Sacramento Gospel Conference

As we’ve been letting you know, the annual Sacramento Gospel Conference is just over a week away.  It will take place on Friday, May 6 (7-9:30pm), and Saturday, May 7 (9:00am – 4:30pm), at Immanuel Baptist Church in midtown Sacramento.  The cost is $30/person (or less, if you’re only able to attend one of the days).  Registration information is here.


This year’s conference is on the theme of “The Gospel and Our Modern Culture”.  Local church pastors Brian Croft & Greg Gilbert (who serve different congregations in Louisville, KY), will be speaking.  Both men are faithful shepherds among God’s flock, and they’ve each written a number of helpful books.


Beloved, I encourage you to take advantage of this great opportunity to sit under the ministry of God’s word in an extended, undistracted way.  Likewise, fellowship with other believers from the greater Sacramento area is always a great blessing.  As our culture becomes more and more ungodly, and hostility against Christ and His people becomes more and more overt, our need for being equipped as faithful gospel proclaimers is always urgent.  I hope you can be a part of the conference!


Please be praying that God would work through His word at the conference to bear much fruit for His glory (Jn. 15:8)!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Revelation 7:9-12

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Christ’s Gift

How Jesus Christ cares for His body, His church!  Now exalted at the right hand of our Father in heaven, Jesus has sovereignly and diversely gifted every member of His body.

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  (Eph. 4:7)

As Paul goes on to explain in Eph. 4:8-16 , Christ has done this that His church might be equipped and made mature in His holy love.  All of this is for the ultimate purpose that the church might live more fully to the praise of God’s glorious grace (see Eph. 1:6,12,14 and Eph. 3:20-21).

What this means for every believer is that to love Christ is to love His body!  To serve Christ is to serve His body!  It is love for Christ, and zeal for the Fathers’ glory, that should enflame us to walk worthy with all humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and diligently preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).  Obviously, these truths have great implications for our lives together in a local church.

The more we’re gripped with zeal for God’s purposes in Christ, the more we’ll understand and obey His will for us as members of His church.  And the less we’ll be concerned about ourselves and our often self-centered desires, instead pouring ourselves out in love for one another.  Consider this exhortation:

“Let us be done with our little kingdoms as well as the spirit of complacency that does not care if the church is divided or immature.  On the contrary, let us seek out our gifts and ask how we may use them to the building up of Christ’s body.  Christ does not squander His gifts; each one is essential.  He does not withhold his gifts; they are poured out in full measure.  He is not indifferent to how His gifts are used; He has His own wise and lofty purposes in view.”  (James M. Boice, Ephesians:  An Expositional Commentary, pg. 138)

Beloved, what a privilege to share life in Christ together with you.  May God help us to keep walking worthy of His calling, for the glory of His great name!


Visible Unity

Preserving unity in the church matters because of the eternal unity of God!  This is the heart of Paul’s exhortation and explanation in Eph. 4:1-6.


1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.


God designs for every believer to have a deepening sense of our identity as members of His one body, the church.  He likewise designs for every believer to actively fulfill our responsibility in making His unity visible in our relationships with one another.  New Testament scholar Peter T. O’Brien, in his excellent Commentary on Ephesians, captures the significance of God’s purpose for His people:


“Ultimately, the unity and reconciliation that have been won through Christ’s death (Eph. 2:14-18) are part and parcel of God’s intention of bringing all things together into unity in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10).  Since the church has been designed by God to be the masterpiece of his goodness and the pattern on which the reconciled universe of the future will be modeled, believers are expected to live in a manner consistent with this divine purpose.  To keep this unity must mean to maintain it visibly.  If the unity of the Spirit is real, it must be transparently evident, and believers have a responsibility before God to make sure that this is so.  To live in a manner which mars the unity of the Spirit is to do despite (hate, spite, insult) to the gracious reconciling work of Christ.  It is tantamount to saying that his sacrificial death by which relationships with God and others have been restored, along with the resulting freedom of access to the Father, are of no real consequence to us!”  (O’Brien, pg. 279-280)


Beloved, let’s keep walking in holy love with one another, as those for whom all of God’s redeeming purposes in Christ have great consequence!


Praying with you, and for you, to this end,


Encouragement from Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was the founder of China Inland Mission.  He was also a man who deeply understood the power of prayer within God’s sovereign purposes.


Echoing the heart of Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3:14-21, the following expressed Hudson Taylor’s daily request before God.  Perhaps this simple, poetic petition will be an encouragement for your own longings at God’s throne of grace!


Lord Jesus make Thyself to me

A living, bright reality;

More present to faith’s vision keen

Than any outward object seen;

More near, more intimately nigh

Than even the sweetest earthly tie.


Because Christ lives, and is returning,



P.S.  You might want to check out this brief, well-rounded biography by John Piper, entitled The Ministry of Hudson Taylor as Life in Christ

In the Gift of His Son

With Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3:14-21, he is asking God to powerfully enable believers to live by faith in the fullness of all He is and has given in Jesus Christ.  Paul prays with great confidence and expectation that God will do abundantly more than all that could be asked or imagined.


Through this Christmas season and beyond, please know that myself and the other elders (Smokey, Gary, Chuck, and Tim), continually pray for each of you at RCG in this way.  And we pray with the same assurance as Paul, knowing that God is faithful to all His purposes and promises in Christ.


May your joy be multiplied as you consider afresh God’s great love in the gift of His Son, and all the blessings that are yours in Him.


But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  (Gal. 4:4-7)


Merry Christmas,


His Church, His Eternal Purpose

The church is at the very center of God’s eternal purpose in Jesus Christ!  This truth is crystal-clear from what we’ve been seeing in Eph. 3:10-11,


“…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…”


What vision this truth provides in revealing that the church is not just helpful and beneficial, but absolutely essential in God’s design!  Moreover, this truth magnifies the important privilege and responsibility every believer has as members of God’s church…the importance of why we are to “walk worthy” of this calling God has given us in Christ (Eph. 4:1-3).


Pastor John Piper highlights this well:


“We don’t usually hit targets that we are not aiming at. And the target for the church is to demonstrate to the evil powers of the cosmos that God has been wise in sending his Son to die that we might have hope and be unified in one body, the church. Therefore, when we fail to live in hope and to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, we send this signal through the galaxies: God’s purpose is failing; he was not wise, he was foolish.”  (Sermon:  The Cosmic Church)


Beloved, embracing and living in light of this is why we need to love, pray for, and encourage each other day by day!  What a glorious vision God has given us of His eternal purpose in Christ.  And what a great joy to share in His purpose with you at RCG!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


The Focus of Faith

The outworking of sin in our lives, and in our world, has produced distorted thinking in countless ways.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the distorted, wrong ways we often think of God, and of human beings.  Simply put, we have a great tendency to deify other human beings, and to humanize/domesticate the eternal, almighty God!  We easily overestimate the power and significance of other humans (even ourselves), and underestimate the power and significance of God!


The Apostle Paul was very aware of this tendency that even Christians can have.  Thus in Eph. 3:8-13, he passionately seeks to magnify the “unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ”, and the “manifold wisdom of God”!  Lest his readers become discouraged over the difficult things Paul is suffering, he deflects attention away from himself to God’s eternal purposes in Jesus Christ.  This is where the focus of faith must always be!


Oh beloved, how easily we’re tempted to be discouraged when we, or those we love, face various trials and difficulties.  And how necessary that we continually “lift up the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16) – gazing upon, trusting in, submitting to, and praising always our God – the One who powerfully and perfectly works everything after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).


Even today, at this very moment, He is worthy of our fullest trust, and our highest devotion.  May He strengthen and encourage your soul to that end, knowing myself and the other elders pray for you as Paul did – Eph. 3:14-21!


With love in Christ,

Far-Reaching Implications of the Christian Identity

Over the last two Sundays in our corporate gatherings, we’ve been gazing intently into Eph. 2:19-22.  What we’ve seen in this powerful passage is that as Christians, we belong to God and to one another.  As such, our identity is not determined by any earthly categories (ethnicity, socio-economic status, abilities, etc.).  To the contrary, our identity is solely established on the permanent truth that in Christ we’ve been made citizens of God’s kingdom (vs. 19a), children of His family (vs. 19b), and members of His holy spiritual temple (vs. 20-22)!  We belong to God’s eternal church, and we eagerly await that day when we’ll gather with saints from every tribe, tongue, and nation around the throne of Jesus Christ, our exalted Lord and Savior (Rev. 7:9-12)!


The truth of our identity and unity in Christ has far-reaching implications, which certainly encompass our lives together in a local church like RCG.  As the church is central in God’s eternal purposes, so our relationships with one another are central in the church.  As we grow in Christ’s holy love for one another (John 13:34-35; Eph. 5:1-2), so we grow in displaying God’s glory to the world around us.


With these things in mind, it was a special joy to share the time together we did this past Sunday night at our Quarterly Members Meeting.  How wonderful and encouraging to hear testimonies from many regarding how God is working in and through your life.  And how helpful as some shared burdens and concerns they are facing.  Moreover, how refreshing to spend time together in prayer, expressing our praise, thanksgiving, and petitions as we seek the Lord’s purposes among us.  What rich and tangible expressions of the identity and unity we share in Christ!  We missed those of you unable to join us – knowing that many were dealing with illnesses, and other constraints that resulted in your absence.


May we all continue to “walk worthy” (Eph. 4:1-3), rejoicing in the glorious salvation God has lavished on us in Christ!!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation

Most of you were with us this past Lord’s Day as Pastor Vanensio Bamwitirebye from Uganda preached from John 2:12-23 (you can find his sermon at our church website).  I had the privilege of joining Pastor Vanensio and a few other people for lunch following our service.  Among other things, he shared the story of how God brought him to saving faith in Christ.  Trusting you’ll be as encouraged as I was, here’s the written version of Pastor Vanensio’s testimony:

I was raised in a Catholic Family in a village in Bundibugyo District in Uganda.  I did well in school and I was invited to attend Catholic Seminary to become a priest.  This was a great honor for the village and for my family.  I lived in the Parish House with the Priest at the School.  One day at chapel, some missionaries from Philadelphia were invited to address the 700 students of the school.  They started explaining the Gospel from the Bible, and told us that our Salvation was based solely on our faith in Jesus Christ plus nothing.  As a seminarian this was blasphemy and I raised my hand and challenged them, that they were wrong.  Salvation was based on Christ plus Mary, the Saints, the Sacraments and our standing with the Catholic Church.  All of my friends were shouting, “Yes Vanensio, you tell them, you are the man!”  The missionary replied that I should show him the verses in the Bible that supported my position, and I answered back, that “if you will come back tomorrow, I will present the Bible verses to prove that you are wrong”.  The priests were the only ones allowed to read the Bible.  

That evening I explained to the priest about the missionaries and what they had said, and that I wanted him to give me the verses that support our Catholic beliefs about all of the church requirements for salvation, and counter this “Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation”.  He told me that the Catholic Church does not have to defend their beliefs, that they just are.  I was troubled by this explanation. 

The next morning we drove into the school yard and I saw the missionaries and all of my friends there.  I told the Priest that he must give me the verses to present to the missionaries, or maybe he didn’t know what he believed.  He simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a small tablet and a pen and wrote a note that I was no longer a candidate for the priesthood, because I had challenged a priest.  He had a truck loaded with my stuff, and I was driven back to my home in the village.  My parents were mortified and embarrassed, because I had disappointed them, the village, and the church, and they kicked me out of the house.  

I went and stayed a couple of days at my uncle’s house and cried and cried about my situation.  But something caused me to want to know what what “Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation” was all about.  I then walked 8 kilometers to where the missionaries stayed and when they saw me they said, “Hey Vanensio, we did not see you at school the other day”.  I explained what had happened and asked them about their “Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation”.   They opened the Bible and read verse after verse about Jesus’ love for us and that salvation was a free gift and we did nothing to earn it.  I listened and sobbed and sobbed, and repented of my sins before Jesus.  This is the message that I now preach wherever I am able.  

Amen – to God be the glory!!

Because Christ lives, and is returning,

Amid Confusion, Clarity in Christ

Perhaps you’ve heard – the Pope was here, right here in America.  Suffice it to say that for many, this was a BIG deal!

Oh beloved, how God’s people need to be discerning, loyal to Christ, and saturated in God’s word in these days!  Contrary to the gushing adulation so many have expressed toward Pope Francis – lots of it sadly coming from many Evangelicals – there is MUCH to be concerned about.  Despite all the pomp and pageantry, the Pope is a false teacher presiding over a false religion, peddling false hope for billions.

Here are some helpful insights from Dr. Nathan Busenitz, faculty member at The Master’s Seminary: Popular Popes and Priestly Pretenders.

May God give us much wisdom, compassion, confidence, and clarity as we share the true hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers.  And may we show great care and sensitivity as we interact with those who embrace Catholicism – expressing gracious speech seasoned with salt (Col. 4:5-6).

Praying for you, and with you, in the great hope of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:14-16),


The Basis of Our Identity

We so easily lose sight of our identity in Christ!  How quickly we can forget who we are before God, and who we are in this world.  Temptations abound for us to look to things we see as the basis of our identity:  our abilities, our circumstances, our background, our relationships, our accomplishments, our approval/acceptance from others, etc.  And depending on how we subjectively evaluate these very murky indicators, we’ll either be puffed up with arrogance, or crushed with despair.  Such living by sight leads to an endless identity crisis!


How much better (and right!) to base our identify fully on who God is, what He has done for us in Christ, and what He has called us to in Christ!  In short, how much better to live by faith in God, and in all the spiritual blessings He has lavished on us in Christ.


Such a call to live by faith is at the very heart of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  He wants believers to understand the glory of God’s provision and purposes in Christ (Eph. 1-3), and to live accordingly by faith in these great truths (Eph. 4-6).


Dr. P.T. O’Brien, in his excellent Commentary on Ephesians, observes that Paul…


“…writes Ephesians…with the intention of informing, strengthening, and encouraging [believers] by assuring them of their place within the gracious, saving purposes of God, and urging them to bring their lives into conformity with this divine plan of summing up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10).  Paul wants to ‘ground, shape, and challenge’ his readers in their faith.  In other words, the main purpose of his letter is ‘identity formation’”. (pg. 57)


Beloved, is your identify being formed through faith in God’s revealed word, or through the things you see and experience in this fleeting world?  May God ever strengthen us in this walk of faith – for the glory of His great name!!


Praying for you, and with you to this end (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21),


Aligning Our Vision with His

How powerful and profound is Jesus’ prayer for His church, recorded in Jn. 17:24 –


 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.


Here we learn that God’s eternal vision for His people is to behold the exalted glory of His Son!  While we now behold Christ’s glory by faith (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Pet. 1:6-9), so we are to eagerly await the day when we’ll behold Him face-to-face (1 Jn. 3:1-3).


Beloved, how kind and gracious of God to ever hold this vision before us!  The certainty and anticipation of being in Christ’s glorious presence should give great clarity and encouragement to our daily lives (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Col. 3:1-17), and likewise bring us much comfort even in the face of death (Phil. 1:21-23).  May the Lord continually bring our vision into alignment with His vision – for our good, and the glory of His great name!


Praying for you, and with you, to this end,


The Great Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the great sufficiency of His people!  Even as He lovingly ordains troubling circumstances, so He abundantly supplies for all His people’s needs, all the time.  His comforting words are always true and timely:

 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”  (John 14:1)

Beloved, consider how lavishly Jesus provides for His people:  through His holy love (Jn. 13:1), through His cleansing sacrifice (Jn. 13:8-11), through His resurrected life (Jn. 14:18-20), through His humble example (Jn. 13:17), through His truthful words (Jn. 14:23-24), through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17), through His heavenly peace (Jn. 14:27),  through His untouchable joy ( Jn. 16:20-22), and through His eternal glory (Jn. 17:22-24).

Because of the great sufficiency of Jesus Christ, we who belong to Him can confidently sing:  I Have a Shelter!  Jesus is all we need.  May He indeed be all we trust.

Praying for you, and with you,

Follow in the Fight of Faith

“Desperate times call for…”

You know the rest: “…desperate measures.”  The thought of this cultural proverb is that when adverse circumstances overwhelm, one must resort to whatever actions seem necessary for survival and success.  Only problem with this little adage:  it’s not biblical (though perhaps it expresses some basic common grace).

Oh to be sure, we live in very desperate times.  Adam and Eve, and our own sin, ushered us into this reality.  And all of creation has been groaning ever since under God’s curse (see Rom. 8:18-25).

But for Christians living in the hope of Christ’s glorious salvation, desperate times don’t call for desperate measures.  Instead, we’re continually called to follow Jesus Christ in the fight of faith.   This is the central encouragement we find in John 13-17, as Jesus prepares His disciples for their ministry in His physical absence.  He makes clear that trouble and tribulation will come (Jn. 15:18-16:4,33).  Jesus likewise makes clear that He is worthy to be trusted and obeyed at all times (Jn. 14:1; 15:7-11).  In the daily details of our lives, this is always to be the priority.

Beloved, to further encourage you in this fight of faith, please listen to this recent sermon from Dr. John MacArthur, We Will Not Bow.

And let’s keep loving and praying for one another, as we’re called to follow Jesus in this fight of faith together.

Because He lives, and is returning,

“But God” is the Gospel

“BUT GOD…” (Eph. 2:4)!

The very heart of the Gospel is expressed in these glorious words, “BUT GOD…”!  Though mankind is spiritually dead and hopeless in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), God has powerfully acted in Christ to bring about the salvation that only He could accomplish (Eph. 2:4-10).  “BUT GOD…” really summarizes the whole message of Scripture, played out from Genesis to Revelation.  Over and over again, God’s word reveals:

  • All the deadly works of man in sin, and
  • All the mighty works of God in Christ!

Oh Beloved, what hope, riches, power, and assurance for believers are found in these truths!  “BUT GOD”!!   The God who is rich in mercy and great in love has flooded us with His kindness in Christ – to the praise of His glorious grace!  And God wills for us to know and believe these truths all the more, daily trusting the absolute sufficiency of His mighty, saving power.

To that end, let me encourage you to listen to this sermon on Eph. 2:4 by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (a faithful Bible expositor from the 20th Century).  May God continue to strengthen your soul in the fullness of His grace in Christ!

Because Christ lives, and is returning,

A Real and Present Death

The glorious power of God’s saving grace in Christ is heralded by Paul in Eph. 2:4-5 – “But God…made us alive together with Christ…”!  God has done this mighty work for those who were once “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1-3); those who were helplessly and hopelessly bound in the death-grip of depravity.  Soberly, this is the condition of every human being outside of faith in Jesus Christ.  A more desperate situation could not be imagined; a more magnificent and sufficient salvation could not be conceived!  As John Calvin observes,

“He does not mean simply that they were in danger of death; but he declares that it was a real and present death under which they labored. As spiritual death is nothing else than the alienation of the soul from God, we are all born as dead men, and we live as dead men, until we are made partakers of the life of Christ.”  (Calvin, on Eph. 2:1)

Beloved, God wants His people to always remember what it meant to be dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), and what it means to be alive in Christ (Eph. 2:4-10)!  Most of our struggles in the Christian life occur because we so easily forget these things!  Let’s persevere in praying for one another (Eph. 6:18-19), and faithfully “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to one another.  What a great privilege and responsibility we have to build each other up as fellow partakers of the life of Christ!

Because He lives, and is returning,

Profound Identity and Significance of the Church

What a remarkable truth, that the One who rules the universe – Jesus Christ – is also the One who loves and leads His church!


“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”  (Eph. 1:22-23)


God the Father has given this authority to His Son, as the means by which His glory is displayed through the church.


“…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”  (Eph. 3:10)


Beloved, these truths reveal the profound identity and significance of the church, and thus the great privilege every Christian has as a member of Christ’s body!  As we’ll continue to see in our study of Ephesians, these truths have deeply practical and relevant application for our daily lives as God’s people.  In fact, the more we understand and savor the riches of God’s work revealed in Eph. 1-3, the more we’ll be eager and joyful in fulfilling the details of God’s will revealed in Eph. 4-6!


I love how Dr. Peter O’Brien, in his excellent commentary on Ephesians, expresses this:


“Clearly the apostle wants his readers to appropriate more fully ‘every spiritual blessing’ that has graciously been given to them in Christ.  Paul wishes them to understand the place which they as God’s people have in the divine purposes.  What has been done in Christ is for their benefit: God’s power is available for those who believe (v.19), and Christ’s rule over the universe is for their benefit (v.22).  There are profound implications arising from all this.  But for the moment let them grasp the wonder of God’s majestic purposes in His Son.”  (pg. 126)


Amen, and amen!


Learning to grasp the wonder with you,


His Powerful Provision

Is God’s lavish grace in Christ (Eph. 1:7-8), and immeasurable power in Christ (Eph. 1:19-23), genuinely sufficient for YOU?  Are you seeking to singularly trust, and confidently submit to God’s provision in Christ?  Is HE enough for YOU?  What does this look like in real life, anyway?  Listen to the Apostle Paul’s experience:


So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   (2 Cor. 12:7-9)


When we experience “thorns” in our lives – God-ordained trials and troubles more powerful than us – we’re faced with a critically important choice.   Are we going to arrogantly pursue our own strategies and resources in vain efforts to remove the thorns, or will we humbly trust and submit to the absolute sufficiency of God’s grace and power, even in the midst of the thorns?  Paul learned to be confident and content in God’s powerful provision.  Thus he declares:


Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Cor. 12:9-10)


Oh beloved, let the Good Shepherd have His way in your life!  Let him show forth the abundant sufficiency of His grace and power, even through your weaknesses and trials.  Don’t fight against God, but fight the fight of faith in God!  Fight to find your hope and strength only in Him (see Psalm 62)!!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Overwhelmed by Awe

Are you OVERWHELMED??  We often experience this in daily life, don’t we?  We know what it is to be overwhelmed, sometimes crushed under the burdens and challenges of life in this groaning, fallen world.


But let me encourage you to think of being overwhelmed in a completely different way than we normally do.  While there’s no denying the difficult things we often face, there is also no denying that God Almighty, the “Father of Glory” (Eph. 1:17), would have us be OVERWHELMED at the wonder of His greatness, goodness, and grace in Jesus Christ!!


In Eph. 1-3, the Apostle Paul is clearly overwhelmed with wonder and awe before God and in view of the riches of His grace.  Paul opens this great letter by bursting forth with adoration and praise:


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Eph. 1:3) 


As Paul’s words unfold from this starting point, you quickly sense that he’s beside himself with amazement at the glory of God and the goodness of His grace.  He simply can’t find enough adjectives, enough superlatives, to adequately describe the overwhelming reality of God and His glorious grace in Jesus!


Paul was certainly much like King David, who likewise was often overwhelmed  by the knowledge of God and His grace.  Consider the beginning of Psalm 103, which sets the focus for all that follows:


“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…”  (Ps. 103:1-2)


Beloved, whatever your circumstances and cares may be this day…even this moment…God calls you to look to Him by faith, rejoice in Him, and praise His glorious name.  Take some specific, undistracted time to Look to His word – His revelation of His glory – and ask Him to help you be overwhelmed, amazed, and in awe of all He is, and all the blessings He’s given in Jesus Christ.


Remember:  a “worthy walk” (Eph. 4:1), is first and foremost a walk of praise – being more and more overwhelmed in the knowledge of God’s glorious grace.  Let’s keep praying for, and encouraging one another in these ways!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


To Know the Fullness of All His Blessings in Jesus

Our great God, “the Father of Glory” (Eph. 1:17), magnifies Himself through the lavish gifts of grace He pours on His people through Jesus Christ!  And He designs for His people to KNOW HIM in greater and greater ways, and to KNOW the fullness of all His blessings in Christ.  This is the essence of the Christian life:  to know God, and to live in the full hope, wealth, and power of all His glory in Jesus.


To grow in this knowledge is how the Apostle Paul prayed for believers, and so should we pray for one another:


“…I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…”  (Eph. 1:16-19)


Oh beloved, God wants us to know and live in the fullness of our identity, security, and ability !  What a great privilege and responsibility God has given us to be “making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18), and to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to one another.  May God help us to keep doing so….


“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”  (Eph. 4:13)


Praying for you, and with you,


On Biblical Inerrancy

As you know, last week’s Shepherds’ Conference focused on the theme of the inerrancy of Scripture.  Ever since the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve by saying, “did God actually say…?” (Gen. 3:1), the authority and reliability of God’s Word has been under attack.  Satan’s strategy is as simple as it is deadly:  if he can tempt you to doubt God’s Word – which is now permanently revealed in the 66 books of Scripture – then you’ll be deceived into thinking there’s no need to treasure, trust, and obey that Word.

Because this issue of inerrancy is so important for the spiritual health of individual Christians, and the whole church, I encourage you to learn more.  All of last week’s 18 general sessions are helpful in this way (some more than others).  You can find them here.  While it’s best to listen to the messages in order, you might start with the Panel Q&A, which provides some helpful background to the topic.

Additionally, more information about the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which gives a somewhat recent historical context, can be found here.

Beloved, God’s holy word is the treasure of all treasures.  He has given it that we might know and grow in His salvation through Jesus Christ – 2 Tim. 3:14-17.  May we be faithful stewards of what He has entrusted to us!

Because Christ lives, and is returning,

In Light of Our Divine Inheritance

As far as life on earth goes, who wouldn’t be excited to learn they’re the chosen beneficiary of the full inheritance from some super-rich relative?  Any excitement, of course, would be tempered by the truth that “…we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim. 6:7).


So it is that when God’s people learn they are His chosen beneficiaries, and in Christ “…have obtained an inheritance…” (Eph. 1:11); when they likewise learn that this eternal inheritance is “…imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…” (1 Pet. 1:4), they increasingly “…rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” (1 Pet. 1:9).


In the context of Ephesians chapters 1-3, it’s clear that God Himself is the inheritance of His children – the fullness of His triune reality, and the riches of all His spiritual blessings in Christ.  The wealth and weight of this glorious inheritance is beyond our ability to fully comprehend!  C.H. Spurgeon makes these reflections:


“Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion? Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and his treasure in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ’s sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ’s possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect.” (from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, Jan. 30, Evening)


Beloved, are you living in light of the wealth of your inheritance in God?  Are you confident and content in Him alone as your portion?  Are you trusting His faithful provision moment-by-moment for all you need as you seek to walk in His will?  I’m praying you are, by God’s grace, and coveting your prayers for me to this end!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Singing of His Glory

Within all of God’s rich blessings in Jesus (Eph. 1:3-14), and through the power of His indwelling Spirit (Eph. 5:18), God’s people are to ever be “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always…” (Eph. 5:19-20).  Even as we’ll be singing praises throughout eternity (Rev. 5:11-14), God would have us train our voices now to sing of His glory.

This coming Lord’s Day, we’re planning to learn a new hymn for us, O Fount of Love (see also the lyrics).  In preparation for our gathering, please familiarize yourself with this hymn.  The lyrics extol the lavish love and grace God has given in Christ, and the resulting joy every believer possesses.  All for the glory of God alone – from whom, through whom, and to whom belongs all praise!

Beloved, may the Lord strengthen and encourage your faith in Him, and the glories of His all-sufficient blessings in Christ.  Myself and the other elders continually pray for you to this end.

In His great love and grace,

Gazing into God’s Word

I can’t get it out of my head!!


One of the hymns we sang last Sunday morning, Jesus I Am Resting, Resting, just keeps going over and over again in my mind.  And what a blessing it is!  Even as there have been sins to confess, responsibilities to fulfill, challenges to face, and temptations to fight, I’m reminded through this hymn that Christ “…hast bid me gaze upon Him”.  As I do so by gazing into God’s word, indeed, “…I am finding out the greatness of His loving heart.” I’ve been feeding on this mainly in connection with Eph. 1:7-12, and the riches of God’s redeeming, forgiving work in Christ.


So even in the details of my days – whether I’m answering emails, meeting with people, changing the car oil, or watching my son’s basketball game – my heart and mind are being strengthened by faith in the joy of all that Jesus is, and all that God has given in Him.   And the song keeps going on!


Beloved, this illustrates the blessing and privilege of our weekly gathering in corporate worship.  Even as we speak to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, God graciously works through this so the word of Christ might dwell all the more richly in us (Col. 3:16)!  All for our good, His glory, and the blessing of others through us.


Looking forward to being with you again this coming Lord’s Day!