Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Reformed Altar Call

In the spirit of American Revivalism, begun in the 19th Century, there are in many churches altar calls after a sermon that demand your repentance and promise the grace of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes those altar calls are for brand new believers, and sometimes they are for believers who need to repent and, having repented, come to Jesus again.  But there is no biblical teaching on this.

There is, however, teaching on the spirit of that kind of thing – and it is here, at the Table, that you are summoned.  Having heard the Word we are often left undone – needing Jesus and the work of His Spirit again and in a fresh way.  This is our altar call, this is our coming to Jesus time.  It is the Table of the Father and by His Spirit He gives you Jesus and all the benefits of being in Christ.  Here you will find comfort, solace, and God’s joy ruling over You, His child – for He loves you.  That is why He gave His Son.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Thwarting God

We have come to worship a King Who has conquered.  We are not coming to worship Jesus Who would like to be Lord.  We have come to worship Jesus Who is the Lord of lords, Who is already Lord over all of heaven and earth, Who rules from the right hand of God the Father and Who does so with His staff and rod.

But Jesus’ perfect rule is mysterious; He rules by means of His Spirit and through His church, His body, which itself is quite imperfect at this time.  Nevertheless, God’s ability to conjoin His sovereign purposes and the choices that His people, and even the unbelieving world make is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  But this is always as it has been.

Let us take the case of Judas as an example.  Among the original twelve chosen to be apostles, Judas saw Christ’s miracles, heard His teachings, and yet Judas seemed especially disappointed in Jesus.  It may have been that Judas was a revolutionary and wanted Jesus to lead an overthrow over the Roman powers, but Jesus seemed more interested in the corruptions in the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders.  Judas also enjoyed helping himself to the money box, probably self-justifying himself that he had a better sense of where the money really needed to go.

On the evening that He betrayed Jesus, the disciples had no idea that he was the one Jesus meant would betray him.  But Jesus knew – and addressed him, “what you are going to do – do quickly.”  Jesus knew the heart of Judas – but He also knew the heart of Judas would not thwart God’s plans – rather, it would fulfill those plans.

You have come to be near Jesus and the Father – but you must understand that while you may be able to fool the closest around you, Jesus knows your heart.  The Father knows your heart.  There is no fooling this God, there is no buying Him off, and there is no getting Him off track of His plans and purposes.

What are those purposes for you?  If you turn to Him in faith, if you offer up to Him everything, if you submit and bow down and fear Him, if you tremble at His Word and rejoice in His reign, then those purposes are nothing but Good news, glorious news, eternal news of joy.  But if you come here dragging your feet because you are holding on to some sin, if you are holding idols of self-glory or self-justification, or your own better-than-God’s-plan plans, you need to know that this is a very dangerous place to be.  You cannot fool God.  You cannot thwart God.  You can and you must only repent before Him.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Remembering How God Delivers the Weak

At this Table, we remember, we partake of a memorial, and we commune with God.  All who have been baptized in Jesus Christ are welcome to come here and participate – but you must come with faith.  This is no place for religious pretenses.  This is no place for prideful presumption.  This is the place for the weak, the needy, the humble.

We will be singing Psalm 35 as we pass out the elements – a Psalm of imprecation against God’s enemies most likely written during a time of great turmoil.  In the midst of the Psalm, verses 9-10 – “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD’ It shall rejoice in His salvation.  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?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Worship and the Christian Kurds

The news is full of terrible problems in the church and upon the church, and so we must come and worship our God.  He is a strong tower, and this service of worship is not simply for our own individual spiritual development – it is far more than that.  It is a battering ram against the walls of unbelief and the gates of Hades.  Pick up your psalter, pick up your Bible, gather in the name of the Lord, and do battle with Him, calling upon King Jesus to rule from His throne.

We hear awful news about the Kurds in northern Iraq – again.  This time, thousands of Christian Kurds are being displaced, running for their lives literally, against the militant Muslim group, ISIS, that demands that Christians convert to Islam, pay a fine, or be executed – and there are horrific tales of beheadings of our brothers and sisters in the name of Allah.

These Kurds are the ancient Assyrians – yes those Assyrians, who once were a great Empire.  One of the cities taken is Qaraqosh and this is in the region that even today is called Nineveh – yes, that Nineveh.  These Kurds are mostly Muslim, but there are many Christians and then others from a religion called Yezidi, a religion that is deemed to be so ancient – going back even before the days of Sennacherib – yes that Sennacherib.

World Magazine reports that Qaraqosh, a Christian village in the Nineveh region, is gone, and that, along with attacks on many other towns, more than 200,000 Christians are displaced, along with tens of thousands of Yezidis.  Strangely, our president, announcing air strikes to protect our interests in the area, pointedly avoided mentioning the attacks on Christians, choosing instead to only mention the attacks were upon “religious minorities.”

There are many organizations that you can support to help provide aid to your brothers and sisters in Christ in this terrible situation – do so as the Lord leads you.  But here, as we worship the God of all nations, the Lord of Iraq and the Kurds and the United States, we gather on behalf of our brothers and sisters who cannot gather this morning – we sing their psalms – we pray their prayers – we join with them and for them – to our God Who is Lord over all.  And we cry to Him for mercy – more mercy.  We pray to Him for the Gospel to have a greater impact in our lives, in the lives of the church around us – and over the world. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Inner Transformation

Isaiah's call to the ministry (Isaiah 6) shows the path of inner transformation that must occur not only for Isaiah to be renewed in order to minister, but how the people of God, the nation of Judah, must be renewed in order to be a faithful priest-nation to the world.

The path is our Covenant Renewal Worship service.  God summons us, calls us to worship, and we respond.  We honestly confess our sins and our utter inability to survive in the presence of the Holy God without His intervening mercy.  He cleanses us from our sin and the judgment is taken care of in an atonement that has been provided by Someone Else.  We are then instructed by the Lord as to how we are to live and serve Him and then sent out to do so in His name.

Before we go out, in our completed service, we are invited to dine with God at His Table where He nourishes us with His own completed sacrifice on our behalf.  We are united and commune with Him at this feast.

During this service, we, like Isaiah, are brought into the heavenlies, into the very presence of God Almighty, where we cry out "Holy, Holy, Holy" along with the angels in glorious worship.

What a vision - and what a privilege every Lord's Day.