Monday, March 25, 2019

Reconciled

Barnabas’s nephew, Mark, was the cause of a bitter separation between Paul and Barnabas. Paul took Silas as his assistant and Barnabas took Mark and they went their separate ways.

But later Paul and John Mark are reconciled and presumably Paul and Barnabas, as well.

These men must have finally realized the need to seek reconciliation because they, themselves, were reconciled to God in Christ.

Col 1:20-22 says we are reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight, if you continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel…

This reconciliation of men to God and men to men is accomplished through the body of His flesh through death. The result is that we are presented before God as holy, unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight. That is powerful language.

That is how you sit here in God’s presence, as long as you continue in the faith grounded and settled. You are reconciled. Holy. Blameless. Without reproof. This is the power of the gospel.

Taste and See

We have been talking about blindness and vision. The Scriptures encourage us to taste and see that the Lord is good. Of course, it is encouraging us to examine the Lord and His work, and to fully embrace Him, that is, taste His goodness.

In this meal, we get to taste and see that the Lord is good. In this meal, we examine the bread and wine, and we contemplate not just the work of the Lord but the work of the Lord for us, for me, for you.

The bread, the body, the wine, the blood. The life of Jesus spilled out to give you life. The Father’s love, who gave His only Son for you and His indwelling Holy Spirit, our Comforter. Taste all of the goodness and see that the Lord is good.

Full of Jesus

This meal is Christ’s bounty to you. The Father sent the Son and the Son gave His all for you. He laid Himself down, the sacrifice consumed by the Father as wholly pleasing. And if you are in Jesus, then you are wholly pleasing to the Father, as well.

Jesus promised to save you. He promised to be with you and never leave you. He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with you that you might have life and that abundantly. His Spirit testifies that the Father is the Creator of all things and that the Son is the Savior of the World.

When you eat and drink in faith, you acknowledge the Father’s grace and mercy in His Son. As you eat and drink in faith, you are filled up with Jesus Christ, knowing that He is the Alpha and the Omega, and all points in between, for in Him is life and health and peace. Eat and drink in faith and be filled with Jesus Christ.

Well Fed

Hagar and Ismael were perishing of thirst in the wilderness within sight of the well of their salvation. They simply had to look up to see that God had provided life for them. But their circumstances were too overwhelming. All they could do was sit down in desperation to die.

Ishmael called out to God and God sent an angel to deliver them from death.

You have come to church this morning for various reasons and in various conditions. Some in despair, some in joy, some in hope, some in pain, some in doubt, some in great faith but all of you within eyesight of the well of salvation.

All of the ancient promises of God, even the promise in laughing Isaac, were pointing at Jesus. Do you see Him? Here we are again at Communion, the Son of God, given for you. Do you believe this? If so, then you are well watered, well fed. The well of Salvation has been provided for you. Eat and drink and be filled.

You Know Me

We can take this phrase two ways. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd. When we come to the Lord’s Table, it is familiar, we know the Lord Jesus has given Himself for us and we gladly do what He told us to do to remember His death and to embrace His life.

It is also a command, Know Me. It is our duty to get to know Jesus better and this regular meal informs us. We contemplate who Jesus is and what He has done. We remember that He told us to eat this memorial meal until He comes again. So, He desires that we remind ourselves again and again about who He is and what He has done and what it means for us to be in Him. This fulfills His command for us to know Him.

You do know Him and what He has done and that He extends His grace to you daily and in this meal. Embrace Christ Jesus given for you.

Tangible Signs



God is kind to us. He knows our frame, that we are but babes in many ways. That is why He gives us tangible signs, water, bread and wine.
         In the water, we see that God has washed us from sin. The water washes the body but it represents the blood that washes the soul. If your faith is weak, remember your baptism, the water and the blood.
         He also gives us bread and wine. At Communion, we feast on Jesus Christ. To some, a macabre picture. But these things are Spirit and life. We receive Jesus, His broken body of death that satisfied divine justice. We receive His blood which cleanses us from all unrighteousness. If your faith is weak, remember God’s invitation to Commune with Him in the bread and in the wine.
         The water, and the bread and the wine; tangible signs of God’s grace, mercy and kindness extended to you in Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Lasik



You heard me say before that spankings improve memory. They do. They also improving hearing. Now, seriously, I don’t mean they literally improve hearing or memory. But discipline does change your desire to do that which is right. And when you have the will to do that which is right, then obedience follows.
         Now this sort of discipline also improves vision. It enables you to see who God is and to remember to keep looking with eyes of faith. We all need spiritual lasik surgery. When the Lord disciplines us, it is so that he can heal our hearing and our vision, so that He can give us ears that hear and eyes that see that Jesus is Lord of everything.
         Use this time of confession and repentance as a spiritual discipline so that the Lord can do His spiritual lasik so that you can taste and see that the Lord is good.

Great Mercy

Dear Saints, we know that the Lord is merciful. He looks down upon us, considers our frames, and through the shed blood of Jesus, forgives our sins so that we might dwell with Him in peace. 
But He is more than merciful. He has great mercy. His mercy extends far beyond what we consider prudent or just or even wise. His mercy is lavish. It goes beyond the pale. Like the father of the prodigal, He reaches down to us and extends His kindness, love and joy to us. We may squander His lavishness but when we come to our senses and return to Him, He kills the fatted calf and throws a feast in our honor. That is great mercy.

Laugh of Unbelief

When you laugh, how do you laugh? Do you laugh in unbelief, like Sarah, when she heard she was to have a child? She thought she was beyond the blessing of God, too old, too used up, to receive the promise, even from the Almighty God. That is one temptation.
         Or, do you laugh like Sarah after the birth of Isaac, as one who cannot believe the manifold blessings of God to have actually fallen on her? She bore a child and was amazed. Why would the Lord bless her so?
         Or do you laugh like Ishmael, who thinks he has privileges over others, the most important son, who cannot see his own haughtiness? 
         Is your laugh the right kind of laugh? We should be amazed at God’s kindness to us, even in the midst of impossible circumstances. We should respond like Abraham who believed that God would do what He said He would do, namely provide the well of salvation for us in His Son, Jesus. 
         If your laughter is unbelief, or scorn, or haughtiness, then turn to Christ now in faith and look to God’s promises in Jesus.

Living Water

When we drink from the well of life, from the fount of living water, we have life in ourselves. Jesus said to the woman at the well, drink from the water that I shall give you and you shall never thirst again. What water? The water of life. The Words that He spoke to her were spiritual and life-giving. She had only to believe that Jesus was the Christ, to repent of her sins and to follow Jesus.  Drink of that water and you will have all the water you will ever need.
Believing in Jesus is the well of salvation, embracing Christ Jesus in all that He is; Lord of all, Savior of the world, the perfect sacrifice who gave His own body and blood, the author and finisher of our faith, the risen Lord, the sender of the Holy Spirit, the one coming again at the end of the age. Drink of that water and you will have all the water you will ever need.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Covenant Renewal

At Every Covenant Renewal Service,

you should

1. Come into God’s presence
We get called in. It is imperative. You have to come.
2. Confess and Repent of any outstanding sins 
Do this everyday but if the Spirit brings up anything you haven't confessed and repented of, do it now.
3. Receive the Lord’s pardon
Stop groveling in regret, shame and guilt. Stand up forgiven, bold in the presence of the Lord.
4. Forgive anyone that has wronged you
Really, you can do this today. Even big wrongs against you. It only takes a few seconds, if you will.
5. Rejoice with singing
How can such forgiven and forgiving sinners not rejoice?
6. Hear the Word of the Lord, read, preached, and applied
Not just hear it with your ears, but hear it with your heart.
7. Be a hearer of the Word and not just a doer
Now do it. When the charge of the Word is clear, your resistance is disobedience.
8. Commune with God and His people
At the Lord's Supper, you should be at peace with God and as far as it depends upon you, at peace with all saints. Then sit down and eat with them.
9. Depart in peace
Go out in His peace, peace with God and men to fulfill His mandate for every knee to bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Take Heed, Pay Attention

One of our big problems is forgetting, or shall we say, failing to remember. Another major sin we regularly commit, is not paying attention. Parents do this when they fail to notice where their little ones are and what they are doing. The parents sin, as well as the children, when these little ones get into trouble. The problem compounds itself as the children age and get into bigger trouble because the parents are asleep.
         One good place to practice paying attention is here at church. Pay attention to the liturgy. What is going on? What does it mean? What does it mean for me? For my wife? For my husband? For my children? For our relationships together? There is a tremendous amount going on here each Lord’s Day and you cannot get out of the responsibility because you did not understand. You did not understand because you did not pay attention. You did not heed the Word, the Spirit. Stop doing that. Stop passing the buck. Stop making excuses. Instead, take heed, pay attention.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Love Extended

The Heavenly Father loves you and sent His Son to Earth for you. Jesus spoke the words of life and is Himself, the way, the truth and the life.

Jesus loves you and sought you with His words. He showed His love by gathering His sheep, feeding them bread and wine, word and sacrament, and He lost not one, except the son of perdition.

The Holy Spirit loves you and abides with you to testify of the Father and of the Son. His light shines in the darkness brighter and brighter until a full day.

All of this goodness offered here to you is because of the free gift of God in His Son, Jesus. When we take and eat and drink, we declare His glory and we partake in that glory through His grace, mercy and love extended to us. This is joy and gladness.

Thanksgiving

Prayer of Thanksgiving
         Our Father in Heaven, all good things are from Your hand. You grant us life, sustenance, physical and spiritual health, perseverance in times of suffering and trial, hope for the future, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Use us, Lord, to advance Your kingdom so that Your will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Bless those who faithfully give You their tithes and offerings. Provide for their every financial need and help them to see that You are the great source of all provision. Amen.

Prayer of Preparation
         Our Father, as we come to this Table of Blessing, we come with grateful hearts. You have reckoned us as righteous because we come to You in the name of Jesus, Your Son. We have been washed in His blood, as He gave Himself for us. And we have been raised to new life in Him as death could not hold Him in the tomb. Grant us life, health and peace as we eat and drink this memorial of our Lord Jesus. Amen.


Corporate Confession

Our Father in Heaven, we confess and repent of our sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. Grant us Your favor as we lay our sins upon Jesus and receive the righteousness that You offer us in Him. Renew our hearts and minds in Your Holy Spirit that we might walk in the power of new life in Christ. Amen.

Praise

Our Father in Heaven, we glorify Your Holy Name. It is a wonder to us that You sent Your Son to save us from our sins and that He became man and dwelt among us. Furthermore, He took upon Himself a true body that He might become like us in all things and yet without sin. He suffered the humiliation of being baptized as a sinner in need of repentance that He might fulfill all righteousness. Like John Baptist, we cannot comprehend how this ought to be and yet we gladly receive the righteousness of our Lord. All glory to You, Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God's Sons and Daughters

 John Baptist was reluctant to baptize Jesus because he knew that he needed to be washed by Jesus. But Jesus required John to baptize Him anyway. Jesus was not afraid to be identified with sinners or even to be considered a sinner, even though He never sinned. 
         We must not shrink away from God because we are unworthy in ourselves. It is no secret that we are sinners but if we are in Jesus, He was washed for us, and we are washed in Him. The stain of sin is gone as Christ has forgiven us our sins. The Heavenly Father was pleased with His Son who came from Heaven to Earth to make us His sons and daughters. And He is pleased with us, His children, and has raised us from Earth to Heaven. 

Repent and Believe the Gospel

John the Baptist and had message in the wilderness, Repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus began His ministry with a message, Repent and believe the gospel.
         To repent is to turn away from sin and death, your natural fallen state, and to Christ. To repent is to turn from particular sins, gossip, drunkenness, lust, greed, bitterness, confess them, repent, turn to Jesus.
         To believe is to put your trust in, to know by faith that it is true, to have certainty of things apprehended without scientific precision.
         The Gospel is God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. You deserved to die but He did. You were dead in your sins but He raised you up and justified you before the Father. He is long-suffering and quick to forgive sins. The gospel is that Jesus is Lord of everything and your Lord. 
         When you repent and believe the gospel you bow the knee to Jesus, the Christ and our Lord and Savior.

Friday, January 18, 2019

24 Things About Jesus

         There are really only two important questions to answer in this life. Who is God? And, Who am I?
         The first one, Who is God has to do with the nature, person and work of God.
         The second has to do with how you relate to Him. What does He require of me? Will I submit to His rule or not?
         If you answer these questions in the right way, then you are in the right way. If not, then you are lost.
         The question, Who is God?, cannot be answered without God’s help. He has to reveal the answer. He hints at the answer through nature and it is such a big hint that men are guilty if they do not serve Him. However, nature does not fully reveal God. That takes special revelation.
         Jesus tells us that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. Furthermore, we are told that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. In order to know who God is, we must know who Jesus is.
         And the Word has much to say about the nature, person and work of Jesus.
         Just in the first few chapters of Matthew, even at the very beginning of the work of Jesus, we know much about His person and therefore know much about God. We are very culpable if we do not know and heed Him.
         In just the first 4 chapters of Matthew, we have already learned at least 24 character traits of Jesus.  These all answer the questions, “Who is Jesus? What is Jesus like?” That helps you answer the questions, “Who am I in Jesus?, What should I be like?”
         We know some of these truths about Jesus. But some of them catch us off guard, make us reevaluate Jesus and thus make adjustments to who we are. Start reading your Bibles more carefully!

1. Savior- Jesus 1:21- This is a primary characteristic. He likes to save people.
2. Emmanuel 1:23- God is with us in Jesus. Jesus is with people.
3. King- Son of David 1:1- He is a man but a great one, a royal king.
4. Woodsman who lays an axe- 3:10- He is not afraid of work and hard and damning work at that. Jesus will cut down those who despise and reject Him.
5. Husbandman who winnows and divides 3:12- He winnows the wheat from the chaff. The chaff is burned in the fire. 
6. Identifies with sinners at baptism for sinners 3:15- He is not afraid to be reckoned with sinners.
7. Beloved Son 3:17- He does His Father’s will and the Father is pleased with Him.
8. Residing place of Holy Spirit 3:16- The Holy Spirit resides on and in Him and therefore Jesus always walks according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
9. Knows solitude, loneliness, suffering, aloneness 4:1- He is driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to a lonely place.
10. Disciplined, He fasts 40 days 4:2
11. Good listener, He heard the devil clearly- IF thou be…4:3- Jesus pays attention when people talk to Him, even in the midst of temptations, even in the midst of crowds.
12. Bible literate, quotes to devil 4:4- Jesus is not easily taken in by the teaching and traditions of devils or men. He knows what the Bible really teaches.
13. Authoritative, get thee hence Satan 4:10- Jesus is not afraid of the devil or the men that devils motivate. He speaks to them directly and they depart.
14. From questionable heritage, Rachab, Tamar, Bathsheba, 1:1-17- Jesus was from a kingly line but the line was tainted. He was not afraid to claim prostitutes and Gentiles in His heritage. His pride was in God’s work not man’s perfections.
15. Attracted to darkness, Capernaum, Naphtali, Zabulon 4:16- Jesus went to dark places because He was the light.
16. Preacher 4:17- Jesus did not have a soft and easy message of a minister, or a bible teacher, or speaker or one who shares a message. He preached.
17. Preacher of Repentance 4:17- Jesus not only preached, His message was far different than what goes for preaching in many quarters today. He didn’t share to make people feel good. Most of the time, His sermons made people feel bad, or even mad. But to those who responded by repenting, He healed them.
18. Walker 4:18- He walked around and with people and sometimes alone. He was an outdoor person.
19. Leader who gave orders., Follow Me 4:18- Jesus didn’t do much suggesting or challenging. He just said it with a “Thus sayeth the Lord authority.” The authorities hated this and the common people loved it.
20. Didn’t mind causing problems in families, He called Peter and Andrew and James and John away from their work. 4:18- Jesus didn’t consult these men about whether His demands would cause problems with his parents, their business or friends. He just said it and let the consequences work themselves out in the will of God.
21. Teacher 4:23- Teaching seems to be distinct from preaching. It has a more patient and careful aspect. He sometimes preaches, then takes aside His disciples and explains the difficult preaching.
22. Healer of lunatics, demon possessed, palsy 4:23- Jesus loves messed up people. He desires them to be delivered and made whole. Sometimes they come to Him. Sometimes He goes to them.
23. Preacher of the gospel of the Kingdom 4:23- He not only preached repentance but the gospel of the Kingdom. That message is bigger than repentance and salvation or healing. It includes the Christ, the Messiah, the one who would fill the shoes of David and rule on David’s throne forever.
24. Leader, great multitudes followed Him 4:25- Jesus led but He was an interesting leader. He was so direct about things and said such difficult things that He often lost lots of followers. But He was so charismatic in His teaching and His ministry that people were drawn to Him and followed Him.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

God's Glory

As many of you know, I had a massive heart attack on September 21, 2018, suffered cardiac arrest, no heart beats, no breathing, and was saved by my neighbor who rushed into my house to do heart compressions, and the EMTs who showed up to shock my heart back into beating.

It is a bit odd having a 'back from the dead' experience. Many people have asked me if I had an out of body experience or saw Jesus. I did not. I went down on that Friday afternoon, was rushed to the hospital, sent straight to the Cath Lab, had a stent put in my heart and was put into an induced hypothermic coma. I was silent on Saturday and rose from that coma of death on Sunday morning. I know, it all sounds contrived, but it is all true. I don't remember the few minutes before my heart attack on Friday up to about Sunday evening. It was just the darkness.

I've actually had a bit of a tough time dealing with the reality of what happened to me. That's normal I hear. I am thankful for my wife, children, grandchildren, family, church and friends that I did not die, or stay dead. But I have been a bit indifferent about that myself. Part of the indifference is wondering exactly why the Lord saved me? There is no way for me to know that in the details and I will just have to wait and see what He does with me. I find myself wanting to 'make it count.' But I also find myself feeling wholly incapable of making it count.

Part of the reason I have not been able to find much joy in my salvation, thus far, is that I feel like I really don't deserve it. I have other friends who have recently lost loved ones and they seem much more worthy than I to have survived. This is a bit of survivors guilt, no doubt, but it is also bad theology. Or shall I say bad 'applied' theology. My theology is fine but sometimes getting it from the Bible into my head (or yours) takes a great deal of work. Or maybe, not work, just resting in the truth of the thing, just faith.

I have finally realized that I can really rejoice in my salvation and give Jesus all the glory for saving me, and actually be excited about it, if I come to better terms with the fact that I really don't deserve it. That does not make the situation worse. It makes it better. I don't deserve what the Lord has done for me, and that is what makes it all grace. That is what makes it really redound to the glory of Jesus. Furthermore, I can be thankful that He loves me, that out of His own good pleasure and sovereign will He chose to bestow life on me who was dead. Is this not a reason to glory in Him? Is this not a reason to rejoice in God, my Savior?

I've felt the pressure to be somebody, to do something, to make my life after death count. But that is not the point, at all. I will be whatever the Lord makes of me. I trust that if I faithfully follow Him, that something will be good, whatever it is. But the really great person in all of this is Jesus. He is the One who bestows life as He sees fit. He is the One who takes life and gives it. And if He has chosen to grant me life, and even life after death, then I really only have one thing to do. Give God the glory.

Thank You, Lord, for sparing me from death. Thank You on behalf of my wife, children, family, friends, church, CREC, and anyone else who I may have the opportunity to point to Jesus. Thank You from my own heart, my damaged, broken, dying, dead and restored heart. I am grateful for Your kindness to me, Your love for me, shown in this special and miraculous work of saving me. I am honored that You chose to strike me down on a Friday and raise me up on a Sunday. I feel almost ashamed that You should bestow this honor on me, to have me walk so obviously in the path of my Lord Jesus. But I am reminded that all who are in Christ Jesus have also died with Him on Friday and have been raised to new life in Him on Sunday. So, I am highly honored, Father, to proclaim this truth and I thank You for teaching it to me in such a profound way. May this all bring glory to You, to Your Son, Jesus, and to Your Holy Spirit. Amen.


One Family

There are many different people represented here. Men, women, girls, boys, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, bosses, employees. In the world, there is a pecking order and men lord it over one another. But not so in Jesus Christ. God is no respecter of persons. 
All who are called by His name through the shed blood of Jesus Christ are made partakers of the benefits of Christ in the outpouring of His Holy Spirit, and are recipients of special favor with God, the Father. Such men, women and children have access to God, even into the Holy of Holies. All barriers to God have been taken down and there is not favor bestowed as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, but only as children of the Most High, joint heirs with Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can truly unite us in our differences. In Christ Jesus, and only in Christ Jesus, are we are one family of God. 

Communion Prayer

Our Father, You have gathered us together as Your people to hear Your promises to us and our pledges of faithfulness to You. We know that we partake of this covenantal meal only because of the grace that You have extended to us through Your own dear Son, Jesus Christ. We lay hold of Him by faith and trust that You will visit us for blessing as we eat and drink this covenantal meal. Amen.

Thanksgiving

Our Father in Heaven, we thank You for the gospel that Jesus Christ has paid for our sins on the cross and that He is our risen and reigning Lord. In Him we have victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. In Christ, we even have victory over death, since He has risen from the dead and we are risen in Him. We are thankful to You for the good news that is Jesus and present ourselves before You in His name. Amen.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Colossians 3:18-4:1 Wives, Husband, Children, Workers, Masters

Colossians 3:18-4:1
Wives, Husband, Children, Workers, Masters
12/30/2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         I suppose now we finally get to the subject matter that many of you were hoping to hear. How am I to be a good Christian wife, husband, child, parent or worker or boss?
         We always want to run ahead to the practical teaching before we spend time in the Biblical, doctrinal or theological teaching. We have already spent several sessions looking at who Jesus is, what He requires of us and how we are to conduct ourselves in the life of the church. 
         If we rightly understand who Jesus is and who we are in Him, then by the time we come to the very practical how tos of marriage and family, the hard work is already done for us.
         Jesus is the ruler of everything. This means that He rules me. He rules you. When we submit to His rule, we have a new orientation to all things, particularly heavenly and earthly things. Or shall we say, spiritual and fleshly things. Our desires start to line up with His desires and we begin to live the life of the Spirit.
         This life of the Spirit does not just govern our lives in the church, or Sunday worship, but is to be pushed out into all the corners of our lives. As the last section told us, Do everything that you do for the sake of Jesus.
         So, we ask the Bible, How shall I be a wife, a husband, a child, a parent, a worker, a boss. And the Bible says, “Very glad you asked, thanks, I’ve got an answer for you.”

EXEGESIS
Col. 3:18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 
Wives are to submit to husbands. We are told elsewhere, she is to submit in all things. He adds, as is fitting in the Lord. It is fitting for wives in the Lord to submit to their husbands. This means that it is unfitting when Christian wives do not submit to their husbands. It is unbecoming, ugly.

Praise

Our Father, just as Mary’s did, our souls magnify You, O Lord. Our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. You have regarded the low estate of Your servants. In Christ Jesus, You have greatly blessed us. You are mighty and have done great things for us. Holy is Your name. Your mercy is on those who fear You from generation to generation. You have shown strength with Your arm and have scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. You have put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. You have filled the hungry with good things and sent away the rich empty. You have helped Your people, remembering Your mercy to us, as You spoke to our Father Abraham concerning his seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we trust, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Clothed in Christ

As we talk about where or who you once were apart from Christ, then we must also talk about where you now are and who you now are in Christ. The Scriptures talk about putting on Christ. That is, you are clothed in Christ. In a sense, Jesus is not only in you, He is on you, all around you, covering you from head to toe.

He covers you for grace and for good. He covers up your sins so that you appear as He is, transformed in garments brilliantly white. The blotch of sin and death is no longer your identity, but rather, the brilliance and sinlessness of Jesus Christ.

How can this be? Because your faith in Jesus is reckoned to you as righteousness, as if you were clothed in the white robe of Jesus, Himself. This meal represents the body and blood of Christ, given for you that completely covers you inside and out. Clothed in Christ, there is nothing else you need in order to stand in the presence of God without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Glory be to God in the Highest. Amen.

Jesus Sent For You

12/23/2018
Dear Saints, we are waiting for Christmas, waiting for a Messiah, waiting for Jesus. The Father sent the Son to save His people, those beloved ones that bear the name of God, who have been baptized into Christ. This is you plural, y’all, the body of Christ. What a blessing to be a part of the people of God, saved from their enemies of sin and death.
         If Jesus was sent for you plural, y’all, then He was necessarily sent for you, singular, you personally. For many of us, this truth is too wonderful for us. We know ourselves and have a hard time believing that God would set His love upon us, personally, and send His Son to live and die for us. But He has done this. Jesus was sent for you. Rejoice and give thanks.

Colossians 3:1-17 Put Off Put On

Colossians 3:1-17
Put Off, Put On
December 23, 2018
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         He just told us various ways in which we cannot be helped along in our Christian faith. The lies of pseudo-science, agnostic academia, and man-made religion all subvert our growth in Christ and lead to damnation for those who abandon Jesus and the way, the truth and the life. 
So, how do we walk in this newness of life in Jesus Christ? He says that we have put off the old ways and are to put on the new ways. The Bible elsewhere speaks of this as being clothed in Christ. We have put off the garments stained by our old man of sin and have put on the new man of righteousness, our Savior Jesus. So, since you are clothed in Jesus, then walk around in Jesus.

EXEGESIS
Col. 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
         Where is Jesus Christ? He is at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. In Heaven, the Lord’s will is done perfectly. We pray in the Lord’s prayer that His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. This is part of our task in discipling the nations. We are co-heirs with Jesus Christ.
         Since Jesus is seated in the heavenlies and we are seated with Him, we are to learn to set our minds on heavenly things and not on earthly matters. We are in the world but not of the world.
         To gain a heavenly perspective, we need to see the world from above, if you will. This is not easy. It takes practice. We are learning to do this. From the trials in our lives, to our answered and unanswered prayers, to the

Christmas Eve Homily 2018- Light After Darkness

Christmas Eve Homily 2018
Light After Darkness
         The dark of a clear winter night is an awful and majestic place. It is awful in its darkness, in its frigid temperature, in its length. Will the darkness end? Will the sun rise? Will the warmth return to the earth?
         Some of you have spent time in the night or pre-dawn hours waiting for the sun to rise. It is a long wait. Perhaps you have had an all-night drive in the darkness in the long dreary tired fight against sleep that the night occasions. The morning dawn will arouse you like a double shot of espresso, if only you can get there. But the night drags on and the eyes grow heavy with sleep. You cannot even stay awake one hour!
         Or, maybe you were in your favorite hunting spot or an early morning hike to watch the sunrise and in the waiting the dark and the cold and the silence, were slow in their desire to diminish. The night creeps on and as the day grows closer, the cold grows deeper. The cold sets in and while the night is present, even in the glimmer of hope that is the pre-dawn glow, the cold grows deeper and deeper, even down into the bones.
         But the night is also majestic in its splendor. The stars and the moon in the cold courses sing of the majesty of the Creator. They long for the morning, too, so that they must decrease and He must increase. Their distance and their faint light is both awe inspiring and insufficient. There is no light of day. There is no heat. And so even the creation longs for the revelation of the sunrise.
         The saints of old longed to see the consolation of Israel, the one who would save them from their enemies. They had seen the awful majesty of God and yet longed for His glory to fill the earth. 
         It was on a longing night like this that the angel announced to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night that the savior is born for you this day in the city of David. 
         Our waiting upon God is often like that, cold, long, dark. But dear flock, on this Christmas Eve, let it be known to each one of you that a Savior is born for you who is Christ the Lord. He is the One who will save you from your sins. Of the increase of His government and of His peace there shall be no end. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
         The long wait is over. The sun arises. The light of that longed for day is soon upon us. God has shed His glorious light and the warmth of His Holy Spirit into our hearts and into the heart of all the Earth. Our gift has arrived. It is Christmas. Glory to God.

Friday, December 21, 2018

He Came to Die

This meal is a reminder of the Lord’s Death until He comes again. At this season, we remember the Lord’s birth. This memory is full of happiness and rejoicing. But we must remember God’s purpose in bringing the Son to the Earth. Ultimately, it was to suffer and die for sinners.
We can never really separate the Lord’s birth from His death. And while we remember the Lord’s death as a serious and somber event, it is not a tragically sad event. We are on this side of the cross and are on this side of the Resurrection. His death was not tragic, it was purposeful to the very details. 

The cross was Jesus suffering and dying for sinners but it is our hope and life and health and joy. Our sins are nailed to the cross with Jesus and thus we are free from the condemnation of the law declaring us guilty. By law, guilty. By grace in the death of Christ, not-guilty. That is why we rejoice and take encouragement in this meal that remembers the Lord’s death until He comes. Glory to God in the highest.

Preparing a Place

In many ways, we can never prepare a place for God. Where would you put Him? The guest bedroom does not seem quite good enough. But we ought to prepare a place for the Lord. We do so by preparing our hearts. We come to understand that we need a Savior when we see ourselves as we really are. We are needy. We are sinful. We are unable to save ourselves.
         In this sense, Jesus must get the master bedroom. You move out and He moves in. But not just to get the nicest room. I mean master in the sense of the Sovereign Lord. You move out of the master because you have humbled yourself before the real master. 
         So, prepare yourself for Jesus by confessing sins and acknowledging that He is Lord and that you are His servant. But not just servant, but rather a servant that has been adopted as child and thus exalted with and in Jesus. This truth also makes us want to lay aside the sin which so easily entangles.

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.