Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas EXHORTATION-Better to Give

We all face the temptation to not be thankful. The only reason we are ultimately unthankful is if we are not satisfied with our lives, and though it hurts us to say so, if we are not satisfied with the God who gave us this life. We seldom break it down to this degree. We like to think that we really are satisfied with life except for some really small inconveniences that we want to get fixed. But if we are honest, this is not really the case. If you get the big problems fixed, the little ones become comparatively insignificant. While I do not want to make light of serious trials and suffering, this is also true of these hard providences. For even then, having a godly perspective enables us to live in joy, even in earthly sorrows. And this is not contradictory.

For most of us, life swims along at a pleasant pace and we do not give ultimate ideas much time in thought. We spend our days worried about tonight’s dinner, getting the Christmas letter out, wrapping presents, dealing with the extended family, wondering if we’ll have enough money to pay our bills once our spending on presents is accounted for. For some, these worries set in as thieves to steal away true joy, particularly, the joy of the reason for doing all of these things. The answer to this is right thinking and right thinking usually comes when one steps back to gain proper perspective.

What do you have that has not been given to you by the hand of a benevolent Father? What do you lack that has not been held back from you by the hand of a benevolent and wise Father? Behind all of our good and pleasant gifts and behind all of our good and unpleasant gifts is a God who is intimately concerned with us. We must receive all that he brings us knowing that He has thought well about what He is doing, about what kind of gifts He is dispensing.

Of course, at this time of year, we also receive gifts from others, all of whom are not as thoughtful as our God. Some of them do not give us the perfect gifts. Our tendency may be to be disappointed or unthankful. But I must remind you that behind even their unthoughtful gift is a thoughtful God. God has given you such parents, such friends, such children. And He has determined that their gift is fitting for you. But I didn’t want…but it doesn’t fi….but I hate this color… but I, but I, I, I, I, I, I…..Starting to get the point?

It is a blessing to get. The Bible clearly teaches this. We should rejoice in the fact that others love us so much that they give of their substance to us. Getting presents is a good thing. But it is better to give than to receive. We must make our receiving full of grace and thankfulness and we must seek to learn the blessedness of giving over and above the blessedness of getting. God showed us the way by sending His Son. He receives us but He gave a better gift than the one He got back. Let us learn the lesson. And let us learn that all of God’s gifts to us are good. Be thankful. And if you are tempted to be unthankful in getting, then learn to be completely thankful in giving. And may God be honored and praised at the end of the day for all of it.

The Savior is Born-Sermon Intro

At Christmas time the obvious text is the birth of the Christ Child in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. It is a beautiful story of God’s graciousness and provision to a young couple in dire straights. Joseph and Mary were poor and needy and the God of the universe provided for them, albeit with meager means, by our standards. There was no room for them in the inn, the place where proper men dwelt, so God provided for them in a stable, or as some legends have it, in a cave.

Instead of being appalled at the enormity of the insult to our God and the blessed Virgin and her betrothed husband, we romanticize the event. But there was little romance in it. Many of you here have had, or have witnessed the experience of having, a baby. It is frought with dangers, even in the most modern medical facilities. Having babies is dangerous business. Can you imagine going into labor on a cold winter night in a place far from home with your only recourse being to the nearest barn or a hole carved into a cliff? Far from romantic, this experience would be the most frightening.

Put on top of that the fact that Mary knew that she was carrying the Son of God. I assume that she was able to place that burden into the arms of God, Himself. But I have wondered about this. Perhaps she felt the burden of protecting Him against enemies, keeping Him alive, nurturing him until His time had come. Joseph and Mary eventually do flee to Egypt to keep the boy Jesus alive. God used them as His protector and they clearly felt the weight of this duty to some degree unknown to us.

Of course, the story of the shepherds is wonderful, too. The angel appeared to them and they were moved to seek out the Messiah, Christ the Lord. How moved and surprised they must have been to see the baby Jesus, not in royal robes or a king’s carriage but wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough.

The visit of the wise men was no doubt some time later. But even they were no doubt equally amazed to find the baby Jesus in the home of poor laborers of Israel, rather than in the King’s palace that they had expected.

The story is beautiful. But if we give it just a little more thought than our cute children’s Christmas pageants, we see that something quite unexpected is going on. God has entered creation and humanity in a way that would never have been foreseen by the wise of this world.
Our sermon title is Joy to the World. And great joy it is. But unless we see the enormity of the need, we have a hard time understanding the exceedingly great nature of the joy.

We understand, to some degree, the plight of fallen man. In Adam all fell into sin and were in need of being saved from this wretched state. In the very beginning, in the garden, God made a promise to Eve, the mother of all living. Gen 3:15 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

One day, the seed of the woman would rise up and crush the seed of the serpent. He would give that serpent a final crushing blow to the head. This promise grows as God systematically reveals His will towards men.

Through the ages, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph and Moses, to David and His seed, the vision of this promise grew. Israel understood that God had made this promise and though they have seen partial fulfillments of His promise in beating back enemies, in restoring them to the land, in the rebuilding of the temple, the final crushing blow never arrives. They wait upon the Lord. They know that one day God will raise up a King that will be King of kings and Lord of lords. They knew that of His government there shall be no end.

Each victory over their enemies must have occasioned all sorts of hope that the Messiah was soon to arrive to save the people Israel from their enemies. But time marched on and their futility marched on. And hope waxed old and the chosen people grew cold. And in this coldness, on a cold night, with a cold heart turning away a poor pregnant woman in labor, God’s promise to humanity is born.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Communion Thoughts-Good Shepherd

MEDITATION
The Shepherds were keeping watch over the sheep in the fields by night. They were diligent by day and through the night. They were faithful to their master so that they would not lose even one sheep. Gabriel appeared to these shepherds to announce the coming of the Great Chief Shepherd, one who is ever faithful to all that His Father calls Him to do. He has been given charge of the sheep and of them He shall lose none.

We often emphasize the truth that if you do not stay in Christ then you are not in Christ. If you do not remain with Him until the last day, you will not receive the good rewards of the last day. And this is most true. But for some, particularly those weak of faith, or in a place of doubt or a season of trial, battered and bruised reeds, these words bring doubt and fear. How do I know if I will remain until the last day? Will I be able to hang on to Jesus that long?

You need to hear the parable of the Good Shepherd. It is not you that hang on to Him but He that holds you. The Lord knows His sheep, calls them all by name and leads them. They know their Shepherd and follow Him.

How can you know if you will be His sheep at the last day? Are you His sheep now? If you are His sheep now, then you will be His sheep then. Do you love His appearing? Do you long to hear His voice? Are you in need of His kindness and protection? Then take heart, no one, no man, no wolf, no false shepherd, no devil, can take you from the Chief Shepherd’s hand. Remain in His flock. Stay in His fold. Eat in His pasture. Drink from His well and be at peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Exhortation-Fourth Sunday in Advent

This is the fourth Sunday of Advent. The Shepherd of our souls is come.

There were shepherds in the land during the Advent of our Lord. They had been commissioned by God, entrusted with the very oracles of God and set over the house of Israel for good. But they were not true to their oaths to their master. Instead of protecting the sheep, they began to feed on the sheep. Instead of killing wolves and foreign invaders, they, themselves, were in league with them, allowing them to climb into the sheepfold and devour the sheep. These shepherds were dastardly cunning and hurt, rather than helped, the sheep. They did not gently lead the sheep but ever drove them on before with threats. And so their master, the God of Heaven, brought forth a new Shepherd, one who would do all His holy will.

To herald His coming, He sent His angels to appear to true shepherds of Israel, watching over their flocks by night. He did not send the message to His former shepherds for they had grown weary of well-doing and watching over the sheep. But these shepherds, who saw the angel, were ever faithful. They recognized the day of the Lord’s visitation, welcomed Him as their Chief Shepherd, their baby King, and worshipped Him in the manger.

But the false shepherds were ever wary of a new Chief Shepherd, for they were not busy about the Master’s business and had been negligent in their duties. They had lost many sheep and eaten many more. They knew that His coming would be their doom. And so they opposed all who would come in the Master’s name, and forbid Him to take the authority and care over the sheep. This was an insult to their pride as well as to their bellies.

The Lord has given duties to those in authority. All who are in authority must do all the Father’s will, watching over their charges. This is true, whether it be the wife of your youth, the children in your home, the employees in your care, or the souls in the charge of elders and pastors in the Church. We are to be faithful to our duties, being ready to give an answer to the Chief Shepherd when He appears. Of course, as Christians, we do not do this, we cannot do this, on our own. The Spirit of the Chief Shepherd must enable us to accomplish this difficult and never-ending work. We must confess when we have failed and seek His forgiveness and His strength to do this work. And so prove to be a faithful shepherd to the One Chief Shepherd.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Amen! and Amen!

In this church we say Amen together in many places. We pray at the opening of the service as we praise God. At the end we say, Amen. We mean to say, "We love God and offer Him praise. We agree that this is our duty and our joy." We then sing a song to praise Him. Again, as a congregation we say, "Amen." We mean something more now. We agree with the words of the song. We Amen the song in agreement to abide by its words, to proclaim what God has done and to declare our allegiance to Him.

We confess our sins and say, "Amen." We admit, as a body, that we have fallen short and are in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. We pray in Jesus name, Amen. Our Amen says, "Truly, our salvation is in Him and no other." We read the scriptures and say, "Amen." In this, we confess the Word of God as the Word of God and swear our allegiance to it, understanding that obedience brings blessing, disobedience brings cursing. Our Amen leaves us without excuse. We sing more songs and again say Amen. The Amen ties us to the duties of the Psalms. Men pray on the behalf of the congregation, representing you before God. We say Amen, admitting that we are covenantely tied to him as he prays and agreeing with him in his prayers.

We hear the Word preached and pray at the end. We have heard the Word of God and are required to obey it. Again, we are aware of the conditions of the covenant. Blessing for obedience. Cursing for disobedience. And we say, Amen. We commune with God and one another at the Lord’s table. We say, Amen. We declare that He is ours and we are His. We declare that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We say, Amen. This is true and no man can separate us from Christ or from one another in Christ. We conclude with praise to God in the doxology and Amen. And blessing from God in the benediction and Amen.

Saints, this word Amen has much meaning. Be aware of it each time you say it. Mean it when you say it. This means that we should be practiced at our Amens. We should be hearty and sincere in them. We should wake up to the reality of them. So, let us say Amen and mean "truly Lord, I swear, I agree, I promise to abide, I am Yours." And when we say, Amen, together, let us not do it just out of habit, or just because our liturgy calls for it. Let us mean it. Let us get ourselves ready for it. Let us listen to the words of the songs because we know we are going to have to Amen. Let us listen to the prayers and the preacher and the reading and the blessing, for we know that we are going to sign on to it all with ‘Amen!’.

Exhortation-First Sunday in Advent

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. This is a time when we begin to look with anticipation toward the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, this has already happened and to merely commemorate the fact is not a help to our Christian virtue or service to God and His Kingdom. But we don’t merely do anything. We do this with our eyes wide open, understanding that Jesus has already accomplished this work that we remember. But it is good for us to remember, to recover a child like expectation of Christmas. We long for the day, though we have experienced it many times before. We enjoy the season, the greenery, the decorations, the tree, the hot chocolate, the fudge, the wine, the turkey and ham, the bread.

These are all wonderful and to be enjoyed. But most of all we look forward to the presents. We know that there will be many under the tree and we desire to open them up and see what new treasures we have found. This is the kind of anticipation that we should imagine and cultivate as we look forward to the gift of Christ, of Messiah, of the Savior, of Jesus Christ. God gave us Jesus and we should open Him, if you will, with eager expectation, every Christmas Day.

Another important aspect of Advent is recovering something very important that has been lost. As modern day evangelicals we do not pay much attention to the calendar. We keep vestiges of it with Christmas and Easter but we, as an American culture, are trying hard to stamp out the evidence of our Christian past. The name Christmas is objected to and has become just a holiday. But even there they cannot get away from Christian language. For what is a holiday but a holy day? But the rest of the calendar is ignored in our culture largely because we Christians ignore it. The fight for the naming of the year is a very important fight.

The year is 2005, A. D. Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. It is the Lord’s year. He has taken control of history. The year is His. We should do well to remember this and so mark time A.D., Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. It makes sense to remember the Lord’s year, his birth, circumcision, purification, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, seating at the right hand of God the Father, coming in power at Pentecost, and His reign there until all enemies are subdued beneath His feet so that He can return in final glory. This is true history. This is God’s story. This is our story. Let us mark time this way lest we forget.

Exhortation-Second Sunday in Advent

This is the Second Sunday in Advent-One of the traditions behind the Advent Wreath is that the four candles of Advent each represent 100 years of time between Malachi, the close of the Old Testament canon, and the Advent of the Word Incarnate. God had gone silent among the people of God. No prophets were speaking until John the Baptist comes on to the scene.

The Advent season is for looking forward with eager anticipation. But sometimes, especially for a child, Christmas seems so far away. It seems like it will never arrive. Can you imagine how the Jews felt after not hearing any prophets speak in the land for over 100 years? And then 200 years? They probably grew weary of waiting. It may have seemed like the Promised One would never arrive.

Instead of looking forward, perhaps there was a tendency to wonder if the words were really true? Perhaps they wondered if they were interpreted correctly? Anticipation at its height can only last so long. After a while, the eagerness wears off and fatigue sets in. When will Christmas come? But John the Baptist brought hope. In Narnia, the Spring begins and the word is out that ‘Aslan is on the move.’ But that is one of the glories of being on this side of the Incarnation. We know that it already happened. We have the strength and stamina to wait for Christmas because we know it will come. So, we wait and do not grow weary. We wait on the Son and know that He will set all to right when He comes. And what is greater still, He has come. And He has set all things to right. But we do not see them all set right, yet. Well, He is still coming. He is still working the works of God. So, we must use this season to remember what has happened and to continue to look forward to Christmas with eager anticipation of the continuing establishment of the rule of Christ. Every Christmas solidifies His rule and the joy to the world because of it.

A curious passage from Malachi is tied together with Advent, waiting for Messiah. The people had grown weary of doing God’s will. God accuses them of robbing Him. This is right for us to remember at this time of year. Have we been faithful to God first? Specifically, God accuses them of robbing Him in tithes and offerings. How so? Well, they did not tithe or give offerings. They hoarded these things for themselves, to spend them on their own desires. This shows that they did not believe that God was the author of these blessings. If they did, they would have believed God to bless them further through their obedience to Him in giving.

At this time of year, it is a temptation to some to spend more than they should or can. For some, they may even justify not tithing or not thinking of the poor in order to spend more for themselves or their family. While I do think we should rejoice, eat, drink, give presents and celebrate at Christmas, this should all be done under God. This means we honor Him first and others because we honor Him.

Obviously, where we have not been faithful, we need to confess, repent, seek the Lord forgiveness and be united in a bond of fellowship with Him.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Exhortation-Joy to the World!

Luke 2:10-11 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! A light has dawned chasing away the darkness and gloom of night.

The world is a sinful place. We don’t have to look very far to see the ill effects of sinful men. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are readily apparent to every cursory examination of the affairs of the world. Men chase after happiness, joy and satisfaction but it is always beyond their grasp. They are like little children trying to capture the rays of the sun in a bottle only to find that when night falls, the bottle has become dark again. The light has fled away.

As we see this condition of the earth, this longing for the Consummation, it is easy for us to lose sight of the light and to attempt to gaze into the darkness. Our thoughts and eyes are turned from the effulgence of Christ to the gloom that He is chasing away. Our faith becomes weak, our hope becomes cynical, our joy turns to sorrow.

We forget the glad tidings of the Christmas story and only look for the hope of the Second Coming and the Resurrection. Of course, there will be greater joy when Jesus comes again in the final triumph. There is total and complete victory over death in the resurrection. But we must not forget that the light has already dawned. We are standing in that light now and that light is Jesus Christ, the light of men. When we see Jesus shining brightly, the darkness beyond Him and the darkness behind us becomes obscured by His glory. We do not forget the darkness but we take His light into the very corners of the earth. We work, and pray and live to His glory so that Jesus shines brighter and brighter until a full day, until all the shadows are chased away in the resplendent glory that is Christ, the Savior of the World. The light has dawned. Rejoice, good Christian men for Jesus Christ is born.

Let us look to Christ and rejoice. When we have not rejoiced in His goodness and His glory, it is needful for us to confess our lack of joy and thankfulness so that He would restore to us the joy of our salvation.

COMMUNION MEDITATION

Matt 4:16 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Matt 5:14-16 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven
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Jesus is the light of men. We are told to let our light shine before men in such a way as to glorify our Father in heaven. We often think of our light shining as doing good works and I think this is a correct understanding of that verse. But we should never think that the Lord has somehow illuminated us and then left us to shine without the source of His strength and power. This is misunderstanding this verse altogether. Jesus is the light. We are merely moons. The light that shines in us is, in fact, the light of Jesus, Himself. His Spirit illuminates us so that we glow with His glory. As long as we are in Him, we shine and men are able to see that it is the life and light of Jesus Christ shining in us. However, if we think that Christ merely lights us and then we shine by our own light, we will only reveal fading glory.

The glory of Christ shines brighter and brighter until all is light and there is no darkness at all. That is the light that we are to shine.

In this meal we understand that Christ must be in us in order for us to live. It is the vitality of Jesus Christ that enlivens us and enables us to live to His glory. We eat bread and drink wine and we should understand that we eat and drink light and life. For Jesus is the light and life of men.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Love Wisdom-Hate Sin

Love Wisdom-Hate Sin
Thoughts on Proverbs 8

Loving God means loving wisdom. In the language of Proverbs 8, it appears that loving God is loving wisdom. Wisdom is there personified and is spoken of as pre-existing creation itself. Wisdom is either the Spirit hovering over the waters or the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, speaking creation into existence. Of course, we know that all three persons of the Trinity conspired together to create.

Prov 8:25-31 25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: 26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. We see the crowning achievement of God’s creation in the creation of man. Wisdom delights in man. 8:31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

We must learn to love wisdom so that we can love God. God delights in us. Let us delight in Him. Many of us learn to love some aspects of God’s good gifts. We like to sing Psalms. Prayer gives us peace. Gathering on the Lord’s Day brings us into fellowship with people that we enjoy being around. These are all grand and we should continue in them. This is wisdom. But we must also learn to hate what God hates. Loving wisdom mean hating evil (v.13).

For many, the pull of sin is very strong. Temptations are strong because the sins that are their end are not seen as hated and despised enemies, but rather as dear, but banished friends. The longing for forbidden fruit is something that we must learn to hate. This takes discipline, concentration, meditation, saturation in the Word of God, and prayer. This is clearly a spiritual battle and we need God’s Holy Spirit in order to wage this war successfully.

Given this truth, I want to also encourage you in a simple way of thinking about these temptations. We must just use our heads, get out of the moment and be a little bit objective. I know, temptations are not very objective but stay with me for a minute. When you are tempted, you think before you sin. I know it sometimes feels as if you don’t but you do. At that point of decision is when you need to get objective. Stand back. Imagine yourself contemplating the situation. You may also want to imagine yourself thinking through this temptation with Jesus standing by your side helping you, because, in reality, He is.

You need to understand that the only thing that is going to make you truly unhappy in this world is sin. When you sin, you do damage to your conscience. This produces guilt and shame. This guilt and shame causes you to shrink from God’s presence. Confession and repentance are needed to close this gap of distance between you and God but the fact of the guilt and shame makes this difficult to do.

In addition to this shame before God are all the other consequences of your sin. The sin may only be for a moment but the consequences have a long shelf life. What will this sin do to your relationship with God? With your spouse? With your children? With your friend? With your employer? If it is a secret sin, you must expect it will go public sooner or later, because it most certainly will. At least, I am praying that it does. If it goes public, will I lose my position in the church? Will I get fired? Will my spouse divorce me? Will my children be ashamed of me? Will the church discipline me? Will I be viewed as a hypocrite? Will my Christian growth be stunted? How can I think it is a secret sin and still be a faithful Christian? Is it secret from God?

Okay, you are in the moment of temptation. Now, let these thoughts all run through your mind, all in about one second. You can think quickly. Do it. Be wise. Choose to walk in the Spirit. Hate such sins that would do such damage to you. Hate these sins and every evil way for they separate you from God and men, which is contrary to your calling as a Christian. Hate sin. Love wisdom. Love the Spirit. Love the Son. Love the Father. As we love God, our hatred of sin should increase. And as our hatred of sin increases, our delight in God will grow. We will then be strengthened to obey God and resist the temptations that so easily entangle us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Loving the Saints-Feed the Children

Feed the Children

Matt 14:13-21 is an extraordinary passage of Scripture, particularly for those of us who rejoice in God’s goodness promised to all of His Saints. The disciples had a hard time getting their minds around this. When the children were brought to Jesus, they discouraged the people. Jesus rebukes them for doing so and blesses the little children. Here, the disciples are unable and unwilling to feed the people but Jesus is altogether of a different mind. He desires the multitude to stay and eat with Him. In fact, He so much desires this that He will feed them Himself.

On this occasion, as in every other occasion of a crowd coming to Jesus, Jesus was teaching the people with authority. We have a great picture of a worship service. The people come to God. They hear the words of life. They are healed. They are blessed by the Lord. And then they eat with Him. Jesus wants the people to sit and eat and be filled. These people had not been fed by the hypocritical Pharisees. Jesus is teaching His disciples to NOT be like them. They need to understand that God is not as nitpicky about feeding His people as the so-called establishment that has been designated to feed them. This is why He saw the crowd as sheep without shepherds.

But Jesus does a marvelous thing. He gives thanks. He breaks bread. And He feeds the multitude. He did not make the women and children go away into the outer court. He did not send them off to children’s church. He did not make the babies go play in the nursery. He just fed everybody. And we should remember that it was a big crowd, a big crowd of sinners. No doubt, a bunch of them were not too well behaved. There were probably more than a few hungry toddlers making a ruckus. But Jesus feeds them anyway and seems to want to teach the disciples, the apostles, that this is exactly what they are called to do.

Let all who are weary, all who are heavy laden and desiring rest come unto Jesus. And there were about five thousand of them, plus women and children. They all came, men, women and children. Who would refuse to feed the children with the food of Jesus? Let that man learn the lesson.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

The Road Not Taken

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

This is the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. It conveys a wonderful picture of the result of choices. We make choices every day and many times within each day. Generally, we make choices the same way that we have always made them. We choose the well-worn path for it is a path of safety, convenience, comfort. We call these choices, habits. We become so accustomed to them that we hardly even realize that we are making choices at all. We think that we decide automatically, as if the choice in the matter is beyond us. But that is only because we have chosen the well-worn path so often that we head that way without a second thought.

A lifetime of choices has brought us to the point where we are today, for good or for ill. A situation arises. We react. We think that the reaction is not a choice but an instantaneous reflex response. But this is not true. An angry word hollered at the driver that did not accelerate fast enough when the light turned green is not the same thing as protecting your eyes from a suddenly falling branch. One is reactionary, natural, mechanistic, free of moral choice. The other is simply the end result of a particular way of thinking, trained into a habit. We say as we think for out of the heart the mouth speaks. This fact is equally true for facial expressions, bodily gestures, tones of voice, and particular comments. All of these outward expressions simply reveal what is under the skin.

This is not merely a matter of positive thinking and self help. At the root of a frowning countenance is an unthankful and discontent heart. And behind an unthankful and discontent heart is bad theology. God is the maker of events. He is the governor of history. He is most particularly the governor of the history of His people. If God superintends the world, how much more so does He superintend all of the events of all of His saints? A tendency to always see things in a negative fashion is merely the manifestation of bad or immature theology in the heart and mind. The mature Christian is always looking for God’s purposes, and therefore, God’s good hand in Providences.

PollyAnna played the Glad Game. She always looked for something to be glad about in every circumstance. This is not because she was a PollyAnna(how did she get a bad rap?), or shall we say a stork with her head buried in the sand, but rather, because she was a Christian and understood that all things have their purpose in the good purposes of God. If the event happened, then God meant it. God is good, therefore there must be some good in it. The harder the providence, the more difficult the game is and the more likely that the one in the hard providence who finds the answer will win the game.

It is easy to find good in a wrecked car when everyone lives and you get a new car out of the deal. But how to find good in the death of a child or of a husband or wife is not so easy. But we are Christians and we must know by faith that it is good because God is good. We must know by faith that there is purpose because God is purposeful. We must know by faith until we can know by sight. And when we know by sight, we win the game.

There are two roads. One is well worn and most people travel down it. “Life is hard. I am weary. It’s just not fair. Will I ever get a break? People are so stupid. We’re having that again?”

The other road is green. Few have taken it. The trail is hard to follow but it looks promising. “God is good. There is purpose. He knows better than I. This, too, will pass. I will believe until I see. I know this bad thing is good, I just don’t know how it is good yet, but I will wait and I will see. I am always treated better than I deserve. God is good.”

Take the second road. It will make all the difference.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Purity

We have become mechanical in our understandings of the world. We do not see cause and effect between the spiritual world and the physical world. We set the two at odds with each other when we ought not to do so. We also tend to do this in our own lives. Bad things happen and we are unable to make connections between what we have done and the circumstances that befall us. But we should take note to these prayers of Solomon. It was clear to him that Israel would generally be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. This blessing and cursing was far beyond individual blessings and cursings. While individuals are blessed and cursed just as nations and peoples are blessed and cursed, the lesson ought to be more generally drawn from the larger context. The more we drill down into the details, the more difficult it becomes to speak authoritatively. This does not mean that we should shy away from doing so. Sometimes the cause and effect of personal sins are easy to see. But Job’s friends made some huge mistakes when trying to apply this general principle to his life. When we do this sort of thing, it simply means that we do so more carefully, prayerfully and biblically.

Now, in the case of national sins and consequences for those sins, it is easier to determine, especially if we look in the right places. Modern liberals and legalists have made sins out of behaviors that the Bible does not recognize as sin. Both tend to neglect the weightier matters of the law. Liberals say it is a sin to drive an SUV for we might hurt our mother. Legalists say it is a sin to consume alcohol for we might hurt the body, the temple of the Lord. Both have jettisoned the requirement to discern these matters biblically, and so while straining out gnats, they swallow camels.

We do have a list of many sins for which God will rightly bring His chastisement and if we do not repent, then ultimately His wrath and judgment. This first phase of His wrath is a turning away and letting us run headlong into these sins.

Sexual sins have ever been a snare, not only to those in the world but also to those in the church. This is nothing new. But God is letting us run headlong into these things and we must see that the fact that this is happening is proof that God has begun to judge us in it. And the Church, liberal and legalist, is strangely silent in this area. It is no wonder that these sins are rampant in those quarters. It is always easier to point out somebody else’s sins rather than one’s own sins.

The Church is full of such sins. This, in itself, should not alarm us. The Corinthians were just such sinners, but had repented. The Apostle Paul says, 1 Cor 6:9-11 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

If the Church is a haven of healing for refugees from the world, then we should rejoice. But if the church has become a den of iniquity, then we have reason to sorrow. It is not clear at this time what the outcome will be in short term in this country. I know that long-term, God will purge His Church, separate the wheat from the chaff and perfect His bride. But we must not lose touch with what God is doing. The danger is all around us.

Let us have a mind to be done with all such sins that will lead us away from Christ, both individually and corporately. Let us repent in such a way that we can say, “Such were some of us.” But now we have been washed and have put away those things that defile. So, let us confess and let us walk in the newness of life, hating all things that defile and loving whatsoever things are pure.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Lord's Day EXHORTATION

Ps 15:1-3 15:1 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? 2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

Who are fit for the tabernacle? Honest men and women. The psalmist does place a requirement upon us for upright living but we must understand the nature of this requirement. Upright living is not perfect living. We are told by Jesus that we must be like children to come to Him. But little children are not perfect. They are some of the greatest offenders of pettiness, lack of kindness, stinginess, sharp tongues and many such things. But this is not because they are inherently rebellious, hate God or are His enemies. Those are lies that drive our children away from God.

Our children do these things for two reasons. The first is that they are sinners in fallen bodies. Without the grace of Jesus Christ, they are not able to do anything that pleases the Father. But Jesus was pleased with the children because He granted them grace. The second reason children do these things is because of immaturity. They do not know any better, have not been taught well or have not been properly disciplined. This discipline comes in different forms. It includes spankings and other forms of discipline but it also includes an increasing expectation on the part of the parent that the child will discipline himself.

This is important for us to understand. We come to God with all of our imperfections. For Christians, already possessing the Holy Spirit, the root cause is our fallen bodies as well as our immaturity in Jesus Christ. But if we come to God honestly and look to Jesus Christ in faith, we are then qualified to come into the tabernacle. This looking to Jesus means seeing Him as He is which causes us to see ourselves as we are. Our sins are then put in a stark contrast to the glory and perfection of Jesus. But this ought not to cause us to shrink away from His presence. It should cause us, like little children, to come to Jesus and desire a blessing. Jesus forgives all that come to Him honestly and humbly. We know that if men, women and children do this honestly, then they are not only forgiven of their sins but also sanctified in the body. This kind of grace from Jesus changes us into the kind of people that want to please Him and not be the source of a rebuke from Him like He gave to Peter.

We understand this. We have all had parents that we wanted to please. Unfortunately, some of them would never be pleased and this caused us a great deal of sorrow. But good parents are pleased when their children seek to do what is right. Our God is like that. Jesus is like that. The Holy Spirit is like that. So come into the tabernacle. Dwell in God’s holy hill. Walk uprightly before Him. Work righteousness in His sight. Speak truth in Your heart to God and from Your lips to Your neighbor. And know that in Christ you are welcome.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Exhortation-To Tell the Truth

Prov 12:19 19 The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

The lip of truth, or the truthful lip shall be established but the lying tongue, or a liar, is but for a moment. Be sure your lie will find you out.

Be wise with your tongue. Lies are not comely for the saints. We often deceive ourselves before we deceive others. We think telling a technical truth is not a lie but we are greatly mistaken. An attempt to deceive is a lie. If you are deceiving those to whom you have placed a trust of honor then you are sinning. A twisting of truth to your parents is a sinful lie. Children, when your mother asks if you cleaned your room and you answer yes, are you telling the truth or spinning it again? Picking up one shirt in a messy room is not the same as cleaning your room. The fact that you cleaned one thing does not make your technical truth, the truth. This is a lie. Did you do your homework? Well, starting on it but not finishing it is not the same thing. If you know that your mother means “Did you finish your homework?” and you are trying to spin starting your homework into answering the question yes, then you are getting too good at telling lies. These same kinds of truth spinning are also lies when told to your teacher.

A lie to a boss is a sin. He says, "Did you guys get that project done that I asked you to do?" If your mind immediately begins to find ways to answer yes, when the answer is no, then you too are prone to telling lies. Better to answer, "We are not done yet" than to say “Yes” and intend to get done before he checks up. You men and boys, particularly, need to listen. Do not make excuses. Do not deflect your responsibilities. Just because you may get away with it with mother or with a na├»ve boss, does not mean that you get away with it. God sees all from heaven. He even sees into your heart. He knows you in your inmost dwelling and most secret place. What do you do there? Do you honor God in your thoughts and in your secret deeds? If not, do you then try to spin the truth to your mother, father, spouse, boss, or even to God?

Spinning the truth is a modern political euphism for telling lies. All such lies are sinful. Do not do this.We must be known as Christians, indeed, followers of our Messiah in true integrity. Too many Christians are very busy about keeping up appearances of righteousness while all the while nursing a secret precious sin. Nursing a precious sin will make you ugly, hideous and inhuman. But forsaking the sin for Christ’s sake will give you cleanliness, peace and rest, and put you on the path of that most precious possession, a good name.

Believe God-Communion Thoughts

It is important that we understand what is going on in this meal. God is telling us something that we must get hold of. He is telling us that we are His guests and friends at His table.

There are some of you who think that you are not fit to be here. You struggle with sin, confidence before God, depression, doubt, fear or many other such maladies. Given the rather complex state of our fallen minds, this is no wonder. We have to do a lot of self-talk to convince ourselves that what is happening is really happening. We really are here in God’s house. We really are seated at His table. We really are invited to eat. We really are welcome.

There is a tendency with the more tender saints, and sometimes the more immature saints, to think of themselves as unworthy of all this. But that is the great laugh to those of us who have figured this out. Of course you are unworthy. All who gather here are unworthy. That is what makes the meal so fabulously glorious. The issue is not whether you are worthy to be here but whether you believe God? It is not your estimation of the situation but His this is important. He says come. He says eat. He says enjoy the intimate fellowship of His Son and all His Son’s friends.

Put away all your brooding thoughts for five minutes. Quit looking at yourself for two seconds. Look at the bread. It is given to you, for you. Look at the wine. It is a gift to make your heart glad. You think, “But if He only knew me, He wouldn’t give me this food and drink.” But I say, “He does know you. And because He does know You, He has given you this food and drink.”

These other smiling saints know the joke. They are at a table far above their deserts and expectations. They know that God knows them and they do not shrink from His presence but run into His presence. Our Father delights in His children. So, let us eat and drink, rejoice and give thanks. For God is good.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Answered Prayer

Some may think this post frivolous and silly. After all, aren’t there worlds to conquer? Why mess with such silly things as catching fish and finding lost wallets? Aren’t those kinds of prayers for our fanatical charismatic brothers? We reformed are far above that form of silliness, we think. We are in to fine points of doctrine, the restoration of the church, the reformation of right worship. Bosh and bother, how goes your faith in the omnipresent and sovereign God? The fact is that the reason we do not perform in the grand things of the Lord is that we cannot perform in the small things first. He who is faithful in a little will be given much. Could it be that our work is small because our faith is small?

I just got back from vacation in Maine and had a hankering to catch a fish in the tidal waters of Middle Bay at Harpswell. Although I am an experienced fishermen, I had no idea what fish were in the bay or how to catch them. So I resorted to prayer. There is an indictment of our view of prayer. We have to ‘resort’ to it. God answered that silly prayer and I caught a beautiful Striped Bass. He was about fourteen inches long, a small one by Striper standards. So, with some audacity but in faith I prayed for a larger catch. By God’s kind providence, He sent another larger fish to find my hook the next day. This fish was not huge either but went about eighteen inches, a fine fish, especially if one is used to catching Smallmouth Bass in little streams.

My son lost his wallet yesterday with all of his hard earned lawn mowing money in it. He was perplexed. He searched the house, his route from his last job and circled the neighborhood without any success in finding his wallet. But there is a God in heaven who sees all. I called in my three year old son to pray that his brother would find his wallet. Ten minutes later, my oldest son came beaming down the stairs with the wallet, which had scooted under his dresser, out of sight to all but One.

God answers prayers, especially prayers of faith, specific and expectant prayers. We rarely pray such prayers because we do not believe. My young son has faith and God blessed Him with an answer so that he would have more faith to pray greater prayers. We have grown up beyond such prayers, beyond such belief. We would do well to learn the lesson. When we do, we will become dangerous. Until then, our faithless, generic prayers will continue to render to us according to our faith.

Eat the Light-Communion thoughts

For several weeks in our communion meal I have been exhorting you to eat and drink Jesus. Why do we do this? One, because it is a sacrament instituted by our Lord Jesus. We do it because He said to do it. And if you have walked with Jesus for any length of time, you have come to realize that He did not give us frivolous things to do. What He tells us to do has reason behind it, even if that reason is somewhat hidden in the mystery of God. It might not fully make sense to us but we have come to know, through faith, that it does to God. An unbeliever cannot be satisfied with such reasoning of belief but that is a truism.

But let us think about what is going on in this eating of Jesus. We have come to understand that sin is lack. It is a want of conformity unto God’s perfection. In words that we can comprehend, it is a lack of light. There is no way to get more light by eliminating darkness. We must eliminate the darkness by getting more light. There is a sense in which, if we have Jesus, we have all of the light. But I believe that is only true in principle and denies the organic world that God has made. In God’s world, light grows. The sun rises but it continues to rise until it fully shines. Jesus is like that with us. If He has risen in your hearts, well and good. But He must continue to rise until He shines at midday. So, we must continue to eat the Light that is Jesus until we are so full of that Light that there is no darkness left. This will take us a lifetime and more and will not come to complete fruition until the resurrection, when Jesus will fill us completely and no darkness will remain. But we come to this meal as a means of seeing the Light, partaking of it and being lit by Jesus. So eat the Light.

Lord's Day EXHORTATION on Faith

John 1:1 and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

What is the beginning of our faith? The Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word. Faith was generated when we heard the Word of God and believed. The Word of the preacher became for us the very words of God. God gave us ears to hear and we did. This is mysterious to us because our dead ears were incapable of hearing on their own. But we did hear and we did have faith and we did believe and now we have come to see that object of our belief is Jesus, Himself, for He is the incarnated Word.

Some of these Words are mysterious for it is hard for us to comprehend how the Second person of the Trinity was in the beginning when our Lord Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, had not yet been born. But the Second person of the Trinity has always been. He was with God in the beginning and He was God. There are many men who get tangled up in all the mystery of the Trinity. They must explain to their philosophical satisfaction. But it is mysterious at its core and beyond us. This is why God invites us to faith. For faith can see what the eyes of the mind cannot. This second person, the Word of God, the creative power of God, has been manifested to us in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. While we do need faith to believe that Jesus is God, it is not faith that sees that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was. We have well attested and accurate writings of his existence, His work, His words, His life, His deeds. It takes faith to move from His life and works to His divinity. But this should not trouble us at all for His works reveal who He is and what He has come to do. The apostles beheld Him, touched Him, saw Him and left us their great witness.

I say all of this to bring our doubts to an end. Jesus did walk the earth. He did do miracles. He is the Son of God. He is the one who was with God and was God at the beginning. The mystery of godliness has been packaged into a Man and dispensed to us in great abundance. Now, the Holy Spirit brings us Jesus, the Light, to light all those who believe and call upon the name of the Lord. These are all great gospel truths. The only question is “Will you believe it?” And the measure of your belief is the Light of God in you, the Word of God spoken and therefore, spoken out of you, the Holy Spirit’s presence in You to work and to do the good pleasure of Jesus Christ, embracing of the Word of God for every form of worship, belief and practical living. All of this so that you do not set the standard of the measure of your faith. But, rather, the standard of the measure of your faith must set us you aright.

I have been urging you on to eat Jesus, just as He did in John 6. This is to believe in Him and do His will. He is mysterious as the pre-existent Son of God, always begotten of the Father, but His will is not mysterious. Do what He said. Believe on His name, love God and love your neighbor, be ye kind one to another. This is the incarnational life of Jesus Christ. In His Name and by His Spirit, do these things and you shall have everlasting life.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lord's Day EXHORTATION on Marriage

Matt 22:3 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

We have heard many good words regarding marriage. To many these words are very encouraging. Your marriage is good and you can grasp much of what was said. The believing and the doing seems well within reach of where your find yourself.

To some these words are very discouraging. Your marriage is not good. You are not moving one another on in Christ in love and good works. The fact that it ought to be this way makes you feel like a failure and you cannot see any way out of the dilemma.

For those of you who find encouragement and hope in the words, it is because you are like the later guests to whom the Father said Matt 22:8-9 8 … to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. You are encouraged because you have accepted a good invitation. You have believed that the Father of the groom bids you to come and welcome, offers you proper garments for the special event and desires that you enter into the joy of the celebration. So, you come, and you look at all the other guests in their wedding clothes, thinking that they have always been dressed this way. What you don’t see is that the Father gave these beautiful garments to vagabonds and paupers as they entered the door. Nonetheless, you are glad to be here and are determined to make the best of it.

Those of you who are discouraged have either been like those who were bidden but would not come or those who would not dress up for the event. You think more highly of your poor opinion of yourself than the Father’s invitation. This is a self-esteem problem. Too much of it. If the Father bids you come, then come. If the Father offers you finery for the occasion, put it on.
Of course, it is Jesus Christ that we must put on. We do this by believing God’s promises to us. We receive Him by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we believe God this way, we have hope that His opinion of things is much more important than ours. Will you put on Christ? Will you come to the wedding? Will you eat, drink and be merry?

Those of you encouraged by all the words are so because you see God’s promises through your failures. So, you confess your sins, lay hold of Christ and move further up and further in. Those of you discouraged, can only remain so if you refuse to confess your sins, looking at the promises offered to you in Christ. A godly and happy marriage is only as far away as confession, repentance and forgiveness. So do not refuse to do so.

A Faithful Husband-Communion Thoughts

Rev 19:7-9 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

We are not just spectators at the marriage. We are participants. Neither are we the groom’s men nor the bride’s maids. Our role is the bride. Now, this might give some men an awkward feeling, as the Church plays this feminine role. But these words are spirit and they are life.

The purpose of a wedding is to unite two individuals into one. The two people do not cease to exist as individuals but two households do become one, two people are to become single- minded in the pursuit of God and their callings together. The two are to be united as one in the act of conjugal love. This unity is displayed over time as the married couple become more and more like each other. They begin to sound more alike. If they didn’t at the beginning, they begin to look like they go together. And after many years of this, it is unclear whether he is more like her or she is more like him.

This passage from Revelations is remarkable. The bride is arrayed in fine linen and that fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. Our frigid response is often 'hat there is none righteous, no not one.' But that is speaking of one’s own righteousness apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But we are not apart from Jesus Christ. He has taken us as His bride, given us His name and drawn us into close communion with Himself. The bride and groom have become one.This meal represents and presents this truth to us. The Bride and groom become one in flesh. The Church and even individuals in the Church become one flesh with Jesus Christ. We are to eat Him and drink Him, to take Him into ourselves in such a way that our union with Jesus Christ is complete. We are to be more like Him as we learn from Him how to be faithful in all our dealings with Him and with His people. And being a faithful bride, let us rejoice as we receive all the blessings and benefits of having such a faithful husband.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Faithful Friend

There was a pleasant woman who’s husband was heir to the king. She was living in a blessed land, full of good things and wine on the lees. But the Lord made the sky brass for a time to see if the woman would remember that it was He that made the early and the latter rains.

The woman quickly forgot. She had two vigorous boys but she was growing bitter about the weather and named her boys Sick One and Failing One. It was cruel to call boys such names but they fully lived up to her expectations.

She decided to leave the good land because she heard that it was raining on the other side of the river. When she arrived there, she found that it was true and she was happy for a time. But the husband, longing for his own land, grew weary, took ill and died. She consoled herself that her princely sons would grow to take their father’s place. She had them take wives so that children could be raised up to her but even though they were in the rainy land, these sickly boys could not produce an heir. They finally obeyed their mother’s faith, fell deathly ill and perished.

At the right time, the rains began to fall in the land across the river from which she had come and the bitter woman rose up to seek her bread in the land of her nativity. Her daughters-in-law had grown to love her and desired to return with her.

The first daughter made loud protestations about her intentions to dwell with her mother but on their way towards the river, she kept looking over her shoulder at her brother who was standing on the high places near their mount of sacrifice. Finally, the bitter mother gave her a quick blessing and bade her run home.

The second daughter was a dear friend and refused to look back at her brother and father who were also standing on the same mount. She willfully and steadfastly kept her gaze on the river or on the face of her bitter mother-in-law. The mother-in-law often looked at her to see if she was looking over her shoulder but never caught her doing so. And so she found out who was the faithful daughter.

Diligence

Prov 22:29 Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

In a day when glory was the right of kings there were two men whose honor lay in the work of their own two hands. The first man built homes. The second man, who was putting food on the table for his family, built houses. They began their days in a similar fashion, they ate at nearly the same time, traveled to the work site, prepared their tools and commenced the manly art of building. The first man was picky in his work and often caused his mates a bit of irritation. When measuring to nail, his men would often say, “That’s close enough.” To which he replied, “No, its not.” Before he would nail, the measurer must say, “Perfect.” After a while they got use to this little quirk of his and tried to remember not to say “good” or “close enough”, but rather, “Perfect, nail it.”

The other man also built houses but had a different attitude about what was going on. You see, he was working for his family who needed him to do keep his job to keep the bill collectors at bay. He showed up on time and was never cause enough for any serious reprimands from his boss. His mates liked him well enough. His work was tolerable. However, he did generally work a bit slow and his standards were in general a bit slack. Occasionally, he had to redo some work because he had hurried it through so he could be on time for supper. It wasn’t bad that he had hurried but he sometimes confused quickness with diligence and so made stupid mistakes.

One day, an inspector came to see the houses that were being constructed. The first man was having one of his moments with his fellow workers. They were pushing up an outer wall and he was being nitpicky about the measurement.
“That’s good,” his partner called to him, “Nail it.”
“What?” he replied, and pushed it off center just a tad.
“Not now,” his partner yelled. “Try it again, more, a little more. Ok, perfect, nail it.”
And so he did.

The second man realized it was lunch time. At his work sight, he nailed furiously to finish his last section before break. His boss had made it clear to him that he should get it done by noon. He was proud of having accomplished the task.

When the inspector measured his wall, he noticed that it was slightly off center and told the man so.
The second man replied, “Nobody will ever know. We’ll balance it out on the next section. It’s close enough.”
The inspector was not an overly picky man but he was noticeably irritated.
“Young man, do you know who I am?”
“No,” he said, and he chomped on an apple.
“I am the king’s servant. These two houses are for his summer cottage. He will sleep in one and I in the other. That man over there said his wall was perfect. I measured it and it is. Your wall is off. What do you think the king will say?”
The builder of houses took another bite of his apple and smiled as he said to the king’s servant, “Guess you’ll be sleeping in this house, eh mate?”

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday Homily

Godly Sorrow Leads to Repentance

2 Cor 7:9-10 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

1Thess 4:13-14 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

This night is a solemn occasion for us. We are reminded not only of the death of our Lord but also of our share in it. Jesus did not just die for sin or for sinners as some abstract ideal. He died for particular sins and for particular sinners. He died because we are fallen and dead in Adam and it is his desire to raise us up again to newness of life. He died because we followed Adam into sin with our own sins and thus confirmed the truth that all have fallen in Adam. He died because our sinful nature and our sins indeed have lumped us in with all the objects of wrath and have brought death to those who were meant for life. Without the death of Jesus, those sins cannot be taken away. Without the death of Jesus we cannot be justified and declared not guilty before our perfect and holy heavenly Father.

So, it is good for us to reflect on what a grand failure and horrific sin was committed in the person of Adam. He was perfect in righteousness and holiness. He was walking with God in the garden. He had heard God’s command and knew that he must heed, or die. And yet, Adam chose death rather than life.

He represents us well. For here we are on the winning side of the resurrection, on the knowing side of the Ascension, on the victorious side of Pentecost. Jesus has done all that He said He would do. He has kept all of His promises. And yet, we still, like sheep, have gone astray. We still, like the disciples, deny and abandon our Lord in seeking after what is forbidden. We still, like Peter, proclaim death-defying allegiance, only to shrink away from Jesus in fear of man. And all of this with the power of the Holy Spirit present and promised to us. If we only believed with our heart and actions the way we proclaim with our lips.

These are sorrowful words. Words of failure and sin. Words of hopelessness and despair. Words of guilt and shame. O, wretched men that we are, Who will deliver us from the body of this death!

It is not glorious that we are sad. However, it is most glorious that our sadness drives us to Jesus. For some, it is not so. It was not so for Judas. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only discovered death. It was not true for Simon Magus. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only found fear. But Peter was moved to weeping for his great sin. He was restored and became a mighty man of God. Paul was moved to repentance for his sorrow and was a mighty man of God.

It is not glorious that we are sad, unless our sadness moves us to repentance, unless our sadness brings us to the cross, to cast all of our cares on Jesus, unless our sadness brings the sorrow that leads to repentance and repentance to life. Then will our sadness be turned to joy. Then will our weeping end in rejoicing.

We have reflected on sad things here tonight. But let us remember that Easter is coming. We know this. We cannot be sad forever. Our sadness drives us to Jesus. Our sadness carries us to the resurrection. Our sadness is necessary so that our rejoicing can be inversely proportionate. We cry today, knowing that the Lord is near so that we can rejoice on Easter Sunday. As we leave here tonight, contemplative of our own sins and the fact that Jesus died to pay for them, let us do so with hope. Let us do so with anticipation. Let us do so with the knowledge that Jesus has already risen and that He receives all those who come to Him in true humility and repentance.

We do not wink at sin. It is an enemy and produces all manner of sorrow and suffering in the world. But we do wink at the supposed victory of death. Jesus is crucified before us and sin and death rejoice. We let them have their moment for it has all been a wonderful feint and stratagem of our Lord. Sin is no victor. Death is no champion. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Jesus has become sin for us and died for us, only to condemn sin and death in us. Glory be to God in the Highest. Easter is coming! Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Blind and Lame

Matt 21:10-11 10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

On an historic day, there was an old blind man on the road leading from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. He had been blind from birth and had many trials related to his blindness. The worst of these was a broken back he had suffered when he fell from a second floor balcony while listening to a Rabbi exposit Psalm 118. He barely survived but his legs were useless from that day onward. He had spent many years begging for the help of others.

There was a strong young man on the road that day. He was well brought up and educated in the wisdom of the Jews. He was known as an expert on the coming of Messiah. He knew that Messiah was to come from Bethlehem and that one day He would come and lead Israel back to her former glory. He talked of these things often, disputing about times and weeks and looking to the consolation of Israel. He hoped that Messiah would come in his day so that he could usher in the great kingdom.

The crowd that day was unruly and very nearly out of control. Children were running to and fro, cutting down branches and throwing them in the street. Women were singing, men were in loud and heated discussions. The blind man was anxious and asked the young man what was happening.

"Jesus is coming," he replied. "He is riding on a little donkey."

The old man asked him to help him closer to the road.

"Why," retorted the young sage, "so you can see another pretender to the throne?"

"Don’t you think that He could be the Messiah?" asked the old man.

"Him?" sneered the young man. "I’ve seen Him and He is none too impressive. Besides, his followers are a bunch of idiot fishermen, harlots, beggars and publicans. What would I have to do with Him?"

The old man asked him to describe Him as he passed by.

As Jesus approached, the young man began to tell the old man what he saw. The old man stopped him rather abruptly with a rather astonishing statement.

"I see Him. He comes and all the world is falling down before Him."

The young man was disgusted and turned to walk away. As Jesus passed, the crowd began to surge in behind Him. The young man struggled against the crowd, lost his footing and was suddenly thrown down in the midst of thousands and trampled mercilessly. When the crowd passed, he was left blind and lame and no man would help him by the way.

The old man stood up and gazed after Jesus. He eagerly followed the excited crowd to Jerusalem to anoint the new king.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Boiling Pot

Matt 21:28-31 28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

There was a son brought up in all the fineries of the Christian faith. In his earliest of days he was expected to buck up to the system and he seldom disappointed. When he was very young, his parents delighted in him for he was the picture of prompt, if not somewhat timid, obedience. As he grew older they began to recognize a distinct tendency of a creeping bad attitude. It was never quite bad enough, in their mind, to require quick and firm discipline but they often wondered what their son was thinking. He never told them and they didn’t ask.

The son’s sour attitude grew with his height and the parents got accustomed to it. His resistance to their will was growing but so was his ability to manipulate the situation. After major outbursts of anger, he often told them he was sorry and occasionally even asked for their forgiveness. However, his bad behavior became persistent and consistent. He withdrew from family fellowship, he was mean to his brothers and sisters and though they didn’t know it, often said very disrespectful things behind his mother’s and father’s backs.

One day the mother was boiling hard-boiled eggs. The water had just come to a fast boil when she received a phone call. She asked the son to turn off the heat and let the eggs sit. He was looking at a magazine but irritably agreed to do so. A few minutes later, the mother returned and promptly opened the lid to retrieve the eggs. Unbenounced to her, the water was in a furious boil and the steam rushed out and burnt her hand and fingers quite severely.

“Son," she yelled in extreme pain, “didn’t I tell you to turn off the heat? How could I know the water was still boiling?”

“Why, yes mother,” the defiant and unrepentant son, replied. “You did. But you should have known the water inside the pot was boiling and you should have done something about it.” He stomped off to his room and left the mother to bandage her own wounds without so much as an “I’m sorry.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Simply Virtuous

Prov 31:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

I knew a woman that wanted nothing more than to be married to a man and to have children and so she was and so she did. She wasn’t sure what she would do or how she would get along but she muddled through. She was thankful for her husband even though he wasn’t really much to be thankful for, at least in the beginning. She was simply pleased to have a man that loved her, provided for her and by God’s grace, brought her children. Her outlook on life really was very simple but so was she and it was a good fit.

In God’s good timing, she brought forth children. And though they weren’t the smartest or the wisest or the prettiest children that ever graced the world, this mother was quite oblivious to the fact. She simply thanked God for such blessings, cooked their meals, did the dishes and put them to bed with a simple prayer that God would keep them through the night and on the morrow.

In due time, her children began to grow into the likeness of their mother. They were quite simple and took the blessings of this life as from the Providential hand of God. When difficulties arose, they remembered the wise words of their mother and knew that these things, too, were from the hand of their loving Heavenly Father. They never thought to question His goodness because their mother didn’t. So, they thanked God for good or ill, cleaned up the dishes and went to bed with a prayer.

Her husband grew a great deal from her wonderful cooking and his influence seemed to advance along with his ever-advancing midsection. The loving wife remembered to thank God to have such a belly to love. Furthermore, she always remembered to thank her husband for his faithful, hard work and was so very pleased with all his little successes, not to mention showing interest in his grandiose schemes. She was not surprised by the honor that the other men bestowed upon her husband because she had always honored him. But she was quite amazed that God had changed him so much through the years and that he had become an immanently respectable man at work, in his church, and what was most important to her, in their home. She was so thankful that God had seen fit to give her such a wonderful husband, far beyond what she ever deserved or hoped for.

The woman eventually grew old and died and went to be with the Lord. When Jesus rushed up to her to welcome her to heaven, he brought a book. It was the Lamb’s Book of Life. He opened the book and read this verse. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Prov. 31:31) Next to the verse were written the names of her children and her husband. She was not surprised that the names were written in the book. However, she was humbled to embarrassment that the names were written there as the fruit of her hands and of her own works. She happily thanked Jesus and entered into the glory of her Lord.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Foolish Woman

Prov 14:1 14:1 Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

There once was a woman who desired to build a house. And she did so. She was very clever and did much of the work herself, without even the help of her husband. He was willing to help but often ran afoul of her ideas and so relegated himself to giving careful counsel if he thought it would be received. It very seldom was, so as a result, he had little to do but watch.

As I said, this woman was clever. She could figure all sorts of ways to erect interesting structures in her house. The husband had a hard time understanding the utility of some of her ideas but, being a weak man, figured that she was probably more artistic than he and that he should simply acquiesce to her aesthetic eye. To her credit, the woman often asked her husband’s opinion because she knew that he was the head of the household. And besides, she wanted to tell the other ladies that she was submissive. And, the fact of the matter was, that she always did submit to all of her husband’s ideas…..whenever they agreed with hers.

As the house was nearing completion, the husband wondered when his wife was going to install the furnace or at least a fireplace. He thought a fireplace would be particularly homey and besides, she hadn’t even made provision for ducting the house. He had tried to point this out once on a particularly chilly morning but she gave him that knowing scowl and he shivered off down the hill. They finally moved in. The woman was greatly pleased with herself, even as she had let the ladies at church know that her husband had been little help indeed.

About a week later, a serious chill set in. The children were cold, the husband was cold, and what was really odd, even the woman was cold. The husband suggested that they get some warmth by finally installing the furnace. After a withering glance, the woman rushed outside, gathered some firewood and started an enormous blaze, right in the middle of their stone kitchen floor. In two minutes, the furniture caught fire and in an hour, the entire house was burnt to the ground.The next week at the ladies’ bible study, the woman explained that she had simply submitted to her husband’s rule of the house and that the furnace had never been installed. She didn’t say any more because she didn’t want to give any of the ladies the wrong idea about her husband.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Simpleton

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

There was a man who desired a wife and children. He knew the admonition of the Lord and that it was his calling to love his wife and children. He also knew that it was their calling to respect and obey him. The weight of this knowledge was almost more than he could bear. The immensity of it caused him to fall to his knees daily requesting the sustaining grace of the Holy Spirit. That same sustaining Holy Spirit enabled him to rise from his prayers with the weight lifted and the ability to fulfill that which he was incapable of fulfilling by his own might and his own wisdom.

This man often made mistakes, especially when he was young. When he was first married, he often had harsh words for his wife. But he was a sincere Christian and was greatly bothered by his own behavior and even more so by the effect that his harsh words had upon his tender wife. He often remembered the words of the preacher on his wedding day that told him that the bible required him to love his wife. When he considered his harsh words, he knew that this was not love. So, he confessed his sins to God and to his wife and sought forgiveness from both.

Having got these fundamentals of the faith into his simple and humble head, he proceeded to follow this same course in raising his children. He sought to love them with true Christian virtue, often failed but sought wisdom from God and forgiveness against those that he too regularly wronged. And here is the odd thing. This fellow made technical mistakes in his application but always landed on his feet. He was always surprised at the honor bestowed upon him by his wife and children and felt unworthy of such respect from such a wonderful wife and such beautiful children. He constantly had the odd feeling that he had simply got lucky and was blessed with the perfect mate and obedient and cheerful children. This had the strange effect at making him even more humble and even more determined in his service, leadership, and duty towards them. He thought his redoubled efforts might be rebuffed as he needed to shore some things up a bit in the home but the beautiful wife and wonderful children most happily agreed with him. He scratched his head, thanked his God and was quite amazed that his life had worked out so extraordinarily well.

One day, his wife and nearly grown children planned a special party for him and spoke so glowingly of him that he was quite embarrassed. You see, his wife and children always thought these things of this beloved husband and father but were equally humble and seldom bragged about him in public. After the party, the husband desired a few words with his wife and children. “Dear wife and children,” he began, “those were all very nice words but you know that you laid it on a bit thick. I have never been such a good husband or father as all that. We ought to practice a bit more discretion in our speech. You know that I have spoken harsh words, I have overreacted, I have not studied as much as I should, my leading of family devotions has been inconsistent, even my…."

The wife, with bright eyes and a dancing smile joined the erupting laughter of the children. “Oh Dad," they all yelled. "Get off it. You’re the best dad ever!” And the father began to laugh, too. And that family did live happily ever after.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Fat Head

Eph 5:23 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

There was a man who desired a wife and children. He knew the admonition of the Lord and that it was his calling to love his wife and children. He also knew that it was their calling to respect and obey him. Having got these fundamentals of the faith fitted tightly into his fat head, he proceeded towards the ends of the Christian faith. He got a wife and children and reasoned that if his wife would only respect him and if his children would only obey him, then he ought to be just the kind of man who finds it easy to love them. But, of course, he never did.

One day, many years later, his submissive wife warily asked to talk to him about the troubled waters in their marriage and also about the alarming school reports concerning their nearly grown children. He was a bit shocked to have to discuss these things but it was Sunday and he didn’t want to break the Sabbath. After hearing her out, for about two minutes, the husband protested vehemently that it was not his fault. “Didn’t I make the important decisions for us? Didn’t I shed tears with you through these long years of our marriage? Didn’t I apply the rod faithfully to our young charges? Didn’t I…..?

The wife, without lifting her bowed head, softly interjected, “Yes, dear but you were indifferent when I needed you to listen, you cried when I needed you to be strong, you angrily disciplined when the children needed a hug and what you decided for all of us was only the best….for you.”

Having never heard anything like this from his wife in all his born days, the man was speechless….for about five seconds. He then gathered his thoughts and made a new resolution. “I will order that book on male headship that I’ve been wanting and I will know better how to lead us through this.” Having uttered this great statement, he then turned and walked away from his wife, who could not bear to follow his retreat with her sad gaze, so she looked at her shoes. The perturbed man ordered the children off the computer so he could order his book and read about how to be a more godly husband and father. And they did not live happily ever after.