Don’t Throw Away Your Vote to Pragmatic Politics

Dear Saints,

As you know, I’m up in the mountains on respite with the children and will not be able to vote tomorrow for the next president of the United States of America. Frankly, I’m disgusted with the candidate options, and if I was able to vote I would write in a name that was clearly Christian and should be on the ballot to vote my conscience with a vission for the future.

I had jotted down these notes a little while ago with intent to share them with you during the presidential debates.  I’d still like to send them real quick from the Shaver Lake, CA, library before we head out for the night (no wifi access otherwise).

While I recognize whomever God puts in office is of Him and then we will need to “honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17), that doesn’t mean we need to be pressured to put him (or her as the case may be) there.

These words by Gordon H. Clark, in Reason, Religion, Revelation, resonated with me thinking about where our country has gotten with politics and parties represented by the candidates presented to us for our next president.

Clark writes on p. 47: “… consistency and profundity are not the prerequisites of popularity.”  Does this not ring true in consideration of how “we the people” get what we deserve with our present representation?  The political scene is a sign of the times for our nation of what “we the people” have become (are not the candidates alarmingly too much like us as a nation and church?).  Clark also writes, “ … moral convictions and moral education, based on law and right, can be consistently grounded on Biblical revelation.  On the other hand, contemporary American humanism like pagan antiquity neither has this ground for morality nor does it unexceptionally recognize these laws” (pp. 151-2).  This needs to be meditated on before you vote …

… along with these: “Can …. A philosophy that repudiates revelation … provide a justification for any of the Ten Commandments?  Are not those humanists who still oppose murder and theft living on the Christian capital inherited from their Puritan ancestors?” (p. 152).  They are less and less, yet we keep putting them in office and then wonder why our nation is more and more aggressively pagan.

Some “conservative” talking heads are seriously pressuring us to not “throw away our vote”, but let me encourage you to cast a vote with the future in view that says “give me this kind of guy or don’t get my vote for your nonsense candidates any longer” or our children will suffer the same fate as did the early church with the fall of Rome all around them as it was taken over by barbarians.

May we always vote in a way that calls on our country to provide leadership that will reflect Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD …  Let us do our duty in witnessing to Christ’s right to rule this nation in how we vote and how this nation would ever be changed for the better, and let us leave the outcome in His hands.  For to try and take things into our own hands cowering to pragmatic pressure will get “we the people” more of what we these unprincipled persons deserve–and that will destroy us as a people.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Men Must Minister to Women

For Lord’s Day, June 5, 2016

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the video:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

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

Barrenness May Actually Be Birthing Season

lamb_spring_photo_meadow_-466341Image Source: http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/466341/Ewe-look-like-a-winner-Cute-lambs-win-our-Spring-Photo-contest (Photo by Raymond Watson).

For the Lord’s Day, October 4, 2015

Dear Saints,

As I’ve been preparing to preach Psalm 23 in the evening services of October, I’ve been reading a number of books by pastors who had also been actual shepherds in Scotland and East Africa that I’ll be drawing on a lot for lovely illustrations.  I’d like to share something I read in J. Douglas MacMillan’s, The Lord Our Shepherd with you here that I hope will encourage you as we keep serving the Lord together in and out of season:

The shepherd moves very quietly in the hills as the lambing season approaches, and the sheep hardly notice he is there.  They hardly notice he is there because (and only because) the lambing season is coming … I wondered if what you think of as barrenness is the beginning of a great lambing season again in the churches and in the flock of God … Let us pray that it is.

Beloved, as we plan and prepare our humble neighborhood outreach event this month, as we continue to spread the precious Seed through our community with monthly door-to-door evangelism, as we yet still by God’s grace maintain a weekly radio program, and while we slowly seek to develop a new, tiny, denominational home, may we be encouraged to keep waiting on the Holy Spirit to move when and where He wills.  And may these words from The Word once again remind us that our seemingly barren times (at times) may actually prove to be birthing seasons:

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.  Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth. (Zechariah 4:6-10)

These were words sent by God to His church to restart the abandoned rebuilding of itself upon barren ruins.  And through men like Nehemiah and Ezra along with their people who had a mind and hands to work, God did erect the city walls and His temple anew!  And they all surely skipped like lambs once they beheld completed what God had already seen finished!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

His Eye is On the Sparrow

For Lord’s Day, September 20, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Discerning and Doing the Will of the Lord as His People

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Valley ShadowFor Lord’s Day, June 28, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Proper Response to Sovereign, Gracious Mercy

For Lord’s Day, February 22, 2015

Dear Saints,

In Exodus 32-33, we have seen God’s frightening judgment upon horrible, idolatrous (and adulterous) sin.  And we have learned that our repentance is the only means of being restored to the LORD through the work of our Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we will see God forgives and restores the Church simply because He is gracious and merciful!  May we respond as Moses does to the LORD’s sovereign, unmerited favor:  And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. (Exodus 34:8)

Such a reverent response to mercy is almost unheard of today in the contemporary culture of the American church.  But R.C. Sproul challenges us not to presume upon God’s grace in worship:

“Reverence. This may be the most difficult. We are among the most casual and disrespectful people who have inhabited the earth.  That disrespect carries over even into our worship and prayer life. We tend to approach God as if he were our peer. We talk to him as if we were talking to our next-door neighbor, with no sense of awe, adoration, or reverence before him.” (Truths We Confess, vol. 2, 321)

J.I. Packer warns us that such “ … inattention is an insult.” (Concise Theology, 98).

Beloved of the Lord, may we respond to God’s sovereign, gracious mercy tomorrow like Moses—with reverence and godly fear, just as we are told in Hebrews 12:28 to respond to the LORD’s more manifest and magnificent mercy to us in Jesus Christ.

But, also, if we really appreciate what we have been given instead of what we deserve (Psalm 103:8-12), may we not be able to help ourselves but enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise, to be thankful unto Him and to bless His name (Psalm 100:4). For we already have more than we deserve (death, Romans 6:23), and thus we have plenty to be happy about. Dr. Sproul also shares:

“Dr. [John] Gerstner once gave a lecture on the joy of the Christian. He pointed out that joy should be the chief characteristic of every Christian … If God never bestowed another blessing upon me for the rest of my days, I would still have every reason to be joyful for the blessings he has already poured out upon me.” (Truths We Confess, vol. 2, 239, 40).

With all this in view, may we take to heart the call of Sinclair Ferguson’s closing application chapter of his book, A Heart for God, that we studied together this Wednesday Night: “Let Us Worship God!”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Reverence: The Soul of Christianity

For the Lord’s Day, February 15, 2015

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Need for Strong Church Leaders

For Lord’s Day, February 8, 2015

Dear Saints,

It’s another tough Scripture to look at tomorrow as we continue hearing about the terrible Golden Calf incident at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:15-25).  We will see the need for “tough love” by strong men like Moses if the Church will survive God’s judgment for such things and avoid them in the future. And we will see how the church gets herself into such times of severe discipline and loss under “nice” but weak leaders such as Aaron.  Following are some thoughts from three different sources that together should help us prepare for the message, “You Need Strong Leaders”.

“Armed for the Fight Against Grave and Serious Error”, a sermon by John Calvin printed in The Trinity Review, October 2014:

… we all know how important it is to feel at peace with the world. (This is why many of us are blind to our faults, because the world flatters us.)

Too many people are continually on the prowl to see whether there is anything they can attack; their holiness amounts to nothing more than mocking one person or chiding another.

We must not fear anyone, for the zeal of God must rise up within us and overwhelm us. Even if it means that we acquire a bad reputation and become the object of all kinds of calumny and slander, nevertheless, we must enter into combat.

… even the greatest amongst us must bend his neck, realizing the devilish confusion that results when a man believes himself to be above reproof.

… when a sin is deepening and spreading because of silent acquiescence in it, we must deal with it. If we only respond when the illness is deep-rooted, we will be too late.

… if sin reigns we must deal with it at the appropriate time, for if we tolerate it, or make it a laughing matter, and then subsequently try to deal with it, we will be surprised to find that God has shut the door on us and that Satan has won. This is a just reward for our cowardice and coldness, if we are not prepared to heal the sicknesses which corrupt and infect the body of the church the moment we see them arise within her.

Little by little, the devil’s ways will become the order of the day and he will drag us along with him if he once takes hold of our loose reigns. If we see evil growing to this degree, each of us has a duty to stop its spread by showing that we prefer to go to war in the service of God than to have all the friends in the world and to please and gratify mortal creatures. Let us even make ourselves blind or remove an eye rather than offend God. May his truth and his glory be so precious to us that everything else is as nought in comparison.

“As Spiritual Mediator, [Pope] Francis Moves His Geopolotical Agenda Forward”, by Richard Bennett and Robert Nicholson, in The Trinity Review, September, 2014:

… any country’s civil order is based on the dominant religion of its people.

“The Line in the Sand”, in Solid Ground newsletter, Nov/Dec 2014, by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries:

As followers of Christ here in the West, our lives are not at risk . Far from it. We’re not faced with the ultimatum, ‘Recant or die.’ But sometimes in many small ways, I’m afraid we implicitly recant with much less incentive. We deny our Savior in the little things—the petty offense, the silent condescension, the hidden envy, the small bit of bitterness, the modest moment of pride.

The most important measure of our success as Christians is not our numbers or even our immediate impact, but our moment-by-moment faithfulness.

When ‘alien principles’ rule the church … ‘the church ceases to be the church.’ (Barmen Declaration)

My fear is that any Christian crossing the first line will cross the second for the same reasons: to be ‘tolerant,’ to be lauded as loving, to escape the brand, ‘bigot.’ Though not a fool, Paul was willing to be called one for fidelity’s sake, since the so-called ‘foolishness’ of the Gospel had the power to save those who believed (1 Cor. 1:18-24). Are you willing to wear the label ‘bigot’ for the same reason, even if it be libel?”

Let us ask God to expose the Golden Calves in our hearts tomorrow with such challenging words, that we would get rid of them and have no need to drink them and die by them.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Proper Preparation for the Lord’s Day and Supper

Calvin SealFor Lord’s Day, January 18, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Photo source: http://myheartioffer.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html]

Dear Saints,

Thomas Watson writes, “There is no receiving a crucified Christ but to a consecrated heart.”

Watson is speaking to the vital need of preparing ourselves properly for our effectual taking of the Lord in His Supper (which will be our topic of Scripture study tomorrow evening by the guidance of Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 171)–but his words are also important to help us remember to prepare for public and private worship on the Lord’s Day as well.  This verse is an important one we will consider tomorrow evening:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Tomorrow, God will speak to us again in Exodus 31:12-17 about keeping His holy Sabbath holy, for such a lifestyle is a living sign of covenant life with Him in Christ.  It is not insignificant that as God “wraps things up” after forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai regarding all the moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws just before He gives him the stone tablets as the witnessing “receipts” of their agreement (next week, vs. 18), God reviews how important Sabbath-keeping is as a witness to their holy relationship with Him.  So it is appropriate for us to review how to prepare for Lord’s Day worship by the guidance of the Westminster Divines:

Westminster Larger Catechism 117:  How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified? A. The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day … in the publick and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

Westminster Larger Catechism 121:  Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment? A. The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it … partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labour to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.

Watson also writes, “We dress ourselves when we come to the table of some great monarch; so, when we are going to the table of the Lord, we should dress ourselves by holy meditation and heart consideration.”  This dressing of ourselves to meet with King Jesus in Person is spoken of in the Scripture above as “examining” and “proving” ourselves by quiet, thoughtful time in the Word and in devoted prayer.

May you give yourselves to such soul-searching tonight, beloved, that by faith you would truly receive the Messiah tomorrow.  And as you so prepare, may your meditation motto be that of John Calvin’s: “I offer my heart to you, O Lord, eagerly and earnestly.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Still and Know the Lord Almighty is With Us

For Lord’s Day, December 6, 2014

Dear Saints,

In our study of Sinclair Ferguson’s A Heart for God this Wednesday, I recalled two things I would have liked to share with you and so will offer as our weekly e-devotion this week.

The two things I’d like to share relate to what ministered to me the most in chapter 5 that we looked at, “The Ever Present One”:

Our consolation does not lie in what God might do, although we know He can do anything that accords with his holy will. Our comfort is that he is with us.  When the mountains in our lives are cast into the seas, here is our encouragement and strength …

He reminded us of what we love to sing in Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea … The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. (vss. 1-2, 7 [repeated in verse 11])

The following verse in Psalm 46 as the application of the above is thus very meaningful for us to live at peace within, with hope and comfort:  Be still, and know that I am God  (vs. 10)

First, I was reminded of what Elder Renner shared with me a few weeks ago for a potential weekly e-devotion.  The story of Horatio Spafford and the story behind his poem, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

I’ll let you watch the above video recommended by Elder Renner to be reminded of the story about how Mr. Spafford had stillness and peace while he mourned the great loss of his four daughters as he rode over their watery graves (having lost his son not long before).  But one other thing I have thought about a lot since this study I’d like to also remind you of here is the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1: What is thy only comfort in life and death?  Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Beloved, as you come to worship tomorrow, lay all your afflictions at Christ’s feet, and be still and know that He is God, and that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: In the video above, please note we of course do not support the violation of the second commandment at the end (which we are presently studying in our Shorter Catechism teaching and memorization time).

God Hinders Sin but Helps Obedience

For Lord’s Day, October 12, 2014

Dear Saints,

Something stood out to me recently in the following verse:

And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. (1 Chronicles 15:26)

The bolded, underscored is a striking juxtaposition with what happened earlier in the story in chapter 13:

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. (1 Chronicles 13:10)

In one place, God seriously helped His people. In the other, God severely hindered them.  What was the difference?  David knew. The first time, he got Uzza killed by not carrying the Ark in the reverent way God had commanded in Numbers 4:15 and 7:9 (here is the Regulative Principle of Worship illustrated).  David admits this sinful transgression (breaking God’s Law, 1 John 3:4) when he directs them now in the right way to carry the Ark according to the Lord (see 1 Chronicles 15:2 and 12-15).

Notice that once they did it right there was much rejoicing as they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple.  Notice also that their rejoicing was delayed due to rushing it the wrong way earlier.  The whole reason they wanted the Ark back was that (as you know from our study in Exodus) it represented the manifestation of God’s special presence with His people, and they had seen it bless the people (other than the Philistines) who had it before they retrieved it.  But we see here that we cannot have God’s blessing if we try and steal it.

The lesson is clear in the juxtaposition of what God did to Uzza (and thus David and the rest of the people) with what God did for the Levites (and thus David and the rest of the people).  When we disobey God, He will hinder us in our sin.  But when we obey God, He will help us in His righteousness.  Beloved, let us always take the blessing of obedience (1 Samuel 15:22).

Keep this lesson in mind when we practice “Semper Reformanda” in the Church, that is, to get back to doing things the way the Bible says to (often lost in a history of sinful neglect by God’s people).  And keep the same lesson in mind as we support you in practicing “always reforming” in your own life according to God’s rule over you by His Word.  God will hurt you when you fight Him. But He will help you when you obey Him.  Or, as James says it (for it is always a matter of the heart): ... God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God Carries Us in His Hands

For Lord’s Day, October 5, 2014

Dear Saints,

We rejoice to share with you that we brought Jennifer back to the hospital today to take her chemotherapy pump off as the last “installment” of six months of her initial treatment.  My lovely wife has been so brave.  We thank God that the treatment is healing her, and that He has proven to be faithful to His promise not to give us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In fact, as always, God held us up through it all in His mighty hand.  Jennifer will need more medical care.  But a song by Moriah Peters, “You Carry Me”, playing on the radio just as we parked the caravan to run up and join Mommy in the waiting room was perfect timing to motivate me and the children as we enter this milestone transition with her.  We had never heard the (upbeat, cheery) song before: providential, indeed.  My youngest daughter (who it seems felt the poignancy of the lyrics overlapping the moment) said what I was thinking as the song lingered in our hearts while we took our toddler out of his car seat and shut the doors: “That was really encouraging.”  Let me share the chorus with you:

Every moment of my life
God, You never left my side
Every valley, every storm
You were there, You were there
I don’t need to know what’s next
You’ll be with me every step
Through it all, through it all
I can see You carry me

Here’s the song’s video:

As we were relieved to make it through this first phase of Jennifer’s treatment together, and as we have learned through it all to trust God a little better now facing the next phase (which should be less trying and more manageable), Psalm 31:15 came to mind with the bolded section above:

My times are in thy hand …

There’s great peace in that resolve.  I think that’s what my daughter was experiencing.  You know, I couldn’t remember any of the words to the song when we got home, so I asked her if she recalled anything. I searched the only lyrics that came to her mind, and found the song online — what stayed with her (obviously reaching her) were the bolded words above. She’s nine years old. That really touches me.  That really blesses me.

We found an interview with Mrs. Peters about the background of “You Carry Me”.  Along with speaking about marrying her husband (lead singer of For King and Country) in San Clemente, CA (where some of you live), she shared:

I often forget that God is faithful, and that I’m not alone, and that leads me to feel discouraged or afraid.  And I wanted the song … to be a reminder … that no matter what difficulty we’re facing, no matter how hard the storm or the situation, no matter how many questions we’re asking, no matter how many doubts we’re experiencing, that God never leaves … He carries us through those difficult times when we’re at the end of our rope, when we don’t have enough strength, He’s there to be that for us.

At the end of watching this interview, my daughter again said (as sprightly as before), “That’s really encouraging.”  May you be encouraged, beloved, that Jesus truly will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).  It is so empowering to be reminded as we go on with our lives, as shaky as they can be, that He yet promises to hold us securely in His hands. And so He surely does.

Here’s the interview:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: here is a live version of the song in Air1’s Studio:

Holy Contentment

Contentment

 

 

 

 

 

(Image source: http://www.sevenquotes.com/contentment-is-not-the-fulfillment/contentment/)

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

Be a Difference Maker

For Lord’s Day, May 24, 2014

Dear Saints,

There is a song getting a lot of airplay on the Christian radio that my family and I have enjoyed singing along to while driving lately, and the refrain has been on my mind a lot with where God is bringing both sermons (and even the bulletin quote) this Lord’s Day, “I Am a Difference Maker”. Above is the band’s official video.   Here’s a video of a live performance at Austin City Limits:

And here’s a particularly nice live performance of the song:

A disclaimer: one of my daughters and I read the lyrics and each concluded, “I don’t get it.”  So I almost abandoned using the song for this week’s e-devotion. But it had touched my heart so much with what it had meant to me (and I like the style), that I searched for “what’s behind the song”.  I found an article that (while I still have some confusion or perhaps I’d give other qualifications) on the whole helps to understand and appreciate the song.  What songwriter Bear Rinehart shares about is behind his writing the song is important for us to consider with the sermons tomorrow, “Express a Good Profession”, and “Live a Good Report” with the main concern to witness to King Jesus’ rule over us and the world.

You can read the whole article here.  Following are some excerpts that should challenge us about why we do what we do, or more importantly, for whom (and some times we will find we have idols we need to lay down and bury):

This song is my story of trying to understand my role in God’s plan. We were on tour with a secular artist, Taylor Swift, playing to 20,000 and even 50,000 people per night. We felt like we were doing what we were supposed to be doing. Despite our efforts, I didn’t feel like we were having the impact we are called to have.

I think God was asking us at this time, “What are you doing this for? Are you doing it for Me?” …

We don’t need to be concerned about what happens after we’ve given up this gift we have to God. That was really powerful for us. We had ambition and let that take too much of a priority in things that led us down a road that wasn’t good.  I think that in trying to re-prioritize, God wants us to sacrifice those things, those idols in our lives. Some idols for us were wondering what the outcome was going to be, that we had the upper hand or maybe we were the best band out there, or we thought we were the most clever at it.

I feel like the beginning of the song is us asking ourselves are we really difference makers. How valuable are we, really?

Brethren, may we live our Christian profession with with a lifestyle like Christ and Peter command to make a valuable difference for Him:

  • Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • 1 Peter 2:12: Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Too many Christians are content with the status quo, and thus make little meaningful or lasting impact in the world for God.  May you and I, by the way we live our lives, be difference maker witnesses in this world for Jesus Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Christian Profession Has its Expression

IMG_0081For Lord’s Day, March 30, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

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

God 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

God is Always our Help

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I do thee upon my bed remember with delight,

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

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

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

– Psalm 63:6-8 (Comprehensive Psalter)

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Fighting for Jesus Instead of Complaining

For Lord’s Day, February 9, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be a Good Soldier

For Lord’s Day, January 26, 2014

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Know God in the Now

For Lord’s Day, January 19, 2014

Dear Saints,

I have been very blessed recently by listening to and meditating on Michael Card’s song, “Know You in the Now”.  It has come to mind with our sermon texts for the Lord’s Day tomorrow.

Here are some of the lyrics:

We should confess
We lose You in our busyness
We’ve made You in our image
So our faith’s idolatry

Lord, deliver me
Break my heart so I can see
All the ways You dwell in us
That You’re alive in me

Lord I long to see
Your presence in reality
But I don’t know how
Let me know You in the now

I encourage you to watch the live performance of this song through the above link (with a riveting piano hook and excellent support musicians).  May Mr. Card’s music and lyrics move you to want to get through all the nonsense and know your Savior, King Jesus, intimately.  Intimate knowledge of anyone begins in live moments, doesn’t it? May you want to know Jesus like Paul does in Philippians 3:8-14.  Ask Him to help you. He will, as you live out James 4:8. Do so now.

Tomorrow, we have the opportunity to know God in an even more satisfying way as Jehovah (Ex. 15, Rev. 15) and as the God who blesses the diligent, honest laborer with Christian contentment in simply serving Him daily (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12-13).  We will learn to appreciate Christ in both the big and small moments of walking with Him.

An important part of walking with Jesus, as with any good friend, is to not try and walk ahead of Him.  That’s something I know God is always drilling into me more and more.  I think this temptation to worry about tomorrow as if we’re living in it is why Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily (not weekly) bread “this day” (Matthew 6:11).

I mentioned a while back I had watched an interesting PBS documentary, “My Life As a Turkey”.  The man who raised over a dozen turkeys from egg shell to field and flight had a lesson refrain, learned by interacting with and observing the turkeys for a year: they have an innate, intense ability to live in the present and be in touch with all their surroundings, especially other animals.  I think, in this case, we need to be more like turkeys and endeavor to take God in more and more in our every moment, great and small.  As we’ll see tomorrow, God designed the Psalms for us to sing to do just this and look around and remember to see and know that our Redeemer lives and shall always stand (Job 19:25).

Remember that the Israelites had to be still to move forward with God (Ex. 14).  May you and I be still tonight and know that God will be exalted in all the earth (Psalm 46:10); and so may we rest in Him, our refuge and our strength (vs. 1).  Spend some serious quiet time with Jesus tonight in prayer, reading, and singing of His Word, and expect to be especially blessed as we seek to know Him in the now tonight, tomorrow, and every moment in between. I’m finding this thought to be a lovely one — and peaceful, joyful experience.

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

What is Sin? A Confessional Answer that Might Have Helped Duck Dynasty

Season 2 PreviewFor Lord’s Day, December 21, 2013

Dear Saints,

As most of you are likely well aware by now, Phil Robertson — the patriarch of A&E’s Cable program “Duck Dynasty”, has been suspended from the program indefinitely because of his “coarse” remarks against homosexuality. It is the latest talk show controversy fodder.

I have never seen the program. I don’t even own a television, although I could catch an episode on our computer; I likely won’t, as reality shows in general don’t appeal to me for lacking of reality and smacking of vanity (and, while I wouldn’t mind endorsing long, manly beards, I have never been much into hunting — not that there’s anything wrong with it!).

It has been truly amazing to read Mr. Robertson’s quotes in the GQ article that recently have caused all the fuss against him. To begin with, after my first (and likely last) reading of a GQ article to see for myself what he actually said, it seems to me unwise for a Christian to be interviewed for such a magazine.  The article was full of filthy, coarse language by the author (Let me say I thought the article was otherwise well-written, insightful, and respectful of its subject).  However, I did not see coarse language or speaking from Robertson that justifies not only the accusations of such by the LGBT activists, but also by “conservative” talk show hosts (and seemingly conceded by their Christian interviewees).

Having read the article myself, I’m dubious of proper journalism on all sides due to constant peer pressure.  Did they actually read the quotes? They don’t quote him when saying he was crass, nor even allude to what was so alarming specifically other than to criticize him in general for expressing that homosexuality (among other things he said but they omit or gloss over) is wrong (See Megyn Kelly’s cautious critique here, or O’Reilly’s typical butchering of Scripture in his obnoxious opine here).

No doubt, in the introductory part of the GQ piece, Phillips was a bit explicit in doubting how men could prefer masculine over female anatomy for enjoyment. But in the magazine’s culture and author’s language, Robertson surely remains prudish by comparison (note, I do not link to the article because of Mr. Robertson’s language, but because of his interviewer’s crudeness).  Perhaps this one introductory section is what is being pointed to as course by even sympathetic conservative talk show hosts; if so, I suggest such complaints only show our collective self-repressed shame coming out of the closet when the act is spoken of for what it is.  I suspect, however, their irk over the ink was the more direct judgement (which is not the same as condemnation) on homosexuality by the following section of the article:

The interviewer asked, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Robertson answered:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Yes, Mr. Robertson “morphs” from homosexuality as a more major identification with sin, but is this so entirely different from God’s assessment of degrading societies in Romans, chapters 1 and 2?  Other than what may be a terrible result more than a chief cause, I think not.

First, I want to point out how being well trained by our Westminster Shorter Catechism might have helped Mr. Robertson, or, at least, how it should help us in less staged situations designed for failure of the less-than-wise.  The interviewer asks, “What … is sinful [behavior]?” Mr. Robertson might have said, “Well, sin is more than behavior, it also is what we think and speak” (See WSC 82).  He might also have said, “Man, since the fall, is inherently sinful” (WSC 13, 16, 82).  Perhaps this would have been a better starting point that may have lead to the question, “OK, what is sin then?” It occurred to me that our Shorter Catechism for tomorrow evening’s teaching time along with its memory verse is an essential place to go when answering such obvious set-up questions. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 14, asks: “What is sin?”  The answer, which I encourage you to memorize, is: “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”  That would have been a good place to leave it for such an interview, ay?  Not that Mr. Roberston’s answer was wrong, but it could have been more broad in a definition for starters to see where it went specifically in descriptions.  Leave a man or woman to answer specifically before God Himself.

The first part of the catechism’s answer is the omission of God’s Law (morality as revealed in His Word) and is explicitly stated in James 4:17. The latter section is our memory verse for tomorrow evening: “Whosoever commith sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4).  Inherent and implied here are that the law is God’s Word and that sin is thus against Him.  No one in all these discussions seems remotely concerned about sinning against and thus offending God, but they ought to be. And, they will be.  And deep down, they all know it — thus the angst.

Second, and related to the above, notice in this quote that Mr. Robertson’s answer is a pretty close summary of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  It should be no surprise that all anyone seems to have heard or insists on making the quote about is homosexuality.  Although also mentioned, no one is crying foul over the judgement of bestiality.  Although also judged, no one is bemoaning the right to adultery, idolatry, or greediness being challenged.  Although also touched on, no representative from Alcoholics Anonymous has been invited to do rounds crying in his beer with the talking heads.  Neither is anyone standing up on behalf of those who steal, although I think they may want to review the issue of slandering for their own good in terms of how they are representing Mr. Robertson incorrectly from the article (not only in what he did not say or how he did not say it, but also ignoring what he did say about his heart for helping others to be rescued by God, and his efforts to be part of that with such a person as most would likely be quick to judge and condemn).

What is obvious in all of this are, 1) The homosexual activists are on a mission against Christianity and to control America; 2) Even by those who otherwise try to look like they at least lean toward conservative morality while keeping one foot on each side of the fence, there is a constantly expressed or obviously repressed anger against God and His right to define morality in nature, thinking, and practice.  See the outrageous but true heart of the matter in the closing comments of one of O’Reilly’s guests in this segment. And notice also in the article quote above, the question was not, “What IS sinful?”, but, “What IN YOUR MIND is sinful?”

Beloved, the question, if our nation is ever to turn around, needs to reform in purity to, “What in GOD’S MIND is sinful?”

This understanding is understood in WSC 14, “What is sin?” And it was understood by the Pilgrims, who, as we were shown this week in the second installment of Kirk Cameron’s video, Monumental, pointed to the founding of freedom to be upon God’s Word and our obedience to it. Presently, our nation demands liberty to sin, which will more and more prove to actually be our slavery to Satan and our undoing of “we the people”.

A few Scriptures come to mind for us to pray through over our nation:

  • For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Tim. 4:3)
  • The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)
  • By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. (Proverb 16:6)

Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to review the first question of the Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man?  Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  Is it not apparent in all of this most recent episode of our reality that mankind has this most foundational truth of our existence entirely upside down?  Beloved, may we not abandon God’s Word (and all of it), trusting that in His providence the world may yet be turned upside down again in our generation by the faithful preaching and living of it on behalf of the next generation (Acts 17:6; Psalm 78:1-8).

Semper Reformada,

Pastor Grant

Simple Faith and a Quiet Heart

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant