He Who Did Not Spare His Own Son

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  (Rom. 8:31-32)


What a great and powerful promise this is!  As a means of more fully walking in the hope of all Paul declares in these words, I encourage you to listen to this recent sermon from Dr. J. Ligon Duncan (given at this year’s Shepherds Conference in March).


May you indeed be strengthened in the fullness of all God’s provision in Christ – I’m praying for you to that end (Eph. 3:14-21)!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Because Our God Reigns

Beloved, our God reigns, as He will through all eternity.  Keep trusting, rejoicing in, seeking, and obeying Him.  And keep proclaiming the great hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  May the Lord help your soul be still in the knowledge of who He is!

Psalm 46

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Amen!  With love, affection, and prayers for you,

You’re in Good Company

Ever feel poor, needy, guilty, weak, attacked, helpless, sad, and discouraged?


Take heart, my friend, you’re in good company!  King David – a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14) – often felt this way.  Listen to how he begins his earnest pleading to Yahweh in Ps. 86:1 –


“Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”


Such is the cry of a desperate soul!  As David pours out his longings through this Psalm, he exemplifies the very disposition Peter exhorts in 1 Pet. 5:6-7 –


“Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you.” 


When in desperate and difficult situations, Peter knew, as David knew, that help comes only from the God who cares!  Thus we’re called to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God’s care.  And such humility is expressed through honest, dependent, expectant prayer.


Beloved, when you feel desperate and alone, where do you go for help??  Help comes only from the God who cares for you through Jesus Christ, the God whose steadfast love and faithfulness is great toward you.  He is good, forgiving, merciful, and gracious to all who call on Him!  Take some time to get alone with Him, even praying and reading through Psalm 86.  In so doing, may you know His great help and comfort afresh!


Pleading and rejoicing with you,


Our Sure and Certain Hope

Grieving and groaning are inescapable experiences in this rebellious, broken world.  From terrorist attacks, to painful disappointments, to the deaths of loved ones, the words of Jesus ring true:  “In the world, you will have tribulation.” (Jn. 16:33)  But God’s people can live with the assured peace of what Jesus goes on to say in this text, “take heart, I have overcome the world.”


The Holy Spirit, through Paul, elaborates on these truths in Rom. 8:18-39 –


18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Beloved, may your souls be strengthened through faith in God’s unconquerable love in Christ.  And may you persevere in waiting patiently for the fulfillment of our sure and certain hope.


Praying for you, and with you,


Humble, Contented Submission

Oh the massive, incomprehensible, mind-boggling, jaw dropping power of God Almighty!!  Listen how Job describes it in Job 26:7-14.


He stretches out the north over the void

and hangs the earth on nothing.

He binds up the waters in his thick clouds,

and the cloud is not split open under them.

He covers the face of the full moon

and spreads over it his cloud.

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters

at the boundary between light and darkness.

The pillars of heaven tremble

and are astounded at his rebuke.

By his power he stilled the sea;

by his understanding he shattered Rahab.

By his wind the heavens were made fair;

his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,

and how small a whisper do we hear of him!

But the thunder of his power who can understand?”


Take all of the grandeur and wonder of God’s creation in the heavens and on earth – all of God’s power, wisdom, authority, creativity, etc. – and all of it only reveals “the outskirts of his ways”!  Amazing!


Interestingly, we know Job was expressing these words in the midst of unimaginable problems, pain, and perplexity.  Job knew God, and he knew much that is true about God.  But for all he knew and struggled to trust, Job couldn’t understand WHY he was suffering as he was.  Job never cursed God, but he complained and lamented a lot, as expressed in Job 3-31.  The essence of his complaint?  “God, why is this happening to me…what have I done to deserve this?


God’s answer, in short, was to bring Job into the fuller knowledge and trust of “the thunder of his power”.  God never explains the “why”.  With all God declares in Job 38-41, Job’s sinful lust to know “why?” is dissolved into contented, quiet trust and submission (see Job 42:1-6).


Oh beloved, someone has once said, “in acceptance, lieth peace”.  May God give us grace to trust Him for who He is, and accept all that He ordains for us in humble, contented submission.


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Joy at Christmas

The Christmas season is not always “the most wonderful time of the year” for many people.  To the contrary, this season can often be filled with very tragic and painful memories, or present realities.  Yet whatever our past or current circumstances may be, the “inexpressible joy” (1 Pet. 1:6-9) found in Jesus Christ is real and soul-satisfying.


I encourage you to give a listen to this 10-minute podcast from Heath Lambert,  Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors: My Personal Journey to Joy at Christmas.  Dr. Lambert’s thoughts are both convicting and helpful.


Beloved, not only does Christ call us to follow Him as our all-sufficient Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:21-25), but we have the privilege of proclaiming His excellencies to lost and hurting people all around us.  The baby born in Bethlehem is the crucified, risen, and exalted Lord and Savior!  And He speaks, even through us, these words of hope and promise for all who would hear and believe on Him:


28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  (Mt. 11:28-30)  


Because Christ lives, and is returning,



This past Sunday from Eph. 5:20, we considered every believer’s Holy Spirit-empowered calling of “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”.  We learned that giving thanks in this manner is ultimately a matter of FAITH.  Faith in the God who works all things together for good for His people (Rom. 8:28), the One who also works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).  Because God is who He is, and because He’s given all He’s given in Jesus Christ, we can indeed thank Him.  ALWAYS.  And for EVERYTHING.


This morning I received the following email from a pastor friend in another state.  As you read, you’ll quickly understand the circumstance prompting his thoughts.  Even more, I trust you’ll quickly see his faith-driven example of thankfulness, even through deep grief and tears.  And beloved, I pray you and I together will be encouraged to give thanks always and for everything all the more.  My friend entitled his thoughts simply “Without”.




Like countless other grandparents before, my wife and I waited for months anticipating the birth of our first grandson. On Monday evening Nov. 30, that wait ended with his birth – an 8lb., 3oz. strawberry blonde, blue eyed boy – born to our son and his wife. But only hours later, after the reality of a weak heart made breathing a challenge too great to meet – our grandson died. One word has pressed its way into my mind this morning:  WITHOUT.


Without taking a step, he walked into our hearts and expanded our capacity to love, and to hurt, and to hope; to feel.


Without saying a word, he drove us deep into the truth of Scripture and declared a God who knows, a God who cares, a God whose plans are not our own; plans far better than our own.


Without reaching out a hand, he touched us, and warmed us, and reminded us of the beauty and fragility of life; showing us God’s great gift.


Without a smile, he brought joy.

Without a cry, he brought tears.


In just a few hours we are certain he was without sin – but equally certain as a child of man he was not without guilt. Yet, God’s Word leads us to believe he did not die without hope. A hope that comes from the source of all hope; the reality of God’s grace afforded through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. While we are without full understanding of how; we are without doubt confident that our grandson is kept by the very grace that keeps all of us who believe in Him.


Without ever climbing, or reaching, or striving; this boy made his parents proud.

Without ever falling, or scratching, or bruising; he drove them to trust in God’s catching, God’s mending, and God’s healing most of all.


Without ever knowing it, he wrote this letter on my heart. Without crayon or paper, he scribbled truth that is timeless – it is God who gives life, numbers our days, and measures eternity.


And now you have read his letter. By that, he has walked into your life, spoken into your ears, reached out and touched you, and warmed you, and reminded you. He has, I pray, brought you some joy – and some tears. He has declared the hope of God’s amazing grace. He has urged you to rest in God’s arms, trust in God’s Son, and realize God’s promise of everlasting life.


Had he lived a hundred years it is hard to think how his life could have made more difference; all without living one full day.


God’s grace to you all – – without a doubt, without measure, without end.


Because Jesus 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,


Comfort for the Troubled Soul

How great the comfort for God’s people as we behold, trust, rejoice in, submit to, and proclaim the unsearchable greatness of our great God (Ps. 145:3), and His unsearchable riches in Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:8)!!  Consider Job’s God-magnifying declaration, even in the anguish of his troubled soul:


He stretches out the north over the void

and hangs the earth on nothing.

He binds up the waters in his thick clouds,

and the cloud is not split open under them.

He covers the face of the full moon

and spreads over it his cloud.

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters

at the boundary between light and darkness.

The pillars of heaven tremble

and are astounded at his rebuke.

By his power he stilled the sea;

by his understanding he shattered Rahab.

By his wind the heavens were made fair;

his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,

and how small a whisper do we hear of him!

But the thunder of his power who can understand?”  (Job 26:7-14)


Oh beloved, may your soul be strengthened and revived by faith in all that God is, and all He has given you in Jesus Christ!  His grace is always sufficient for all His will ordains for you – 2 Cor. 12:7-10.


Praying for you, with love and gratitude,


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,

Savoring Our Assurance

The overflowing blessings God has lavished on His people in Christ provide for every need we could imagine.  One of those needs is for absolute assurance we are safe and secure in our Father’s great love.  God has made His adopted children secure, and given this assurance, by sealing us with His indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). And this, beloved, is the fountain of great hope, comfort, and courage in our daily walk – regardless of the circumstances we face along the way.  As Paul confidently declared elsewhere:  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Rom. 8:31)


19th century pastor Octavius Winslow provides these helpful insights regarding the sealing of the Holy Spirit:


“It is that act of the Holy Spirit, by which the work of grace is deepened in the heart of the believer, so that he has an increasing and abiding conviction of his acceptance in Jesus, and his adoption into the family of God. It is a clearer and more undoubted manifestation of Christ to the soul-a larger degree of the sanctifying, witnessing, and anointing influences of the Holy Spirit-evidencing itself in a growing holiness of character. Let us not be misunderstood. We speak not of some peculiar and sudden impulse on the mind-of some immediate suggestion or revelation to the soul-some vision of the night, or voice in the air. No; we speak of a growth in the knowledge of Christ-in sanctification of heart-in holiness of life-in an increasing and abiding moral certainty of the believer’s ‘calling and election.’”  (http://www.apibs.info/devotions/owet/owet04.htm#13)


I encourage you for the next 7 days to take a few minutes when you wake in the morning, and before you fall asleep at night, to meditate and pray over these great truths.  May God help all of us to think and walk in a manner worthy of all He’s given us in Christ!


Praying for you with the affection of Christ,


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,


Freedom in His Full Forgiveness

Over the last two Lord’s Days, we’ve been gazing afresh into the endless ocean of God’s rich grace in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7-12).  We’ve been looking particularly at vs. 7-8:


In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…


This coming Sunday, I’m planning to focus in on the blessing of forgiveness, which is the foundational result of Christ’s redeeming work.  And oh, how essential that God’s people know and live in the freedom of His full forgiveness in Christ – to the praise of His glorious grace!!!


Pastor Milton Vincent, in his excellent book A Gospel Primer for Christians, skillfully observes:


“As long as I am stricken with the guilt of my sins , I will be captive to them, and will often find myself re-committing the very sins about which I feel most guilty. The Devil is well aware of this fact; he knows that if he can keep me tormented by sin’s guilt, he can dominate me with sin’s power.  The gospel, however, slays sin at this root point and thereby nullifies sin’s power over me. The forgiveness of God, made known to me through the gospel, liberates me from sin’s power because it liberates me first from its guilt; and preaching such forgiveness to myself is a practical way of putting the gospel into operation as a nullifier of sin’s power in my life.”  (Vincent, Milton (2013-01-07). A Gospel Primer for Christians [Kindle Locations 227-228]. Focus Publishing. Kindle Edition.)


Beloved, do you live in the freedom of God’s full forgiveness in Christ’s redeeming work?  Or are you tormented by sin’s guilt, and dominated by sin’s power?  Keep preaching the gospel to yourself my friends, embracing by faith all the glorious riches of God’s blessings in Christ!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Into His Heavenly Family

How can we ever fathom the wonder and wealth of all God’s spiritual blessings to us in Jesus Christ??  What assurance, confidence, and security are within these glorious truths:


…in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…(Eph. 1:4-5)


There never has been, and never will be, a perfect earthly family.  But as believers we have been adopted by God our Father into His heavenly family!  And through His revealed word, God wants us to know the full comfort and significance of our calling as His children, all “…to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6)!  May your hope be strengthened as you trust the riches of His grace, walking worthy as His beloved child!


When a child of God is crushed with guilt over sin,

Or pressed hard by deep trials without and within,

Burdened and troubled, and filled up with fear,

What words from the Lord might this child hear?


Is there harsh condemnation from the King on His throne?

Angry words of rejection and banishment known?

“I despise you, how dare you think not to obey”,

Is this what a Christian might hear the Lord say?


Surely Satan would tempt us to think it is so,

Fiery darts of deception does he constantly throw.

But the Lord, He has spoken – all His words firm and true,

Great, precious promises which ignite hope anew!


O My child, my child behold who I AM,

Your Father, who chose you, from before time began!

Drink now all My blessings, given through My Son’s blood,

And walk by faith in the fullness of My holy love!


Grace upon grace,


A Worthy Walk is a Worshipful Walk

At the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares and demonstrates that a “worthy walk” (Eph. 4:1) is first and foremost a walk of worship.  His anthem of doxology in Eph. 1:3-14 is a call to all believers to join him in praising the God of all grace.  As John Calvin has observed, ““The lofty terms in which he extols the grace of God toward the Ephesians, are intended to rouse their hearts to gratitude, to set them all on flame, to fill them even to overflowing with this thought” (from Calvin’s Commentary on Eph. 1:3).  So gripped is Paul by the weight and wonder of the glories he heralds, he then pleads with God to help all believers know the fullness of these lavish blessings (Eph. 1:15-23).


Later in his letter, Paul exhorts believers to address “…one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Eph. 5:19).  One recent song that richly fulfills this exhortation is Come Praise and Glorify (see the lyrics here).  As you’ll hear, the song is based fully on the truths of Eph. 1:3-14.  Lord willing, we’ll be singing it corporately at RCG in the near future.


Beloved, the wealth, riches, and power of all that God has blessed us with in Christ is far more abundant than all we could ask or think (see Eph. 3:20-21).  Together as His people, by faith, may we keep feasting upon, praying, singing, and walking in light of His glorious grace in Jesus Christ!


Because He lives, and is returning,


Certainty of God’s Sovereignty

And just like that, another significant mid-term election has come and gone.  The outcome was overall encouraging for conservatives.  As usual, Dr. Albert Mohler’s observations are worth considering:  What the Election Reveals about Us and Why We Vote as We Do.  Whatever else the consequences from Tuesday’s election, as Dr. Mohler suggests, no doubt the next couple years leading up to the next presidential election will be politically interesting (should the Lord Jesus tarry)!


Beyond all the political maneuvering and shifting that constantly takes place – not only in America, but around the world – we can be absolutely certain that God is sovereignly working through everything to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10).  This truth means that our hope as God’s people transcends the current social and political climate in which we live.  Ours is to embrace by faith the glories of God’s calling of us in Christ, and to “walk worthy” of that calling in the nitty-gritty details of our lives (Eph. 4:1).


Beloved, the more we understand and embrace the heavenly/spiritual realities God has called us to in Christ, the better equipped we are to serve others in this world for His glory.  This truth is central to the book of Ephesians.  May it be every more central in our lives, both individually, and corporately as His people!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Into the Sanctuary of God

What a joy it was to feast together with you this past Lord’s Day on Psalm 73.  As Asaph came to learn through his experience, God is good…always!


Asaph’s candid testimony reveals his doubts about the goodness of God, brought on by his envy of the wicked (see vs. 2-16).  The turning point which delivered him from embittered despair to exuberant praise is identified in vs. 17 – “…until I went into the sanctuary of God…”.  When Asaph returned to the regular worship of God, with God’s people and under God’s word, he then saw the truth of God’s goodness more fully and accurately.


John Calvin paraphrases Asaph’s statement in verse 17:  “Until God become my schoolmaster, and until I learn by his word what otherwise my mind, when I come to consider the government of the world, cannot comprehend, I stop short all at once, and understand nothing about the subject.”  (John Calvin, commentary on Ps. 73:17)


Beloved, how necessary for our minds to continually be transformed by God’s word, rather than squeezed into the mold of this world’s godless thinking (Rom. 12:1-2)!  And this is one of God’s primary reasons for having us gather weekly in corporate worship – that he might shape and mold us through His word.


Looking forward to gathering with you again this coming Sunday, even as we eagerly await that great and eternal gathering with Christ in heaven!



Doing Our Part, Today

A healthy practice for believers is to regularly read the Book of Acts (along with the rest of Scripture)!  With 28 chapters, Acts could be read monthly at a pace of one chapter a day.  Or it could be read quarterly by reading 2-3 chapters a week, or almost twice a year by reading a chapter a week.  You get the idea!


I say this is a healthy practice because Acts keeps before us the reality that our Lord Jesus Christ is STILL ACTIVE in building His church!  Even now – by His Word, through His Spirit, with the participation of His people, and amid the pains of His providence – Jesus Christ is sovereignly working to gather, shepherd, and multiply His flock.


The question the Book of Acts continually holds before us is this:  are we doing our part in the work Christ has for us today?  Specifically, as we saw exemplified in Paul’s life and ministry last Lord’s Day (which is the focus of 17 of the 28 chapters of Acts), are we increasingly confident in the hope of the gospel, ambitious in the spread of the gospel, strengthened in the riches of the gospel, and faithful in the proclamation of the gospel?


The significance of these questions trickles down to the particular circumstances and opportunities of our daily lives.  Men, women, young, old, single, married, etc. – we’re all in different situations.  So particular points of application will look different for each of us.  And this is part of God’s wise design in our life together as a local church, that we might encourage, provoke, pray for, and learn from one another as we seek to be faithful in the work of Christ among us.


Beloved, may you and I ever more fully embrace Paul’s resolved mindset:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  (Acts 20:24)


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


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,


Our All in All

Because Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), we must increasingly trust Him as our all in all!  We must follow Him – humbly submitting to His loving authority.  Practically, as we considered last Lord’s Day, this means being increasingly captivated by His worth, consumed with His work, concerned for His will, counseled by His word, content in His ways, and comforted in knowing He is with us.  (Kudos to Brian Dillard for helping me with that last “w”!)


Oh beloved:  trusting, knowing, and following Jesus as our all is the only place of true joy, peace, and hope!  This is the satisfied confidence David expresses in Psalm 23 –
1 A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


I pray the Lord would continually strengthen your faith in Him, even through the trials, griefs, and challenges He lovingly ordains.  In every moment of every day, may you sing with deepening assurance, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”


Because He 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,


Hope for the Downcast

Beloved, these are troubling, difficult days in which we live.  Just consider some of the sobering events in the news this past month:


  • a Malaysian passenger jet is shot down by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board…
  • the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, responsible for some 1000 deaths to date…
  • the aggressive, barbaric, genocidal advancement of ISIS in Iraq, resulting in the displacement and/or death of hundreds of thousands of people…
  • the tragic suicide of comedian Robin Williams, following years of substance abuse and battles with severe depression…
  • the decision of the Church of England to ordain women as bishops, representing a further departure from clear biblical faithfulness…
  • citing confirmed accusations dishonoring the name of Christ, the removal of mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll, and Mars Hill Church, from the church-planting network he co-founded…
  • and on, and on, and on.


In this technologically-connected world, our rapid awareness of such events, and many others besides, can quickly leave our heads spinning, and our hearts despairing.  But as overwhelming and distressing as life in this sin-cursed world is – which we experience both directly and indirectly – it is vitally important for Christians to remember that the world has been in this condition ever since Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit.  Scripture often warns us of these harsh realities – see Jn. 15:18-16:4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.


We must also remember that genuine Christians are the only people on the planet who have real, living, blessed, and eternal HOPE!!  As such, we are also the only people with the ability and responsibility to show and tell others how they can know this very same hope through faith in Jesus Christ.


Oh my brothers and sisters in Christ, if you find yourself downcast and discouraged, weary in heart, cry out to the Lord and lay hold of the hope that is yours in Him!  Spend some time meditating and praying through passages like  Psalm 33;  Psalm 42; Jn. 16:33; Rom. 5:1-11; Titus 2:11-14; and 1 Pet. 1:3-25 (just to name a few).  Ask our generous God for help in living by faith in all He is and has given in Christ.  He will not disappoint.


And at the same time, purpose to be a faithful “steward of hope” as you rub shoulders with those who are yet hopeless, and helpless in their sins.  The exhortation of 1 Pet. 3:15-16 is always timely and relevant:

“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


The Miracle of Conversion

The salvation of any individual is a MIRACLE of God’s grace!  We marvel at the countless miracles Jesus did during his earthly ministry, and rightly so!  But the wonder of all those miracles pales in comparison to the supernatural work of God giving new life in Christ to one who is spiritually dead in sin.

This is the miracle that the Apostle Paul experienced when he was converted to Christ, as recorded in Acts 9:1-31 (see also Acts 22 & 26).  The Spirit of God, through Luke’s narrative in Acts, holds Paul’s miraculous, unlikely conversion before us that we might behold the greatness of Christ’s saving love, power, and authority.

Beloved, the Apostle Paul never got over the wonder and amazement of Christ’s mercy in his life.  He testifies of this in many places throughout his letters, one notable place being 1 Tim. 1:12-17.  Notice especially what he says in verse 16:

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Beloved, the Lord wants us to be convinced that if he could save someone like the Apostle Paul, then he could save anyone – including you, me, and the person you think is simply beyond His reach.  What great hope we have in Christ’s saving power, and what great motivation we have to faithfully proclaim the Gospel to those who are yet in their sins!  No wonder Paul could say:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  (Rom. 1:16)


Because He lives and is returning,

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,

Death is Gain

Death is never a welcome guest.  The death of a loved one is always jarring, overwhelming, and cause of the most unspeakable grief.  And death which results from the rage-filled, cold-blooded hatred of a mob is incomprehensible beyond description.  Amazingly, as described in Acts 7:54-60 , this is the very kind of death God ordained for Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to experience.


But for all the horrific brutality that attended Stephen’s death, the truly shocking thing is how content, and peaceful Stephen was as he took his final breaths on earth.  What accounts for such a calm, beautiful countenance during such a sudden, monstrous death?  One, and only one, explanation:  the blazing, eternal glory of the Triune God.  We’re told how Stephen saw this heavenly glory, beyond the faces of his frenzied murderers:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  (Acts 7:55, ESV)


In his death, Stephen was more alive than ever, seeing and fully tasting what could only be longed for by faith up to that point:  the incomparable, all-satisfying glory of the Triune God.


Because the Apostle Paul, then an unbeliever named Saul, was present and approving of Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1-3), no doubt the memory of what he witnessed that day never left him.  Perhaps this contributed to Paul’s absolute confidence that, “…to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.  (Phil. 1:21)  Oh what a glorious truth for believers:  death is gain!!!


Beloved, do you believe this?  By faith, are you so consumed with joy, delight, and hope in the glory of God in Jesus Christ that you can’t wait to see and taste that glory in heaven forever?  Can you gratefully enjoy the earthly blessings He gives (1 Tim. 4:4-5; 6:17), but with a deep conviction that the sum of all created things doesn’t even compare to the joy of being in His presence?  Can you gladly “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also”, courageously living for, and preaching Jesus Christ?  God will enable us to live, and die, in this way – as we trust and submit to Him.


Because Christ lives, and is returning,