A Time for Fasting and Prayer – April 4th, 2020

The Congregations of the Midwest Presbytery are called to

A Solemn Day of Fasting and Prayer

The Midwest Presbytery is calling on her congregations to consider a day for prayer and fasting on Saturday April 4, 2020, for the purpose of seeking God’s help and mercy during this time of pestilence in our land. 

“In Christian fasting, as an ordinance of God, the believer voluntarily abstains from food or some ordinary pleasure for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service, or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience.”—Reformed Presbyterian Directory for Public Worship, 4.3

Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Joel 2:15-16a

As the passage above makes clear, there are none too young, nor none too old, to participate in a fast[1].  And therefore we are calling on the congregations of Midwest Presbytery to set aside Saturday April 4, 2020, as a solemn day of fasting and prayer. Fasting is not simply abstaining from food for a time, but rather it is abstaining from a legitimate physical engagement for the purpose of seeking God in a more earnest and special way.  Therefore, fasting and prayer are always to go together.

While there are many good reasons and occasions to fast and pray, we are asking that Saturday be specifically set aside for the purpose of crying out to God for help and mercy during this time of disease in our land. 

Here is a suggested guide for praying as you fast …

Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him —Hosea 6:1-2

 

Glorify & Exalt God

  • As the Great and Majestic, Lord of All
  • The Creator, Redeemer, and Consummater
  • The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Confess & Acknowledge Sins

  • Our Personal Sins
  • Our Family Sins
  • Our Congregational Sins
  • The Church’s Sins
  • The Sins of our Nation
  • The Sins of other Nations

Plead for God’s Mercy & Grace in Christ

  • Seek His Continued Patience toward Us
  • Seek His Mercy though we deserve His Wrath
  • Seek His Grace upon us in light of our Demerit
  • Seek His Power and Sanctifying Work within Us
  • Seek His Saving Kindness upon Unbelievers
  • Seek His Wrath Upon Evil Doers
  • Seek His Vengeance Against His Enemies
  • Seek His Revival and Reformation of the Church
  • Seek His Wisdom for our Governing Officials
  • Seek His Gift of Repentance for our Nation

Thank Him for His Many Blessings to Us

  • Thank Him for the Gift of His Son for Sinners
  • Thank Him for an Inheritance in Heaven
  • Thank Him for the Surety of Glory
  • Thank Him for the Presence of His Spirit
  • Thank Him for the Institution of the Church and the privilege of public worship on the Lord’s Day
  • Thank Him for our Families and Friends
  • Thank Him for the Good Things of this Life
  • Thank Him for the Beauty of Creation
  • Thank Him for Safety and Relative Peace
  • Thank Him for daily Provisions and Prosperity
  • Thank Him for His Faithfulness to His Promises

 

PRAYER AND FASTING QUOTES

 “Fasting possesses great power. If practiced with the right intention, it makes one a friend of God.” Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 AD)

“As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul. Imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things, and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life.”  John Chrysostom (c. 349–407)

 “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself.” Augustine (354–430)

 “Fasting and prayer are proper means for the bringing down of Satan’s power against us, and the fetching in of divine power to our assistance. Fasting is of use to put an edge upon prayer; it is an evidence and instance of humiliation which is necessary in prayer, and is a means of mortifying some corrupt habits, and of disposing the body to serve the soul in prayer. When the devil’s interest in the soul is confirmed by the temper and constitution of the body, fasting must be joined with prayer, to keep under the body.” Matthew Henry

 The pleasures of this life and the desires for other things— these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.  ‘Desires for other things’— there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.” Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God.”  John Piper

[1] And yet we fully recognize that some may not be able to participate at all, or only in a limited way, because of health concerns or some other legitimate reason.  If there is a concern at all that a food fast would not be wise for you, please either consult with your doctor before or feel free to fast in another way that is more appropriate for you and/or your family.

Building the Church Jesus’ Way

Until Jesus returns the church is a
construction site, not the finished project. 


Building Jesus’ Church by Confessing Christ

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “I will build My church” and the last 2000 years of history clearly demonstrate Jesus’ powerful resolve and ability to build His church.  The context of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16 indicates that the church is built upon the rock of Christ and that Peter is a stone set in that grand structure which Jesus here possessively calls, “My church.” 

When writing in his 1st Epistle, Peter used this same metaphor of building stones to describe our relationship with Christ and to each other, saying,

Coming to Him [that is to Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” (1Pe 2:4-6)

Both the Matthew 16 and 1 Peter 2 passages point to Christ as the Rock or chief cornerstone, while we are stones built on Christ.  It is a wonderful privilege of God’s amazing grace to be placed by the Master Builder into His spiritual house. So, how do we recognize if someone is a part of God’s spiritual house?  

 Look again at Jesus in Matthew 16 giving us an example to follow.  There Jesus pointed to Peter’s outward confession of his inward faith.  A faith given by the Lord (Mat 16:17) and outwardly professed was the criteria for identifying Peter as a living stone.  Peter was a stone that Jesus would use to build His church and his confession was simple, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat. 16:16).  For some it may help to recall here that Jesus did not require Peter to be re-baptized upon profession of his faith, neither do we.  The baptism of our covenant children proceeds on the grounds of obedience to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 and the example and instruction of Peter in Acts 2:38, 39 and the analogy of faith throughout the whole of Scripture. 

Our own profession of faith in Christ functions in the same way whether we are the children of believers or not.  Inwardly saving faith unites us to Christ, outwardly our profession of faith identifies us as appropriate building material for Jesus’ church.  If we have been baptized as children, we need not do so again.  If we have never been baptized and wish to confess Christ now, we must follow the Lord’s command (Mt 28:19).  But either way, it is neither right nor safe to build Jesus’ church with those who do not credibly[1] confess to Jesus, His church, and the world, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (Jn. 11:27).  Solo Christo!

[1] Communicant Membership is built upon a credible, believable, and trustworthy profession of faith in Christ.  Our church’s constitution tells us our profession of faith must be credible (RPCNA Directory for Church Government, 1.1). 

Good Providences?

William Cowper 1731-1800

In conversation with a dear and well-meaning friend I had expressed my thanks to God for a particularly good providence. As soon as the words were out of my mouth my friend quickly informed me that we shouldn’t say something was a “good providence” because, God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.  Now, that saying is also true, of course it is!  God is good all the time, because that is His nature.  But it was a horse of a different theological color and my friend clearly did not understand my words.

 

Now, allow me to explain, when a Christian remarks that a providence is either, “good” or “bad” they are not thereby passing judgment on God’s actions as if some of His providences were good or right, while others were, bad or wicked, heaven forbid!

 

If someone were to tell you they had suffered a “hard providence” it doesn’t mean that God had a hard time in bringing a particular providence to pass.  The Bible asks, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) and the expected answer is, “No, of course not”!  For us, on the other hand, some things we experience are exceedingly hard things, like illness and disease. They can be hard to grasp and harder to endure unless faith in Christ is our companion.

What do we mean in using words like good, bad, heavy, pleasant, etc., to qualify the word providence? In using a phrase like “hard providence” or “good providence” the Christian is expressing their own experience of God’s providences. They are not reflecting upon God’s moral character or ability.  The phrases are intended to be reflective of our own struggle or joy, not God’s.

 

What my friend was commenting on is also true and is non-negotiable Christian truth, just misapplied.  For believers no matter how we experience life, all events and circumstances are given to us from the hand of Divine love (Romans 8:28-39).  However, the dispensation of God’s actions or His providences to us will be good or bad, hard or easy, kind or afflicting as we perceive and experience them in real time.

 

Thus, our Lord Jesus wept at the grave of a friend, and sweated as it were great drops of blood in the garden, and cried from the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?”   All this to make Him a merciful and faithful High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus experienced good and bad providence for me and all those who trust in Him.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” Ps. 23:4

 

So, friends it is theologically and Biblically permissible to speak of God’s hard, difficult, heavy, kind, good, or loving providences as the need arises.  Saints throughout the ages have used this kind of language to describe God’s providence towards them and we would be the poorer for not having read William Cowper’s verses,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning Providence He hides a smiling face.

I hope you see the connection with what is happening today.  This article was not intended as a random recollection of a conversation from years ago, nor is it about semantics or striving for idiomatic accuracy in theological parlance.

 

Friends, we are experiencing a day of “hard providences.”  That means you and I will see and perhaps experience hard things more than usual.  But the honor of God requires me to tell you, this doesn’t mean that God has forgotten to be good, or that He can’t stop evil in its tracks. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”  (Mt. 19:26).

 

The fact that there is sunshine every morning is all the evidence that faith needs to recall that God is on His throne doing what is right and good to a world that has lost its way.  Now that is a good providence!


Perhaps these few verses from the prophet Jeremiah will put all this in perspective best …

“He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  – Lamentations 3:15-26 ESV

 

Shawnee RPC Group Photo

SRPC Responding to a COVID-19 National Emergency

Shawnee RPC Group Photo

Beloved Congregation:

 

On Monday (3/16/20) our country’s President gave new national guidelines for responding to the current COVID-19 virus threat.  The guidelines tell the country to avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people for the next 15 days to aid in slowing the spread of the corona virus. This is a temporary measure intended for the safety of all residents.

Your SRPC Elders see the 15 day guideline as extending to our congregation’s weekly gatherings.  This means that for now we are cancelling all our church’s weekly meetings, including the Lord’s Day services, until 4/5/20.

 

The Next 15 Days at Shawnee RPC

Your Elders are complying with the recommendations on the grounds that we want to do our part to slow the COVID-19 virus.  Our Kansas City Alliance of Reformed Churches has canceled the 3/29/20 evening worship service as well.

 

Especially during this time the SRPC Elders urge all of us to,

  • Participate in SRPC’s Lord’s Day Worship Services Online

As our Lord Jesus tells us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). We need the encouragement and supply of strength from God and one way we plan to bring encouragement to you is to have Lord’s Day morning and evening worship services live streamed for all to join.

 

You can find SRPC Worship links for our live streamed services and also previously recorded services on our website at, www.shawneerpc.org. The live streaming will be at the regular times 11 AM and 6 PM on the Lord’s Day.  We ask that you join with us at those times as you may be able and to let others know of our services too.

  • Live a Biblically Based Response

As God’s dear children we want to respond to every event in life on the principles of God’s word (Eph 5:1).  In instances such as these we need to avoid the extremes of surrendering to a mentality of fear or rushing ahead in foolish ignorance (2 Tim 1:7Pr 27:12). Like Daniel of old, God calls us to a walk of obedience and love no matter what the circumstance or day in history we are living (Daniel 6:10).  At SRPC we are,

 

  1. Complying with a lawful request from our nation’s highest office ( 13:1-51 Peter 2:13-14Mk 2:23-28).
  2. Seeking to keep our congregants and others safe and out of harm’s way (Mt 22:36-40).
  3. Being prudent with the information being given to us (Pr 13:16).
  4. Trusting our sovereign God for the care of our lives (Pr 3:5-7).
  • Provide Ongoing Communication & Check on Member Needs

We will continue to monitor the situation and update the congregation as needed. We plan to communicate through telephone and email, or in person as need arises.  Our elders will contact members in shepherding groups to ensure needs are being met [IF you or someone you have been in contact with during since last week has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus please make your shepherding elder aware.  Elders will not share the names of those contracting the illness or testing positive for COVID-19 without consent].  Thank you!

  • Aspire To:
  1. Demonstrate faith by working through love (Gal 5:6), show love to God and man.
  2. Provide care for one another (1 Thes. 3:12). Please consider reaching out to others and help as you can during these days ahead.
  3. Remind yourself and others to keep an eternal perspective on all of life (2 Cor 4:16)
  4. Pray earnestly and daily for this nation, people, and one another (1 Timothy 2).
  5. Cast our cares on God who alone is able to bear them (1 Pe 5:7Mat 6:25-34).
  6. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God! (1 Cor 10:31).

 Your Servants for Jesus Sake,

The SRPC Session

Click link to CDC Website ->

Love, true love …

1 Corinthians 13 contains the Bible’s well known description of how love behaves.  There the apostle of Christ shows us the demands of love toward God and all mankind.  This is especially true of those who are given God’s gift of a circumcised heart (Deuteronomy 30:6).  A circumcised heart is one that is renewed in the image of God.  A heart given the grace of true love results from our being made alive in Christ, a heart which invariably manifests love. It is a joy to recognize that, “… the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Chapter 13 bears an important message for Christians as we walk in a world darkened by sin.  However, as we look at passages like 1 Corinthians 13 they can become for us a list of do’s and don’ts without giving any regard to the disposition of our hearts.   Paul warns in verses 1-3 that it is possible to give all that we own to a charity and become martyrs to the cause of Christ and still not have love.  It is possible then to avoid impatience, envy, pride, rudeness and such behavior and yet not have love.  It is possible to do acts which appear as loving and yet not be loving.  In this light it is helpful to observe that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 are not a definition of love so much as a description of love’s behavior and that it is possible to act lovingly and yet not have the love of God.

So, what is love?  Seems to me that whenever I ask for a definition of love the word suddenly gets rather squishy.  Admittedly, love is harder to define than describe.  The English dictinoary is helpful, but only if I know the kind of love I am seeking to define and there is the problem.  As Christians we want to know what God has in mind when we are told to,”… love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to, “… love your neighbor as yourself …” (Leviticus 19:18).

So, Biblically, we can see that, love involves several components and when those components or constituent parts are present within me, love can be said to be present.   Based upon the Biblical data I offer a definition of love for those who would like one.  God’s gift of love is a right affection and disposition of the heart and mind in relation to God and man in every circumstance.   

In this light we can understand Paul’s meaning rightly when he says, “… love is the fulfilment of the law” (Romans 13:10) and Moses when he commands us, “You shall love …” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Only in Christ can God’s love be seen clearly and perfectly.  Jesus is both our Savior and Exemplar!  

For further thought, see this helpful devotion from Ligonier TableTalk Magazine 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions: What About the End Times?

“Then comes …”  

                                                                                                                                              1 Corinthians 15:24

Concerning the End –

Five Essentials That Every Christian Should Know

  • Christ will return bodily to this earth to consummate His eternal reign, Ac 1:11; 2 Th. 1:7-10; 1 Co 15:22-28
  • The dead will be raised to life, both the wicked and just, Dn. 12:2; Jn. 5:29; 2 Tim. 4:1.
  • Christ will judge all men, living and dead, both wicked and just, Mt. 25:31-34; Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27
  • The wicked will be sentenced to eternal punishment in hell, Ps. 1:4-6 Mt. 25:46; Mk 9:47
  • The just will enter heaven, the joy of their Lord for all eternity, Mt. 25:21; Rev. 21-22

There, that isn’t so difficult to comprehend, 1) Christ will return, 2) then a general resurrection occurs, 3) Christ judges all men, 4) Christ sentences the wicked, and 5) Christ rewards the righteous.  The church has historically considered these five truths as essential teaching.  You’ll find them incorporated into the historic creeds, confessions, and catechisms.  Now these are given in the Bible so we can be prepared and know what we are to expect.  Remember that Jesus has called us His friends, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:14-15).  


Because considering The End can be an unsettling matter to consider, we remind ourselves what our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased by His death on the cross.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism rehearses a summary of these gospel benefits in questions 32 through 38.  Speaking primarily of justification, adoption, and sanctification, but also mentioned are those several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from this gospel grace of Christ.  I’ll call special attention here to the blessings of Gospel Rest, Protection, Comfort, & Concern

Rest in Christ – if you are believing in Christ today, you are in the ark of safety already and Christ says to you, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me”

 Protection – God’s truth will keep you from being deceived or troubled by impetuous spirits who stir up and vex the church with their prophetic schemes (Mar. 13:21-22; 2 Thess. 1:3-8; Eph. 4:14). There is also a restraining grace provided through the innate knowledge that God will judge the world (Rm 1:18-20).

Comfort now and in the world to come – with the knowledge of Christ’s coming again (1 Thess. 4:18).   It is the world that is in danger Christian, not you, for when Christ comes again the entire world will know it (2 Thess 1:7) for King Jesus will summon every person before Him, “and every knee shall bow…” (Rm. 14:11).   Christians will be openly acknowledged and acquitted on that day, for “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect” & “Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” (Rm. 8:33; Mt 25:31-46).

Loving concern for the world – As there will be a day of death for each so there will be a day of judgment for each one (Heb. 9:27).  The knowledge that God will judge the world gives us reason to labor for the salvation of God’s elect (2 Ti 2:10) being constrained by the love of Christ (2 Co 5:14).

Christian you and I can LIVE and ABOUND in this framework by the grace of Christ – no matter how disconcerting today’s headlines may be.

Witness of the Christian Church from the Past about, The End >>>>

Read more

A Lesson from the Divine Attributes

“To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal And compare Me, that we should be alike?” (Isa. 46:5)

 

We learn from the Bible that God is the All-Seeing, All-Knowing, All-Powerful Being, whose wisdom, knowledge and power have no limit.  We call this aspect of knowing God’s attributes, the doctrine of God’s Omni’s.

 

The Bible supports what our internal being was created to know, “… what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead …” (Rom. 1:19-20)

 

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim. 1:17)

 

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3)

 

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.” (Rev. 11:17)

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33-36)

 

There are of course many verses which teach the omni’s of God.  We sometimes refer to the omni’s as incommunicable attributes of God.  They cannot be in any measure given or shared by creatures.  These are Divine attributes alone.  Now there is some aspect of knowledge, wisdom and power that are known by God’s created beings.  We call these attributes, God’s communicable attributes.   However, the “omni” aspect of these attributes is not and cannot be shared.  We learn here a lesson and find how practical theology can be.

 

For instance, sometimes men forget this truth and begin to act or assume as if they had omni-attributes themselves, such as a divine eye, mind, or arm.  I have run across some in the church whom I trust are well-meaning brothers, yet, they make the sophomoric mistake of assuming that if they don’t see a work being done, or done as they would do it, that it is not being done at all and belittle or even attempt to mandate that others must follow them (Luke 9:49).  There are others who seem to have all wisdom, and say, if a work in the church is not done by their standard of wisdom it must not be done, or at least done right.  Still others will tell us that if we simply applied principles of human excellence, the power of God would be sure to follow (Paul has quite a bit to say about this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5).

 

As men we can too often forget that we are just men at best.  I find personal comfort in Job’s application of this truth to his otherwise well-meaning friends, “Then Job answered and said: “No doubt you are the people, And wisdom will die with you! But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these?  “I am one mocked by his friends, Who called on God, and He answered him, The just and blameless who is ridiculed.”  (Job 12:1-4)

 

Who knew just how practical the Divine Attributes might be?

 

 

Counsel to a Friend in Christ – Dredging Up Past Sins

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. (Prov. 4:26 ESV)

A good deal of pastoral counseling is done in our sermons, other counsel is given in our weekly and daily interactions or in the communion of saints, and quite a bit is still given by letter writing or email as was the case here below.  In this note no specifics are mentioned and yet the counsel needed is not uncommon, so I trust it will by God’s good grace be useful to all who read it here –

Dear Friend,

 

I truly hope and pray you will by the grace of Christ forgive and leave behind past offenses done to you or by you.  However, remain alert, because past sins long forgiven can and will from time to time haunt or revisit the soul causing us personal times of blight and trouble robbing us of the peace and rest given by Christ and His Holy Spirit.  The old man remaining with us can fall prey to those sins we crucified long ago.  The world allures us and our own minds seem to conspire against us.  Then physical, emotional, mental, sensual, and many other kinds of internal triggers can send us down a road where those old sins are likely to be revisited and nursed by us.  By these kinds of snares the old enemy hopes to lead us into by-path-meadows a place where we think we will find comfort, but rather than ease this is the sure path to doubting castle (Pilgrim’s Progress reference).  Once in that place we either wallow in the shame of our past sins or justify and pamper a sense of self-pity for the wrongs done to us. There we can live (miserably) for a long time forgetting that we have the key of promise in God’s word.

 

Rather than live in that place, make a study of the work of Christ in Romans 6 & 7  – especially chapter 7 and verses 24-25 where His work is on display to your faith.  Then on into Romans 8 where “… there is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  In that good land (chapter 8) you learn that you can live with the sufferings of this present time, because you have in your possession something infinitely more valuable in the hope of the gospel (v18).  You know even the secret trials of your heart will work for your good and God’s glory (v28), so “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

 

You will find that you can live a lifetime on the promises inferred in these interrogatives, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?”  “It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns?”  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

 

Envision by faith, that in all these things we are, “… more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  Friend, be persuaded from God’s word that “…neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor power, nor things present nor things to come, not height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

A Christ-like humility which daily confesses with Christ, “not my will, but thine be done” is the path for all Christians.  If today God’s all-wise providence leads you to a cross or a crown accept what His love brings you.  Submission is always in season with God, so wear humility on the outside and inside alike, because the high and lofty One dwells with the humble and contrite in heart.  In all of life, in the push and pull of healthy or ill relationships, in the hard providence and in the good, I can think of no safer refuge, no more refreshing retreat than to be in the arms of Almighty Love.

 

In this way may you find in the land of the living pleasure in the dispensation of God’s ways, day by day.

 

Every blessing (Eph 1:3),

Greg

 

“This is My Body Which is Given For You”

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying,“This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”” 20 “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

– The Gospel of Luke 22:19-20

 

What grace under pressure the Son of God exhibits!  Try to imagine the love, dedication, and focus required of Jesus to utter these words, “This is My body which is given for you.”

Facing His own death in a matter of hours and with every human emotion under the control of His sinless humanity, Jesus says, “This is My body which is given for you.”

Jesus had desired to be with the disciples (v15) to share a Passover meal in a way no one seemed to understand then and still so few do today.  Jesus displayed in a visual lesson His redemptive love, saying, “This is My body which is given for you.”

With that piece of broken bread in His hand Jesus gave thanks to the Father for the death He was about to suffer for us, knowing full well that, “This is My body which is given for you.”

Placing the very emblem of His suffering before the eyes of His disciples, Jesus says, “This is My body which is given for you.”

Do we understand the reality of the picture Jesus drew for us on that night in which He was betrayed?  He was about to accomplish a death that would settle the debt of sin charged against His people.  And so, He says, “This is My body which is given for you.”

Do we understand the provision made for us when Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you”?

A provision of righteousness we do not have, a provision of sustaining grace which we daily stand in need of, a provision of nurturing love, a provision of infinite forgiveness, a provision of eternal union and communion.  Are you prepared in heart, mind and body this week to hear once again those ancient words of amazing love, “This is My body which is for you”?

Pastor No Image

Strangers in Danger

 “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exo 22:21 NKJ).

OT Israel had been a stranger, a foreigner or sojourner dwelling in Egypt.  Driven there by famine Jacob and his sons with their wives and children moved to the land of Pharaohs to stay alive.  There in Egypt as immigrants they lived 400 years (Gen 15:13) and Israel learned by sad experience what it was to be taken advantage of as a stranger in a strange land.  True, at first they were favored by the Pharaohs that knew Joseph.  But slowly the tide changed and the once favored people were subject to bitter bondage and harshly accused and abused.  Israel was indeed a stranger in the land of Egypt.

There are many reasons in the providence of God that cause men to immigrate and settle in a new land.  If a man or family comes to settle in a new country and can demonstrate they are “honest men … not spies” (Gen. 42:11), God takes special care for them.  They are not to be oppressed, mistreated or taken advantage of by the people of the land.  Have you ever been on the outside of a community, society, or culture?

Well, while I was never a stranger like the Israelites, I do recall when I was in the sixth grade, my mother took a teaching job in an adjoining school district in the north end of the County. My parents made the decision that it would be best if I, along with my two younger siblings went to school in the same school district.  It was going to be a real adventure I was told.  But my sixth grade heart said, no way!  But, as sixth graders don’t get to call those shots or make those decisions we left all our friends behind and were taken to a school where we didn’t know anyone.  We were outsiders to the kids who grew up together and had known each other all their lives.  If ever there were foreigners and strangers, surely it was us.

But wait, the story doesn’t end badly.  On my first morning at school as I was sitting in the classroom waiting for an omen of bad things to come the rest of the year, pouting I think mom called it.  When suddenly strange looking faces raced into the room.  The class teacher who had been trying to get me to talk with her turned to a sandy headed boy with a face full of freckles and said, Clayton, go tell Charlie (the janitor/assistant coach) to “turn the basketballs loose in the gym.”  Without hesitation Clayton looked at me and said, come on let’s go!  We raced to the gym and there over those basketballs Clayton, his twin brother Clinton, Kevin, Gary, Roy, Galen, David, Joe and myself all became fast friends.  We had lots of boyish fun those two years, but wonderfully, I don’t recall ever feeling like an outsider after that first, “come on let’s go!”

Instead of an omen of evil, that morning was a harbinger of many blessings to come for as it turned out those two years were by far the best two years of my primary education.  Discovering healthy friendships was the best thing ever, mom was right – again.

I know, this was small time in comparison to those Israelites, but the same lesson is learned.  Think of the blessing we as individuals or the local church can be to someone who just needs a friendly face and a word of encouragement.  Can we imagine the opportunities God sets before us in the lives of strangers?  Having trouble? Try imagining this,  “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2 NKJ).