Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Colossians 2:8-20 An Appearance of Wisdom

Colossians 2:8-20
An Appearance of Wisdom
December 2, 2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         This passage is very helpful for us. There are many schemes that have an appearance of wisdom, that with retrospect, we realize were not wise at all. Generally speaking, the appearance of wisdom is something that appeals to our flesh. At the time when it is appealing, it is easy for us to justify it as wisdom, or appearing to be wisdom. But when we compare it to what we already know to be true, either of God’s character, or of the specific revealed will of God in the Bible, then the appearance of wisdom disappears.
         
EXEGESIS
Col. 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 
See to it- This is a command. You have control over whether or not someone takes you captive.

The Body of Christ

The essence of the mystery of the faith long hidden is revealed in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. God became man and dwelt among men. Thus, the mystery of the Father is revealed to us in the incarnate Son.

Jesus is the long-expected Messiah. He is the One who saves His people. He is the One who knew no sin and yet became sin on our behalf. He did this that we might boldly come to the Father through His body and blood. Thus, He saves us from our two main enemies, sin and death.

And though He died He yet lives, risen and ascended. And we who are in Him have both died and risen in Christ.

All of this is presented to us in the body and blood of Jesus. We thank God for this meal of Thanksgiving where we apprehend that the essence of our faith is in the body of Christ. We thank Him that in this meal we receive life here and now to our mortal bodies, and what is even so much better, the promise of eternal life in our resurrected bodies.

Faithful Expectation

Advent is a season of waiting. This is a good time to practice the virtue of patience. The Lord is not slack about His promise. However, we sometimes act as if He is. We want things done in our timing and in our way. But the Lord knows best. 
         The Lord Jesus arrived at just the right time in history. God’s people had been waiting for a very long time. They may have even thought it was too long but it wasn’t.
         Anticipation is good. Expectations of God’s blessings are good but we can ruin them if we grow impatient and try to usher in God’s works and God’s will through our world of control. 
         Rest in God and if you have tried to wrest control from God, then confess this impatience and wait upon Him. He will not disappoint you.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Colossians 2:1-7 Knit Together

Colossians 2:1-7
Knit Together
November 25, 2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         Paul now moves in to the reason needed for Christian maturity. Some seem to be in Christ but fall away for various reasons. Sometimes it is simply a sliding into sin. Christians become attached to the world of pleasure and fall away be degree.
         But sometimes it is through the cunning deceit of the devil. He presents plausible arguments through false teachers, through the academy, through science or philosophy.
         Mature Christians are able to resist falling away because they stick to what they know, Christ Jesus, the Word of God, those other faithful Christian voices through whom they heard the gospel.
         In order to resist the world, the flesh and the devil and to stand fast in Jesus Christ, we must be knit together in Christ and in His Church. This makes us strong, steadfast, firm, able to withstand the world, the flesh and the devil.

Things We Know

Here are some things we Know
         Jesus died for sinners and I am one.
         When Jesus died I died with Him.
         Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins and I am forgiven.
         Death could not hold Jesus and He rose.
         Because Jesus rose from the dead, I am alive in Christ.
         Jesus ascended into the heavenlies and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
         I am in Christ and therefore have ascended into the heavenlies and am 
seated with Him at the right hand of the Father. 
         Who can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Nothing 
and no one.
         If I know these things, I will not be undone by the things I do not know. 

Characterized by Thankfulness

Are you characterized by Thankfulness? We just had Thanksgiving and I trust that all of you found something to be thankful for. But I am not talking about being thankful on Thanksgiving. How about today, on the Lord’s Day? Are you thankful for Jesus? How about yesterday morning? Were you thankful for your children? Your spouse? Your dry home on a rainy day?
         Or, is your tendency to find the bad in everything and offer up a prayer of complain to the Lord? I am not talking about being a happy, clappy Christian who is not realistic about the difficulties of the world. The Lord knows we have seen our share of difficulty this year. But what do you do with all of that trouble?
         The Lord would have us thank Him for being there. He would have us circle up with the saints and thank Him for the body of Christ. He would have us notice many little blessings in the midst of our stormy days and offer prayers of Thanksgiving. 
         So, if you are that person who almost always finds it hard to be thankful, I exhort you to confess your ingratitude as sin and then start practicing. Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
         And if you are thankful, even in the midst of trouble, then offer thanks to God for granting you His Holy Spirit to walk in Him, abounding in Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Raised on Sunday

Originally Posted on Facebook Oct. 10, 2018.

Hey folks, here's an update. I'm doing well. Thank you all for your prayers, concerns, and cards. Katie and I have been very blessed and humbled by the outpouring of love towards us. It is a great blessing to be in the body of Christ where we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Oftentimes, we find ourselves doing so simultaneously or successively. God's grace holds us together. I thank Him and you.
I owe a great debt of love to the church I pastor, Providence Church, the broader church in Lynchburg, Virginia, (especially Rivermont Presbyterian and several other local churches), the New Covenant Schools community, Community Bible Study, our CREC denomination (https://crechurches.org), and her churches around the United States and World, and quite literally, the church around the world, have prayed for us and sent us many prayers and thoughts of love and concern. Christ's Church is alive and well! God bless you all my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am going to try to catch up my blog as I have energy. You can find that here: http://vhurt.blogspot.com I am doing well, just feeling quite a lot of fatigue as I recover. 
I died on Friday and rose on Sunday, like Jesus. Why? Because I am a preacher and not very good at illustrations, which is a bad combination. So, the Lord had to make me a dying and living illustration. Don't imagine I'll get a better one.
If you are in Christ Jesus, then you also died on Friday and rose on Sunday. If you are in Christ, then all that He has done and all that He is, is also yours. 
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20.
And if you are not in Christ, then the frightening specter of Death without Resurrection looms before you. That sort of death is frightening, indeed.
So, I have become a living example of what it means to be saved. It means that Jesus saves you. He literally does so. All those who are in Him, know this, even if the reality of this truth is not always before our eyes. Those who are not saved by Jesus, or don't want to be saved by Jesus, have no idea of their need, of His grace, or of His resurrecting power.
Like Lazarus, I will die again. But I know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and so I do not fear that death. The Lord Jesus has vanquished sin and death and they hold no power over me. What a tremendous comfort and peace this is. 
I don't really look forward to death. What I have seen of it thus far is pretty unpleasant. Death is still an enemy. But there is resurrection on the other side, and like, Jesus, I am willing to face death for the joy of Resurrection that is on the other side. And by Resurrection, I don't mean just the condition of existing as a spirit in Heaven. I mean full blown bodily Resurrection. In the Resurrection, we get the last laugh over sin and death. Our bodies are reconstituted and we live forever. Won't that make a mockery of sin and death?!
The Lord has decided that it is better for me to stay and not depart at this time. I am thankful to Him, particularly happy for my wife, my children and grandchildren, my church and you, my friends.
Our Lord Jesus is gracious and kind, slow to anger, long-suffering and quick to forgive sins. Embrace Him with faith today.
Grace and Peace,

Back from the Dead

Originally posted on Facebook October 1, 2018.


On Friday, September 21, I had a heart attack accompanied by cardiac arrest (heart stoppage) at home. Chance of survival of that event is less than 10%. Katie was at home and found me collapsed a few seconds after I fell. Her subsequent panic was one of many things the Lord Jesus providentially used to save my life. She was unable to put in her phone code to call 911, so she ran outside screaming ‘help me Jesus!’ And stopped a car in the road and asked them to phone 911. Our neighbor, John, heard her yells and was in the house doing chest compressions within 20-30 seconds after Katie’s yells, maybe 1-2 minutes after collapse? This saved my life. Another neighbor, Holly, was just then leaving town and was literally driving away when she heard and saw the commotion. She knew that another neighbor across the street, Ben, was an EMT (I still haven’t met Ben, this earthly savior of mine.) John and Ben saved my life and their chest compressions kept me from brain damage. There is a fire department three blocks from our house. They arrived within a few minutes. Our EMTs are a highly trained group and pride themselves at saving people at a much higher rate than the national average. They arrived and took over from John and Ben. (I am not totally clear on all the details). John and Ben had gotten a pulse back but when the EMTs loaded me in the ambulance, my heart arrested again. They had to shock it back to beating, but it arrested two more times on the way to the hospital, which is only 7 minutes away and is one of the top cardiac hospitals in Virginia. So my heart stopped four separate times. Survival chances at this point almost nil. To God be the glory. 
At the hospital, they put me in a medically induced coma by inserting a rod in my leg that cooled my blood to a hypothermic state. This was for 48 hours. The purpose of this is to protect the brain from more extensive damage. During this time, no one knew if I would wake up or be seriously brain damaged if I did. I really can’t afford to give up any extra brain cells you know!
When they started to warm me on Sunday, I finally woke up. Death on Friday, resurrected on Sunday. What an honor to follow in the steps of Jesus. 
I awoke and started telling stories and joking with the family. I don’t remember this but they took some video and it is pretty hilarious. I told about the time in high school in Twin Falls, Idaho, driving my mom’s brown Bomber down the road that goes from Shoshone Falls to Twin Falls. Is that Falls Ave? I got that old beater going 119 mph on that road. I think I was with Sean Hackett and Doug Clark. Do you guys remember that? We flew over some of the rises in the road and sparks flew as we bottomed out. I lived to tell that story, too!
The family was rejoicing until my nose started bleeding. You know you can bleed out from a nose bleed? I almost did. I lost about 1/2 my blood, 6 units, and this became the new threat. They took emergency measures to plug the flow hoping it would eventually clot and gave me a transfusion to replace the blood loss. 
On Wednesday, still in Cardiac ICU, they removed the Foley from my nose that stopped the blood flow and it finally had stopped bleeding. I’ve had a couple small nose bleeds, just a few drops since then. One prayer request would be for no new nose bleeds. 
On Thursday, they moved me out of ICU and sent me home Friday, almost exactly at the same time I had collapsed the previous Friday. 
All of my children and their spouses were here and it was a special time. God has been very kind to Katie and me in the offspring department. 
I believe that God works all things together for good for those that love Him and are the called according to His purposes. This means my life or my death. I am thankful to be alive but was prepared to meet Jesus. Why? Because I am a good man? No, I am not, not in my own name, or in my flesh. I did not deserve to live nor do I deserve God’s favor. It is all grace. Because Jesus died on the cross for sinners, I can lay claim to His work by faith in Him with whom we have to do. Only on this basis can I come boldly into the throne room of God. When I come to the Father, in the name of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Father receives me as He would His own dear Son. That is what we mean when we pray, In Jesus’s name. Amen. 
Furthermore, I believe that the Lord Jesus is the all powerful ruler of all things. We do not yet see all things in subjection to Him, but we do see Jesus, by faith, who is ascended to the right hand of the Father ruling over heaven and earth. One day, we will see all earthly institutions in subjection to Him because He is the Lord of the nations. (Psalm 2). 
Do you have faith in Jesus? If you died today, would you be ready to confess your own unworthiness to meet Him, having confessed and repented of your sins and turned to the finished work of Jesus on the cross? Is your basis for making it to heaven, your goodness or His? You need to know the right answer to that question. 
Please feel free to email me or call if you want to talk about faith in Jesus. 
Thank you all for your concern and prayers. The Lord is gracious and kind, long-suffering, and quick to forgive sins. Put your trust fully in Him. 
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon You and give you peace. Amen.

Back in the Pulpit

Friends,

I have been off the blogosphere for 7 weeks after I had a heart attack and cardiac arrest on September 21. Lord willing, I will be back in the pulpit this Lord's Day, November 11.

Our service starts at 9am at 2805 Old Forest Road, across from King's Island Restaurant. We share a Methodist Church building. Maybe we'll see you there!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Reconciled

The Bible says that Jesus has reconciled us in His body of flesh by His death. What does that mean? It can only mean that his dead body was the means by which you were reconciled to God.
         Reconciled for what? You were alienated and hostile in your minds, doing evil deeds. Of course, he was talking to Gentiles who had previously been idolaters. But this alienation from God and hostility towards God is not limited to pagan idolaters. 
         We, too, have this war of the flesh in us, alienation, hostility, evil deeds.  This is part of our fallen nature. That is why Jesus had to lay down His life to satisfy the wrath of God toward us and our sins; the perfect for the imperfect, the righteous for the unrighteous, the holy for the unholy.
         Our reconciliation with God is a cause of great joy and all that we can do is look to our Father in Christ Jesus and say thank you, Lord.

See Jesus

We have seen a picture of Jesus. Are we beginning to understand who He is and what that means to us? Of course, we can spend a lifetime studying Jesus. We can spend eternity studying Jesus. And we should. If we look to Him, we should begin to see Him as He is and this glorious vision of Jesus Christ should change us to the uttermost.
         In this meal we see Him as our sacrifice, the righteous substitute for the unrighteous. And He is our elder brother. He is the exact representation of the Father. He is our advocate. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
         Keep studying Jesus. Keep seeing Jesus. See Him and believe. Believe Him and see.

Fully Pleasing

The apostle calls upon the Colossians to lead lives fully pleasing to the Lord. We can hardly imagine such a thing. We are more likely to think that we are barely pleasing to the Lord. He just tolerates us. But that is not the case. The Father is fully pleased with His Son and we are in the Son.
         If we can understand how the Father looks at us, it will enable us to grow in our gratitude and love towards Him which will also inspire us to love and serve Him more fully. His pleasure in us is always in Christ. He sees us in that kind of perfection. So, let us think about, respond to Him in gratitude and seek to walk in a manner worthy of the Father’s love.

How to Rule the World

This meal is a testament to many things but we will focus on just two today. One, the Lord Jesus is Lord. He is the One that through death and resurrection entered into eternal life at the right hand of the Father. His Ascension means that He is ruler of everything. That is the chief thing to know about Jesus.
Two, that we are invited to eat with Jesus. It is His desire that we be with Him where He is, co-heirs with Christ over all things. It seems too wonderful to be true but is in, in fact, the case. 
We rule by braking bread in this house and from house to house to make our brothers and sisters in Christ strong in the Lord. This is how we rule the world with Jesus.

Prayer for Strength

All glory be to You, Almighty God, our Heavenly Father. You gave Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption-the perfect, full and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Our Savior instituted this memorial meal as a means of proclaiming His death until He comes again. As we eat and drink, strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit, that same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead, that we might bear fruit to Your honor and glory. Amen.

Jesus's Obedience

He was obedient even to death on a cross.
         When we think of being obedient to the Lord, we can wrap our heads around the big things, going to church, obeying the Ten Commandments, growing in sanctification. And it is true, we can grow in the Lord and learn obedience by obeying the Holy Spirit.
         But the harder we try to be obedient, the more we realize that we are still fallen creatures in fallen bodies. Unless the Lord reckons our faith as righteousness, then our obedience is a only a failure at an attempt at perfection. But not only is Jesus’s death applied to us, His passive obedience, but also His perfect sinless life, His active obedience. For those walking faithfully in Christ, the Father looks at us as His obedient children, and He is pleased.

Lingering with the Lord

When you are in a group setting and you need to talk with someone, the thing to do is to linger until you can catch them alone. We eat and drink with the Lord as a group. This is good. This is a public meal and we should do so publicly.
         But this meal should also be one in which we linger to talk with the Lord. We have Abraham’s example to know that the Lord will not despise such lingering. And at the Last Supper, the disciples got John to catch the Lord Jesus in a private conversation. The Lord speaks to us corporately and He also is glad to speak to us one on one.
         So, these precious elements of bread and wine are for God’s people, all of you. And they are for every one of you, each individual person. Make sure as you commune with God’s people in this meal, you also linger to speak to the Lord and to be spoken to by the Lord.

Table Prayer

Our Father, like Abraham, we believe You when You speak to us. We believe that Jesus died for our sins. We believe that He rose again for our justification. We believe that Your Holy Spirit dwells with us until the end of the age. We believe that You delight in us, and as a kind Father, gladly serve us at this great Table. We thank You that You account our belief as righteousness and that we can come to You boldly without fear to delight in Your presence with us. Amen.

Thanks

O Lord God, we know that You have made promises to us, promises of forgiveness, promises to provide for our needs, promises to bless us as we serve You, promises to never leave us or forsake us. We believe Your promises, knowing that You are our provision and that we have everything we need through Christ, our Savior Amen.

Forgiveness Failure

One of the important things that we need to confess is the failure to fully forgive others, especially those close to us. And, of course, then fully forgive others, those near and far.
         You think it would be easy for us to forgive. If we think about it for more than two seconds, the Lord Jesus is perfect, the Father is Almighty, the Holy Spirit is holy. And we have wronged God in His perfections, creating a reason for Him to hold our sins against us. But He does not do so. In Christ Jesus, we are forgiven and justified.
         But towards others, we do not justify them, we often justify ourselves. We think they deserve to have this hanging over them because of how much it hurt me. That is not Christ-like. Let it go. Forgive that you might be forgiven.

Hiding or Exposed?

Our minds are tricky. Although we have been made alive in Christ and brought into the light, we still have the ability to hide in the shadows. Or, to at least think we are hiding in the shadows. In fact, we are not. Christ’s light shines everywhere. Our lives under the sun give us the false impression of shifting shadows. But to Jesus, who reigns over all, He sees things perfectly well as if they were shining brightly in the full day’s sun. 
What does this have to do with confessing sins? Just this, learn the facts of who Jesus is, where He is, what He is doing there? We are always in His immediate presence. That fact will be a deterrent from sin. Furthermore, if you have deluded yourself that there are some things Jesus doesn’t see or know about you, confess that, too. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

Praise

O Lord our God, we come before You to worship in the beauty of holiness that is found in our savior Jesus Christ.  Great are you O Lord and greatly to be praised. You made the heavens and You alone are worthy to be praised as creator. Glory and honor are in Your presence; strength and gladness are in Your place. We give thanks to You, O Lord for You are good, Your mercy endures forever. Amen.

David Cooper wrote this prayer.

Wresting Control

We are a people passionately independent. We want to control our environment to the uttermost. I think we protestants, we reformed folk, we CREC types, we Christian schoolers, we homeschoolers, are all prone to this desire to be in control. And, of course, there is some truth in it. Self-control is, in fact, a fruit of the Spirit.
         But we run afoul of God when we insist upon controlling every situation, every outcome, every person and that is a real temptation for people like us, for people like you. 
Do you believe that the Lord Jesus is ruling over all things and that He is, indeed, in control? Do you submit to His Holy will or chafe against it? Stop wresting control from Jesus. It is good to be His servant and do His will.

Praise

O, Lord God in Heaven, maker of Heaven and Earth, Your ways are not our ways and they are past finding out. Though we gird our loins for battle, we cannot contend with You. You know our every thought before we speak it. We cannot answer back to You, the Almighty and everlasting God, and so we lay our hands on our mouths in silence. We come before You in humility, seeking Your grace and mercy through our Savior, Jesus. We glorify Your name, who will not despise the lowly and contrite heart. Hear from Heaven and answer us, O Lord of our salvation, for unto You is all glory and power and praise, now and ever, world without end. Amen.

God Listens

Dear Saints, the Lord listened when Abraham pleaded with Him about Sodom. God saw sense in Abraham’s desire to save the city for the sake of even ten righteous who lived there. Sadly, there was only one righteous man in the entire city and it was utterly destroyed.
         The point is that our God is a good, kind, concerned, Father who listens to His children. When men, women and children repent of their sins, He hears them and is quick to forgive and invite them to free fellowship with Him.

If Indeed

The Bible puts conditions on God’s blessings to us. It says that Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He did so to present us holy and blameless before the Lord. That is Good News!

But he adds this condition, If Indeed, you continue in the faith. 

God’s blessings are held out to us, forgiveness, joy in the holy ghost, a holy and blameless life. In order to receive all these blessings we must continue in the faith. We can read that, we must continue to have faith in Jesus, His death for our sins, His Resurrection to defeat death, His Ascension to wrench away the usurpation of the devil. So, let us turn away from every form of unbelief and continue in faith, indeed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Genesis 17-18:15 Sermon

Genesis 17:1-18:15
Sermon Notes
The Sound of Laughter
7/15/2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
This chapter is filled with laughter. Abraham laughs. Sarah laughs. And I think God gets the last laugh. God’s promise to Abram that he will have numerous descendants becomes increasingly clear. There is a promise of land and descendants. 
Abram has a son, Ishmael. But we know that Ishmael is an allegory of how we do things the wrong way while we are too impatient to wait upon God. Thus, Ishmael could not be the heir. 
Furthermore, God waits a very long time to bring about the promise through Sarah. He is like that. He gives life to empty wombs. Remember barren Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth and even a virgin, Mary, and their babies. And remember how many peoples and nations issue forth from these women by the promise of God.
Ishmael is the firstborn son of Abram but he cannot be the heir because he is neither the son of promise nor a son of faith. And so it is with all sons of the flesh. They shall not inherit so we know that the inheritance is by promise. But in Isaac shall thy seed be blessed.

EXEGESIS
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I amthe Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
         We fast forward about 13 years from our previous encounter with Abram and God. He was then 86 years old and he and Sarai contrived to get Abram a son through Hagar. 

Meal Laughter

Laughter around our Table is possible because of two things. Gratitude and peace. We are grateful for the food, for those who fixed it, for the nourishment it brings, for the flavor, for the way it looks on the plate, for the family and friends gathered there.
         But all of that is for nought if the table atmosphere is tense and cold. In fact, when you are out of fellowship with God or your family and friends, it easy to despise the good food and all that went in to preparing it. Remember the dwarves.
So, in order to laugh well at the table we need gratitude and we need peace. Let us then eat from this Table with gratitude for we are at peace with God and men.

Unbelief's Laugh

Many in our day are professional scoffers. They are practiced skeptics and just won’t believe anything, even when there is good reason to believe. How much more are we tempted to not believe those things that require faith?
But our faith is not blind faith. We might be encouraged to believe something that seems utterly impossible but we have good reasons for our belief. We believe based upon God’s Word, His promises, His good name and character. We know those things about God are true and are then enabled to believe, and thus know, the things we cannot see.
Are you skeptical of God’s goodness? Do you not believe He is a kind and gracious God? Did you laugh at God’s provision for you in the storm of life, seeing only the wind and the waves? 
Choose rather the laugh of faith. How can it be that my Lord would consider me? I know not but am thankful He does.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Standing Ground




The Revoice Conference will soon take place. There has been a great deal of controversy swirling around the stated theme and topics. 

This following is from the front page of the Revoice Conference website:
Revoice 2018-Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex attracted and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality. 
In light of the this sort of accommodation of false teaching on sexuality becoming increasingly common, our denomination, The Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) has put out the following statement.

CREC Statement on Sexuality

CREC Statement on Sexuality
July 16, 2018

The CREC affirms the Bible’s teaching on the creation of man and woman and the establishment of the marriage relationship as only between one man and one woman. There are two sexes, male and female. We stand against all attempts to confuse the Bible’s clear teaching in this area. 

The CREC believes that Christians who struggle with various sexual temptations should receive ongoing pastoral care, including those who are tempted to engage in sexual perversions. At the same time, we believe that any teaching that combines LGBTQ identity with identity in Christ is completely unbiblical.

We believe that encouraging Christians who face certain sexual temptations to identify as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, whether in sexually active relationships or not, is unbiblical, and further, that this teaching will have destructive effects in the long term, both for individuals who follow it and for any Christian bodies that accommodate it. 

We exhort all ecclesiastical bodies to declare the Bible’s full and clear teaching on sexual behavior, whether in desires or actions, and to encourage individuals to repent of sinful desires and sexual behavior as they turn to Christ to resist temptation. 

We encourage patient pastoral care for struggling individuals who repent of their sins and seek to be obedient to Jesus.

We exhort the broader Christian Church, and particularly Reformed Churches, to hold their churches and pastors accountable to faithful biblical doctrine and practice in all areas of sexuality. 

Virgil Hurt
Presiding Minister of Council
Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Genesis 16 Sermon


Gen. 16:1-16
Let God Judge
July 8, 2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         This story is a divine reminder of waiting on the Lord. When we take matters in our own hands and justify our behavior, the result is a pile of trouble. All of the parties in this event are culpable for various sinful actions. And even in the sins, the Lord is gracious and kind to them. 
         We should learn at least two lessons from this passage. One, wait upon the Lord. Do not justify your bad behavior by impatience or blame shifting. Two, the Lord is gracious, kind, long-suffering and quick to forgive. Even though the parties here are guilty, Sarai, Abram and Hagar, God forgives them all and looks upon them with favor.
         We need to wait upon God and resist the desire to take things in our hands and sin. But if we do this, falling to our fallen human nature, then we need to humble ourselves before the Lord, receive His forgiveness and move on. He is able to overcome our sinful desires. 
         We need to also remember that there are dire consequences for sins, even after forgiveness is granted. The issues with Hagar and Ishmael do not end here when Hagar returns to Sarai. We have a later incident where we see the strife continues. Furthermore,

A Well in the Desert

God is watching over us for good. Do you feel famished for the Lord? Is your soul parched, athirst for the living God? Then be encouraged, this food is like a well in the dessert, it gives life when there is no hope for survival. 
         To be fed on Jesus is to have meat indeed. To drink of the blood of Christ is to possess the rivers of living water, from which, if a man drink, he shall never thirst again.
         In Christ, our bellies are satiated and our throats are quenched, for Jesus is the well of life for all who come to Him in faith.

The Lord Sees

We sometimes wonder if the Lord notices our distress or if He will deliver us from duress. He does notice. He sees us even if we have failed to see Him.
         Are you in distress? Is it not your fault? Perhaps a medical condition? Or, is it your fault, perhaps a sin that has led to further consequences with your spouse or children?
         Does the Lord not see and deliver? He does. And whether your duress is out of control or caused by your behavior, the Lord sees you, in Christ, with favor. He forgives, restores, heals and blesses. He is that sort of gracious, long suffering and merciful God.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Genesis 15 Sermon Notes

Genesis 15:1-21
Sermon Notes
Faith Like Abraham
July 1, 2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         This passage has large ramifications for us today. The New Testament declares that all those who have faith like Abraham are children of Abraham. God’s promise to Abram was that he would have offspring from his own body. That offspring would be as the stars in number, a whole earth full of people.
         This people would fill up the land of Canaan. When Abram received this promise, he was already growing old as was his wife, Sarai. In earthly terms, the promise was looking unlikely. But, in fact, it was more than unlikely. God wanted it to be clear that in earthly terms, it was not only unlikely but impossible. That is why God delayed so long in bringing the promise to pass. It needed to be clear that Abraham and Sarah could not manufacture the blessing through earthly or manmade manipulation. They try to do this but God still works His Sovereign and miraculous will.
         Abram is an example of great faith.

Near To God

God desires that we be near Him. In the garden, Adam and Eve sinned and then went away from God. So, He came to them. Sin has driven us away from God, but we have been brought near, even to the Holy of Holies, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
         This nearness is the peace of knowing God as Father, Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit as Comforter. 
         We are His children and He is our good and kind Father. There is no better place than near to your loving Father in Heaven. Come to Him in Jesus name. Amen.

Near Sighted

Just as Job could only see up close, we, too, suffer from near sightedness. That is why we have to look into the distance of the future with faith. 
Abraham also looked at his present circumstances in dismay, “Me and my wife are old and no chance for an heir.” But both Job and Abraham were rewarded with blessing when it was clear that God was doing the work. When God spoke, they believed Him, and it was put to their account as righteousness.
It is difficult for us to look into the future for blessing. We can imagine all sorts of things that may or may not really be blessings to us. We may set our desires and hopes on the thing instead of the God of blessings. The trick is to trust God now for what lies ahead. We do not know what lies ahead but we know Him with whom we have to do. It is fitting to confess our fears, our imaginations, even our desires, be they ever so good, and truly put them in the hands of the Lord, putting our trust wholly in our good and kind Father in Heaven.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Ephesians 4 Sermon Notes

Ephesians 4:7-16
Body Builders
June 24, 2018
Lynchburg, Virginia
NOTE: I originally preached this in 2014 but just recycled portions of it for a  sermon last week. Lots of extra notes here that were not in the sermon.

EXHORDIUM
         We live in an age when perpetual youth is worshipped. We have delayed growing up now sometimes into the mid or late twenties. There is not a sense of standing on one’s own at say age 20 or so and so the adulthood keeps getting pushed back further and further. 
It should not surprise us that such things are also prevalent in the church. The youth and immaturity of the faith is lauded and maturity stays at a distance. Many Christians have not learned the depths of Christ and so remain susceptible to all sorts of delusions of theology and practice.
But there is no excuse for this state of affairs. It is willful negligence on the part of Christians to not grow up in Christ. With the vast amount of biblical teaching available, we should all be growing up in Christ.
The primary place this should be happening is at church. You should be fed a steady diet of God’s Word and you should be growing in your knowledge of Jesus.
But you should also be studying the Word in your homes and on your own. You should be a faithful Bible reader and coming to understand the story of God, God’s purposes and your purpose in Christ.
Many people do not really understand this. This is one reason I am thankful for our emphasis on Word, Sacrament, Doctrine and Practice. Even our little children know what the Chief End of Man is. Our purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him. In order to do that, we have to know Him and know what He has called us to be and to do in Christ and in His Church. This is growing up in the faith so that we can be strong and stand fast.

EXEGESIS
         7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  
         Christ measures out His grace to us according to our need.

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?  10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)  
Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father to rule Heaven and Earth from Heaven. 
Captivity Captive- Jesus made a show of them like the ancient generals or emperors who paraded the enemy through the streets and gave gifts to the victorious soldiers.
Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers on the cross. Here he holds them captive.
Homo es- A Roman general would have a slave set beside him and say, “Homo es.” You are a man. This was because he might be tempted to think he was a god with all the adulation being shown him. 
But Jesus was truly man and truly God. He receives the adulation fit only for God and appropriately so. There is no power greater than Jesus and so He does not need reminded to stay in His place. His place is far above all principalities and powers.
He is the same one that also descended to the Earth. Before exaltation is humiliation. Death and then life. Sorrow and then joy. Weeping and then rejoicing. This is God’s pattern.
He ascended far above all heavens so that He would fill all things. This is a way of saying that Jesus Christ is in control of everything that is.
He is the great gift giver. He fills up His people with benefits.

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  
Jesus gave gifts to the church. We tend to think of gifts as our own personal spiritual gifts. In this instance, the Apostle clearly teaches that Jesus in the one who gives and establishes His ministers in the church for the building up of the body.
There are four distinct offices mentioned here.
1.  Apostles- Apostles are sent ones, particularly sent directly by Jesus. the Apostles were those initial twelve, then Judas who was replaced by Matthias, and then the Apostle Paul to make thirteen. The Apostles were all first hand eye witnesses of the Resurrection. Paul saw the Resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus.
There are no apostles today. However, we might consider someone who is a gifted church planter to be operating in the Apostolic mode.
The twelve signified the true Israel of the last days. This is very interesting if you consider that Paul was the thirteenth apostle. The Israel of the last days included the Gentiles and Paul was Apostle to the Gentiles.

2.  Prophets- There were many prophets in the Old Testament who spoke by divine inspiration. Continuing into the New Testament era, there were both prophets and prophetesses. These spoke the Word of God on several occasions until the Canon was established. This office dramatically decreased in the early Apostolic age and ceased altogether as the Bible was completed.
3.  Evangelists- Philip was said to be an evangelist. He was the one who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. There are many gifted evangelists today, men who powerfully preach the gospel and are blessed with conversions. 
4.  Pastors and Teachers or Pastor Teachers- This is the most common office. Pastors and teachers or pastor teachers are God’s primary means of ministry in His church.

EXHORDIUM
         Last week we discussed gifts to the church. Those gifts included Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.
         God has given these gifts to the church so that the church will grow up in Christ.
         There are three specific reasons the Lord has given these gifts.
1.  The perfecting of the saints. He wants us to be perfect, that is mature. 
2.  For the work of ministry. Of the office mentioned, pastors and teachers or pastor teachers is the ordinary office. This is the work of the ministry, shepherding and teaching.

In our form of church government that work is done by shepherds. This is the pastor and ministers but it also includes ruling and teaching elders. 

Ruling Elders- In our churches, ruling elders are those men chosen by the congregation to rule in the church through oversight on the session of elders. As the session of elders, the elders do the work of ministry exercising their authority in the churches.

Some ruling elders also excel in the gifts of teaching. In some of our CREC churches there is no distinction between an elder and a pastor. They are one and the same. In most of our churches, we recognize the difference in the office of pastor or minister as an ordained office requiring both more training and a higher expectation of service in the church. This often means the pastor or minister is set aside to full-time Christian service.

It is helpful if we view these men as gifts to the church. God has given these men to the church to bless the church.

3.  Edifying of the Body of Christ
If the saints are mature. If these men do the work of ministry, the result is that the body of Christ is built up, strengthened, edified.

Exegesis

12, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

The Purpose of Christ’s Gifts
         Why did God give these men?

Three Reasons
1.  Perfect Body-For the perfecting of the saints
2.  To Do the Work of Ministry-for the work of the ministry, 
This includes several things, 1. planting churches (Apostolic) , 2. Preaching (prophetic) 3. Evangelism (declaration of the gospel) 4. Shepherding (Pastors). 5. Discipleship and Theology (Teachers).
3.  To build up the Body- for the edifying of the body of Christ: 
         Perfecting is to perfectly equip. So, the idea here is that these offices are meant to fit the saints for effective ministry, to edify the body of Christ.
         This is spiritual body building. How do we make the body healthy and strong, able to carry on its work without giving up? Through the faithful ministry of the Word and Sacrament.
         
Edifying-Building up. This does not just mean for the good of the body. It refers to the building up of the body. Edifying is that which builds, makes strong, grants endurance, preserves, exhorts, encourages, admonishes, assures.

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
How long will this work of ministry continue?Until we all come in the unity of the faith.
What does this unity look like? Like people who have a true knowledge of the Son of God. They not only know about Jesus, they know Jesus. They are not simply doing theology about Jesus. They are experiencing the grace and peace of Christ.
God calls us to be perfect. This word can mean mature. Of course, we will not be perfect in the sense of sinless in the body, until the Resurrection from the dead. But we can be mature and the Lord expects us to be mature. He expects us to grow up in the faith. This growing up will particularly look like the body being built up, speaking the truth in love, exhorting and encouraging one another. It will look like raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It will look like showing your faith to your children so that they imitate your good behavior in Jesus Christ. It will look like knowing what the Bible teaches and settling down on doctrines so that you are not tossed here and there by cunning men who can make nearly anything sound plausible to the weak.

What is the measure of the stature of Jesus Christ?
He already prayed this for us, remember? That we should 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints whatisthe breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
We need to know more about Jesus. Who is Jesus? What has He done for us? Why did He come to the Earth? Was He really human? Was He really God? Why did He have to die? What is the importance of the Resurrection? Where is Jesus now? What is He doing now? What is Jesus’s plan for the world? What is our place in Him during His current reign? These are all questions that you should know the answer to. If you do not, then you are not mature and measuring up to the knowledge of Jesus.
In this church we have people at all stages of maturity in Christ, from little babes to those who are seasoned with knowledge and experience. But the real measure of maturity is steadfast obedience. Paul is going to get to that in the succeeding chapters. But for now, he sees the connection to maturity in who Christ is, what He has done for us and our response to God’s work in Christ. 
Are you in Christ? Then you are a new creature. The old creature was born in sin and controlled by sin. The new creature is born in the work of Christ and is renewed with might in the inner man to do the works of righteousness.
These are great distinctions.

14 That we henceforthbe no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, andcunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  
Keep in mind that list of questions I asked you about Jesus. Who is He? What has He done? What does it mean for us? I would add some more. What is the Bible about? What is the connection that runs through the entire Old Testament and the New? How does God work out His plans in real time? What does this mean for us at this stage of the church age?

If you cannot quickly and clearly answer the questions I just asked then you are immature in the faith. That is not all bad. We are called in one sense to have a childlike faith, right? We are to simply trust Jesus, the way a little child trusts his parents. But we don’t want to send an 18 year old out in the world with the simple trusting mind of an 8 year old. He is a mark for every shyster in the land. They know that there is a sucker born every day and they are looking for one to pull a fast one on. Your children need to be brought up to wisdom so that they can stand on their own apart from your telling them every decision.
The same is true in our faith. We enter into Christ with a simple childlike faith. Good so far. But we don’t stay there. We do not trust every spirit. We test the spirits to see if they are from God. But how do we know? We learn the Scriptures. We learn what Christ has revealed in the world. We are not easily taken in because we are growing up into Christ. We learn Christ so that we tell the counterfeit. We learn our shepherds voice and are not easily swayed. We grow up to solid food and don’t keep turning back to milk.

EXHORTATION
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, evenChrist:  16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

What is it to grow up into Christ?
Speak the truth in love- Folks, please pay attention. We are people of the truth. We should never be afraid of the truth, whether it comes directly from the Scriptures or from a wise and caring friend, spouse or child.
It has been said that the truth hurts. And it can. Truth has hard edges. 

Truth says this is true and that is false. 
Example- God is Trinitarian, Father, Son and Spirit- so Allah cannot be God.

Truth says that this is right and that is wrongExample- A man and woman make a marriage and a man and man is a mirage. It is not simply somehow not the best or icky somehow, it is wrong in God’s eyes. It is sinful.

Truth speaks plainly and directly- Your behavior is sinful. You must stop getting drunk. You must not be angry with your wife and kids. You must stop gossiping or grumbling or complaining, about your husband, friends or family. You must stop complaining and start being thankful.
Truth is clear and not muddled- The truth of Christ is for all men everywhere.God’s ways and God’s truths are not relative. That is, true for some and not true for others in other places or other cultures. If fornication is a sin, then it is a sin in every culture in every country for every person on the Earth. If worshipping idols is a sin, then it is a sin for the Hindu as well as the Christian. God’s truths are absolute.
God’s Truths are eternal- One way to say this is the timeless truths of God. God is not old fashioned. He is ever present and current, so is His Word. We live in an age that likes to think itself hip and modern. The President constantly refers to this as scientific. This is an attempt to downplay the ancient truths of God’s Word and replace them with an evolutionary relativity. It goes something like this. “That may have been true in the 15thCentury, but science has shown us the light of truth for today.” 
But God’s truths are not pushed around by the shifting sands of science. They are solid and steadfast. Science can help establish them but when science and God’s clear truths are in conflict, the mature Christian always stays with God’s truths. It is clear, not muddled, not bounded by time or science.

Truth has all of these aspects and we are not being mature if we hear these things and shrink from them. If we do so, we are afraid of the truth. We can be bold about the truth. We can stand fast on the truth. And we must stand on God’s truth and resist every form of a lie.
At times, this may look pig headed. It may look arrogant. It may look proud. But looks can be deceiving. If you are in submission to God’s Word and His truth, then you are not being pig headed, arrogant or prideful. You are willing to change your view if you can be shown that you have mistaken God’s view.
However, God puts a wonderful check on us in the way that we speak truth. To avoid a haughty use of truth, He commands that we speak in love.

But Truth does not just speak by itself. 

It speaks in love.

True
Islam is a lie.
Homosexual behavior is sinful.
Complaining and grumbling is an offence to God.

But how do we say these things in love?
Islam is a lie, therefore we call on Muslims to turn from the darkness to the light of Jesus. Repent and receive the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The Homosexual lie is an ancient one. Some in the Scriptures were caught in it but turned to Jesus and were washed and healed. There is grace in Christ so come to him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle against continuing sins, drunkenness, anger, complaining, bitterness: there is grace in Jesus and a place of strength and maturity. You can be delivered from such sins and you can grow up into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ.
These are loving words and we should be pleased to speak them in the name of Jesus that me might be delivered from the lie and walk in the truth. If the body is able to speak the truth in love then they are growing up into Jesus Christ.
The truth in love is not defensive. It knows who it is. It is comfortable in its own skin. Because the body knows that its main goal is to love and please Jesus, then it is hard to offend and easy to forgive. That is the truth operating in love.
         So, let us heed these words and grow up in Christ.