Marital Fidelity and Genes?

Cups Cuddle 5x7

For Lord’s Day, May 24, 2015

Dear Saints,

Yesterday, the same day that Mike and Erin (now the Delgados!) vowed before God and all of you to live in exclusive, life-long covenant faithfulness to one another, the New York Times ran an opinion piece that suggests it may not be biologically realistic to expect them to keep such a commitment, at least sexually.  That is, like laboratory animals, some people could perhaps be at a genetic disadvantage to keep conjugal covenant with their spouses.

In his opinion piece, “Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes”, Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, writes:

“We are accustomed to thinking of sexual infidelity as a symptom of an unhappy relationship, a moral flaw or a sign of deteriorating social values … But during my career … it turns out that genes, gene expression and hormones matter a lot.”

While Mr. Friedman makes many responsible disclaimers throughout the article, like all psychology, his speculation is built on a faulty foundational understanding of the origin of man, morality, and immorality:

“… We have long known that men have a genetic, evolutionary impulse to cheat, because that increases the odds of having more of their offspring in the world. But now there is intriguing new research showing that … Women who carry certain variants of the vasopressin receptor gene are much more likely to engage in “extra pair bonding,” the scientific euphemism for sexual infidelity … it is important to acknowledge that we live our lives on a very uneven genetic playing field.”

Here revealed is psychology’s anti-scriptural paradigm: the theory of evolution which denies humanity as made in the image of God, the idea of sin, and the reality of natural corruption passed down to us from fallen Adam as our real genetic problem that we all share.  As well, psychology (notice I give no adjectival nuance: see here) caters to the suggestive notion that we are victims and incapable of ultimately and objectively being held morally responsible and accountable. Slap a label on us so we can slap you with slander and slither by consequences if you say we have done something wrong (especially in court).

The truth is, according to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we are not only physical but spiritual and moral creatures. God holds everyone accountable to His moral standards and enables Christians to be faithful by Him Who is Faithful and True to us. The solution to our sinfully corrupt nature is salvation in King Jesus, and the theme verse commitment that Mike and Erin chose for their married life can and will keep them faithful: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).

Christ the King expects our fidelity not only to Him but to our human relations and commitments, especially marriage, because His Kingdom is holy. The Lord Jesus says elsewhere, … Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female … For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:4-6).

Christ calls us to faithfulness to our spouses as He is faithful to His Bride the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).  And so He calls on us to pray that we all would be faithful moral subjects of His Kingdom when He teaches us in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”. As we will learn by the guidance of the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 191 tomorrow evening, this petition includes asking “that Christ would rule in our hearts here.” Fidelity in body comes by fidelity in our hearts. May Christ rule there indeed that we would rule our deeds not by sinful impulse excused by the latest “science”, but by God’s holy, infallible, inerrant, enduring, eternal, Word, the only rule for faith and life.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Learn to Appreciate God’s Discipline as Fatherly Faithfulness

iStock_000019839795LargeFor Lord’s Day, January 25, 2015

Dear Saints,

In his chapter on the doctrine of adoption, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes:

The great lie of Satan is that if you really love a child, you won’t discipline him. In fact, normal discipline is often considered ‘child abuse.’ But the greatest abuse you can give a child is to let him do whatever he wants without any correction, chastening, or discipline. A truly loving and caring father will rebuke, admonish, and chasten his children. Similarly, God says that he chastens or disciplines his children because he loves them … The Father never writes us off. (Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. 2,)

This is a very important truth to swallow: not to discipline our children is the worst form of child abuse.  What is too often excused as loving patience will actually be exposed as selfish indifference.  When we neglect parental discipline, we actually are writing off our children.  And deep down, they know it and act out on it.  God’s Word says:

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:8)

There is a wonderful truth here to be embraced.  We are NOT bastards, we are adopted children.  God proves His faithful fatherhood over us by His chastisement and discipline.  So we are told in Hebrews 12 to appreciate His “tough love” to us as a sign that He has not written us off, and as evidence that He never will.

Let us come to worship tomorrow and pray, “Our Father” with a deeper reverence for His indefatigable parenting of us. And may we reflect His parental style and show our children that we will never write them off by our never defaulting to dismissive abdication, because we love them so much.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Christian Profession Has its Expression

IMG_0081For Lord’s Day, March 30, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

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

To Love is to Live Like Christ

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For Lord’s Day, March 23, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

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

SHFor Lord’s Day, March 16, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Saving Souls by Cleansing Our Hateful Hearts

For Lord’s Day, October 13, 2013
(image source: http://www.123rf.com/photo_4123116_broken-heart.html)

Dear Saints,

This Lord’s Day evening, we will finish the Westminster Larger Catechism’s attention to the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13).

In my recent studies, there were a few quotes that I thought would be very helpful to meditate on as it relates to where the Larger Catechism focused our attention last week through the Scriptures, our heart: “sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares.”  This is where the outward aspects leading to murder come from. This is where the blood boils. And it is forbidden to let it bubble against our brethren.  It is murder.

Such a heart issue, if not dealt with Biblically, may often come across in what is sometimes referred to as “passive-aggressive behavior”, defined by Merriam Webster as “being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)”.  This behavior is just as murderous, if not more so, to our hearts.

Thomas Watson writes:

We must not injure another in his soul.  This is the greatest murder of all, because there is more of God’s image in the soul than in the body.  Though the soul cannot be annihilated, it is said to be murdered when it is deprived of its happiness, and is for ever in torment.  How many are soul murderers!

How can passive aggressive behavior be said to be so deadly?  For a number of reasons. As it has been said, “If looks could kill”; do they not often kill the souls of others? If we care to honestly look, we will see this is the case.  As well, the subtle dismissal of indirect avoidance hurts.  Moreover, such behavior is murderous, because it is deceitful.

Jesus says in John 8:44 that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

We tend to justify such actions to ourselves as meek and mild, but may the words of Thomas Ridgeley check our consciences and our motives,

…the honour of God is the only motive which excites holy zeal; but pride or evil surmise is generally the occasion of sinful anger … true zeal for God is attended with many other graces; and sinful anger with many sins–Further, holy zeal for God inclines us to express anger against his enemies with sorrow and reluctance, being grieved for their sin, and at the same time desiring their reformation and salvation; but sinful anger meditates on revenge, is restless til it has accomplished it, and is pleased with having opportunities of executing it … Sinful anger … designs or wishes evil to others, to promote our own interest and advantage.”

Remember, beloved, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)  The Lord Jesus warns us … whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

And, as Thomas Watson (citing Psalm 55:23) also put it, “Vengeance as a bloodhound pursues the murderer.”

Thou shalt not kill, beloved. From our hearts to others’, even through certain glances, or lack thereof.  We’re all guilty of this behavior which bubbles over from our hearts.  But Jesus Christ is the Lord of all, and of all of us.  May we please Him from our hearts, and seek His cleansing there this Lord’s Day in worship together.  That we would love one another more truly reflecting how Jesus loved and loves each one of us.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Choose to Fill Up Others with Life by What You Say

IMG_0056For Lord’s Day, September 1, 2013

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow evening, we will continue studying the Scriptures with the guide of the Larger Catechism 135 on understanding our duty to preserve and save the life of ourselves and others, as implied by “Thou shalt not kill.”

We will focus on one clause that relates to our speech and behavior (body language).  With that in mind, I’d like to encourage you to think about this verse:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
(Ephesians 4:29)

The old adage is, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Well, that is understandable “self-speak” to try and not be totally broken by the cruel and insensitive mouths of others.  But we all know that words can tear down greatly just as much as they can mightily build up. So we must choose our words and how we say them carefully, like anyone seeking to build a proper foundation for a building to stand strong over the years.

A friend in seminary once spoke of his mentor’s influence in his life like this: “He spoke life into me.”

I want to ask you, what kind of words usually come out of your mouth?  If you were to depict their effect in relation to Ephesians 4:29, do they build up the temple of God?  Or do they break her beams?  Or, in relation to what my seminary friend shared, do they inflate someone’s tires to get them rolling, or deflate them into defeated paralysis?  You are called to inflate, rather than deflate, with what and how you speak.

Now, this does not exclude reproof and correction with what God says (2 Tim. 3:16-17), but there is a wise way of going about it, as Proverb 15:1 will instruct us.

Speak life, beloved, so that those around you don’t end up looking like my children’s Sponge Bob ball above (we do absorb everything said to us, perhaps especially what deflates, don’t we?).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Show Honor to Be Honorable

Dear Saints,

I received an e-newsletter this week from Stand to Reason that I thought would be good to send to you all as this week’s e-devotion, as it relates very well to the evening series we’ve begun in the Westminster Larger Catechism related to the fifth commandment (started before my vacation with the sermon, “Show Respect”).  As we noticed then, the Larger Catechism gives far more attention to the fifth commandment than to any other of the Ten Commandments (striking as it is not the longest commandment).  It also was noted from Chuck Baynard’s commentary that if family, church, and state do not understand and apply the fifth commandment, we’ll be more likely to break the last five of the Ten Commandments.  This message from Greg Koukl gives us wise words to consider as we reconvene studying the fifth commandment together and all that the Larger Catechism helps us see is there:

Dear Crissy,

Sometimes you will encounter a daunting foe who is, in some way, your superior—a feared professor, a respected elder family member, an articulate supervisor or executive at work.

When this happens there is a temptation—especially if you’ve had some training or done some study in apologetics—to “show what you know,” to step into the fray armed with all your facts and take your superior down a peg or two.

In situations like that, it’s a good idea to consider Solomon’s counsel from Proverbs 25:6-7: [Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:  For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.]

Years ago, I witnessed a powerful example of this wisdom at a conference called “Design and Its Critics.”  I’d wrangled a seat in the audience of a professional gathering where Intelligent Design proponents had invited their strongest detractors—secular scientists and philosophers—to engage them through a point/counterpoint format of aggressive, academic peer review.

During the Q & A after a presentation by ID leader Stephen Meyer, Dr. Clifford Matthews, a senior member of the evolutionary scientific establishment, laid into him, vigorously and (in my view) uncharitably attacking his ideas.

I was stunned.  Glancing around me I wondered what would happen next.

Dr. Meyer never missed a beat.  Completely unperturbed, he addressed Dr. Matthews by name, expressed genuine respect for his work, thanked the professor for what Meyer had himself learned from the scholar’s research over the years, and confessed being flattered that such an accomplished academic would attend his own presentation and offer a critique.

Stephen Meyer wisely positioned himself as the lesser before the greater.  Though Meyer was an accomplished academic in his own right, he engaged Dr. Matthews with his hat in his hand, as it were, not as the professor’s equal, but as his student.

Meyer then systematically, graciously, and decisively answered the criticism.

Notice the pattern.  It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.  In fact, I’ve had my own opportunities to put it into play when I debated well-known New Age guru Deepak Chopra.  A DVD of this debate is our thank you gift when you make a donation to STR this month.

With confidence in Christ,

Greg Koukl

May we all endeavor to be so wise.

During the Men’s Tuesday Night Study this Spring, we have found Mr. Koukl’s Tactis of Apologetics very helpful along with our studies on cults, especially his “Columbo Tactic”.  While I would give the disclaimer that we are presuppositional apologists (see: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=168 and http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=274 and http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=276), Mr. Koukl’s ministry provides myriad tactical resources that are truly terrific here: www.str.org.  I encourage you to study at STR among other places and keep your tools sharp to always be ready to give a witness (1 Pet. 3:15) and show yourself approved (2 Tim. 2:15).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Love – The Greatest Thing in the World

(For September 23, 2012 midweek church email devotion)

Dear Saints,

We saw last Lord’s Day evening that Jesus teaches us God’s greatest command is to love. You could sum up even His two pivotal means of the Moral Law (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18) in one word, which must be behind it all: LOVE.  The Law is simply our tool through which we love both God and man.  

We also touched on what we will look at in King Jesus’ letter to the Church of Ephesus in the beginning of Revelation 2 next Wednesday night.  The Church was strong on doctrine and persevering in the truth.  Yet, Jesus held it culpable for not loving as it used to, and warned He would take away their local visible church if they didn’t rekindle their love for Him and His Body.  They obviously did not remember and repent, as they are no more.

In preparation for that evening sermon, Let Love Move You, I had been reading 1 Corinthians 13 about love and am continuing to review it to grow my love for God and you the brethren.  It’s worth noting that the chapter stems out of a concern for the body of Christ in chapter 12, which emphasized that we best not act like we don’t need each other.

Here’s what I found studying 1 Corinthians 13.  First, it’s overwhelming if you’re honest with yourself.  There are so many things stating negatively and positively what love should look like.  And it’s a sobering check-up for anyone who is truly seeking to love better.  Here’s what I did.  I picked two areas that I recognized I most need to work on to love more.  If we can work on one or two things, that will improve us everywhere and protect us from the paralysis of over analysis.  Second, I noticed that the areas of love I want to work on seem to correspond to the one spiritual fruit I picked out of Galatians 5:22-23 to cultivate more of in myself during our family visitations in January.  I wonder if you will see the same connection for yourself.

I want to encourage you to think about how you can love God and one another better.  Practicing first with your family and your church brethren.  Look at the list I am pasting below from 1 Corinthians 13 and ask God to show you where you need to love more.

What Love (Charity: “agape”, brotherly love) Does NOT Do or is NOT like (verses 4-6, 8):

  • Envieth not (generosity)
  • Vaunteth not itself (humility, go back in the shade after loving, say nothing about it)
  • Is not puffed up (humility, love hiding)
  • Doth not behave itself unseemly (courtesy, love in relation to etiquette, politeness, love in little things, love in society)
  • Seeketh not her own (unselfishness, It is the privilege of that man to give up even his rights, if necessary, for the sake of another; the most obvious lesson of the Gospel is that there is no happiness in having and getting, but only in giving, love denying)
  • Is not easily provoked (good temper, love restraining)
  • Thinketh no evil (guilelessness, love believing)
  • Rejoiceth not in iniquity (sincerity, love learning)
  • Never faileth

What Love (Charity: “agape”, brotherly love) DOES Do or IS like (Verses 4, 6-7):

  • Suffereth long (patience, love passive, waiting to begin when the summons comes)
  • Is kind (kindness, love active)
  • Rejoiceth in the truth (sincerity, wears no mask)
  • Beareth all things
  • Believeth all things
  • Hopeth all things
  • Endureth all things.

If you’re like me, it might be painful to first read this list and realize how little we love.  But ask the Holy Spirit to help you, and just like the fruit of the Spirit you selected at family visitations, you will grow in the area of love you focus on if you think and pray about it and try.  And while of course it is for God’s glory and the betterment of our brethren that we love more, my third lesson has been that the personal experience of loving more really is transforming and tremendously beneficial on the inside, even early on.  I like the way I think and feel differently when I work on loving more.  It’s better for myself.

Don’t forget, it’s never too late to change.  Remember that verses 1-3 of the chapter say that you can know a lot and do a lot of good things, but if you don’t have love behind it, it’s just annoying clatter to God and man, and it profits you absolutely nothing.  Of course, if you’re doing nothing, that’s just as much unloving.

May you be irritated enough to love (remember, we are to provoke — Greek, “irritate/incite” one another unto LOVE and good works, Hebrews 10:24).

Remember also that if you are reading the list and focusing on what you think someone else should be doing differently, you’re missing the point.  Love loves first, regardless of how we may feel someone else is unlovable:  We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19).  Got a problem with someone else?  The answer is not to wait for them to love you better.  The answer is for you to act like Jesus and to first love them better.  Now, if you just said, “Yeah”, thinking of the other person again.  You’re still missing the point.  And you’re still not loving, for “love seeketh not her own”.  Thus, you’re still not loving God if you refuse to love your brother or sister as yourself in thought, word, and behavior (1 John 4:20).  Why?  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:8).

Humbled by all this?  Me too.  That’s good news, as Peter says that … God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  In fact, Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we see Peter in total agreement with Paul:  And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Let love move you, beloved.  This will be a better world, we will have a better church family, you will have a better family, and you will be a better you.  If you love more.

I leave you with these quotes from one of my favorite books I’ve ever read: Henry Drummond’s, The Greatest Thing in the World.  The book is based on 1 Corinthians 13, which Drummond refers to as “Christianity at its source”.  (The parenthetical explanations I provided of love’s qualities above are also from Drummond.):

” … that language of love–understood by all, and eloquent to everyone … 

… Now, the business of our lives is to fit these things into our character.  That is the supreme thing to which we need to address ourselves; to learn love.  And life is full of opportunities for learning love. 

… Love is not a thing of emotion and gush.  It is a robust, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole character and nature in its fullest development.  And these things are only to be acquired by daily and hourly practice. 

… Contemplate the love of Christ, and you will love.”

Love,

Pastor Grant