The Joy of Weekly Worship

Hebrews 10:25 says: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching”.

It is very easy for us to absent ourselves from worship especially in the summertime. We may say I had a hard week and Sunday is my only day to sleep or some event takes place on Sunday morning and we say I will worship next week. Many things can interfere with worshiping God. We may have an opportunity to go to the beach for one or two weeks which is fine but then come back and say I need a Sunday to rest.

When we read our Bibles and pray God does convict us and comfort us in His word; however, this does not replace the preaching of the word from God’s pulpit. We gather together for the purpose of hearing the word of God proclaimed so that it may have an impact upon our life. We should look forward to worshiping God, sing His praises, pray to Him, sing the hymns, hear the word and walk out a different person than when we entered the sanctuary. We should look forward to a time of walking away from the world so to speak and into God’s sanctuary where we commune with Him and other believers. We need this!

As you know, I preach through books of the Bible. We are now in the book of Revelation which is an exciting book for us to study. In any series it is important that we come weekly (unless providentially hindered-a phrase Presbyterians love to use) to hear the flow of God’s message to us. The purpose of the sermon is for us to learn together the whole counsel of God to better equip us to understand the doctrine of God and thus face the world where we live every day.

Some say doctrine does not matter. I strongly disagree. Doctrine gives you your view of God and also of life. For example, if you believe that God gives you the choice whether or not to believe, then you can say that He is somewhat ambivalent to your salvation and to your life. If as the Bible says, we believe that God is sovereign over salvation and our life, this should give you great comfort in knowing that your life is as Paul said to the Colossians hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

Before I was a pastor I longed for my worship on Sunday even though I was a student in college and then seminary and had the pressure of tests and deadlines. I did not let that keep me from worship.

The author of Hebrews says: “And so much more as you see the Day approaching.” This is in reference to Christ’s return. Worship also reminds us that one day we will face God as a friend or a judge so we are exhorted to give our life to Christ, please Him in all that we do, encourage each other in our common faith and leave the sanctuary better equipped to live our lives to the honor and glory of God.

 

See you Sunday.

Dick

What I Have Learned as a Pastor

This is the second part of the article I sent to our denomination’s website magazine “By Faith Online”. I would like to share with you what I have learned: (Continued from The Story of Grace Presbyterian Church found under the About Us tab)

First of all I learned that God is sovereign. Did I not know that before? Yes, but I really have learned that God is sovereign. If He wants your congregation to grow, it will grow. If He does not want it to grow, it won’t. I am not being fatalistic here but rather realistic learning how to depend upon God for everything, blessings as well as trials. I think I have a new perspective on seeing that the church does not belong to me. She belongs to God.

Second, how do you measure success? If God is sovereign and has placed you in the pastorate, does it matter if you preach to five, fifty, or five thousand? He has commanded us to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Our calling is to be faithful in any and all situations. We may be opposed by people in the church as well as people outside the church but if we could measure true success, to me, it means to be faithful.

Third, do not complain. Paul wrote to the Philippians when he was in prison in Rome, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I will say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). I may wonder how can I rejoice if my circumstances are not to my liking? Think about Philippians 4:11 in which Paul says: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.”

Fourth, be faithful. Do not let discouragement affect you. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul said: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” You may not have a large congregation, you may not have a secretary, you may not even have the latest in computer software. Does it matter? No, just study the Scriptures, not only for your own edification, but also as one who is charged to shepherd the flock of God entrusted to your care (I Peter 5:2).

Fifth, do not compare. I am often convicted in the passage in John 21:20-22: “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You’? Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus: ‘But Lord, what about this man’? Jesus said to him “If I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’” When you were in school did you ever compare homework with other students? Did you ask them how long they studied for a test and became all worried if you studied less? Do you remember in seminary asking another student how long his paper was only to learn that your’s was shorter?   Why do we live like that?  That’s why I will  paraphrase the words of Jesus to Peter: “Mind your own business.” What Jesus teaches us from this passage is that if He wants us to have a mega-church, He will give it to us. If He wants us to have multiple staff members, He will give it to us but if we don’t, Jesus basically says I put you right where I want you. Trust Me to provide for you and the congregation you serve. Comparing ourselves to others does not honor God and certainly does not encourage us.

Sixth, be yourself. In I Corinthians 15:10 Paul said: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul could have felt inferior to the other apostles because he did not walk with Christ when He was on earth. This did not bother him. He knew he had been commissioned by Jesus on the Damascus Road and thanked God for the forgiveness that was given to him as one who deserved nothing. When he said that he labored more abundantly than they all, he was  not boasting in his own spiritually but in God. Therefore do not feel sorry for yourself that you are not as gifted as another pastor or that you have not written a book or books or that you are not on the preaching circuit being asked to speak at theological conferences. Just be the man God made you and preach faithfully to God who has gifted you and called you to the greatest office any man on this earth can receive, that of the Gospel ministry.

I hope this is encouraging to you in your ministry.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Why Did I Do this Again?

How many times have you done something, regretted that you have done it and then turned around and did it again? It could be something you said, something you thought or place you went. You get frustrated with yourself and ask, “Why did I do this again?” Proverbs 26:11 graphically explains why, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”

A dog, because of its voracious appetite, may eat something which upsets it and which, if the dog has feelings it will regret. But once it has vomited it up, it feels better and if nothing else is on offer, it may return to its vomit.

What do we learn from this? Temporary or false repentance is like this. We get so deep in our sin that it may disgust us. The effects of drunkenness, lust, gossip can eventually sicken us and make us wish that we had never entertained the temptation and we resolve to never do it again but if self disgust is our only motivation, then it is not repentance. It may make us feel better for a little while but ends up leaving us empty. The only way we can fill the void is to return to what satisfied us before thus the Proverb about a dog’s vomit.

The apostle Paul experienced much the same conflict in Romans 7. In Verses 15 – 17 he said: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do.” Verse 19 and 20 says: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me.”

R. C. Sproul said: “If we know how much God hates our sin, and if we have affection for Him, we will not want to displease Him by sinning. We are however constantly bombarded with opposing ideas. The Scriptures set before us what God delights in, we read it and say ‘I want my life to be like that’ but the rest of the week we hear voices from every side that lead us to lose sight of what is pleasing to God. As we take in what is pleasing to our friends and to the culture, our delight in God begins to lose its passion.”

So what do we do? In Romans 7: 24-25 Paul said: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!… What this teaches me is that no matter how much I struggle, God reached down in His grace and changed my desires. He changed our hearts from stone to hearts that beat with affection and set us free.

In Romans 6:11 which I have quoted often, Paul reminds us by saying: “Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What this means is that sin is no longer our master. We can look at it this way, death did not have dominion over Christ for very long. As R. C. Sproul said: “He was vulnerable to death only because of the imputation of sin, but after He paid the price for our sin, death became powerless. The dominion of death was gone.” People say that Christ’s resurrection   was  impossible  because they  have never  seen  anybody  come  out of the grave. People die and stay dead, so people say that the resurrection could not have happened. That is not what Scripture teaches. The Bible says that death could not maintain dominion over Christ. Therefore, if Christ lives so do I. If He died to conquer sin, He conquered it in me. Let us realize that it is more fulfilling to be a slave of righteousness that it is to be a slave to our desires.

Our Giving is Worship

I do not often talk about money from the pulpit or in my weekly column; however, from time to time we do need to be reminded about our responsibility in giving to God.  I would like to do that now.

In the year 1923, nine of the world’s wealthiest men held a meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. In attendance were the presidents of the world’s largest steel, gas and utility companies, the world’s greatest wheat speculator, the president of the New York stock exchange, a member of the President’s cabinet, a Wall Street tycoon, the head of the world’s largest monopoly and the president of the Bank of International Settlements.

The men who met at the Edgewater that day knew all the secrets of generating and manipulating capital. They could own anything and everything that money could buy. There was one more thing they held in common, which is that within the next decade they all lost everything they had.

The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab lived on borrowed money for the last five years of his life and died bankrupt. The president of the largest gas company, Howard Hobson, went insane. The president of the largest utility, Samuel Insull, died in a foreign land, penniless and a fugitive from justice. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cotton, also died abroad and insolvent. The president of the New York stock exchange, Richard Whitney, was sent to the infamous Sing-Sing penitentiary. The member of the Presidential cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could home to die. The Wall Street tycoon, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide. The head of the world’s largest monopoly, Ivan Krueger, committed suicide. The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide (Patrick Morley, The Seven Seasons of a Man’s Life).

Although this is sad and shocking, the story of these nine men should not be surprising. The Bible warns the rich are not “to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God” (I Timothy 6:17).

In Proverbs 23:5 Solomon says: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” The Puritan Charles Bridges said: “Here then lies the contrast. The world apprehends realities only in the objects before them, the Christian only in invisible things. Therefore, if our judgment looks upon the one as a shadow, and the other as a substance, let us see that we proportion our affections accordingly, giving the shadow of love to the things of earth, the marrow and substance of the heart to the things of eternity.”

In I Timothy 6:7, Paul reminds us: “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”

One man who discovered this to his dismay was Jay Gould, the nineteenth century financial genius. The man was worth 100 million dollars but he died in utter despair. His dying words were: “I am the most miserable devil in the world.” Although Gould had made plenty of long-term investments, none of them was long term enough. It was not until he lay on his deathbed that he realized how foolish he had been for failing to invest in eternal securities (Philip Ryken, Commentary on I Timothy).

Though there’s more that could be said, I will end with what the apostle Paul told the Corinthians about the giving of the Macedonians. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul said: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” Though Christ in His pre-existence with the Father, could hold a white-hot star in the palm of His hand, He emptied Himself of His riches and became one of us and then died for us – such was His poverty. That was heaven’s stewardship program – the genesis of the grace of giving – and it should be a pattern for us.

Several weeks ago we talked about Mark 12 and the widow’s mite (Verses 41-44). The point was that she had given all that she had out of her love for Christ. Though we are not called upon to give our every cent to Christ, it all belongs to Him and we should be good stewards before God of all the riches He has given to us. 

Seeing & Being Seen by God

I would like to give you somewhat of a devotional today with two thoughts. First of all, how does God see you? On the negative side Hebrews 4:13 says: “There is no creature hidden from His sight but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

This means that God sees us when we are looking at porn, lying, filled with pride or speak unkind words to our spouse and/or children. God sees us when we are most vulnerable.

On the positive side as a believer, God loves you. Ephesians 1:4 says: “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him.”

We are also God’s special treasure. Genesis 19:5 says: “Now therefore if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine.” In one sense everyone belongs to God because we are all made in His image. But in His heart God always reserves a special place for His own precious people. While we cannot deny His universal benevolence, it is not to be compared to the unique love that He has for His own people only.

“Whatever our struggles, we are God’s treasure, for we have been drawn close to God through faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter took the words of Moses and applied them directly to the church of Jesus Christ: ‘You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.’ (I Peter 2:9). Every Christian is precious to God, loved with a unique and everlasting love. Do we deserve this? No, but God values us as equivalent with the infinitely precious blood of His very own Son. By the grace of His everlasting covenant, He loves us more deeply than we would ever dare to hope or imagine. We are His ‘treasured possessions’.” (Preaching the Word Series – Exodus by Philip Ryken)

How do we see God? First of all in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said: “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We should know that God loves us enough to give us rest in the midst of daily stressful living.

In John 14:16-18 we see that first of all Jesus said He would send us another Helper. In the Greek the word means one called alongside to help us so God’s Holy Spirit we know can convict us, comfort us, guide us and give wisdom to us. In Verse 18 of the same passage, Jesus said that He would not leave us orphans being that we are adopted as children into His family. We also know that Jesus is our shepherd. We read this in John 10 but can also identify with David in Psalm 23 that God is with us at all times and in all circumstances.

From Malachi 3:6 we know that God never changes. Though friendships may come and go,  our children grow up and leave home, circumstances may change but our comfort is knowing that God and His word never do.

From 2 Timothy 2:13 we know that if we are faithless to God which unfortunately we are, God is always faithful to us. He hears our prayers, answers our prayers and blesses us “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

According to Hebrews 4: 15, 16, our Lord Jesus sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. Tempted in all ways as we are yet without sin. So as the author of Hebrews says and what we should know is that we can come before God’s throne of grace anytime and obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need and how often do we have need!

And finally we should know that our Lord Jesus is as we read in Proverbs 18:24 a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is our confidant, our faithful friend, our Lord and our Savior.

Union with Christ

What does it mean when I say that I am a Christian? How is Christ a part of my life and how does He change my life? I am reading a wonderful book entitled One With Christ by Marcus Peter Johnson. He brings out some wonderful insights as to what it means for us as Christians to be united to Christ and I would like to share some of his thoughts with you:

“To say that our union with Christ occurs by the power of the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit is Himself the bond which unites us to the living Christ. Christ sent the Spirit not so that we might have a roughly suitable replacement in His absence, but that we might enjoy the actual presence of Christ (through the Spirit). The Spirit is the personal manner or mode of Christ dwelling in us. Thus, in the scriptures we see that the presence of the Spirit is closely associated with the presence of Christ, and the Spirit is even called the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9-11). Christ sending of the Spirit means that, through the indwelling of the Spirit, Christ is in us and we are in Him (John 14:16-20). Notice His words in this passage: ‘I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you’. Jesus did not send an alternative but His very presence through the Spirit. The Spirit did not come to mediate His own presence, to glorify His own name, to teach us about Himself, or to form the body of the Spirit. The Spirit was not incarnated, crucified, or resurrected for our salvation. The Spirit came to make Christ known, to glorify Christ’s name, to teach us about Christ, and to form us together as the body of Christ (John 15:26).

The heart of the Spirit’s ministry is to join us to the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended, and living Lord Jesus Christ. J. I. Packer writes that ‘the distinctive, constant, basic ministry of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant is…to mediate Christ’s presence to believers’”.

I hope you can see from this article that our relationship with Jesus Christ is personal and intimate. In Ephesians 5: 29-32 Paul said: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

The profound mystery is that Christ and His bride the church have become one flesh. This intimacy is illustrated with the personal intimacy shared by husband and wife, the most intimate of all unions. We are supposed to understand our union with Christ in a way that approximates, but exceeds this closeness.

Not only should we appreciate this in our daily walk with Christ but how much more should we understand intimacy with Christ when we come to the table where Christ has given His entire self to us and asks us to give our entire self to Him in return.

As was quoted in the above article, in John 14:18, Jesus said: “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you”. This means that in an impersonal world we have not been abandoned and cared for by no one. Jesus Christ is here telling us that no matter what our condition in life, whether we have much or little, any friends or none, He is the only one who sticks to us closer than a brother. May we always cherish this union with Christ, not only more and more in our daily living but also in our worship.

The New Paganism

Psalm 14:1 says: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God…” How sad it is that so many people do not see their need for the Gospel. A sociologist named Christian Smith coined a term “moralistic therapeutic deism” to describe the prevailing system of spiritual beliefs that a majority of young people live by regardless of their religion including Christianity they profess. What is it? It is moralistic because the objective is to be a good person, not to see oneself as a sinner in need of salvation. It is therapeutic in that the purpose of life is to achieve happiness through counseling and therapy, not to grow in spiritual maturity through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Deistic because though they may say God exists, He is not involved at all in our lives.

I am reading a book my Mark Driscoll entitled A Call to Resurgence.  He talks in his book about what he calls “pagan one-ism”. Here are some of the things he says about how this is practiced:

“There is no distinction between God the creator and creation. Radial environmentalism is one example of this. It exceeds a healthy desire to steward God’s creation and results in worshiping the earth because she is our Mother.

There is no distinction between God and humankind. Spirituality does not humbly look outward to God for salvation but arrogantly looks inward for enlightenment and morality.

There is no distinction between good and evil. All we have are perspectives, opinions, and culturally-embedded subjective values. There is no such thing as timeless moral truths that apply to all peoples, times, and places. We are left with shifting situational ethics, building a moral house on sand.

There is no distinction between angels and demons. All spirits and spiritualities are considered good, which leaves people vulnerable to demonic influences masquerading as angels of light.

There is no distinction between mankind and animals. Radical activists advocate for the rights and rescue of animals, often while supporting the murder of unborn children, contrary to the Bible’s teaching that mankind is uniquely made in the image of God and that the creative order places human life above animal life.

There is no distinction between men and women. Oneism replaces God-given gender with culturally-created gender…transgenderism, bisexually, homo-sexualityy, cross-dressing, and the like.

There is no distinction between religions. One-ism usually results in a vague pagan spirituality. As a result, a Christianity that makes distinctions (such as those listed above) is considered a fundamental threat to the entire worldview of one-ism.”

As you can see the most tragic implications of this new pagan one-ism is that it is entirely hopeless. To make matters worse, in 2012 Time Magazine listed “the rise of the nones” among the top ten trends changing America. Who are the “nones”? They are the growing number in our population who, when asked their religious affiliation, respond with “none”. This group of people tries to solve the above problems with humanistic answers. They talk about love with no basis for love or justice with no basis for justice. As you can see we are living in a spiritual vacuum that without the Gospel give men, women and young people no hope at all. So what do they do? They turn to many forms of escape to cope with life.

It should be our prayer that God would use us and our church to reach a hopeless society with the hope of the Gospel. When the Lord Jesus was talking to the woman at the well in John 4, He told her: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again (meaning water from the well) but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give them will never thirst. But the water that I shall give will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me that water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw’.” (Verse 13-15) We know that only in Christ will the deepest needs of anyone be met.