Monday, October 31, 2011

One Little Word - Reformation Sunday Exhortation

In singing A Mighty Fortress, we are singing of the only answer that can save our nation – the one little word.

God spoke the Word and all that is made was made.  That same Word holds all things together.  That Word became flesh and dwelt with us.  That Word was hung on a cross for our sins and that Word died, was buried, and rose again.  In so doing, that Word made a mockery of every principality and power that would ever stand against God and His Word – He laughs at their attempts to undo His perfect plan.

In Psalm 107, we read that “He sent His Word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions” and that is just what we need.  A Word.  One little Word.  Jesus.

Come and worship, He says – come and bow down before the Lord your Maker – the One Who is making all things new.  As we do, He promises to shake heaven and earth, to reveal His glory and the folly of unbelief and rebellion, to batter down the gates of Hades, to renew you and your family in His goodness, from the confession of your sin to the communion at His table of Grace and Thanksgiving.

Come with boldness, come with confidence, come with humility.  It is unbelievable that you and I are allowed into the very Presence of the Holy of holies, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, but we are.  And so here we come – and He will have His way with us again – O pray for a reformation – from our hearts, to our churches – to our nation – to the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Resting in God with Your Children and For your Children

Resting in God with Your Children and For your Children (rough manuscript notes from a homily I gave at a Sunday Evensong service)

You come to the end of a long day. Another long day. If you are the parent of small children, you come to the end of a long day of caring for those ones, those little souls entrusted to you. And if you are like the rest of us, you often come to the end of that day feeling quite certain that you have fallen short.

Now, in these next few minutes, I am going to address this particular scenario – but it won’t take you much imagination to simply apply the same principles of rest and trust to every believer’s day – every believer’s life – every believer’s scenario – for anyone and everyone who wishes to faithfully follow Jesus – and I am assuming tonight that you do – if you don’t – then you are lost and you simply need the gospel, the truth that Jesus died for sinners – like you and me – and that without Him, that sense of falling short at the end of your day, is just a foreshadowing of what you will feel one day before Him when you realize that you have fallen short of all His standards and requirements, all the while refusing to receive the perfect work of Jesus, God’s Son, to give you all you needed to satisfy God’s requirements and cleanse you from all shortcomings.

But to the point now – to those of you who have children – and to those of you who know others who have children – and to all of us who know we have fallen short – often – day after day – again and again.

You put those children to bed, you pray with them (or maybe you didn’t get a chance to that night), you look at them and you wonder – “have I done enough? Have my shortcomings destroyed their chances for walking faithfully with the Lord? Will they love Jesus more because of the way I lived my life before them, or will they despise Him because I said I was one of His followers and I did or said this or that, or didn’t do the other thing that I should have…?”

Oftentimes, very devout, very pious, very openly professing Christians, struggle with this as they come to the end of their day. And I want to warn you that this kind of worry is from the pit – it is the work of the devil, Satan, the great Accuser, and it is to be rejected fully. But in order to do that, it must be replaced with Truth – a truth that is a High Tower and bulwark against such accusations. And that truth is the promise of God – for you and for your children.

So – you fell short – you didn’t do all you should have – you did things you shouldn’t have – and now you wonder if it is too much, too little, too late. Well, consider what you are standing on – YOUR WORKS. Play a little mind-game for a moment. What if you had done perfectly everything you were supposed to do, what if you had said everything with unbelievable eloquence and persuasiveness? What if all of your good works were done to perfection and everyone noticed. What if you, as far as you could tell, had kept all of God’s commands, had outdone all His requirements. Would you then feel confident that your children would be saved, sanctified, had their ticket to heaven?

That is no gospel in Jesus Christ – that is a gospel in yourself – and you and I are lousy Saviors. What it reveals is that we are depending upon ourselves and our good works to save ourselves and our children. It is subtle, because we are told to obey and do good works and raise our children in such and such a way. But we are not told to do so because that will earn us or them their salvation. We are told to do so, believing the promises of God for ourselves and our children, in such a way that we are transformed to be a kind of people who obey and faithfully follow God and devote ourselves to others – out of sheer gratitude for all we have been given and all God is promising to work through us because of His good pleasure.

And that is why, when you perceive at the end of the day, whether there were things to thank God for as He made you faithful, or whether there are things to confess to God because you were stubborn and refused to obey – in either case – as you come to the end of your day – you will not because you cannot – trust in yourself for the salvation or success of your children. You will trust in God who works everything for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His good pleasure.

When we rest in that way, it is evidence of a faith that is given to us that is beyond us, beyond our comprehension, beyond our situation and circumstances, and far beyond our works. And that faith will work itself out in us to where, having given up on works, we will find ourselves refreshed and empowered to do those good works which God has called us to. But we won’t trust in them – not tonight and not tomorrow. Our trust will be in the LORD.

And so, like Elijah (scripture reading had been 1 Kings 19:1-18), hear the still small voice and His message – He has far more set aside for you and for His people than you realize. You think you’ve run out – but God hasn’t – He has hid more for you and has far more available than you realize. Sleep and rest with that faith – and arise tomorrow with that refreshment. And like Jesus’ prayer (scripture reading had been Matt 11:25-30) – thank God that He has seen fit to reveal Himself to those Whom He has chosen. And then hear this with faith – He has chosen you – He has chosen your children – the gift of His Spirit is for you and for your children. Come to Me, Jesus said, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Receive that rest – and sleep with faith.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Occupy Heaven!"

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Westlake Park (why, we all wonder…). Occupy Washington DC. What is the point? In occupying these places, these unthinking pagans hope to influence the secular leaders to think about them. How pitiful – how futile – how hopeless.

However, you and I, in the name of Jesus Christ, have been called this morning to come and occupy heaven, to occupy the thrones of the kingdom of God – to join in His counsel and to determine the course of human history according to the providence of the Author, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Glorifier of all Human History.

We don’t get this yet - but here, in the corporate, called, gathering of saints each Lord’s Day – we are striking down the gates of Hell along with all of her corruptions upon this world. Another slam of the battering ram of faith against the walls of unbelief. And it is not us, our strong feelings, our slogans and signs, that will make any difference upon this world. It is only through the faithful preaching and living out the gospel that there will be change that will last for our lives and to a thousand generations.

And so, you have been summoned. God called you here this morning – why? Well this should become more and more obvious – so that we alone, the elect of God, would inherit the world. And so come - come with your praise and all of your concerns – do you think any of these are beyond Him – come and worship the Lord.