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,


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,


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,


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,

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,


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,


Singing Among God’s People

In His great wisdom and goodness, God has designed singing to be an instrumental (no pun intended 🙂 ) means of grace among His people.  Our singing to God, with and to one another, expresses thanksgiving to Him, along with instruction and admonition for each other.  And so God graciously commands us:


 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. (Col. 3:16)


Our rich heritage of biblically solid “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”, both old and new, demonstrates the centrality of singing among God’s people.  Who can measure the faith-strengthening impact of these songs, helping us give voice to our deepest joys, sorrows, longings, and praises?


This coming Lord’s Day we’re planning to sing an old song, with a couple new verses.   The ancient Irish lyrics to Be Thou My Vision date to the 8th Century, and were translated to English in the early 1900’s.  In addition to the four familiar verses found in our hymnal, we’ll add the following:


Jesus exalted in glory above

Thou my Redeemer through Thy precious blood

Now interceding my confidence sure

O my Good Shepherd be my vision pure


Spirit indwelling my Counselor Thou

Teaching, enabling by Thy holy power

Through Thy Word given perfect and true

Help and transform me while bearing Thy fruit


Beloved, one way we cultivate Christ-exalting love for each other is to heed the command of Col. 3:16.  Looking forward to gathering with you again, with these truths in mind!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


1 Peter 2:9-12 (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

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,

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,


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!




God’s Work Among Us: Elder Affirmation

As revealed in Eph. 1:3-14, the eternal plan of God, for His glory in Jesus Christ, is far more comprehensive and significant than anything we could ever imagine or dream of!  It begins in eternity past with the Father’s electing grace (vs. 1:4-6), and will culminate in eternity future with everything in heaven and on earth being united in Jesus Christ (vs. 9-10).  Amazing!  Everything that happens in the here and now is intimately connected to God’s eternal plan, as He sovereignly “…works all things according to the counsel of His will…” (Eph. 1:11).  What true comfort and hope this gives to God’s people!


All these glorious truths help us understand our identity and calling as His people…the church!  The very existence of a local church like River City Grace, comprised of many redeemed, blood-bought souls, is evidence of the powerful outworking of God’s plan among us.


This coming Lord’s Day, in our morning Corporate Worship service, God’s work among us will continue to unfold in our affirmation of Tim Ingrum as a new elder at RCG.  Following many months of prayer, evaluation, and interaction, we believe that God has raised Tim up to co-labor with the other elders in shepherding His people in this local congregation (Acts 20:28).   It will be a time to give thanks, and soberly rejoice in Jesus’ shepherding care for us.  It will also be a time to commit ourselves afresh to praying for, and encouraging one another within God’s eternal purposes (Eph. 6:18-20).


Beloved, be praying particularly for Tim as he embraces the office and responsibilities of eldership.  Likewise, be praying for his wife Willie as she serves beside him in this calling.  Pray they would walk faithfully and wisely in God’s will (Eph. 5:15-17), and continually be filled with God’s Spirit (Eph. 5:18).    (This recent blog post, Advice for a New Elder, will further inform and encourage your prayers!)


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,


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!



Body Life

Our physical bodies are amazing!  The complexity, and intricacy of God’s marvelous design is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  What diversity of parts: hands, feet, eyes, ears, muscles, brain, nervous system, etc.  Yet in all this rich diversity, what great unity in all these parts working together for the proper life and functioning of the body.  How overwhelming is the wonder of God’s sovereign design!

And how significant that God should use our physical bodies to illustrate the diversity and unity that believers share in the church…the body of Christ!  Rom. 12:1-8, 1 Cor. 12:1-31, and Eph. 4:1-16 are key passages that speak to this.  Every believer is a uniquely fashioned part of the body of Christ.  And each is to minister according to how we’ve been gifted by God – for the good of the whole body, and for the spread of the gospel.

This past Lord’s Day, we saw from Acts 6:1-7 how the early church grew in their understanding of the diverse gifting and calling of believers.  They likewise grew in understanding how the whole body is to work together in harmonious cooperation for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel; the proclamation of God’s word.

Beloved, how thankful we should be to see this type of “body life” occurring and increasing among us at RCG.  And how humble, prayerful, and devoted we should be in continuing to do our part, ministering to each other in the love and truth of Jesus (see Eph. 4:11-16).  What a great privilege and responsibility God has given us in walking together with Him in this local church.

Because He lives, and is returning,

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

In all of our corporate gatherings on the Lord’s Days this past month (Equipping Hour, Corporate Worship, and our Evening Gathering), we’ve been focusing on God’s mission in Jesus Christ, and what this means for us as His people.  We’ve seen that the Father’s eternal purpose is to glorify Himself in His Son, in His people, through the power of His Holy Spirit.


We’ve likewise seen that this eternal purpose directly relates to God’s good, wise, and authoritative design for the local church.  The local church is where “the rubber meets the road” as we learn to walk together in God’s grace, helping one another grow in the particular roles, responsibilities, and relationships He has called us to.  These truths are clearly revealed in Paul’s letter to Titus, and many other places throughout the New Testament.  It is in and through our corporate life together that God’s designs to bear witness of Jesus Christ to the world around us.  Jonathan Leeman helpfully summarizes the significance of these matters:


“In other words, the witness of the church does not merely consist in the fact that it goes; it consists in the fact that it has a distinct corporate life.  Its witness consists in the fact that it’s distinct in holiness, love, and unity.  So Jesus promises, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn. 13:34,35).  The church’s internal work of holiness and love amongst its members is inextricably tied to its outward work of witness.  We must display Christ in our corporate life in order to display Christ in our individual lives.”  (Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Wheaton: Crossway, 2010, p. 260.)


Beloved, what great privileges and responsibilities God has called us to in Christ, even as we grow together as His people, in accordance with His word.  May the Lord help all of us to be encouraged and strengthened in submitting to His purposes for us, looking to His word together, and praying for one another to this great end (Eph. 6:18).


Because He lives, and is returning,


On Mission for Worship

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.   Worship is.  Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.  When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temporary necessity.  But worship abides forever.”


These words from John Piper, in his book Let the Nations Be Glad, rightly express a Biblical understanding of worship and missions.  All of God’s mighty, sovereign works – through creation, providence, and redemption – are accomplished by Him “…to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:6,12,14).  Likewise, “…from him and through him and to him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen.”  (Rom. 11:36)


These truths certainly undergird all that Paul has to say in his letter to Titus, which we began studying this past Lord’s Day.  We see this as the letter opens in Titus 1:1-5, with Paul declaring that God, through Jesus Christ, is the One who sends, saves, speaks, and sets in order.  The clear implication is that God alone is worthy of all trust, submission, and adoration; He is worthy of all worship.  All of this has great implications for the church.


Within the body of his letter, Paul works out in specific and practical ways what the worship of God is to look like in the godly leadership of the church (chapter 1), and the godly lifestyles of the saints (chapters 2-3).  I’m excited to be considering these truths afresh, and walking with you in God’s will for us at RCG.  As we do so, let me encourage you to read the short letter of Titus weekly.  And be praying for the Lord to inflame all of us with zeal for His worship, and concurrent zeal for His purposes in missions and the church.


Because He lives, and is returning,


The Shepherd of Shepherds

While there are many metaphors God uses to describe His relationship with His people, one of the more prominent in Scripture is that of a shepherd with his sheep.  Extending from numerous Old Testament references (Gen. 48:15; Ps. 80:1; Is. 40:11; etc.), Jesus is revealed to be the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11-16), the Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20-21), the Shepherd and Overseer of his sheep (1 Pet. 2:24-25), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4).  Our exalted Shepherd accomplishes His faithful care of His sheep (feeding, leading, correcting, and protecting), through Elders that He raises up as “under-shepherds” (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3), and through the shared love and ministry His sheep are to have with one another (1 Pet. 4:7-11).  All of this points to the local church as the arena in which God shepherds His people.

Beloved, there is a strong, God-ordained connection between your hope-filled delight in God’s shepherding care, and your humble devotion to His wise design for the local church.  If we actively submit to His design in faith, we’ll increasingly taste of the Lord’s gracious goodness (1 Pet. 2:1-3).  Conversely, to arrogantly resist God’s design is to resist His shepherding care, and to provoke His powerful opposition (1 Pet. 5:6).

I’m sure I speak not only for myself, but also for Smokey, Steve, and Chuck in saying that we’re humbled, honored, and blessed to serve among you as Christ’s under-shepherds at RCG.  As we yearn for you with the affection of Christ, so we thank Him for you, and continually pray for your fruitfulness and joy in the hope of the Gospel (Phil. 1:3-11).

To God be the Glory!

Rejoicing and Weeping, Together

Thank you to all who prayed for the Lord’s provision and work during the Shepherds’ Conference last week.  It was a rich and refreshing time, being challenged, encouraged, convicted, and strengthened by God through His Word.  There was also much great fellowship with friends new and old – marvelous to see and hear some of how Christ is building His church throughout the world.  Audio of all the general and seminar sessions is available on the SC website – I would encourage you to nourish your soul by taking advantage of these resources!


After returning from the SC last weekend, I was reminded again of the privilege we have as God’s people to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  (Rom. 12:15)  Rejoicing on Saturday with the Meister’s and the birth of Abigail; and on the same day weeping with the Fernandez family, as I had opportunity to visit Steve (he is continuing to decline, but also continuing to exalt Christ.)  Weeping also with my wife regarding the recent death of a longtime childhood friend of hers, and also rejoicing with many in our church family who have received special answers to prayer.


Indeed, in the Lord’s design, we are frequently both rejoicing and weeping at the same time, and sharing this with one another.  Interwoven with many other aspects of loving one another (see Rom. 12:1-21), this is a great means by which Christ works through us to magnify Himself.


So keep loving and caring for one another in this way, beloved!  In so doing, may we be all the more stirred up to faithfully “…proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  (1 Pet. 2:9)


Grace upon grace,


Lord’s Day as weekly family time

How rich are the blessings of “family time”! With three of our four children now away at college, Laurie and I cherish all the more those special times when the six of us are all together again. Though all of us are active in numerous things, with many other friends and extended family members encompassing our lives, there is something unique, wonderful, special, and refreshing when the six of us prioritize and plan time together as a family.

On a much grander, eternal scale, such are the privileges and blessings for the people of God in a local church when we gather for His family time (Eph. 2:19; 3:14)on the Lord’s Day! Many of us can testify to this, even through special times the Lord has given us together on recent Sundays at RCG. While so many different circumstances and relationships encompass our lives throughout the week, God intends something unique, wonderful, special, and refreshing to occur among us when we gather corporately as a local church. Our shared unity and identity in Jesus Christ is most fully displayed when we gather. Additionally, God ministers His grace to us, caring for our souls, as together we hear His Word, sing His Word, pray His Word, see His Word (through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and minister His Word one to another.

Beloved, let me encourage you to think of the Lord’s Day as weekly “family time” for God’s people in a local church. As such, it is time deeply worth prioritizing and planning for! Generally, those who most fully and regularly participate in our Lord’s Day gatherings, both morning and evening, are those who most fully taste of the blessings and fruit God intends – being strengthened and equipped all the more to live to His glory throughout the week.

In the providences of God, not everyone is always able to participate in every gathering each Lord’s Day. Illnesses, work schedules, out-of-town trips, etc. are often unavoidable. But to the extent that we have discretion with our schedules, let’s keep humbly honoring the Lord, and loving one another, by cherishing the family times He calls us to. Truly, the Lord’s Day is the best day of the week!

Until He returns,

The Mission of the Church, Part 2

As we’ve been learning from John 20:19-23, the Lord Jesus wills for every believer to be wholeheartedly sharing in the mission of His church. Practically, this means mutually submitting to, and participating in the life of a local church.

Here are just a few suggestions for how members of RCG can keep pursuing faithfulness to the Lord and one another:

1.  Regularly review and pray through the “Membership Commitment” you affirmed when you became a member.

2.  Pray regularly for other members at RCG, in light of examples like Eph. 1:15-20, 3:14-21, etc.  The “Membership Directory” can be a great resource in doing this.

3.  Joyfully participate in our main corporate gatherings on the Lord’s Day, including Equipping Hour, Corporate Worship, and our Evening Gathering.

4.  Prayerfully and actively look for specific ways to minister to others in the body. Notes of encouragement, meeting physical needs, helping a younger Christian grow, taking initiative to meet new people – these are just some of the ways you can minister.

Not only is belonging to a local church a beneficial blessing for every believer, it is God’s will for all of us, so that He would be all the more glorified through us.

What a joy to share life in Him with you at RCG!

The Mission of the Church

As we’ve been seeing over the last couple weeks from John 20:19-23, the Lord’s purpose for the mission of His church is crystal clear.  In the power of His Holy Spirit, the church has the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming and living the Gospel of God’s peace in Jesus Christ, for the glory of the Father.  This is the church’s singular calling, with life-altering implications for every believer.

Andreas J. Kostenberger, in his excellent book The Mission of Jesus and the Disciples, expands on the significance of this clear mission with these words:

“As Jesus was completely devoted to do the will of the one who sent him (e.g. John 4:34), the disciples too, are to subordinate themselves in the accomplishment of their mission to the will of their sender, Jesus.  Jesus’ call of people to follow him constitutes their decisive encounter with the will of God (my emphasis.)  From this call onward, the personal life of the messenger is determined exclusively by this charge.  The disciple is to be completely subordinated to the will of his Lord until death.” (p. 195)

 May God give us grace to completely subordinate ourselves all the more to His good, acceptable, and perfect will – until death!