Shawnee RP Church

You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: Weeping with Poway

April 30, 2019

Dear Congregation,

This week at Shawnee Reformed Presbyterian Church our hearts along with millions of others, are deeply touched with sorrow at the news of the Poway Synagogue shooting.  Sympathy flows for the families and friends who by the actions of one person were made victims in this tragedy.  This is indeed a time to grieve with those who are grieving and pray that those personally affected will find true Shalom [peace] in the one living and true God.

As we view this tragedy and grieve for our neighbors in Poway, we must recognize we are staring at the harsh reality of the fallen and broken world in which we live.[1]  While all the details surrounding this tragedy may not yet be known, what is clear is that the sin of Cain[2] follows the line of humanity down to the present day.  The actions at the Poway Synagogue are manifestations of the same hatred that raged in the heart of Cain who murdered his own brother.[3], [4]   

This kind of hatred is not a manifestation of the Spirit of God, but a product of sinful human hearts.[5]  Sadly, the young man who turned himself in to authorities as the perpetrator of this slaughter had, so we are told, the advantage of a Christian home.  Yet, he fell prey to the deception of thinking less of Christ and more of the tradition of men.[6]   Here is a warning to pastors, parents, teachers, and teens themselves, allowing us to see the degree to which the way of Cain can quickly radicalize unsuspecting lambs transforming them into ravenous wolves.[7]

All living generations need to learn in a fresh way how that Cain’s action proved to be utterly senseless and solved nothing, his killing Abel helped no one, least of all himself.  Instead Cain was driven from God’s presence and had an irremovable stain upon his person.  Cain suffered from a conscience which he described as a punishment greater than he could bear.[8]  Murder only takes away from humanity, it cannot add or contribute anything but lasting shame.

Once our hearts stabilize from the shock of such news, we find that a sense of righteous indignation ensues.  We naturally desire that justice will be swift, the victims vindicated, and that others would not suffer the same fate.  There is nothing wrong and everything right in a desire for justice as God is just and teaches us to love justice.[9], [10]  However, true justice must be served according to the rule of law and administered in a court of law and not by self-appointed means of retribution. [11] God has given this responsibility the civil government[12] precisely so that societies might combat and protect themselves against this kind of anarchy.  Christians, our prayers are needed so that we may lead that reverent, godly, quiet, and peaceable life Paul speaks to Timothy about in his pastoral letter (1 Tim 2:2).  In this way may the world know that we are Jesus’ disciples, by the love we have for one for another.  Our love must be our apologetic for Christ in this post-modern world.[13]

This week as we mourn over this senseless slaughter of human life locally, nationally, and globally join us in praying that this blight of blood lust might be blotted out through God’s one true sacrifice for sin in Jesus Christ.  Pray that the world will look to the Just One for Salvation from the way of Cain![14]

In the love of Christ,

Pastor Greg


Footnotes:

[1] Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Rom. 5:12)
[2]  “… And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Gen 4:8)
[3] “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jn. 3:12).
[4] “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22).
[5] Galatians 5:19-23
[6] Beware lest anyone cheat [literally, take you captive] you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)
[7] Proverbs 12:26 ; Jude 1:11
[8] Genesis 4:8-15 “… My punishment is greater than I can bear!” …”
[9] Isaiah 61:8 ; Amos 5:14-15 ; Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8).
[10] “For the word of the LORD is upright, And all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Ps. 33:4-5).
[11] Numbers 35:9-34 is evidence of God’s provision and insistence that human government bear the sword of justice.  While our jurisprudence is administered in different manner than Numbers 35, it is nevertheless carried out according to the principles of guilt or innocence and punishment is according to intent and degree just as the law of Moses taught.
[12] Romans 13:1-7

[13] John 13:34-35
[14] Acts 7:52-60

Supper Plans: Thinking About the Supper of Christ

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Dear Congregation,                                                                   

This Lord’s day evening our congregation comes not only to hear the Word of God audibly proclaimed, but also to publicly and visibly participate in one of the greatest privileges of Christian church membership, the Lord’s Supper.

The Bible tells us that on the night our Lord Jesus was betrayed He took bread and wine and set them apart for a special and particular use (Matthew 26:26-30).  We call this special use a “sacramental” use, that is for a sacred purpose.  Our church’s Westminster Shorter Catechism instructs us that, “A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers” (WSC Q92).

In the Supper of Christ, the sensible signs are bread and wine.  These elements of bread and wine are to remind us what Jesus has done for us.  The bread is a sacred symbol and seal of Jesus’ body, which was given for us.  The cup is a sacred symbol and seal of the new covenant in Jesus blood (Luke 22:19-21).  In receiving the supper, we are saying to ourselves and to others that while Jesus’ death should have been ours, we also participate in the resurrection life of Christ by faith (Galatians 2:20 ; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Furthermore, we acknowledge that just as truly as the physical bread and wine are present in our eating, that Jesus is spiritually present to nourish and strengthen us by faith in His promise.  This is communion with Christ in His body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16) and is received only by faith. This pattern is to be followed in the church until Jesus returns and receives His followers at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).  What a glorious day for us!

But as we are still waiting for that great day, here are a few words of counsel to the church and her honored guests.

  • God in His Word forbids the church to invite unbelievers, the spiritually careless, or those under church discipline to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 5:1-11 & 11:27-29; Matthew 18:16).
  • Who is invited to dine with Christ? The Bible invites (yes, commands) the followers of Christ who are baptized and communicant members of a true branch of the visible church to dine at the Table of Christ (Luke 22:19).
  • How do we at SRPC carry out obedience to this Biblical teaching? In terms of our local practice communicant members of the RPCNA and those known to the session may commune at the Supper. Visitors among the congregation who desire to participate in the Supper are asked to share their profession of faith in Christ prior to a communion service.  If it is not possible for elders to conveniently meet with visitors before the service, we welcome all in attendance to remain, but to refrain from partaking of the elements until a meeting can be scheduled.  At heart, we truly wish to honor and obey the King of kings and His wishes at the Table.

Communion is a time for spiritual accounting and preparation (1 Cor 11:28).  Think of it in this way, we spend 18 to 24 years of our lives preparing to live as accountable, responsible, mature adults, so spending a few minutes this week to prepare to take the Supper which has temporal and eternal benefits is in our best interest.  Our spiritual fathers have asked us to consider this matter in question 171 of the Westminster Larger Catechism,

WLC 171  How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?

  1. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves(1) of their being in Christ,(2) of their sins and wants;(3) of the truth and measure of their knowledge,(4) faith,(5) repentance;(6) love to God and the brethren,(7) charity to all men,(8) forgiving those that have done them wrong;(9) of their desires after Christ,(10) and of their new obedience,(11) and by renewing the exercise of these graces,(12) by serious meditation,(13) and fervent prayer.(14)(1) 1 Cor. 11:28 ; (2) 2 Cor. 13:5 ; (3) 1 Cor. 5:7 compared with Exod. 12:15 ; (4) 1 Cor. 11:29; (5) 1 Cor. 13:5; Matt. 26:28 ; (6) Zech. 12:10; 1 Cor. 11:31; (7) 1 Cor. 10:16,17; Acts 2:46,47 ; (8) 1 Cor. 5:8; 1 Cor. 11:18,20 ; (9) Matt. 5:23,24 ; (10) Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; (11) 1 Cor. 5:7,8 ; (12) 1 Cor. 11:25,26,28; Heb. 10:21,22,24; Ps. 26:6 ; (13) 1 Cor. 11:24,25 ; (14) 2 Chron. 30:18, 19; Matt. 26:26

By seeking Christ in this way, we can all look forward to sitting at the Lord’s Table with a people prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ – like heaven.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Greg

For Further Study – “The Sacred Supper of Christ and What it Brings to Us” –  Exploring John Calvin’s Understanding of the Supper

 

Shawnee RPC Group Photo

Hope and Your Heart

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Shawnee RPC Group Photo

Beloved Congregation of the Lord,                                                             

What a great difference a change of season makes in our lives.  I say this because to me this past winter was especially long, and long winters can have an impact on our well being.  We could ask a physician to confirm this generally, but God’s book already tells us that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Pro 13:12).  Solomon seems to say that when the grace of hope returns to the heart, it is like spring time in the soul.

In light of this, how is your heart doing?  The heart which the sage of Israel told us to be concerned about when he said, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life”?  This is the heart or inner man where Christ dwells by faith as Paul said, “… that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18-19).

Perhaps some of us are looking for relief from some fiery trial or victory over a particular sin, or a the return of wayward friend or family member, but the relief we hoped for is like the long winter that keeps freezing and throwing sleet and ice at all our efforts to thaw out.  When we find ourselves in such a spiritual freeze, look to Christ in fresh faith and you will find, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16)   A Christian’s hope is not deferred forever, God will see to that.  So, let’s trust in God’s provision and have a heart strengthening week in the warm weather of God’s good grace in Christ Jesus our Lord!

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Greg

 Hope is never ill when faith is well ~ John Bunyan