Contentment: Spiritually Internal thus Independent of Externals

For Lord’s Day, April 2, 2017

Dear Saints,

Here is our next installment of Jeremiah Borroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment to supplement our Wednesday Night study of Thomas Watson’s, The Art of Divine Contentment (both based on Philippians 4:11).

Having described what Christian contentment is, Burroughs begins to help us look at it from various angles to appreciate its myriad aspects. First,

Contentment is a sweet, inward heart-thing.

It is a work of the Spirit indoors.

Contentment does not come from outside of us. It is a peace that is not of this world without but only from Christ within. As Watson put it in chapter 6, “Contentment is a divine thing: it becomes ours, not by acquisition, but infusion.” Further, “Contentment is an intrinsical thing; it lies within a man; not in the bark, but the root. Contentment hath both its fountain and stream in the soul”, and thus it “doth not depend upon externals.” So let us go inside our hearts and ask the Spirit of Christ abiding there to work out His gracious gift in us, including reminding us that we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us: especially the thing of learning contentment and staying content (see verse 13 in its context with verse 11).

As Burroughs teaches that contentment “is the inward submission of the heart”, he contends that it isn’t simply outward compliance that appears to be at peace because it doesn’t make a fussy show with the body. It is more than that—much more. True contentment is a lack of fretting in our heart of hearts.  He writes:

Not only must the tongue hold its peace;

the soul must be silent.

Ah yes, a meek and quiet spirit is the truest test of our spiritual state (and precious in God’s sight: 1 Peter 3:4). Yet both Watson and Burroughs would encourage us to simply be motivated to continue mastering this fine art and mining for the rare jewel. Says Borroughs,

If the attainment of true contentment were as easy as keeping quiet outwardly, it would not need much learning.

God’s beloved, may our hearts open to God working this lesson in us where all His good works begin and grow: in our soul’s offering up its most private and precious places.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Affliction: The Moment We Need to Learn More Contentment

For Lord’s Day, February 26, 2017

Dear Saints,

Our next installment of Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment deals with being content through affliction (which we saw from our recent Wednesday night studies with Watson’s book on the topic is the main classroom of learning contentment).  Burroughs writes:

So far as your heart sinks and you are discouraged under affliction, so much you need to learn this lesson of contentment.

His point?  The worse our affliction and deeper our agony, the greater we need to apply ourselves as learners of contentment, which is its own medicine.  In fact,

This is quietness of spirit under an affliction … when the soul is so far able to bear an affliction as to keep quiet under it.

This call to quietness and meekness of spirit does not mean we may not lament (we must not be stoics, as Watson and Plumer guided us this Wednesday night).  But in taking it to God we come to be still before God and go away calm within our storm glad to have been with God. Like we studied and sang Wednesday night in Psalm 73:21-28: Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins … Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever … But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

This all makes me think of a subtle reminder the Lord sent to me early this morning while listening to Refnet.fm preparing for the day.  It was the time when they play lovely music, and the instrumental of “It is Well With My Soul” was beckoning my soul to embrace it; remembering and identifying with the writer’s personal situation behind that song, I did. And it helped and it is helping.

Let us learn contentment more when we need it more so we have more of it when we need it more in certain moments.  More on that in the next installment of Burroughs’ guidance on contentment.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

An American Pastor’s Polemic on Politics

Dear Saints,

While I was caring for Abraham while he was sick this Lord’s Day, I was afforded time to finish my reading of William S. Plumer’s, Jehovah-Jirah: A Treatise on Providence. The book has been a dear friend to me and covers a surprising range of things. Before I close the covers of this volume from the late 1800s, I wanted to share with you parts of his last two chapters, “Providence Over Nations”, and “National Judgments”, in which this American Presbyterian pastor calls upon his country to take heed. Do these words not resonate within our own nation’s political state and trajectory?

God’s Providence Over Nations, Chapter XVII

In general men think far too little of God’s providence over nations …

There are but few men in the world possessed of any considerable wisdom in the management of political affairs …

A pure despotism is the simplest form of government in the world. In it the will of one man decides everything. The moment men depart one step toward constitutional freedom, the government becomes complex. The more freedom, the more difficult it is to understand and adjust the balances of the Constitution and the laws under it …

Men who might understand what ought to be done for a nation’s good are often vain, cruel and sordidly selfish. When wisdom degenerates into cunning, and political acts are cautiously constructed to secure the elevation of their authors, their very gifts are a curse … They often pander to the sins of the nation. Their appeals are to the worst passions of the human breast. Their practice is never better than their principles …

… oftentimes public opinion is more powerful than any statute …

Surely then there is need for the insteppings of Jehovah to guide and govern nations ; nations generally ; each nation in particular. Truly God is their only hope …

What prosperous nation hath not waxed fat and kicked against the Lord? …

When God afflicts any nation let its inhabitants reverently bow before him and humbly submit to his chastisements. Let good men pray and trust in the providence of God. He can deliver them and their nation out of all their troubles …

We should guard against becoming violent partisans in the state, to which we belong … let not good men associate with lewd fellows of the baser sort in their howlings against law and order … Let God’s people be very careful how they participate in a revolution …

The character of agitator is anti-christian …

The world never understands Christian character. With it gospel humility is meanness, faith in the testimony of God is fanaticism, firmness is dogged stubbornness …

… what can be done with men, who have no magnanimity? Many refuse to draw any distinction between the ravings of fanaticism, and the purest and most humble piety. Mobs have often pronounced themselves patriotic ; but is there no difference between a mob and a band of patriots? And is there no difference between the enlightened, humble, unswerving piety of a true Christian, and the wild, lawless radicalism, which sometimes rises up, not from religion, but from the bottomless pit, and assumes the garb of piety to screen or to sanctify its abominations? …

… true piety has always secured good conduct in subjects and citizens, and made them blessings to the land they inhabited …

Quoting an unnamed Anglican writer: … it is the modern fashion to feed delightfully on the fruit, and then revile, if not curse, those who planted and watered it. How often have the best men been cast out of church establishments, and then charged with the sin of schism.

Providence Punishes Nations for Their Sins, Chapter XVIII

God’s providence is over both persons and nations. In this world retribution to persons is imperfect, for they will be dealt with hereafter. But nations exist here only. Whatever rewards or punishments they receive must be temporal …

Sins are national, either by their prevalence among a people, or by being sanctioned by national authority. When the law-making power of a country decrees unrighteousness and frames wickedness by a law ; when its executive power is wielded for cruelty, or favoritism ; when the judges of a land are corrupt, and justify the guilty and condemn the innocent, then a fearful reckoning is not far off. So when iniquity abounds in the members of a nation, its punishment is near …

But the Scriptures make it very clear that nothing is more offensive to God than the rejection of his Gospel by a people …

Great favors impose great obligations. The greater the mercy, the greater the responsibility …

In every land some refuse the yoke of Christ. Sometimes many do it secretly. But when the hostility is bold and aversion rises to the point of malignity, and opposition builds up adverse systems, and all this with the clear light shining, a nation has reached an appalling crisis …

Sometimes this rejection is accompanied by anti-christian legislation …

Sometimes a people go further and cruelly persecute all who oppose their wicked course …

In his History of Redemption, Edwards says: “We read in Scripture of scacre any destruction of nations but that one main reason given for it is, their enmity and injuries against God’s church, and doubtless this was one main reason of the destruction of all nations by the flood.” …

Men sometimes reject the Gospel by making a hypocritical profession of it …

This public opinion, perverted, is potent for mischief. It knows no limits. It has no checks as every written law has. It can make hypocrites faster than the apostles made converts …

To such a people Jesus said: ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing for the fruits thereof.’ Matt. xxi. 43. …

Isaiah 60:12: For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

Let us not think we may treat the Gospel as we please and yet be safe …

God is in history. Let the people of America be no exception to this call … Let us not trust in man to preserve us … Let us all beware of a morbid excitability of temper. “The mock heroic falsetto of stupid tragedy” will create a thirst for the horrible, till at last our people will gloat over scenes of carnage … What shall be the future character of the busy millions of America …? …

… if any people learn habitually to slight offered mercy their future course will open an Iliad of calamities, appalling to the stoutest heart. The prophetic roll of such a country’s history is written within and without with lamentations, and mourning, and woe …

Let each man remember his own awful responsibility to God. The way that nations rise in worth, or sink in ruin, is by the individuals, who compose them, walking humbly with God or renouncing their portion in Jacob. Aggregated masses are the sum of the good or ill inwoven into the character of their component parts. The union of good men is right, and it is strength. Let every man rule his own heart. He is the best patriot, who walks most according to the moral law and the example of Christ, and who most fervently implores the blessing of heaven on his people and country …

Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

Proverbs 14:34: Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

People of America! Beware how you trifle with sin, how you make light of God’s authority, and revel in iniquity …

But some are hopeless cases. Nothing moves them. God chastises them, but they make their hearts harder than adamant. He invites them by mingled words of entreaty and of authority, but they pass heedlessly along …

Yet no signs of devouring wrath now strike their or our senses. Earthquakes, it is said, are preceded by an unusual stillness in nature …

God calls the whole nation to repentance … Will not all, individually, turn and live? …

If the nation repents, it will be by each man bewailing his sins, believing in Christ, and so fleeing from the wrath to come. “GOD NOW COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERYWHERE TO REPENT.” OBEY, AND LIVE.

I close with something Plumer wrote in an earlier chapter: “Public opinion often errs. Individual judgments are as often erroneous … He that judgeth us is the Lord.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Contentment: Christian Self-Sufficiency

For the Lord’s Day, February 19, 2017

Dear Saints,

Here is our next supplemental installment to Watson’s, Art of Divine Contentment on Wednesday nights from Burroughs’ Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Chapter 1, “Christian Contentment Described.”

His starting point for the book is the same as for Watson’s study on the same subject, Philippians 4:11, the second part: I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Burroughs writes, “Our great Apostle holds forth experimentally in this Gospel-text the very life and soul of all practical divinity.” Well then, we are wise to learn this lesson of contentment for our own soul’s practice of gaining godliness.

He notes that the word “content” technically can only be attributed to God because the LORD alone is self-sufficient (related to the attribute of God we have studied, His aseity). Yet, because Paul knows Jesus Christ personally and has His Spirit within him, Burroughs points out that he can say, “I have a self-sufficiency, which is what the word [contentment] means.” This is not the idea of self-reliant independency of God, but rather of being independent of the need for others to be satisfied within ourselves because of our sustaining relationship with God and within His Body.

Thus, we who know the grace of God in Jesus Christ can say verse 13 of the same chapter teaching us to build more Christ-esteem: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” And we in Christ can then indeed say for ourselves, “A good man is satisfied from himself” (Proverbs 14:14).

Lastly, Burroughs offers us the following description (notice, not a definition, which is probably the above as “self-sufficiency” in Christ’s adequately strengthening abundance):

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

Or, as Paul puts it, “in whatsoever state I am … I can do all things”: namely, be content. May we learn to put it that way for ourselves, that is, in our own growing exercise of Christian self-sufficiency.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Peaceful Contentment in Peacemaking

For Lord’s Day, February 12, 2017

Dear Saints,

Having begun our Wednesday Night study with Thomas Watson’s, The Art of Divine Contentment, let us begin our supplemental e-devotions with Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

Before we actually get to his own words, I’d like to take a look at what was said about him in the forward by Michael Boland related to Burroughs’ work as a member of the Westminster Assembly. Boland shares that although Borroughs was part of the Independent minority (a very small one) that opposed the majority’s work on certain features of Westminster’s form of Presbyterian church government, he “deplored the deep division which ensued” related to the ‘Five Dissenting Brethren’. “One of his most famous works was Irenicum or Heart-Divisions Opened, in which he pleaded for the unity of all who loved the truth, and argued that what made comparatively minor differences into causes of rigid divisions was a wrong spirit and wrong motives.”

We may not be able to have organizational relations with all whom we should yet otherwise call and purpose to treat as brethren in organic ways. We should be eager for such friendship and fellowship and go out of our way to foster it as a church with other churches, especially with those most like-minded. This doesn’t mean we don’t have to draw lines at times that may cause some distance with some in certain regards. But may we have a right spirit and motive for all those whom God shed His own blood in ways that witness we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) and trust that Christ will reward us with the fruit of more peaceful contentment which is not of this world.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

PS: Have you had more classrooms for learning more contentment present themselves to you this week just as we saw how Paul’s practice lessons were procured? So did I. Let’s make sure we are good students of God’s precepts in these providences so that we grow more content in all these things.

The Artful Study of Strange Providences for Our Contentment

For Lord’s Day, February 4, 2017

Dear Saints,

Next Wednesday night we will begin studying Thomas Watson’s, The Art of Divine Contentment, and I plan to use our weekly (Lord-willing) e-devotions/Pastor’s Posts to share the “cliff notes” of Jeremiah Burrough’s, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment along the way as a companion complement of sorts to our midweek corporate devotion.

(Image source: http://news.psu.edu/story/141913/2011/12/14/research/probing-question-how-are-museums-keeping-changing-times)

Watson’s theme verse for the book is Philippians 4:11, which reads in part: ... I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Notice that contentment is not something that comes naturally—it must be learned by deliberate study and purposeful practice, especially when difficult providences are displayed before us.

In anticipation of our study on contentment, tonight I’d like to share another nugget from William S. Plumer in his treatise on Providence entitled, Jehovah-Jireh. In the section of his book about God’s special providence over saints is a subsection that reads as follows: XI. When means have been blessed to conversion of his people, how strange the providences of God which lead to their growth in grace! In this subsection, he quotes this “paradoxical” poem by someone he does not name [John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”, see P.S. below]:

I asked the Lord, that I might grow

In faith, and love and every grace ;

Might more of his salvation know,

And seek more earnestly his face.

 

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,

And He, I trust has answered prayer ;

But it has been in such a way

As almost drove me to despair.

 

I hoped that in some favored hour,

At once he’d answer my request ;

And by His love’s constraining power,

Subdue my sins and give me rest.

 

Instead of this He made me feel

The hidden evils of my heart,

And let the angry powers of hell

Assault my soul in every part.

 

Yea, more ; with His own hand He seemed

Intent to aggravate my wo ;

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,

Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

 

‘Lord, why is this?’ I trembling cried,

‘Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?’

‘Tis in this way,’ the Lord replied,

‘I answer prayer for grace and faith.’

 

‘These inward trials I employ

From self and pride to set thee free,

And break thy schemes of earthly joy,

That thou may’st seek thy all in me.’

The Lord truly works in mysterious ways in bringing us nearer Him Who is the Way and the Truth to give us more of His abundant life as He reveals His mysteries to us. With that in view, as we prepare for Watson’s, Art of Divine Contentment let us close with more words by Plumer a little later on in his book:

It is a divine art to view the hand of God in everything.

Let us develop a keen eye for God’s wise and skillful brushstrokes while then stepping back a bit to behold His whole picture that we are simply a part of, so that we would become masterfully artful at studying our Master’s hand and learn to appreciate what we’re looking at.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

PS: The context of Newton’s poem is striking: “He and his friend William Cowper had embarked on a project that was to become the Olney Hymns Collection, but not long into the project, Cowper went insane.  Newton wrote that it seemed as though God was going out of his way to make life difficult for him and then realized that even through adversity, God continues to work.” (Source, with the lyrics put to music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cnEDUMfPXs)

Passing on the Faith through My Trust and Last Will and Testament

For Lord’s Day, January 29, 2017

Dear Saints,

On the occasion of my daughter, Olivia Rose, taking her communicant membership vows before you this morning to be received into full communion and begin taking the Lord’s Supper this evening, wherein I will be charging her to Keep Picking Up and Passing on the Faith and to Keep Raising Up the Cup, I thought it fitting to share with you something personal in our family.

Recently, I took the children with me to attend a meeting with my lawyer’s team in Escondido where I signed my updated last will and testament and my new trust and advance health directive and choice of guardianship with other related forms. Due to our loss of Jennifer, I needed to update these forms and create a trust for the children, should anything happen to me. I intended for it to be a solemn occasion that they would always remember for how they live in the honor of their Mother’s name and for their father but most importantly for their Heavenly Father’s good name.

Before we began the meeting, I opened us in prayer and then charged the children to take this seriously. I told them they should feel safe and that this was taking care of them as minors and they should be thankful. Further, if when they come of age they were to deny Christ and abandon His Church by their word or works (Titus 1:16), I would update my will and take them out of it because I could not then trust them to be good stewards of Christ’s resources entrusted to me. I later told them that if they defected from the faith later on as adults literally or practically by neglect that I would consider myself a failure as a father and I wanted them to know that nothing else they may accomplish in their lives would matter to me at all if they were not doing all in and for Jesus Christ and His Church.

At the end of the meeting, the lawyer came in (an elder in a conservative Presbyterian church) and charged the children to take this seriously and live out their Christian heritage in honor of their father and mother and to trust only in the Lord Jesus Christ and live only for Him. Then he prayed for us.

Afterward, we were late for Abraham’s basketball practice nearby (another reason I took the children with me to this meeting). I apologized and asked if they thought this was worth attending. Abraham exclaimed, “That’s OK, I would way more want this meeting than basketball practice!” You see, when we take our children seriously for Christ and expect them to take Christ seriously, they will respond in kind in the context of the covenant family and be honored to do so.  God will honor them that honor Him and He will bless them that seek to bless His name with Himself, and this promise is also for our children.

By taking this all very seriously I had hoped it would help the children take their lives very seriously from an early age and not consider what I might leave to them later as a right to claim but a privilege of which to be good stewards or have it revoked. By so doing, I found myself even more impressed with my own duty to leave them a good and meaningful spiritual legacy by my own life and how I go about passing it on to them. I let the children know that I had remembered the church and another ministry in my will for a percentage of it if all other things were first taken care of for them, and that if I lived to their adulthood and they didn’t really need it I would adjust the will to give them only a percentage of my assets and upfront include the church and another charity for a percentage as other beneficiaries much in need of support to carry on (probably more than they would need it): they thought this made perfect sense. I want them to now be thinking of using their time, talents, and treasures as stewards for Christ, not themselves, unto and through their deaths.

I prepared a Christian preamble for my will that I then read to them at home. I said I did not want them to only be comforted and convicted by it at my death, but at the beginning of their lives to live for and up to it as I so will endeavor to do for Christ and His Kingdom, with this memory as a meaningful reference to look back on at the time they will gather again to review it later on. They said it was lovely and they were very thankful to have heard it now from me alive, not just later after my death, and that it did give meaning to their lives. I share this preamble with you here and encourage you to think about whether you are taking your lives for Christ seriously enough and whether you are challenging your children to do the same in such tangible, sobering, proactive ways. And whether you are willing to put it into writing.

I, Grant E. Van Leuven, a resident of the city of Chula Vista in San Diego County, California, do hereby testify that I am a Christian who serves the only and true Triune God. I want to remind especially my children, whom I here mainly address, that I have placed all my hope of life hereafter in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Way, Truth, Life, and Resurrection. His life, death, and resurrection have given my life meaning and make my death a purposeful passage into a greater degree of glory where Christ has prepared a place for me in His Father’s house and where He will stand and greet me as He did Stephen in Acts 7 and as we trust He so brought your Mother through the valley of the shadow of death while we sang her into heaven with Psalm 23. I am now more intimately and immediately experiencing my chief and final end to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.

I want my children to know that for me to live was Christ, and to die is now my gain, and to be absent in the body is now to be present with my Lord and Good Shepherd along with the cloud of witnesses, including your Mother, who went before us.

I want my friends and family to rejoice with me as I declare my completed faith in Jesus Christ my Savior. I am assured by faith in His Sovereign Grace that after my life of joy and sorrow, accomplishments and failures, I will live eternally in the presence of our Heavenly Father where there is fulness of joy—and at His right hand with Jesus, where there are pleasures forevermore. This is possible not because I have earned or deserved it, but because Jesus, the God-man, lived and died in my place and rose and ascended to the right hand of God in the true Holy of Holies to intercede for me as my only mediatorial prophet, priest, and king. Having enjoyed the first resurrection and endured the first death by the Holy Spirit’s comfort and empowering and enlightening guidance, I now live with Christ face-to-face looking forward to the second resurrection with the peace of being spared the second death.

I borrow these last words of David Dickson, co-author of The Sum of Saving Knowledge, on his death bed: “I have taken all my good deeds, and all my bad deeds, and cast them in a heap before the Lord, and fled from both to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace.”  Further, I adopt the words that Dr. J. Gresham Machen sent in a telegram to Professor John Murray shortly before he died: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ.  No hope without it.”

I encourage my children to go back and listen to my sermon series through Psalm 23 to be comforted and encouraged and to hold fast and overcome.  As well, as could have been said by your Mother in our presence had she been able to speak in her last moments with us, hear Paul’s words as hers and mine and as my grateful resolve having faith’s fruit (especially your fruit) to look back on, knowing that my labor was not in vain and that I shall receive my reward of the inheritance for serving the Lord Christ: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  May these also be your sincere dying words and thoughts.

I ask my children, whom I dearly love, never to forget the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, including bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  May God bless you and yours through the same means as He did Abraham in Genesis 18:19.  Be good stewards of your time, talents, and treasures so that you leave your own covenant family legacy and heritage, material and and especially spiritual, to your seed.  And love and serve Christ’s Church, which is His Body, Bride, House, and Family, and the Pillar and Ground of the Truth—and out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. May God grant you peace, love, and strength as he guides you through this life. Then at the end of time, we and your Mother and your three unborn siblings who went before her will be reunited in the New Heaven and Earth as a happy family with our new spiritual bodies.

I commit myself to God’s care, secure in his love for me and trusting in the salvation purchased for me through Christ’s suffering and death. I leave those who survive me the comfort of knowing that I have died in this faith and have now joined my Lord in eternal glory. I commend my loved ones to the protecting arms of God, knowing that He will continue to provide for you despite my absence; and I encourage you to place your faith and trust in Him alone and never in the world for your daily bread, comfort, and peace. I look forward to seeing you all who are truly in and with Christ again in our life hereafter, where we will all live with our Lord Jesus.

Do not sorrow without hope.  Remember what the Westminster Larger Catechism question and answer number 86 teaches.  Question: What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death? Answer: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls …

Also, may all who read this be keeping sober guard of your lives and souls, watching for King Jesus’ return on a white horse and on the clouds of heaven, by the closing words of the above answer: … Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.

Further, I refer my heirs to Deuteronomy, the eighth chapter, and charge you not to “… say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth …”  Remember how your Mother and I baptized and raised you as and to be Christians and peculiar people, and be no covenant breakers but covenant keepers. “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.”

I request that my heirs remember that everything they have is a trust from the Father of Heavenly Lights.  Take heed never to forget that you are merely stewards of what the Lord has given me and you, and that you will give an account of your stewardship of your Master’s things when Emmanuel returns at the Last Great Day. Be good servants and stewards of the faith and life legacy I now pass on to you in full by the gracious hand and in the mighty name of my faithful and true Master, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Behold, He comes quickly. Prepare and endeavor to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant,” when He does.

I being of sound and disposing mind, memory, and understanding, do hereby declare this document to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all my prior Wills and Codicils.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

PS: I borrowed much of the language for this preamble from free sources online. Anyone who may find this preamble helpful and want to adopt it for updating (or beginning) their own wills are welcome to use it.

Superflous Praise for Superlative Grace: Our Cup Runneth Over

For the Lord’s Day, January 22, 2017

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day’s morning sermon based on Ephesians 3:8 encouraged us to more deeply explore “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. We were exhorted to “Keep Searching Out Christ”, as His mercies are new every morning for great is His faithfulness.

 

(Image source: https://caffeineforge.com/2013/08/07/my-cup-runneth-over/)

We remembered in that sermon the words by Wilhelmus à Brakel which we wondered over during our Wednesday night study that same week leading up to worship:

… His intercession is efficacious to the superlative degree.

Today, I read a wonderful meditation by William S. Pulmer in Jehovah-Jireh: A Treatise on Providence that rang to the same lovely tune as à Brakel’s:

Observe, first, several words, nearly synonymous, are used to teach us the doctrine, such is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, pitiful, slow to anger, and not satisfied with the positive the inspired writers use the superlative: very pitiful and very gracious too.

Observe, secondly, that not content with the singular, mercy, by a felicitous fault of style, they adopt and employ the plural form, mercies … nor are they content with a simple plural; but they speak of these mercies as manifold, yea, they speak of the multitude of his mercies … And to denote that there is nothing uncertain about these mercies, they speak of them as sure mercies; … But they are not mere mercies, but tender mercies … Daniel goes further still; he says: ‘To the Lord our God belong mercies’ and forgiveness? No; but ‘forgivenesses.’

Thirdly, there is another set of phrases they use; they speak of God as rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy, and full of compassion; they speak of his abundant mercy, of the earth as full of his mercy, to denote its amplitude; and in respect of its continuance, they say his compassions fail not, and there is a Psalm [136] in which twenty-six times it is said, His mercy endureth forevever. There is still another phraseology used by the sacred writers. They speak of God’s kindness, his great kindness, his marvelous kindness, his everlasting kindness; but they are not satisfied to speak of it as simple kindness; they call it merciful kindness, and speak of it as great toward us.

Indeed, let us approach the Lord’s Supper tomorrow night rejoicing that our cup runneth over with His blood of the everlasting covenant! Thus, we have plenty of reasons to be superfluous in our praise of our gracious God tomorrow together, do we not?

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Don’t Throw Away Your Vote to Pragmatic Politics

Dear Saints,

As you know, I’m up in the mountains on respite with the children and will not be able to vote tomorrow for the next president of the United States of America. Frankly, I’m disgusted with the candidate options, and if I was able to vote I would write in a name that was clearly Christian and should be on the ballot to vote my conscience with a vission for the future.

I had jotted down these notes a little while ago with intent to share them with you during the presidential debates.  I’d still like to send them real quick from the Shaver Lake, CA, library before we head out for the night (no wifi access otherwise).

While I recognize whomever God puts in office is of Him and then we will need to “honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17), that doesn’t mean we need to be pressured to put him (or her as the case may be) there.

These words by Gordon H. Clark, in Reason, Religion, Revelation, resonated with me thinking about where our country has gotten with politics and parties represented by the candidates presented to us for our next president.

Clark writes on p. 47: “… consistency and profundity are not the prerequisites of popularity.”  Does this not ring true in consideration of how “we the people” get what we deserve with our present representation?  The political scene is a sign of the times for our nation of what “we the people” have become (are not the candidates alarmingly too much like us as a nation and church?).  Clark also writes, “ … moral convictions and moral education, based on law and right, can be consistently grounded on Biblical revelation.  On the other hand, contemporary American humanism like pagan antiquity neither has this ground for morality nor does it unexceptionally recognize these laws” (pp. 151-2).  This needs to be meditated on before you vote …

… along with these: “Can …. A philosophy that repudiates revelation … provide a justification for any of the Ten Commandments?  Are not those humanists who still oppose murder and theft living on the Christian capital inherited from their Puritan ancestors?” (p. 152).  They are less and less, yet we keep putting them in office and then wonder why our nation is more and more aggressively pagan.

Some “conservative” talking heads are seriously pressuring us to not “throw away our vote”, but let me encourage you to cast a vote with the future in view that says “give me this kind of guy or don’t get my vote for your nonsense candidates any longer” or our children will suffer the same fate as did the early church with the fall of Rome all around them as it was taken over by barbarians.

May we always vote in a way that calls on our country to provide leadership that will reflect Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD …  Let us do our duty in witnessing to Christ’s right to rule this nation in how we vote and how this nation would ever be changed for the better, and let us leave the outcome in His hands.  For to try and take things into our own hands cowering to pragmatic pressure will get “we the people” more of what we these unprincipled persons deserve–and that will destroy us as a people.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Daniel Diet Devotion

Van Leuven Family Devotion for Start Date of Gerson Therapy Protocol
Encouragement for Mommy’s healing and for our own health improvement and safety
July 20, 2016

Creation’s Diet Design Extended through the Flood:

  • Psalm 139:14-15: we are fearfully and wonderfully made (designed, thus so would naturally be our food; just like any machine, it’s fuel is carefully designed for it to work properly to thrive and avoid breaking down).
  • 1:11-12, 26-27, 29; 2:8-9, 16-17: vegetables/fruit/grain were designed and only provided/permitted for man’s food before the Fall, not meat; so they must all have everything we need in them with a balanced diet of them. We can (as is scientifically demonstrated) get all the protein we need in vegetables, fruits, and grains (with a proper balanced diet) by their design for us. If we needed meat, we would have been eating it in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. We may eat meat for now, but we were not always allowed to and we were not designed to need meat. Our digestive tracks are designed especially for “pulse”, which we can immediately digest and get all that is in it (unlike meat). We may eat meat, but we do not need meat. What we have been learning is we can help our immune system work against cancer and disease the way God designed it to work when we properly fuel it (modern depletion contributes greatly to our weak immune systems, but we have been learning how to reverse this by remembering what Charlotte Gerson said: “The cure is in the cauase.”).
  • 3: death is a result of sin; so we won’t eat meat in heaven, nor did we before sin.
  • 9:3-4: meat is only mentioned with permission by God for His people to eat after the Flood (with a clear allusion to the Garden and only having permission to eat plant-based foods before the Fall). This change would in part at least set up the Tabernacle/Temple system of ceremonial types of the Lamb of God and the Lord’s Supper.

Daniel’s Diet Healthier Compared to the King’s:

Dan. 1:1-16:

  • 15-16: Daniel and his friends were healthier than the others based on each of their diets
  • King’s “meat” – Hebrew, “fine food”; vs. 15, Keil and Delitzsch say that the idea of the Hebrew word is “fat well nourished in flesh”, the food of the pagan King and most of those being prepared to advise him (all, including Daniel and his friends, considered wise “scientists” per vs. 4).
  • Daniel’s “pulse” – the Hebrew word means “vegetables (or seed or grain)”; had with water to drink (vs. 12); this was Daniel’s diet.
  • 15: ten days is all it took to see a difference of improved health and quite a contrast (Daniel’s diet provided observably superior health: we have already been seeing a difference in Mommy and our health in a week or two of pre-protocol efforts, and her weight gain rather than continual loss for the first time in 7 months! Several of us and others in our church have commented on how we are already feeling less pain and ailments from drinking juice and eating closer to Mommy’s new diet.). So the King’s caregiver of the wise men in training changed everyone’s diet to Daniel’s because it had an obvious and significant health benefit (a sign this was not a miracle, but how God designed our bodies and “pulse” for our bodies).

This is not a study on the lawfulness of certain foods (see Lev. 11; Acts 10; 1 Tim. 4:4-5 to confirm we may eat meat from the Flood until Heaven). The focus here is the difference in health results by each diet. The vegetarian and water diet made healthier people, thus is was more than sufficient but superior for a balanced and maximized diet. While the focus of the text of Daniel 1 is broader (giving a witness of God’s care for His people and maintaining a distinction as his people trusting in His design to sustain us rather than being assimilated into the pagans with their gods) this was not a miracle like the manna in Exodus, but a witness to the true Creator and His design of and provision for us.

Matthew Henry on vs. 16: “People will not believe the benefit of avoiding excess, and of a spare diet, nor how much they contribute to the health of the body, unless they try. Conscientious temperance will always do more, even for the comfort of this life, than sinful indulgence.”

See also the latter parts of the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 135 and 136 regarding “sober use” and “immoderate use” regarding the Sixth Commandment.

Heaven’s Diet:

Revelation 2:7; 22:2. No more eating meat in heaven, but of the Tree of Life, just like in Eden before the Fall, because death is the result of sin. Animals must die to be eaten, and this will never happen in heaven (Old Testament prophecies allude to predators and prey lying together in peace and life). Further, The Lord’s Supper changed from meat to bread (for fulfilled typological reasons, but still something worth considering with The Great Supper of the Lamb in Revelation). We will eat in the Eternal Garden what was designed for us in the Typological Garden based on how we were designed, and the effects of sin will no longer offer a temporary exception to that rule (let alone need).

Psalm 8:1, 5-6, 9.

Men Must Minister to Women

For Lord’s Day, June 5, 2016

Dear Saints,

Jennifer and I recently came across a video (shared below) that I mentioned to you in passing in last week’s evening sermon on the qualifications for elders. There I reminded us that the Hebrew word for “elders” is more literally “bearded ones” as an example that only men are allowed by God to be elders.  As in that sermon, we remember here that our men and elders must minister to our women in a way that men alone are particularly so designed by God.

The issue is not that girls or women are inferior (we are made equal in value, yet different in abilities and assigned tasks), but that there is a vital distinction between them and boys and men.  This philosophy is very controversial in our day of a growing demand for unisex bathrooms and no distinction between the sexes.  Can you imagine — if the logic of the wicked world prevails, mothers and fathers may one day be presented with a birth certificate at the hospital that reads for the sex of their newborn, “To be decided by the child at a later date”?  How that would set up a life of abusive confusion and neglect of duty.

To insist that we are made and maintained as either men or women without our say in the matter is to defend God’s right to create and rule over our souls and bodies and societies in advance and forever.  Further, such commitment to the truth of general and special revelation regarding what it is to be male or female (in anatomical and social functions) will charge our men to be manly in protecting and serving especially our women.  This verse of God’s holy, infallible Word particularly resonates at the moment and it continues to be true about the responsibility of men toward women:

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

Peter does not here degrade women and wives, but makes demands on men and husbands to protect them as precious vases of God’s glory.  Considering we just practiced male headship federal representative voting last Lord’s Day in the election of our next Elder, Mr. Malcolm Maxwell (to be ordained and installed in tomorrow’s morning service), and that it was emphasized that he had to be a man, it seems appropriate to again remember what it is to be a man in distinction and on behalf of our women and why it matters.

What’s more, it is also good timing to review God-given gender relations since we will submit to the preaching of the third antithesis in Matthew 5:31-32 tomorrow evening where Jesus corrects the Scribes and Pharisees on their teachings regarding divorce.  These religious leaders emphasized husbands being able to cast away their wives for nearly any reason so long as they went “by the book” with a Scriptural certificate that was actually meant to restrict and restrain divorce so as to preserve a man’s faithfulness to his wife and protect her from abandonment, scorn, and poverty (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  We will see again how it is profoundly important to have our men know that they are men and what it means to be real covenant-keeping family men of God who lead their wives, daughters, and future men.

While the world will have us believe the fork-tongued lie that there is no difference between men and women, we will not be so deceived because it would prove to be the entire breakdown of marriage and family and church and state (just as it was at the Fall).  And it would mean husbands not showing up to serve their wives as serving their Lord as Christ did the Church per Ephesians 5 (just as was too often the case with the Patriarchs).

Thankfully, young boys instinctively know better before they are perverted by cowardly social patterns of abdication and abuse, as seen by this marvelous video below (in Italian, so read the subtitles).  Wait for the final section when the boys are introduced to a lovely young girl and  commanded (after being instructed to caress her and then make funny faces at her) to slap her.  The countenance of each boy immediately changes from innocent interest to harsh horrification.  Note the reason given by the last young boy for why he will not slap the girl: “Why? ‘Cause she’s a girl, I can’t do it … Why? ‘Cause I’m a man!”  So we see the innate knowledge of God’s design in the distinction between men and women, and how important it is to preserve it to protect everyone we should hold so dear.

Here’s the video:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: Another good reason one of the boys gives is “Because Jesus doesn’t want us to hit others”.  More on that when we get to Matthew 5:38-39.

Post Tenebras Lux: “After Darkness, Light”

Post_tenebras_luxFor Lord’s Day, March 20, 2016

Dear Saints,

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness … so reads Psalm 112:4.

Thomas Watson quoted this Scripture in his lengthy exposition of the beatitude we look at tomorrow night, Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9), in his chapter about the benefits of being children of God. In particular, Watson references the Psalm within his section, “God works all things for their good”, under the subsection, “Evil things work for good to God’s children.” Then he explains among other things what I trust several of us in our little church will find reassuring:

Sickness works for their good. It shall bring the body of death into a consumption [the using up of a resource]. ‘Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day’ (2 Corinthians 4:16) … When the body withers the soul of a Christian flourishes. How often have we seen a lively faith in a languishing body! Hezekiah was better on his sick bed than upon his throne. When he was upon his sick-bed he humbles himself and weeps. When he was on his throne he grew proud (Isaiah 39:2). God’s children recover by sickness. In this sense, ‘out of weakness they are made strong’ (Hebrews 11:34).

Then Watson discusses two other things that I believe our church can especially appreciate while we also prepare for the last beatitudes next week that seem to go together in Matthew 5:10-12:

Disgrace increases their grace. The husbandman by dunging his ground makes the soil more rich and fertile. God lets the wicked dung his people with reproaches and calumnies [slanders], that their hearts may be a richer soil for grace to grow in …

Persecution to God’s children works for good. The godly may be compared to that plant which Gregory Nazianzen speaks of. It lives by dying and grows by cutting. The zeal and love of the saints is blown up by sufferings. Their joy flourishes. Tertullian says the primitive Christians rejoiced more in their persecutions than in their deliverances.

That last sentence is amazing, but it echoes what Paul writes:

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Many of us have recently discussed the Bible’s doctrine of suffering and how too few Christians are willing to acknowledge it, never mind embrace it (a reading of chapters 1 and 2 of Job should prove a helpful corrective, especially 1:20-21 and 2:10 with what later follows in 13:15). We may indeed find special strength in Christ when He calls on us to fellowship with Him in weakness and sufferings (Philippians 3:10). For the darker our days in certain seasons, the brighter the Light of the World is reflected in our teary eyes.

Let us hold tightly to the Calvinist motto of the Protestant Reformation, Post tenebras lux: “after darkness, light.”

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Pastor Grant

Persevering Friendship

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/357262182914318275/

For Lord’s Day, March 6, 201644df758b67a602db160356b3bca3d69a

Dear Saints,

I was impressed with something I recently heard a celebrated American composer and singer-songwriter share that I’d like to pass on to you, my friends and brethren:

I’ve had hopeless times in my life about different things, and you just have to persevere, because one day that door does open and if you don’t persevere you won’t be there when it does. – Carol King

One of Ms. King’s songs, “Beautiful”, closes with these words as what would seem to be her life’s motto as she described above:

I have often asked myself the reason for sadness
In a world where tears are just a lullaby
If there’s any answer, maybe love can end the madness
Maybe not, oh, but we can only try

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

Of course, you all are beautiful because you are a new creature in Christ. So I think of all people we Christians can live out those words to “Beautiful” most fully with Christ in view. We don’t always feel beautiful, but as we look to Christ and one another we can anew. Because you are beautiful, beloved. I think of your collective inner beauty so often displayed as you continue on with one another through thick and thin submitting to the Word of God. As I think of the theme verse to Matthew Henry’s Quest in our Wednesday Night studies together, I deeply cherish your … ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4).

Seeing ourselves in Christ as His betrothed wife, let us be motivated to keep our hand to the plow in and out of season as one beloved body knowing that while we often sow in tears we shall always reap in joy. Or as Paul put it, … let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall always eap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:8-9)

I’ve been meditating on the following verses recently about holding fast to overcome together in and for Christ:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

Notice how we persevere: together as one. For, A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity; and, A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24)

Indeed, indeed. How thankful are we that Jesus Christ calls us His friends and brethren and promises to never leave us nor forsake us (John 15:14; Hebrews 2:11-12, 13:5). And beloved, as you have continually shown in word and deed to my family and me through our troubling times, let me say on behalf of the Van Leuvens to all of you (in what I trust is only review):

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there

Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold
They’ll hurt you and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

In the tapestry of His providence, though the Lord at times closes a door to us we trust that He will at other times open another wide, and I look forward to being here together to walk through them hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, when He does.

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Pastor Grant

PS: Another thing Ms. King said I think we all can use a reminder about is this: “… don’t fail to try, because if you don’t try, you can’t succeed.”

And on a lighter note, and for a fun factoid, I was surprised to learn that when she composed the music for, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”, it was to accompany the lyrics that her song-writing partner and husband at the time, Gerry Goffin, had written—men can empathize! 🙂 Incidentally, he got the idea for the song while walking out of a building in New York City and another man and friend passing by in a car yelled out to him through the window, “Why don’t you write a song called ‘Natural Woman’?”

Elderly Wisdom of Our Fathers

RussertWisdomOfOurFathersFor Lord’s Day, February 21, 2016

Dear Saints,

Considering that the Lord just reminded us in Leviticus 19:32 to honor those older than us (especially those with gray-haired crowns as reflecting the Ancient of Days), and considering part of this honor involves encouraging our elders to talk with us about their lives while we listen intently as eager to learn something from their life experiences, I thought it would be nice to share with you some “proverbs” at the end of Tim Russert’s lovely book, Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons.

At the end of his book, he gathers some pithy and pregnant statements in a section he labels, “Father Knows Best”. Here are a few excerpts from that section by men I expect are no longer living (just as Mr. Russert entered eternity in 2008), but from whom we can still learn to live by what they left behind through their children’s letters:

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
—Herman Schayes, coach, hospital aide 

Do what you have to do first, and what you want to do second.
—Donald Jarvis, shop supervisor

Go for broke. What’s the worst that can happen? If they say no, you’re right back where you started. And they might say yes.
—Ray Hasson, TV producer

Don’t let other people’s actions govern yours.
—Jean Smith, railroad yardmaster

Choose good friends. If you walk past garbage, you will smell like garbage.
—Emilio Saporito, dye-house worker

Don’t brag. It’s not the whistle that pulls the train.
—Nat Landau, insurance salesman

Never replace just one spark plug.
—Lester William Dreyer, steamfitter

The fruit you reach for is better than the fruit that falls at your feet.
—Clyde Smith, transportation operator

Drive with care. Life has no spare.
—Bernard Gottlieb, businessman

Practice hard. You’ll play the way you practiced.
—Nick Cosmos, coach

A clear conscience is a soft pillow.
—Harry David LaVenture, shirt cutter

Be grateful that I’m still yelling at you, because that means I still care. When I don’t say anything—that’s when you should worry.
—William Pramberger, financial analyst

You’d be amazed what you can do when you have to.
—James Joseph Vaughan, operating engineer

Remembering that our purposes are established, rather than disappointed, for a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18) and that there is wise safety in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6), may we meditate on these helpful life lessons from those who have gone before us and made an indelible impression on those they left behind, minding Proverbs 12:15: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Witnessing Like Palm Trees and Football Players

For Lord’s Day, February 7, 2016

windy palms

(Image source: http://timesofsandiego.com/life/2015/05/12/gusty-desert-winds-to-make-driving-difficult-on-interstate-8/)

Dear Saints,

Last week in the morning service, Leviticus 19:30 had us revisit the fundamental expression of being God’s people—sanctified Sabbath worship around Him in His sanctuary. This is, after all, a foretaste of heaven (as depicted in The Revelation).

Since then, I’ve been thinking about a beautiful image in Psalm 92, which the Bible entitles “A Psalm for the Sabbath Day”. Among other depictions of what is experienced within and expressed without by those who embrace Sabbath worship with reverence and godly fear, verse twelve gives us this simile to study: The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree ...

We have a lot of palm trees in San Diego. What do you notice about them? They are able to survive and thrive in an area that does not get a lot of water but does get a lot of sun. So spending time in the presence of the Son each week helps us flourish throughout our weekly desert pilgrimage.

Another thing comes to mind due to the recent stormy weather we experienced just last week. The high winds nocked down several trees. But notice, as far as I could determine, they were not palm trees. Palm trees are rarely blown over by strong winds. So the Holy Spirit fills us each Lords’ Day with rivers of the water of life so that we have the “bend but not break” stamina to not be bowled over by the powerfully changing winds of the world each week.

What a witness we can give to the Lord of the Sabbath before the rest of the trees out there struggling to stay green and upright. One other thing about palm trees: they are outside giving a witness to the world around them.

Facing GiantsLast week, we considered what Martyn Lloyd-Jones had to say about living out the Sermon on the Mount in our lives as the main way of real evangelism (relational). Sabbath-filled, sanctified palm trees give us a good illustration of this truth. But if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors, may we also be motivated by an article in the November/December 2015 edition of Preaching magazine, entitled, “Run the Play! Why Preaching is Only the Beginning”. In it, Pastor J.D. Greear first writes:

If we really want to see the power of God, it’s not going to be found primarily in the pulpit. I’m all for the pulpit, but the real power will be released as ordinary, Spirit-filled people take the gospel wherever they go, into every part of our communities … I simply can’t reach everyone where they are, and you can’t either; however, the people in our congregations can.

Thinking of how we have recently learned in our evening sermons through Matthew that Jesus is looking to make fishers of men to catch men for the Kingdom of Heaven, Pastor Greear’s “mission statement” for his church is impressive: “sending capacity, not seating capacity, is the best measure of a church’s success.”

Let us share the same goal of him and his church, not to pad our pews but to plant churches. And let us remember that God reaps His sown Seed by sending laborers out to harvest. Here is the other metaphor to meditate on by Pastor Greear:

In many ways, a church service functions similarly to a football huddle. Imagine watching a football game in which the quarterback calls a play in the huddle, the team applauds him, pats him on the back and then runs back to the bench to have Gatorade and snacks. The quarterback would be right to feel frustrated: “Fellas! The point isn’t listening to me call the play. The point is to run the play.” … No matter how good pastors get at calling the plays, if we don’t get people to start running the plays, we’re going to forfeit the game … We won’t be content to have our preaching reflect the theology of the apostle Paul. We’ll want to match the evangelistic zeal of the apostle Paul, too … Faithful churches seek to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, because that’s what good fishermen and compassionate shepherds care about. If we are not concerned about this, can we really call ourselves disciples of the One who said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men?” The bottom line? Faithful churches pursue width and depth, because one is not possible without the other. Depth in the gospel leads to width in the mission.

With these illustrations, let us hear and live anew Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20: … All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

(Second image source: http://www.facingthegiants.com)

How to Approach God in Worship to Reach the World

IMG_9789For Lord’s Day, January 31, 2016

Dear Saints,

Sometimes there are meaningful things gleaned in commentaries for sermon preparation that won’t make it “out of the woodshed” and into the sermons. Preparing for tomorrow evening’s sermon that will introduce our Lord’s magnificent “Sermon on the Mount” with His glorious “Beatitudes”, I have these particle shavings to share that I trust can serve us well for building up to the message on Matthew 5:1-12. First, some whittlings from the work of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

I do not think it is a harsh judgment to say that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian Church today is, alas, its superficiality. That judgment is based not only on contemporary observation, but still more on contemporary observation in the light of previous epochs and eras in the life of the Church … [for example the Church’s modern] use of means which would have horrified and shocked our fathers … and her conception of holiness and her whole approach to the doctrine of sanctification. – Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

With tomorrow’s morning Scripture about how to acceptably worship God with attentive hearts, what Lloyd-Jones points to behind the above symptoms should sober us: “… one main cause is our attitude to the Bible.” He goes on to say what should also motivate us considering what we have recently focused on in Matthew’s Gospel account of church life, evangelism, and growth:

I am never tired of saying that what the Church needs to do is not to organize evangelistic campaigns to attract outside people, but to begin herself to live the Christian life … [The Sermon on the Mount] is how the Christian is meant to live … I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started. Amazing and astounding things would happen; the world would be shocked, and men and women would be drawn and attracted to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ … The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.

Mindful of the source of a holy witness being holy whole-hearted worship, Thomas Watson, in his introduction to his Beatitudes, observes the manner of proper listening to Jesus preaching (as seen in the response at the end of the Sermon on the Mount). He warns Christians how to come to worship and attend upon the Lord if we would ever expect others to follow our lead to Him here:

Many sit and stare the minister in the face, yet scarce know a word he says. They are thinking of their wares and drugs and are often casting up accounts in the church. If a man be in a mill, though you speak never so loud to him, he does not hear you for the noise of the mill. We preach to men about matters of salvation, but the mill of worldly business makes such a noise that they cannot hear; ‘in hearing they hear not’. – Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes.

Watson also writes something that should help us prepare for tomorrow’s morning sermon on Leviticus 19:30 about sanctifying the Lord in our hearts by sanctifying His Sabbath worship within the congregation with reverent hearts: “the flock of God … must take all opportunities to hear”; for, “when the Word of God is preached, the bread of life is distributed.”  And if we have so received, Watson, like Lloyd-Jones, describes how we will serve the Bread of Life to other beggars like ourselves: “Let us proclaim to the world that we do believe a blessedness to come by living blessed lives; walk as becomes the heirs of blessedness … Be assured they shall never be blessed who bless themselves in their sins.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Jesus Will Be Standing to Receive You into Heaven

For Lord’s Day, January 24, 2016Christiana

Dear Saints,

While my family finished the end of Book II of Pilgrim’s Progress together, we were quite moved to read about Christiana and many of her travel companions being called upon by Christ at different moments to join Him at His heavenly feast.  They were each so very gloriously happy.

This led us to read about Stephen on earth seeing Christ in heaven waiting to receive him as he was about to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.  Something stood out to us we had never noticed before: Jesus was standing.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55-56)

The New Testament Scriptures often speak of Jesus being exalted at God’s right hand, but any time they specifically mention His posture, He is sitting.  This image of sitting is important, because it communicates that Jesus presently reigns as King and that His salvation work is completely finished for Christians.

But here and here alone we see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, because He is about to take Stephen by the hand and into heaven.  King Solomon showed his mother honor by rising up to receive her when she entered into his earthly throne room (1 Kings 2:19).  Acts 7 reveals that King Jesus similarly stands up to receive Christians at their death as His honorable guests while entering into the heavenly throne room of God!

Let that bless our souls as we lay our heads down this evening to prepare to enter into God’s throne room with Jesus in worship tomorrow (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:22-28).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Of Men and Manes and Identifying with the Messiah

mezzanine_541.jpg.crop.280x157For the Lord’s Day, January 17, 2016

Dear Saints,

What do you see in this picture: a lion or a lioness?

Ah, looks can be deceiving. If you thought this was a lion (meaning a male), you were wrong. This is a picture of a lioness! She and some other lionesses in the Mombo of Botswana’s Okavango Delta in Southern Africa have a rare birth defect. They are all still treated like lionesses in the pride, but they look like lions to other on-looking lions.

When my family learned of this oddity while watching the latest episode of the PBS Nature program this week, it sure jumped out in relation to what the Lion of Judah preached to us about hair and beards through Leviticus 19:27 last Lord’s Day morning!

You can watch the clip of this Nature episode entitled “Natural Born Hustlers” (showing how some animals survive by behaving or appearing like something they actually aren’t) here:

Watch Full Episodes Online of Nature on PBS | Maned Lioness Displays Both Male and Female Traits

You can read about this hairy situation at National Geographic here: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/09/weird-wild-rare-maned-lionesses-explained/.

This manly mutation was called “evolution” in the video, but of course genetic mutation is a loss of information and thus only devolution—and naturally, confusion. It seems other male lions on the outside looking in are less likely to attack this unnatural pride because it looks like it is protected by more male lions than is actually the case: because some of the lionesses have beards, that is, manes, which are normally a natural attribute of masculinity in lions.

Is it not shocking to look at this lioness and learn it is not a male lion? Why did you think this was a male (I trust if I hadn’t asked about gender you never for a moment would have wondered if it could be female)? Because she has a mane (a beard, if you will, which naturally grows on male lions but corrupt mutations of creation due to the Fall can sometimes confuse the situation). A mane on a lion normally communicates, “male”; the lack of a mane naturally communicates, “female”. If male lions some how could remove their manes, would they not likely be mistaken for lionesses?

This illustration of naturally created gender distinctions if left to themselves to grow unaffected by sin’s mutations (or sinful motivations) makes me think of one of the quotes by the early church father, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), that I accidentally skipped over in last week’s sermon on Leviticus 19:27. He also said, “The hairs of the beard have been numbered … To seek beauty in hairlessness is sheer effeminacy, if done by men.” What does effeminacy mean? It means men baring the physical traits of women (and often, their more natural behaviors).

Like Bruce Jenner parading as “Caitlyn” before the press. Though he preserves (at least for now) his manhood, yet he pretends to be a she. And how does he do this? By growing long hair, keeping a naked face, adding makeup, and wearing a dress. Because though the world more and more insists on androgyny as the new state of normal, everyone knows that women actually naturally have a look, and so do men.

This identity crisis in state (and church) continues to grow. Recently, the YMCA in Seattle Washington created a policy to allow transgender men who personally (although not biologically) identify themselves as women to shower with 15-year old girls, although backlash has slightly amended the policy. You can read about it here.

We need to recognize that these terrible sins are actually symptoms manifesting a more basic problem: Christians fighting what should be basic instinct, the naturally separate identification of men and women based upon a sacred identity with their Redeeming Creator and what He has to say about it. Identification with God is to not identify with the world and its statements through style and fashion (deliberately or naively).

Tomorrow, another text will further challenge us about how we must corporately identify conspicuously with Christ in counter-cultural behavior. Leviticus 19:28 will teach us that tattoos are taboo for the pure in heart.

Remember, Jesus says that Christians will be alienated from this world for they are obviously not of this world because neither is He nor His Kingdom (John 15:19; 17:14, 16; 18:26). Beloved, how we dress our heads, faces, bodies, and skin must communicate, “I am a Christian: I am not of this world.”

Though not speaking on the issue of hair, beards, nor tattoos, a running comment lately on RefNet.fm by RC Sproul is apropos here: “To be with it with the world is to be out of it with God.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Prepare Ye Straight Paths for the Way of the Lord

DSC_0093For the Lord’s Day, December 20, 2015

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow evening’s sermon text, Matthew 3:1-12, has John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!”  And we will see that John’s main theme of preparing the way for the coming of King Jesus with His Kingdom of Heaven is for us to confess and repent of our sins so that He will save us from them.

John is preaching to where the preparation needs to be done: our hearts.  This is why he as the last Old Testament Prophet spends time in the text calling out the religious leaders for their hypocritical and deceitful motives in approaching him smugly.  And this is why he warns that truly cultivated hearts that are actually ready to receive the Word of God will soon be found fruitful.

DSC_0092The stage of John’s preaching is the wilderness to picture how the hearts and lives of God’s people had rotten to the point of becoming dry and desolate.  Thus, they needed to be torn open again to receive the Redeemer and His redemption.

May we prepare our hearts to drink in the Lord Jesus and His righteousness in worship by becoming thirsty for new showers of the Holy Spirit’s baptism of fresh, holy produce in us.  Let us make way for Jesus to walk straight into our sanctuary and deep into our souls tomorrow by heeding tonight the following cries from another prophet cut from the same cloth as John the Baptist and Elijah:

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. (Jeremiah 4:3-4)

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.  Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jeremiah 6:16-17)

DSC_0107Beloved, John the Baptist will have a heavy message for us tomorrow evening that can lighten our load if we truly wish to progress in our pilgrimage.  Let us walk.  Let us hearken.  Let us say we will so that we do — so that Jesus will not walk right over us or right by us.  Rather, may we find our feet taking us to the river so we stay standing on Christ’s straight and narrow way that leadeth unto life.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Right and Wrong Kind of Repentance

Are-your-repenting-the-wrong-wayFor Lord’s Day, December 6, 2015

Dear Saints,

Our weekly bulletin quotes from the Puritan William Secker’s, The Consistent Christian, have for a while now been contrasting godly repentance that preserves life (as in Peter’s case) with worldly repentance that ruins life (as in Judas’ case) having in view this verse: 

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of:
but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

The following article by Covenant Eyes is helpful in further exploring this distinction between godly and worldly sorrow; it especially shows us how to let our sins bring us closer to Christ rather than thrust us further away from Him: “Are You Repenting the Wrong Way?“.  Its author, Jon Snyder, writes:

Not only is this wrong repentance extremely emotionally unhealthy, but it actually produces more death and more sin.

Considering last week’s sermon on Leviticus 19:17, “It is Loving to Rebuke”, I encourage you to read Snyder’s article along with meditating on past and future bulletin quotes by William Secker about the difference between godly and worldly repentance and their respective ends.  And while you do, be concerned more with the cause of sin than its consequences — the venom of sin than its vengeances (as Secker put it).  That is, we need to grieve over our grieving the Holy Spirit while presuming upon Christ’s blood-bought grace — that attitude will bring us near to God.  But simply not wanting to be disciplined sends us running away from Christ, Who is the way, the truth, and the life.

Real repentance that gives and improves life is not defensive, but submissive.  It is not mad, but meek.  It does not pierce its eyes, but dilates its pupils.  It does not make a fist, but shakes a hand.  It does not talk back, but listens.  It does not deny, but considers.  It does not defy, but obeys.  It is not a wrinkled brow, but teary eyes.  It does not stiffen its neck and harden its heart, but leans forward and opens its ears.  Or as the Proverbs describe real repentants, they do not foolishly hate rebuking brothers, but wisely thank them.

May we all truly have repentance that leads unto life, as described by Westminster Shorter Catechism 87: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Melodious Companionship through Melancholy

singing-birds-300x266

For Lord’s Day, October 11, 2015

Dear Saints,

Considering our evening psalms of the month for corporate worship this October, we were delighted this week in family worship to read the following in Book Two of The Pilgrim’s Progress:

… Christiana thought she heard in a grove a little way off on the right hand, a most curious melodious note, with words much like these:

Through all my life Thy favor is
So frankly showed to me,
That in Thy house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

And listening still, she thought she heard another answer it saying,

For why? The Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

So Christiania asked Prudence what ’twas that made those curious notes. They are, said she, our country birds … I often, said she, go out to hear them; we also ofttimes keep them tame in our house.  They are very fine company for us when we are melancholy: also they make the woods, and groves, and solitary places desirous to be in.

Did you notice the peculiar warbles of those two little birds?  The first sang Psalm 23:6; the second, Psalm 100:5.  These are the final sentences of what we are singing together all October in the evening services as we study Psalm 23!  What a wonderful providence.

In our home, as we practice singing parts for these two psalms this month, they have been making our hearts merry like medicine.  May we all often go out to hear these birds sing and keep company with them in our houses by singing these words of Christ one to another, making melody in our hearts to the Lord and creating places He and others thus find desirous to dwell within — especially while they are our evening Psalms of the month.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Image source: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/yourbestlifenow/2013/03/do-you-hear-the-birds-sing.html

Barrenness May Actually Be Birthing Season

lamb_spring_photo_meadow_-466341Image Source: http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/466341/Ewe-look-like-a-winner-Cute-lambs-win-our-Spring-Photo-contest (Photo by Raymond Watson).

For the Lord’s Day, October 4, 2015

Dear Saints,

As I’ve been preparing to preach Psalm 23 in the evening services of October, I’ve been reading a number of books by pastors who had also been actual shepherds in Scotland and East Africa that I’ll be drawing on a lot for lovely illustrations.  I’d like to share something I read in J. Douglas MacMillan’s, The Lord Our Shepherd with you here that I hope will encourage you as we keep serving the Lord together in and out of season:

The shepherd moves very quietly in the hills as the lambing season approaches, and the sheep hardly notice he is there.  They hardly notice he is there because (and only because) the lambing season is coming … I wondered if what you think of as barrenness is the beginning of a great lambing season again in the churches and in the flock of God … Let us pray that it is.

Beloved, as we plan and prepare our humble neighborhood outreach event this month, as we continue to spread the precious Seed through our community with monthly door-to-door evangelism, as we yet still by God’s grace maintain a weekly radio program, and while we slowly seek to develop a new, tiny, denominational home, may we be encouraged to keep waiting on the Holy Spirit to move when and where He wills.  And may these words from The Word once again remind us that our seemingly barren times (at times) may actually prove to be birthing seasons:

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.  Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth. (Zechariah 4:6-10)

These were words sent by God to His church to restart the abandoned rebuilding of itself upon barren ruins.  And through men like Nehemiah and Ezra along with their people who had a mind and hands to work, God did erect the city walls and His temple anew!  And they all surely skipped like lambs once they beheld completed what God had already seen finished!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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.

DSC_0685

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