Be Not Greedy Crabs

For Lord’s Day, January 24, 2021

Dear Saints,

Recently I was watching a fishing program on YouTube with the boys.  This particular angler is especially enjoyable as he is a Christian who prays over his meals (which is often his fresh and filleted catch with a small portable cooker while on the shoreline).

Something he shared was profound to me.  He began to fish for crabs in a shallow ocean runoff using his fishing pole with a fish carcass on the end of his line.  He said he didn’t need to use a hook, because the crabs just held on to the dead fish as he brought in the line, and so they did indeed!  While reeling them in he said, “These crabs are so greedy they just hold on and won’t let go so you don’t even need a hook to drag them out.”

Beloved, isn’t this what we have to be so careful about?  Satan doesn’t even need to use a hook so often to lure us in to his grasp.  We are so greedy we just hold on to the temptation and he simply reels us in as we blindly yet gladly grab on.

May we be so careful:

1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Jude 11: Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.

Proverbs 21:25-26: The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long …

Another way crabs are caught is by putting out a trap with bait in it.  The crabs crawl in unassumingly, but they can’t get out.  Then they are pulled out by the trapper.  If you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor, what also comes to mind is the proverbial monkey who can’t get his hand out of a jar because he won’t let go of the the item within it.

Let us also remember that when we find ourselves grumbling, murmuring greed is often behind it one way or another (something the NT Scriptures warn against constantly pointing to the Church in Numbers in particular).  And the stubborn clenching of our fists will keep us away from God and draw us closer to the Devil.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Contentment is Quieting our Stormy Hearts in the Midst of our Storms

For the Lord’s Day, November 26, 2017

Dear Saints,

We continue with our devotion through Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The next thing he teaches us is that contentment is “a quiet frame of spirit”.  He explains:

Methinks I feel my heart heavy and sad and more than it should be; yet my judgment is satisfied.  This seemed to be the position of David in Psalm 42: ‘O my soul, why art thou disquieted?’ … This is a very good psalm for those who feel a fretting, discontented sickness in their hearts at any time to read and sing.  He says … twice in that Psalm [and a third time in the following Psalm]: ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? … And why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.’

Notice, the psalmists are not saying there’s no place for lament (as has been recently covered in these devotions).  Rather, they are asking, “Where and to whom will you go with your depression and what will you do with it: will you choose to wallow or rise?  That is, do you want to be consoled?” (As some have said, you can only help those who want to be helped.)  There is a way to rise above if you will take the path of contentment’s quieting.  I can testify that this is true, even in the most painful times.  Jennifer and I went to this Psalm often to seek comfort in our distress as she was dying in the hospital. It did not take away the shadow of the valley of death nor its difficulties for us, but it did bring us closer to God together and thus Him to us, and it did allow us to be able to say for ourselves our other theme verse at that time: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (You can revisit my sermons on Psalm 42 here and 2 Cor. 4:8-9 here during those trials to get us all through together.)  The way to get through depression is to discipline ourselves into a grateful expression of praise to God and in that moment He gives us more of Himself to quiet our hearts in Him and even find joy (Ps. 61:2; 71:23; 73:21-28).

Nonetheless, Burroughs admits ” … it is a lesson that you need to learn, and that if contentment is like this then it is not easily obtained.”  Once again, that is why contentment is a “rare jewel” per the title of his book, or “an art” according to Thomas Watson in the title of his book on the same subject and theme verse (Philippians 4:11).

Burroughs goes on to explain that contentment not only is a quiet frame of spirit, but this spiritual contentment also “comes from the frame of the soul”.  He writes:

The disposition of their own heats causes and brings forth this gracious contentment rather than any external thing … For if a man is to be free from discontent and worry it is not enough merely not to murmur but you must be active in sanctifying God’s name in the affliction.

The other tough lesson we continue to learn about those who will constantly murmur as we return to Numbers tomorrow (chapter 16) should be ample motivation to sanctify the Lord in our hearts through all difficulties so as to protect us from the demon of discontent (as Rev. Ted Donnelly has called it) and rather to trust God to turn our grief to gladness (see this Thanksgiving Day’s sermon).

One last nugget I’ve been meaning to share from my recent readings that is relevant for these devotions on contentment: in his book, Reset, David Murray writes: “Contentment is a wonderful cure for insomnia.”  Again, over the last year of working through our heavy loss that has had us greatly cast down, I have learned over time to experience that this is absolutely true and that Satan cannot destroy us and Jesus truly will lighten our burden and lift us up as we cast our cares upon Him: especially if we lay our head on our pillow at night having learnt more contentment during the day’s school of difficulties.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Contentment Disallows Murmuring Vexation

For Lord’s Day, November 5, 2017

Dear Saints,

First, a reminder to turn back your clocks tonight for Daylight Saving Time tomorrow.

We return to Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, as a follow-up to our Wednesday night lecture series with Thomas Watson’s, The Art of Divine Contentment. Each book has as its theme verse throughout: … I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Philippians 4:11). The last time I wrote, we considered both ministers’ answering of common questions of concern and allowing that there were some things that contentment did not exclude (such as godly lament and seeking to lawfully change one’s situation). Next Burroughs will have us consider to what Biblical contentment is opposed:

“I. It is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God … [This is very important to consider as we return to our sermon series in the book of Numbers tomorrow.]

2. To vexing and fretting … [Consider the refrains of Psalm 37.]

3. To tumultuousness of spirit … [Consider Psalm 46:10.]

4. … to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships, towards God, ourselves and others … [Consider Psalm 42:5, 11 and Psalm 43:5.]

5. … to distracting, heart consuming cares … [Consider Philippians 4:6.]

6. … to sinking discouragements … So far as your heart sinks and you are discouraged under affliction, so much you need to learn this lesson of contentment. [Consider 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.]

7. It is opposed to sinful shiftings and shirkings to get relief and help … [Here singing the Psalms are extremely helpful, especially 42, 61, 71, and 73.]

8. … quietness of spirit is the opposite of … desperate risings of the heart against God by way of rebellion … [This is especially important considering our morning text tomorrow, Numbers 15:27-36, as well as its previous and following chapters.]

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.” [Remember our Wednesday night study of Matthew Henry’s book on 1 Peter 3:4 a while back.]

Similar to Burroughs, after resolving questions about how a Christian may lament to God about his condition, Thomas Watson also next warns in his book about what contentment properly excludes or “banishes”:

“1. It excludes a vexatious repining … [in Psalm 55:2] He doth not say I murmur [but I mourn] in my complaint. Murmuring is no better than mutiny in the heart …

2. It excludes an uneven discomposure … when his head and heart are so taken up, that he is not fit to pray or meditate … as when an army is routed …

3. It excludes a childish despondency … care is to the mind as a burden to the back; it loads the spirits, and, with overloading, sinks them.”

Beloved, it has been a while since I’ve been able to share an e-devotion with you to prepare for Sabbath worship. Let me remind you as I have been reminded that this is all something of which we all need to continually be good students. We are never done learning, so long as we are willing to learn by experience. May we more and more be able to say with Paul that we have learned to be content in all things through Christ through Whom we can.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

It is Very Christ-like to Lament and Learn Contentment

For Lord’s Day, September 3, 2017

Dear Saints,

After a long hiatus, we return to our excerpts from Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Let us be good students to learn and become master artists.

Burroughs goes on to say that contentment, “is the quiet of the heart. All is sedate and still there.” Psalm 46:10, 107:29, and Matthew 8:26 come to mind about how God can calm the storms of our lives. However, that recognizes there are storms in our lives. Burroughs next explains that contentment is often:

I. To a due sense of affliction. God gives his people leave to be sensible of what they suffer. Christ does not say, “Do not count as a cross what is a cross”; he says, “Take up your cross daily”.

Frankly, a big part of what helps us fight and have the victory is that we are able to soberly acknowledge we are within many heavy battles until heaven. To do otherwise is to no deal with reality and possibly not really be Christians. Remember that Thomas Watson in his, The Art of Divine Contentment, spent time with “The resolving of some Questions” in chapter five, and the first question he then answered was this: “Whether a Christian may not be sensible of his condition, and yet be contented? Yes; for else he is not a saint, but a stoic.” Did you see what he just said? If you can’t openly suffer and lament, you very well may not be a Christian, but a pagan.

Watson went on to say, “Christ himself was sensible, when he sweat great drops of blood, and said, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;’ yet he was contented, and sweetly submitted his will: ‘nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt’ [Matt. 26:39]. The apostle bids us humble ourselves ‘under the mighty hand of God’ [1 Pet. 5:6], which we cannot do unless we are sensible of it.” (Incidentally, the third most listened to message on our SermonAudio page is the lecture in the series with Watson’s book on contentment that includes chapter 5 and learning you can and should be open about your suffering situation. That message was put up not long ago and I just began my eighth year here: seems like, similar to worry (the not so distant sermon on Matthew 6 is the second highest listened to message ever on our SermonAudio page) people need to know this; so do you and I.

In the same vein, Burroughs continues to explain what contentment is not:

2. It is not opposed to making in an orderly manner our moan and complaint to God, and to our friends.

3. It is not opposed to all lawful seeking or help in different circumstances, nor to endeavouring simply to be delivered out of present afflictions by the use of lawful means.

So beloved, as some of you are especially suffering right now, let us weep with you who weep openly as saints and not stoics: it helps alleviate the pain so we can suffer through to rejoice anew. It is not being discontent to lament.

Next time we will see what Burroughs says contentment is opposed to. For now, let us be sure we know what it is not opposed to so we are not wrongly suppressed, even by ourselves, from crying out for relief that we might get it in Christ, through Whom we can do all things as He strengthens us.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Paint a Better Picture

For the Lords’ Day, August 26, 2017

Dear Saints,

We are so thankful to have returned from our 5-week trip to the Land Down Under!  We missed you terribly, and though we are still settling it is so goooooooooooood to be home!

As you can imagine, I’ll be up late on sermons so I can’t write much of my own devotion this time, but I did want to say G’Day from San Diego and send you a brief e-devotion on contentment (per my recent series) by use of a lovely video Rachel learned of and shared with me today (its ending caused me to weep deeply).

I think I’d like to just say before you watch it, consider what you have going on in your life that darkens your days and how you can paint a better picture of it in your moments to make the most of every moment, trusting joy will come in the morning.  As the old cliches go, “when you’re given lemons, make lemonade”; and, see “the cup as half full” and that “every cloud has a silver lining.”

Or, as Paul put it,

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you … for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  (Philippians 4:1)

Have some tissues wth you, and enjoy:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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 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

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:

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:

Melodious Companionship through Melancholy


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:

Barrenness May Actually Be Birthing Season

lamb_spring_photo_meadow_-466341Image Source: (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.


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)


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)


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)


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


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)


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)


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


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

The Power of Piety is in Self-Denial

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For Lord’s Day, January 4, 2015

Dear Saints,

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Still and Know the Lord Almighty is With Us

For Lord’s Day, December 6, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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

God Carries Us in His Hands

For Lord’s Day, October 5, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

Here’s the song’s video:

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

My times are in thy hand …

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

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

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

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

Here’s the interview:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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

We Can’t Say Can’t in Christ

For Lord’s Day, September 28, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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

Worship Jesus for Real Rest

1214121230For Lord’s Day, July 13, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Holy Contentment







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For Lord’s Day, June 15, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant