Friday, May 29, 2015

God's Plan for Church Growth

"...'God chose...that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.' (Peter in Acts 15)...But that's it.  God's method of church growth is preaching the Word, watered by believing prayer." - Motyer, Preaching?  pp17-18.

What?  No skits?

Messy Terms, Messy Evangelicism, Messy World

"There are plenty of born again people who wouldn't call it that, and there are plenty of evangelicals who need to get saved.  Life is messy." - Wilson AC, p175

The Depths of Inconsistency

In Isaiah 29, Isaiah takes aim at the prophets and seers (10, 14), those who should have been speaking out the word of truth and confronting the evil of the day.  Instead, they were hiding in their dark places, hiding their plans from the Lord as though He could not see them (v15).

Webb comments, "...all of this (take note) while retaining their religious titles and the meticulous observation of the externals.  It is truly astounding what depths of inconsistency religious people are capable of, especially in the positions of leadership, where backroom decisions and policies all too often belie the faith in God that is professed in the pulpit." - p125.

Providence Efficacy - I

"To say that the power of God's providence is efficacious is simply to say that it always accomplishes its purpose." - Frame, ST, p143.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Arduous Task of Sermon Prep

"...if preachers are not finding sermon preparation hard work they are not giving their sermons a fair crack of the whip.  Of course there are other sides of the picture:  it is a privilege of privileges to be driven to such involvement in the Word of God, to be required to buckle down to the precious Scriptures.  Yes indeed, but it is also demanding, frequently burdensome, rarely easy - and always, in the event, endlessly delightful!  One part inspiration, nine parts perspiration." - Motyer, Preaching? - p13.

What the Revivalistic Approach Did Not Overemphasize

"Whitefield remained with in the Reformed and Calvinistic heritage, while Wesley veered from it.  But both pressed the absolute necessity of the new birth.  The negative result of this was a disparagement of the institutional church, while the positive result was that a bunch of people got saved.  Over the next century and a half, the need for personal regeneration came into high prominence in the revivalistic movements that swept certain portions of North America, Scotland and Wales.

This revivalistic approach did not overemphasize personal regeneration; they actually underemphasized everything else." - Wilson, AC, p171.

And this is how I see it as well.  With our well-intentioned efforts to place a high value and return to Mother Kirk, we must never do so at the expense of the necessity of the new birth in an individual man, woman, or child in order to be saved.

And there is no reason to pit the one against the other unless you are listening to the devil who is happy to do so.

The Worst Kind of Pride

In considering the great "woe" upon Jerusalem in Isaiah 29, and referring to the charge in vv13-14, Webb writes, "False religion is the very worst kind of pride because it attempts to make God our servant instead of recognizing that we are his." - p124.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Leaven of Pentecost

At Passover, the bread eaten was unleavened and represented the idea of both bread made in haste as well as not taking the leaven of Egypt out with them as the Israelites were delivered from Pharaoh.  But the bread of Pentecost was leavened bread.  And this means that at the first Pentecost Lord’s Day after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples would have eaten leavened bread.

Why would we use leaven in our bread on the Lord’s Day?  Because, while this feast is in one sense a Passover Feast fulfilled in Christ, it is also a Pentecost Feast fulfilled in Christ and His Holy Spirit.  And Christ’s kingdom is like a lump of leaven hid in three measures of meal until it was all leavened.

Because this is a leavening kingdom, we are here – halfway across the globe, two thousand years after the event, celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit.  We are proclaiming His ongoing and spreading victory as we partake.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

A Sermon is not an Essay

"...the essay-sermon is very well prepared indeed, and very orderly, but it is of the essence of an essay to pass imperceptibly from one point to the next....preaching is a speaker-hearer relationship, and the preacher has to learn to give the hearer space to listen...In a sermon there have to be pauses, repetitions.  Movement from one aspect of the topic to the next has to be flagged up." - Motyer, Preaching?, p11.

How Did We Get Closer to Zwingli than Luther?

"Things began to change among the Reformed.  As the gulf between Lutherans and Reformed grew, an emphasis on personal regeneration began to grow among the Reformed.  In my view, this was the result of the basic disagreement between Reformed and Lutheran on the sacraments.  Calvin was closer to Luther than to Zwingli in his view of the Lord's Supper, but closer to Zwingli in what he believed ought to be the basis of ecclesiastical unity.  That watershed was, in my view, highly significant, and helped to get us here." - Wilson, AC, p168.

That is a helpful summary to a much longer history lesson.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Like a Farmer with Various Crops

In Isaiah 28:23-29, a parable is used to describe how the LORD deals differently at various times in history.  Just as a farmer must deal with different seeds, soils, and purposes for his crops, so the LORD sometimes deals with His people in one way (tenderness, deliverance) and other times in another way (gives them over to their enemies).  

"But his ways are not haphazard; he is working according to a plan. Most of the processes described in the parable suggest pain - ploughing, threshing, grinding - but all contribute to the final good of food production.  In a similar way the LORD's sever dealings with his people are directed towards a good end which he constantly has in view..." - Webb, p123.

Cultures of the World and Pentecost

The events of Pentecost and the testimony of the Word of God make clear that God is the true multiculturalist – but not like the progressives and the postmoderns would have us believe.  They teach that all cultures are equal and that there is no culture which can be determined to be better than another.

God teaches us that we are all of one blood, one race – the race of the fallen Adam.  All cultures built according to that race are ethnically impure.  They are fallen, and those kingdoms will be judged on the last day.  They will be cast into the lake of fire.

But there is another race of men; it is the race of the New Man, the new humanity, the new Adam.  This race is not uniform although there is great unity.  This race does not have a particular ethnicity, although all have one Father.  This humanity is made up of many kingdoms, peoples, languages, tribes – it is as diverse as can be –for we are Trinitarians.  There will be many sub-cultures that will come forth as Jesus rules over them – and they can be judged in light of the Word of God with regard to their conformity – to the better or worse.

The tongues of fire fell and people heard the Word of God in their own languages because God is the Lord of all languages, all tongues, all peoples – and because God has a Word for all people of any and all religions.  And that Word is this:  Repent and believe.  Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Confess Jesus as Lord, the Son of God, risen from the dead after dying for your sins, and you will be saved.

Every language.  Every culture.  Every nation.  Every century.  Every day.  Now.  Come and worship Jesus.

Muddled Preaching

"The majority of (if not, to a degree, all) 'bad' sermons are 'bad' because they are muddled." - Alec Motyer, Preaching?, p9.

Who is Your Father?

"The issues surrounding regeneration should not be settled by looking at the biblical uses of the word regeneration only.  It needs to be settled by looking at the thought group of generation/regeneration.  Who is your father?" - Wilson - AC, p152.

Is he the first Adam or the second Adam?

Is he the devil or Abraham?

Monday, May 25, 2015

When God Acts in a Foreign Way

Isaiah 28:21 (NKJV)
21 For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon— That He may do His work, His awesome work, And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.

The Lord rose up and gave victory to David by breaking through his enemies at Mount Perazim (2 Sam 5:20).  He rained down hailstones upon Israel's enemies at Gibeon (Josh 10:11).  He has promised that He would protect Jerusalem in just the same way.  They are refusing to believe and follow Him.

Ironically, two things are happening.  First of all, God will in fact do just that kind of unusual act, delivering Jerusalem in a mighty way from Assyria.  Second of all, He will also be bringing His judgment upon Israel for their unbelief, but this will not occur until Babylon comes in later.

This "unusual" act is therefore a "foreign" act.  This is not the way God desires for it to be, not towards His own people.  But like a loving father He will have to bring His rod to bear.  And like a loving father, He will do so with an eye to the future good that it will bring.

Ascension Sunday and at the Table

During our time at the Lord’s Table this Ascension Sunday, we will be singing Psalm 68 – a great and long song of Christ’s ascension and the ascension of the church in triumph over the world of darkness.  What will we sing as we prepare to partake?  Listen.

God shall arise and by His might put all His enemies to flight; in conquest shall He quell them…. – Thou didst, O LORD, ascend again, with many captives in Thy train and gifts from men obtaining…. – Praise God and magnify His worth, O kings and kingdoms of the earth unto the LORD sing praises.

We are partaking at this Table the salvation of the world.  And so, as we come to partake, we are declaring and celebrating in the crown rights of King Jesus over everything, for all things have been put under His feet.  And as we partake, we are saying, Yes and Amen, to this truth, and “let it begin with me.”  And then we will eat and drink our participation and our exaltation in Christ.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

The Best Place to Hide

"Bonhoeffer said that when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.  A gracious heart hears this message and leaps for joy.  An ungracious heart hears it , and looks for a place to hide.  Anything but death.  Scripture teaches us, and history shows us, that the very best hiding places, at least for a brief time, are found in the things of God - the church, the Bible, the sacraments, the catechism, the ministry, the Internet theology debates, the church splits over a bunch of nothing, the mercy ministries, and of course, the venerable tradition of the fathers.  Those fathers, incidentally, can be found both in the Jerusalem chamber at Westminster and in the Syrian desert." - Wilson, AC, p146.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Covenant with Death

Isaiah 28:14–15 (NKJV)

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, 15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”

The rulers of Jerusalem had not actually declared that they had made a covenant with death.  Isaiah is telling them what in fact they have said by determining to make a covenant with Egypt in an attempt to keep Assyria at bay.  This is biting irony and it happens every time God's people refuse to trust Him and then fall away from obeying Him.

How often we do not obey because we do not believe.  We do not believe God has our best set before Him for us.  We do not believe that we can overcome what is before us.  We do not believe that we will walk in far more glory by walking in the light.  We do not believe that at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Instead, we make a covenant with death.  We enter into agreement with Sheol.  Lord, have mercy.

When a Natural Man is Converted

"When a natural man is converted, all of a sudden everything that was an opaque mystery to him before becomes a delight, with light shed all over it.  The Bible turns into English, the worship of God in a way that honors Him becomes a delight, and the poor turn into Jesus Christ, instead of a rung in somebody's heaven ladder." - Wilson, AC, p144.

Teens at the Table

It is true that the Scriptures warn that taking this meal with presumption, eating as one who believes himself or herself to be in Christ, while living as though he or she was not in Christ is a damnable situation to find oneself in.  But this is not a problem for children or teenagers – any more than it is for adults – for all of us.

What is a particular temptation for teenagers is to develop schisms and cliques that refuse to consider others as worthy of their time.  This is similar to the situation in Corinth which Paul rebuked.  Don’t come to this Table thinking you too good for others who are also coming.

And so, look to Christ as You come.  Look past your baptism and see Jesus who washed You from your sins, see the Holy Spirit, who placed you in union with the Father and in the Son and with His people.  Look, by means of the Word of God proclaimed, and see your heritage, your inheritance, your destiny in Christ.  And then come – come little ones and growing ones and older ones – and be nourished by the Father at the Table of His Son.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Describing the Supernatural Work of Regeneration

"It is entirely a supernatural work, as Dort puts it.  It is "most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead.'  It is not a natural work in the sense of continuing our old natures.  Neither is it a supernatural work in the sense that it takes and removes us from the created order.  We are still men and women.  But, as Bavinck says, it "penetrates their inmost being and re-creates them, in principle, according to the image of God.  It is therefore in a class of its own, simultaneously ethical and natural (supernatural), powerful and most pleasing."  and amen to that." - Wilson, AC, p142.

Examine Yourselves

The apostle Paul says “examine yourselves to see if Jesus Christ is in you” in 2 Cor 13:5, and I charge you in the name of Jesus to do the same as you come into His courts of praise.

Now the call to examine yourself is not a call to morbid introspection.  It is not a call to doubt yourself, to doubt your worthiness, or to doubt the strength of your faith.  Jesus also said that if you had the faith of a mustard seed you could move a mountain.  The problem is never the strength of our faith but the object of our faith - and the faithfulness of that object.

Is Jesus Christ in you?  What does that mean?  As we come to worship God on Ascension Day we are reminded and declare that Jesus Christ, a risen man, completely physical in His glorious body, is in one location only.  He is in heaven.  He is not “in you” in a physical sense at all. 

But He is in you by means of His Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God abides in all who call upon Jesus Christ.  In fact, the only reason that any call upon Jesus Christ in a saving way is because of the inward work of the Holy Spirit.

And so – is Jesus Christ in you?  I am not asking if you are simply coming to church because that is your habit.  Is Jesus Christ in you?  Have you come by means of His Holy Spirit to approach Jesus in this service of worship?  Will you give your reverent attention?  Will you render your body as a living sacrifice?  Will you die to yourself?  If yes, then you are promised that you will be renewed, you will be fed, you will be encouraged and lifted up, you will be strengthened in your faith, in your hope, and in your love. 

Come, therefore, if Jesus Christ is in you – come and worship the LORD.  If He is not, then call upon Jesus Christ, sincerely, even now, and you will be saved.  Come and worship the LORD.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Sheep is not a Goat is not a Sheep

"These illustrations all come from within nature.  A sheep is a natural animal, as is a goat.  When a man is regenerated, he is not transformed into some kind of angelic demigod from another realm.  No, he is changed into a man, and the material out of which God performed this miracle was the remains of a man, the ruins of a man.  This is not a change from nature into grace; it is a change from broken nature to restored nature, and the change is accomplished by grace.  We are not changed into grace, we are transformed by grace." - Wilson, AC, p140-1.

The Leaven of the Worshiping Church

As we gather together on this Lord’s Day, another first day of the week, another new creation day, I am very aware of the threats to the faithful church, to faithful Christians who are publicly taking a stand for righteousness and truth, and to pockets of our society, some in very high places, that are caving in quickly to a Romans 1 downward spiral.  Public morality is out and Christians who think this is wrong are being silenced, shamed, sued and slandered.

Is it over for Christianity?  Is it over for America?  The Scriptures and the witness of the Spirit would declare that this spiritual battle is far from won or lost in our day.  But we do need to wake up; we need a good dose of smelling salts to bring us back to our senses, or we are going to be knocked down and out.

But even so, we gather on the New Creation day, the Lord’s Day, because Jesus came to save the world.  He did not come to save us out of the world; He came to save us and make us His vice-regents over the new world.  The kingdom of heaven is like leaven and it has been folded into this lump of a dead-cold world – in order to bring it to life.  That is what leaven does.  That is what leaven is.

Leaven is the fellowship of the regeneration and that regeneration is working its way through the lump.  It should not surprise us to find pockets of unregeneration in this world made new.  And remember, the Bible declares, “behold, all things are new.”  The yeast works through the loaf as a work of life, secretly, quietly, behind the scenes.  The Spirit blows where He wishes, when He wishes, and how He wishes.

In the middle of this work there are creatures who hate the new creation around them.  Some of those creatures are even in the covenant people of God.  No matter.  Let God be true and every man a liar.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.  We come to worship that King of kings and as we do, He uses our worship to take another blow at the gates of Hades.  In a long battle, sometimes it is hard to tell which way it is going, momentum shifts.  But what do you believe?  What have you been called to believe?  Come and worship the King of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Precept upon Precept and the Gift of Tongues

Isaiah 28:9-10 is a quotation of the leaders of the northern kingdom who are enraged with the message, the simple message of repentance, offered by the Lord's prophets (Amos and Hosea?).  They are speaking in a way similar to the Pharisees in Jesus' day - "How dare you treat us like little children."

Isaiah 28:9–10 (NKJV)
9 “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.”

They are insulted.  They are nation's teachers and leaders and resent being treated, as they see it, as children.  These are drunken leaders who mock the word of God as infantile nonsense (sound familiar?).

"Very well, says Isaiah, since they will not listen to the LORD when he speaks to them through the simple, clear message of teh prophets, he will speak to them through the prattle of foreigners (the invading Assyrians), and the result will be not rest but ruin (11, 13)" - Webb, p120.

Isaiah 28:11–13 (NKJV)
11 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, 12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was to them, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,” That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught.

Paul quotes this passage in support of his teaching in 1 Cor 14 that tongues are a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers.  The Pentecost-gift of tongues was a sign of coming judgment upon unbelieving Israel.  This is why it makes sense that after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, the gift of tongues ceased.


"I have occasionally used the word ontological in describing this kind of change of our nature, and this might mislead some.  But by ontological I do not mean that some kind of ontos chip is embedded deep in our souls, and in regeneration God swaps it out.  Ontos is simply the Greek participle for being, and being a goat is different than being a sheep." - Wilson, AC, p140.

Triune Worship

God so loved the world that He gave His Son.  And God so loved His Son that He gave the world.  And the Son so loved the Father that He gives the kingdoms of the world to the Father at the end of this age.  Love and gift.  Love and giving.  Here is the Triune God, His character, His attributes, His lovingkindness and great mercy.

Worshipping the triune God is at the center of who we are as Christians.  He is God in three persons – there is nothing static about our God.  He is everlasting begetting, He is constant speaking, He is Word and Light and Truth and Song.  He is true Justice and eternal Mercy.

We are taught in Psalm 115 and in other places that we become like the gods we worship.  As we behold the Father in the face of Jesus Christ, Jesus declared by His Word and Spirit, we are becoming like Him – full of love and giving; full of grace and truth; full of mercy and song.

Do not let your formal assent to the doctrine of the Trinity be the end of what it means to be a worshipper of the Triune God.  We have come in a self-conscious adoration of God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because He is Three-in-One from all eternity, God is a family, God has always been two Beloveds and that Love between the two is a Person as well.  God is Community.  God is love.  Do not worship the Unitarian God who is the ultimate hermit, the ultimate loner.  The dour, harsh, wooden and cold countenance of many who claim to be Trinitarians betrays that they are actually turning to something else – an idol of their own making – and it makes them very difficult to live with because they worship an idol that is difficult to live with.

You are here because you are called and being called to be transformed from one degree of glory to another.  Your face will be transformed eventually and completely into the face of the one you bow down to.  And so come and worship the Father through Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Christ's Bones

"Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), and this is why the bones of Christ could not be broken (John 19:36) - it was not because the bones of Christ were a fixed point in the created order, made out of celestial titanium.  
"Let all the earth fear the Lord:  Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps 33:8-9)."" - Wilson, AC, p138.

Battle Psalms

Last Sunday during Psalm sing, as we worked on Psalm 83 which we will sing this morning in worship, someone asked, “Why do we sing songs about old battles?”  And that is a good question because there are a lot of Psalms that sing of old battles.

There are a number of reasons.  First of all, God seems to want us to because He puts many of them in the Psalms, which is His divine hymnbook.  These are songs He likes.  These are topics He wants us to sing about.  Second, as we sing of the battles and the life of Israel, we do so in order to identify with them as the battles of our people, for we are Israel, we are the New Jerusalem, they are our spiritual ancestors.  And third, they inform us to the truth of battles in which we must fight now as the new Israel, they inform us as to how to fight, and they give us the words by which we call upon the God of Armies to rise up and send our enemies to flight.

Psalm 83 briefly highlights several battles and if you do a search, you can find out and read about them.  But as you sing through these names and places, you can imagine both being in those battles and calling on the LORD, and you can bring to mind the enemies of God at work today and our call to faithfulness in the midst of real and growing battles around us.

We must stand for truth and righteousness – not because we are true and righteous ourselves, but because we are in Truth and Righteousness.  Jesus is the Truth and Jesus is our Righteousness.  And in singing these psalms as God’s choir, we join in knocking down the strongholds upon our land and in our day.  Come and worship the Lord.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Testifying to Real Sight

"There is a pitfall that some have fallen into, the mistake of trying to have faith in their own faith.  Sure, and so let's not do that.  Blind men healed should look at Jesus, and then at the world.  They should spend very little time trying to look at their own eyeballs.  You look with your eyeballs, not at them.  But let us not, for fear of this mistake, make another opposing mistake, equally ludicrous - the mistake of pretending that blind men get to testify to His healing grace and power." - Wilson, AC, p135.

Including the Children

As we have made clear, all who are baptized are welcome to this Table.  And this of course means that all baptized children are welcome.  All who are bread get bread.  Young children should have the Supper explained to them by their parents in preparation for partaking and even while partaking of the Supper, and they should attend to what is being said.

You see, we are not requiring that all who partake be able to explain the Supper before they may partake – rather we are requiring that all are having the Supper explained to them – this the bread, this is wine, this is Jesus, this is His body.  We feed covenant children the bread and wine in much the same way that we begin speaking English to them after they are born – not because they understand it, but rather in order that they might come to understand it.

Communion is not a higher level class of Christianity – something for those who have completed Christianity 101.  Communion is the class – it is the lab, if you will, where we come to understand as we are nourished each Lord’s Day by the Great Teacher Himself.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It Was Still Regular Wine

"It was supernatural power that Jesus exercised when He turned water to wine, but the result was not supernatural wine.  It was regular wine." - Wilson, AC, p132.

When we are born again, we do not become "heavenly" beings or supernatural beings.  We become real humans, sons of the new humanity.  It is a supernatural act, but we are still regular humans, albeit transformed, or rather, adopted into a new family with a new Father and a new destiny.

Every Christian's Miracle

"This is because when we are born again, a dramatic miracle happens.  When we are born again, we are being turned into people." - Wilson, AC, p133.


Repentance is the God given power to change one’s mind, to turn from going one way and to then go in another.  Repentance from sin is not something that a man can work up in Himself – not real repentance, not gospel repentance – because gospel repentance can only come from a new heart – a heart alive to God. 

And this nation has proven herself dead to God, given over by God to her lusts, to her insanities, to her self-destructive love of the things of darkness and death.  We consecrate abominable acts of lewdness and we offer up the blood sacrifice of our unborn children.

If ever a nation needed the Gospel it is ours.  Our decline away from the things of God has reached an angle, a pace, that is unprecedented for America, for God has brought His judgment upon us.  What the world needs now, what America needs now, is repentance.  She must turn from her evil ways and turn to the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, as she once did and yet in ways she never has before.

And so, we are summoned to come and worship in just such a time.  Like Elijah, we are summoned to come and offer up our sacrifice, for us it is the sacrifice of praise, and then we are to await the Lord to send His fire – His fire of judgment and refinement.  We need the fire of reformation and revival in our land.  God be merciful to us and be merciful now, we pray.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When God Writes on You.

"If God can quicken and glorify stone by writing on it with His own finger, then how much more will human hearts be glorified, quickened, made alive, and regenerated when the finger of God, the Holy Spirit Himself, writes on them?  What is it to be born again?  It is to become the Holy Spirit's commonplace book." - Wilson, AC, p132.

Riding in and Worshiping with Confidence

As Jesus road into Jerusalem, He knew exactly what was to come.  In a few short days, this city would publicly reject, scourge and crucify Him.  Mankind, represented by Jew and Romans alike, would smile as their plans came to fruition and this imposter, this so-called Son of God, would be destroyed.  Mission accomplished.

But Jesus came in to Jerusalem to accomplish something as well.  He came to put death to death, to crush the head of the serpent, to take captivity to sin captive and lead them into true liberty.  He came to pay for sin, to receive the holy wrath of His Father for the sake of His people, to pay the ransom due for sinners of a Holy God.

And so, as Jesus went through this holy week which we celebrate as beginning today, Palm Sunday, who was tricked?  It looks like Jesus was – betrayed, abandoned, accused and tried in a midnight monkey-house courtroom, and nailed to a tree.  If that was what He knew would happen, why did He come and why did He come riding in on a donkey like a king entering in victory and peace?

And why should you come and worship today?  What does your life look like?  Does it look like things are falling apart all around you, or in your family, or in your nation?  Has God lost control?  Well, are you in Jesus Christ?  Then nothing is happening that is not in fact happening according to the unswerving providence of the Almighty.  And if glorious good came from the events of holy week, then certainly gracious glory will come in and through your life as you worship and then walk in the light and love of your Savior.  Come in like Jesus; come in riding upon victory and peace, even victory and peace that you cannot yet see.  Come in faith.  Come and worship the LORD.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When Does Fatherhood Begin?

"Because we live in a fallen world, we have a constant tendency to ask the wrong question.  In the pro-life debates, for example, we ask "when does human life begin?" which immediately lands us in the ontological categories so beloved by Hellenists everywhere.  We should ask a simpler question.... - "When does fatherhood begin?"  This is a potent question because it does not seek to define human lives apart from their relationships." - Wilson, AC, p117.

Communion Paradox.

At the Lord’s Table we see paradox and we see resolution – the only resolution to the ultimate problem.  How are sinners ever going to be able to sit with God and enjoy communion with Him in peace?  How could a holy God ever allow men, women and children who come from a race stained with sin, marred with rebellion, and filled with blasphemous words and deeds, come and fellowship with the Holy of holies – the very definition of holiness, righteousness and truth?

And the elements upon this Table give us the answer.  God provided a way.  God provided the blood sacrifice.  God provided the perfect and only human sacrifice – the only possible priestly sacrifice – the only perfect sin offering.  Christ’s body was broken, His blood was spilled, His life was ended, God’s holy wrath was satisfied – and our sins were atoned for.  Come in faith, come with thanksgiving, come with awe and fear and humility, for you could never deserve to come to such a table – and come with profound and deep joy, for you never could hear a more sincere voice than your heavenly Father’s saying – Come, I have prepared this for you  - I want you here with me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Eaten by the Lord

So here we are – after a sermon on the Lord’s Supper – at the Lord’s Supper.  What should our application be?  Think of it this way.  The Word has been prepared like a chef preparing a dinner.  What do you do now?  You eat it.  We come having heard the Word and now we partake.

But another way to look at it is like this.  The Word prepared you for you are the meal.  The sermon opened you up, cut you open for the examination by the Spirit.  You are now prepared and Someone is about to consume you – consume us I should say.

“Romans 12:1 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

You should say, “it is good to partake of the Lord,” even as He says, “it is good to partake of you.”  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Always Making Idols

"In short, there is absolutely nothing that God can give us that we are incapable of turning into an idol.  This is precisely why we have to be born again, which is not the same thing as talking about being born again." - Wilson, AC, p114.

Courage to be a Mother

It takes courage today to be a mother.  It takes extraordinary courage today to be a mother who is joyful, content, God-thanking, standing in the face of a culture that slanders your calling or considers it not at a calling at all.

It takes courage to be a mother and entrust God with your body as you bring forth another life into the world.  It takes tremendous courage to lay your life down for that child for the next 20 years or so.  It takes extraordinary courage to do that several times if the Lord calls you to such a work.  And it takes enormous and extraordinary courage to then turn to your husband and, trusting God, entrust your man with leading you and those little ones while encouraging him to also pursue his other very important and intertwined callings God has placed upon his shoulders.

It takes courage to talk to God about your children far more and first before you talk to your children.  It takes great courage to get up, having renewed your faith in God’s perfect timing, and do all the works He has now prepared for you to walk in – countless works that no one will ever see, no one will ever notice – unless of course you didn’t do them.  It takes courage to keep going night after sleepless night with a little one knowing that the day will come still full of all of its requirements.

It takes courage to be a mother who commands her son to wear her wisdom around his neck when he has grown taller than her even though he is still just a boy.  It takes courage to trust that God has given you that wisdom and that position of authority – and it takes courage to balance that with showing respect to that adolescent son so that his tank is filled in ways only a mother can fill it.

It takes courage to be the physical representation of our Mother the church, who is our place of birth, nurture, discipline and growth, who is the one that leads us to our heavenly Father.  But these are the things you have been called to do – these are the things God has graciously equipped you to do and be – and these are the things for which we rise up and call you, mothers, blessed.  Happy mother’s day.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Poor Shall Eat and Be Satisfied

Again, hear Psalm 22, verse 26 – “The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.  Let your heart live forever!

Resurrection Sunday and Every Lord’s Day is a Day of Resurrection.  This means that those who partake of Christ by faith are part of the New Humanity – and that Humanity shares at this Table – the Table of the Lord.  What do we share?  We share a body broken for us and the cup filled with the blood of our Savior.  No, the bread and wine are not transformed, they are not transubstantiated.  The bread remains bread and the wine, wine.

But by means of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that raised you up in new life in Christ – you partake by faith of Christ at this Table.  This is the Table of Union and Communion.  Christ did die.  His body was broken.  His blood was shed.  But in His death He conquered death – and in our partaking of His death, we partake of His life – His resurrection life.

And so all who are in Christ Jesus, baptized into His death and resurrection are welcome to this Table, this Victory Feast of our Reigning King.  And you will live forever!  Amen.

Pockets of Unregeneration

"It should not surprise us to find pockets of "unregeneration"in this world made new.  The yeast works through the loaf gradually.  But the yeast is alive, and brings life to the whole.  Thus we find creatures who hate the new creation around them.  Thus we find baptized covenant members who inexplicably hate the church of the firstborn that claims them by baptism.  no matter.  let God be true, and every man a liar - for the time being." - Wilson, AC, p107.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hezekiah Would Not Listen to Isaiah

"Much of Judah was devastated and it was only by a miracle that Jerusalem itself escaped (36:1; 37:36).  Hezekiah almost destroyed Judah by listening to those at court who counselled him to rely on Egypt.  Chapters 28-35 show how strongly and consistently Isaiah had opposed this foolish counsel in the deepening crisis that led up to the events recorded in chapters 36-37" - Webb, p117

Built with Holy Hands

This next Wednesday we will have our monthly Men’s Meeting and again I hope each man takes the time to join us.  We will be meeting in Woodinville again because we are strategically praying that the LORD will open up to us opportunities to find a home for our church there one day soon.

Wednesday night we will have some updates on our search and be looking to put together a couple of short-term teams to do some leg work for us.  But we will also turn our attention to matters of personal holiness as I will be teaching on and teaching from the book “Fidelity – What it Means to be a One Woman Man.”

And there are two things I want to say about that now as we gather to worship.  First is this:  the more we consider the importance of having a church building, the more we will have to fight the temptation to not care about being the church ourselves.  Any time we begin to think of the church in terms of an inanimate place there will always be a corresponding temptation to forget that we, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit – and we always will be regardless of whether or not we own the deed to a particular address on a particular street.

Secondly, the marching orders we have to be Christians in this world is to display in every area of our lives the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and for men, one of the first applications of this is in the area of putting to death the passions of our flesh and doing so with the corresponding calling to give ourselves away in service to others.  Sometimes, men can get real excited about brick and mortar projects – and they should. We are called to take dominion of this world and we are built to build things.  But the LORD will not bless this work unless it is built with holy hands and pure devotion to Him.    And so now, on the LORD’s Day, let us make sure that wherever we are, we are offering up our bodies as living sacrifices to the One Who has come to set us free from our slavery to sin and death.  That will be the foundation upon which we will build a place to declare such freedom to the world around us.

An Outline of Regeneration

"First, Jesus was born again.  (In Col 1:18,) we learn that Jesus was the firstborn from the dead...

...Second, the entire cosmos was born again.  Our text again says that Jesus was the firstborn of every creature...The creation longs for the culmination of this glorious process (Rom 8:22)...

...Third, Israel was born again.  In his famous conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus pressed this particular point.  You (all) must be born again (John 3;7)...Israel was born again, and so we are now members of the new Israel, the Christian church...

...And finally, John Smith was born again...(John 3:3, 5)...

...Without the resurrection, without the transformation of the heavens and earth, without the reconstitution of the new Israel, there is no such thing as individual regeneration.  We do not say that corporate regeneration makes individual regeneration superfluous, but rather we say that corporate and cosmic regeneration makes individual regeneration both possible and mandatory.  The world has been reconciled to God through Christ.  Therefore, Paul presses the point.  Be therefore reconciled." - Wilson, AC, pp104-5.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Judah, Hezekiah, and Isaiah 28-35

"The key issue in chapters 28-35 is whether Judah, and in particular its leaders, will rely on Egypt or on the LORD in the face of the growing threat posed by the ever-increasing power of Assyria.  Chapters 30 and 31, which stand more or less centrally within the unity, are wholly taken up with this issue, with 31:1 providing perhaps the most pointed and succinct statement of it:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots...
but do not look to the Holy one of Israel,
or seek help from the LORD

...the invasion (of Judah by Sennacherib) was a punitive action taken by Sennacherib in response to a revolt led by Hezekiah.  He had refused to pay any further tribute to Assyria and had annexed all the Philistine cities as far south as Gaza, cities which, like Judah, had been part of the Assyrian empire." - Webb, p116

Webb notes this passage for support - 
2 Kings 18:7–8 (NKJV)

7 The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8 He subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

Miracles: It Does not Follow

"Now, it is sometimes assumed that those who hold to the cessation of these charismata must also hold the cessation of all miracles after the time of the apostles.  But that conclusion does not follow.  Granting that tongues and prophecy are miraculous, and that they have ceased, it does not follow that all miracles have ceased." - Frame, ST, p132

Crowns from Every Nation

 Crowns from every nation are being laid at the feet of Jesus, for we live in the times of the conquering King.  Even today, the name of Jesus is being worshipped and celebrated across Europe, the Americas, in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia and the Pacific.  And according to the promises made to Abraham, there is much much more blessing to come over the nations and the earth because of the Seed of Abraham, the son of Abraham.

We are not anti-Semitic when we say that there are no special privileges for the Jewish people today with God.  We are only saying that the covenant administration which had been accomplished through the Jews is complete.  And the Jews, together with all Gentiles, are welcomed to Jesus Christ if they would simply turn and believe.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, says Paul, but we are one in Christ Jesus.

We are promised that the sons of Abraham will be as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. We are also promised that the sons of Abraham are not necessarily ethnic sons, but are sons by faith only, by grace only, through Christ only, and according to the Scriptures only, so that God alone receives all the glory.

All nations, all races, all peoples, all tongues are on level field at the cross.  There are no favorites and there will be no reconciliation of those races without those races being first reconciled to Jesus.  There will be no true peace between nations until those nations are first reconciled to Jesus. 

And so we come to worship King Jesus upon this earth declaring, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  We pray and then we look to see the heavens split open and the world shaken.  For He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

The Dragon in our Hearts

"The regeneration that happens in conversion is a fundamental change, but not an exhaustive one.  After Eustace was transformed from his dragon shape, no one could be mistaken about the fact that he had been undragoned.  It was a fundamental and obvious change.  But it was not complete and final.  "To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy.  He had relapses.  There were still many days when he could be very tiresome.  But most of those I shall not notice.  The cure had begun." (from C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).  When we sin, we are all of us dealing with the dragon in our hearts.  But there is a difference between that and being a dragon - even a baptized dragon." - Wilson, AC, pp96-7

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Remembering the First Lord's Supper

This is Holy Week, the week we commemorate Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, the Passover meal with the disciples, the Last Supper which becomes the first Lord’s Supper and then His betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

As you come to this Table as one of His disciples, you are participating in a simple ritual and you are to do so by faith.  All of the prophecies, including many we heard this morning, all find their fulfillment in that week and the events shortly after that week.  It can be hard to grasp all that the LORD teaches us in His Word; it can take a lot of study and thinking and prayer.

But here at the Table, you are to follow the pattern of the simple ritual.  You are to come believing and receive.  Yes, there is much to learn and understand.  But Jesus says come, come and partake, do so trusting in Him, and you will come to learn and understand more and more.  Come and partake of Jesus Christ that you might learn Jesus.

A Place to Hide Your Sin

"When God judges the heart, He does so because sinners love the kind of dualism that gives their sin a place to hide.  "You are near in their mouth but far from their mind." (Jer 12:2b)...
In our sin, we want to keep inside and outside distinct, so that we can "manage" them, so we can run our simplistic little inventory systems.  But in the judgment, the Lord treats the whole thing as an integrated unit.  The sinner wants to plead that while he may have sin in his heart, at least he says the Creed and tithes (sometimes).  Christ must be here somewhere.  The Lord sees the sin in the heart, and the Creed, and the money , and the constant anger toward family, and the porn, and the envious snark, and no Christ anywhere.  And when Christ is not present, blessing, His absence is manifest." - Wilson, AC, pp94-95.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Life and Peace from the Table

This is the Table of life.  It is the Table of Communion with our Lord.  But this is not a Table where you will physically be stuffed with fat things and goblets of the finest wines.  You will simply take a small piece of bread and a small cup of wine – for these are symbols, signs, tokens, of what you are receiving by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

But do not let tokens or signs distract or disappoint you.  It is in the act of participating in this ritual by faith that you really partake of the Lord Jesus and are really nourished by Him – nourished in intimate communion with Him and also with this body around you – the brothers and sisters He has shed His blood for.

This is a Table of that perfect peace Isaiah mentioned.  Stay your mind on Him, but do so by looking around you and seeing His body – there, in your brother and sister – there – is the peace of the Lord as well.

The Possible Directions of Unregenerate Hearts

"The unregenerate heart has only two motions it can make - trying to climb to God on its own or trying to run away from God." - Wilson, AC, p90.

I tried both.  Bad days.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Come Knowing God Knows

Come and worship the LORD, all people on the earth.  That is what we just sang and that is what we have gathered to do.  Sit up now, get ready, turn your attention away from other things and concentrate on what the LORD would be saying to us as we gather in the name of His Son.

But as you come, please know, and know this with great confidence, that the LORD already knows all that you need.  He knows all that you have been through this week.  He knows all that He is going to give to you to renew you, to encourage you, to redirect you, to instruct you.  And He is not stingy with His gifts.  And so – come expectantly.

And come expectantly not just for yourself.  Look around you.  God has that intimate knowledge for each and every one of His children – all of these who have gathered with you at His throne.  Long for answers to their prayers as well.  Rejoice with them, weep with them, pray for and with them, join in trusting the Lord with them.  Come expectantly for them.

And then for the world.  Come on behalf of the world.  Come on behalf of anyone you know who does not know the Lord and, by name, lift them up to the Lord of Hosts that His mercy would blast through this service out into the world of darkness and unbelief and accomplish all that He promised by His Word He will do in and for this world.  Lift up the names of pastors and churches ministering with us in our presbytery.  Pray for the spiritual blinders to be put down in our city and in the cities around the world.  And expect God to answer.

Come and worship the Lord.  Come and welcome to this service of Covenant Renewal.

The Need for High Octane Calvinism

"The answer to the grace/works dilemma is high octane Calvinism, and by this, I don't mean the formulaic kind.  If God is the one Paul preached - the one of whom it can be said "of him, and through him, and to him, are all things" - then where in the universe are you going to hide your damned dinky merit?" - Wilson, AC, p85

And I always love how Paul handles this in Philippians - 

Philippians 2:12b–13 (NKJV)

... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.