrow, we will see again in Exodus 22:31 that God calls us to be holy, for He is holy (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:13-16).  Considering we are responsible for our responses, it is motivating to see what these writers note on our need to cooperate in sanctification with the Holy Spirit:

To confuse the potential for resisting [sin] (which God provided) with the responsibility for resisting (which is ours) is to court disaster in our pursuit of holiness … He makes provision for our holiness, but He gives us the responsibility of using those provisions … The Christian should never complain of want of ability and power.  If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation.  It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness.  Too often we say we are “defeated” by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient!  It might be good if we stopped using the terms “victory” and “defeat” to describe our progress in holiness.  Rather we should use the terms “obedience” and “disobedience.”  Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.  — Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness

He that would be holy must feel his responsibility for being so, both as a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of the Holy Ghost. — Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Holiness

Beloved, let us take our responsibility as individuals, families, and a church for being holy, that is, godly, that is, Christ-like, in how we respond to everything and everyone.  And let us benefit in the blessed fruit of such progress in our sanctification together.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. — Galatians 5:25

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Mining for Gold in the Caves of Good Books

burroughs_rare_1790_700px_interspire__40046__26814.1294353330.1280.1280For Lord’s Day, June 22, 2014

Dear Saints,

I was blessed to observe so many of you pick up on the suggestion to get a copy of Jeremiah Borroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (available here for free online or here for purchase) after the recent evening sermon, Discontent Will Destroy You.  It is a great encouragement to see such a spontaneous spiritual response like that in God’s people to the preaching. I want to encourage you to begin reading it if you haven’t yet, and to take advantage of our library, from which I have borrowed my copy.  I have been rejoicing in the gems found in this jewel of a book (which I have not yet finished), and that it was, as I suspected, to be found waiting in our fabulous library!  Mr. Delgado recently expressed excitement over an amazing four-volume book about the Scottish Covenanters that will keep him busy for a while, which he found in our library after getting interested from his presentation to us last Sabbath Class on Oliver Cromwell, for which he also used many great books lingering in our library! Thank you Mrs. Bivens (and Miss Rachel Van Leuven and Miss Olivia Van Leuven) for your work keeping our library in order!

Preparing for other sermons coming up, I have briefly switched to another gem I found in our library (the spill over in my office), God’s Way of Holiness, by Horatius Bonar.  I have been incredibly blessed by the nuggets I’m already gleaning (some I’ll likely share with you soon), including some translations of shimmering illustrations and insights from letters by Luther and Melancthon.  As well, I recently found in the mountainous used bookstore of San Diego’s new Downtown Library (you HAVE to go there!), Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness that I can’t wait to open up (50 cents!: the Dutchman in me within the context of the Scottish heritage of our Standards has me very excited about that!).

Now, Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns about the vanity of too many books and too much study that can make one weary.  However, good Christian books make excellent picks and shovels with which to mine for gold in God’s Word, as the Proverbs instruct us to do with the promise of rich rewards:

  • The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. (Psalm 119:72)
  • Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. (Psalm 119:127)
  • 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.  (Psalm 19:9-10)
  • How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!  (Proverb 16:16)

Beloved, take a new look at our library along with the other great Reformed, Puritan, and Presbyterian resources out there for your own library. And read with new vigor to unearth and polish up things that will gleam in your eyes and make your heart and feet skip anew.  “There’s gold in them thar hills!”  To encourage you to do so, I share here what you are sure to happily experience as Garrison Keillor describes upon the back of the dust jacket cover of one of his books that I picked up a while back in the Bonita Library used bookstore*:

A silken photo of the author leaning on a porch should occupy this space along with a few roundhouse tributes from newspapers but why not instead a few lines about the great and ancient invention you hold in your hand, the Book itself.  Slow to hatch, as durable as a turtle, light and shapely as befits a descendant of the tree. Closed, the objet d’book resembles a board.  Open, its pale wings brush the fingertips, the spore of fresh ink and pulp excites the nose, the spine lies easily in the hand.  A handsome useful object begotten by the passion for truth.  The apostle Paul was not the host of a talk show, or else we’d be worshipping famous people on Sunday mornings; he wrote books, a Christian thing to do.  The faith of Jews and Christians rests on God’s sacred word, not on magic or music, and so technology burst forward into publishing, Gutenberg and Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer making books similar to ours in the fifteenth century.  Ages before the loudspeaker and the camera, came this lovely thing, this portable garden, which survives television, computers, censorship, lousy schools, and rotten authors.  Along with the Constitution, the blues, and baseball, the democracy of letters is a common glory in our midst, visible in every library and bookstore.  These stacks of boards contain our common life and keep it against the miserable days when meanness operates with a free hand and save it for the day when the lonesome reader opens the cover and the word is resurrected.  The day can come next month or a hundred years from now, a book will wait. WWhat are you reading right now besides your Bible, beloved?  Study to show thyself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) We Are Still Married

What are you reading right now besides your Bible, beloved? What are you waiting for? Something hidden but glorious is waiting for you to find it and be deeply blessed.  Study to show thyself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) by becoming rich in wisdom as you dig for it with proper tools. May the personal libraries of your homes and of your minds be full of well-worn good books. Be avid Christian readers, For In the house of the righteous is much treasure … (Proverb 15:6).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

* I must make this disclaimer that I cannot fully condone or commend Mr. Keillor’s books. He is the kind of writer, like Mark Twain, that I like to study to try and learn by osmosis some of his way with keen observation, insights, and words. But sadly, too often, unnecessary crassness creeps in and stains his otherwise very enjoyable pages.

Holy Contentment







(Image source:

For Lord’s Day, June 15, 2014

Dear Saints,

In the morning service last Lord’s Day, we learned that we must respect our authorities as those God has set over us to represent His own rule over us.  Vern Poythress writes something in his book, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, that is helpful to meditate on to be able to better respect our authorities.

We must resist the modern temptation to rebel against all authority whatsoever.  Such modern rebellion is rooted ultimately in rejection of God’s authority … We need to reject many ideas of modern culture to accept God’s Word.

Considering this call to be counter-cultural so as to be truly submissive to King Jesus in the holy culture of His church, may we think about how we respect our authorities in family, church, and state with this verse in mind:  Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! …  (Isaiah 45:9). Surely, we can understand that to strive with God’s rule over us through His appointed rulers above us will never give us peace. We will never have contentment with a life of strife. The opposite of what the world says to do to have contentment is actually what brings contented peace: to deny one’s self by being content with Christ. Remember, Paul says contentment is a learned behavior (Philippians 4:11).  Thomas Ridgeley gives us practical advice on learning such contentment in Christ:

… a man’s happiness does not really consist in the abundance of what he possesses, but rather in his having a heart to use it aright.

Is your heart aright?  You’ll know if you use God’s gifts correctly (including tithing, as we’ll study tomorrow morning in Exodus).   If your heart is aright with your God-given possessions, and thus happy, you will see you have an entirely different world view. As Dr. Richard Gamble (one of my RPTS profs) writes, the Tenth Commandment (demanding “holy contentment”) “… gives the believer a different philosophy of life.”  May you perceive this truth as you survey with spiritual eyes that ” … the world is a scene of vanity”, as Ridgeley also said.  He wisely added, “God denies us earthly things so we lay up treasures in heaven.”  Indeed, in heaven is where Christ is (Col. 3:1-3), so our lives there hid with Him can only be content on earth when we set our affections heavenward.

But do we find contentment all the time? No. We grievously break this commandment not to covet (or, not to be discontent) constantly.  May this sad truth yet lead us into our study tomorrow evening of that reality (taught by the Larger Catechism 149) with the spirit of Chuck Baynard’s confession: “Friends, this commandment [Thou shalt not covet] will drive us to Christ constantly and continuously.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Heed God’s Warning to Defend the Defenseless

For Lord’s Day, June 8, 2014

Dear Saints,

Last Sabbath morning’s sermon on Exodus 22:21-27, “Care for the Poor”, had a stark warning about how God would personally and severely reward those who take advantage of the defenseless.  It reminded me of something I had intended to share with you when we began the first case laws for the nation under God, a concern for human rights that included not taking advantage of slaves (“Love Liberty, Love Your Master”).

The above video is something I am thankful to have been involved in producing for the seminary from which I graduated (while also working there), the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.   The Seminary was celebrating its bicentennial in 2010 by highlighting an important part of its denomination’s history (the RPCNA): becoming the first denomination in the United States to outlaw its members from owning slaves.  And the impetus was far north of the Mason-Dixon line.

McLeodThe Reverend Alexander McLeod explained to an RPCNA congregation in New York why he would not take a call to minister to them while some of its members owned slaves (during a time when it was legal to do so in the country).  In his 1802 work, “Negro Slavery Unjustifiable: A Discoursehe wrote:

“The toleration of slavery is a national evil.  It is the worst of robberies sanctioned by law … If the Judge of all the earth shall do right, he cannot but punish the guilty … O America, what hast thou to account for on the head of slavery! … Thou hast made provision for increasing the number and continuing the bondage of thy slaves.  Thy judgments may tarry, but they will assuredly come.”

Six decades later, President Abraham Lincoln intimated such divine judgment over all of the country for the slave industry in his Second Inaugural Address:

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

Rev. McLeod’s Scripture text was one we looked at not long ago (which we also addressed in sins forbidden in the 8th Commandment in the Westminster Larger Catechism, 142), Exodus 21:16: And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.  This threat from God is striking to consider in light of our nation’s horrid history of battles with American Slavery.  And it is sobering to consider it with His similar warnings in last week’s text to reward a nation that tolerates injustice upon the defenseless with His holy justice, measure for measure:  If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword [war]; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless … when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious. (Exodus 22:23-24, 27)

May we not only defend those who cannot defend themselves in our society, but may we never defend our nation’s history for having taken advantage of the defenseless.  God has warned us in this text, that our history never repeat itself and again suffer His consequences.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be a Difference Maker

For Lord’s Day, May 24, 2014

Dear Saints,

There is a song getting a lot of airplay on the Christian radio that my family and I have enjoyed singing along to while driving lately, and the refrain has been on my mind a lot with where God is bringing both sermons (and even the bulletin quote) this Lord’s Day, “I Am a Difference Maker”. Above is the band’s official video.   Here’s a video of a live performance at Austin City Limits:

And here’s a particularly nice live performance of the song:

A disclaimer: one of my daughters and I read the lyrics and each concluded, “I don’t get it.”  So I almost abandoned using the song for this week’s e-devotion. But it had touched my heart so much with what it had meant to me (and I like the style), that I searched for “what’s behind the song”.  I found an article that (while I still have some confusion or perhaps I’d give other qualifications) on the whole helps to understand and appreciate the song.  What songwriter Bear Rinehart shares about is behind his writing the song is important for us to consider with the sermons tomorrow, “Express a Good Profession”, and “Live a Good Report” with the main concern to witness to King Jesus’ rule over us and the world.

You can read the whole article here.  Following are some excerpts that should challenge us about why we do what we do, or more importantly, for whom (and some times we will find we have idols we need to lay down and bury):

This song is my story of trying to understand my role in God’s plan. We were on tour with a secular artist, Taylor Swift, playing to 20,000 and even 50,000 people per night. We felt like we were doing what we were supposed to be doing. Despite our efforts, I didn’t feel like we were having the impact we are called to have.

I think God was asking us at this time, “What are you doing this for? Are you doing it for Me?” …

We don’t need to be concerned about what happens after we’ve given up this gift we have to God. That was really powerful for us. We had ambition and let that take too much of a priority in things that led us down a road that wasn’t good.  I think that in trying to re-prioritize, God wants us to sacrifice those things, those idols in our lives. Some idols for us were wondering what the outcome was going to be, that we had the upper hand or maybe we were the best band out there, or we thought we were the most clever at it.

I feel like the beginning of the song is us asking ourselves are we really difference makers. How valuable are we, really?

Brethren, may we live our Christian profession with with a lifestyle like Christ and Peter command to make a valuable difference for Him:

  • Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • 1 Peter 2:12: Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Too many Christians are content with the status quo, and thus make little meaningful or lasting impact in the world for God.  May you and I, by the way we live our lives, be difference maker witnesses in this world for Jesus Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Simple Faith Gives Unusual Confidence

Child praying

For Lord’s Day, May 18, 2014
[Source of image:]

Dear Saints,

My Mother and I recently hunted for treasures at the East Lake Goodwill’s large book section.  I uncovered a vein of gold which I know many of you have already been mining for years at great personal profit, Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (in hardback!).

His text for May 14 in the evening was Isaiah 40:11: “He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom.”  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, told us that He goes out to get the one wayward sheep and carry it back in His arms to rejoin His flock (Luke 15:4). Among several ways listed that Christ carries us, this one really touched and motivated me to have faith like a child in our Heavenly Father day by day (Mat. 18:3):

Frequently, He “carries” them by giving them a very simple faith, which takes the promise just as it stands, and believingly runs with every trouble straight to Jesus.  The simplicity of their faith gives them an unusual degree of confidence, which carries them above the world.

Beloved, may we pray to God, “We believe, help thou our unbelief” (Mark 9:24). And may we pray, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). And may we simply trust that He will answer these simple prayers, and thus enjoy the unusual confidence and peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7), which carries us above the world, because it is not of the world but of Christ (John 14:27).

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Comfort and Joy One Day at a Time

IMG_9071For Lord’s Day, April 13, 2014

Dear Saints,

If I may get a little ahead of where we are in our Sabbath Class with Elder Huffmaster on John MacArthur’s book, Anxious for Nothing, two nuggets on getting through suffering patiently were really helpful for our family this week, which I want to encourage you to make frequent use of through your trials as they come.

First, in chapter 3, “Casting Your Cares on God”, he points out something really helpful with 1 Peter 5:6-7:  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you:

“The word translated ‘casting’ was used to describe throwing something on something else, such as a blanket over a pack animal (e.g., Luke 19:35).  Take all your anxiety–all the discontent, discouragement, despair, questioning, pain, and suffering that you’re going through–and toss it all onto God.” (60)

This insight has been extremely helpful for us.  In particular, when we visualize taking a blanket off of ourselves and laying it on Jesus’ back, Who only truly can bare it for us.  I don’t mean to sound mechanical or magical, but I suppose it is mystical–or rather, Spiritual with a capital “S”. The Holy Spirit really does remove the feeling of pressure when we visualize taking our burden off of us and putting it onto Jesus (and praying to that effect that it would be so).  Now, we have to do this on more than one occasion, but it helps a lot.  It will help you when you need help giving over your burdens to Jesus so that you can take His upon you, which is light.

Second, in chapter 4, “Living a Life of Faith and Trust”, as we ask for our daily bread, let’s look at every day as a victory at the end of the day:

“What awaits us at the finish line of the race of faith? Joy and triumph.  Jesus endured the cross ‘for the joy set before Him’ (Heb. 12:2).  Any athlete will tell you that there’s nothing equal to the thrill of winning.  It isn’t the medal or the trophy or anything else–it’s just the winning, the exhilaration of victory … Ultimately, our real joy and reward as believers is to be in heaven with Christ, but here and now we can experience a great sense of triumph when we have victory over temptation.” (70)


It has been really helpful to recognize (with Romans 8 becoming even more real for us) that every day is a victory, and can be celebrated as such.  Every day we get through our trials and do not curse God but praise Him, and do not stay huddled in a corner but hug each other and get out there and take in life, every day we fight the temptation of fear and worry and choose to keep our eyes on Jesus asking for more faith, we are more than conquerors.  We win.  Every day is a battle of the cosmic war of Gen. 3:15, and every day we do not give in, we win. Every day we fight the good fight, albeit with battle scars to show for it, we can thank God for the thrill of not being beaten by Satan; yes, by His glorious grace, but not excluding our willingness to duke it out as good soldiers.  This effort again is not magical or mechanical — it is just real and Scriptural and blessed by the Spirit.


These lessons have been very meaningful for us this week, and I trust they will prove meaningful for you, beloved, as you cast your cares upon Jesus and keep your eyes on Him and look forward to putting another notch in the “W” column before you go to bed.  It’s the best way to live, whatever the Lord’s hand lays upon us to humble us before He exalts us. It gives real comfort and real joy that Satan can never steal. One day at a time.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Christian Profession Has its Expression

IMG_0081For Lord’s Day, March 30, 2014

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow in our morning worship, the text will be Exodus 20:18-22, where Moses says in verse 20 that God caused His people to fear Him in such a way as to reverently produce holy living, which he defines as “not sinning”.  Understood positively, “not sinning” is to keep God’s commands (which we remember Jesus says is to love Him back).

On this note, I’d like to share with you what my seminary systematics professor, Dr. Richard C. Gamble, wrote when introducing the Ten Commandments:

“Our Christian profession must come to expression in our conduct … The law of God must be seen in faithful lives.” (1).

Hebrews 12:28, which summarizes our text again tomorrow, summarizes such holy expression of our profession to love Christ as serving Him “with godly fear”.

May you love the LORD your God completely, beloved. And may this spiritual devotion be seen with whole-hearted worship and awestruck attention as we serve Him tomorrow acceptably, that is, with godly fear. For our God continues to be a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

(1) The Whole Counsel of God: God’s Mighty Acts in the Old Testament, Vol. 1.

To Love is to Live Like Christ


For Lord’s Day, March 23, 2014

Dear Saints,

We continue with the second table of the Moral Law this Lord’s Day morning.  As we had taken note together, our evening service that same day on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a was a providential segue from the first four to the last six commandments.

This week, a reading of a Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision (of which we have several copies in our library) ran on  Some of the words really jumped out in relation to the above messages and what we will be hearing from Christ tomorrow morning. Here are a few excerpts from the prayer that I encourage you to pray over leading into the Lord’s Day tomorrow.  First, where we were last week (Love Your LORD Completely, Exodus 20:3-11; Matthew 22:37-38; Deuteronomy 6:5):

Give me the saving lamp of thy Spirit that I may see thee,
the God of my salvation, the delight of my soul,
rejoicing over me in love …
May my lips be well-tuned cymbals sounding thy praise,
Let a halo of heavenly-mindness sparkle around me …

Next, where we will be tomorrow morning (Love All Always as Friends; Exodus 20:12-17; Matthew 22:39-40; Leviticus 19:18):

May my words and works allure others to the highest walks
of faith and love! …
May worldlings be won to delight in acquaintance with thee! …
Cause me to be a mirror of thy grace,
to show others the joy of thy service, …
Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal
with a mind intent on things eternal.
Send me forth to have compassion on the ignorant and miserable.
Help me to walk as Jesus walked,
my only Saviour and perfect model,
his mind my inward guest,
his meekness my covering garb.
Let my happy place be amongst the poor in spirit,
my delight the gentle ranks of the meek.
Let me always esteem others better than myself,
and find in true humility an heirdom to two worlds.

The title to this prayer is, “Christlikeness.”  Beloved, may we be moved to conform more to the image of Christ tomorrow on His holy day, that we would love God more fully like the Messiah, and love one another more concertedly like Jesus.

Regarding the line above that reads, “Let my happy place be amongst the poor in spirit, my delight the gentle ranks of the meek,” I want to affirm you for identifying with the meekest among us, the unborn, through your fantastic support in funds and presence in different ways through our efforts with bringing a South Bay satellite office of the East County Pregnancy Care Clinic to our area.  Here are photos  to enjoy of today’s Walk for Life in which many of you were able to participate.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

An Attitude of Gratitude Truly Loves God and Man, and Truly Lives

SHFor Lord’s Day, March 16, 2014

Dear Saints,

As we looked at the preface to the Ten Commandments last Lord’s Day, we were reminded that Jesus says the whole Moral Law hangs upon two commandments (Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 per Matt. 22:37-40), which can be summed up in one word toward God and man: love. And love is not a feeling, but an attitude expressed in action.

Beloved, love thus empowers life.  And love is an attitude of gratitude.  As we saw, a loving attitude is expressed as genuine by keeping God’s commandments (Ex. 20:6; John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:3).  If our life is a downer, it is because we lack the love to look up to God and see how He is blessing us, often through other people around us.  Such a dismissive spirit that declines to see God’s Spirit working His good providence in all things of our life is to be living a defiant life of rebellion that disobeys God —  and it serves as a distinguisher of the holy fire and abundant life available in Christ.  The famous ice skater Scott Hamilton put it this way:

I just learned that the only disability is a bad attitude.

Mr. Hamilton made this comment in a video interview that Elder Renner brought to my attention recently, in which Mr. Hamilton shared about all the extremely difficult providences he went through all his life.  His resolve to accept it all from Christ’s hand with their purpose of special blessings is something we must all emulate.  You can watch the video here.

Notice that the name of the video series is, “I Am Second”; that perspective of reality is the key to a happy life. As we have often noted, it is actually more accurate to say, “I Am Third.”  For true J.O.Y. comes by truly making Jesus first, Others second, and You third.  This acronym, it seems to me, is not only the way to a fulfilled soul, but a good way to sum up the Ten Commandments in love. And tomorrow night, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a will make it clear that love is primarily self-denial so as to lift up others for Christ’s sake.

Tomorrow morning, Christ will preach to you about how you must Love Your LORD Completely.  Tomorrow night, He will preach to you about how Love is Friendly.  Both of the two greatest commandments will thus be studied afresh. May you and I, in the Spirit, take an honest account of how much we love our God for Himself and our neighbor as our self.  For, as RC Sproul has said,

If you’re not accountable for your life, that means ultimately that your life doesn’t count.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

God Himself is Our Exceeding Great Reward

1214121230For Lord’s Day, March 9, 2013

Dear Saints,

I’m sure this sentiment I’m about to share with you has been expressed many times, and it should so be myriad more.  In two newsletters this week, I enjoyed similar thoughts that went so meaningfully together for my soul, and I hope they do for you:

[Jesus Christ] alone should be our goal and our aim, since he has an abundance of riches in himself. — John Calvin (1)

Our Lord Jesus is faithful moment by moment.  Thus we can depend on Him moment by moment. — Martin and Deidre Bobgan (2)

I think these thoughts express what the LORD says to Abraham to encourage him to keep battling for Him, even when he feels utterly alone after a great victory in Genesis 15:1:  After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

One cannot help but also think of the first question and answer of the Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  What next comes to mind is the summary nugget Mr. Maxwell shared during the Christian Biography Fellowship this week from John Adair’s book, Founding Fathers: The Puritans in England and America.  He commented that John Winthrop (I believe he was the man cited) said, “This famous question and answer [WSC 1] capture the essence of Puritanism.” Beloved, may this question and answer more and more purely be the essence of we the saints of the Puritan Evangelical Church of America.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

1.  John Calvin, “The Infiltration Which Corrupts the Truth of the Gospel,” sermon on Galatians 2:3-5, The Trinity Review (315 January, 2014) : 6.
2.  Martin and Deidre Bobgan, “God Matures Believers through Trials”, in PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter 22 ( 2 March-April 2014) : 8.

Be Ready to Properly Approach the LORD

IMG_9789For Lord’s Day, March 2, 2014

Dear Saints,

The powerful winds and rain today had to get your attention. You’d have to be dead not to be moved by such a storm; let it drive your attention to the LORD on this Lord’s Day.  It is so providential to have such storms leading into our morning text on Exodus 19:9-25. God gets the attention of His people with mighty winds, lightning, and thunder so that they are ready to approach Him rightly with godly fear.  For if they casually and presumptuously approach God on Mount Sinai with a lack of holy attention, they will end up dead.

One thing emphasized in the text is that God goes out of His way to prepare us to properly prepare ourselves to be ready to meet with Him and receive what He has to say.  So that He is pleased to receive us in worship.  May the unusual weather this weekend help you especially prepare for this Sabbath Day’s worship. For God has gone out of His way to prepare you to be able to prepare for this text!

I just found this advice on preparing for Bible study very fitting for preparing for corporate worship. Give it your attention ahead of this Lord’s Day:

Here are some rules for Bible reading whose observance will pay rich dividends:

1.  Read with a definite purpose and expectation: to understand what is written; to gain quickening of thought and enlargement of mind and vision; to get personal help for good living; and, above all, to meet God and to hear his voice.  These are great ends; whether they are reached will rest with each student.

2. Bring all that you have to your reading.  What you get will depend on what you bring.  Especially, bring a sympathetic imagination.  You will not be reading dead words.  They came out of life.  Try to enter into that life of the past: into the faith of a psalmist and his trials and hopes, the appeal of a prophet speaking to a nation, the witness of Paul, the full heart of the Evangelists.  Occasional reading aloud will help make the words live.  Bring also an attentive and inquiring mind.  Read slowly, pause, reflect, always seeking the real meaning.

3.  Read in the spirit of prayer.  Offer a prayer as you begin.  Ask for the light which God’s Spirit can give.  Lift up your heart to God and ask God to come to you.

4.  Read in the spirit of obedience.  Ask what the passage means for your own life and pray for grace to follow what is thus revealed.  “Apply thyself wholly to the Bible; apply the Bible wholly to thyself.” (Bengel.)

— Harris Franklin Rall, Editor’s Preface to, The Fourth Gospel and The Later Epistles, by John Knox (not the Reformer in Scotland).

Do you want to be lifted up with wings like eagles this Lord’s Day in worship? He would have you so soar to heaven together.  Here’s how the Spirit will take you there:  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)

This call to a fearful preparation for properly approaching the LORD isn’t just Old Testament.  As we will see, the writer to the Hebrews notes that as Christ has now come and takes us in worship to heavenly Mt. Zion, we ought to be even more careful about how we draw near to Him in worship, with humble anticipation:

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 this NT Scripture, the writer is directly comparing our present worship situation to Exodus 19:9-25. And he is saying that, because we are now in a more exalted state in Christ, so we should even more prepare to be ready to enter into heavenly Worship with Reverence and Awe.  May you properly prepare to do so, beloved.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

God is Always our Help

Ps 121For Lord’s Day, February 16, 2014

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow we will be reminded that, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Sam 7:12) and that this is always the case.  God has “proved” the Israelites again and again to have them trained and ready for his service and their survival.  The names of Moses’ sons is important to see our sojourning for Christ is also our sustenance in Christ.  His first son’s name means “Sojourner”, and his second son’s name means, “God is my help.”  And God shows Moses again that He is his help through the earthly sojourn by providing him new helpers (elders) to rule over God’s people before He gives them His rules.

God is always thinking ahead for us. And He is always preparing us. And He is always preparing the way for us.  He is our helper!

Debbie Raglin shared this devotion from her copy of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening that reminds us of how thankful we should be for God’s help, and how we should continue to “Ask for help”:

Believer, look back through all thine experience, and think of the way whereby the Lord thy God has led thee in the wilderness, and how He hath fed and clothed thee every day – how He hath borne with thine ill manners – how He hath put up with all thy murmurings, and all thy longings after the flesh-pots of Egypt-how He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.  Think of how His grace has been sufficient for thee in all thy troubles-how His blood has been a pardon to thee in all thy sins-how His rod and His staff have comforted thee.  When thou hadst thus looked back upon the love of the Lord, then let faith survey His love in the future, for remember that Christ’s covenant and blood have something more in them than the past. He who has loved thee and pardoned thee, shall never cease to love and pardon.  He is Alpha, and He shall be Omega also: He is first, and He shall be last. Therefore, bethink thee, when thou shalt pass through the valley of the shadow of death, thou needest fear no evil, for He is with thee.  When thou shalt stand in the cold floods of Jordan, thou needest not fear, for death cannot separate thee from His love; and when thou shalt come into the mysteries of eternity thou needest not tremble. ‘For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ [Romans 8:38, 39]. Now, soul, is not thy love refreshed? Does not this make thee love Jesus? Doth not a flight through illimitable plains of the ether of love inflame thy heart and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God? Surely as we meditate on ‘the love of the Lord’, our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.

Beloved, in God’s providence, this was on the morning of February 4 in Spurgeon’s devotional, on Hosea 3:1, entitled “The love of the Lord.”  That was last week, the week Debbie’s dear husband, Deacon Bruce Raglin, went into the hospital with what turned out to be a heart attack.  She gave it to me to borrow while showing it to me in the hospital, marveling over God’s providential care.  Not only was the text perfectly timed within our morning sermons through Exodus, but also for their family during their time of need to trust God had prepared them and would help them. And Jesus did help them; how grateful we are to already have had Bruce back with us for our Thursday night event!  Just as we will see he is preparing Moses and the Church for the next step of their journey again, God provides in advance the help they will need.  And He shows again He is ultimately their help.

So God is our Ebeneezer, for hitherto hath the Lord helped us.  So we can sing in our Psalm of the month:

When I do thee upon my bed remember with delight,

And when on thee I meditate in watches of the night.

In shadow of thy wings I’ll joy; for thou mine help hast been.

My soul thee follows hard; and me thy right hand doth sustain.

– Psalm 63:6-8 (Comprehensive Psalter)

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Fighting for Jesus Instead of Complaining

For Lord’s Day, February 9, 2014

Dear Saints,

I recently saw two videos providing amazing examples of not murmuring against God over difficult providences.  It was a humbling reminder of what Christ preached to us last week in Exodus 16:1-17:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-12.

FiZionrst, the story of Zion Isaiah Blick. He was born this January, and he died this January.  Zion’s parents knew at 20 weeks that he would be born with a rare disease likely to quickly prove fatal post natal. Click here to view the USA Today video about it, and click here to see their family documentary celebrating little Zion’s ten days of life.  While I’m sure this Christian family (the father, a pastor) has and will shed many tears of sorrow, they admirably chose to celebrate Zion’s life with this Scripture as their standard bearer:

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. (Psalm 50:2)

What a beautiful testimony to us as we consider our covenant children in Sabbath Class tomorrow on baptism (Westminster Confession, Chapter 28). And what a glorious witness to not murmur against the Messiah, but praise Him in and with everything we receive from His sovereign hand. [Warning, I wept deeply after watching these, and expect you might too, but it was a blessing].

Second, the story of one of our nation’s brave servants, Marine Corporal Tony Porta. His bravery is not only seen in how he faced the battlefield overseas, but even more for how he courageously faces his new battles on the home front.  Serving our nation, Mr. Porta was severely burned (over 35 percent of his body, including severe disfiguring of his face), and lost his right arm and the fingers on his left hand. He has endured 125 reconstructive surgeries.

With that incredible suffering in mind, consider that Mr. Porta spoke of joining the Marine Corps like this: “It was the best decision of my life.”  He never complained, and he spoke with honor of his service and happiness for his wife, his son (named after two men who died in the same attack during which he was injured), and a new “smart home” being provided for him.  I was struck by his lack of murmuring and inspired by his gratitude for and commitment to living. Click here to watch the interview with this hero.

Brethren, tomorrow we will see the Lord leads the Church from rest with water to war with the Amalekites.  Difficult providences are a part of life, and no less when we walk with the Angel of God Who is a man of war. We will rest in the Promised Land. For now, we must be faithful warriors, trusting that as we look up to Jehovahnissi (Ex. 17:15), “The Lord My Banner”, we can know that while we are yet on the battlefield, we are winning and we will rest in heaven.  March forward, brethren. And let the Sabbath bless you with the reminder of your final rest when this wicked world is all one day behind us (Hebrews 4:9).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant