Thursday, January 29, 2015

Treasuring the Word

A happy Thursday to you! This past Sunday I preached on Treasuring the Word. So have you considered this week how to implement a plan to get into the Word more in the coming year?

Remember that a wish is different than a goal. A wish comes flying through like a butterfly - it floats about, occasionally landing here or there, but it's notoriously hard to pin down. A goal lands like an Army Ranger - it hits the ground and sets about doing what it's supposed to do. When the Word is preached we all - me included - have a multitude of impressions and wishes that touch us. But the Spirit wants not merely to impress us but to change us - to begin transforming our habits.
James reminds us:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (1:22-25)

So what things did the Spirit impress upon you during the sermon? What are you going to do to implement those things? Set a goal. Be very specific - goals are measurable, you should be able to check them off. At the end of the day, week, month, or year you should be able to say, "Yes - I did that." So what new Bible reading habits do you want to implement this year - in your personal life and in your home? Don't let that butterfly fly away! Get to it and make a plan.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Psalm 127:3–5 (NKJV)
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Last Sunday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday – unfortunately my scheduling got mixed up and I neglected to take note of it. Consequently, I mention it this morning in our call to worship. As men and women made in the image of God, we are to rejoice in the gift of life. Psalm 127 reminds us that the arrival of another child is a gift from God.

But our perspective on children is often askew. Rather than view the arrival of another child as a blessing, a gift from God, we frequently view children as a burden, a weight, and a shackle. We think the fruit of the womb is a curse not a blessing. Sometimes we’re consumed with the desire for more stuff or more me-time; sometimes selfishly driven by our longing for peace and quiet; sometimes irritated by the childishness of children. So we often despise children – children whom our Lord Jesus treasured and blessed. We often embrace fruitlessness and reject fruitfulness. We need to beware lest we give way to this ungodly mentality. Receive children – even others’ children – as a blessing from God.

Because children are a heritage from the Lord, we need to not only receive them but also shepherd and train them as such. Even as a man is called to care for the inheritance he has received from his fathers, so a man is called to care for the inheritance God has given him in the form of his children. We are called to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – teaching them, training them, instructing them.

So fathers and mothers, how are you doing? Are you treasuring your kids? Are you not just proclaiming that children are a blessing, but acting it out by being engaged with the blessings God has given you? This is what it means to be a parent – to give of yourself, to invest yourself, in the lives of your kids. Take time to shepherd them, to correct them, to admonish them, and to encourage them that they might actually become a blessing to God and to their neighbors.

You who have no children, or who no longer have children at home, how are you doing? As God’s people, we need to beware that we are receiving and welcoming all of God’s people in our congregation – particularly the little ones. For Jesus has told us that of such is the kingdom of God.

Reminded that we often reject the blessing of fruitfulness and embrace fruitlessness instead, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Add More Words

Here in Idaho the LGBT group is in the midst of an "add the words" campaign to cordon off their actions from public censure and force the citizens of Idaho to publicly sanction their behavior. I have submitted the following to our local paper in response - you can read it on the Coeur d'Alene Press site here.

Every time I read something supportive of the “Add the words” campaign I’m disappointed that the advocates are so timid. They are taking mere half-steps when what we really need is a bold and courageous sprint for the finish. I say let’s “add more words” not just “add the words.”

After all, if we’re giving public sanction and blessing to perverse sexual expression, then why stop with LGBT? Let’s “add more words”! Advocates say that LGBT folks just want respect; just want the same rights as everyone else. But advocates of other practices could say the same. Some media outlets have already begun their relentless campaign to destroy all sense of civility and honor by sanctioning polygamy and incest. The TV show Sister Wives has shown how hip polygamy can be. And incest? Well Bianco Santos, star of the new MTV show Happyland, declared in July, “Incest is hot, and we’re going to have fun!” So let’s “add more words”!

And since we’re wallowing in the mud anyway, why not rename “Bisexual” as “Either” and our new acronym could be much more effective: PIGLET (Polygamous, Incestuous, Gay, etc). For that gets to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? You see, the problem with the entire LGBT movement is that it is built on sand; it has no foundation. What are we as human beings? Why should we even care about respect? Are we unique creatures made in the very image and likeness of God to pursue honor and dignity and virtue? Or are we mere beasts who’ve evolved to root about in the muck and act like barbarians? Our civilization was built on the former conviction; currently we’re being pressured by those convinced of the latter. Are you convinced? Incest is hot? How about despicable? Vile? Offensive? An affront to God and to every thinking man, woman, and child? Just as are LGBT and polygamy.

Urge your state representative and senator to oppose this vile propaganda and to uphold the traditions that our fathers handed down to us. Thank Governor Otter for standing against the tyranny of our federal courts. And pray that God would lift His hand of judgment from us that we might not add any words to the unchanging moral laws which He has delivered to us in His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sins of Omission and Commission

This coming Sunday we recite question numbers 14-15 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question number 14 directs us to the topic of sin:

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

The Westminster divines remind us that sin entails both acts of omission and acts of commission. Acts of omission are covered in the first clause - "Sin is any want of conformity unto...the law of God." When we fail to do that which we know we ought to do, that which God has commanded us to do, then we have sinned. As James reminds us, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). So be sure to listen to your conscience and to implement the good things you think of doing - don't just think about them.

The catechism also addresses sins of commission: "Sin is any...transgression of, the law of God." To rebel against God, to hear what God says and then to do the opposite, is also sin. Hence, the Apostle John reminds us that "sin is lawlessness." Sin is an attempt to act as god; to pretend that we are the lawgiver and the judge; who will rule over me?

During Ordinary Time we confess our sins with the following words: "Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.Sins of omission and sins of commission.

Thank God that in His grace and mercy He has not abandoned us to our sins of omission and commission but has rescued and delivered us through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord! He has rescued us and given us His Spirit that we might, by the power of the Spirit, do those things which honor and please Him. So don't be discouraged: confess your sins of omission and commission and then rise up and hear God's word of pardon and forgiveness, giving thanks to His Name.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Spirit and the Word

"The Spirit is not given to make Bible study needless, but to make it effective."

J.I. Packer, "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God, p. 112.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thought and Tears

"Tears displacing thought is objectionable, when thought was called for, but similarly, thought instead of tears is objectionable, when tears were called for."

N.D. Wilson & Douglas Wilson, The Rhetoric Companion, p. 55.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Abounding in the Faith with Thanksgiving

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Paul’s admonishes us to walk in Christ in the same way in which we received Him – and this, of course, means that we are to walk by faith. We are to reject all attempts at self-deliverance or self-justification; we are to reject moralism and legalism; we are to acknowledge our weakness and need for grace. In that posture, relying upon the help that only God can give, we are to do that which is good and pleasing in His sight.

Christ is the center: He is the center of history; He is the center of the biblical story; He is the center of our own personal lives. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves; and, by the power of the Spirit, He continues to do in us what we cannot do on our own. So Paul urges us to be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith just as we have been taught. Paul calls us to be faithful to the faith that was handed down in the churches, to (in his words to Titus) hold firmly to the traditions which we have been taught. Like Jude, Paul wants us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

This injunction that Paul gives the Colossians is one of the reasons that we, each Lord’s Day, recite one of the Creeds together. Our goal in reciting them each week is that these summaries of Scriptural teaching rest in our bones and become part of us through corporate confession. The goal is that each week we grow in our knowledge of Christ and our thankfulness for what God has done for us in Him.

You see Paul wants us not to be just rooted and built up in Christ, not just established in the faith we have been taught, but established in a certain fashion. And what is that? Note what he says: he wants us to be abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. First, consider that he calls us to be “abounding in the faith.” To abound is to “exist in large numbers or amounts.” Paul doesn’t want us just holding on to the faith; not just enduring; but abounding. Abounding in our study of the Word; abounding in our devotion to prayer; abounding in service to God, to His people, and to the world. So are you abounding? Are you striving to grow, week by week, year by year, in your knowledge of the faith and service to Christ?

Second, he wants us to be “abounding in it with thanksgiving.” It would be easy to work really hard and so appear to be abounding but to have an attitude in our work that is resentful or frustrated or bitter or empty. We are not to be abounding in the faith with bitterness, or with burn out, but with thanksgiving. How is this possible? Only if we recall, once again, that it is God who is at work in us to will and to do for His good pleasure. We walk by faith – faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for us and who poured out His Spirit on us.

So this morning as we enter into God’s presence, let us confess that we are often not abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. And let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Seeing in the Darkness

"Wise men see more with their eyes shut by night than fools can see by day with their eyes open."

C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 16, 1:196.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Grace and Merit

"[G] not given according to any merits, but is the cause of all good merits..."

Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, NPNF, V:499.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why Kneel in Worship?

1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.

In its public worship, every church has traditions. Whether it is a tradition of spontaneity or a tradition of regularity, traditions are unavoidable. They are an inescapable part of human life. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles.

Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?

This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church today. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholic worship. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.

Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. It is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not kneel to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.

But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. In such situations, how can one do anything but kneel? So what about worship? We have entered into the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose glory fills heaven and earth; the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to rescue His people from sin and Satan and death – how could we imagine that to kneel before this One is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But profoundly wise and biblical.

So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamb and they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Is your ministry a sham?

"To fail to love my wife and kids rightly in the name of loving other people rightly is a sham."

Brady Bobbink in Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, p. 45.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ordinary Time

Greetings and blessings as we enter into Ordinary Time. There are two sessions of Ordinary Time in the Church Year. The first is this that we have entered which spans from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. The second follows Trinity Sunday in the Spring and continues until Advent. The majority of the year, therefore, is Ordinary Time - it is the time of slow and steady growth at the hands of our wise and loving God.

Jesus reminds us in His parables that the kingdom of God is like planting and harvesting a crop - it grows slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, but always persistently. God is at work. Consequently, the color for Ordinary Time is green - the color of plant-like growth.
Appropriately this Sunday we recite the 11th question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What are God's works of providence?
A: God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.

The Living God is the Lord of all; He is sovereign. Not only did He create all things in the beginning, He continues to sustain them by His Almighty Hand. Providence is what separates us from Deists. Deists want a god who created but who is no longer involved in the history of the world and creation. But the Living God is not like this. It is He who causes the earth to rotate on its axis; He who supplies the birds of the air with food; He who directs the molecular structures of every created thing. "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases" (Ps 115:3).

Because our Lord is Sovereign and in control of all, all those who have Him as our Father through faith in His Son Jesus, can have great confidence. We can rid ourselves of worry and anxiety - God is in control. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29–31) Praise God!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Rule of the Covenant

"No doubt, [God] adopted Abraham freely, but, at the same time, he stipulated with him that he should live a holy and an upright life, and this is the general rule of the covenant which God has, from the beginning, made with his Church. The sum is, that hypocrites, who occupy a place in the temple of God, in vain pretend to be his people, for he acknowledges none as such but those who follow after justice and uprightness during the whole course of their life."

John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Psalms, Psalm 15.