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: http://vhurt.blogspot.com/

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.

Little Saints at The Lord's Table

Today, we have received three children into Christ’s Church. These children belong to the Lord every bit as much as they belong to their own parents. And, in the Lord, we all have kinship in these children, as well. We have a new little brother and new little sisters. They are part of our community, our communion in the Lord. So, it is fitting that we gather here, with them, to eat and drink of the goodness of the Lord. They cannot yet eat bread or drink wine but, in time, they will grow to be able to eat and drink with us and they will learn of the Lord’s promises and they will trust Him, tasting that the Lord is good.
         So, all of you have an obligation, along with their parents and brothers and sisters, to reveal truth to them, in the way that you live, and speak and even in the way that you eat at this Table. Look upon the bread and the wine and know that God, the Father is doing the same. He sees the blood of Jesus and knows that His people are cleansed from their sins. And through this, He accepts each of you, and Beatrice, and Noah and Charlotte, our newest saints. Agree with the Father. Rejoice in His goodness to you and to the least among us. Walk in this forgiveness and newness and so prove the grace and blessing of the Lord.

Presumptuous Sins

We are not to live presumptuous lives, trampling under foot the blood of the covenant. We do this when we make light of sin, thinking, perhaps even before we commit sins, that the gracious and merciful Lord will forgive us. He is most gracious and merciful. He is long-suffering and quick to forgive and such characteristics should call us to love and serve Him ever more faithfully. 
           But if His kindness and graciousness tempt you to take advantage of Him, then you are not growing in His grace and mercy. In fact, it is just the opposite. You are growing cold and eventually His mercy towards you will also grow cold.
It is true that the Lord is patient and quick to forgive but it is also true that there is a limit to His patience. We see this time and again in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. When there is continual, willful rebellion, the Lord will eventually act in judgment. And the way to get to continual, willful rebellion is through tolerating and justifying your small acts of sin on a daily basis. Eventually, the heart grows cold and indifferent and festers into full-blown and open rebellion. So, what must we do to be saved? Repent of sins and seek the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life through Jesus.

Lower Seats

The disciples of our Lord talked about who was the greatest among them. When Jesus found out, He rebuked them. They were vying for position in the Kingdom of God but Jesus told them about and showed them a more excellent way. Those who vie for position in the Kingdom of God will always be asked to move down into the less honorable seats but those who seek to honor their brothers by sitting in the lower seats will always be asked to move up into the place of honor.
         When it finally dawned on the disciples that Jesus died for them, for their sins, to save them from judgment, I have no doubt that they felt a great remorse for their efforts to get ahead of one another.  As we commemorate the death of Jesus for us, for our sins, to save us from judgment, we must also feel remorse at our attempts to vie with our brothers. Like Jesus, let us serve one another and rejoice in His goodness to each one called by the name of disciple of Jesus.

Good Providence

As I mentioned last week, understanding the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty over all things, or at least accepting it as a fact, is a central key in finding peace with God and peace with your brothers. Ongoing anger, bitterness and resentment are all sinful responses to the reality of God’s Providence.
         It is true that we have to deal with the various difficulties that life brings us. But when we say it that way, it does not take us long to come to the conclusion that life bringing us something is about the same as chance bringing us something. Life, in the abstract, does not bring us anything. But, our God, who is our life, does bring us circumstances. And He is a good God and a loving heavenly Father. It is sometimes easier to think that life or chance brought us a bad deal than to think that God brought it. Or maybe better said, that God sent it. The difficulty may actually be brought by some sinful deliverer but God, who is over all, is the One who directs and guides all things. Since He is all powerful, He can always prevent any evil from coming our way. But the fact is that He does not do so. We have to deal with this straight up with a stout heart. And in this dealing, learn that God is watching over us for good and then try to find it in every circumstance. The best way to do this is through thankfulness to God for His watchcare over us.
         So, if there is anger, resentment or bitterness still lurking for your lot in life, the Providence that God has delivered to you, it is time to confess your unrest and find rest for your soul.

Blood Brothers

Dear Saints, we are gathered together here as brothers and sisters in Christ. If are in Christ, then we are His brothers and sisters. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and nothing ought to be able to separate us from the love of one another. That is true of all our brothers and sisters in Christ in the broader Church throughout the Earth but it ought to be especially true of this expression of Christ’s Church, the local church, this church seated here.
         These tokens identify us as Christ’s brothers and sisters, the children of the Lord. And thus, they also identify us as brothers and sisters of one another in Christ. Many of us know that the kinship that we possess here is even closer than some of our kin by blood. But this kinship in Christ is also by blood. The blood of Christ has made us His kin and so the blood of Christ courses in the veins of all who gather in His name. This blood of the new birth is even thicker than the blood of the first birth. I pray that God will help us to see this and truly draw us together by an inseparable bond in Christ Jesus as we learn to love one another and express that unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Honor not Honored

As we have made our way through these sermons on the family, it is becoming increasingly clear that God uses family to teach us His ways and we find that His ways, while good, are not necessarily the way we would choose. In our families, we learn to serve one another, to put others first, to honor father and mother, to view our brothers and sisters of more worthy of praise than ourselves. And we do not have to feel like little despised worms in order to think or feel this way.
In fact, all we really have to do is to learn to love, to love God, to love our parents, to love our brothers and sisters. We do not have to annihilate ourselves in order to build up others.
Some great men have this gift. They can be truly great but when they speak to lowly ones, they seem to have a true sense of love for their fellow. They do not patronize them or belittle themselves. They simply choose to love the one they are speaking to and their love towards their lowly fellow honors him and lifts him up.
So, in your homes, you do not have to grovel to put yourself below others. You simply have to love them in a way that truly seeks their good. You become less concerned with yourself, how you look, what others think of you, how honored you are, and more concerned with what you can do to encourage, please, and honor them.
This sort of message calls us all up short, not because we are so bad but because we have not loved as fully as we should, seeking to lift up and honor instead of seeking to be lifted up and honored.