Rebounding as a Rule of Life

For Lord’s Day, February 24, 2013

Dear Saints,

When you fall short of your goals, especially spiritually and morally as a Christian, how do you handle your setbacks?  Let me encourage you to set up your next shot.

 

What do I mean?  In his book, Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs talks about the need to rebound after a fall:

“Many basketball coaches put almost as much emphasis on rebounding as they do on shooting.  Great players always chase down rebounds at both ends of the court.  They pick up on the angle of the missed shot and position themselves to be in the right spot when the ball comes down off the rim.  In many cases, after recovering the ball, they score a basket and get fouled in the process.  Any coach will tell you good rebounding will keep his team in the game … Never give up.  When you miss, rebound!”

In this light, he shares the following verse:  “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” (Proverb 24:16)

The person who keeps trying is the one who is just.  The person who gives up is the one who is wicked.

Keep shooting, saints.  As it has been said, “Shoot for the stars, and you may just hit the moon.”  And don’t forget to work with the team all around you.  You’re not alone.  Keep rebounding.  For when you do make those baskets, you’ll be glad you didn’t lay on the court with the squeaks of everyone else’s sneakers moving all around your head.  And you’ll get better at your aim every time you get back on your feet, adjust, and take another shot.  And God will glorify Himself in you:

  • “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” (Psa 34:19)
  • “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)
  • “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.” (Micah 7:8)

So much of life is learning to rebound, isn’t it?  And being quicker about it.  Not staring at the ball bouncing away from you, but running after it and grabbing it again, and taking your next shot.  So, what will be your next move on the court of life?

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Sail On!

For Lord’s Day, February 10, 2013

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Self-Denial Says and Lives “Jesus is Lord”

For Lord’s Day, February 3, 2013

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

It’s in the Waiting

For Lord’s Day, January 20, 2013

Dear Saints,

What’s the use in waiting?  Something in particular stood out to me in Elder Huffmaster’s leading of our Psalm 27 devotion last Lord’s Day morning which addresses that question.

The last verse (vs. 14) reads: “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Besides God’s Sovereignty working out His Providence, we have learned a few other sub themes going through the book of Genesis.  One sub theme according to Pastor David Hall in the video series we just finished in our Men’s Study (Masculine Spiritual Leadership) is how men keep abdicating their God-given leadership roles, with very sad consequences on their covenant families.  But another very obvious sub theme is the Christian’s call to wait and wait and wait.  So often, the waiting leads to the timing of the solution or blessing having to be so obviously come from God alone so that He gets all the glory.

Elder Huffmaster said of Psalm 27:14 something like this: “You won’t grow if you don’t wait.”  We are called to wait on the LORD twice in this short verse.  What does the waiting require of us?  Good courage.  So there is a certain kind of waiting we are called to do: the kind that doesn’t worry, but rests in the Lord through trusting and acting on His Word (Look to our Shorter Catechism 90 and its Bible verse for an explanation of how to do this, which we study in tomorrow night’s teaching time).

But what does that kind of waiting produce in us?  A strengthened heart.  That’s what I think Elder Huffmaster was getting at.  If we wait on the Lord with good courage, our hearts will be strengthened and transformed.  When God calls us to wait on things, and we do so in a Biblically responsible way, we grow personally inside.  Like the seed below the surface with all kinds of things changing and rooting before it will sprout up and show its results to the world (we come out more like an Oak, and less like a weed).  In the waiting, we mature. Isn’t this what we do see in all the Patriarchs?  Even as they wait through God’s discipline (such as Jacob’s 20 years in Padan-Aram?).  They become different kind of people. Better, more spiritual, more moral people.  People who learn to trust and obey God.  And their covenant families benefit from the changes.

So here’s what really struck me to have on my heart when called by God to wait. I will say to myself, “Here’s an opportunity to grow.”  An opportunity for me, inside, to become a better man, closer to Christ, regardless of, or maybe because of, all going on around me on the outside and how I deal with it within.  Growth is always good.  Especially when it is strengthening your heart.  Surely, the growth is not only strengthening in resolve through the waiting, but in character.  In the waiting, God makes us more like Him.  We better reflect His image.  We glorify Him more. And in the waiting and the results of waiting, we learn to count our blessings and enjoy God.  This makes for a more abundant life that Christ offers us in the here and now.

You will see in tomorrow’s message that waiting does not mean no movement.  Waiting is stillness, but not stagnation.  I’ll let you wait for the rest of that story …

Until then, be still and know the Lord is God (Psalm 46:10) and enjoy Him there.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS:  Here’s a song by one of my favorite bands that I’ve really been enjoying with the thoughts above (Big Tent Revival, “Faith of a Little Seed”):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX-PslPe5Xg

I also remembered this lovely song, “In the Waiting”, by Gianna Jessen (an abortion survivor Jennifer and I saw perform in Pittsburgh at a pregnancy care center fundraiser):  http://worship.higherpraise.com/index.php?g2_itemId=2583

Apply Providence to Alleviate Anxiety

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear Jesus, beloved:

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Acceptable Sacrifice to God

For Lord’s Day, December 16, 2012

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day evening we heard from God through Micah 6:8 (noted by some as the Golden Rule of the Old Testament and the summary of the Ten Commandments).  It was a call to do good through doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him.  We saw that this was exactly the opposite of what the people had been doing (vss. 1-2) and they respond to God’s controversy with them with thoughts of extra empty praise (vss. 6-7) as if He were an idol to manipulate.  The real problem was they had forgotten their duties under the First Commandment and its preface with the context of the Covenant of Grace (vss. 3-5).

It was convenient to want to just show up for worship and go through the motions, maybe even some extra motions.  But they needed to be convicted by God that obedience in life is better than sacrifice in worship, and that the latter is meaningless to Him without the former (1 Samuel 15:22) and thus unacceptable.  I was reminded of this same idea coming across the following Proverb this morning:

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)

May you and I be concerned with what God is concerned with: a holy life living out His righteousness because of our gratitude to Christ our Righteousness.  Remember the WLC 104 said this kind of thing is what we should be thinking about, remembering, meditating on, and adoring if we are going to obey the First Commandment upon which all else is foundational: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Heat Things Up

Dear Saints,

Is Jesus about to puke you out of His mouth?  How would you know?  By taking your spiritual temperature.  He called us to do that individually and as a church this Wednesday in our evening study of His letter to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22.

Before we think we can pass over the question, let’s remember that this church said they didn’t need anything and were trusting in their own spiritual riches.  But Jesus said their true reality was that they were lukewarm and making His stomach turn.  Soon, He’d have to spue them out His mouth so His Body (the Church) felt better.

Remember that hot or cold is good to Jesus, just not lukewarm.  Hot is a soothing drink.  Cold is a refreshing one.  Lukewarm does nothing but collect gross stuff and spread disease.

How can you heat things up spiritually?  Jesus said the remedy is to repent and be zealous.  Think about how water boils.  It doesn’t just happen.  The stove top burner is turned on applying heat until bubbles begin to bounce around.  Then it’s ready to get things cooking!  We need to turn the heat up real high for that to happen.  But then a slower and steady heat can keep things simmering.  Still, the knob does need to be turned “on” and kept off “low”.

What about becoming crisp and fresh spiritually?  A sober spirituality that makes for a clean and holy lifestyle?  Is it time to make some more ice cubes in your life?

Either way, if you want to approach Jesus in worship tomorrow with zeal that makes Him prefer we stay together as a Visible Church rather than be expelled, notice that it begins with each of us turning up the heat or cooling things down before we get there.  You can’t turn it on and off like a light switch the morning of, or at least it’s not as likely.  Things need to be raised to a boil throughout the week.

Let Jesus take your spiritual temperature in prayer.  And adjust your settings accordingly.  Have an ear to hear what the Spirit has to say to our Church:

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelation 3:19).

This is never not a message we don’t need to hear.  We are never done growing spiritually, and we are never not tempted to grow stale.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Reading Your Bible in a Year

For Lord’s Day, January 1, 2012

Dear Saints,

We enter a New Year together this Lord’s Day! As we begin the next year of our Lord, I encourage you to try reading the entire Bible through 2012. Even if you don’t make it through entirely, you’ll read more than you likely would without a plan. If you have never read the whole Bible, this is a good time to give it a try. The Lord will reward you.

Elder Huffmaster has found an online Bible reading schedule that he recommends. This week, the e-devotion will be his testimony of using a Bible reading schedule to share with all of you and encourage you to read your whole Bible in 2012 with a plan that will help you do so. The links to online reading schedules follows below with the weekly links to the bulletin, etc.

Here’s what Elder Huffmaster has to share:

2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen”

How many times have I sat down and thought, “What should I read today?” Then I spend some time trying to figure it out, and eventually get frustrated and I either fail to read anything or I read a familiar passage and then close the Bible and go away somewhat unsatisfied. Then maybe I pick up a devotional book on the Bible; while these are good and have their place, and I have been blessed by these books, I don’t want them to take the place of my Bible reading. Nothing should ever take the place of regularly scheduled reading through the Bible.

My problem was that I didn’t have a plan. If you struggle to read your Bible, perhaps this also may be your problem. Often, we don’t approach the Bible with a plan to read it through in a daily disciplined manner. Often, we just pick something without giving it much thought and read it. We read it in a disjointed way and we don’t get much out of it.

My goal is to read through the Bible at least once a year. I want to read through God’s Word in a disciplined way to remember it, to learn from it, to pray it, and to apply it in my daily life.

Some things that I have found out this year following a schedule:

  • I have found that a schedule doesn’t make me read. I still have to make myself do it. It takes a certain amount of time and discipline every day. But the more I follow it, the more I am blessed.

  • I have found a schedule gives me a good place to start everyday. That helps me to be more consistent in my reading.

  • A schedule isn’t written in stone. I can make adjustments to it so it can fit my needs. I can add to it if I like and read more, or reduce the amount that I read so it is more manageable. I control the schedule and it helps me. I don’t have to stop just because I read my scheduled reading for the day. Do what you can manage and grow from there.

  • I have been blessed by using a schedule because it gives me structure that I need to succeed. I don’t have to spend any time or energy thinking about what I am going to read. I just follow the schedule and read it. I know what I need to read that day to meet my goal so I don’t have to be distracted by considering what to read. I simply follow the schedule.

  • Having a schedule also gave me a reason to get up in the morning because I know what’s there for me to read. I have something to accomplish.

  • Following a schedule also keeps me from ignoring the less interesting parts of the Bible, because if I follow it I will read the whole Bible.

  • A schedule helps me remember where I read something, because I can remember what day I read something and go back and find it easier.

  • A schedule helps me to chart my progress and to see improvement. When you make progress, it is encouraging and a reason to praise the Lord. If you follow the schedule, then you will read through the Bible yearly. How motivating!

  • It also makes me pray more, because I desire that God would bless my efforts as sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

  • A schedule helps me to stay on target with my reading, and the more I read the more God allows me to grow in grace and knowledge. The more I read, the more God brings His Word to my mind in time of need.

  • I have rediscovered that God’s Word gives you things to pray about, because God is speaking to you when you read it.

  • What is best about a schedule is that it helps me to stay on course and read the Bible on a regular basis. Reading the Bible on a consistent basis helps me greatly in my walk with the Lord and in my prayer life. I think about God more, and that is a real blessing.

I did not start this schedule last January, but I do plan on starting it again this coming year. Lord willing, I will have success.

It is important that you find a schedule that is manageable for you. If the schedule is too ambitious then you will not do it. You will likely become overwhelmed and stop — like trying to lift too much weight too soon. If it is too easy, however, you might stop because it isn’t a challenge — like working out with too light of weight and seeing no improvement. The point is, a schedule works, so find one what works for you and enjoy!

Here is a web site that has many plans to pick from if you don’t have one already. I’m sure you can find one to fit your need.

http://www.intothyword.org/pages.asp?pageid=53493

http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/

May our Lord bless you in your daily reading of His precious word.

Thanks for the example and encouragement, Elder Huffmaster!

Here also is a Bible Word List and Reading Scheme that the Trinitarian Bible Society provides free online: http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/bwl.pdf It helpfully supplies definitions of some older English words in the King James Bible before then providing a suggested reading schedule.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Resisting Temptation

For Lord’s Day, January 15, 2012

Dear Saints,

I’d like to share with you some excerpts from a book by John Owen entitled, Temptation Resisted and Repulsed. Elder Huffmaster noticed it in our library recently and was curious about it. By his report, it is a short book and easy to read and he highly recommends it. I asked him to share something with me that he particularly liked that I could share with you. We all face temptations daily until we get to heaven. Knowing why and how to deal with it is helpful for us in our Christian walk. Here is how John Owen guides us (as highlighted by Elder Huffmaster):

“ … God allows man to be tested to show himself to man. Until we are tested, we think that we are living on our own strength. It is however, God alone who keeps us from falling by his preventing grace.

We do not realize the power and strength that God puts forth on our behalf, and the sufficiency of his grace, until we compare our trials with our weakness.

Many men do not know what is in them, or rather what is available to them, until they are asked to do something utterly beyond their strength. The duties that God has for us along our ordinary path of life are not in proportion to the help and relief that is laid up for us in Christ. By God’s strength we are able to perform the most difficult tasks even though we only have the ability for the small ones.”

With those thoughts, let me remind you: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Redeem Your Time

For Lord’s January 22, 2012

Dear Saints,

Paul writes:

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:14-16)

How can you redeem your free time, beloved? When God affords you moments, how will you maximize them for your good and His glory? Being that you live in the Spirit, how will you walk in the Spirit when you find opportunities at daily rest stops along the way? To exercise your faith unto bearing godly fruit? Make the most of your time. It will make your time most meaningful. And such a walk begins taking deliberate “baby steps”: 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)

May you glorify God by redeeming your quiet times to make the most of the time you have (this could be your last hour on earth). Even within these dark days, it can be a glorious life to enjoy as you serve Christ’s kingdom deliberately, having promised to live within His promises.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Wise Wardrobes

For Lord’s Day, February 5, 2012

Dear Saints,

I remember back in high school, one of my wrestling buddies challenged a cheer leader not to wear make-up to school for just one day, and if she did, he’d pay her $50. She wore a lot of make up, which we all thought was so unnecessary, so he tried to encourage her to experience that she didn’t need it. She refused to take the offer. That was surprising to us. Seemed like such a simple thing to do. And $50 is $50, especially for someone in high school. Obviously, she had self-image issues. It was too bad because the amount of make-up she wore really didn’t represent who we knew she was on the inside. But it definitely did misrepresent her.

This relates to the morning sermon last Lord’s Day on Gen. 24:64-65: Don’t hide your inner beauty. An important way of opening up on the inside is to not trust the way the world portrays beauty on the outside. And not to mimic it.

I recently read this in my NT devotions:I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. (Rom 16:19)

Beloved, may you have lots of experience and knowledge in things that are good, including presenting yourselves in Christian modesty. That is God’s wisdom. And may you be unfamiliar with worldly things. May you be considered a prudish simpleton for not knowing much about the latest and greatest this and that or him and her. Because you are too busy setting your affections on heavenly things and God’s people. On Christ the Lord and the advancement of His eternal Kingdom through a world that is passing away before our eyes. No one will be dressing in heaven like the world dresses itself.

Remember what we considered in family visitations in 1 Tim. 4:8. The only things you can take with you after you die are the spiritual things of God that you exercise yourself with. The kind of Spiritual fruit that results from such holy effort does not spoil before your death, nor before the Resurrection. Everything else either withers or rots or will be burned off.

Be wise unto that which is good so that you do not bring shame on the outside and end up hiding your inner beauty. Let the light of Christ shine through you. Let it shine by how you present yourself on the outside. Let it shine by what you do to develop your self on the inside, seeing your Christian beauty for all that it is – and all that it can flower into before the watching world and fellow Christians looking for godly models to follow. Like Isaac and Rebekah.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Difference Between Justification and Sanctificaiton Matters

For Lord’s Day, March 25, 2012

Dear Saints,

What do you think about the following statements from Reformed pastors/writers?:

I’m about as good as I’m going to get, and I’m tired of trying.”

You are “free to cuss and spit … You are free. You can do it right or wrong. You can obey or disobey. You can run from Christ or run to Christ. You can choose to become a faithful Christian or an unfaithful Christian.”

On sanctification: “God works his work in you, which is the work already accomplished by Christ.” [Notice the word “already” and the use of “Christ” and not the “Holy Spirit”]

The son [The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:18-19] intends to say, ‘Father, I know I don’t have a right to come back into the family. But if you apprentice me to one of your hired men so I can learn a trade and earn a wage, then at least I could begin to pay off my debt.’ That was his plan.” [In a book entitled, The Prodigal God !]

Scary, aye? These are quotes within the most recent Trinity Review I just received. It was providential timing for its topic, because it shows the serious problems that arise when one does not properly discern and articulate the difference between justification and sanctification, which last Lord’s Day’s evening sermon was specifically to explain as guided by the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 77.

You can see from the above quotes a good example of how “Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?” is a question that is still very relevant to the Church in our day. Often, the Trinity Review rightly tackles the issues of Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul related to vast problems in contemporary “Reformed” circles that confuse justification as (or mixed with) sanctification (as do the Catholics). Here, the Trinity Review deals with another contemporary problem of thinking of sanctification as similar to justification, but in the reverse (sadly by some pretty well-know names in the Presbyterian Church in America, critiqued in this article by one of their own). I hope you see further that mistaking justification with sanctification, or vice-versa, is potentially deadly.

This recent article also gives helpful explanations to remember on the matter:

First, we ought to avoid N.T. Wright’s mistake that “seems to define faith as faithfulness.” They are not the same thing, and there are different Greek words for “faith” and “faithful” in the NT.

Justification is a once-for-all legal declaration of righteousness received by faith alone in what Christ has done, and sanctification is an on-going work of mortification of sin and a living unto holiness by means of the Word and Spirit He gave us.”

“ … justification is about Christ’s substitution, but sanctification is about my transformation.”

As A.W. Pink is quoted, unlike justification, sanctification is “intentional obedience”.

Remember beloved, justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness into your moral bank account outside of you as a once-and-for-all completed legal act by God based on Christ’s finished work in this life. Sanctification is the infusion of God’s grace and power inside of you for ongoing growth by the work of the Spirit using your works until you attain complete perfection at the resurrection in the life to come. As LC 77 explains, while the two doctrines are inseparably linked in your union with Christ, they differ, and the difference really matters.

If you’re interested to read more, here is a link to the full article online: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=282

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Brigthen Up

For Lord’s Day April 8

Dear Saints,

As we have finished the Larger Catechism section directly discussing justification and sanctification, I thought this Proverb was a nice summary of a few things for our meditation:

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. — Proverbs 4:18

Remember that Jesus Who justified you has made you once and for all just and righteous in your union with Him. Thus, Jesus by His Spirit is now shining His light through you in this dark world. And that light must not dim, but brighten. It must not flicker, but burn hotter and taller. As justified saints, you will most certainly be glorified because the path you are on and can’t be taken off is one of progressing in sanctification by the command of your King and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:30). Your walk before God must be the same as your father Abraham’s: bearing evidence of a maturing faith that shines more and more meaningfully as you see the Day approaching.

Like Paul, may you who have Christ’s righteousness and not your own pursue perfection until the resurrection, glowing more and more with Christ’s grace and glory. This is the sanctified walk in the Holy Spirit of those who live in the Spirit of Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Spiritual Flossing

For Lord’s Day June 10, 2012

Dear Saints,

My dentist this week gave me a lesson in flossing. When she’s looking inside my mouth, there’s no hiding I need to floss more. Now, I’ve been doing better than I used to do because she’s been holding me accountable (I’ve been at the dentist four times since February to begin dealing with my teeth after a decade of denial). There’s no hiding if I floss or not. When I do, my gums are pink and thin, and don’t bleed when she works on mis dientes. Pero, when I haven’t been flossing daily, my gums are red and swollen and bleed when she applies the tools of her trade. You know what I’m talking about (admit it!).

Recognizing that it is easy to put off, even with the dental floss staring at me when I’m quickly brushing to go to bed tired, she gave me some advice. Keep some floss at different places in the house to remind you and where it’d be convenient to do so briefly. Maybe where I read my books, watch a program, for instance. A place where you notice it and are more likely to pick it up at the time. Made sense to me. Not sure I’ll be flossing while exegeting, but it did make sense. Remove the obstacles of fatigue and forgetfulness by putting something that’s actually quite easy to do and always very worth while at a place you’re most likely to encounter and engage.

Made me think about devotions. Where might you put your Bible, Westminster Standards, and devotional books to more naturally stop and open them up and do some spiritual maintenance? To sink your teeth into something more meaty than magazines, TV, and video games more often than not? How can you strategically place Bibles around the house: near the kitchen table, in the living room next to where you lay the remote, by your bedside on TOP of everything else on your night stand right in front of where you reach to turn off the lamp? How about keeping your Psalter next to you so you might sing something to start the day with?

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. (Psalm 61:8)

Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. (Psalm 86:3)

Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. (Proverbs 8:34)

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11)

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 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. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. (Psalm 47:6-7)

I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. (Psalm 145:1-2)

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Well, I sure do like it when I floss more regularly. It doesn’t hurt if it’s a habit. And it heals if it’s a habit. My teeth feel much better (breath probably is better too, but don’t ask me to prove it). I sure do like it when I spend daily time with God too. There’s no hiding it, at least from my family, when I don’t. Much less spiritual plaque collects up. Much less bleeding over things that shouldn’t be stuck between my teeth anyhow. Much more meaningful meditations with fresher experiences of God’s grace and glory. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Give us this day our daily bread”. He gives it to us. Do we put it in our mouths? Do we chew on the kinds of things that will clean our teeth and sharpen them for spiritual things?

Well, pardon the mixed metaphors in this devotion. But let’s see how we can put some simple dentist discipline into our devotional life. We’ll all be the better for it. And Christ’s body will be more clean, holy, and fresh in our service and witness to the Great Physician.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

People Change in Christ

For Lord’s Day, July 22, 2012

Dear Saints,

They say that people can’t change.  But in both our messages from God this Lord’s Day, the very opposite will be held out before you.

In the morning, we begin to see Jacob showing some humility, honesty, and maturity.  He acts differently toward Esau and God than he had 20 years ago.  He’s a different man now, and he keeps changing.

In the evening, Paul exhorts us to go through an ongoing metamorphosis (the Greek word behind be ye “transformed”) by what we do with our bodies and how we think.

In both cases, the foundation, motivation, and obligation of and for genuine change is God’s sovereign grace for His elect.  We grow in His unceasing covenant mercy that we sing about 26 times in Psalm 136.  Jesus Christ changes people.  He changes you.  Once for all in justification, and on and on in sanctification.  Real and abiding change for God’s glory and our good.  In and through His mercy.

Change is the call and life of the Christian.  And, while change can be hard, scary, and even painful at times, when we see what we’re like on the other side, we see it’s all merciful.

Don’t forget that God is not done with you.  There is the already and the not yet of the Kingdom of Heaven in each of us until the resurrection.  Christ has changed you.  Christ still changes you.  For, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13).  You’ll see in both texts that such change happens most wonderfully on the inside and most noticeably on the outside when you and I respond to mercy.  You probably needed to hear you can still change this week.  And you probably needed to hear that you are changing this week.  And you probably needed to be reminded how this change is always possible and actual: His mercy endureth forever.  

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Products of Pride and Humility

For Lord’s Day, August 12, 2012

Dear Saints,

After last Lord’s Day’s sermon on Genesis 33:1-16, “Humble yourself for peace,” I noticed a theme in my devotions through Proverbs this week.  It was said in the sermon that peace is a product of humility. Proverbs has a lot to say about what results come out of humility — or rather, what humility must proceed to produce desirable results.  Notice …

  • Proverbs 15:33 says that humility comes BEFORE “honour”.  One becomes noble by becoming humble.
  • Proverbs 18:12 makes a parallelism of contrast with humility: what comes before destruction? “A haughty heart”.

Thus, the opposite, undesirable results also follow the opposite of humility:

  • When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
  • Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)
  • Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
  • A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Proverbs 29:23)

May the Lord give us humble spirits, that we be upheld in His honor and uphold the honor of Christ.  For,

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Proverbs 22:4).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Turning the World Upside Down by Turning Ourselves Right-side Up

For Lord’s Day, August 19, 2012

Dearly Beloved,

Are you upside down or right side up? 

I was thinking about this question today with the world and myself and the Church related to the following verse:

And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; (Act 17:6)

I often am challenged to think about the effect the early Christians had in the New Testament times advancing Christ’s kingdom in their pagan environment.  They turned the world upside down! 

It got me thinking, it’s because the world WAS and is upside down.  In a sense, they were turning the wrong-ended world right side up.  They were proclaiming Christ’s reign over all the world in fact, and that’s a counter-cultural endeavor indeed.  See what follows:

Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.  And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.  (Act 17:7-8)

May you and I turn the world upside down by proclaiming everywhere we go in our heart, speech, and behavior, that “Jesus is Lord!”  Over ourselves, and over the universe, earth, and our nation.  It is a troubling message to those who want to be their own lords (which is every man in fallen Adam).  May we also turn our own selves right side up by turning our old ways upside down and burying them as we put on the new man in Christ each day.  We’ll be so different, people will be troubled, and some, by God’s grace, may just find themselves in a spiritual summersault. 

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Butterflies

(For September 16, 2012 midweek church email devotion)

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day morning we were told to remember and be who we are in Christ as new creatures possessing all new things.  The closing illustration said we need to see that we are butterflies so that we act like who we are in Christ.

One reference given earlier in the sermon was this Proverb:  “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.”  (Proverbs 26:11)

See the stark contrast of these images as we should.  

On a walk this week, I happened to pass by a disgusting heap of dog feces.  There were a ton of flies buzzing and swarming over the pile of putrescence.  But they were NOT butterflies.  I cannot help but make the connection for us in light of the recent sermon.  When we go back to our sins, we are like a dog licking its vomit; or just as gross, we are like nasty flies licking up what comes out the dog’s other end.  This does not become us, we who are God’s temple, for “holiness becometh thine house.” (Psalm 93:5).

Let’s see sin for what it is as we remember who we are.  And let us flutter by the garbage dumps, looking instead for flowers to lay our feet upon.  Guess what?  That’s where the other mature butterflies are putting their mouths.  And the nectar they drink sweet and clean and pleasant.

“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

Be the butterflies that you are, beloved.  Don’t only remember, but BE who you are in Christ!  For His glory and for your good.  It’s never too late to change … 

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant