A Christian Response to the Orlando Massacre

News of the massacre at an Orlando gay night club a little over a week ago was shocking and tragic, on many levels.  49 people killed, 53 injured, and millions upon millions horrified at such brutal, cold-blooded carnage.


Since the shooting, there has been no lack of rhetoric regarding how Christians should think and respond.  In all I’ve read and listened to, there’s certainly a mixture of “the good, the bad, and the ugly”!  No doubt you’ve been involved in at least one conversation, and probably many, about this event.  No doubt you’ll be involved in more in days ahead.


If you’ve not already heard it, I encourage you to take 25 minutes and listen to Dr. Albert Mohler’s thoughts regarding a Christian response to the Orlando massacre.  He recorded this on his podcast “The Briefing” on 6/13/16, the day after the massacre.  Dr. Mohler’s words express biblical truth and love – I think you’ll find them helpful.


Beloved, Paul’s exhortation from Col. 4:5-6 is always timely and relevant:


Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Good, Hard Work

Every Christian has been created in Jesus Christ for good, hard work!  This is clear with what Paul says in Eph. 2:10 –


For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Paul reinforces this truth in Eph. 4:28


Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.


In the hope of all God’s riches and power in Christ, Christians must avoid every temptation to steal.  Positively, we must excel in working hard.  Hard work is God’s design, hard work is honorable, and hard work has a purpose – that we might share with others in need.


To encourage you in Gospel-motivated, Spirit-empowered good hard work, here are a few short and helpful books to check out:



Beloved, may we continue to trust God’s power and provision moment-by-moment, and work hard for the blessing of others, and the glory of God!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Practical Vigilance

When you’re angry, be careful!  This is the focus of Paul’s command in Eph. 4:26-27


Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.


Through the power of God’s indwelling Spirit, we need to be careful to not sin in our anger, to not sleep with our anger, and to not supply Satan an opportunity through our anger.


Practically, how do we learn to avoid these dangers?  Using “ANGER” as an acronym, here are 5 practical suggestions:


  • A-ACKNOWLEDGE your anger; be honest about your feelings of anger.  Don’t hide, deny, ignore, or justify your anger.  4:26 – “Be made angry…


  • N-NAME (identify) to yourself what’s provoking your anger.  Be as specific as possible. God asked Cain, Why are you angry” (Gen. 4:6). There’s a sense in which He asks us the same question, and we should ask it of ourselves!


  • G-GO TO GOD in praise and prayer.  Remember and rejoice in who He is, how He has blessed you in Christ, what He has called you to, and what He has promised!  1-3!


  • E-ENTRUST yourself afresh to God’s sovereign love, wisdom, goodness, and authority.  Constantly hold up the “shield of faith 6:16.  (see also 1 Pet. 2:21-23)


  • R-RESOLVE to respond with words and actions that please God, bless people, unify the church, and witness of Christ.  Walk worthy – 4:1-3!


Beloved, there are many ways our anger can be provoked.  We have no control over the people or circumstances that might vex us, but it’s our responsibility to respond in ways that magnify Christ.  Let’s keep praying for and encouraging one another in these things – Eph. 6:18!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


On Anger

This past Lord’s Day, we began to look at Eph. 4:26-27, and the serious, sensitive topic of anger:


Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.


The heart of Paul’s exhortation is that Christians should be angry about sin, and yet without sin.  When we are provoked by the sin of others (Paul is writing to Christians in the context of a local church!), we need to be careful that we respond in godly, rather than ungodly ways.  As we all know, this is much easier said than done!  In fact, it is impossible apart from the indwelling empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  But God’s grace enables us to do what He commands, and we must learn to conquer and control our anger.


Because the issue of anger is so prominent for many of us, I’m taking 2 weeks to preach from Eph. 4:26-27.  Last week focused on understanding the nature of the anger Paul identifies.  This coming Sunday, we’ll zero in on the three warnings he gives:  don’t sin in your anger, don’t sleep with your anger, and don’t supply Satan an opportunity through your anger.  Oh, how careful we must be in responding to our anger!


Let me also commend to you a message on this topic from Pastor Jim Newheiser, of Grace Bible Church in Escondido, CA.  It’s entitled “Anger Mismanagement:  Only Grace Transforms the Heart”.  You can find the video here, the outline of his notes here, and more information about his message here.


Beloved, may we grow in the grace of being “slow to anger”, for the glory of Christ.  Please pray for me to this end, even as I’m praying for you!



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,


One Sovereign Voice

The words of mankind never seem to cease.  Whether in print, through social media, over the airwaves, on a podcast, or live and in person, EVERYONE’S got something to say about EVERYTHING.  And my oh my, how the voices intensify during an election year!


Thank God for the wonderful gift of communication, and the many venues through which our voices can be heard.  But never forget that over and above every voice, there is ONE UNCHANGING VOICE that silences all others; ONE SOVEREIGN VOICE that commands the worship of all.


Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

  The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord, over many waters.

  The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

  He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

  The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

  The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

  The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth

and strips the forests bare,

and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10  The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

11  May the Lord give strength to his people!

May the Lord bless his people with peace!


Amen!  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Godly Attitudes and Actions

Beloved, we find in Eph. 4:1-3 that the proper posture of a worthy walk is to have an eager readiness to do God’s will.  And as Paul makes clear, this involves embracing godly attitudes (“…with all humility, gentleness, and patience…”), and fulfilling godly actions (“…bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”).

How could we whom God in Christ has so chosen, adopted, redeemed, and lavished with immeasurable grace (Eph. 1-3!), not joyfully and earnestly love one another for His pleasure and glory?  Nothing is more basic to our calling as His children than this, that we passionately care for one another as our Father cares for us!  So it is that these blessed obligations are expressed in our “Membership Commitment” to each other at RCG:

I will walk humbly in love with my brothers and sisters in Christ, regarding others as more important than myself, speaking with wisdom and graciousness for the edification of others, giving and receiving admonition with gentleness and patience, and eagerly seeking forgiveness and reconciliation whenever transgression may break the bond of peace with any brother or sister.  I will diligently pray for and work for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in this church.

I encourage you to pause, and consider 1 or 2 specific ways, with specific people, God would have you “walk worthy” in these matters.  Perhaps it’s a prayer, a phone call, a note, an invitation to dinner, some gift of kindness, by which you can encourage a brother or sister in Christ.  Perhaps you’ve noticed someone who’s been absent from our gatherings for some time.  Perhaps you should seek them out in love.

Oh beloved, how amazing that God would design to manifest His holy love through us His children!  And how endless are the tangible ways His love can be expressed toward one another!  May we continue to cultivate this proper posture of a worthy walk, that Jesus’ promise would be all the more fulfilled through us:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (Jn. 13:35)

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


Preparing for the Lord’s Day

As we prepare to gather again this coming Lord’s Day, let me encourage you in a few specific ways.

First, take advantage of the “order of service” information we include in this newsletter.  Individually, or with family/friends, take some time in the days prior to our Sunday gathering to read through the various Scripture passages we’ll be using.  Also take time to read or sing through the songs we’ll be singing (you can easily find the lyrics on the internet).  This will help your own heart and mind be that much more prepared, and also help you serve and encourage others as we meet.

Second, as we’ll be diving back into the book of Ephesians this Sunday, I encourage you to read the whole book before we meet.  It’s a relatively short 6 chapters, and only takes 20-30 minutes to read.  Again, this will be helpful in the preparation of your heart and mind.

Third, let Paul’s prayers in Eph. 1:15-19 and 3:14-19 be a guide for how you pray for our brothers and sisters at RCG.  And together, let’s confidently expect God to do as He’s promised in Eph. 3:20-21!

Finally, if you’re not already in the habit of joining us for our “Sack Lunch Sunday” following the worship service, why not begin this Sunday?  We enjoy an informal lunch from around 12:30pm to 1:15pm.  You can either bring a “sack lunch”, or grab something from a nearby restaurant.  Following lunch, we have a time of sharing and prayer from about 1:15pm – 2:00pm.  There’s always a range of folks who attend: singles, couples, and families with kids (young and old).  Of course it makes for a bit of a long morning and afternoon, but the sweetness of encouraging fellowship is well worth it, and brings glory to God.

Beloved, what a privilege and blessing we have to share life in Christ together at RCG.  Participating in what He wills for us each Lord’s Day is a huge part of that privilege and blessing.  I look forward to being with you again, as we eagerly await gathering with all the redeemed before God’s throne in heaven!

Because Christ lives, and is returning,

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,


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),


But Take Heart

This past week, the United States Supreme Court began hearing arguments regarding the legalization of same-sex marriages in all fifty states.  A ruling from the court is expected sometime in June.


There are many significant implications which will flow from the court’s decision, and many sober things for God’s people to consider.   Among these, we could be witnessing the rapid erosion of religious liberty in our country.  This could certainly lead to more overt and intense persecution against Christians.  We ought not be surprised if such is the case, for God tells us that, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Tim. 3:12).


Whatever may unfold in our culture, we know that as Christians we’re to be prepared to “…make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Pet. 3:15).  Just last Sunday, while I was still in Haiti, a Canadian unbeliever I had occasion to meet asked me, “is your church welcoming of gays and lesbians?”  Now there’s a conversation starter!  I’ve no doubt all of us will receive more and more such questions.


These are matters we need to talk and pray about more in days ahead.  For now, I encourage you to read a couple of recent articles that provide some insight and perspective.



Beloved, the Lord Jesus promised that “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  (Jn. 16:33)  May we live joyfully, confidently, and soberly in this great eternal hope, eagerly telling others how they can know this hope as well.


Looking forward to being with you this Lord’s day, as He wills!




Divine Discipline for Fleeting Foreigners

What faith-strengthening truths flow from Psalm 39, as we heard this past Lord’s Day through Tim Ingrum’s faithful preaching!  Tim helped us see that “fleeting foreigners need divine discipline to travel light”, and thus we should respond with faith and submission to God’s loving discipline.  I don’t know about you, but I continually need to be reminded of these truths!


Following this same theme, and reflecting on Rom. 8:28, the Puritan pastor Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) made these observations:


“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose!”

Whatever is truly good for God’s children–they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to Heaven. Therefore . . .
if poverty is good for them–they shall have it;
if disgrace is good for them–they shall have it;
if crosses are good for them–they shall have them;
if misery is good for them–they shall have it;
for God makes all things work together for the good of His redeemed people.

God takes a safe course with His children–that they may not be condemned with the world.

God’s providence is often mysterious–yet He is just and righteous in all that He does. Therefore when any difficult thing befalls us for which we can see no reason, yet we must reverence the Lord and adore His counsels and submit to Him who is infinitely more good and wise than we.

Praying for you, and with you, as we learn to walk in our Father’s holy love through Jesus Christ,


Genuine Worship Includes Gathering with God’s People

God’s word makes clear that genuine worship which pleases Him is that which is “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:22-24), and that which encompasses all of life, all the time (Rom. 12:1-2).  With slight modification to a definition of worship offered by David Peterson in his excellent book Engaging With God, we can say that genuine worship is “faith in God through Jesus Christ, expressing itself in adoration, dependence, and obedience” (pg. 283).


Because genuine worship of God is “all of life, all the time”, and not just something that happens on Sundays from 10:30am-12:15pm, we might ask:  why do we need to gather together weekly at all?  Isn’t it enough for me to just read my bible on my own, listen to sermons online, play Christian music on my iPod, and worship God through all my life, all the time?


Here’s the short answer:  no, it’s not enough.  When God brought you to faith and life in Christ, He joined you to Christ and His people.  He made you a part of His church…a member of His body (see 1 Cor. 12:1-31).  And God’s purpose in gathering His people weekly in local churches, around His word, is to encourage and strengthen our faith in God through Jesus Christ.  All of this so that together, we might adore, depend on, and obey Him all the more, giving glory to Him.  This is why the writer of Hebrews has so much to say about the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ for His people (Heb. 1:1-4), and why His people must not neglect meeting together, so as to encourage one another in the hope of Christ:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  (Heb. 10:24-25)


Beloved, God has given us great privilege and responsibilities in our corporate and weekly gatherings as His people!  What a joy to share life in Christ together with you at RCG – I can’t wait to gather again with you this coming Lord’s Day!



God Works by His Word

What a glorious, powerful, simple, sobering, overwhelming truth: God works by His word!!  We see this over and over again in the book of Acts, as our risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ gathers, shepherds, and multiplies His flock – all by His word, through the power of the Holy Spirit.


AMAZINGLY, this is God’s single, permanent strategy for world missions!  He fulfills His mission to redeem a people for Himself by the work of His word, in and through His people.  He uses the proclamation of His word to miraculously create new life (1 Pet. 1:22-25), and to powerfully feed/shape new life (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Oh how wise and glorious He is, and how authoritative, sufficient, sweet, and desirable is His word (Psalm 19)!


Beloved, this being so, how passionately, joyously, and expectantly ought we to always, “…like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grown up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good”?  (1 Pet. 2:2-3)


Many Bible reading plans abound, but the most fundamental issue is:  do we hunger for God’s word like newborn infants?  Are we so tenaciously zeroed in on the single source of nourishment, confident that God feeds only through His word, that we gladly bypass anything that would hinder our delight in His life-giving truth?   We’re all in different situations, and we face different pressures on our time, but we always seem to do what is necessary to feed our physical bodies (and many other things besides, my Facebook friends 🙂 ).  How much more should we do whatever is necessary to feed our souls with the living, transforming word of God!


I look forward to being with you this coming Lord’s Day, as we share again in the feast of God’s word He has for us!!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Beware of Idols

“Because of what we know, let us not to idols go.”


This simple rhyme might be a helpful way of remembering the force of the Apostle John’s exhortation at the end of his first letter – “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21).


In preaching about this passage last Lord’s Day, I made reference to the weight of John’s final exhortation in connection with all he addresses throughout his letter.  And in the immediate context of 1 Jn. 5:21, the whole of his letter is summarized with three “we know” statements in vs. 18-20 (emphasis mine):

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.


These truths help us understand why the idolatry is such a dangerous threat.  Idols are deceitful and false gods that undermine the true knowledge and worship of the one true God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Idolatry thus robs God of His glory, and it robs people of the blessing of knowing God, and the eternal life that is found in His Son.  In all its varied forms, idolatry exchanges God’s clearly revealed, life-giving truth with that which is false and deadly.


Beloved, the best way believers can keep themselves from idolatry is to keep growing in the true knowledge of God and His saving work in Jesus Christ!  Keep reading, hearing, memorizing, meditating on, singing,  praying, trusting, and obeying God’s word.  Keep praying for and encouraging your brothers and sisters in Christ in these ways.  And keep sharing God’s word with others, that they might be delivered and kept from the deceitful, destructive dangers of idolatry.


“Because of what we know, let us not to idols go.”


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Colossians 3:12-17

What a blessing to partake of Christ’s ministry among us this past Lord’s Day! His living Word, so faithfully preached from Adrian Donato in both the morning and the evening, was rich indeed. Hand in hand with the passages that Adrian preached from, the following truths are always relevant and necessary for us as Christ’s people:

Colossians 3:12-17 (ESV):
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

You are often in my prayers, with much gratitude,


Spiritual Bankruptcy and Rich Hope

It was a joy to have Pastor Martin Manten, and his family, with us this past Lord’s Day.  Martin is the Director of the European Bible Training Center (EBTC) in Zurich, and he’s also planting a church there.


Martin’s sermon from Mt. 5:1-4 on “The Foundation of Happiness” was personally convicting and refreshing.  I was particularly helped by the reminder that acknowledging my spiritual bankruptcy before God and genuinely mourning over my sin is the pathway to knowing the true joy of His mercy, cleansing, and grace.  On a daily basis, every believer should be sobered by, and deeply rejoice in, the truth that God’s grace shines the brightest when we see the darkness of our sin against the backdrop of His holiness.  What powerful, blessed, life-giving HOPE we’ve been called to, through all that God has given us in Jesus Christ!


If these truths resonate with you (and I hope they do!), you may likewise be encouraged by this song:  To the Cross I Cling.  (The song is based on a prayer entitled The Broken Heart, from the book The Valley of Vision.)  The rich and beautiful truth that “All things in me call for my rejection; all things in You plead my acceptance” captures the heart of the song…and the heart of the Gospel!


Beloved, do you acknowledge your spiritual bankruptcy before God, mourn over your sin, and taste by faith the rich sweetness of His abundant grace in Jesus Christ?  May God help us to live more fully in this sober joy, and proclaim more passionately the hope of the Gospel to those who are yet in their sins.


Because He lives, and is returning,

God’s Will for Your Life

What is God’s will for my life?  This honest question is one which Christians often ask, and with good reason.  When God graciously saves and transforms a person, there is a new desire to know and do the will of God.  As God has been pleased to reveal His will in His word, so His people have the blessed responsibility to learn of His will, and to submit to what pleases Him.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this directly in Eph. 5, when he says:


“…try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (vs. 10)

“…Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (vs. 17)


While God has given us everything we need in Christ to know and do His will, we sometimes wrestle with what this looks like in our ordinary, daily lives.  If this is a topic of concern/interest to you, let me encourage you to read one of the following books over the summer – maybe even find 1-2 other folks to join you.  These books are all related to knowing and doing the will of God, and I’ve listed them from shortest to longest by way of length.



Beloved, may the Lord help all of us to “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called…” (Eph. 4:1) – even as we seek to love, help, encourage, and pray for one another to this end.  What a joy and privilege to share this life together with you in the local church of RCG!


Because He lives, and is returning,


Saved for Good Works

God has made Christians for good works.  Eph. 2:8-10 makes clear that while Christians are not saved by good works, we are saved for good works.  The good works we’re called to walk in spring from the immeasurable riches of God’s justifying grace that is ours through faith in Christ.


One of the characteristics of these good works, which we saw in Titus 3:8-15 this last Lord’s Day, is that they encompass a devoted lifestyle, not simply isolated deeds here and there.  Every part of our lives – relationships, responsibilities, circumstances, time, money, work/career, school, hobbies, etc. – should be seen in the context of the good works God has given us to do.  And the nature of these good works, growing from faith in God’s good work in Christ, is found in loving others.  Zealously and generously seeking the good of others for their joy, and Christ’s glory.


Jonathan Edwards put it this way:  “There is another that has made you, and provides for you, and on whom you are dependent:  and He has made you for himself, and for the good of your fellow-creatures, and not only for yourself.  He has placed before you higher and nobler ends than self, even the welfare of your fellow-men, and of society, and the interests of his kingdom; and for these you ought to labour and live, not only in time, but for eternity.”  (Charity and Its Fruits [1852; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005], 181)


Practically, beloved, this means that the seemingly mundane, ordinary, common moments of our lives are actually vested with great, eternal significance.  Each moment becomes an opportunity to express faith by doing good, in word and deed, to those around us.  So whether it is in the home, on the job, at the store, in the neighborhood, during school, etc., may the Lord help us to continually “…devote ourselves to good works.”  (Titus 3:8)


Because He lives, and is returning,


Resurrection and Godly Living

The assurance of Christ’s resurrection is likewise the assurance that believers will be raised with Him.  This is the heart of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 15.  And this is no small matter, as Paul spends much time explaining the certainty and nature of believers’ resurrection in Christ.

There is great urgency and concern driving all that Paul expresses.  Many of the Corinthian believers were intoxicated with the false idea that there was no resurrection.  Such thinking destroys all motivation for godly living in an ungodly world – why worry about obedience if everything simply ends when you die?  You can almost imagine Paul jumping out of his skin when he declares,

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”  (1 Cor. 15:32-34)

Beloved, God has made us and saved us to live eternally.  We will live beyond the grave, as Christ has forever taken away the sting of death.  May we be increasingly confident in this great eternal hope, and may we persevere in faith and submission to Him day by day.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because He lives, and is returning,

Discouragement and Motivation

Genuine Christians are often tempted with discouragement and despair.  We find this to be true of numerous people in Scripture (King David – Pss. 142, 143; Paul – 2 Cor. 1:8-9), and also of many throughout church history (William Cowper; Charles Spurgeon).  Certainly many different factors, both internal and external, can tempt us to dark and troubling difficulties in our minds.


One of the things that can easily discourage us is our awareness of how far short we fall of obeying God’s will…how easily we can sin in our affections, attitudes, words, and actions.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this as we’ve been looking at practical matters of godliness from the book of Titus.  If you haven’t yet, you probably will!  The demands and responsibilities of godliness for all believers are very clear in what Paul declares to Titus, and very specific.  And Paul is emphatic:  Titus is to declare these things, exhorting and rebuking with all authority (Titus 2:15).


But Paul is equally clear that the foundation, motivation, and power from which we’re to pursue godliness is found in the mercy and grace of God in Christ.  As we seek to grow in practical godliness, it is vitally important that we do so in the sure and certain hope of all God has given us in Christ.  So I encourage you to spend much time meditating on the key passages in Titus where Paul highlights God’s work in Christ – 1:1-3; 2:11-14; and 3:4-7.  Ask the Lord to help you grasp the wonder of these glorious truths, and respond with thanksgiving and praise to our God.


And keep pursuing practical godliness, beloved, in the blessed, eternal hope God has called us to in Christ!


Grace upon grace,


Unfathomable, Full, Trinitarian Love

Ok, the genre/style may not resonate with everyone :), but I encourage you to give a watch and listen to this meditation about the wonder of the incarnation:  God With Us.  The music is produced by a group called Folk Angel.


Beloved, can we ever think enough about the unfathomable love of the Father (1 Jn. 3:1), in the love of the Son (Jn. 13:1), poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5)?


The deepest ongoing prayer myself and the other elders have for all of you is that you would increasingly know, by faith, the incomprehensible greatness  of God’s holy love for you in Jesus (Eph. 3:14-21).  And as the fullness of His love – which is also the fullness of His grace and truth (Jn. 1:14) – abounds in you, we pray it would overflow through you to more and more people.


May you be filled with joy in the living hope of Jesus Christ!



Leaving Judgment to God

The certainty of God’s coming judgment is a warning to the rebellious, and a great comfort to genuine believers (1 Pet. 4:5-6).  Only Christians can live with the peaceful confidence that no injustice suffered at the hands of sinful men will go unpunished; everyone ultimately answers to God.  Moreover, only Christians can also die in this confidence, knowing that they will eternally “live in the spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6), through God’s mercies in Christ.


In view of this, believers must always leave judgment to God, and not try and take matters in their own hands when wronged by others.  They must follow the example of Jesus Christ, and keep “…entrusting themselves to Him who judges justly.”  (1 Pet. 2:21-23)   In no uncertain terms, Paul expresses this very same truth in Rom. 12:17-21 –
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


May God give us all grace and power through His Spirit to live this way, that Christ would be all the more exalted through our lives!


Because He lives,


Sober, Saturated, Steadfast, and Standing

A week has now passed since the United States Supreme Court announced its historic decisions regarding homosexual marriage.  Though we are rightly saddened and troubled by the continual outworking of sin in this world, we should not be surprised.  The activity of man’s rebellion against God Almighty has been multiplying ever since Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Hos. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).  As the moral fabric of our country keeps eroding at a breathtaking pace, God’s will for us as His people is clear and unchanging.  By His strength, we must be sober about sin and God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18-32); saturated with God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14-18); steadfast and humble in our calling as God’s “mercied” ambassadors (Titus 3:1-8; 1 Pet. 2:9-12); and standing firm in the eternal hope of God’s grace in Christ (1 Pet. 5:12).


For some additional perspectives about the Supreme Court decisions, and how Christians should respond, you might read the following:



Beloved, God has called us to be fully assured in the hope of the Gospel (2 Pet. 1:10-11), fully unashamed in the saving power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), and fully committed to the ongoing proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 1:8).  Our message and mission on this earth has not, and never will, change.  For a solid reminder of the sweeping, eternal grandeur of the Gospel, check out this 10-minute video from Matt Papa.


In the Living Hope of Jesus,


Holding Fast to the Word of Life

Beloved, these are difficult, sobering times in which we live.  With today’s Supreme Court Ruling granting greater rights and benefits to gay couples, we are witnessing the tragic realities of Rom. 1:18-32 before our very eyes.


For those of us whom the Lord has mercifully rescued from this “…crooked and twisted generation,” our Master has now tasked us with the privilege and responsibility of shining “…as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Phil. 2:14-16).  Ours is ever to prayerfully and faithfully proclaim the Gospel, and to “walk worthy” of the glorious calling we’ve been given in Christ  (Eph. 4:1-3).


May the Lord enable all of us at RCG to live all the more purposefully as His people in this world, that the excellencies of Jesus Christ would be all the more fully displayed and proclaimed from us (1 Pet. 2:9-12).


Growing in Him with you,