Prayer for the Church Family in America

May 2, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Holy Spirit, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Mosaic Law, Politics, Sacraments, Ten Commandments, Wisdom, Word of God

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our local Pastors’ Association coordinates an event in our city at which various pastors briefly pray for our families, our churches, and our communities and leaders (local, state, federal). I was tasked to pray for the Church Family in America and given the following Scripture as my theme:

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

Almighty and Everlasting Father,

You are good, You do good, and You are worthy of praise. You have not abandoned us Your people but have revealed Yourself in Your most holy word. Your law is holy, righteous, and pure, beloved of all those who put their hope in You. Our Lord Jesus knew that Your law is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path; so He Himself delighted in Your law, rejoiced in Your precepts, and meditated upon Your commandments day and night. He was filled with the Spirit of wisdom and of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Likewise, He summoned us, as His people, to walk in the light of Your Word. “If you keep My commandments,” He said to our fathers on the night He was betrayed, “you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (Jn 15:10).

But, Father, we Your people have not feared You as we ought; we have despised Your commandments; we have substituted our own opinions of what is good and right for Your most holy Word; we have preached cheap grace, “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ;” we have preached “forgiveness without repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession of sins.” Holy Father, have mercy upon Your Church and grant us repentance; unite us together in a most holy love for You, for Your Son Jesus, for Your Word, and for one another, that together as one body we might praise Your Name forever and ever,

Amen.

*The words in quotations are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Come and Worship!

March 24, 2019 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Singing Psalms, Worship

Psalm 95:1–3 (NKJV)

1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.

Each week as we begin the Lord’s Service, I summon us to stand and worship the Lord. This section of our weekly liturgy is called the Call to Worship. Why begin each week this way?

The Call to Worship reminds us of two things. First, it reminds us that we are part of one body. Listen to the words of the psalmist: Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to him with psalms. As one body, we all are joining our voices together. And even as a body has many members and yet is one body – so also is the Church. We are each integral parts of the body, given to one another to join our various voices together as one voice.

So why do we join our voices together? To worship. We are here to praise and honor and exalt God Most High. Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to him with psalms. We are here to sing joyfully, to utter thanks, and to shout joyfully to Him with the psalms. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Lord was seeking out men and women and children to worship Him. Every week the call to worship summons us to fulfill this calling.

So why are we here to worship? Because God is worthy of our praise. The psalmist reminds us, after calling us to join him in worship, For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. To worship God is to acribe worth to God – it is not to add something to God that he lacks but to praise Him because He does not lack anything. God is the Lord and greatly to be praised.

So how ought we to worship? Remember the words of the psalmist – we ought to shout joyfully, we ought to enter into his presence with thanksgiving, we ought to shout joyfully with psalms. So where is your heart today? Are you prepared to worship with joy and thanksgiving? Or are you filled to the full with other things, with other worries and concerns? As we enter worship this day, let us put such sins aside, let us confess our sin to the Lord and beseech him to empower us to worship with joy and thanksgiving. As you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Children are a Gift

December 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Christmas, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

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.

This morning we meditate on Psalm 45 – a song of love, a song that celebrates the wedding day of the King of Israel. We will meditate on the King and Queen in their glory and rejoice in the ideal of wedded love that is presented to us. Psalm 45, as we will see, closes with this promise to the King and his Queen: “Instead of your fathers shall be your sons, whom you shall make princes in all the earth” (45:16). The psalm, in other words, anticipates the fruitfulness of the King and Queen. God would bless them with children.

It the blessing of children that Psalm 127 sings. Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward. Children are a heritage from the Lord – children are God’s reminder to us that he intends to bless us and to cause His people to inherit the earth. The fruit of the womb is his reward – a treasure far greater than second homes, new cars, expensive toys, or undistracted minds. But children are not an automatic blessing – the blessing of children is contigent upon parents raising their children in the nurture of the Lord so that those children fight alongside them against God’s enemies. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. Does it cost to have children? Absolutely. Is it at times a struggle to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Absolutely. But the psalms orient us to the blessing.

Increasingly, however, our broader society tempts us to view children as a burden rather than a blessing. Our culture of death has not only aborted over 60 million children, but is now making the morning after pill increasingly available to stave off the supposed curse of fertility. Rather than extolling the glory of sexual self-control and celebrating the wonder of children conceived in wedlock, we have endeavored to divorce the sexual act from fertility by murdering the unwanted by-products of our sinful self-indulgence. Tired of confining the fire of our passion to the fireplace, we have lighted it in the middle of the house – and now the house is burning down around us. Rampant divorce, skyrocketing rates of mental illness, the #metoo movement, homosexuality, transgenderism – all are the fruit of our hatred of God and our hatred of the fruit of the womb.

So what of you? Have you given thanks for the blessing of children? Parents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to teach and train your children, to disciple them daily, to show them the paths of the Lord, and to invest in them? Grandparents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to invest in the lives of your grandchildren and point them to the greatness of the Lord? Congregation, when the cries of children are reverberating in our sanctuary and you’re having a hard time following the sermon, are you grateful for the blessing of children?

Brothers and sisters, let us remember on this First Sunday of Christmas that Mary responded in faith to the news that she would bear a child. She rejoiced despite the challenges she would face. So let us imitate her by giving thanks for the children that God has given us and anticipating with joy the arrival of others. And let us confess that as a society we have despised the little ones – as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God as Judge

December 23, 2018 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Judgment, Justice, Meditations

Psalm 75:4-7 (NKJV)

4 “I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’ And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn. 5 Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.’” 6 For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. 7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.

This morning we continue centering upon the psalms for worship – we find ourselves in Psalm 44. Psalm 44 is a song of lament and petition; the psalmist wonders why God has failed to act, failed to rise up and defend His people. In order to set some context for that Psalm, I have directed our attention to Psalm 75 for our exhortation.

Psalm 75 celebrates that God is the Judge. God raises up one and casts down another. It is God who is the Lord – who rules in the affairs of men and nations. What then is our duty and responsibility as men and nations? Our duty and responsibility is to humble ourselves before Him and to honor Him. Why? Because He swears that He will destroy all those who are proud and stiff necked. He will judge – He will raise up the humble and put down the proud.

The Scriptures remind us frequently that God hates pride. God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The proud man is he who will not bow the knee to God and acknowledge his dependence, on the one hand, and his sins and errors, on the other. “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5). Pride is often associated, as in our psalm, with a stiff neck – the stiff necked man is he who hardens himself to reproof. Solomon warns in Proverbs 29:1, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Either welcome the Lord’s reproof and correction now while there is opportunity to change and repent or you will suffer eternally in hell. Cultivate humility and shun pride.

So what does this mean for each of us? First, gentlemen, are you cultivating relationships that provide you with accountability and correction? If you are married, do you listen to the wisdom of your wife and treasure the gift that God has given you in her? Married or unmarried, have you established relationships with other men who can correct you and exhort you? Men to whom you are directly accountable? Men whose wisdom and maturity challenge you to be more faithful, more holy, more responsible? If not, do so.

Second, ladies, are you cultivating relationships that provide you with accountability and correction? If you are married, do you listen when your husband endeavors to correct you, honoring him for the office he holds? Married or unmarried, have you sought out relationships with other women who will speak the Word of God to you and not comfort you in your sin and complaint? Women to whom you are directly accountable? Women whose wisdom and maturity challenge you to be more faithful, more holy, more responsible? If not, do so.

Finally, children, are you listening to the correction and rebuke that you are receiving from your parents in the fear of God? God has put them into your life so that you can develop into godly, humble young men and women. So beware hardening your neck; beware the hand of pride that would lead you to say, “I know better! I don’t need correction. No one can tell me what to do.” Are you cultivating an obedient and humble heart? Surrounding yourself with friends whose humble obedience to their parents challenges you to be more faithful, more holy, more responsible? If not, do so.

Reminded that this is our calling as the people of God – to be humble and open to correction – let us kneel and confess that we have often been proud and froward instead. 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.

The Nature of Biblical Worship

December 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Worship

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)
15 Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 35 today. Three times in our psalm, David will promise to praise God if God will but deliver him from his persecutors. And since Paul urges us to offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name, it seems fitting to study each of David’s promises and to learn what they teach us about biblical worship.

David makes his first promise in verses 9-10:

9 And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation. 10 All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like You, Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”

Here David teaches us two things about biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be personal. My soul shall be joyful; all my bones shall say, “Lord, who is like you…” Worship isn’t something “out there” that we participate in, it is something “in here” that emerges from grateful hearts. Second, biblical worship is to be joyful. My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation. Because God saves us from those too mighty for us – from sin, from Satan, from worldly foes who hate God – worship should be saturated with joy. Biblical worship is to be personal and joyful.

David makes his second promise in v. 18:

18 I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.

So let us add two more features of biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be thankful. I will give you thanks… Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, so we ought to thank Him. Second, biblical worship is to be corporate. I will give you thanks in the great assembly [church]; I will praise You among many peoples. Biblical worship does not confine itself to me and God alone because God’s purposes for my life are far greater than my salvation. He saves me in order that I might bless and encourage others, that others might be saved through me. Biblical worship is to be thankful and corporate.

David makes his final promise in verse 28:

28 And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long.

So let us add two final features of biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be vocal. And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness… Worship isn’t just a matter of the heart, it issues forth from our mouths using our lips and tongues. Second, biblical worship is to be continual. And my tongue shall speak…of Your praise all the day long. While our worship is to be corporate, it cannot be limited to times of corporate gathering – these times are few and far between. Consequently, our corporate worship must spill out into all my day, must shape the entirety of my life. My day should be filled with praising and thanking God. Biblical worship is to be vocal and continual.

Putting all this together, therefore, biblical worship is to be personal, joyful, thankful, corporate, vocal, and continual. Often, however, our worship lacks these traits. So as we enter into the presence of the Lord, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Psalms as the Word of Christ

December 10, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship

Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

For Advent and Christmastide we are continuing a tradition that we started several years ago of preaching through the psalms. It is important that we remember why this is a fitting tradition, why we should devote considerable time and attention to the psalms. In our day, various ideologies divorce Christians from the OT; consequently, Psalm singing has fallen on hard times, especially among Protestants. So as we recover this practice, let us consider the foundation for it that Paul lays in our text today.

First, Paul identifies the content of our worship. We are to let the word of Christ, Christ’s own word, dwell in us richly. Jesus speaks to us today; He is calling today. But where? Paul tells us: He speaks in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In the Greek translation of the OT, these labels correspond to the varied songs in the psalter. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the Psalter. The book of Psalms contains psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which we are to sing. Why? Because they are the Word of Christ – Christ’s own words to us. When we sing the Psalms to one another, we hear Christ speaking to us in the voices of our brethren.

Second, Paul identifies the function of our worship. We are to teach one another and admonish one another. First, we teach one another. When we sing the psalms to one another, we expand our knowledge of God and our awareness of His work in the world. We teach one another of His righteousness, His mercy, His wrath, His love, His patience, His judgments, etc. The psalms force us to reckon with ways in which our own thinking differs from God’s thinking. When we sing a psalm and find ourselves disagreeing with its words, the problem is not with the psalm but with us. Consequently, we not only teach one another as we sing, we also admonish one another. We correct erroneous thoughts, summon one another to trust the Lord more fully, rebuke one another’s complacency, immorality, greed, idolatry, and deceitfulness. The psalms teach and admonish us.

Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a grateful heart; it is an expression of thankfulness for God’s work in our lives. The hypocrite says one thing with his lips and another with his heart; the loyal worshiper joins heart and lips together in song. We are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts.

Finally, Paul identifies the object of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The Lord is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. He has created us and not we ourselves; He has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. He has sent His Spirit to empower us to walk in newness of life. So we are to give Him thanks and praise, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.

So as we enter into the presence of the Lord this day, as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, let us teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord. Unfortunately, much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we speak the words of Christ to one another, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves. So reminded of our failures in this regard, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why pursue wisdom?

October 29, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Discipline, Image of God, Meditations, Parents, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:1 (NKJV)
1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.

The proverbs of Solomon guide and teach us in order that we might be full of wisdom; in order that we might govern our daily affairs in a way that glorifies and honors our Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. In chapter 10 of Proverbs, Solomon begins to identify practical ways that the law of God teaches us wisdom. And where does he begin? He begins with your motivation. Why should you pursue wisdom? Because it is the wise son who brings joy to his parents.

Every child is born with an innate desire to please his parents. This desire is a gift from God, part of what it means to be made in the image of God. God the Son has eternally delighted to do the will of His heavenly Father, a delight on display in His Incarnation. “I delight to do Your will, O God,” Psalm 40:8 declares, “Your law is within my heart.” This delight of the Eternal Son in the Eternal Father has been hard-wired into the world such that children long for the approval of their parents, oftentimes even when those parents have been cruel or unkind.

So how can a son, young men, how can you, please your parents? Solomon gives you the answer: strive for wisdom and avoid folly. Cultivate the fear of God; meditate on the commandments of God; imbibe the promises of God; flee greed; flee lust; flee covetousness. Why should you do these things? Because it is the wise son who makes his father glad; because it is the foolish son that brings grief to his mother. And which would you rather do, bring your father joy or bring your mother grief? I pray to God that you would rather do the former.

But perhaps you don’t care about pleasing your parents. Perhaps you could care less what they think; perhaps you just want to cause them pain because you are frustrated with their restrictions or upset by their rules or hurt by their inattention. What should you do then? The first thing you should do is stop making excuses for your sinful attitude, confess it to God, and pray that He would change it. The fifth commandment is clear: Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth. God’s desire for you is that you honor your parents. So if you are failing to do so, if you have no desire to do so, then you are in sin and you need to repent.

But what if you are the parent? What if your child doesn’t care about pleasing you, what should you do? First, ask yourself whether you care about pleasing your parents. Much more is caught than taught. If you do not long to please your parents it may very well be that your kids are simply taking a page from your book. If so, repent and confess your sins to the Lord and to your kids. Second, are you embittering your children, treating them tyrannically? A child’s innate desire to please his parents, though strong and resilient, can be destroyed by such behavior.

Reminded this morning that the innate desire that God has placed within us to receive the praise of our parents is often twisted, distorted, or even annihilated by our sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Put Your Trust in the Lord

October 15, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Worship

Psalm 4:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.

The call of God upon all people is very simple and straightforward – He wants us to serve Him, not man; to trust in Him, not in created things; to love and cling to Him, not to the idols which we create with our own hands. As our Lord Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Each of us faces the choice in our lives of whom we shall serve: will we serve God or will we serve some idol? And note that this is not a choice that admits of middle paths – there is no third option; no neutrality. We must choose whom we shall serve. Who will be our God? Who is your God?

Have you given yourself to the gods of this age? To glamour, wealth, power, academic prestige, simplicity, body image, sexual expression? Do you sit and worship at their feet? Or have you given yourself to the Triune God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the fountain of true glamour, of lasting wealth, of real power, of profound wisdom, of unpretentious simplicity, of blessed health, of virtuous sexuality? Do you sit and worship at His feet?

It was at God’s feet that David sat and he summarizes well what it means to do so –
· Tremble, and do not sin – Fear God, do anything except offend him; remember that our God is a consuming fire and that sin separates us from Him; so, if we would sit at His feet, we must put away sin.

· Meditate within your heart upon your bed, and be still – in private, when you are laying down to rest and are tempted to let your thoughts run wild, to become anxious and afraid as your hopes and fears run laps about your skull, meditate instead upon God’s presence and His Word. Remember His promises, His assurances, and His threats, and so be still. Remind yourself – God is my Creator; in Christ He is also my Redeemer; He will care for me; He will bless me; He will remember me. And in that knowledge…

· Offer the sacrifices of righteousness – remember that the point of your life is to worship your Creator and Redeemer publicly and privately; so join God’s people every Lord’s Day and serve the Lord with gladness every day; rejoice in His precepts; delight in His law; confess your sins; pray for God to transform your character; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

· And put your trust in the Lord – Don’t succumb to the temptation to worship the idols of the world – many of them are carved quite cunningly, beautiful with their gold and silver accents – but remember that despite all their cunning beauty they cannot do anything for you: beauty will fade; wealth will take flight; power will vanish; but the Lord shall remain ever faithful to those who trust Him.

So what is God’s call upon us? David tells us:
Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.

As we come into the presence of our Lord to worship, reminded that our calling is to trust wholly in Him and no doubt convicted that we have failed to do so, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.