The Calling of Mothers

August 12, 2018 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Meditations, Parents

1 Thessalonians 2:7–8: 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

The last couple exhortations have focused on the character and duties of fathers. Fathers are to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before our children as we exhort, comfort, and charge them to serve the Lord with joy and gladness all their days. Today we touch on the responsibilities of mothers.

In our text today, Paul compares his conduct among the Thessalonians to that of a mother. So what does it mean to be a mother? To be a mother is to cultivate the characteristics of gentleness, affection, and loyalty.

First, mothers are to be gentle. Paul writes that we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. We have been privileged in the last year and a half to witness the births of many children; we get to see all you new mothers out there cherishing your babies and we are thankful for you. A woman’s body is made to foster and nurture life. Therefore, a woman who strives to be hard or harsh, who endeavors to suppress her natural gentleness, is a woman at war with what God designed her to be. And this is why shrill women, harsh women, rarely earn respect. Mothers are to be gentle.

Second, mothers are to be affectionate or loving. Paul describes his emotional attachment to the Thessalonians as affectionately longing for you… and then goes on to declare that the Thessalonians had become dear to us. A mother is to be a model of love and devotion. Her heart is to be inclined to her own – her own husband, her own children, her own people. These are mine. Mothers are to be affectionate.

Finally, and closely related to affectionate, mothers are to be loyal. Paul writes, “we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives.” Motherhood is about imparting oneself to one’s children. It is not simply about giving things or relaying information; it is about giving oneself. A mother’s body nourishes life and reveals what motherhood is about. Because a mother loves her child, she gives herself to her child, gives herself for her child. She considers her child’s needs greater than her own, their good greater than her own, their growth greater than her own. Mothers are to be loyal.

Commenting on the nature of love and loyalty, G.K. Chesterton remarks about women in his book Orthodoxy (76):

Some stupid people started the idea that because women obviously back up their own people through everything, therefore women are blind and do not see anything. They can hardly have known any women. The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head. A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always striving to turn him into somebody else…

So, mothers, how are you doing? Are you cultivating the virtues of gentleness, affection, and loyalty? Or are you perhaps permitting bitterness and resentment to harden your heart toward those you love and to drive a wedge between you? Are you subtly poisoning your husband with your bitter words, “I just don’t feel loved. Nobody cares for me. No one reaches out to me.” Are you gossiping to others, undermining their loyalty to their brothers and sisters in Christ? If so, then repent and return to the Lord Jesus. Find your security in Him and, secure in Him, cultivate the virtues of gentleness, affection, and loyalty.

The calling of mothers to be gentle, affectionate, and loyal, reminds us that we all of us, fathers and mothers, have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. We will confess our sins privately and then corporately using the printed confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

The Duties of Fathers

August 5, 2018 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Meditations, Parents

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

When last I preached, we looked at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our calling as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere. This is the type of men fathers are to be, this is to be our character.

But Paul not only describes the character of fathers in Israel, he also outlines the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged” every one of the Thessalonians “as a father does his own children.” So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.

First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – literally, “to call alongside.” Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life, and fathers are responsible to point this out to their children and encourage their children to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so fathers are to exhort their children to follow Him.

Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – meaning literally, “to cause them to be consoled.” Fathers, in other words, are not to be distant or hard to reach, they are not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather, fathers are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout the course of their lives.

Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo“to bear witness.” It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ among the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, so fathers are to bear witness to Jesus among their families.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily, with each of your children, encouraging them, comforting them, and bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you been pro-active and purposeful or have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.

The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds us that we all of us, father and mothers, have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. We will confess our sins privately and then corporately using the printed confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

The Calling of Fathers

July 1, 2018 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Meditations, Parents

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. He had treated them, he writes, as a father does his own children. Paul’s description, therefore, gives us a vision of fatherhood. Today I would like us to observe that Paul helps us understand the calling of fatherhood: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What is the calling of fathers? It is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly among our families. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel, we are to set a standard that our wives, our children, and all others can witness and follow.

First, we are to live devoutly. We are to live our lives in the fear of God. We are to be models of love for God, love for His law, and love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.

Second, we are to live justly. In our personal conduct and in our administration of discipline in the home, we are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness. We are to listen carefully to complaints and judge justly based on the principles found in God’s word. We are not to be blinded by our own prejudices; we are not to delight in airing our own opinions. No. We are to be steadfastly loyal to justice, righteousness, and truth. We are to live justly.

Third, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or that we be hip or that we be fashionable or that we be politically correct or that we be conservative or that we be liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – clinging tenaciously to God’s Word and seeking His approval. We are to live blamelessly.

This, then, is the calling of fatherhood: to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among our families. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.

Reminded, therefore, of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and before His people, let us confess our failure to do so to the Lord. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Save a Soul from Death

June 24, 2018 in Bible - NT - James, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sacraments

James 5:19–20 (NKJV)
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

One of our duties as a congregation is to come alongside one another and assist one another to walk faithfully with the Lord. Our enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil – are relentless in their attacks upon our faith and faithfulness to the Lord. Consequently, the Lord has given us brothers and sisters to assist us in the fight. It is this dynamic that James addresses in our text. Let us note a few things.

First, notice that James views it as possible that those who profess faith in Christ be tempted to apostatize. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth – each of us has names that we can attach to James’ warning. If we have walked long in the faith, we have known those who wander from the truth and fall into error and sin.

Second, James views it as possible that those who are so tempted can be reclaimed. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back… It is possible, by the grace of God, to be God’s means of bringing an erring brother back to the truth. It is possible, in James’ words, to turn a sinner from the error of his ways.

Finally, James encourages us to reclaim those who have wandered for, in doing so, we save the erring brother from certain destruction. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. This is the great privilege of helping those who are wandering astray.

Today the elders perform the sober duty of announcing to you that our beloved sister and daughter, —-, is wandering from the truth…. Consequently, we are publicly suspending her from fellowship in the Supper and calling upon you, her brothers and sisters in the Lord, to come alongside her and attempt to rescue her from the error of her ways. She knows the right thing to do and often desires to do it but has thus far lacked the strength of purpose to carry out what is good and right. So what can you do?

First, regardless of whether you personally know —-, please pray for her and for those who do know her, especially her family, that —- would be disposed to listen to them, to do what is right, and to return to the truth with a whole heart. Pray that she wouldn’t flee from the truth but embrace it with a whole heart.

Second, if you know —-, please endeavor to reach out to her. Consider writing her a letter. Remind her of your love for her, of the Lord’s love for her, and urge her to return to the truth. The Lord is gracious and longsuffering and does not desire the death of a sinner but that one repent and return to Him. So this is what we desire for —-. Don’t treat her self-righteously; don’t lecture her in haughtiness or pride; appeal to her as a beloved sister.

And so, having been notified of —- sin, we are reminded of how susceptible we all are to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. So let us confess our own need of God’s forgiving grace and His merciful intervention to keep us in the truth. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

What the Lord Hates

June 17, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification, Tongue

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)
16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

While many speak of the importance of love, we often fail to realize that he who loves much must also hate much. He who loves his wife must hate him who would steal her away or injure her. He who loves his children must hate him who would lead them astray or hurt them. He who loves the Church must hate him who would disrupt her peace or divide her. As Jesus tells us, “One cannot love God and mammon. He who loves the one must hate the other.” Similarly, the Lord who loves and cherishes righteousness necessarily hates and despises wickedness.

Consequently, in the course of his instruction to his son, Solomon takes a moment to remind him that there are certain things which the Lord despises, which He hates. Solomon arranges these sins in couplets. The first and last go together; the second and second to last, and so on. Let us consider each in turn.

The first and last items have to do with arrogance and pride – a proud look and one who sows discord among brothers. These exhortations describe the one who fancies that his way is always right; the one who cannot appreciate the wisdom and insight of others; the one who is haughty and domineering, crushing others. Haughty people inevitably cause discord because they have to prove that they know best – and the only way they can prove they know best is if they eliminate the competition. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware pride.”

The second couplet addresses lying and deceit. The Lord despises the lying tongue and a false witness who utters lies. He hates the tongue that pours forth honey but under which is found poison; the tongue that plots the destruction of others while securing its own advantage. So, Solomon warns, “Beware lying and deceit.”

The third couplet exhorts those “whose hands shed innocent blood…whose feet are swift to do evil.” The Lord despises murder, violence, evil plotting, and destruction. Our hands have been given to protect the innocent, but the wicked man uses his hands to slay them; our feet have been given to walk in the path of life, but the wicked man walks in the path of death. So, Solomon warns, “Beware violence.”

At the heart of these couplets is the heart. That which the Lord hates is a “heart that devises wicked plans.” Earlier Solomon had warned his son – “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” So here, in his arrangement of sins the Lord despises, he returns to the heart. It is our heart that makes us proud, that treasures lying and deceit, and that leads us to scheme and plot and destroy others. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware an evil heart.”

Reminded that our whole being – our looks, our speech, our actions, and our hearts – are open and laid bare before the face of Him to whom we must give an account, let us confess our sins to Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Maleness or Manliness?

June 10, 2018 in Homosexuality, Meditations, Responsibility, Word of God

Psalm 119:9 (NKJV)
9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

What does it mean to be a young man and not just a young male? We have many young males in the world. Perhaps you have seen them strutting along the streets; speaking disrespectfully to their parents and teachers; scorning authority; using foul language; starting fights; being sexually licentious; causing trouble? But what does it mean to be a man and not just a male. For maleness is a matter of biology – anyone with certain anatomy is a male. But manliness is a matter of moral fiber – it is the grace that unites male anatomy and godly character.

So you young males out there – do you know what it is to be a young man? This is the question David poses today. How can a young man cleanse his way? How can he be a young man after God’s own heart? How can he grow in favor with God and with other men? How can he demonstrate his worth? David’s answer is simple: By taking heed according to God’s Word.

The Apostle John writes in his first epistle, “I have written to you young men because you are strong and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one” (2:14b). In other words, the most important thing you can do to become a young man and not simply to be a young male is to consider, meditate upon, memorize, and practice God’s Word. Ask God what He wants you to love and esteem; what He wants you to cherish; what it means to be a young man after His own heart. It is this type of meditation which leads to John’s conclusion, “and you have overcome the evil one.” The key to manliness is faith in and reliance upon the Living God who has revealed Himself and His will in His Word. The Bible is the pathway to manliness.

So how important is the Word of God to you? Can you find a reference in your Bible? Can you summarize the books of the Bible? Have you memorized portions of the Bible? Do you know the Lord’s Prayer? Do you know the Ten Commandments? Are you letting the Bible shape your thinking and acting more than the latest music video or Marvel film? Are you a man of the Word? In other words, are you not just male but masculine?

Reminded that we often confuse maleness with manliness, let us confess our sin to our Heavenly Father, asking Him to bestow true manliness upon our men – young and old alike – and an esteem for true manliness upon our women – young and old alike. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Keeping Instruction or Despising Correction?

June 3, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:17 (NKJV)
17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, But he who refuses correction goes astray.

Once upon a time there were two men traveling to the city of Zoe. It was an ancient city, the inhabitants of which lived in happiness, abundance, and peace. The Lord of the city openly welcomed visitors to the city and even invited them to stay and become citizens. Indeed, so generous was the Lord of the city that he sent envoys into the world to explain the way to the city.

The first traveler was named Sophos. He had met one of the Lord’s envoys and received directions to the city with great joy. “Always pass through the narrow gate and stay on the narrow path,” he was told. “For wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction.” He set out on the road to the city. Though there were many paths that led off the main road, wide paths that seemed to lead to pleasant pastures, he made sure to stay on the narrow path that led to the city of Zoe. In due time he arrived at the city where he was warmly welcomed.

The second traveler was named Moros. He too had met one of the Lord’s envoys and received instruction. But as he set out on the road to the city, the narrow lane began a steep climb and the going became difficult. It was then that he noticed the wide gate that gave access to a broad path leading down to a plain that was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar (Gen 13:10). So he went through the gate and headed down the path.

The Lord of the city knew that the country toward which Moros was heading was filled with vagabonds and cutthroats, so he had placed his envoys near the gate to warn travelers lest they go that way. One of the envoys warned Moros, “Beware! You are heading to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Lord of the city shall soon destroy.” But Moros would not listen. He had no desire to admit he had been wrong to wander off the narrow path and no desire to resume the arduous climb. So he continued along the path to the plain, admiring the pillar of salt that the inhabitants of the plain had built to point the correct way.

He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray. Reminded that God has pointed out the way to the Heavenly City and given us instruction to guide us on our way, let us confess that we often wander off the path and have need of the Lord’s correction. And let us pray that the Lord would preserve us from folly and from refusing to listen to those who would summon us back to the way. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Christ Has Entered into His Reign

May 13, 2018 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - OT - Psalms, Easter, King Jesus, Meditations

Psalm 110 (NKJV)
A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Today is Ascension Sunday. Forty days after rising from the dead, forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. So what is the significance of this?

Oft times in history, the coronation of kings was followed by a time of travel. The new king would journey throughout his kingdom and show himself to his people. This was an opportunity for the people to see the new king, pledge allegiance to him, and rejoice in his coronation. But eventually the circuit would come to an end. The king would return to his palace, take his seat on his throne, and begin to rule.

It is this narrative that ties Easter and Ascension together. In the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is understood as coronation day. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he rose as God’s triumphant King; the ruler over all the kings of the earth. “You are my son,” God declares in Psalm 2, “Today I have begotten you.” That “today” is the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 2:36; 13:30-33), the day God crowned Jesus King.

For the next 40 days Jesus showed himself to his people. They saw the new King in his glory, pledged their allegiance to him, and rejoiced in his coronation. But eventually this time came to an end. Jesus took his seat on his throne and began to rule: He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, there to rule until all his enemies are subdued beneath his feet. The Father said to Jesus, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

And it is sitting on the throne of His father David, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, that Jesus continues to reign even now and will continue until he has subdued all his enemies beneath his feet. The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Jesus is Lord! Jesus reigns! Let the earth be glad and the righteous rejoice! And so we are instructed to pray that God’s kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We are told to pray for the expansion of Jesus’ rule, the full manifestation of His kingship in human history. For as Jesus’ kingship becomes increasingly acknowledged, light and life come in ever greater degrees.

And because Jesus is Lord, because Jesus is God’s anointed king, the only way that we can come to God is by pledging our loyalty to Jesus. He who honors the Son, honors the Father; he who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him. This morning we have been summoned into the presence of God Almighty; as you are able, let us kneel as we enter his presence and pledge our allegiance to His Son Jesus.