Saturday, October 22, 2016

If God is turned against a nation...

It was 1755 when Samuel Davies preached this sermon in Virginia while it was still part of Great Britain.. 

Notice the contemporary relevance. 

And if God is turned against a nation, if he is resolved to punish them, how helpless is their condition! Who can defend them—if the Ruler of the universe is their enemy? Now, it is guilt alone, which can incur his displeasure—it is guilt alone, which can remove a nation from off its only sure basis—the protection of God. Guilt, therefore, is poison in the veins of a nation, and will cast it into dreadful convulsions, if not remedied in time by a speedy repentance.

And, if this is the case, how may we tremble for our country, and fear the divine displeasure? We have enjoyed a long, uninterrupted peace in this land. We have not been alarmed with the sound of the war trumpet, nor seen garments rolled in blood. But what a wretched improvement have we made of this, and many other inestimable blessings? What a torrent of vice, irreligion, and luxury has broken in, and overwhelmed the land? What ignorance of God and divine things; what carelessness about the concerns of religion and a future state? What a neglect of Christ and his precious gospel—has spread, like a subtle poison, among all ranks and characters!

How daring are the immoralities of some, their profane oaths, their drunkenness, immorality, and many other monstrous vices under which our land groans? What luxury and extravagance in eating and drinking, and especially in diversions and amusements, (if they deserve so soft a name,) may we see among us, especially among people in high life?

How few are the penitent, affectionate, dutiful servants of God among us! How little is the Ruler of the universe regarded by his own creatures—in his own world! Creatures supported by his constant bounties, and protected by his guardian care. Alas! my friends, what shall I say? Most willingly would I draw a veil over the shame of my country; but, alas! it cannot be hidden! While such glaring crimes are rampant among us; while such a stupid carelessness about the concerns of eternity prevails among us—it is impossible for the most benevolent charity to avoid the discovery.

And may we not fear that the measure of our iniquity is full? May we not fear that the righteous Judge of the earth will visit us for these things? Under the present happy government, we have enjoyed our liberty, our property, and our religion, and everything dear to us; but we have abused them all! And may we not fear that these blessings shall be exchanged for the tyranny of a French government, and the superstitions and cruelties of the church of Rome? I hope and pray that this may not be our doom; but I think it is the part of stupid presumption, and not of rational courage, to be quite fearless about it. We are, indeed, so happy as to be closely connected with our mother country, and under its protection. But, alas! vice and luxury have spread like a deadly contagion, there, as well as here: and Great Britain is worthy of divine vengeance, just as well as ourselves!

Now what shall we do in this dreadful case? Shall we put our trust in our military forces? Alas! what can an arm of flesh do for us, if the Lord Almighty deserts us? Though our army was ever so powerful, how sad would be our case, had we reason to say, like Saul, "The French are upon us—and God is departed from us!" Who can bear the thought?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Carl Trueman coming to Redeemer in November

I always enjoy Reading Dr. Trueman's posts. You will find many of them linked here on my blog.

The church I serve is hosting an evening with Carl Trueman on November 19 at 6pm. See the info on the flyer above.  Dr. Trueman is also preaching at the morning worship services on November 20.

Monday, September 19, 2016

George Whitefield on the meaning of "dead" in Ephesians 2

George Whitefield regarding our being "dead in trespasses and sins" (from Ephesians 2) before being made alive together with Christ. He uses the analogy of Lazarus-

"Come, you dead, Christless, unconverted sinners, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on the top of it.

View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him. Ah! How he stinks.

Stop there now, pause a while; and while you are gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell you with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound entombed, stinking carcass, is but a faint representation of your poor soul in its natural state: for, whether you believe or not, your spirit which you bear about with you, sepulchred in flesh and blood, is as literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave.

Was he bound hand and foot with grave-clothes? So are you bound hand and foot with your corruptions: and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so is there a stone of unbelief upon your stupid heart.

Perhaps you have laid in this state, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God's nostrils. And, what is still more effecting you is being unable to raise yourself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long.

You may try the power of your own boasted free-will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without all doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all your efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said 'Take away the stone'; and cried, 'Lazarus, come forth' also quicken you.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Augustine on God liberating him

My sermon tomorrow on Isaiah 41 and 42 deals with a common subject in Scripture- our propensity to make and worship idols.

Augustine describes when God liberated him from idolatry to the saving of his soul-

Late have I loved you,
beauty so old and so new,
late have I loved you.

And see, you were within,
and I was in the external world and sought you there,
and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely things
which you made.

You were with me, and I was not with you.
The lovely things kept me far from you,
though if they did not have their existence in you
they had no existence at all.

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant, and I drew my breath and now pant after you.

I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me,and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

Augustine (Confessions X.27)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Calvin's thoughts on "Fear not, for I am with thee"

A key passage in my sermon text Sunday:

Isaiah 41:[10] fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

About which, John Calvin masterfully writes-

"For I am with thee." This is a solid foundation of confidence, and if it be fixed in our minds, we shall be able to stand firm and unshaken against temptations of every kind. In like manner, when we think that God is absent, or doubt whether or not he will be willing to assist us, we are agitated by fear, and tossed about amidst many storms of distrust. But if we stand firm on this foundation, we shall not be overwhelmed by any assaults or tempests.

And yet the Prophet does not mean that believers stand so boldly as to be altogether free and void of fear; but though they are distressed in mind, and in various ways are tempted to distrust, they resist with such steadfastness as to secure the victory. By nature we are timid and full of distrust, but we must correct that vice by this reflection, "God is present with us, and takes care of our salvation."

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Thoughtful post..especially for Pro-Trump Evangelicals

Joseph Sunde wrote a tremendous piece over at First Things.  It's worth your time- read here.

The most impactful statement comes toward the end-

Our political witness does not rest on rationalizing a vote for choices we deem immoral. It begins in our personal spheres and local communities, in cultivating justice from the ground up and communicating a vision of rightly ordered human love and relationship. It begins in our churches, through prayer and prophetic witness and the promotion of a true anthropology and cultural imagination. It begins in our schools and businesses and civic institutions, where we have the opportunity to foster an ethic of liberty and life that permeates the culture through wisdom and wonder and creative service. From here, our witness connects to the outer reaches of politics, the cultivation of political candidates, the reformation of political institutions, and the rejection of the fear that pollutes our policies and steers our ideological whims.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Go to Christ when bereaved!

Jonathan Edwards gave very helpful counsel to those who are struggling with bereavement- which includes everyone at some time or another:

In case of such an awful dispensation of Providence, those that are concerned in it, and bereaved by it, should go and spread their sorrow before Jesus.

The heart that is full of grief wants vent, and desires to pour out its complaint; but it seeks a compassionate friend to pour it out before.

Christ is such an one, above all others.

Christ is able to afford all that help that is needed in such a case. His power and his wisdom are as sufficient as his purpose, and answerable to his compassions. By the bowels of his mercies, the love and tenderness of his heart, he is disposed to help those that are in affliction; and his ability is answerable to his disposition. He is able to support the heart under the heaviest sorrows, and to give light in the darkness. He can divide the thickest cloud with beams of heavenly light and comfort. He is one that gives songs in the night, and turns the shadow of death into the morning. He has power to make up the loss of those that are bereaved by the death of the most eminent minister. His own presence with the bereaved is sufficient. If the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls be present, how much more is this than enough to supply the want of any under shepherd! And then he is able to furnish others with like gifts and graces for that work .

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord

Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal”

"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” 
- The Gospel of Luke 15:20

Commenting on this verse about the return of the prodigal son, Norval Geldenhuys wrote-

"So inexplicably wonderful is the love of God that He not merely forgives the repentant sinner, but actually goes to meet him and embraces him in His love and grace."

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Church must remain steadfast

Decades of "everyone doing what is right in their own eyes" is coming home to roost. 

The deepening godlessness of America is causing the multiplication of all sorts of wickedness. In preparation for whatever is coming, the Church must remain steadfast in faithfulness to Christ, His Word, and gospel expressions of His love to others. 

Either God will give influence to His people and stem the current of a debauched culture or He will let things continue to crumble. Then, from the rubble of America's broken idols, we hope for God to grant a purified Church the grace to be workers in the rebuilding of a renewed civilization for the glory of King Jesus.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Trueman gives a helpful angle on the Benedict Option

How should Christians relate with culture in modern America- as our nation now stands? 

This is a HUGE pastoral question that occupies my mind daily. 

I have never been comfortable with the formal sides of the "2K" vs "Transformationalist" debate within Reformed Christianity. I find both positions biblically wanting. While a lover of the theological system I subscribe to (Westminster), I am first and foremost a biblical theologian and an expositor of the biblical text. 

My study of Scripture over the past two decades has shaped my interpretation of the Church's role in the world, especially related to the current situation for Christians in the U.S. I have touched on my thinking in various blog posts and letters to my own church about our purpose and focus going forward in a rapidly digressing post-Christian America. 

A year ago I read Rod Dreher's "Benedict Option" and found myself resonating with much of what he said, but also finding it to feel a bit defeatist. In linked post below, Carl Trueman perfectly summarizes a helpful way to think of Dreher's offering. I think he's hit the nail on the head. Simply put, Christians ned to rethink and reorder....quickly.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

The God-centeredness of God is good news!

Ray Ortlund wrote the following in his Isaiah commentary series (related to Hezekiah's appeal for the Lord to save Judah for the sake of God's glory)-

Have you come to realize how the God-centeredness of God is good news for you? For one thing, it means that your unworthiness is irrelevant to God’s readiness to save you. He is not responding to what you deserve; He is proving what a good Savior he is. 

Don’t you see? This opens up a new definition of happiness. Happiness is God being God to you.

Stop praying, “Lord, I want you to make my life better.” 
Stop praying, “Lord, I want you to make my husband or wife better. I want my children to behave. I want an ideal job.

When you pray that way, you can only end up frustrated, because God will not subordinate himself to any human agenda.

Start praying, “Lord, I just want you to be God to me. I want my life, with my problems, to show the world that you save sinners.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

An Executive Order about bathroom usage...Really?

“To make no decision in regard to the growth of authoritarian government is already a decision for it.” 

- Francis Schaeffer (from How Shall We Then Live?)

The President is reportedly issuing an Executive Order today that was also labeled a "letter of guidance" by some news outlets. The letter from the Obama administration states- "a school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.” Sounds like an Executive Order to me. Yes, an order about bathroom usage.  

So, the President and/or Federal government has the right to issue orders about who uses what bathroom in places funded by tax dollars.   

What’s next?  Where does governmental power stop?  

I really don’t care about who uses what bathroom as such. Our increasingly godless culture is understandably confused about sexuality and even gender, so I guess who uses what bathroom was bound to be a debate.  People, especially women, should be cautious when using any public restroom no matter what the law requires. The vexing issue here isn’t primarily about perverts in the restroom or discriminatory bathroom access- It’s about a ridiculous overreach by the government.  

Whatever your position about LGBT rights may be, this kind of overreach with governmental power will lead to more bad things. The executive order pertains only to public places, so relax, right?  Well, after the government issues an order (law), it has a tendency to put the squeeze on private businesses too.  Remember the wedding cake maker?  

Sure, some will celebrate this….until a governmental decree directly impacts them.  

The rapid decline of liberty in the U.S parallels the rise of secular humanism. The rate of moral digression and government intrusion over the past 10-15 years is truly stunning and will no doubt serve as an example to countless future civilizations.  

In the mean time, the Church must prepare herself for a very different country in which to continue preaching the gospel.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A simple Puritan prayer in a restless time

It appears that Hillary Clinton will face off against Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.

It seems surreal these two low character candidates are the best this country can come up with. Is this God's judgment upon us?

It's hard to be optimistic about our future, but alas, God is sovereign.

I adapted a Puritan prayer for such a time as this.  It comforts me.

O God, most high, in light of the two candidates vying for the highest office in this nation....most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace. Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint. Thou bringest order out of confusion, and our defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Characteristics of Godly Wrath

Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" should freak us out, but rest assured, the final Day of the Lord will be FAR worse for those not in Christ.

For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
- The Prophet Isaiah (34:2-3)

Studying and preaching Isaiah makes the reality of God's wrath and judgment very apparent. Sometimes reading so much about God's wrath gets to me, even as a bible teacher and preacher. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for Christ enduring God's wrath in my place, but I am stricken with terror and sadness for those who have not rested upon Christ and are naked before God's wrath. That which awaits unrepentant sinners is almost to awful too contemplate. 

As I try to process the terrible anger God has toward human sin,emotions can twist my understanding and thinking. I am tempted to shy away from speaking of God's wrath because it's so dreadful and awful. I don't want to depict God as awful. Yet, as a minister of God's Word, I must preach what is in the holy text.  As A.W. Pink pointed out, there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. I never want to apologize for what God's Word plainly states. The truth must be proclaimed. The fact is, many come to Christ when they hear of God's wrath. Indeed, I remember being fearful of damnation when I turned to Christ to save me.  I didn't doubt that I deserved God's wrath, and that is the truth which drove me to Jesus. 

Still though, as I preach through Isaiah, more and more of God's judgment is expressed and forecasted.  I know many unbelievers scoff at what they see as a vengeful God.  A preacher can be tempted to preach only the "softer side" of God. Just talk about God loving people in Christ.  God is love.  Jesus is love.  God is Kind. Jesus is compassionate.  But what do God's love, kindness, and grace mean if we are not exposed to the whole truth about our sin, God's righteousness, and our future judgment apart from faith in the work of Christ to remove God's wrath? Only telling part of the truth is a lie, and in this case, a damning lie. 

I think it is hard for me to dwell on the wrath of God or the judgment of God because I struggle to comprehend wrath or anger apart from my sinful experience of these. But God's wrath is not like my wrath. His wrath is right and pure. In balance with the whole message of God's glorious gospel, people need to know the truth about God's just wrath and judgment. It will make yet unredeemed  (but elect) sinners run to Jesus and cause redeemed ones cry out to God with thanksgiving for their salvation through Christ. 

While studying another chapter about God's judgment this week (Isaiah 34) I came across a helpful post by Pastor Bob Deffinbaugh that helps me stay on Scriptural point.  

Characteristics of Godly Wrath

(1) Godly wrath is vastly different from the wrath of man (James 1:20).

(2) The wrath of God is always in accordance with the standards set down in Scripture for man’s conduct and the warnings God has given for disobedience (Deuteronomy 29:26-28; 30:15-20; 2 Samuel 12:9-10; 2 Kings 22:10-13; 24:2; 2 Chronicles 19:8-10; 34:18-28; 36:15-16; Jeremiah 22:11-12; 44:2-6).

(3) The wrath of God is in accordance with the deeds of men. God’s wrath is always in direct proportion to man’s sin (Psalm 28:4; Isaiah 59:18; Jeremiah 17:10; 21:14; 25:14; Ezekiel 20:44; 24:14; 36:19).

(4) God’s wrath is slow and controlled, not sudden and explosive (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18).

(5) God’s wrath comes after warning of judgment (see, for example, the warnings given to men in the days of Noah (Genesis 6-9), of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), and throughout the Old Testament by the prophets).

(6) God’s wrath is always provoked by man’s sin (Deuteronomy 4:25; 9:18; Jeremiah 25:6-7; 32:32).

(7) God wrath is not exercised in sin but in righteousness (Romans 2:5; James 1:19-20).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More cultural prophecy from Schaeffer

More prophetic utterances (not in the biblical sense) from Francis Schaeffer. He wrote this in the late 70's-

"On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on. By 'humanistic base' we mean the fundamental idea that men and women can begin from themselves and derive the standards by which to judge all matters. There are for such people no fixed standards of behaviour, no standards that cannot be eroded or replaced by what seems necessary, expedient, or even fashionable. … The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet - since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking – when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.’ 

 - Francis Schaeffer, 1979 in "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?"

It's hard to believe we live in a time when having a penis no longer means you are a man and public bathroom usage is based on how you feel about your gender.  Worse yet, if you think men shouldn't be allowed to use the same bathroom as women and girls, you are called a bigot. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Recurring themes in the Old Testament

We've been doing a lot of teaching and preaching through the Old Testament lately. I'm preaching through Isaiah and teaching through Genesis. Nathan has been preaching through 2 Samuel and teaching through the Psalms. In light of this, a parishioner sent a very thoughtful email asking what I thought the main themes were, so as to discuss these with his family as they listened to the various presentations from the OT. I fired off a quick response on those recurring themes that came to mind immediately:

Christ. The Savior promised who is completely sufficient.

God saves. Despite how much we rebel...he moves circumstances to cause repentance and faith.

God is sovereign over every detail of history. Even when you think it's bad, God is still working His plan.

God calls us to be faithful no matter what our nation is doing in general, or to us specifically.

We might have to suffer for knowing Christ. Actually, that's the majority experience for Christians over the centuries- perhaps the chief way God grows us personally, and the Church corporately. Christianity isn't dying, it's actually expanding the world over, but through lots of suffering.

It's never too late, while we have breath in our lungs, to confess our sins and ask for God's forgiveness and blessing- which are provided through Christ.

I am grateful for such notes from congregants. It focuses my own thoughts and serves to confirm the wonderful unity of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

There is no life for us in any tangible thing

Lots of trust was placed in horses and chariots during the days of ancient Israel. God warned against their trusting in these fading, physical things.  The Psalmist wrote- "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (20:7).

We look to so many things for happiness, joy, and fulfillment. We see earthly items and think they'll give us security and contentment, but they never do.  Raymond Ortlund addresses this very tendency in his sermon on Isaiah 31 and 32-

“The richness and fullness of life come from what is spiritual, not earthly. Money, for example, can buy a house, but it can’t make a home. Money can put food on the table, but it can’t put laughter and joy around that table. Money can fly you to Paris, but it can’t kindle romance there. What money can do is make you an attractive target for thieves and lawsuits. There is no security in money. There is no life for us in any tangible thing. What makes for life comes not from this world but from the grace of God. Therefore, a heart at one with God is the secret to life. To have God is to have all things. To trust him is to be saved.” 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Blessing of an Intergenerational Church Worshiping together

With the birth of Redeemer's first great grand baby, I marveled at the grace of God for making us an intergenerational church before our 25th year of existence.  This little covenant child has the blessing of her parents, grand parents, and great grand parents worshiping with her at Redeemer. I think it is rare to be a suburban church and have all the generations represented in our congregation.  I love and cherish this feature of our fellowship.    

Our worship "style" is often pegged as "traditional", which I can't stand. I much rather prefer calling it what it is: Historic Christian worship with a quasi-liturgical and clearly Reformed bent but also an appreciation for new, solid, congregational worship songs. We even have a few of our members writing and composing new congregational music for us to sing- you can't get more contemporary than that!  We have selected a style that we trust is both Bible-based and accessible for multiple generations. 

In recent months I have been both amazed and blessed at the sophistication displayed by so many of our Redeemer children related to their comprehension of what happens in the worship service. Parents have shared sermon notes taken by children just ten or eleven years old that show they really get what is being taught.  Children have given me notes and letters thanking me for some aspect of the worship service, sometimes with a picture or quote that reveals they are tracking wonderfully. On many occasions the observations of young people have given me an insight about Scripture I didn’t previously have. God teaches us by His Word and He is constantly using the insights of others, no matter what age, to do so. 

Redeemer’s worship service is simple but purposeful.  It is intended to follow a process that is plain to understand and Scripturally derived. Furthermore, there is intentionally lots of Scripture integrated in the readings, prayers, songs, and sermon.  We are a “Word and Sacrament” church, so these things should be front and center.  Children and teens get the point. We shouldn’t underestimate their ability to see the reasoning behind what we do. Furthermore, we shouldn’t assume it’s too old fashioned for them or in some way antiquated.  If we are careful about what we do and take the time to explain the elements, worshipers of all ages will appreciate our approach and be blessed.  

To be clear, by celebrating our worship style I am not intending to criticize other approaches to  worship.  There are many Biblically faithful, God-centered, Christ-exalting worship orders and styles.  As long as believers are asking the right questions when they plan times of worship, a God-honoring result is likely.  What does God say in His Word about worship?  What does God say is the purpose of our gatherings? According to the Bible, what elements should be included in a worship service?  What does God get out of our worship?  When these questions are asked, a worship service that exalts God and edifies the saints (no matter what age) follows, and this is what we are constantly striving for at Redeemer.  Hearing from young people in our congregation who are tracking and appreciative of the intentionality of our worship approach is truly one of my greatest joys.  

A caution for us relates to how we speak of other styles of worship.  If we are careful to speak of the legitimacy of multiple forms of Christian worship, we’ll cultivate a humble attitude. If we are condescending and critical of other forms and styles, we will nurture a pharisaical attitude that is not becoming of the humility we should have as worshipers.  Also, acting as though we do it right and everyone else is wrong or somehow less mature, will set our young people up to either become joyless, judgmental critics or leave a bad taste in their mouth about what we do and cause them to want no part of it as they grow up.  We do what we do for a reason, but we are not saying we are right about everything or that everyone else has an inferior approach to how they worship.   

The broad spectrum of engaged worshipers at Redeemer is a blessing I hope we all cherish. Seeing our young people participating, taking notes, and discussing the sermon or other aspects of worship should encourage every member of our church. For church leadership’s part, we are committed to provide Biblically guided, practically ordered, understandable, God-centered, and Christ-exalting corporate worship meetings.  For your part, our members of all ages, be prayerful and humble about our approach to God in worship and be sure to engage your children in discussion about everything we’re doing.  It is such a joy to serve a unified, intergenerational congregation of people who love to worship their God in the splendor of His holiness and in the joy of Christ our gracious savior.