His Grace Rewrote Our Story, How Sweet it Is!

For Lord’s Day, April 4, 2021

Dear Saints,

I heard two things on the Christian radio this week while driving that blessed me greatly thinking about our union in Christ and identity living in Him now as new creatures free from being haunted by our pasts, which I’d like to share with you.

First, in between songs, the announcer said something like this:  “Are you having a difficult day?  Worship through it.”

Amen!  Days are often difficult until the Eternal Day.  Even good days have their challenges to endure until evening.  How can and do we get through? Worship Jesus.  Keep your Psalter handy.  Remember you have Psalm 117 memorized and at the fingertips and strings of your heart.  And keep the version of Psalm 19:7-11 we will sing this Lord’s Day in the back of your mind.  And sing them to the Lord to get through whatever is ailing you.  It’s amazing how quickly singing the Lord’s Psalms to Him will get you to persevere to the other side of your predicament.  And so Satan will hope you won’t do it: so you don’t get through it, or at least not well.  Instead, worship through beloved!

The other blessing was a song I heard, especially these words:  “Grace rewrote my story.”  Wow.  What a blessing. Our story was bleak and black and dead and dying and would end in everlasting tragedy.  It is not a story we want to be our testimony.  Let us be glad to bury it in our resurrection through Christ in us Who rewrites our story.  A whole new, clean and sanctified slate is opened up to us from beginning to end and in all of the middle chapters as we rejoice to know our names are written in the Book of Life.  How glorious to have our story re-written by Christ’s sovereign hand that holds out His scepter of mercy over us.  Whatever our past that tries to creep in and control our present, we can remember that’s not our story anymore! We have a completely edited character profile and re-written future. He has whited out all our sins. And given us a sanctified story written in His blood. Hallelujah!  

Here are the words of the song in a bit more of their context:

This is my testimony
From death to life.
‘Cause grace rewrote my story
I’ll testify

Here’s the song if you’d like to enjoy it for your Christian entertainment and edification: 

Naturally, we don’t use songs other than the Psalms for worship. But this is one I enjoy while driving for meditation! I especially love one of the song’s refrains: “The miracle that I just can’t get over, my name is registered in heaven.”  Indeed this is our new story through Jesus in HIS-STORY.

While searching for the song I also found this one by the same title but it is a different song. I encourage you to enjoy it as well.  You’ll hear an older Christian song within it, “This is my story.  This is my song.  Praising my Savior all the day long!”  Our story is new because our story is now Christ’s.  How sweet it is. 

Speaking of sweet, we’re going to have topical sermons tomorrow as it was a very busy week for Session and myself as you know.  It will help to have more time for researching our exegetical series on Deuteronomy and Philippians and return to them next week.  And there’s something I’ve wanted to preach on per an article I recently read and this gives me opportunity to do so.  As well, Mr. Delgado reminded me of his request the next time I could use a topical sermon breather.  He asked for Proverbs 24:13-14 speaking about eating honey and the sweet experience of its reviving blessing as an illustration of what eating the Word of God does for us every time we taste and see that He is good through His Word. 

Among other Psalms, Psalm 19:7-10 came to mind for worship tomorrow because of verse 10 speaking of God’s Law, testimony, and Word: “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”  Knowing many of you are very familiar with a folk tune (for lack of a better style description) to sing this Psalm section with verse 10 as the refrain, I’d like to do that tomorrow so please plan on it.  As I don’t know it as well as all of you, I searched for it online to get more familiar and practice. I offer this one as probably the smoothest way to say the words (especially “testimony”):

I also found this cute children’s/puppet version we’ll have fun using to teach our little guys with at home (sharing just for fun):

Then I found this gorgeous rendition I hope you’ll be blessed listening to (I plan to look for this to add to my iTunes music library):

Now of course we also won’t use instruments in worship but this is lovely for our learning and listening pleasure. Also, I like the way he uses verses 11 and 14 so please give a listen and I’ll plan on leading us with those extra parts at the end of our singing Psalm 19 tomorrow (we’ll practice in our family worship after dinner this evening).

Beloved, let us prepare our hearts for the sweet worship and fellowship in Christ that awaits us tomorrow on His Holy Day, the Christian Sabbath, during which we celebrate the Resurrection each of the 52 Lord’s Days of the year as we await our own resurrection at His return and the climax of His story and our eternal living of it and Him together. We can trust that if we come preparing ourselves to taste of the Lord in His Word that He will give us a hearty holy appetite and satisfy us with Christ’s righteousness.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Men Must Minister to Women

For Lord’s Day, June 5, 2016

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the video:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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

Of Men and Manes and Identifying with the Messiah

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Remember Christ’s Redeeming Righteousness

For Lord’s Day, July 26, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Discerning and Doing the Will of the Lord as His People

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Valley ShadowFor Lord’s Day, June 28, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Reverence: The Soul of Christianity

For the Lord’s Day, February 15, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Way We Were and Who We Are

For Lord’s Day, December 8, 2013

Dear Saints,

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an english professor’s journey into christian faith, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield compares her Christian conversion experience to “an alien abduction or a train wreck.”  As she shares about her very public “coming out” as a Christian while a tenured university English professor specializing in “Queer Theory” (as she explains, a postmodern form of gay and lesbian studies) who also lived an open lesbian lifestyle while a leader in LGBT advocacy, it seems it could only be such. For, as with all of us sinners, coming to Christ is ultimately about giving up our own entire identity and its sinful commitments; this is always abruptly painful when genuine and lasting.

As the Westminster Larger Catechism guided us last Lord’s Day evening through what is forbidden in the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:16), we were reminded that sodomy, along with all other unnatural lusts, is severely outlawed by God (Romans 1:24-28, 31).

This message tonight is not so much to focus on the sinful disposition and action of homosexuality. That was covered in the sermon last week.  Here, I think it is helpful to recognize in witnessing the Gospel to people who identify themselves as homosexuals that a major part of the conversation should be dealing with a deep commitment to an identity, not only of one’s person, but one’s sense of belonging to a group.  We see its manifestation in identity (or group) politics.

Dr. Butterfield writes, “being a lesbian was a case of mistaken identity … Whatever God’s providence for me, it was his to lay out and mine to obey. No longer did I have to invent myself.”

On the topic of identity and homosexuality, Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries had a fascinating article, “Nature or Nurture”, sharing empirical evidence that demonstrates people who identify with or practice homosexuality are not a product of their biology, but often rather their environment — and in particular, determined by with whom they identify.  Click here to read that article.

More importantly, Koukl points out that in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul says that some of the Corinthian Christians “were” homosexuals, but now they are not.  That is, they were not born that way, and they gave up the past lifestyle just as did others who were “adulterers” and “fornicators” along with the identities that came with such lifestyles.  How wonderful for all of us to have an entirely new life identity and thus lifestyle in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

It is important to recognize that any sexual sinner only finds a new identity in Christ.

Dr. Butterfield writes, “Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be ‘healed’ by redeeming the context or the genders.  Sexual sin must simply be killed … healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less … Christians act as though marriage redeems sin.  Marriage itself does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that.”  She adds that “… people whose lives are riddled with unrestrained sin act like rebellious children.  Sin, when unrestrained, infantilizes a person.”

Tomorrow evening’s message (part 2 of WLC 139 on Ex. 20:14) will be based on Colossians 3:5-8, where Paul tells us to keep killing ourselves. That is, to keep killing the old, sinfully lusting self that used to run our lives. We don’t nurture the selfish child within us. We kill him or her so that we can live a healthy life that grows out of adolescence and into Christian maturity.  This is called sanctification, and it is the will of God for true Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Beloved, we all need to be reminded that with all sexual temptations, you must, “Kill Your Filthy Old Self.”  This is the message tomorrow evening, and this is what the Puritans and the Westminster Divines called “mortification of sin”.

May we be committed to such a life because of our new life identity in Christ. And may all our affections and actions be thus sanctified with our new life in heaven with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Butterfield’s story (who has been touring the country sharing her testimony on university campuses and at churches), she has been interviewed on several national programs.  Here are two:

As well, here is a video lecture, “My Train Wreck Conversion”, given at the RPTS Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh (part of my alma mater).

Beloved, may Dr. Butterfield’s “train wreck” conversion describe your and my daily sanctification experience!  It will be a better life for all of us!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: I would echo this review by Dr. and Rev. Carl Trueman in the forward of Dr. Butterfield’s book:  “I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote.  It deserves the widest possible readership.”

Of Cockroaches and Christians

cockroach hiding 300x200 Roach Guide – Tip and Tricks to Kill Roaches Safe and Quick

For Lord’s Day, November 17, 2013
[Image source: http://www.mycleaningproducts.com/blog/2177/roach-guide-tip-and-tricks-to-kill-roaches-safe-and-quick/]

Dear Saints,

I have been meditating on how there are basically two stark and opposite responses to the Gospel message of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21); especially, the first side of the coin, repentance (a commitment to turn away from sin and unto God in Christ). This verse keeps coming to mind:

But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light:
for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:13)

Folks often accuse Christians of being judgmental or insensitive for pointing out sin.  But all we are doing is shedding the Light of the World upon their world, and repentance for sin and a call to change by and in Christ is a major part of the Gospel (remember, the Lord Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles begin their preaching with, “Repent”; and Christ’s main message in the Revelation to the Churches in Asia is repentance).

One response to the Gospel, that is, to Jesus, is to scurry into the darkness away from what the Lord has to say regarding our doctrine or practice. This flee response is akin to cockroaches when a light is turned on in a dark room; they run toward the shadows.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:20)

The other response to the Gospel, however, is that of the Christian: But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:21).  To have God’s deeds wrought in us is to see our own filthy works for what they are and desire to have them exchanged with Christ’s holy work.  Christians do not run away from being exposed. Rather, they have Christ’s light showered upon them so that they can be truly cleansed. And then not be ashamed to have light expose their new godly works.

In tomorrow evening’s text (Acts 24:24-25), it is interesting to consider the response of Felix to Paul’s message of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come”.  He trembles, but then he defers and walks away.  He doesn’t want to change.  He is a cockroach.  His response is not faith and repentance after trembling like Paul (Acts 9:6) and later his Jailer (Acts 16:29).

Speaking of Cockroaches and Christians, it is interesting to note one web answer to why cockroaches run when a light is turned on: It’s not so much that they are afraid of the light, but rather that they essentially have internal programming called negative phototaxis that causes them to prefer dark environments.

The question for you, beloved, is how are you wired? What environment do you prefer?  Darkness? Or light?  How will you respond to the preaching tomorrow?  As always, along with grace, light and heat will be shed within the auditorium and upon your souls.  Will you act like a cockroach and hurry off into darkness? Or, will you act like a Christian, and be drawn toward the light?  Consider your answer as you consider Christ’s words: … I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: You might also consider reviewing how one is to listen to a sermon, as explained in Westminster Larger Catechism 160: Q. What is required of those that hear the word preached? A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

Defining Yourself in Christ

For Lord’s Day, August 25, 2013
(Image Source: www.wxyz.com)

Dear Saints,

I was blessed to read in my devotions recently the following verse:   … ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3:23). It reminded me who I am and Whose I am.  This knowledge identifies me. This knowledge defines my life. So it identifies you, brother. So it defines your life, sister.

Knowing our identity in our true Master helps us live a life that defines ourselves and masters our circumstances — even the terrible ones.

In last Lord’s Day’s evening sermon, I mentioned two people whose past tragedies are incredible to consider, and whose present and future focus are inspirational to emulate.

First, do you remember the story about the three women who were rescued from a decade of captivity in Cleveland, Ohio?  One of the women, Michelle Knight, said this to her wicked captor (now himself in captivity) through a media interview (here): “I will overcome all of this that happened … From this moment on I won’t let you define me or affect who I am.”

What an incredible resolve to not let her horrendous history define her future and how she will face living it.

Similarly, a man called “The Shark” recently swam 22 miles over a period of 51 hours on Lake Michigan towing bricks behind him to raise money for Habitat for Humanity and give hope to Detroit (watch it here). Remarkably, Jim Dreyer, who does this a lot, said he goes through great anxiety before each swim. Why? He nearly drowned as a 3-year-old before his sister rescued him at his family’s cottage.  He said he began to face his greatest fear in life of open water at age 32 with beginner swimming lessons, “figuring every obstacle I face in life will seem that much smaller after you face your biggest fear.”

Two years later, Mr. Dreyer swam across Lake Michigan and set his first of what is now 17 world records!  He says each time he swims he still feels the fear of reliving not being able to breathe.  But he offered this empowering wisdom: “Instead of being controlled by the fear, I learned to control it.”

What an incredible resolve to live a victorious life that does not minimize his painful memory, but channels it.

These stories are good examples of how we need to define how we live our lives as Christ’s and as God’s. Paul says it like this:

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)

Mr. Dreyer said his swim for Detroit was also to portray a message: “We don’t have to sink with the weight of our burdens.”

Amen! How much more so for we who are in covenantal union with the Lord Jesus Christ and are thus defined by Him and His rule on Mt. Zion as we speak (Revelation 14:1). We don’t have to let our circumstances define us. Instead, we can define ourselves by how we work through our circumstances.

Beloved, remember to identify with Christ and define yourself and your life by His abundant eternal life given to you now in this life. And remember to live it.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Who Are You?

For Lord’s Day, July 21, 2013

Dear Saints,

I just watched a movie recommended to me, called The Letter Writer.  While I’d have a few minor theological disclaimers, it was a sweet movie in which the young leading lady lived out a transformation of what seemed to be the movie’s main moral, repeated several times in these words: Life is like a mirror. Who you are is reflected by those around you.”  What a profound statement.

I challenge you to look around you today, this week, this month, and observe who is around you most of the time.  Who are you spending your time with, and why?  What are they like?  And what does the answer to these questions say about you?  How do your main companions reflect on who you are?  More importantly, what does their prioritized proximity to you say about Who Jesus is to You? And where you are with Him?

Paul writes, Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33).  The word “communications” here used means companionship or communion.  He warns that we can be corrupted by bad company.  He also warns that we will expose our own brethren to the same danger: Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6).

Proverbs endeavors to endue you with this wisdom on the topic: He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20).  And of course, David introduces the whole Psalter with such thinking, hoping to motivate us to walk with God and not with the wicked, as the latter’s end is not fruitful in the short- nor long-term.

Have these thoughts in mind as we hear God in Exodus 5:2 this Lord’s Day morning, and may we all indeed “Let go of the world.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Secrets of Sanctification

Dear Saints,

Mindful of the recent sermon, “Be Prepared”, Jennifer and I have been reading through a book we’ve been meaning to for some time, written by a lady we are acquainted with in the RPCNA.  Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith (a best seller here), is a tremendously thought-invoking and life-inspiring read.  She provides lots of vulnerable insights for personal reflection and sanctification.  Here are a few nuggets we’ve been meditating on that I’d like to share with you:

  • “A life outside of Christ is both hard and frightening; a life in Christ has hard edges and dark valleys, but it is purposeful even when painful.”
  • “I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.”
  • “I’ve discovered that the Lord doesn’t change my feelings until I obey him.”
  • “Faith that endures is heroic, not sentimental.”
  • “How did the Lord heal me?  The way that he always heals: the word of God got to be bigger inside me than I.”
  • “I learned that sin roots not in outward behaviors, but in patterns of thinking.”
  • “By wallowing in pity, I was holding myself back from going boldly to the throne of grace.”
  • “As Pastor Ken once said to me, ‘You can’t steer a parked car. If you want to turn your life around, you’ve got to get moving!'”
  • ” … Elder and friend Bob Rice said, ‘Rosaria, never doubt in the darkness what God has promised in the light.'”

Dr. Butterfield’s story is a remarkable one. She had to give up everything, and as a prominent public figure, her prominent “coming out” speech was amazing.  So too was what she went through as a disciple of Christ in things that followed to test her faith and refine her as a Christian.  The above quotes she shared were ones she learned along her journey of growth in grace and holiness.

One comment Dr. Butterfield made particularly stood out to me: “Whatever God’s providence for me it was his to lay out and mine to obey. No longer did I have to invent myself.”  It makes me think of the Psalm we’ll worship the Lord together with tomorrow morning in light of the sermon title, “God never lets you go”:

O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.  Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:1-10)

Praise God for His gracious hand that guides us in life closer and closer to Himself, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! He gives us our only real and meaningful identity in Christ and His Church.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor grant

Self-Denial Says and Lives “Jesus is Lord”

For Lord’s Day, February 3, 2013

Dear Saints,

I was struck this morning by a comment in a sermon I was listening to by Pastor Jeff Stivason of Grace RPC in Gibsonia, PA.  He was preaching on Mark 14:1-11, and made a touching contrast between the woman who poured the precious ointment from her alabaster box over the Messiah and the subsequent betrayal of Jesus by Judas for money.  She spent herself for Jesus; he sold Jesus.  She was despised, he had been admired.

With this juxtaposition of persons in view around the Person of Jesus Christ, Pastor Stivason concluded: “Self denial is the mark of a disciple.”  That’s something to meditate and act upon daily.

Our Lord said He came to give a more abundant life (John 10:10).  Are your days abundant?  If not, most likely, it is because you need to deny yourself more.  Is your marriage abundant? If not, husbands need to love more unconditionally and wives need to respect more unconditionally (Eph. 5:33).  Is your family abundantly living?  If not, parents need to provoke less and children need to obey and honor more (Eph. 6:1-4).  Is our church life robustly abundant with Christ?  If not, we need to “connect the dots of love” more (1 Cor. 13:4-8).  Are your private moments preciously abundant?  If not, you need to stop feeding yourself with you.

Pastor Stivason pointed out that his text was set up earlier by this one: “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

I believe the breadth of this verse applies not only to having eternal life, but a good life.  If you are angry, ungrateful, and dissatisfied all the time with your life, you need to remember and APPLY J.O.Y. (Jesus first, others second, you third).  It’s hard, but simple.

May you and I be marked as disciples of Jesus Christ by living each moment of life that He gives us with the resolve of John the Baptist, who gave his head for our Lord:  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).  Not only is this the true mission statement for the life of a true Christian, it is what receives His blessed praise (see Mark 14:6-9), and if Galatians 2:20 is true of you, that’s all you care about now.  As Pastor Jeff also said, self denial is what points to Jesus.

The next moment you are tempted to act in a way that deny’s Jesus is Lord, say out loud to yourself, “Self denial”, and enjoy a better life marked with more meaningful relations that better glorify the King of Glory.  That moment will come soon enough.  Will you say it?  Will you do it?  Remember Philippians 4:13.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant