The Church is Culpable

November 7, 2018 in Church History, Confession, Depravity, Ecclesiology, Image of God, Judgment, King Jesus, Providence, Quotations, Sin

The English poet William Cowper (1731-1800) reflected on the condition of England in his day in his poem, “Expostulation.” His words condemning the compromise of the Church and her ministers are as true of the American Church in our day as of the English Church in his. The first two lines are golden: “When nations are to perish in their sins, ‘Tis in the church the leprosy begins.” Cowper informs us that the future does not look good for America primarily because things do not look good in the Church. So if we want to see reformation and revival in America, then it must begin with the Church and her ministers returning to God’s Word.

When nations are to perish in their sins,
‘Tis in the church the leprosy begins;
The priest, whose office is with zeal sincere
To watch the fountain, and preserve it clear,
Carelessly nods and sleeps upon the brink,
While others poison what the flock must drink;
Or, waking at the call of lust alone,
Infuses lies and errors of his own:
His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure;
And, tainted by the very means of cure,
Catch from each other a contagious spot,
The foul fore-runner of a general rot.
Then Truth is hushed, that Heresy may preach:
And all is trash, that Reason cannot reach:
Then God’s own image on the soul impressed,
Becomes a mockery, and a standing jest;
And faith, the root whence only can arise
The graces of a life that wins the skies,
Loses at once all value and esteem,
Pronounced by gray-beards a pernicious dream;
Then Ceremony leads her bigots forth,
Prepared to fight for shadows of no worth;
While truths, on which eternal things depend,
Find not, or hardly find, a single friend;
As soldiers watch the signal of command,
They learn to bow, to kneel, to sit, to stand;
Happy to fill Religion’s vacant place
With hollow form, and gesture, and grimace.

Meditating on 9/11

September 12, 2016 in Bible - OT - Amos, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Providence
Amos 3:6 (NKJV)
6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?
Amos reminds us today that as certainly as a trumpet gains the attention of those who hear it, so calamity that strikes a people comes from the hand of Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord. Providentially we find ourselves worshiping today on September 11th – the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. It is appropriate, therefore, to remember that events such as these are not random or haphazard. They don’t come because of chance or random mutation.
Calamities such as this are the result of two quite different wills – the will of sinful man and the will of Almighty God. On the one hand, the attack on the World Trade Centers was the result of cowardly and sinful Islamic terrorists whose conception of justice and service for Allah is perverse and damnable. Their willingness to strike civilian targets highlights their barbaric cruelty, a cruelty which mimics that of Simeon and Levi against the inhabitants of Shechem, a cruelty which will end in judgment and destruction.
Alongside this sinful and criminal will of the terrorists is the holy and righteous will of God. God struck America. God used the wicked and inexcusable actions of sinful men to accomplish His holy and righteous purposes. Even as God long ago used the nation of Assyria to strike His people Israel for their wickedness (cf. Is 10:5ff), so He has used these terrorists to strike us. So why has He done so? What are His purposes? Calamities of this sort are sent by God to remind us of our collective sin, to warn us of the inevitability of judgment when we turn away from Him, and to call us to repentance and the practice of righteousness.
So in the last fifteen years have we given heed to God’s warning, to God’s call? Not at all. We have continued in our headstrong way, despising God, despising His law, sanctioning wickedness. In the last fifteen years we have continued to worship other gods; we have continued to practice no-fault divorce; we have continued to slaughter our unborn; we have continued to permit and even celebrate sexual perversity. We slander our neighbors, give heed to the proud and the haugty, and have candidates for the highest office in the land who are both known for their deceitfulness. Rather than destroying all the wicked of the land, we have begun officially leading boys and girls astray by saying that male and female are malleable. Many of our states and even our own city have extended public protections to perverse behaviors and our federal government has imposed same sex unions upon us. In the last fifteen years, we have doubled down in rebellion against God, calling good evil and evil good.

So what ought we to do as the people of God? We ought to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” We ought to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, confess our own sins and the sins of our people, plead with Him to forgive our sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and petition Him to deliver us from our rebellion by the power of His Spirit. As we come into the presence of God this morning, therefore, let us begin by kneeling and confessing our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God’s Compassion in Sufferings

September 7, 2015 in Bible - NT - James, Bible - OT - Ezekiel, Bible - OT - Jeremiah, Bible - OT - Job, Meditations, Providence, Sanctification, Trials
James 5:10-11 (NKJV)
10
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
When you think of the compassion and mercy of our Lord, what comes to mind? Perhaps occasions when Jesus stoops down and heals those in pain and anguish? Perhaps occasions when God, despite Israel’s great sin, sends one deliverer after another to rescue them from the predicament that they have gotten themselves into? When we think of God’s compassion and mercy, these are the types of scenarios that come to mind.
But today, James points us to another evidence of God’s compassion and mercy, an evidence that we would be unlikely to see. What is this evidence? The evidence that James cites is the suffering endured by God’s prophets throughout the OT.
Think, for instance, of Jeremiah who is called the weeping prophet – called to bear witness to a people under judgment, his message rejected and refused, he himself thrown into a pit, left for dead, forced to witness the destruction of Jerusalem and dying in exile in Egypt. Take all of this as evidence, James tells us, of the compassion and mercy of the Lord. Think of Ezekiel, taken into exile into Babylon, told to make a fool of himself before his friends, forced to lie on his side for so many days, to play with tinker toys and army men in the city streets as a grown man, forbidden to weep when his wife died. Take all of this, James tells us, as evidence of the compassion and mercy of the Lord. Think of Job, robbed of his family, robbed of his wealth, robbed of his health, lectured by his friends. Take all of this as evidence, James tells us, of the compassion and mercy of the Lord.
Suffering and hardship as evidence of the compassion and mercy of the Lord? What is this? What is James talking about? Evidence of His power, perhaps. Evidence of His inscrutable wisdom, perhaps. Evidence of His mysteriousness, certainly. But evidence of His compassion and mercy? Yes – but in order to see it, we must also see something else. We must see what it is that God is really about in the course of our lives.
You see, if God is all about making us happy, carefree, and successful then suffering is not a sign of God’s compassion – it is a sign only of His discipline and disfavor. But sometimes, James tells us, suffering is a sign of His compassion. Therefore, God is not all about making us happy, carefree, and successful. Rather, His purpose is to make us men and women and children of faith; men and women and children who trust Him, rely upon Him, cling to Him, and obey Him no matter what the circumstance. This is what God is about. And if this is what He is about and if suffering creates us into this kind of people, then truly suffering is a sign of God’s compassion and mercy, is it not? For by suffering God trains us in patience and endurance – the very things James highlights.
So what of you? Have you considered that the sufferings through which God is making you pass right now, and that the sufferings through which He shall have you pass in the future, may be evidences of His compassion and mercy? Or have you instead looked upon them in unbelief, seeing them as evidence of how screwed up the world really is, or how much God hates you, or how little purpose there is in the world?

Reminded of our failure to look upon suffering in faith and even, at times, as a sign of God’s compassion and mercy, let us kneel and confess our sin to Him.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

February 19, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Genesis, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church History, King Jesus, Newsletter, Providence

What is your only comfort in life and in death? Have you considered the answer to this question? Life is of course full of many comforts. I like my home, my car, my hot showers and plenteous food. I rest in the embrace of my wife, the laughter of my kids, and the affection of my parents. All these are comforts in life – but they are not comforts that carry over with us into death. They are comforts that leave when the blackness of death envelops us. So what is your only comfort in life and in death?
 
Many think, vainly, that death itself is a comfort, a land of forgetfulness. But death is no comfort to the one who is not reconciled to God. Death brings no release from suffering for the one who hates or is indifferent to God; it brings only an instantaneous and blinding confrontation with perfect holiness and justice and love – a confrontation that will condemn any man or woman not forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Death is not a comfort; it is an enemy.

What is your only comfort in life and in death? If you know anything of the Reformed tradition, you perhaps know that this is the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was written around AD 1563 for the instruction of German Reformed believers, especially children, in the basics of the faith. Its answer to this question is one of my favorites.

Question #1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.


Now that, brothers and sisters, is comfort for life and death. I am not my own but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has given Himself for me and, what’s more, so rules over all things that nothing happens in my life that is not for my ultimate good, for my salvation. And this “all things” includes the false accusations of my enemies (Is 50:7-9), the wounds of my friends (Gen 50:20), the failings of my physical and mental health (Ps 73:25-26), etc. All things come to me from my loving Father in heaven who has designed and crafted each event just for me – including the time of my death (Rom 8:28; Rev 1:17-18). Thanks be to God for such comfort.

Ordinary Time

January 8, 2015 in Bible - NT - Matthew, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, Creation, Newsletter, Providence

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

Jesus reminds us in His parables that the kingdom of God is like planting and harvesting a crop – it grows slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, but always persistently. God is at work. Consequently, the color for Ordinary Time is green – the color of plant-like growth.
Appropriately this Sunday we recite the 11th question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What are God’s works of providence?
A: God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.


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

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