Another goal I have for 2015 is to encourage people to attend the evening service at Grace. I suppose as a church having a regular evening service, we are a dying breed. But I believe it’s a very beneficial practice for Christians to come to worship both in the morning and the evening on the Lord’s Day.
Of course I am aware there are reasons why this is not practical for many people. And, though I believe strongly in the benefit of attending evening worship, I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Bible mandates it. At the same time, there are many who could make it to church twice on Sundays and who would be blessed in doing so.
Kevin DeYoung wrote a very helpful blog on Sunday evening services a few years ago. Here is a link to it. (one interesting thing I learned from his article is that he attended an OPC church while in seminary, and even met his wife there – at the evening service!).
Why not consider coming back to Grace for the evening service? It was not for nothing the Psalmist sang:
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night. (Psalm 92: 1, 2)
I’m slowly but surely making my way through Geerhardus Vos’ classic Biblical Theology. Vos isn’t exactly light reading, but he rewards those who persevere. Biblical Theology is a mind-expanding and heart-enlarging exposition of the progressive revelation of God in Scripture, a revelation, ultimately, of the majesty and glory of Christ. Read it with a Bible (and stiff caffeinated beverage) by your side, and you’ll be edified as Vos helps you see Christ shining through the pages of God’s Word.
Biblical Theology was first published in 1948, and therefore some of the material is dated (specifically, some of the critical, i.e., liberal, ideas Vos engages). But Vos also offers insights that are as relevant today as they ever were.
We find one such insight under the heading, “Jesus’ Attitude toward the Scriptures of the Old Testament” (pg. 357). Against the critics who argued that Jesus took a dim view of the Scriptures, and of the Old Testament religion contained in them, Vos emphatically affirms that the religion of Jesus was a religion of the Book.
In His treatment of the Bible Jesus was the most orthodox of the orthodox. The ascription of Him of a laxer or freer attitude in this matter rests, as we shall presently show, on a lack of discrimination. What is sometimes half-contemptuously called a ‘Bible-religion’ was characteristic of His piety. (pg. 358)
In short, according to Vos, the Scriptures were for Jesus – as they are for Christians today – his “rule of faith and practice” (pg. 359). As far as the Lord was concerned, the Bible was the authoritative Word of God that could not be broken. Though Jesus added to God’s revelation, being himself the incarnate Word of God, his ministry and piety were thoroughly Bible-centered.
How desperately we need to hear this today! One of the primary ways in which opponents of orthodox Christianity call into question the truth and authority of the Scriptures is to drive an artificial wedge between the teaching and life of Jesus, and the inscripturated Word of God. Here’s the idea: Jesus, unlike the Bible-thumping fundamentalists of our day, did not slavishly follow “a book”, but by his words and deeds showed us a higher way – a way of love and peace.
You see this false antithesis between Jesus and the Scriptures at play in the popular bumper-sticker “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” I presume this is a take-off on the once-popular evangelical slogan, “What Would Jesus Do?”
As an aside, not to quibble over grammar, but shouldn’t it really be, “Whom Would Jesus Bomb?”
In any case, like virtually all bumper sticker slogans, the power of the message is in the evocative idea, not the impeccable logic. Who would dare think Jesus would have bombed anybody? In the gospels we find Jesus receiving the outcasts, healing the sick, driving out demons, feeding the hungry, and preaching and teaching the multitudes. He came to suffer and die for sinners, even for his enemies, not to blow them to smithereens.
So the thought of Jesus bombing anyone is far-fetched, to put it mildly. But the public ministry of the incarnate Christ was not the exhaustive revelation of his mind and will. As Vos reminds us, “our Lord’s religion was a ‘religion of the Book'” (pg. 358). He endorsed and submitted to the whole counsel of God in the Scriptures. Actually, we need to put it more strongly: Jesus, as the incarnate God, was himself the author of Old Testament Scripture (1 Peter 1:11), and he is the author of New Testament Scripture (John 16:13, 14).
What this means is that if we desire to know the mind or will of Jesus on any such question, the answer is, “What does the Scripture say?” No, Jesus would not “bomb” anybody. However, the same Jesus who willingly died at the hands of his enemies, and who refused physical force to advance his Kingdom, is the God who has declared in the Scriptures that the governments of nations have the right and authority to use force, even lethal force if necessary, to carry out their God-given functions of preserving order and justice in society (Romans 13:1-4).
Jesus did not use violence in his ministry, but it does not follow from this that a government is always forbidden to (obviously, what constitutes a just use of lethal force is a question that must be asked before it is used). “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” is a punchy slogan for a bumper sticker, but it’s lousy theology.
As Christians, our doctrine and worldview must be formed by the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word of God. If that was true for Jesus, the ultimate “man of the Book”, it ought to be true for us, too.
Unexpected words of encouragement are always a blessing. I received an e-mail on Monday from someone who said his young child had remembered, and apparently was thinking about, what I had said in my sermon about joy. I was encouraged not only to hear that my message (really, God’s message through me!) was received by a young soul, but also to hear that the parents appreciate the worship and teaching at Grace.
No matter what our calling in life may be, sometimes we need to hear a timely word of encouragement. Is there someone you might encourage today?
This evening we are hosting a prayer meeting at our house, at 7 p.m. Here is what I wrote to the congregation by e-mail:
Maybe you’ve never come to one of our week-day prayer meetings, or maybe it has been a long time since you’ve come? Why not plan to come this evening?
Prayer is a vital part of the life both of individual Christians, and of the church as a whole. I encourage you to consider attending so that we might encourage one another as together we bring our prayers and supplications, with thanksgiving, to God.
After three weeks off, the Sunday School classes will resume tomorrow morning at Grace. Sunday School begins at 9:30 a.m. The adult class will study 1 Corinthians, and in the New Members’ class we’ll pick up on pg. 68 of Confessing Christ.
At the morning service (10:45 a.m.) I’ll preach on the subject of joy, from Philippians 4:1-7.
And in the evening (6 p.m.), the message will be on Job 21.
Tomorrow morning the Men’s prayer breakfast will meet at 8 a.m., at the church. A handful of men from the church gather for a time of fellowship and prayer (and donuts and coffee!).
We’ve been working through a book by Dr. Robert Godfrey, An Unexpected Journey – Discovering Reformed Theology. Dr. Godfrey describes his conversion to Christ, and how as a Christian he came to love the Reformed faith.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss chapter 3: “Getting Acquainted with the Bible, Psalm 119:97-144.”
Here’s an excerpt from that chapter:
The great system of the Bible, briefly stated, is that God created man good, but man rebelled against God, lost his original goodness, and lost any ability to restore his relationship with God. To redeem fallen man, God formed a people from whom his own eternal Son would be born as a man. That Son, Jesus, perfectly obeyed that law of God, suffered on the cross, bearing the wrath of God in the place of his people, rose gloriously from the dead, and ever lives to rule over and protect his people. One day Jesus will return in glory to make all things new. In the meantime, his church is to preach his gospel, calling sinners to faith in him and to new life in him. The great message of the Bible from beginning to end is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19).
Amen to that!
At our session meeting yesterday evening, I shared with the elders that one of my goals for 2015 was to conduct an elder visit with every family and member in the church.
What is an “elder visit”? It just means that an elder and I schedule a time with a family or individual member to visit them in their home (usually in their home, but another place sometimes works out better). During the visit, we ask how they are doing and how we can pray for them. It gives the members an opportunity to share any concerns they may have with the church, or to offer any observations/suggestions they may have concerning the worship and life of the church. The visits should be a time of mutual encouragement for all of us, and they almost always are.
The elders believe that conducting these home visits are an important way we can fulfill our responsibility to provide shepherding oversight to the congregation (1 Peter 5:1-3). Home visits were a regular part of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, and should be a part of our ministry as elders (Acts 20:201).
I hope that, by God’s grace, we are able to accomplish this goal for 2015. I will share some of the other goals I have for his year in later posts.
This morning in family devotions we read 2 Kings 23:1-3, in which King Josiah makes a covenant with the Lord. All of the people of Judah joined him in this covenant, pledging themselves to “walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes” (v.3). Above all else, the people of Israel were God’s covenant people.
As Christians we also are in covenant with God, a covenant that God has graciously made with us through Jesus Christ. He promises to be our God and to make us his people. For our part, we are commanded to obey his Word.
Thankfully, God’s covenant with us through Christ is a covenant of grace. Our obedience is imperfect, but God accepts on our behalf the perfect obedience of Jesus. And for that reason, God’s covenant promises will never fail. They are grounded in the work of Christ. Forever and ever, God will be our God, and we will be his people.
First, a reminder: there will be NO Sunday School tomorrow morning. All the Sunday School classes will resume next Lord’s Day, January 11th.
At the morning service we’ll pick up where we left off in our study of Philippians. The sermon will be on Philippians 3:17-21, where the apostle Paul calls upon his readers to join in imitating him. He also gives them a negative example of whom not to emulate, those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (v.18). We’ll consider what this passage of Scripture means for believers today.
We’ll also observe the Lord’s Supper at the morning service.
At the evening service we’ll continue with the book of Job. We’ve thought a lot about suffering as a Christian in this world as we’ve looked at Job. I’ll speak on chapter 20.
David says in in Psalm 27 – Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let you heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (v.14).
As people accustomed to getting what we want the moment we want it, we’re not good at waiting. But sometimes faithfulness to Christ means simply waiting on the Lord – waiting for an answered prayer, for relief from suffering, or for a breakthrough in overcoming sin and temptation. Sometimes the wait is long. And some of the things for which we wait may not be ours until the day of our resurrection (which David also understood: I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!, v. 13). But God wants us to wait; he will answer our hearts’ longings in his own timing, not ours.
But if “wait for the Lord” is a commandment it is also a promise. Jesus will fulfill every godly desire we have for him and for the blessings that flow from him. We wait, but we wait with the hope and assurance that one day all that God has promised us will be ours.
Happy New Year! Our family spent New Year’s Eve feasting on finger food, playing games, setting off some fireworks (and nearly setting my head on fire!), and staying up to midnight for the big countdown. It was a relaxing and fun way to bring in the New Year (at least the fireworks incident will be a good family memory!).
Psalm 90 reminds us that God is always with us in the passage of time – Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations (v.1). It also gives us fitting prayers for the New Year – So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (v.12), and Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (v.17).
May the Lord give you wisdom to “number your days” throughout the year, to live each day with gratitude to Christ for his saving grace, and to devote your time and energy to serving Christ wherever God has placed you.
Only God knows what is in store for each of us this coming year, but whether he brings great challenges or great blessings, he is our dwelling place, both now and forevermore.