Practicing Patience Makes Patience More Perfect

IMG_0140For Lord’s Day, November 3, 2013

Dear Saints,

Arrghhhh!!!!!  That’s what came out of my mouth on a Monday morning recently, with my head in my hands.

Somehow, I mistakenly deleted my morning sermon that I had put up on our SermonAudio page early so folks who were home-bound on the Lord’s Day could listen and stay with us through the series on Exodus.  Monday morning, I read their gracious email pointing out that it turned out to be the message from the week before I had uploaded (which they were there for)! No problem, I’ll reload the correct one … wait a minute, the other one doesn’t … exist!  Arrgggh! No, say it ain’t so! I had just edited and saved it yesterday!  Apparently in the trash bin I had already emptied.

When this kind of thing happens, I “re-preach” the sermon (or re-teach the Wednesday night Bible study) non-live and publish it.  This was a particularly inconvenient week for me to do so, hence my “Argghhhh!”  I had to rush to a business meeting for the Church up north that morning, with other pressing administrative things I’ve been trying to catch up on with my Monday’s for a month or so now on my mind.  When I got back from the meeting several hours later, I sat down in a good mood ready to re-record, edit, publish, and then get about my busy work.

Argghhhh!  Noooo!!!  I could not find my recording unit to do the recording!  Why?  It was in my bag, which I had left at the Starbucks a half an hour north where my meeting had been!  Nooooo!!!!  I drove back to get it and ended up recording the message in the back of my van, then publishing it from Starbucks while soothing my soul with a wonderful pumpkin spice latte (I went with the smallest size, per recent moderate/immoderate use of good things sermons — that’s a “Grande”, right? I can never remember).  My day was shot. And my patience was tested!

But that’s what I learned from the day. I had asked God that morning before the meeting to help me trust His sovereignty when I first learned of my foolish deletion of the sermon (Yes, that was after the “Arrrghhhs!”). Naturally, I felt silly about it. It’s not that big of deal. But the small stuff when you’re busy seems like feathers on camel’s backs, ay?  My mind was quoting Romans 8:28, but my guts were saying, “What possible good is this for me right now!?”  Well, shortly thereafter, I believe God reminded me of His purpose.  I just had to accept the situation and have more patience and trust God it would all work out, if not according to my timeline, certainly with His.

And then it hit me, what good is this self-inflicted mishap? Well, certainly to teach me more humility, I know that.  But I realized, if I could accept this disappointment and role with my punches upon myself, God would teach me more patience. He would give me more patience. That’s a pretty good deal, really, when you think about it.

We often joke that we ask God to give us more patience, and to hurry it up.  Well, that’s never how we get patience.  We always get it more by having to be patient, by having to learn patience.  There are no cliff notes or video versions for skimming through this book of virtues. Patience bears out patience, over time, plain and simple.  And patience truly is a gift from God, so all things are working for my patience if nothing else, and that is always good.

This I found to be a really helpful notion.  Any time I’m stuck in traffic, stuck on a sermon, stuck on myself (did I just say that out loud?) — whatever has me challenged with accepting God’s providence even in the little things, I can stop and remember I am in the process of becoming more patient. There’s never a time where that can’t be the case, if I will learn to be a good student of Providence.  Knowing I can grow in patience in a difficulty I will only understand later helps me have resolve and peace in the moment, and … more patience! And I like being more patient. And God wants that to be perfected in us all, all the time.

Revelation 1:9 says we are companions in tribulation and the kingdom and …  wait for it now … patience.  Remember, we learned from a special video stemming from that Revelation study that patience is made up of two words in the Greek that basically mean to “remain under” or “bear under”.  To remain under the pressure and keep on keeping on. We get better with that over time. And it is always a good thing God works in us as a result.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

As I write about this, I have never caught up from that Monday morning — which was nearly two weeks ago. In fact, you might have noticed I didn’t get out a weekly e-devotion last week, when I intended to write this message for you. Have I been perfectly patient? No.  But God has been working a more perfect work of patience in me, and with this lesson on my mind, I’ve realized what an incredible gift this is.  So even as I don’t feel like I have time to write this, patience has helped me to do so.  And it ministers to me as I write; I hope it does to you (God always provides what needs to get done for today, even if we get a little tired in the process).  So every time I am in a situation I don’t like and don’t understand, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the growth — in patience.

Oh yeah, that joy thing James speaks of with having to be patient in all things?  When I had to go back and get my bag that day, I was laughing with Jennifer about it, saying, “Well, I thought I had learned the lesson for a nice e-devotion this week, but I guess God wants to give me more humorous anecdotes to share to drive home the point!”  It was nice to be able to laugh it off in the abundant joy of Christ for those who are patient with Him. And I enjoyed being out of my study “caves” and in the San Diego sunshine and breezes for a change. Perhaps I will look less troll-like in a short while (not commenting on my height or hair, nothing I can do about that!).

May you be more patient this week, beloved, and may you laugh more this week, beloved.

Thanks for being patient with this long message (as you are with all my long messages both written and spoken!).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: For those of you patient enough to read through this lengthy message, here are some rewards I found online about “patience”:

  • Patience: use it before you lose it.
  • Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
  • Patience allows life time to fall into place.

God’s Gracious Sovereignty

Alexander Fleming 3.jpgFor Lord’s Day, October 20, 2013

Dear Saints,

When my family recently volunteered for the annual Creation & Earth History Museum Day in Santee at the end of September, we had the opportunity to listen to an opening ceremony message by  the museum’s patron, Mr. Tom Cantor.

He shared about how on September 28, 1928, biologist, botanist, and pharmacologist, Sir Alexander Fleming “accidentally” discovered penicillin, one of the world’s first and still most used antibiotics.  Fleming had returned from holiday and found one of his staph cultures he had left out growing a fungus which, upon inspection, had killed the bacteria within its immediate contact.  Later, when asked to what he attributed this success, he replied: “I can only suppose that God wanted penicillin, and that was His reason for creating Alexander Fleming.” The words of a true scientist!

And the words of every true Christian that recognizes God’s gracious sovereignty in all things on behalf of His elect:

  • And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) This includes especially the salvation of His elect (vss. 29-20), that does not exclude improving their earthly care.
  • Thus, may we always marvel in the majestic control of King Jesus like Paul does: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

God’s gracious sovereignty is a great and glorious thing to sing about for them that love Him. I trust you do, and I trust you thus rejoice in this story of His sovereignty as you prepare to glorify Him tomorrow together.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Saving Souls by Cleansing Our Hateful Hearts

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

Dear Saints,

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

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

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

Thomas Watson writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Fear God and Live

For Lord’s Day, October 6, 2013

Dear Saints,

Following the recent morning sermon in Exodus, Elder Huffmaster recounted to me the terrible demise Friedrich Nietzsche went through at the end of his life. Nietzsche was a philosopher famous for popularizing the Kingdom of Man’s exclamation, “God is dead!”  This is the epitome of mocking God! But as the Apostle Paul tells us, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).  And so, Nietzsche later suffered a mental collapse exhibited in deranged behavior. This was followed by two strokes that left him paralyzed and unable to speak before eventually dying of pneumonia and another stroke.

This story makes a striking connection of last week’s morning sermon, “Don’t Mock the Judge”, with tomorrow’s morning sermon, “Fear God and Live”.

May God prepare us to have a holy fear of Him in worship and living, for there is none like Him in all the earth! (Ex. 9:14)  May we truly fear Him only as our Sovereign, for, as has been said before, we serve whom we fear.  So our Lord, Jesus Christ, says:

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:5-7)

What is it to fear God truly?  It is to fear nothing and no one else in life and to serve only Him.  And truly fearing God is not simply to be like Pharaoh who sought only to avoid the severe and scary consequences God brings upon unrepentant sinners (that is the fear of the reprobate).  No, the believer’s fearing of God is to desire not to offend Him and to seek to please Him.  It is being earnest from our hearts to show King Jesus honor and respect in our bodies.  And fearing God is what leads to eternal life, and an honorable one.  May we all indeed Fear God and Live!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God’s Beautiful Timing of All Things Can’t Be Stopped

For Lord’s Day, September 15, 2013

Dear Saints,

I just saw on the news an encouraging testimony to the truth of Romans 8:28.

Kirk Cameron was just interviewed by Religion Correspondent Lauren Green on FoxNews’ “Spirited Debate” about his upcoming movie, Unstoppable, which is itself seeking to understand God’s sovereignty in all things as it relates to the personal loss of his 15-year-old friend to cancer earlier this year. Mr. Cameron said that the movie is “about faith, hope, and love in the midst of tragedy.”

You might remember my referencing a situation about the promotion of this movie in a sermon a short while ago as an illustration that the world is not neutral toward Christ and His Church.  Facebook (and apparently from this interview, YouTube) took down and banned the movie trailer citing it as “abusive and unsafe”.  The trailer was not down for long, thankfully. Also, I am thankful to learn from this interview that the ban was turned around by God to instead draw extra attention and attendance to the movie.

In the interview, Ms. Green said, “They did you the best favor.”

Mr. Cameron replied, “They really did. It was so ironic that the group that tried to stop Unstoppable really put the most fuel on the fire and got more people to buy tickets than anyone else.”

I couldn’t help but think of our recent study in Exodus, “God Turns Things Around”, as well as Romans 8:28: “And we know that God works all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

May this trailer testimony encourage you to remember that God is doing and will do the same for you in His beautiful, sovereign, providential timing (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: You will see a caption and hear a comment in the interview that I know you will recognize I would give an important disclaimer about from Scripture (we have done so not so long ago in Sabbath class together: bad things happen to all people because all people are bad, according to Genesis 3:14-19 an John 3:36 — although of course the “why” is for our good for those who are saved).  Nonetheless, we won’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Enduring Pain and Suffering With the Lord

For Lord’s Day, July 28, 2013

Dear Saints,

At our Session meeting this week, Elder Paul Huffmaster shared some things God taught him during his six-week stay in bed with terrible back pain.  I asked him to write what follows to share with you as this week’s e-devotion.  I think it will help anyone who is going through great pain and suffering.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PaulWhen my back went out it was excruciatingly painful.  So much so that even the pain medication did not remove the pain.  I asked the doctor for stronger meds, but he said that I was taking the strongest medication available so the next thing would be pain medication through an IV.  He told me the pain medications were working, but my level of pain was so high that it could not be stopped. I just had to bear with it.  That wasn’t comforting at all.

Many nights, the pain lead to sleeplessness.  One night in particular, the pain was so bad that I could not sleep or be relieved of the pain. I had taken the maximum limit on the pain medication, but to no avail. It was late, and everybody was asleep (except my darling wife and she was trying to sleep).  It didn’t matter because no one could help me be relieved of this horrible pain.  I could not stand up, sit up, or lay down to relieve the pain.  I remember going into the living room lying on the floor on my back, my side, my stomach, curled in the fetal position, over the coffee table, on the edge of the sofa — but the pain never subsided. 

I was crying because it hurt so bad and I felt so alone.  Physically, no one was there with me, I was in pain and crying and the best I could do was pray “Lord please help me”.   I began to talk with the Lord, I told Him, “I hate this and I am miserable, I’m exhausted, I would really like to be relieved of this pain or at least be able to sleep.”  I told Him, “I’m sorry but right now I can’t see how this is good for me but I trust You that it must be good because You are allowing it to happen.”

I remembered Psalm 119:71 “It is good for me that I have been afflicted: that I might learn thy statutes”.   The psalmist said that it was good that he had been afflicted so I knew that this affliction must be for my good.  I remember thinking, “Lord thank You for bringing Your word to my mind.”  I began to praise Him for His Word and then I began to say from memory Psalm 23 …

The next thing I remember is waking up in the morning.  I had fallen asleep while reciting Psalm 23.  The Lord my Shepherd had fulfilled Psalm 23 in my situation at that moment. He had made me lie down and sleep. He was my refuge and strength, a very
present help in trouble (Psalm 46:10).

As I lay in bed the next day I thought to myself, “I am so glad that God has made Himself known to me.  Because what would I do without Him?”  I thought of the verse in Matthew 16:26: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  I remembered that in that previous night I was not thinking about wealth, money, my house, my job, or anything thing else except how much pain I was suffering and how I wanted and needed relief.

Often, when we are healthy and things are going good, we have a tendency to think that we will always be healthy and we don’t think much about it.  But in reality, anything can be taken from us at any moment. And all the things that we think are so important turn out to be nothing — or at least nothing that can help us in our time of need.  All these things, whatever they are, can’t help us.  In reality, only God can help us in our situation.  Only He can: not family, not friends, not fame, not money, not our dream job, not a big, bigger or the biggest of houses.  None of this will profit us in this life or in the the life to come.  We tend to forget that at any moment the smallest of things, even an unseen thing, can take us out and put us flat on our backs or worse. 

Psalm 4:8 ” I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou LORD only makest me dwell in safety.”  We are only safe when we are safe in the Lord.

I feel better now, and I praise the Lord for His healing me and relieving me of the pain.  I also thank you for all of your prayers God used to bring me much comfort.  It is nice to know that people are praying for you.

I can confess with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted: that I might learn thy statutes”.

In Christ,
Elder Paul

God Corrects and Then Affirms

For Lord’s Day, June 23, 2013
(Photo source: www.lordscountrysticks.com)

Last week, we saw that Moses was corrected by God for making constant excuses against obeying Him.  It got to the point where God got angry. And while He made some concessions, God did not let Moses off the hook. He told him not to forget to take the rod of service with him.

What is beautiful this week is first that Moses finally obeys.  And while he begins His journey, God shows up to affirm him along the way with new and deeper information that will encourage and assure him as he proceeds with what is now called “the rod of God” — but this is before Moses even gets to Egypt.  When we obey God, He is quick to assure our souls He is with us in new and wonderful ways.

Some scriptures have come to mind this week related to these texts in terms of how God is our Good and Faithful Shepherd:

  • Paul’s first letter correcting the Corinthians: What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (1 Corinthians 4:21)
  • Paul’s second letter explaining how it turned out for their good: For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. (2 Corinthians 7:1-12)

So last week we learned to “Stop making excuses!” with God.  And tomorrow we learn that when we begin to obey Him, “God affirms the faithful.”  We have a very good shepherd in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Jesus Came Down from Heaven to Give us Heaven While Throwing Satan Further Down to Hell

IMG_9869For Lord’s Day, April 21, 2013

Dear Saints,

In my personal devotions this morning, something stood out to me I’ve found beneficial to meditate on today that I hope you too will find meaningful.

In John 6:38, Jesus says, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

This verse jumped out at me when the Jews murmured in verse 42 about Jesus saying that He came down from heaven.  Recently in our study of Revelation 9, we considered what Jesus said in Luke 10:18 to the disciples: ” … I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”

It’s such a stunning contrast to think about.  Satan was cast down; Jesus came down: that’s a huge difference.  The Father threw out Satan.  The Father sent Jesus.  Satan is the Deceiver.  Jesus is the Truth. Satan is the Destroyer.  Jesus is the Deliverer.  Satan is a created, fallen being.  Jesus is the Creator and exalted Lord.

Note that I am not highlighting this contrast to put Satan and Jesus on the same level.  Quite the contrary.  As the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, did Jesus not Himself throw Satan out of heaven?  And now as the incarnate God-Man, has He not since been throwing Satan out of his stronghold here on Earth?  In his sermon on Revelation 9:1-12, Joel Beeke said that in Luke 10:18, it is possible to understand Jesus as saying to his disciples, who were rejoicing that the devils were subject to them through His name, that He was literally watching the spiritual battle of Ephesians 6:12 happening through their ministry — that He was observing the Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand in Him advancing through them while Satan and his forces and his fiefdom fell at their feet.  Verse 19 would seem to at least allow that sense of the text as part of its meaning.  Either way, Jesus says in verse 20 not to rejoice in victory over demons so much as the fact that their names are written in heaven through their victory in Jesus.

This thought of heaven brings us back to John 6.  Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, is so very much above Satan, as powerful and destructive as he is.  Jesus Christ, the King of Glory of Psalm 2, 24, 45, 72, 110, etc., not only threw out Satan from heaven, but in the fulness of time, He came to overthrown the Devil’s dominion on Earth and give us heaven.  We know from our study in Revelation that Jesus is presently finishing the job through our ministry, and He will finish it in total on the Last Day!  Satan keeps trying to be God, and the Son of God keeps pummeling him for it.  In the end, Jesus will cast Satan further and finally into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).  But what we rejoice in most is its result for us: being lifted up out of the Devil’s clutches and laid down in the bosom of Abraham where we will enjoy eternal life.

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world … I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst … I am that bread of life … This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:32-35, 48, 50-51).

Praise the Lord that by God’s grace, we have eaten of Christ that we may live and no longer be strung along by the Damned One who is nothing compared to the Holy One (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27)!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Watch Your Sabbath Attitude

For Lord’s Day April 14, 2013.

Dear Saints,

In preparation study for sermons the next few weeks on the heart of the fourth commandment, I was very challenged by Chuck Baynard’s commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism regarding its sections guiding our present evening sermons. It’s one of those kind of readings where I am tempted to quote him too much in my sermons. So I’d like to share some with you here and encourage you to honestly meditate on them before the Lord, remembering God’s Law is a perfect mirror that converts the soul and makes the simple wise (Psalm 19:17):

  • “While the first three [commandments] speak of the same thing in going after strange gods, the Sabbath breaker has brought that strange woman into the bedroom of God’s own house.”
  • “Open breaking of the Sabbath is no less a declaration by man of his fully taking charge of his life and religion over God’s rightful place as his Creator.”
  • When we break the Sabbath due to the desire to work [Amos 8:5], ” [we are saying] … God is a liar and if we obeyed him and everyone rested and worshipped God on Sunday the nation would suffer.”
  • “God never cursed a nation for showing obedience.”
  • “Perhaps if you learned to obey God and rest and worship on His day He would be pleased to bless your efforts the other six.” [Isaiah 58:13-14]
  • “ … not obeying the commandment and keeping the Sabbath holy does affect everything else we do and stand for so righteously at other times.”
  • “With such total disregard of God’s law and the violation of His command, and the defilement of that which He has hallowed, and the tossing aside of the great grace given us, can we wonder why the church as a whole is so ineffective? Friends we have surrendered the fortifications to the enemy without his firing the first shot. The road to recovery will be long and uphill for the church to regain even a portion of the respect of man and the reverence for God she once maintained. The first step of this journey is the return of the Sabbath to its rightful place in God’s family, His gift of grace and love, returned to Him in worship in spirit and truth. From here alone will the prayers of the saints rise as missiles from hidden silos to rain on the stronghold of the evil one, as in prayer and fasting the church prepares for the sudden return of her Master, even Jesus Christ. Judgment begins in the house of God, and here is the first charge. Are you guilty?”
  • “How rediculous our lame excuses will be on that great day of the Lord.”

Do these quotes possibly annoy you? A little bit?  If so, consider that the people being called out in our evening texts (Amos 8:5 and Malachi 1:13) were similarly annoyed with having to worship God His way on His Day, even as they did it, yet not well and only half-heartedly. And so, the evening message is: “Watch Your Sabbath Attitude”.  Related to this concern to whole-heartedly obey God, our morning sermon’s text will show us through the midwives of Exodus 1:15-21 and God’s response to them fearing God rather than man and thus obeying Him only, that ” … them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Cheerfully Celebrate

For Lord’s Day, April 7, 2013

Dear Saints,

As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper tomorrow evening, I want to challenge us to check and prepare our disposition with this comment from Geerhardus Vos (father of J.G. whose Commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism you’ll often hear me quoting):

“Jeremiah complains [2.9-11] that Israel is more inclined to change its God than the heath nations.  It is not difficult to explain this.  The pagan nations had no desire to change, because their religion was the natural expression of their disposition.” (Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, 62).

Our disposition is our heart, our inclination, our desire.  It is our sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts and serving Him only if we are true Christians with a new spiritual disposition.

Our text for this Lord’s Day evening’s sermon was our recent Shorter Catechism memory verse, 1 Corinthians 10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”  The focus is on communion, or true and direct fellowship with Christ and God and one another.  You may remember when I preached on the larger context a while back that there is a contrast being made in this chapter between communing with demons spiritually present in the pagan temple feasts.  Paul says you can’t come from such fellowship and truly have a disposition of holy fellowship with King Jesus actually present in the activity of His Holy Supper.

So what will your disposition be tomorrow night?  It is only natural in your flesh to change from the true Holy God of Israel back to the lusts of the flesh in pagan idolatry that is the same in every age.  This is why the same chapter of our text says in the beginning that the Israelites are our example of the disposition NOT to have (shown by their actions and warned by their punishment).  How will you be careful to come to Christ’s Table with the spiritual expression of an appropriate disposition for the King of Glory?

Vos seems to give advice related to this question on the next page of his book quoted above:

“Where the transcendent power and majesty of the deity is felt, the temptation is much lessened to confound God with the world or draw Him down into the realm of nature or matter.”

Remember by the text for tomorrow night that Jesus Christ is actually present in the act of the Lord’s Supper.  And your partaking of the spiritual meal is showing forth His death till He come back in bodily form to resurrect your bodies from the grave.  His spiritual presence brings you into the holy throne room of God Who should otherwise throw you out and away from Him like He did our first parents from the Garden of Eden.   In God’s throne room, angels, elders, and other saints fall at Christ’s feet and humbly worship around God’s throne, for He is still a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).  You can come in and not be singed by Him because you come through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and men, Whose body and blood took away your sins and gave you eternal life.

How then should you approach Jesus tomorrow night at His Table?  Certainly with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28); but also with confidence seeking grace and mercy, as we are always in need (Hebrews 4:16).  And because we can do this through Jesus, and because this is what the symbols of the Lord’s Supper represent in the sacramental activity of communion (fellowship), we also can think of it as the “Eucharist” (as Communion is also sometimes called), because that word in Greek means “thanksgiving”.  We should come to the Table with thanksgiving for the sanctified privilege of being in God’s special presence as a foretaste of heaven that awaits us in Christ.  Your actions in receiving what is given to you in the Supper is very important, for:

“It is not the quantity of the meat, but the cheerfulness of the guests, which makes the feast.” (Clarendon).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Carefully Hallowing God’s Name — Watch the Euphemisms

Dear Saints,

This week, I heard a sermon by a fine, nationally known Reformed pastor, in which he said several times something like, “Holy smoke”, and it was a euphemism, not an exultation of prayer or praise.  Frankly, after our recent evening studies in the Westminster Larger Catechism (which he subscribes to) teaching us about the Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain …”, I was primed to find this carelessness by a pastor who should know better enough to make my skin crawl.  The preacher is still well worth listening to. But his poor choice of words behind the pulpit gave evidence that we don’t pay close enough attention to what our Catechisms guide us in seeing what the Word says should be expected in our faith and life — including the nuanced words that come out of our mouths that may mean well but are not well chosen.

Many euphemisms are problems that need to not be accepted by the conscientious Christian because they are common, but corrected as he or she looks to burn a brighter and more uncommon witness for our Holy God in this dark world (we won’t if we speak like everyone else, or only slightly differently — and practically the same).

As we continue in our study of the Third Commandment tomorrow evening and next week with the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A’s 113-114 (having begun the subject with 111-112), and are guided by the wise and godly Puritan pastors who wrote them to teach mature Christians the depths of what is revealed in the Scriptures, I want to encourage you to read a few of the following articles related to how we tend to improperly speak in euphemisms specifically related to concerns for God’s attributes and Word.  I thank you in advance for prayerfully considering some of these articles at your convenience (a Sabbath afternoon would be an excellent time to do so):

I have noticed some of you “getting it” in how you catch yourself with your speech related to what I am highlighting below in response to the last two week’s evening sermons (Take Care of Jesus, and Hold Your Tongue), which is commendable — and encouraging as it has particularly been self-corrected by our young people.  However, it seems my efforts to address some particular issues without being too direct so as not to risk seeming contemptuous have either not yet convinced some of you or have not been clear or obvious to some of you.  The particular issue being, how beginning a sentence with “Oh my” is an outburst that should not only not be followed by “God”, but neither by such euphemistic replacements as “goodness” or “Word”.  There are other implications worth the thoughtful meditation of a Christian who wants to go out of his or her way to not take God’s name in vain with an empty use of his or her speech (for instance, bovines and fish should not be carelessly labeled “holy” to better express an exclamation another way with a little thought and change in habit).

In considering the above articles, let me revisit what I particularly have in mind that I am concerned to see ingrained into your minds and speech patterns for the glory of our Savior.  The WLC 112 guided us in seeing from the Scriptures that, among things required in the Third Commandment, are, “That the name of God, his titles, attributes [such as goodness, mercy, and holiness], ordinances, the word, sacraments …. be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves and others.”

In WLC 113, among the sins forbidden in the third commandment are, ” … the not using of God’s name as is required, and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy … ”

Let me also say that I have had people speak to me in the past about other euphemisms they noticed I was carelessly using (which you will see mentioned in some of these articles) and I am very thankful they had done so.  First of all, faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverb 27:6).  As well, I am always in need of improving such speech patterns, and I should want to to better glorify and lift up a fuller witness to His most beautiful Name.  For the Lord Jesus teaches us in His model prayer first and foremost in the first petition to pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name”.  The Lord be willing, we will revisit this topic of how to carefully speak relating to God’s attributes when we get to WLC 190 on that very petition in the Lord’s Prayer in the evening sermon series.

In closing, I share again these recent thoughts from commentaries on the WLC in the aforementioned evening sermons:

First, J.G. Vos: “ … profanity in speech proceeds from a personality alienated from God … Christian people should always be on guard against the temptation to compromise with the sinful world’s habits of speech.”

Another commentator said what I paraphrase here: most saints are guilty of breaking this commandment many times each day; yet with the most meager efforts, and thought before utterance, it should be easiest to keep.

I trust you will be careful, because you care to take care of the name and reputation of your King, Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory.

Notice in our closing Psalms for both our morning (Psalm 117) and evening (Psalm 134) worship services that praising God’s “name” is highlighted.

Whether we eat, or drink, or speak formally or casually, let us do all to the glory of God.

“O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”  (Psalm 34:3)

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Pastor Grant

Worship the Sovereign God of All Things

For Lord’s Day, February 17, 2013

Dear Saints,

The heat hasn’t worked all week at the manse, so we had someone stop by Friday afternoon to take a look.  It’s now fixed, although thankfully God has made the weather warm again, so we don’t presently need the heater (this is really February, right!?).

It was an exciting visit for us, actually.  And not only for the heater working again through a simple reset.  The man who visited turned out to be a Christian, and we had a lovely talk (and later we all prayed together).  Turns out he wrote a book about the Cedar Fire of 2003 in California, and how his friend’s property in the Cuyumaca Mountains was spared by the fire that consumed everything all around it — and right along the property’s border lines.  And this was in answer to the prayers of his wife and daughter.  You can read about it in a book he wrote, called God Inside the Fire, here: http://www.amazon.com/God-Inside-The-Fire-Amazing/dp/1477499911

Turns out his working in a field he never planned on for ten years had him particularly trained to write a book about the physics of fire.  Turns out the lady assigned by his company to visit the manse that day with him also was a Christian, although they had never met until then.  Turns out our recent changes that have me working at the manse most days had me home to meet them and chat — normally I would have been in the office on a Friday afternoon.  Turned out God sent them to help us when it could have been any number of other employees.

Turns out as he explained his story, I remembered that I had heard it a few months ago on KOGO radio when he called in and did a great job of getting a testimony of God’s protection of that property in the midst of California’s largest fire ever (the radio host was taking calls remembering the fire on its anniversary).  I only catch that particular program once in a while (and only for a few minutes when I do).

This gregarious man, named Greg, said I was one of the first pastors to get excited about this story and believe that God was behind it (of course, I also recognize God was behind the fire as well as the special protection within it).  I told him God, in His sovereignty, could have chosen not to answer that prayer (and we obviously believe there is no further Revelation outside His Word, properly speaking), but as good Presbyterians we know that God is providentially involved in and behind everything, even each drop of rain as I have noted in a quote by Calvin in an earlier post.  This discussion reminded me of how blessed we at our church are to know to exalt God in all His doings in our world (including the asteroid that penetrated Eastern Russia that same morning of the visit); I was reminded of of how our Statement of Faith explains such things nicely in the chapter, “Of Providence”:

  • “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 5, section 1)
  • “God, in His ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 5, section 3)

Let us thus approach God in worship with this attitude:

  • “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
  • “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

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

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

The Pitter-Patter of Providence

For Lord’s Day, December 23, 2012

Dear Saints,

It’s been raining a lot lately.  Or, rather, as B.B. Warfield tells us the Jews would observe and comment on the weather, let me say, “God has sent us a lot of rain lately.”  

I want to encourage you to see the mists and showers as coming right out of God’s providential hand, for they are.  But also, I want to encourage you not to miss the trees for the forest (if you’ll pardon my mixed metaphor going in reverse).

Calvin writes:  “Not one drop of rain falls without God’s sure command.” (Book 1, Chapter 16, Sec. 5).

May you hone in on a single drop of rain as best you can the next time God sends rain; perhaps by watching drops slip from their collective pools on eaves or tree branches. Or, listen to hear their rhythmic patter into puddles below.  And when you do, recognize God’s handiwork in every moment and movement of life; not only the massive, but also the minute.  

Admire God’s active sustaining of His creation with a new sense of awe in seeing that, as Calvin also writes,  ” … providence is lodged in the act …” (Book 1, Chapter 16, Sec. 4).

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

Pious Delight in the Works of God

For Lord’s Day, November 18, 2012

Dear Saints,

As we sing the first part of Psalm 19 for our morning worship this month, I want to share a quote from Calvin’s Institutes that has really blessed me in my day-to-day observance of God’s hand in nature which stays in my mind’s eye during our corporate praise:

”  … let us not be ashamed to take pious delight in the works of God open and manifest in this most beautiful theater … There is no doubt that the Lord would have us uninterruptedly occupied in this holy meditation … let all readers know that they have with true faith apprehended what it is for God to be Creator of heaven and earth, if they first of all follow the universal rule, not to pass over in ungrateful thoughtfulness or forgetfulness those conspicious powers which God shows forth in his creatures, and then learn so to apply it to themselves that their very hearts are touched.” (Book 1, chapter 14, paragraphs 20-21).

May you deeply reflect on God’s glorious and marvelous power and goodness to you exhibited in General Revelation with the words from Special Revelation that He gives you to do so: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalm 19:1)

I am reminded of the video Elder Renner shared on a Wednesday Night this summer, which pointed out that the universe is so large simply for the purpose of instilling in us how awesome God is.

May your outdoor “theme songs” include Psalm 19:1-6, as well as one of my favorites for hiking:  O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches … The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.  He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.   I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.  My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD  (Psalm 104:24, 31-34).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God’s Mighty Voice Over the Waters

For Lord’s Day, November 4, 2012.

Dear Saints,

A number of you have asked about how my Mom is doing, which I very much appreciate.  I am thankful to report that, other than some rain, she was not effected much by Hurricane Sandy, except for the folks who are driving up from NYC (it’s very busy at the gas stations near her).

Having paid a lot of attention to the news about Hurricane Sandy this week, Psalm 29 really stood out to me.  So many of the newscasters speak about “Mother Nature”, an inescapable personification that shows Romans 1 is true: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (Romans 1:18)

Everyone is talking about Global Warming and that this is the new weather to get ready for each year.  No one talks about God Who is sovereign over all; the idea that this is a warning of Judgment Day would be too offensive to consider.  May some, and may we, look at the wind and water and fallen trees and be in awe of our Maker and Mover while there is still time to know Him as our Redeemer so we need not face Him as our Judge on the Last Day:

Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.  Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.  The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.  The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.  The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.  (Psalm 29:1-5)

There were people who refused to leave certain parts of NYC, and were crying later for their foolish defiance of the power they then saw rush through their neighborhoods, which they were helpless to stop and in danger of dying from.

May souls learn from this storm that is one of many of God’s warnings to turn and lift up their heads that the King of Glory may come into their lives.  May they have ears to hear the resurrected Jesus speak as He does, with a voice as the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:15).

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Peaceful Submission

Dear Saints,

I got some disappointing news this week from my previous boss at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (where I also graduated).  A major accomplishment we had long labored on together will likely become nullified due to some sad news that is out of our control.  An estate plan that was to endow a professor chair will likely be rewritten and thus will write out all we had worked for for several years.  It is disappointing in a number of ways, but mainly, because the elderly man (in his 90s) we worked so closely with just got married to a younger woman who doesn’t even live with him.  It’s terribly troubling to see this frail man (who my family visited on our vacation from San Diego last year) being taken advantage of.

Something my boss said in sharing the news was quite timely:   “I didn’t dream of this [happening] … I am thankful for the Lord’s sovereign control.”

This message came to me the day after the Lord’s Day morning sermon, “God is sovereign.”  I really needed to meditate on that, as this was very disappointing for me to hear.  It helped to trust God’s sovereignty, and to see my boss trusting in it (through a greater loss for him as president of the seminary).

It had me thinking of what our brother Murphy Bivens shared with some of us after the morning sermon.  He said that remembering God is sovereign gives him great peace in life.  It really does.  How do we obey Christ’s command to take no thought for the morrow (not worry, Matthew 6:34)?  By submitting to God’s sovereignty.

We have to be careful not to simply resign to providence almost like it’s fate.  We must resolve and rest in God’s sovereignty behind and over providence.  To bow to God’s sovereignty.  To accept all things are of, to, and through Him (Romans 11:36).  Even the difficult providences.  It really is about God, and not us.  To Him be glory for ever.

What’s bothering you this week?  Submit to God’s sovereignty, and have peace in Him alone.  He is your exceeding great reward.  Release your tight grab on the false idea that you can have control over anything.  And open your arms and embrace Jesus’ rule over your life.  With whatever He brings to you for His own glory.  As we will study this coming Lord’s Day morning, may you “Listen and Bow to Jesus”.

And trust that in time, you will see His sovereign plan is best for you.  For instance, consider what Ron Walters (Sr. V.P. of Ministry Relations for Salem Communications) shares in his monthly email to pastors:

Robert Moffat, a guest preacher at the University of Glasgow, spoke one day to a nearly empty room with one student in the front row. Because of the lack of attendance, Moffat thought he had failed. But that front row student turned out to be medical missionary, David Livingstone, who answered God’s call.

I want to encourage you to look at each other in the pews that way.  We may be small, but what might God have in His sovereign plan for each of us?  He likes to work through small things, and slowly, and that is His Sovereign prerogative.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant