Hunger after Righteousness

For Lord’s Day, June 6, 2021

Dear Saints,

As the Scriptures often point us to observe the behavior of animals in creation to apply a spiritual lesson, let me share with you two observations and an overlapping meditation of my own recently.

First, last week at the manse, while I was trimming our grass I was amazed by a bold lizard who kept charging me and wouldn’t be deterred until I lifted my buzzing yard tool and yielded to let him pass.  I marveled with Isaac and Gabriel over his fearless tenacity; together we wondered what moved him ever forward straight at my feet and nearer to the danger of being sliced to pieces? Once I stepped aside he immediately went to the sidewalk near the house and gobbled down some unassuming insect. Then he’d scurry across the lawn only shortly to return with the same rugged determination and no fear of we giants standing in his way for another bug. 

Yesterday at church I saw the three baby birds who had been nesting in our breezeway now flying as juveniles. They relentlessly attacked a huge locust, taking turns dive bombing him repeatedly across the lawn, swarming and pecking at him.  Though it took many waves of attack they never gave up as they chased after the battered pest beyond and around the end of the sanctuary and out of sight. I’m certain the large, brown prey didn’t see the sun set.

So may we hunger after God, His Word, and holy things with an insatiable appetite.  And so may we not let anything keep us from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

Matthew 5:6: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God Energizes You to be Electric

Dear Saints,

Last week in our evening sermon with Philippians 2:12-13, we saw that, We Will Work Out God’s Will by His Working in Us

Something that Rachel brought up regarding the Greek word for work, “energize”, in verse 13 about the fact that God is working in us as the motivation to put our hands to work for Him and one another was what she just learned in her chemistry class at Southwestern College:

Energy is defined as the capacity to perform work, or produce heat.

Work is a force acting on an object over a distance, which causes a change in motion.

So because God has and is energizing us within we are called with encouragement to work out or own salvation (sanctification until glorification).  

Something I hadn’t drawn out of the text but did with follow up research was that Paul was speaking to their “own” salvation because Paul was no longer there in the presence of the Philippian church to help them with their own responsibility to have the outworking of God’s inner working.  William Hendriksen explains vs. 12: “ … his very absence must impress upon them the fact that now more than ever they must take the initiative.  Now especially they must exert themselves, for now they are on their own … They must now work out ‘their own salvation,’ that is, they must work it out apart from the assistance of Paul.”  And their encouragement again is that God is still present and working within them to be able to do so.

Charles Erdman writes, “The very fact that God is working is given as the ground of the exhortation for them to work … The sense of human responsibility leads to despair unless balanced by confidence in the grace and power of God … True confidence in God results in humble, active obedience.”

Henry E. Anderson comments, “Salvation produces the divine ‘urge’ within us.  We do not work for salvation, but because of it.” Remember that the Greek word in verse 13 for the “working” that God is doing in us as “energy” could be translated “urge”.

Thus, Paul exhorts us in Eph. 3:16 … to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man

William Hendriksen also writes, “God is the great and constant, the effective Worker, the Energizer, operating in the lives of the Philippians, bringing about in them both to will and to work.” He cites the Canons of Dort III and IV, articles 11 and 12: “He infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions … Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence becomes itself active.”

May we be encouraged that the Lord indeed shines His light through us that we would shine as lights in this dark world (tonight’s text, vss. 14-16), as electricity engages a string of lightbulbs strung across a black night sky.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Right and Wrong Kind of Repentance

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Your Best by Choosing the Best

imagesFor Lord’s Day, May 17, 2015

Dear Saints,

Motivated by the church’s recent Homemaker’s movie night, we began reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress for family worship.  We are making a point to look up a Scripture that summarizes each vivid part.  The beginning of the story drew our souls back once more to Matthew 7:13-14:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

During our devotional discussion, we were reminded of how children often cry to their parents, “But everyone else is doing it!” and of the wise, parental, rhetorical reply that always follows: “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?”  The logic is obvious: just because many people are doing something does not make it a right or safe thing for us to join in with.  In fact, more often than not, it turns out disastrously for us.

As Jesus says to follow the narrow way, and as He is the Way, then if we truly are in fellowship with Him we will not walk under the cloak of darkness (1 John 1:6). The multitudes venture out at night with the Devil but we must stay safe under the cover of our covenant homes.

In our men’s study this week we read a sobering warning in Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State (chapter two regarding our natural sinful state after the Fall):

“Nothing is more plain, than that generally men choose rather to do what the most do, than what the best do.”

Beloved, that you would make it to the Celestial City, choose to follow the best — they alone will lead you along the narrow and only way to get to where the Prince of Peace will open His doors to you.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Do Something New

iStock_000038973906LargeFor Lord’s Day, March 8, 2015

Dear Saints,

Physical trainer Steve Conley says:

“I live by this quote: ‘If you want something you never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.'”

This is such a great “proverb” to think through while analyzing our daily walk. It’s just so true and practical.

What do you want to be different in your walk with the Lord? What do you want, for the first time, to have in your personal life? In your family life? In your church life? More joy? More courage? More peace? More confidence? More holiness? More fellowship?  More faithfulness?  More faith?  More self-control?  Better health?

So how will you achieve what you want but do not have? Yes, with the Lord’s gracious support. But how else? With your cooperation according to His Word. And more specifically, still?  By doing something you’ve never done. Most likely, if you’re still waiting to have something new, it’s because you’ve yet to do something new.

Here’s another familiar way of saying it, on the flip side:

What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result.

If we’re frank with ourselves, what we do habitually without a new result is a result of our reacting rather than taking initiative.  We default to the same old responsive behavior patterns that render the same old life products.  We need to take charge and lead ourselves proactively so we force new patterns against the flow of old spiritual currents. Then and only then will we catch the drift and benefit of what Mr. Conley is sharing with us.

Brethren, If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24).

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

Don’t Walk with Your Eyes Closed

Northern-Lights-GreenlandFor Lord’s Day, September 14, 2014





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Dear Saints,

This Lord’s Day we will see in the morning by the Golden Candlestick (or Lampstand/Menorah), that Christ always shines in us, His true Tabernacle.  The Holy Spirit will never run out in His Church.  We will also see that we, the true Tabernacle, are intended to shine His light before the world (Mat. 5:14, John 8:12).  In the evening sermon, we will be reminded that the way we keep shining (and thus survive in effectual salvation, persevering unto the end) is to keep holding God’s glowing Word out before us:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Perhaps you need help holding up the Bible before you so that you walk in the light and don’t bump around in the darkness of this world.  This week, I’d like to share the following song I wrote a while back. It’s not polished, but a friend of mine (Kenny Woods of WORD-FM in Pittsburgh, where and with whom I used to work, doing his excellent work on the keys) recorded it quickly with me in the studio after hours with some other “Song Sketches” just to have it.  I’ve been thinking about this song in light of tomorrow’s messages, especially the evening sermon with Psalm 119:105 as our featured text. I hope it will help you to meditate in Christ’s saving and enduring light:

“Walking With My Eyes Closed” (Words and music by Grant Van Leuven © 2002 Dumb Sheep Music):

Song Sketch Intro:
I think we all go through dry spells when we don’t turn to God’s Word for our daily sustenance and we thirst for the want of abiding in Him deeply.  I was in one of those seasons when I wrote this song.

Verse 1
It’s been days since I turned to where the answers are
It’s been weeks since I stopped … and asked for direction
Seems like God and my friends are very far away
I’m feeling lost, And lonely
And in need of connection
It’s almost like I’ve been…

WALKING WITH MY EYES CLOSED Unsure of where I’m going
WALKING WITH MY EYES CLOSED Feeling without knowing
God gave me two eyes to see, If I don’t use them the blame’s on me
He put His Word in my hand and in my heart, So I don’t have to be in the dark

Verse 2
My footprints make circles in the sand
I might as well be standing still
I’m ending up where I don’t belong, again
Grasping at the air, In need of reflection
Lost my sense of where I am, I’ve been …


I’m feeling lost , And lonely
And in need of connection
Lost my sense of where I am
I’ve been…


Walk in the Light, beloved.  Keep your eyes open, and your feet straight.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Sanctification Via Sesame Street Motivation

CookieMonster Control Meself

For Lord’s Day, July 27, 2014

Dear Saints,

Lately, I’ve slowly been losing weight a little more steadily and sustainably.  I’ve been motivated by a number of things in my desire to be more sanctified both in body and soul, with which I’d like to encourage you for your own holistic growth in grace and holiness.

First, I am reminded that gluttony is a sin: Westminster Larger Catechism 135, 136, and 139, and Proverb 23:2: … put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. [See also Deuteronomy 21:20 and Proverb 23:21.]

Second, with 1 Corinthians 9:27 in mind, I also am stirred by what Jerry Bridges wrote in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness:

True holiness includes control over our physical bodies and appetites.

Michel Quoist, in his book The Christian Response, says, ‘If your body makes all the decisions and gives all the orders, and if you obey, the physical can effectively destroy every other dimension of your personality.  Your emotional life will be blunted and your spiritual life will be stifled and ultimately will become anemic.

As we become soft and lazy in our bodies, we tend to become soft and lazy spiritually … There is no place for laziness and indulgence of the body in a disciplined pursuit of holiness.

One way I’ve been experimenting with Mr. Bridges’ challenge and example (he shares how he overcame his own overindulgence with pies and ice cream) is to simply not put sugar or cream in my coffee — you know this is a BIG change for Rev. Sweet Tooth!  For about a month now, I’ve been pleased to find that I can control this craving, and that I have developed a special savor for coffee’s own flavor.  Because I made a choice, I chose correct follow-through actions.  On this note, Elder Huffmaster’s comment last Sabbath Class rings so true: “I will’s become I did’s.”

Third, I am motivated by the wonderful example of the Maxwell family, who, because of their newer nutrition commitments are not only looking greater but feeling greater, and their doctors confirm their health is much improved. I often think of them when I need to “rebound”, knowing, I can! (Philippians 4:13.)

Fourth, and lastly, baby Isaac and I recently came across a Cookie Monster video produced by Sesame Street that, frankly, is really helpful to remember the basics of self-control and self-denial (the mortification in sanctification that sets up vivification). Take a look:

In terms of applying the moderate use of good things as a spiritual discipline, may we all apply Mr. Cookie Monster’s mantra: “Me want it (but me wait)!”  Warning: you will likely struggle to get Cookie Monster’s song out of your head for a while, but that is the idea, isn’t it?  Mnemonic devices for learning and training in self-control is not just for kids!  And all the covenant children said, Amen!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Habit of Holy Gazing and Sowing

For Lord’s Day, July 6, 2014

Dear Saints,

Last week, Christ reminded us in Exodus 22:31 to be holy unto the LORD, and our motivation is that Jesus has presented us as holiness unto the LORD in Himself as the true High Priest typified in Exodus 28:36 and 39:30.  Here are some helpful ways to, by God’s grace, grow in holiness by being conformed more to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29) through the Holy Spirit within you.

In his book, God’s Way of Holiness, Horatius Bonar writes: “… likeness to God is produced by beholding his glory” (2 Cor. 3:18), and notes that it involves three main things:

  1. Abide in Me: The Life. Jesus is the life, He gives abundant life, and a holy life comes by abiding in him or we can do nothing (John 15). “Only intimacy with God can keep us from intimacy with the world.” Thus, God, as a loving Father, chastens us for our profit to be partaking of His holiness. (Heb. 12:10)
  2. Learn of Me: The Scholarship. Remember what Dr. George Scipione highlighted in a recent Sabbath class: the student is like his master. Jesus says, The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as [like] his master (Luke 6:40). Study Jesus to be like Him.  “Exposing our souls constantly to this light, we become more thoroughly ‘children of the light’.”  This we do as Jesus prays we would in John 17:17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
  3. Follow Me: The Walk. A walk in which “we are visible on all sides”. Jesus says in John 12:26 on the way to the cross, “follow me”. He also says, “follow me”, in John 21:22, on his way from the cross. “To the cross, then, and to the crown alike, we are to follow him.”

Do not forget that holiness and godliness are Spirit-enabled habits of discipline.  In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges cites a well known verse worthy of our meditation and application:

Sow a thought, reap an act; [See 2 Cor. 5:10]
Sow an act, reap a habit; [See 1 Cor. 9:27]
Sow a habit, reap a character. [See Prov. 23:7]

Keep sowing seeds of Christ’s character within you by acting and thinking more like Him, beloved. Let me encourage you to keep your hand to the plow of holy habits with these words of the Apostle Paul:  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9 )

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Responsible for Our Responses

For Lord’s Day, June 29, 2014

Dear Saints,

I’d like to share something with you I found helpful (among many things) at the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship’s (IBCD) Summer Conference this week, entitled “Making Peace with the Past”.

Dr. Steve Viars of Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette Indiana (funny, as I was just in his neck of the woods early this week), shared from his book, Putting Your Past in Its Place, the following diagram (I typed it up since I wrote all over my notes: his is much nicer):


Microsoft Word - In What Occurred You Responded Diagram.docx

Notice what is the common thread in each “bucket”: our responsibility in our response.  You may or may not be responsible for bad things in your past, but you are always responsible for how you then and now respond to them Biblically.

Taking such responsibility is often an important part of putting our past in its proper place and not be haunted by it.  We as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) are especially responsible to put on the new man in how we respond to good and bad things that happen to us, past, present and future.  For we have been made holy and are to reflect God’s holiness.  Tomorrow, we will see again in Exodus 22:31 that God calls us to be holy, for He is holy (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:13-16).  Considering we are responsible for our responses, it is motivating to see what these writers note on our need to cooperate in sanctification with the Holy Spirit:

To confuse the potential for resisting [sin] (which God provided) with the responsibility for resisting (which is ours) is to court disaster in our pursuit of holiness … He makes provision for our holiness, but He gives us the responsibility of using those provisions … The Christian should never complain of want of ability and power.  If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation.  It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness.  Too often we say we are “defeated” by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient!  It might be good if we stopped using the terms “victory” and “defeat” to describe our progress in holiness.  Rather we should use the terms “obedience” and “disobedience.”  Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.  — Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness

He that would be holy must feel his responsibility for being so, both as a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of the Holy Ghost. — Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Holiness

Beloved, let us take our responsibility as individuals, families, and a church for being holy, that is, godly, that is, Christ-like, in how we respond to everything and everyone.  And let us benefit in the blessed fruit of such progress in our sanctification together.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. — Galatians 5:25

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Mining for Gold in the Caves of Good Books

burroughs_rare_1790_700px_interspire__40046__26814.1294353330.1280.1280For Lord’s Day, June 22, 2014

Dear Saints,

I was blessed to observe so many of you pick up on the suggestion to get a copy of Jeremiah Borroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (available here for free online or here for purchase) after the recent evening sermon, Discontent Will Destroy You.  It is a great encouragement to see such a spontaneous spiritual response like that in God’s people to the preaching. I want to encourage you to begin reading it if you haven’t yet, and to take advantage of our library, from which I have borrowed my copy.  I have been rejoicing in the gems found in this jewel of a book (which I have not yet finished), and that it was, as I suspected, to be found waiting in our fabulous library!  Mr. Delgado recently expressed excitement over an amazing four-volume book about the Scottish Covenanters that will keep him busy for a while, which he found in our library after getting interested from his presentation to us last Sabbath Class on Oliver Cromwell, for which he also used many great books lingering in our library! Thank you Mrs. Bivens (and Miss Rachel Van Leuven and Miss Olivia Van Leuven) for your work keeping our library in order!

Preparing for other sermons coming up, I have briefly switched to another gem I found in our library (the spill over in my office), God’s Way of Holiness, by Horatius Bonar.  I have been incredibly blessed by the nuggets I’m already gleaning (some I’ll likely share with you soon), including some translations of shimmering illustrations and insights from letters by Luther and Melancthon.  As well, I recently found in the mountainous used bookstore of San Diego’s new Downtown Library (you HAVE to go there!), Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness that I can’t wait to open up (50 cents!: the Dutchman in me within the context of the Scottish heritage of our Standards has me very excited about that!).

Now, Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns about the vanity of too many books and too much study that can make one weary.  However, good Christian books make excellent picks and shovels with which to mine for gold in God’s Word, as the Proverbs instruct us to do with the promise of rich rewards:

  • The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. (Psalm 119:72)
  • Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. (Psalm 119:127)
  • The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.  (Psalm 19:9-10)
  • How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!  (Proverb 16:16)

Beloved, take a new look at our library along with the other great Reformed, Puritan, and Presbyterian resources out there for your own library. And read with new vigor to unearth and polish up things that will gleam in your eyes and make your heart and feet skip anew.  “There’s gold in them thar hills!”  To encourage you to do so, I share here what you are sure to happily experience as Garrison Keillor describes upon the back of the dust jacket cover of one of his books that I picked up a while back in the Bonita Library used bookstore*:

A silken photo of the author leaning on a porch should occupy this space along with a few roundhouse tributes from newspapers but why not instead a few lines about the great and ancient invention you hold in your hand, the Book itself.  Slow to hatch, as durable as a turtle, light and shapely as befits a descendant of the tree. Closed, the objet d’book resembles a board.  Open, its pale wings brush the fingertips, the spore of fresh ink and pulp excites the nose, the spine lies easily in the hand.  A handsome useful object begotten by the passion for truth.  The apostle Paul was not the host of a talk show, or else we’d be worshipping famous people on Sunday mornings; he wrote books, a Christian thing to do.  The faith of Jews and Christians rests on God’s sacred word, not on magic or music, and so technology burst forward into publishing, Gutenberg and Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer making books similar to ours in the fifteenth century.  Ages before the loudspeaker and the camera, came this lovely thing, this portable garden, which survives television, computers, censorship, lousy schools, and rotten authors.  Along with the Constitution, the blues, and baseball, the democracy of letters is a common glory in our midst, visible in every library and bookstore.  These stacks of boards contain our common life and keep it against the miserable days when meanness operates with a free hand and save it for the day when the lonesome reader opens the cover and the word is resurrected.  The day can come next month or a hundred years from now, a book will wait.

What are you reading right now besides your Bible, beloved?  Study to show thyself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) We Are Still Married

What are you reading right now besides your Bible, beloved? What are you waiting for? Something hidden but glorious is waiting for you to find it and be deeply blessed.  Study to show thyself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) by becoming rich in wisdom as you dig for it with proper tools. May the personal libraries of your homes and of your minds be full of well-worn good books. Be avid Christian readers, For In the house of the righteous is much treasure … (Proverb 15:6).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

* I must make this disclaimer that I cannot fully condone or commend Mr. Keillor’s books. He is the kind of writer, like Mark Twain, that I like to study to try and learn by osmosis some of his way with keen observation, insights, and words. But sadly, too often, unnecessary crassness creeps in and stains his otherwise very enjoyable pages.

Holy Contentment







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For Lord’s Day, June 15, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God Himself is Our Exceeding Great Reward

1214121230For Lord’s Day, March 9, 2013

Dear Saints,

I’m sure this sentiment I’m about to share with you has been expressed many times, and it should so be myriad more.  In two newsletters this week, I enjoyed similar thoughts that went so meaningfully together for my soul, and I hope they do for you:

[Jesus Christ] alone should be our goal and our aim, since he has an abundance of riches in himself. — John Calvin (1)

Our Lord Jesus is faithful moment by moment.  Thus we can depend on Him moment by moment. — Martin and Deidre Bobgan (2)

I think these thoughts express what the LORD says to Abraham to encourage him to keep battling for Him, even when he feels utterly alone after a great victory in Genesis 15:1:  After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

One cannot help but also think of the first question and answer of the Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  What next comes to mind is the summary nugget Mr. Maxwell shared during the Christian Biography Fellowship this week from John Adair’s book, Founding Fathers: The Puritans in England and America.  He commented that John Winthrop (I believe he was the man cited) said, “This famous question and answer [WSC 1] capture the essence of Puritanism.” Beloved, may this question and answer more and more purely be the essence of we the saints of the Puritan Evangelical Church of America.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

1.  John Calvin, “The Infiltration Which Corrupts the Truth of the Gospel,” sermon on Galatians 2:3-5, The Trinity Review (315 January, 2014) : 6.
2.  Martin and Deidre Bobgan, “God Matures Believers through Trials”, in PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter 22 ( 2 March-April 2014) : 8.

Be Ready to Properly Approach the LORD

IMG_9789For Lord’s Day, March 2, 2014

Dear Saints,

The powerful winds and rain today had to get your attention. You’d have to be dead not to be moved by such a storm; let it drive your attention to the LORD on this Lord’s Day.  It is so providential to have such storms leading into our morning text on Exodus 19:9-25. God gets the attention of His people with mighty winds, lightning, and thunder so that they are ready to approach Him rightly with godly fear.  For if they casually and presumptuously approach God on Mount Sinai with a lack of holy attention, they will end up dead.

One thing emphasized in the text is that God goes out of His way to prepare us to properly prepare ourselves to be ready to meet with Him and receive what He has to say.  So that He is pleased to receive us in worship.  May the unusual weather this weekend help you especially prepare for this Sabbath Day’s worship. For God has gone out of His way to prepare you to be able to prepare for this text!

I just found this advice on preparing for Bible study very fitting for preparing for corporate worship. Give it your attention ahead of this Lord’s Day:

Here are some rules for Bible reading whose observance will pay rich dividends:

1.  Read with a definite purpose and expectation: to understand what is written; to gain quickening of thought and enlargement of mind and vision; to get personal help for good living; and, above all, to meet God and to hear his voice.  These are great ends; whether they are reached will rest with each student.

2. Bring all that you have to your reading.  What you get will depend on what you bring.  Especially, bring a sympathetic imagination.  You will not be reading dead words.  They came out of life.  Try to enter into that life of the past: into the faith of a psalmist and his trials and hopes, the appeal of a prophet speaking to a nation, the witness of Paul, the full heart of the Evangelists.  Occasional reading aloud will help make the words live.  Bring also an attentive and inquiring mind.  Read slowly, pause, reflect, always seeking the real meaning.

3.  Read in the spirit of prayer.  Offer a prayer as you begin.  Ask for the light which God’s Spirit can give.  Lift up your heart to God and ask God to come to you.

4.  Read in the spirit of obedience.  Ask what the passage means for your own life and pray for grace to follow what is thus revealed.  “Apply thyself wholly to the Bible; apply the Bible wholly to thyself.” (Bengel.)

— Harris Franklin Rall, Editor’s Preface to, The Fourth Gospel and The Later Epistles, by John Knox (not the Reformer in Scotland).

Do you want to be lifted up with wings like eagles this Lord’s Day in worship? He would have you so soar to heaven together.  Here’s how the Spirit will take you there:  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)

This call to a fearful preparation for properly approaching the LORD isn’t just Old Testament.  As we will see, the writer to the Hebrews notes that as Christ has now come and takes us in worship to heavenly Mt. Zion, we ought to be even more careful about how we draw near to Him in worship, with humble anticipation:

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 this NT Scripture, the writer is directly comparing our present worship situation to Exodus 19:9-25. And he is saying that, because we are now in a more exalted state in Christ, so we should even more prepare to be ready to enter into heavenly Worship with Reverence and Awe.  May you properly prepare to do so, beloved.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Good Works are Good

IMG_0102 copyFor Lord’s Day, January 5, 2014

Dear Saints,

In Sabbath Class last week, we in part studied chapter 16 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “Of Good Works”.  I pointed out that too many Protestant Evangelicals today live out the Roman Catholic caricature; that is, sinful living and neglect of good works will be the result of teaching justification by faith alone.  The Reformers answered this accusation saying that saving faith is never alone, but will naturally be accompanied by good works.

Good works are the fruit of faith’s roots.

As part of my devotions this week, I noticed an emphasis on good works as essential for God’s people in Paul’s letter to Titus. When I preached through this letter a while back, we noticed in the opening verses that Paul makes it clear he is outlining an equal concern both for correct belief and correct behavior.  The phrase, “good works” occurs five times:

  • A lack of good works is evidence that some are simply not truly Christians: They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:16).  A related theme by Paul is a concern to not blaspheme God with a bad witness by a lack of Christian integrity (See 2:5 and 8, for example).
  • Following the example of older men, the young men are to be, In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: …  (Titus 2:7).  Good works are not something our young people are exempt from until they “mature”; rather, they are equally to be examples of such.
  • As we saw in Ephesians 2:8-10 last week, good works are what God has eternally purposed to save us to be about: [Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14). Notice, not only are we saved to do good works; if we are saved, we should be good work zealots (more literally in the Greek).
  • So Paul closes his letter with this concern: let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)
  • Thus, just before these last words on Christian good works, Paul insists on pastors regularly emphasizing good works to be done by true believers: This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:8)

Now, we must emphatically insist that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone without any of our own works as meriting eternal life with God.  However, if we are truly saved in Christ, we will be eager to do good works as a witness to His work in our lives.  As James writes,

  • Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my [good] works. (James 2:17-18)
  • Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)

Beloved, good works are good.  They do not save. But without good works, and without a zeal for them, no one should think he or she is saved.  So let me heed Paul’s command to pastors, and affirm that you be careful to maintain good works.  And may you return the favor and pass it on to all the brethren: And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (Hebrews 10:24)

Or, to put it another way, as we have often quoted Paul elsewhere, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

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.”

Little Bits of Holy Things the Way to Major Holiness

IMG_0149For Lord’s Day, December 1, 2013

Dear Saints,

I have something big to share with you today; but it is packaged in little things.

First, the title of a new Thanksgiving sermon on SermonAudio caught my eye recently: “Proud People Don’t Say Thanks”.  Either way you slice it, “Look at Me” or “Woe is Me” by way of omissive expression are of the ingrate and proud.  I would submit also that proud people don’t say, “Please”.

At their root, all variations of pride have a lack of gratitude for what will be or has been served. This Thursday, Psalm 30:4 taught us that a lack of gratitude mainly has a lack of an appreciation for God’s holiness given to us.  As well, we were reminded that gratitude, the essence of the Christian ethic (R.C. Sproul), also is the antidote to being unholy:

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;  Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians 5:3-4)

As recalling God’s holiness is the cause for thanks, and the cause for thanks is the cause of our holy living, this is a big revelation.  For without holiness, no one shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:10, 14).

But big things often come in small packages, and this includes how we grow in holiness to obey God’s command to be like Him (1 Pet. 1:15-16 quoting Lev. 11:44).  In his chapter, “Holiness in Little Things” (from his book, God’s Way of Holiness), Andrew Bonar writes the following to encourage us to keep building up holiness in us, block by block [bold, GVL]:

a holy life is made up of a multitude of small things … Little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons; little deeds, not miracles, nor battles, nor one great heroic act or mighty martyrdom, make up the true Christian life … The avoidance of little evils, little sins, little inconsistencies, little weaknesses, little follies, little indiscretions and imprudences, little foibles, little indulgences of self and of the flesh, little acts of indolence or indecision or slovenliness or cowardice, little equivocations or aberrations from high integrity, little touches of shabbiness and meanness, little bits of covetousness and penuriousness, little exhibitions of worldliness and gaiety, little indifferences to the feelings or wishes of others, little outbreaks of temper, crossness, selfishness, vanity–the avoidance of such little things as these goes far to make up at least the negative beauty of a holy life.

And then attention to the little duties of the day and hour, in public transactions or private dealings or family arrangements; to little words, looks, and tones; little benevolences, forbearances, or tendernesses; little self-denials, self-restraints, and self-forgetfulnesses, little plans of quiet kindness and thoughtful consideration for others; to punctuality, method, and true aim in the ordering of each day–these are the active developments of a holy life, the rich and divine mosaics of which it is composed … It is of small things that a great life is made up; and he who will acknowledge no life as great save that which is built up of great things, will find little in Bible characters to admire or copy.

Beloved, perhaps there are times when you might respond in your heart to preaching, teaching, or counseling with, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a little thing really, isn’t it?”  As I read some of Bonar’s list above, I could easily (and wrongly) dismiss my little things most in need of improvement as minor, but I have not allowed myself to do so in meditation. Please realize first of all that if it is not a big thing, then you should have no problem letting go of it immediately.  But more importantly, please remember that the little things add up to big things.

For Jesus said, He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)

And in the end, we want to hear Jesus say to us, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. (Luke 19:17)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Simple Faith and a Quiet Heart

For Lord’s Day, November 24, 2013
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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

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:]

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.

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.

A Merry Heart Can Make Things Peachy Keen

IMG_0160For Lord’s Day, August 18, 2013

Dear Saints,

Today, I was a little disappointed.  I took a break from sermon preparation to inspect the several fruit trees in the manse’s backyard.  I have been nursing several of them to health for the three years that we’ve been here, and keenly interested in their improvement and production.  Many of you often hear about how the trees are bearing better leaves, blossoms, and fruit.

So many of you know that I have been eagerly awaiting the harvest of our peach tree.  We nearly cut it down last year because it was such a drag: nearly no leaves, never any fruit, and lots of ugly fungus. Due to time, we didn’t get around to uprooting it, so we applied more fungus killer and cut some more branches down to give it another try this year. The result: more leaves with no fungal infections, the bark was much more healthy, and it was the first time we had gorgeous pink blossoms in the spring!  And then, came peach buds!

Well, many of you know we’ve been down to one peach for a while as things matured.  I think the tree needs more time getting healthy, and more water.  But that one peach has been my pride and joy. It’s my other “baby” I show off to everyone who visits (thanks to those of you who humor me with good humor).  The peach has looked so great! It was going to make it!

Today, that peach was suspiciously loose.  As I gingerly moved it, it nearly fell off due to the hole on the top just under its stem, where some ants were crawling around.  The inside of the pit had been cracked open a bit. So I nearly chucked it.  But as some of you know, we have been planning to have a peach party of sorts for a while now.  And so, thinking of our Bible verse for tomorrow evening’s sermon, I cleaned it up and sliced it open. It was fine!  So as we planned, the family sat around the table as I sliced it into thin sections, we thanked God for our one peach, and we truly enjoyed it together!.  The fuzzy feel, fruity aroma, and juicy, tasty fiber was all worth the wait. We didn’t just enjoy the peach, we enjoyed each other and we enjoyed God and we enjoyed life. (See pictures below if you’re interested to see our lone peach and our first of what we hope to be annual peach parties!).

And guess what we immediately found ourselves talking about as we wiped our faces and fingers of peach juice? How we are going to get right back to taking care of that peach tree so it produces even more next time!  Its younger neighbor, our orange tree, nearly didn’t make it after all.  No oranges two years ago. Some blossoms and developing buds that all fell off early on last year. But this year, we’ve got 10-12 oranges maturing — Lord willing, they will certainly make it. So this one peach has us now eager to bring more life into that peach tree and see if we can’t produce a similar crop to the orange tree next year.  If so, you may be enjoying a peach pie in the fellowship hour next August!

My point is, the potential for enjoying life had us not give in to a dismal dismissal of our peach party.  And our happiness with having preserved a little life made us eager to produce more life.  Here’s the verse that motivated me to give the poor peach a try before playing hoops with it and my garbage can:

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Proverb 17:22)

Beloved, may you make merry to bring back peaches into the parched and sickly areas of your life — maybe just one this year, but something that can lead to producing many more next season!  A merry heart simply can do that kind of good when applied to all of life.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Van Leuven Family Album: Peach Party, August 17, 2013:

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Prepare to be Holy

For Lord’s Day, August 11, 2013
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Dear Saints,

One of our brothers from the East who (with his family) worshiped with us earlier this year while in San Diego on business recently shared this quote:

“The reason why people complain so much of difficulty in duty is because their hearts are not prepared. . . . Make preparation for holy duties and you shall have success in holy duties.”

This quote is from a sermon by the Puritan preacher, Jeremiah Burroughs,  “On The Importance of Preparing for Worship”.  Certainly, these words should provide you with encouragement to properly prepare for Sabbath worship tomorrow that you not only glorify God, but enjoy Him together.  But I also encourage you to think about the quote as it relates to holy living for Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit throughout the week, with this Scripture in view:

… exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. (1 Timothy 4:7-9).

No athlete goes onto the field without having been practicing and exercising both in mind and body. Or, if he does, his coach doesn’t let him back on the field until his habits change (so that his playing improves).  Similarly, we should not expect to excel in holy duties and be used mightily by Jesus Christ if we spend little time preparing for these duties in and for Him.  But the opposite also is true.  We should expect to excel in holy duties and be used mightily by Jesus Christ as we prepare our bodies and souls for them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So how will you spend your Sabbath eve? And how will you spend your Sabbath?  And how will you spend your week? The answer will be seen in what preparation you are presently making. As you consider these questions, remember that you and your time is not your own (Galatians 2:20).  And remember also that holy things are the most happy things for Christians (John 10:10).

As was preached here recently, Be Prepared.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Put on Christ Himself

For Lord’s Day, August 4, 2013
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Dear Saints,

Not infrequently, we turn to Ephesians 4:22-24 for motivation on how to grow in grace and walk in the light: … put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And … put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Notice that in the middle of these verses is the transitional element, to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”.  This is similar to Romans 12:2, where we are told not to be conformed to this wicked world anymore.  How does Paul there say that we do that? By the transformation of our mind. Or as one counseling program has put it, “Stop the stinking thinking.”

We learned last week that the Greek word for “transformed” in Romans 12:2 is the word where we get “metamorphosis”.  We considered this connection after watching the creation video on the butterfly that we will finish in tomorrow’s Sabbath class before worship.  Do you remember how the caterpillar comes out totally changed in form from its cocoon?  By totally dying inside through a molecular break down that provides material to then be recycled into completely new and different parts for an amazingly different animal!  It’s one example among many that disproves the theory of evolution. But the caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly also serves as a powerful lesson about what Jesus did for us in our justification.  What’s more, the chrysalis transformation also shows what we need to do for and with the Holy Spirit in our ongoing sanctification.

In my devotions this week, the Lord blessed me with a helpful insight into “putting on the new” of Ephesians 4.  Sometimes, I imagine our conceptualizing of this idea could be vague. We know what the old looks like, but we need help with how the new should tangibly come into being.  We need it to be modeled for us.  The image of a butterfly “metamorphosizing” from a caterpillar in Romans 12:2 helps.  Still, Romans 13:14 gets more direct: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

To put off the old and keep it off, we must have the mind of Christ. And in particular, we must have our mind on Christ.  He not only saved our skin by saving us in His skin, but He shows us how to love God and our neighbor in His living (summarized in John 13:14).  Paul also describes how we should model Christ: “make not provision for the flesh”.

As you seek to put on the new man, make sure your “new man” is Jesus Christ Himself (Galatians 2:20).  Dress yourself with your Deliverer every day.  Study Him and His ways in the Scriptures and make them your own.  Such as how He handled the temptations of the Devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4 and Luke 4).  Ask your Savior to help you keep putting on His holy robes.  Meditate on Jesus, and mimic Him.  This is how to put on the new you and keep him on while incinerating the old you before he burns you.  The old you is Satanic.  The new you is Christ.  Remember that “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  So be sure to surround yourself with Him, thinking His thoughts after Him and following His example of how to live out His Law of love.

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

God Corrects and Then Affirms

For Lord’s Day, June 23, 2013
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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