Melodious Companionship through Melancholy

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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

His Eye is On the Sparrow

For Lord’s Day, September 20, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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:

Uncover Your Opportunity Clothed in Crisis

wordcrisis1For Lord’s Day, August 10, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

Are you familiar with the meaning of the Chinese characters that make up the element word for “crisis”?  The first character can be translated as “danger”; the second, as “opportunity”.  See the image above (source: https://secure.mycart.net/client_images/catalog22647/pages/E868A.htm).  Do you see your crises as dangerous opportunities?  Maybe you should, as more than one American president has suggested pointing to this Asian insight in a motivational speech.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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

Simple Faith Gives Unusual Confidence

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For Lord’s Day, May 18, 2014
[Source of image: http://o5.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/child-praying.jpg]

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Comfort and Joy One Day at a Time

IMG_9071For Lord’s Day, April 13, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Christian Profession Has its Expression

IMG_0081For Lord’s Day, March 30, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

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

God is Always our Help

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I do thee upon my bed remember with delight,

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

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

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

– Psalm 63:6-8 (Comprehensive Psalter)

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Fighting for Jesus Instead of Complaining

For Lord’s Day, February 9, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be a Good Soldier

For Lord’s Day, January 26, 2014

Dear Saints,

We will see this Lord’s Day that the Angel of God (the preincarnate Jesus Christ) leads Israel into the wilderness.  Previously, we saw He led the Church to the edge of the wilderness, and then to the edge of the Sea, both places where much faith was needed.  This time, Jesus lets His people get thirsty in the dessert so that they learn even more to only drink of Him. What we keep learning is that Jesus tries our faith to increase it.  He would have us be faithful servants: good soldiers.

We don’t like this testing, but it is what prepares us; or, as Exodus 15:25 says, testing is what God uses to prove (or train) us.  King Jesus prepares us for survival through spiritual battle the same way boot camp does our military for earthly wars.  In his sermon on Exodus 14:19-20, entitled “The Glory in the Rear”, Charles Spurgeon (a faithful soldier who mightily suffered before us) challenges us to accept Christ’s training and to quit ourselves like men:

I know some of you who are Christian people want to be always coddled and cuddled, like weakly babies. You pine for love-visits and delights, and promises sealed home to your heart. You would live on sweetmeats and be wheeled in a spiritual perambulator all the way to heaven, but your heavenly Father is not going to do anything of the sort. He will be with you, but he will try your manhood, and so develop it. I have seen children cosseted into the grave by their fond mother; and I suppose that a great many more will follow in the same way; but God never spoils his children. He educates them for nobler ends. He takes visible guides away from them that they may exercise faith in him. Why, Job would have been nobody if he had not lost everything …

Beloved, you and I lose the enjoyments of religion and the comforts of hope in order that we may walk by faith and not by sight, and may the more greatly glorify God …

I should think myself all the more called to a service if I found obstacles in my way. The course of true service never did run smooth …

Will you always be wanting to have your bread buttered for you on both sides? Must your road be gravelled, and smoothed with a garden roller? Are you a carpet knight, for whom there is to be no fighting? You are not worthy to be a soldier of Jesus Christ at all if you look for ease. Go home! I dare say, after all, it is the best thing you can do. True believers expect difficulties. It is ours to do what we are bidden to do, not to act according to fancied indications of providence. When the Lord said “Forward!” forward Israel must go, without a fiery cloudy pillar to cheer the way. Has not the Lord spoken? Who shall ask for plainer guidance? …

To you the daily supply of grace is more important than the supply of comfort, and this shall never fail you so long as you live.

Beloved, may we each … endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Simple Faith and a Quiet Heart

For Lord’s Day, November 24, 2013
(Image source: http://www.aquietheart.com/)

Dear Saints,

If you’re like me, you often need your soul soothed with Gospel assurance. Here is a quote by A.W. Pink from my recent studies with his Gleanings in Exodus that is worth resting upon in meditation:

“Nothing but simple faith in an accomplished atonement enables the heart to be quiet before God.”

Remember what Christ your Passover has really and completely done for you: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Pink also writes, “None can serve God acceptably till they are reconciled to Him.” He has in view being first reconciled unto God that we would be in an unbreakable relationship with Him in Christ so we may acceptably serve Him. Still, in our walk with God, we often need to be reconciled with Him relationally. We need to draw nigh unto Him again and again (James 4:8).  As Elder Huffmaster has taught us about how to not have anxiety with his fine acrostic, COST, the “S” reminds us to submit to King Jesus. Submission includes bowing to His will for living our life in a way that enjoys His abundant life, but it also involves submitting our minds to the reality of the reconciliation we have in Christ when we feel like we’ve irreparably revoked it.  The blood of the Lamb has cleansed us once and for all; we need a simple faith in this glorious truth so that, with quieted hearts, we continue to glorify Him:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14) Thus, Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)

Real repentance unto life is turning away from sin to God with an apprehension of His mercy in Christ Jesus and a purpose toward and an endeavor after new obedience (WSC 87).  Will you repent of what is troubling you today? If not, I suggest your heart needs to again be quieted in the reality of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus: you likely need a simple faith in God’s forgiveness to experience it better. Believe, brethren. Be cleansed, brethren. And serve.

For those of you who may want to make things more complicated so you can worry and scurry (as we too often do with faith and life), Pink has these words for us:

When God has spoken, that settles the matter. No room is left for debating or reasoning. It is vain for us to discuss or dispute.  Our duty is to submit.  The Word itself must regulate our worship and service, as well as everything else.  Human opinions, human traditions, custom, convenience, have nothing to do with it.  Divine revelation is our only Court of Appeal.

It is foolish to resist God’s grace, and proud to do so. We are not only proud when we insist on our own sinful living and try to justify it before God. We are also proud when we shirk His mercy and are determined to have disquieted hearts due to refusing to believe (refusing to submit).  Take heed.  Have a care.  Pink also writes: As well might a worm seek to resist the tread of an elephant as for the creature to successfully defy the Almighty.  God can grind to powder the hardest heart, and bring down to the dust the haughtiest spirit.

How about we just trust and then obey the Gospel, beloved? There truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus.  If you want a quiet heart, it’s that simple: faith.  Lose yourself by basking in the thought of this Lord’s Day’s morning message: Our God is an Awesome God!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Practicing Patience Makes Patience More Perfect

IMG_0140For Lord’s Day, November 3, 2013

Dear Saints,

Arrghhhh!!!!!  That’s what came out of my mouth on a Monday morning recently, with my head in my hands.

Somehow, I mistakenly deleted my morning sermon that I had put up on our SermonAudio page early so folks who were home-bound on the Lord’s Day could listen and stay with us through the series on Exodus.  Monday morning, I read their gracious email pointing out that it turned out to be the message from the week before I had uploaded (which they were there for)! No problem, I’ll reload the correct one … wait a minute, the other one doesn’t … exist!  Arrgggh! No, say it ain’t so! I had just edited and saved it yesterday!  Apparently in the trash bin I had already emptied.

When this kind of thing happens, I “re-preach” the sermon (or re-teach the Wednesday night Bible study) non-live and publish it.  This was a particularly inconvenient week for me to do so, hence my “Argghhhh!”  I had to rush to a business meeting for the Church up north that morning, with other pressing administrative things I’ve been trying to catch up on with my Monday’s for a month or so now on my mind.  When I got back from the meeting several hours later, I sat down in a good mood ready to re-record, edit, publish, and then get about my busy work.

Argghhhh!  Noooo!!!  I could not find my recording unit to do the recording!  Why?  It was in my bag, which I had left at the Starbucks a half an hour north where my meeting had been!  Nooooo!!!!  I drove back to get it and ended up recording the message in the back of my van, then publishing it from Starbucks while soothing my soul with a wonderful pumpkin spice latte (I went with the smallest size, per recent moderate/immoderate use of good things sermons — that’s a “Grande”, right? I can never remember).  My day was shot. And my patience was tested!

But that’s what I learned from the day. I had asked God that morning before the meeting to help me trust His sovereignty when I first learned of my foolish deletion of the sermon (Yes, that was after the “Arrrghhhs!”). Naturally, I felt silly about it. It’s not that big of deal. But the small stuff when you’re busy seems like feathers on camel’s backs, ay?  My mind was quoting Romans 8:28, but my guts were saying, “What possible good is this for me right now!?”  Well, shortly thereafter, I believe God reminded me of His purpose.  I just had to accept the situation and have more patience and trust God it would all work out, if not according to my timeline, certainly with His.

And then it hit me, what good is this self-inflicted mishap? Well, certainly to teach me more humility, I know that.  But I realized, if I could accept this disappointment and role with my punches upon myself, God would teach me more patience. He would give me more patience. That’s a pretty good deal, really, when you think about it.

We often joke that we ask God to give us more patience, and to hurry it up.  Well, that’s never how we get patience.  We always get it more by having to be patient, by having to learn patience.  There are no cliff notes or video versions for skimming through this book of virtues. Patience bears out patience, over time, plain and simple.  And patience truly is a gift from God, so all things are working for my patience if nothing else, and that is always good.

This I found to be a really helpful notion.  Any time I’m stuck in traffic, stuck on a sermon, stuck on myself (did I just say that out loud?) — whatever has me challenged with accepting God’s providence even in the little things, I can stop and remember I am in the process of becoming more patient. There’s never a time where that can’t be the case, if I will learn to be a good student of Providence.  Knowing I can grow in patience in a difficulty I will only understand later helps me have resolve and peace in the moment, and … more patience! And I like being more patient. And God wants that to be perfected in us all, all the time.

Revelation 1:9 says we are companions in tribulation and the kingdom and …  wait for it now … patience.  Remember, we learned from a special video stemming from that Revelation study that patience is made up of two words in the Greek that basically mean to “remain under” or “bear under”.  To remain under the pressure and keep on keeping on. We get better with that over time. And it is always a good thing God works in us as a result.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

As I write about this, I have never caught up from that Monday morning — which was nearly two weeks ago. In fact, you might have noticed I didn’t get out a weekly e-devotion last week, when I intended to write this message for you. Have I been perfectly patient? No.  But God has been working a more perfect work of patience in me, and with this lesson on my mind, I’ve realized what an incredible gift this is.  So even as I don’t feel like I have time to write this, patience has helped me to do so.  And it ministers to me as I write; I hope it does to you (God always provides what needs to get done for today, even if we get a little tired in the process).  So every time I am in a situation I don’t like and don’t understand, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the growth — in patience.

Oh yeah, that joy thing James speaks of with having to be patient in all things?  When I had to go back and get my bag that day, I was laughing with Jennifer about it, saying, “Well, I thought I had learned the lesson for a nice e-devotion this week, but I guess God wants to give me more humorous anecdotes to share to drive home the point!”  It was nice to be able to laugh it off in the abundant joy of Christ for those who are patient with Him. And I enjoyed being out of my study “caves” and in the San Diego sunshine and breezes for a change. Perhaps I will look less troll-like in a short while (not commenting on my height or hair, nothing I can do about that!).

May you be more patient this week, beloved, and may you laugh more this week, beloved.

Thanks for being patient with this long message (as you are with all my long messages both written and spoken!).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: For those of you patient enough to read through this lengthy message, here are some rewards I found online about “patience”:

  • Patience: use it before you lose it.
  • Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
  • Patience allows life time to fall into place.

Fear God and Live

For Lord’s Day, October 6, 2013

Dear Saints,

Following the recent morning sermon in Exodus, Elder Huffmaster recounted to me the terrible demise Friedrich Nietzsche went through at the end of his life. Nietzsche was a philosopher famous for popularizing the Kingdom of Man’s exclamation, “God is dead!”  This is the epitome of mocking God! But as the Apostle Paul tells us, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).  And so, Nietzsche later suffered a mental collapse exhibited in deranged behavior. This was followed by two strokes that left him paralyzed and unable to speak before eventually dying of pneumonia and another stroke.

This story makes a striking connection of last week’s morning sermon, “Don’t Mock the Judge”, with tomorrow’s morning sermon, “Fear God and Live”.

May God prepare us to have a holy fear of Him in worship and living, for there is none like Him in all the earth! (Ex. 9:14)  May we truly fear Him only as our Sovereign, for, as has been said before, we serve whom we fear.  So our Lord, Jesus Christ, says:

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:5-7)

What is it to fear God truly?  It is to fear nothing and no one else in life and to serve only Him.  And truly fearing God is not simply to be like Pharaoh who sought only to avoid the severe and scary consequences God brings upon unrepentant sinners (that is the fear of the reprobate).  No, the believer’s fearing of God is to desire not to offend Him and to seek to please Him.  It is being earnest from our hearts to show King Jesus honor and respect in our bodies.  And fearing God is what leads to eternal life, and an honorable one.  May we all indeed Fear God and Live!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God’s Beautiful Timing of All Things Can’t Be Stopped

For Lord’s Day, September 15, 2013

Dear Saints,

I just saw on the news an encouraging testimony to the truth of Romans 8:28.

Kirk Cameron was just interviewed by Religion Correspondent Lauren Green on FoxNews’ “Spirited Debate” about his upcoming movie, Unstoppable, which is itself seeking to understand God’s sovereignty in all things as it relates to the personal loss of his 15-year-old friend to cancer earlier this year. Mr. Cameron said that the movie is “about faith, hope, and love in the midst of tragedy.”

You might remember my referencing a situation about the promotion of this movie in a sermon a short while ago as an illustration that the world is not neutral toward Christ and His Church.  Facebook (and apparently from this interview, YouTube) took down and banned the movie trailer citing it as “abusive and unsafe”.  The trailer was not down for long, thankfully. Also, I am thankful to learn from this interview that the ban was turned around by God to instead draw extra attention and attendance to the movie.

In the interview, Ms. Green said, “They did you the best favor.”

Mr. Cameron replied, “They really did. It was so ironic that the group that tried to stop Unstoppable really put the most fuel on the fire and got more people to buy tickets than anyone else.”

I couldn’t help but think of our recent study in Exodus, “God Turns Things Around”, as well as Romans 8:28: “And we know that God works all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

May this trailer testimony encourage you to remember that God is doing and will do the same for you in His beautiful, sovereign, providential timing (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: You will see a caption and hear a comment in the interview that I know you will recognize I would give an important disclaimer about from Scripture (we have done so not so long ago in Sabbath class together: bad things happen to all people because all people are bad, according to Genesis 3:14-19 an John 3:36 — although of course the “why” is for our good for those who are saved).  Nonetheless, we won’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

God Corrects and Then Affirms

For Lord’s Day, June 23, 2013
(Photo source: www.lordscountrysticks.com)

Last week, we saw that Moses was corrected by God for making constant excuses against obeying Him.  It got to the point where God got angry. And while He made some concessions, God did not let Moses off the hook. He told him not to forget to take the rod of service with him.

What is beautiful this week is first that Moses finally obeys.  And while he begins His journey, God shows up to affirm him along the way with new and deeper information that will encourage and assure him as he proceeds with what is now called “the rod of God” — but this is before Moses even gets to Egypt.  When we obey God, He is quick to assure our souls He is with us in new and wonderful ways.

Some scriptures have come to mind this week related to these texts in terms of how God is our Good and Faithful Shepherd:

  • Paul’s first letter correcting the Corinthians: What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (1 Corinthians 4:21)
  • Paul’s second letter explaining how it turned out for their good: For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. (2 Corinthians 7:1-12)

So last week we learned to “Stop making excuses!” with God.  And tomorrow we learn that when we begin to obey Him, “God affirms the faithful.”  We have a very good shepherd in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

A Worry Webinar

For Lord’s Day April 21, 2013

Dear Saints,

As Elder Huffmaster’s Sabbath class is taking us through John MacArthur’s book on worry, Anxious for Nothing, and as I will be preaching this Lord’s Day evening on one of the book’s main texts we regularly revisit during his class, Matthew 6:31-34, I would like to encourage you to watch the following webinar that Jennifer and I enjoyed for our morning devotions:  “Ocean of Emotions: Don’t Be Swept Away By Worry”.

This webinar is given by Dr. George Scipione, Director of the RPTS Biblical Counseling Institute (at my seminary alma matter and former employer), who also founded (and served for decades) the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship right here in San Diego.

Here’s the link for the recorded seminar that was given on April 4:  https://www.fuzemeeting.com/replay_meeting/bffa2e59/3976207

This webinar has excellent theology and incredibly helpful advice for practical application. I think you’ll find it a great complement to Elder Huffmaster’s study with us, and I think you’ll see why I’ve chosen the Matthew 6 text for the evening sermon closing out Westminster Larger Catechism 119 on what is forbidden in the fourth commandment.

Dr. Scipione made a striking comment: he said something like “worry is the mother of all sins” and is essentially at the heart of all other sins and their many symptoms.  Thankfully, he gives such terrific tools for being victorious in not being swept away by the ocean of emotions (James 1:5-7).

RPTS offers a number of live webinars that are recorded and available here: http://rpts.edu/about/WebinarArchive.php.  I find them very edifying; you might enjoy listening to some others (the Faith and Facebook webinar was also really good, for instance, and overlaps with topics from this webinar on worry).

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

For Christ and HIs Kingdom,

Pastor Grant

Sail On!

For Lord’s Day, February 10, 2013

Dear Saints,

Before this week’s e-devotion, I’d like to let you know about something I hope as many of you as possible can participate with me and my family in on Saturday, March 9.  I am on the Steering Committee looking to bring a satellite clinic of the East County Pregnancy Care Center to the South Bay, likely very close to our church.  We’re actually having the next S. Bay Satellite Clinic Steering Committee Meeting at PECA on March 11.  To help show we’re serious about working with the ECPCC’s vision to bring a satellite office to our area and save babies and have a connections to save souls, the Steering Committee members involved know we need to show up with our churches at their annual Walk for Life at Chollas Lake Park at 9:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. registration) on Saturday, March 9 to show the board there is a core group here ready to respond to their vision.  Tomorrow, during announcements, I’ll explain how you can participate as a sponsor (watch for Rachel with her sponsor form!) and/or walker.  Even if you don’t raise money, your presence at the walk would be really important if you can make it with us all wearing our PECA T-Shirts and have a picnic together there afterward.  I’ll explain more tomorrow, but please go to this link to learn more in the mean time:  http://www.ecpcc.org/events.php.

In this Monday’s issue of a weekly marketing email I still get (by Roy Williams, a Christian with a lot of great wisdom to share not only on communication, but on life), I read this excerpt I thought was worth our own self-meditation.  Mr. William’s comments are in brown text introducing Mr. Metzger’s illustration in blue text:

“Mike Metzger once told me that we meet the same 4 people again and again on the ocean of life.”

Drifters just go with the flow,” he said, “pushed this way and that by the wind and waves of circumstances. They look around and say, ‘Whatever. It’s all good.’ Surfers ride the waves, always looking for the next big thing. Drowners stay in the center of a storm. Rescue them and they’ll find another crisis and cry, ‘Help me, save me, I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ But Sailors counteract the winds and waves of circumstance by rigging sails and twisting rudders. But the sailor cannot navigate without an immovable object, a fixed point, a non-negotiable that is unaffected by circumstances. Without this guiding light there is nothing for us on life’s ocean but to drift, surf, or drown.”

“I don’t want to speak harshly or be overly dramatic, but if you have nothing for which you would be willing to suffer, you have little for which to live.”

So, which person are you on the ocean of life?  Look at your life’s choices on a daily basis and answer honestly.  God knows, and you know.  Sometimes looking at an illustration like this helps us talk straight with ourselves so we begin to talk differently (or as I recently heard it put in a lecture, “Stop the Stinking Thinking”).  Are you a Drifter?  Are you a Surfer?  Are you a Drowner?  Or, are you a Sailor?  Only the sailor really lives and is most likely to get anywhere in life (and is the least likely to wash up on the shore).

James gave us a similar (and inspired) concept:
“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:4-8)

I also think of one of Jesus’ parables, and I think it applies not only to our salvation, but our sanctification:
“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:  And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.  And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

Be sure you don’t throw your seed overboard.  Grab hold of your life and set your sails on God’s gracious winds to make it across the waves of life, with your soul’s compass set on the Light of the World.

Consider also our Shorter Catechism 90 for memory verse Proverbs 8:34 during tomorrow evening’s teaching time after the service:
“That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.”

Don’t just drift.  Don’t just ride for short spurts.  Don’t just tread water.  Sail!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Apply Providence to Alleviate Anxiety

Dear Saints,

The elders and I often find ourselves marveling over God’s providence in how so many things each Lord’s Day work together without our planning it.  The Sabbath School lesson (including for the children) and the Psalm devotion in the morning so often relate perfectly to where we are in the sermon text that day.  We believe these “coincidences” are a confirmation that Christ is in the midst of His Church and working even through all the little details because He cares so much about us.

So I’ve been blessed on how much a recent study Mike Delgado and I are having through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion has spoken so meaningfully to the topic that Elder Huffmaster has just begun in the Adult Sabbath School with John MacArthur’s book on anxiety (I just ordered it to follow along — if you’d like to get a copy, click here).  We read what I will share below the same week of the beginning of this new Sabbath School topic, so it really stood out how timely it was to “just happen” to be on this chapter in the Institutes.

Chapter 17 in Book One of Calvin’s Institutes is focused on applying the doctrine of providence to our own great benefit in progressing through and coping with the woes of our earthly pilgrimage:

  • ” … pious and holy meditation on providence … from this we may receive the best and sweetest fruit …” (Section 6)
  • “Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow upon this knowledge.” (Section 7)
  • ” … he will always hold his mind fixed upon God’s providence alone, and not let preoccupation with present matters draw him away from steadfast contemplation of it.” (Section 9)
  • “Hence appears the immeasurable felicity of the godly mind.” (Section 10)
  • ” … when that light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care.”
  • ” … if you pay attention, you will easily perceive that ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness likes in the knowledge of it.” [Bold, GVL]

That last line applies to the emphasis of the whole chapter, as does a quote I’d like to share next that I “just happened upon” yesterday.  See that we need to apply the knowledge of providence by meditation so that we personally bless our souls with rest from worry:

“Anxiety is the rust of life, destroying its brightness and weakening its power.–A childlike and abiding trust in Providence is its best preventive and remedy.” — Tryon Edwards

Equally providential is what Calvin says in this chapter about part of our text for tomorrow’s sermon (Genesis 45:1-15):

“If anything adverse happens, straightway he will raise up his heart here also unto God, whose hand can best impress patience and peaceful moderation of mind upon us.  If Joseph had stopped to dwell upon his brothers’ treachery, he would never have been able to show a brotherly attitude toward them.  But since he turned his thoughts to the Lord, forgetting the injustice, he inclined to gentleness and kindness, even to the point of comforting his brothers and saying: ‘It is not you who sold me into Egypt, but I was sent before you by God’s will, that I might save your life” [Gen. 45:5, 7-8].  ‘Indeed you intended evil against me, but the Lord turned it into good.’ [Gen. 50:20] …

“If there is no more effective remedy for anger and impatience, he has surely benefited greatly who has so learned to meditate upon God’s providence that he can always recall his mind to this point:  the Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient.  To sum this up: when we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation.” (Section 8).

Hear Jesus, beloved:

  • “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for [don’t worry about] your life … ” (Mat 6:25).
  • “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)
  • “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6)
  • “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

You might sum up this devotion of focusing on providence and enjoying the fruit of such meditation with the title of a sermon Elder Huffmaster once preached: “Don’t Worry, Be Thankful”.

If you would like to read this chapter on the Institutes in full, click here (we also have quite a few copies of the Institutes in our library for your benefit; notice if you like, you also can download all the Institutes for free at this site in various digital forms; there are few resources that are better worth your devotional study time).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Face Your Fears to Conquer Them

For Lord’s Day, December 25, 2011

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Worry Robs You Today

For Lord’s Day, February 12, 2012

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

You Serve Whom or What You Fear

(For Lord’s Day, August 26, 2012, weekly church email devotion)

Dear Saints,

I was listening to some sermons through the Gospel of Mark by Pastor Jeff Stivason this week, and one point particularly impressed me.  He said something to the effect of not fearing man, but God, for we serve whom we fear.  This is a paraphrase of what he said, but boy did that resonate.  Don’t we essentially serve the people we fear (in whatever sense we fear them) in how we act around them — and  even when we’re not around them?  How we let them impact our thoughts, choices, words, and actions?  And doesn’t that wrongly placed fear negate or paralyze our service to the Lord of Lords (not to mention a proper respect for ourselves as His redeemed servants and heirs of the Kingdom)?

Here’s something I saw referenced in a DaysSpring email this week that is worth meditating on related to these thoughts above:

10 Things to Know about Fear:

1. Don’t fear failing. Fear not obeying.

2. Fear is a fraud.  Nowhere on earth is beyond the reach of God.

3. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.

4. Your fears don’t decide your fate — your fears destroy your faith.

5. We must do that which we know we cannot — to prove that it’s our God who cannot fail.

6. Our God appoints those who will disappointto point to a God who never disappoints.

7. Everything your Father has for you — is over the fence of fear.

8. Travel in the direction of your fears — to let God direct your life.

9. Fear doesn’t stop the really bad things as much as it stops you from really living.

10. It’s impossible to simultaneously feel fear — and give thanks

11. Fear is always the flee ahead. God is I AM and His presence fills the present moment.  Just. Rest. in. Him. in. This. Moment.

12. Do not feed the ducks, or the bears, or the fears. Feed your soul — on the Word that is the Bread of Life.

[I noticed there were essentially 12 things, but the number 5 got used twice, and one line didn’t get numbered; they’re all good, so I just fixed it and made them twelve things.  All other emphases, etc., are original to the blog]

If you’re feeling afraid lately, perhaps you might benefit refreshing on the Genesis 15 sermon a while back, “Don’t Be Afraid“.  Remember, we saw recently from Jacob that it is normal to be afraid; but God always comes to the patriarchs and to us saying to look to Him and find ourselves in the fear of the Lord, no longer afraid.

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.  (Luke 12:4-5).

Why don’t you try something spiritually and radically different in your life this week to serve Christ?  What are you afraid of?  Or, rather, of whom are you afraid?

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant