Friday, December 28, 2012

Glory To God in the Highest

Today, we have looked at the angels’ declaration, Glory to God in the Highest. This was said at the Advent of our Lord, who was even then Emmanuel, God with us. Man could not accomplish this great victorious work, even though God did use men to accomplish His holy deeds. At every turn, we see that God is doing His work, being faithful to His promises, to save that which is lost.
         There is no greater glory for us than to be saved from our sins and united to God in righteousness and holiness. That is the reason that God sent His Son into the world. We celebrate that glory at Christmas but it was not fully realized until Calvary and Pentecost. But at Calvary, we again see that God receives glory in the highest, for no man could have died for all men but that One perfect man, the Lord Jesus. And so we find ourselves again simply gazing at the Lord’s work in wonder and declaring with the angels, Glory to God in the Highest.

What God Has Done

We often focus on what we can do in our walk with the Lord. How do we grow in the faith? How much we do know of the Scriptures? How are we raising our children? While these are all fine examples of things we should do to grow in grace, we need to make sure we have the order right.
         Our faith is primarily about what God has done. That is why we have preachers. Our job is to declare God’s mighty works. Without an understanding of who God is and what God has done, then all calls to application are mere moralism. And moralism never saved anybody.
But Jesus Christ has come, God in the flesh. He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect sinless life, died on the cross for sinners, rose from the dead for our justification, ascended to the right hand of the Father and is ruling Heaven and Earth until all of His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. That declaration is the saving gospel message. Do you believe what God has done?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rejoice, O Dark Planet

This poem was part of my homily for our 
Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols. 

Rejoice, O Dark Planet
By  Virgil Hurt

His Spirit, His life, His glory, His light.
The Lord has come in power and might
To save the world from sin.

All the world now is shining
From the river to the sea,
With the glory of the angels chiming,
Christ the Lord has come to thee.

Rejoice, O dark planet,
The light begins to dawn.
The glory of the Lord has risen,
The shadows of death are gone.

Downcast eyes are now uplifted,
Weakened knees made strong.
Feeble hands in prayer have risen,
Famished lips filled up with song.

For the Son of God is born
In Bethlehem this night,
And every blessed child’s morn
Rejoices at the sight.

 Jesus, by name, O Savior mine
Has saved me from my sin,
And all the world from love divine
To Eden saves again.

Rejoice then with the angels,
Glory to God in highest stead.
The Father sent the Son
And death is nearly dead.

When the Son on cross is risen
Dreadful death to know,
Death will finally be given
The final deathly blow.

And when the Son to Father rises,
The Son in us will rise with Him.
The Spirit then Himself surprises,
To give us all Himself within.

And when the day for glory comes,
Our bodies raised in victory,
To Jesus all shall surely come
And praises to our king decree.

Then finally all the world will know
That Father, Son and Spirit show
The love of God to man
And man to God from Earth below.

And man will join the heavenly throng
To sing that ancient vict’ry song
Of peace on Earth good will to men
As all, in peace with God, things end.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Zacharias (Yahweh Remembers) and John (Yahweh is Gracious)

 From Last Week's Sermon

This is the third Sunday in Advent and we continue to look forward to Christmas, remembering the birth of our Savior Jesus. It is at the birth of Jesus that we realize the great grace of God has come to us. He remembered His promises of old and came to man as man to redeem us from our sins.
         We have looked at two great women, Elizabeth and Mary, as examples of the sort of faith we need to have in God. They did not doubt or waver in unbelief and God was faithful to them.
         Today, we look at the birth of John Baptist. His father, Zacharias, was a righteous man but he wavered at the word of the angel and the angel struck him dumb as a punishment. But God remembered Zacharias and Elizabeth and grants them the desire of their heart, a son who took away not only the reproach of Elizabeth but also the forerunner of the one who would take away the reproach of all Israel. John Baptist comes as the herald of the grace of God that would do more than restore Israel to a former state of glory.
         Zacharias speaks of the one from whom all blessings flow, the Highest One, God in the flesh, who will bring the light, not only to Israel, but will, in fact, be the light of the whole Earth. These are even greater glories than Israel anticipated and reveal the grace of God in an incomprehensible way.
         Zacharias speaks of the prophets of old, even from the beginning, and connects what is going on with John Baptist and his cousin Jesus with the old, old story. That story is completely dependent upon God calling himself to remembrance and repeatedly showering His people with grace out of His tender mercy.
         For all of our teaching and preaching on the Fatherhood of God, we still need continual reminders that God is tender and merciful. It is true that God is holy and righteous and that His holiness requires justice. That is not at all inconsistent with His revealed character as patient, long-suffering, tender, merciful and quick to forgive. For those in high rebellion, it makes their rebellion that much worse, for they refuse the hand of such a kind and gentle Father. But for those of us who come to Him for grace, knowing that He is tender and merciful, it should give us confidence that He always remembers His promises to us.
         We can know these things in our minds, in our brains, but the only way to feel them in our hearts, such that our soul magnifies the Lord, is for the Holy Spirit to make these things alive and real for us. So, we call upon God to pour out His Spirit upon us and when we do this, we remember that God remembers and is gracious to those who call upon Him and we believe that He will do what He said He would and fill us with His Spirit.

Exalted at the Lord's Table

Dear Saints, How does it feel to be highly exalted? People poor in spirit, servants of low degree, how is your joy made full at this place? Little children, in whom the Father is well pleased, how do you feel about your Heavenly Father’s swelling pride in you?
         You may respond that you do not feel highly exalted, that your joy is not made full, that you do not feel the pleasure and pride of your Heavenly Father.
         Listen to me! Hear the Word of the Lord! Nothing shall be able to separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Hear that? You cannot be separated from God’s love in Christ. The Father is pleased. You are exalted. Your inheritance in Christ is realized, today! Rejoice, therefore, take courage, comfort and peace as we partake in Jesus, our Savior.

Godly Honor

As we have looked at the stories of Zacharias, Elizabeth, John Baptist, Joseph, Mary and Jesus, I hope we have seen that God looks upon men far differently than men look on men, for God sees the heart. God has called a barren woman blessed, a poor virgin highly favored, a man living in the desert in wild clothing and eating insects, great in the eyes of the Lord. The Lord Jesus, Himself, was despised by men but the One in whom His Father was well pleased.
         We must learn to eschew the world’s favor and seek to please the Lord. Furthermore, we must favor those who belong to the Lord and refuse to favor those who are enemies of Christ. James 2:5-6 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?
         So, brothers let us honor those whom the Lord honors and refuse to honor those that our worldly culture highly esteems.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Confessions of a Book Thief

Dear Pastor Cooper,

Our church recently moved and all my books were packed up. I have been unpacking and going through them to restock my library. I have come across a book that has been on my conscience, sort of in a good way, for over 35 years. I attended church there with my fifth grade buddy, Chris, when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Somehow, when I left the church, I took the hymnal with me. It is Hymns for the Living Church with First Baptist Church stamped on the front.

Anyway, that church service got my attention and I knew that I must serve the Lord at some point. A year or so later my older sister became a Christian. I followed her into faith in Christ as a youngster, as did my two older brothers and my younger sister. All five of us are married and serving the Lord these many years. God is good!

I always intended to return this Hymnal. After my initial years of coming to Christ, then wavering through junior high and then coming back to faith, the book was always reminding me of an unfinished business. But it languished on a shelf somewhere and was forgotten. I think I finally came across it again when I went off to college at Idaho State in Pocatello. I have a brief recollection of even stopping by the church one time to return it but the doors were locked. I suppose I could have mailed it but never did. I was thinking that by the time I was in college the church was probably not using the same hymnal. Anyway, it got packed and unpacked through the years, always with fond memories, and a little nudge that it really didn't belong to me.

I had not seen it for many years until today. I have been a pastor in Lynchburg, Virginia these past 12 years. What a surprise today as I was unpacking my boxes to come across this book.

I have lost touch with my friend, Chris, but was also reminded of the Eden family, from First Baptist, that had an immense impact on me as a child. Perhaps some of them are still in your church? I used to eat at their home often as a child and occasionally visit the church.  Their home, which was just down the street from the church, and First Baptist were a haven for me back then.

I confess my sin of 'stealing' your book so long ago. Please forgive me. I am sure you will and will probably just want me to keep the book. May I, and with a now cleared conscience? I will send a donation to the church for the book.

May the Lord bless you and keep you in Christ this Advent and Christmas Season.

Cordially in Christ,

Virgil Hurt

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Love and Respect

Many of my thoughts here were helped along by the great book, Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I highly recommend it to you.

 Love and respect are two sides of the coin of marriage. Unfortunately, we often call heads when we mean tails. A wife needs love and so she emotionally and conversationally loves her husband the way she needs and wants to be loved. The husband needs respect and so he values his wife for her hard work and determination, just the sort of thing he needs and wants. And then he feels disrespected and she feels unloved.

What shall we do?

First, it is not an appropriate response towards your spouse to give to them what you want from them. And this should not surprise us Christians because Jesus has always called us to give ourselves away in order to get a return.

If a wife gives emotional love in many ways, even the words, "I love you" because she desperately needs that kind of love, she is actually not investing in her man's account in a way that gets the right kind of return.

Men like to hear their wives say, "I love you," but that is not their greatest need, which may be surprising to a woman. A man needs respect and honor. His psyche is pretty fragile in this area, actually. He needs to know that his wife is proud of him. He needs to know that she respects his work, his authority in the home, his growth in grace, his ideas and dreams. If he does not get this from her, the heartfelt, "I am so proud of you," then he wonders if she really believes in him or respects him as a husband, as a man.

When a husband honors his wife for the work she does in the home, her accomplishments, he may assume that this fills a deep abiding need for his wife. Of course, she loves to be appreciated but her need is to know that she is securely loved whether she performs well or not. She wants to know that her husband is committed to her, loves her, desires to be with her, wants to listen to her and is close in an intimate, conversational, spiritual and emotional way. And while he likes many of those things, as well, it is very different from his own set of needs. So, he needs to learn what her love needs are and then meet her needs, not give her what he wants.

So, men, love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Love her. Hug her. Listen to her. Seek to understand her. Let her know that she is completely secure in your commitment to her, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for the rest of your lives. And tell her and show her, often.

Wives, honor and respect your husband, appreciating the work he does. Be proud of him! And tell him that, from the heart, often. Are you proud of him? If not, find something to respect and be proud of in your husband and tell him. When he has ideas, listen. When he fixes something, commend him. When he does something that is recognized at work, tell him you knew they would finally notice because now they see him like you do. When he does the right thing as a father, tell him you are proud of the way he leads the children. You have to cultivate this right kind of pride, looking for concrete specific reasons to praise your husband directly and in public.

I think both of you will begin to see the wonder in this way of giving yourself away. Give your wife what she needs and guess what? She will be enabled to give you what you need. But do not keep track or you will stop giving just before the returns set in. Just give and give and give. And once your wife is filled up enough, she will start to give back to you, which will enable you to give her more than you ever thought you had to give her before.

And then you will feel respected and she will feel loved.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Free MacArthur Book

Thomas Nelson sent me a copy of John MacArthur's new book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, to review and make a blog post. I have done that. They also sent me six copies to give away on my blog.

Three are gone, to Rick and Jonathan and Gene. I need your addresses Gene and Jonathan! I have three more to give away.

You can make comments here:

In a one paragraph comment, tell us who you think the most unlikely hero of the Bible is and why.

It cannot be a hero that MacArthur has already listed, see my previous post. I'll pick the top six based upon the unlikeliness of their hero status compared to the ultimate level of that status. Murky? Got it?

I'll need your name and address in order to mail you the book.You can send your name and address to

Good luck.

What to Pray

As I do my Bible reading, I am starting to compile the prayers that I come across. I will also post them here. When it comes to prayer, we often find ourselves repeating the exact same prayers day after day.

We offer prayers of thanks for food at meals, sometimes including housing, clothing and good health.

Then we make petitions.
If we get really lazy, it comes out something like this:

Lord, please help Billy have a good day.
Lord, please watch over us we travel.
Lord, please grant grace for my encounters today.

None of these are bad prayers. We do need to be thankful and we do need the Lord's help and grace today. But we should also be growing in our prayers and learning to pray expansively in the Lord's will. After all, He tells us that when we pray in His will, we have the request. Wouldn't you like that?

When we learn to pray in the Lord's will, we are becoming Christ minded. This gives us even more boldness to be importunate in our prayers, seeking those things that we know are the revealed will of God and seeking them diligently until He grants them.

The best way to grow in the Lord's will in prayer is to mimic Spirit inspired prayers in Scripture. Some of them we should pray directly but we can use them all as templates to teach us how to pray.

Of course, there is the Lord's Prayer and we could argue that we should use that prayer as the base template. And then, inside that template, we should be learning what else to pray.

So, here is one from Philippians to pray for fellow Christians.
       Phil. 1:9   And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;  11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Great Advent Prayers

Have you ever noticed the similarity in Hannah’s great prayer and Mary’s famous Magnificat prayer? The Lord raised up a prophet and savior in Samuel, through Hannah, and The Prophet and Savior in Jesus, through Mary.
It seems obvious that Mary was very familiar with Hannah’s prayer and probably had it memorized. Her prayer seems to be a summarized version of Hannah’s prayer. The Spirit used her own knowledge and experience to cause her to pray in a very similar fashion which ought to be a reminder to us to be steeped in God’s Word so that He can use us to carry out His will on Earth.
Hannah’s name means ‘favored’. Mary is the new Hannah, the highly favored and produces the greater Savior.

Blue Letters are Mary’s Prayer, the Magnificat, From Luke 1:46-55
Black Letters are Hannah’s Prayer from 1Sam. 2:1-10

46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,  47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
2 Sam:1:18 And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight.
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.  2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. 

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.  4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. 

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 
5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. 

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.  7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.  8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them. 

54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;  55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.  10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

The Father's Favor

In Elizabeth and Mary, the Lord gives us two examples of highly favored women of great faith. In both instances, their husbands stumble at unbelief but the women do not falter. They hear the word of the Lord and readily submit to it. While their situations were highly unlikely, they both embraced God’s work without doubting either that it was God that was doing the work, or that He could and would fulfill that which was spoken. They did not waver in unbelief.
         This passage (Luke 1:26-56) is remarkable for several reasons. First, it shows us that little babies, even tiny babies in the womb, can know God and be known by God. They can know even more than this. John Baptist recognizes the voice of his relative, Mary, even though he had never heard her voice before. And through what can only be a spiritual and emotional connection, he also recognizes that the Lord Jesus is near.
         Another remarkable thing about this passage is related to the personhood argument, if you want to give it any time of day. Jesus is Jesus even though He is just a very tiny embryo, not even yet up to the status of fetus, in the womb of His mother, Mary. He is probably only a couple of weeks in utero at the time of this occurrence and yet, Elizabeth and John Baptist recognize Him as the Lord, the Messiah. Mary receives this, acknowledging this truth, as well.
         When we see such women of great faith, we should all be encouraged and exhorted to such belief. These women did not doubt the sovereignty or power of God. When God acted in their midst, they simply believed Him and submitted to His will. When He spoke, they did not doubt that it was Him that was speaking or that He would now do His will.
         While we do not have these divine utterances from the Lord, we do have His Word. In His Word, God reveals His will. He makes promises and He comes to us in the power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that will, to dispense the promises. What will you do? Will you doubt, like Zacharias? Will you disbelieve like Joseph? Or, will you humbly submit yourself to God’s will and God’s promises, like the faithful Elizabeth, like the highly favored Mary?
         There is another important thing to point out in this passage. The Bible says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous. It also says that Mary was highly favored of the Lord and that John Baptist was great in the eyes of the Lord. What can we good Presbyterian folk make of this? I thought we were all by nature objects of wrath? I thought all of our righteous deeds were as filthy rags? I thought that no sin can stand in the presence of the Lord and that we are full of sin? There is some truth to these statements but we are out of balance. We hardly have room in our minds and hearts for the Father looking at us with favor.
         We need to think balanced Bible thoughts, not puckered Presbyterian thoughts. It is true that we sin. It is true that we, who sin, need a Savior Jesus and His Holy Spirit to justify us and to make us into His image. But we should not slander the Father’s love towards us. The Father, Himself, favors His people. He looks upon them, us, with love and desires to save them to the uttermost. It is the Father who sent the Son to save us from our sins, for God so loves the world that He sent His Son.
         When we sin, we should repent. When we sin grievously, in an open or big way or over a long period of time, we need forgiveness and we also need healing and reconciliation. In such scandalous sins, we have a reason to wonder if a Spirit-filled man, woman or child could act in such a way. In such cases, there should be soul searching, deep sorrow and thorough repentance.
But for the ordinary faithful Christian, who is seeking to be obedient to God today, who by all appearances is actively walking in God’s goodness, we should understand that the Father’s pleasure and favor is directed towards that person, towards you, towards me. We should not be fearful to come into His presence, but rather, we should desire to come to the Father and He to us, for He favors us.

His Heirs at Table

Both Elizabeth and Mary believed God. They humbled themselves before the Lord that He would do with them whatever was in His mind to do. God honored these women and blessed them with the most glorious of sons.
         We come to our Lord as His humble servants. Both Elizabeth and Mary confessed to be the doulos of the Lord, His servants, quite literally His slaves. A handmaiden is simply a female slave. But God took these women, lowly of heart, and elevated them to the highest honor. Elizabeth bore the last Old Testament prophet. Mary bore the Lord Incarnate.
These women represent faithful Israel, the ones on whom the Lord rightly and justly grants all of His promised blessing. It is still all of grace but they are no longer merely servants, slaves, lowly and despised. They are raised to a new place, the truly blessed ones of the Lord. We are gathered here with them in the place of blessing. The Lord has brought us, undeserving slaves, to the place of the rightful place of godly offspring, heirs according to promise.
         You are welcome here as God’s faithful children. Rejoice in God’s goodness and peace to you.

Our Eves

During the Advent readings, the Scriptures present to us two blessed women, Elizabeth, the mother of John Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus. These are two of the greatest women in all of Scripture. Along with Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, these women are renowned for one particular thing, bearing the children of God’s people.
         Our culture makes too little of this great calling of women. Some have looked at our many full quivers and said that we make too much of it. But that is not true. If anything, even we make too little of it. Our mothers are great saints and whether they have one baby or many, the blessing is real and glorious. Let us take this seriously, knowing that even our children are God’s means of saving the world. And not only our mothers will be saved by child bearing, as it says in Scripture ( 1Tim. 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing), but all the Earth will be saved in this same way if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. And let us repent for failing to see this blessing as stark as it really is and for failing to hail our mothers as the mothers of all living.

MacArthur Book Winners! And Still More

Jonathan Myers, Gene Helsel, I need your mailing addresses to send you a book!!!

You can email me at:

Three are taken, I still have three to give away.

Who are some more unlikely heroes from Scripture?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Free MacArthur Book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes

Thomas Nelson sent me a copy of John MacArthur's new book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, to review and make a blog post. I have done that. They also sent me six copies to give away on my blog.

Three are gone, to Rick and Jonathan and Gene. I need your addresses Gene and Jonathan! I have three more to go and since the responses are so few, it goes to the first three that respond. Still make it good, though!!!

You can make comments here:

I would like to make a bit of a contest out of it. It's easy.

In a one paragraph comment, tell us who you think the most unlikely hero of the Bible is and why.

It cannot be a hero that MacArthur has already listed, see my previous post. I'll pick the top six based upon the unlikeliness of their hero status compared to the ultimate level of that status. Murky? Got it?

I'll need your name and address in order to mail you the book.You can send your name and address to

Good luck.

Advent- Silence Broken

Today is the first Sunday in the new Church Year. It is the time of year again where we recount the life of Jesus. This makes good sense since He is our life. The cycles of the year should revolve around the events of the life of Jesus and subsequently, the important events in our lives.
         For the last several years, we have made note of the days of the Church Year on our church bulletins. We want you to be aware of these important cycles as you structure your lives. This is especially important as the culture around us either ignores the Church Year altogether or trivializes it in a dramatic fashion. We live in an age in which the commercialization of everything makes everything seem like just another excuse to have a party.
         Well, we like to party. We are looking for a good excuse, too! But where is our heart? Our desire is to glorify God in all that we do. The Church Year gives us many reasons for celebration and rejoicing in the goodness of God through Christ. It is not just a reason to party but it is the best reason to party in the right way and for the right reason.
         Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas and marks our preparation for the coming of the Christ. In the Roman Catholic Church this is a penitential season of confession and repentance. We have not practiced Advent in this way and we have our reasons why we are opposed to penitential seasons in the church year.  Regular repentance? Yes. We do this every week in our Covenant Renewal Worship service. Repenting for weeks or doing penance, as such?  No. But I do think it is appropriate to examine ourselves regularly asking the Lord to reveal sins, so that we are eager to see and receive Jesus when He comes in power.
         The arrival of John Baptist in a miraculous way was the precursor to the arrival of Jesus. His arrival as well as the arrival of the Christ were prophesied in the last Old Testament book, Malachi. In that book, we get a sense of the sorts of sins we should be aware of that brought both judgment and silence from God. These are the sins that brought reproach on Israel.
         The four weeks of Advent are said to represent the four thousand years from Adam to Christ. But there is another way to look at the four weeks. Thinking of Malachi, we see that the Lord had been silent among the prophets for four hundred years. John Baptist arises as an Old Testament prophet, the one spoken of in Malachi that will be the forerunner of the Christ. We can take each week as a reminder of one hundred years of silence from God due to Israel’s sin. This gives us an intense craving for the coming of the forerunner of Christ and the Messiah, Himself, as God once again speaks to and redeems His people.

Table of Grace and Blessing

 This morning we have considered the Lord’s appearing to Zacharias and how He took away the reproach not only of Elizabeth but of Israel. We have inherited that blessing. Whereas, we were by nature objects of wrath, the Lord, through the shed blood of Jesus, has brought us to this table of grace and blessing. In our own strength, we were doomed to fail and could not bring about the conditions for our own salvation. But thanks be to God, that at the right time, the Lord sent the forerunner, John, and then His own dear Son, born of a Virgin, to call us to repentance and to save us from our sins.
         We are no longer in our reproach. We have been rescued, healed, saved, and blessed as dear children of the most holy God and King. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am convinced that no one and nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. So, let us rejoice as we eat and drink of God’s great salvation.

Wander Towards Jesus

It is easier for us at this season of Advent to let our minds wander towards Jesus. We have reminders all around us. There are manger scenes, Christmas trees, wreaths on the doors. Even the rise of the non-religious Christmas, Snoopy scenes and Frosty the Snowman, cause us to lament the focus on Jesus and make us think of Him again. It is good to have this long season of thinking of Jesus, His Advent, His Incarnation, the trajectory of His life and eventual death and resurrection. Just as we need a weekly renewal, so this is a wonderful annual season of renewal.
         This also makes us aware that we go through long stretches of having our minds wander away from Jesus. So, let us confess that wandering, asking the Holy Spirit to continually focus our minds on the Lord Christ such that the glory that is revealed in Advent and Christmas will remain with us throughout the year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Loving the Saints

1Cor. 13:13   So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This is a much quoted passage from Corinthians and it should be. In our circles, we put a high value on truth, the study of doctrine and the power of faith. And we should. But we run the danger of speaking the truth in truth, or speaking the truth in faith, conviction, convincingly, or speaking the truth with technical precision. But the Bible says to speak the truth in love and that is not quite the same.

How do we do that?

1Cor. 13:4   Love is patient- When you speak to your brothers, are you patient or do you expect them to get what you are saying, RIGHT NOW, because it so logical, precise and well, so true?

and kind;- What is your demeanor in speaking? One who knows that what he is saying is right or true, is tempted to be condescending. That form of speaking can be very belittling and that is not kindness. Kindness comes from a patient heart and is not easily offended or defensive. Since you do not have to WIN the conversation right now, you are kind. The Bible says that God's kindness leads us to repentance and yours just might, too.

love does not envy- How do you do when your less deserving brother (at least in your eyes) is blessed? Do you rejoice? Or do you grumble and wish that he had not been blessed in this way?

or boast- Boasting is almost always done to boost up insecurities. God calls us to edify others, to build them up, not squash them down as we use them to push ourselves higher.

it is not arrogant- This reveals a lack of empathy as well as personal pride. Arrogance does not appreciate others because it assumes they have nothing substantial to offer. Hmmm.

or rude- Well, the arrogant are rude. Some humility will make them kinder.

It does not insist on its own way; - The arrogant and rude usually do get their own way because kind and loving people do not want to fight with them. But the arrogant also find themselves friendless.

it is not irritable or resentful-These two faults are often played as virtues. In the guise of being 'concerned' about a situation or friend, one gets repeatedly frustrated and irritated. If the one you are irritated about does not change, you begin to resent them. When someone's behavior is very frustrating to you, you either need to confront them or just not worry about it. You may need to do both. Confront them and then just not worry about it. Let the Lord do the work. It is easier for Him when you stop being frustrated and resentful.

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing- There are multiple ways to rejoice at wrongdoing. You can enjoy the sins of others in a perverse, voyeuristic sort of way. Or, you can rejoice when the one you are frustrated with does wrong and pays the price. The Christian thing to do is to grieve when others do wrong and pay the price, even if we believe the Lord's justice is being paid out. We should desire that the hard knocks of sin lead them to repentance.

but rejoices with the truth- We should always find great joy in whatever is true and beautiful and good.

Love bears all things- but not if you are irritable and resentful. If that is you, then you can bear very little, maybe not even someone changing lanes without signaling.

believes all things- This does not mean that you are foolish and believe everything you are told. This means that you believe that God is capable of doing great and mighty things. He can deal with those that frustrate you, or heal your frustration, or right the wrongdoer, or forgive your envious heart.

hopes all things- And God fixing things is exactly what you are hoping for. This sort of hope encourages but it also gives peace. If your hope really is in the Lord, then you do not have to be anxious. You can rest that God will fulfill His promises in His way at just the right time.

endures all things- Until He does so, you persevere by His Spirit. Because you love God and know that He loves you and expects you to love others, you are empowered to deal with all sorts of tribulation: life trouble, false accusations, personal hardships, misunderstandings, financial disaster, death of loved ones, job changes, moves, whatever the Lord brings. Your rest is truly in the Lord and you can endure towards others in a way that reveals wherein your hope lies.

True Saint

What does it mean to be a saint? We often use this word simply meaning our brothers and sisters in the church. We are referring simply to Christians. I think that is a good use of the word. It is not really a qualified term but refers broadly to God’s people.
         However, the word is derived from the Greek Hagios, which means sacred, something that is physically sacred, pure, morally blameless or religious, used ceremonially in a religious context, or consecrated, something that is (most) holy (one, thing), a saint.
         Think about that for a moment. To be a saint, a true saint, is to be set apart by God, one who belongs to God and such a one that is holy. As soon as we hear that, we become fearful, knowing our own thoughts, hearts, words and actions. We often are not holy, not set apart from the world around us.
         First, acknowledge this and turn from unholiness to the holy God. Second, embrace God’s forgiveness and justification in Christ, which does, in fact, make you holy. Third, believe that God has done this work in you so that you can come to Him without fear of condemnation or judgment. And fourth, by grace, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit in true holiness.

Apart with Jesus

God’s saints are gathered here to partake of His Son. In fact, you have all already done so, confessing that Jesus is the Savior and Ruler of the Cosmos.
He now offers you the meal of peace. But you should keep in mind that this is a special meal. It is not a meal for everyone. This is the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. In order to eat here, you must have the proper wedding clothes on. I do not mean a Sunday dress or a suit and tie. You must have on much fancier clothing than that. You must be fully clothed in Christ, having put off the old self and having put on Christ. This means dying to self, taking up the life of Jesus and walking with Jesus and His body from this day and forever more. 
Only those who are in Christ receive the peaceful blessing of this meal. This means each one of you who have been baptized into His name and are walking with Jesus. So, come apart with Jesus in this holy place and find peace and rest for your souls.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes-John Macarthur****

Just finished Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur. As usual, MacArthur does an excellent job of telling stories from the Bible.

The Unlikely Heroes are ones we all recognize and think of as pillars in the faith; Encoh, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon, Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, Mark and Onesimus. Of course, these men and women are a Who's Who of the Bible but MacArthur helps us see that none of them excelled out of natural graces. All of them were reliant upon the Spirit of God to become who they were and thus play their roles as Biblical Heroes.

MacArthur is a good story teller. He is a preeminent  Bible scholar and does a terrific job of putting us on the scene in these stories. We get a sense of the times and of the possibility that these heroes could easily have been failures. In fact, some of them did fail, initially, and only by God's grace were they restored and used by Him to great glory.

While I am always pleased with MacArthur's teaching from the Bible, I often find myself wanting just a bit more, not so much from what MacArthur says but from what he could dig out of Scripture if he had a more cohesive view. He talks about God's covenants and gives us great encouragement and hope in God's promises. That part is very encouraging. But his dispensational views keep him from seeing even more, deeper and glorious connections. I, and many other Reformed Christians, owe a great debt to MacArthur, who got us going down this path many years ago, but wish he would have come along with us in the glories of a full-orbed covenantal view of Scripture.

This book has the feel of a high school level Sunday school class. Most of the stories are familiar and he takes a fair amount of space to retell the Bible story before proceeding on to why the particular hero was unlikely. But I have been studying the Bible for many years and did not at all mind the Bible review. I also know that in much of our modern Bible illiterate culture, many folks will find these stories new and fresh.

A similar or follow-up book could be written with these and other heroes all shown to be types of Christ. The death and resurrection story is clearly a strong theme in the lives of these ancient saints but is not developed in this book. I would have like to have seen this developed in this book in order to reveal the comprehensive story of God.

Finally, MacArthur reveals that God is the true hero. He takes all of these men and women and uses both their talents and even their failings to do His glorious will on the Earth. That is a center piece in the story of God.

I recommend this book.


I am thankful for my Lord Jesus, for truly in Him we live and move and have our being. From Him flow all good things and I am blessed to have much, more than much, a great abundance, a veritable shower of blessings.

God has given me a good wife, a wife of my youth, one in whom my heart is still satisfied.

God has given us wonderful children. In them, I am blessed many fold. He has taken my wife and me, made us one, and from that union, produced many. We see the Trinity in action, creating an immense diversity, still working in a glorious unity. That is the Godhead and by His grace is wonderfully reflected in our family.

So, I thank God for Rebecca, Elizabeth, Zachary, Anna, Leah and Calvin.

Our family is growing and Becca now has a husband, Simon, and I am thankful for him.

I am thankful for my mother, my brothers and my sisters.

I have been blessed to be the Pastor of Providence Church for 12 years. Through these saints, the Lord has constantly showered His love and grace on us. I am thankful for every one of them.

I am thankful to live in this city, Lynchburg, VA, where the Word of God is a beacon  of light where many thousands consistently revert for illumination and life.

I am thankful for God's grace, without which, I would be forever lost.

The Peaceful Meal

The Lord's discipline should bring us to the place of restoration, peace with God and with men. This peace is presented to you here, in the body and blood of Jesus. Have you partaken of Him? If so, then you have no right to be at odds with any man. As you have been freely forgiven, so forgive. Let us fully walk in this, declaring our love and unity now with these brothers and sisters gathered here. And from this day forth, doing all in our power to be right with God and men. And when we fail, to gladly admit it so that we can be fully restored to the beautiful fellowship of this peaceful meal.

Peace with God and Man

I mentioned in the exhortation last week that you either have to overlook sins or confront and forgive them. These are your only two Biblical choices and all other options lead to death. 

So, how did you do this week? Did you let it go? Did you address what needed addressed? If you have taken care of business, then today you are at peace with God and man. But if not, there is still unrest in your heart and the need to move into the forgiveness of God and extend it to every man, husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or friend, for He is our peace and has broken down every wall.

Free MacArthur Book Contest!!!

Thomas Nelson sent me a copy of John MacArthur's new book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, to review and make a blog post. I have done that. They also sent me six copies to give away on my blog.

One is  gone. Good job Rick Davis. Still have five to give away.

You can make comments here:

I would like to make a bit of a contest out of it. It's easy.

In a one paragraph comment, tell us who you think the most unlikely hero of the Bible is and why.

It cannot be a hero that MacArthur has already listed, see my previous post. I'll pick the top six based upon the unlikeliness of their hero status compared to the ultimate level of that status. Murky? Got it?

I'll need your name and address in order to mail you the book.

Good luck.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wisdom over Knowledge

James 1:5   If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

In this passage from James, he calls us to ask God for wisdom and then trust that God will grant it. I have run into many Christians that talk about 'finding' the will of God. They seem to think that there is some perfectly created will of God out there and that it is their duty to seek God in order to find that will.

But I would call such finding, knowledge. They have a yearning to know what God knows and often desire this before they make a decision. Many times, they say something like, "I am in prayer, seeking the Lord's will." My take on this is that they are trying to discover what the Lord knows, that is, they want knowledge.

But James is saying something different. He is saying that we should ask the Lord for wisdom and then we should trust that He grants it. If we ask and if we trust, then we can move forward in our decisions trusting they are from the Lord. We  do not wait to act until we know. We act believing the Lord will fulfill His promise of giving us wisdom.

My argument is that the one who seeks to know before he acts is like  the man who is double-minded, unstable in all his ways. He is afraid to act because he is afraid that the Lord has not clearly revealed His will. But the Lord wants us to act in faith, not in complete knowledge. And when we refuse to act, or hedge our acting with a lack of faith, the Bible tells us that such a man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Providence Church 100 Year Anniversary

Providence Church just had its 100 Year Anniversary. Not bad for only being in existence for 12 years! That's what happens when Rachel has a baby.

Our son Calvin said, "Dad, when the Weizeneckers throw a baptism party, it's not a party, it's a 100 Year Anniversary!"

I agree. So, we have to wait another 88 years for the real 100 Year Anniversary. I think we will have a hard time outdoing the shindig we just had. Maybe my great grandson will baptize the Weizenecker's great, great granddaughter. That might do it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Goode Virgil

I wanted to make a bit of a qualification on my previous post. I was disappointed along with the rest of you that Romney was not elected. I much preferred him over the alternative. However, I voted for Virgil because he is Goode.

Election Bias

It seems to me that you are biased. You expect a certain outcome and expecting it begin to interpret data based upon your expectation. Well, maybe not you, but that is the case for me and, I think, for countless others. We did not believe the polls or the O campaign's take on things because we did not want to. But there it is, people voted just like the media was saying they would and just like most of the polls showed they would and our wishful thinking on the unstated or jaded assumptions in those polls was simply wrong.

What can we take away from this? One thing is that we should understand that it is really difficult to be objective when thinking about things or discussing things you have strong opinions about. This is, of course, true. We all know it but then we insist upon some level of real objectivity as we prop up our bad position with good arguments. I suppose I am simply calling for some real humility in your life when it is related to things that are not absolutely clear.

We can and ought to take a solid stand on biblical issues. When the Lord has clearly said then we should be bold enough to declare that truth. But when we express strong opinions about things where we could easily be mistaken, we need to be willing to hear reasonable arguments that are opposed to us. James 3:16-17 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. At the least, after the fact, we should readily admit that we just jumped the gun and allowed ourselves to get carried away for the sake of winning an argument, not for the glory of the real truth.

Strength at the Lord's Table

In today’s sermon, we have heard what it means to be closer than a brother, that is to be a true friend. No doubt, if we are honest, we have all been called up short to some degree. But we ought not despair. The Lord Jesus is that friend that sticks closer than a brother and He is with us here now to comfort and love us, granting us close fellowship with Him and enabling us by His Holy Spirit to be conformed into His image so that we can be the best kind of friend. As we eat and drink of the Lord, we will be changed into the sort of friend that will always stick closer than a brother.

No Offense or Forgive

We are all sinners and yet Christ died for us. The love of the Father towards us was revealed in that He sent His Son to bear our sins. We should think of this as we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, letting love cover a multitude of sins.
         We have taught this often in this church. If your brother sins and you can simply overlook his faults and love him anyway, then you should do so. But if he sins against you and you cannot simply overlook the sin, then the Bible requires that you go to him, confront him so that he repents and then forgive him.
         But you do not get to harbor bitterness against him for the sin that he has committed. You must simply overlook it and take no offense, at all, or you must confront him so that the sin can be confessed and forgiven. To the extent that you are bitter or angry at your brother, sister, mother, father, husband, wife or friend, you must now simply drop it altogether and leave no bitterness at all against them, OR you must now commit to confronting them with their sin for the express purpose of granting them full forgiveness. But the Lord does not allow you to hold onto the wrongs committed against you. Let that sink in. The Lord does not allow you to hold on to the wrongs committed against you. You may not be fully able to deal with this right now in this moment but you do need to take care of it today.