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.

Created for Work

May 6, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Wealth, Work

Proverbs 10:16 (NKJV)
16 The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin.

When God fashioned us in the beginning and placed us in the Garden of Eden, He immediately commissioned us. He gave us a duty to fulfill, a task to perform. Our role in the Garden was not to sit back and luxuriate; it was not to be in a perpetual state of leisure. God gave us a mission to accomplish, a work to complete. Six days we were to labor and do all our work; on one we were to rest and worship. So what was that labor? God placed us in the garden, we are told in Genesis 2:15, to tend and to keep it.

First, we were to tend the garden. We were to cultivate the ground and to make it even more fruitful than it already was. We were to extend the order of the Garden to the rest of the world and offer the fruit of that labor up to our Creator as our service of worship and adoration. Second, we were to keep the garden. We were to guard it and protect it from destruction – whether destruction from our own hands or from those of an intruder.

What this means is that work was part of the paradise of God. We were designed to tend and keep the earth to the glory of God. Work is a gift from God. Tragically, we rejected our twofold calling. We failed to protect the Garden from the serpent-intruder. We permitted him to lead us astray and we rebelled against God. Consequently, the blessing of work became twisted and tainted by the curse of toil. Thorns and thistles, death and destruction, came in the wake of our sin. Work and toil became intertwined.

But God did not abandon us to toil. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and to restore us to fellowship with Him. By faith in Jesus’ Name, He forgives our sin and gives us His Spirit so that we can once again tend and keep the earth to the glory of His Name. Solomon reminds us, “The labor of the righteous leads to life…” Those who fear God work to the glory of God and so bring life to the world. While still troubled by the effects of sin and required to wrestle against thorns and thistles, we do so as those who have been reconciled to God and restored to the glory of work. Because Christ has risen from the dead, Paul reminds us, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Teaching children, changing diapers, balancing accounts, building homes – every dimension of earthly labor can bring glory and honor to our Redeemer.

Nevertheless, there are those who still refuse to work for the glory of God. They violate the first and greatest commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Consequently, all their labor remains intertwined with toil and is dishonoring to God. From digging ditches, to cleaning toilets, to painting landscapes, to healing the sick – the wages of the wicked lead to sin.” Those who do not fear God sin even in the littlest things and, since sin leads to death, their toil leads to meaninglessness and death.

So here’s what Solomon would have you remember: God the Creator has put you in the world to labor for His glory. He has sent His Son to redeem the world that you might be reconciled to Him and do all your work motivated by a desire to glorify His Name. So do you? First, do you love work or do you love leisure? Do you value the tasks that God has given you to perform or are you constantly endeavoring to avoid them? Second, what motivates your labor? Are you working just to make money? Working just to make your payments? Or are you working for the glory and honor of the Lord?

Solomon reminds us to labor faithfully to the glory of God – this is the pathway to life. But often we shirk our responsibilities, often we fail to offer our work up as worship to the Lord, often we fail to protect our workplaces from those who would destroy them; we have need to confess our sins to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Storing up wealth or living hand to mouth?

April 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wealth

Proverbs 10:15 (NKJV)
15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

In the text before us today, Solomon highlights the blessing of wealth and the danger of poverty. On the one hand is the blessing of wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… In the ancient world, a strong city was a place of refuge and protection from the ravages of warfare. Walled cities, or strong cities as Solomon calls them, were havens of security in an insecure world. Like the walls of these strong cities is the wealth of the rich man. His wealth enables him to hide himself, his family, and his friends in times of hardship or difficulty. His wealth is a source of security and protection. It is a blessing from God.

On the other hand is the danger of poverty. The destruction of the poor is their poverty. Whereas marauders, thieves, and foreign armies often left strong cities alone, they frequently laid waste small villages and unwalled cities, plundering property, slaying the populace, and sometimes devastating the surrounding countryside. These unwalled cities were constantly exposed to danger and oppression. Likewise, the poor man. When hardship arrives, the poor man has no resources upon which to draw to sustain himself or his family. His poverty is his destruction.

Solomon’s words remind us, first, of the blessing of wealth and the value of saving. Living hand to mouth is sometimes necessary but never wise. Always better to save for a rainy day, to build one’s wealth, so that in times of hardship you have a strong city to which you can flee. In Scripture, it is not sinful to acquire wealth; it is sinful to have a lust for wealth, it is sinful to use your wealth to promote wickedness, it is sinful to steal from others in order to gain wealth; but it is not sinful to acquire wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… and is, therefore, a blessing from God.

Solomon’s words also remind us, second, of the blessings of spiritual wealth. It is the man or woman who knows the character and promises of his God who will be able to endure times of hardship and suffering. And this type of wealth, spiritual wealth, is a wealth that any child of God can acquire whether he be rich or poor. On the one hand, Paul writes of the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). On the other hand, James writes of the poor, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (2:5) Spiritual wealth is a strong city which any child of God may acquire by the grace of God.

So what of you? Are you endeavoring to store up wealth in order that you may have a strong city in times of trouble? Are you avoiding debt and endeavoring to save or are you just living hand to mouth? Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s character and promises so that you may be able to weather the tribulations that will come your way in this life or are you spiritually poor? Remember the words of Solomon: The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

Reminded of our calling to think of tomorrow and to store up wealth for times of trouble, let us acknowledge that we often fail to do so. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Necessity of Humility

April 22, 2018 in Bible - OT - 2 Chronicles, Confession, Meditations

“[King Zedekiah] did evil in the sight of Yahweh His God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. And [the king] also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh the God of Israel.
2 Chronicles 36:12-13

The text before us today speaks of the sad legacy of King Zedekiah, last of the kings of Judah. Heir to a broken kingdom, Zedekiah hastened its slide into oblivion. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, had conquered Judah in fulfillment of God’s just judgment. Rather than submit to God’s hand, however, Zedekiah sought escape by soliciting the help of Egypt. The result was disastrous. Zedekiah watched his own sons slain before his eyes before being blinded and forced to end his days in chains and slavery.

The transgressions of Zedekiah stand as warnings to all of us. Consider three admonitions which we can gather from this text.

First, Zedekiah failed to humble himself before the Word of God. He did evil in the sight of Yahweh His God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. When challenged by Jeremiah, when confronted with the Word of God spoken, Zedekiah chose to follow his own path instead. He rejected the Word of the Lord. So what of you? How do you respond to the Word of God preached and applied? Do you listen and give heed? Or do you harden your heart or conveniently forget? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.

Second, Zedekiah violated his oath. He rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God. He swore to remain loyal to King Nebuchadnezzar. However, when Egypt made an offer of help, when a more attractive deal came along, he forsook that oath. So what of you? Are you faithful to your oaths? Do you keep your word even when you swear to your own hurt? Or do you look for paths of escape when the going gets tough? Baptismal oaths, marriage oaths, membership oaths, service oaths – each demands faithfulness and loyalty but we are often tempted to excuse our unfaithfulness. Beware the fate of Zedekiah.

Third, Zedekiah’s refused to turn to Yahweh. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh the God of Israel. When he entered upon the great responsibility of kingship, even when he reached the end of his own resources, he refused to turn to God and seek wisdom from Him. Instead he turned to foreign gods and relied upon his own wisdom and strength. So what of you? To whom are you turning in your difficulties? Perhaps there are new pressures at work or at home? The children are not behaving as you had hoped? A friendship is under strain? To whom are you turning? Have you turned to God, prayed to Him, asked Him to intercede on Your behalf? Or have you hardened your heart? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.

These warnings serve as a reminder that as we come before the Lord to worship, we must confess our sins and transgressions to Him, beseeching Him to forgive us for the sake of Christ. We must not stiffen our necks but humble ourselves in His sight. So as we humble ourselves before Him, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.