Kings-Story

Meagan, our 4 year old, asked, “Why is it called Good Friday?” 

“…because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

She may not comprehend the depth of this text, but she knows  it was about Jesus.

Take a moment to consider the depth of this text.  The depth of what was accomplished on the cross.  Sometimes we take it for granted.

 

Rock Bottom

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Sin, The Gospel
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Rock bottom.

Are you there?

I have been at rock bottom. It is painful – especially when you first hit. When you get so low that you can no longer see the light. When God seems to be absent. When there is only seeming hopelessness as you lose your grip, fall into the darkness, and crash hard on the rock below.

It hurts…but, there is still hope.

You probably cannot see it right now, but when you crash, when you hit rock bottom, when you are slammed so hard that everything is spinning out of control…open your eyes.  When you hit rock bottom, you may find that you have in fact slammed directly into the Rock of Ages.

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Spurgeon put it so eloquently, “I have learned to kiss the wave that drives me against the Rock of Ages.”  He does not mean that sin and hardship are good, but that those things can be used by God to bring you closer to him.

When I look back on the time I hit rock bottom, I can see clearly that I did in fact slam directly into Jesus Christ and his Glory. The Rock. Those things that are causing you so much pain, may in fact be preparing you for repentance, preparing you for a restored relationship with God and for service.

God will let his children sink low.  Perhaps it even feels like he has let you fall.  But do not despair. He is at the bottom waiting to catch you. As Moses says,

“The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Yes, he sees us as we tremble in fear as we slip into that pit, as the carpet is pulled out from under us, as our marriages fall apart, as we struggle against the bottle, or lose our jobs…  and He cares.  He could grab us before we hit rock bottom and make our footsteps firm again, and often he does exactly that.

But not this time.

This time He has a lesson for us. In Psalm 119 we read that,

 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

When I hit rock bottom I admit that I at first despaired of God’s love, mercy and grace.  I did not believe he loved me. I did not look to his promises, I just looked at my situation and I doubted his goodness toward me.  But please do not despair. God does not say it will be easy.   There may be tears of anguish. There may be a huge mess to clean up and a lot of work to do. But looking back, I can truly say with Psalmist, “It was good for me that I was afflicted…”

Look to his promises.  Those things that brought you to this place, God is using them for your good to bring you closer to him.  Please do not think that your suffering has come to you apart from God’s gracious design. God says in Deuteronomy, “…there is no god besides Me…I wound and I heal…”   Yes, God did that.  He allowed your suffering for a reason.  That reason was to bring you closer to him.  Don’t look at your situation, don’t dwell on these things. Look rather to what is unseen.

Look to the promises of God, trust in them – even if it is hard to do it.  Even at your lowest, God promises are true.  He promises to be found, so seek him!  Don’t turn away! Even if it doesn’t make sense.  Even if you want to blame God. Look at these promises:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. ~ Deuteronomy 4:29

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. ~Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. ~Psalm 34:10

Rock bottom hurts, I know, but it may be exactly what you need.  Perhaps you have been slammed into the Rock of Ages.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Count it all Joy.

Posted: April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. ~ James 1:2-18

a_treatise_concerning_religious_affections_by_jonathan_edwardsThis post has taken some time for me to write because I am not really qualified to write it.  With this post I run the risk of angering my “Edwardian” brothers and sisters.  I have been reading Edward’s Religious Affections and have some minor quibbles with his theology – actually they are more like questions than quibbles. Now, before lightning strikes me, or my inbox gets flooded with emails exclaiming my theological fallaciousness, or exhorting me to repent, or telling me how mightily Edwards was used in the Great Awakening …I am well aware of the fact that I can not hold a candle to Edwards when it comes to anything regarding theology, Christian living, piety, writing, intelligence, affections, and I am sure that my preference for German lagers pales in comparison to his fine tastes…in fact I really do appreciate Jonathan Edwards.  He was a giant of orthodoxy who was, and still is, mightily used by God for advancing the kingdom. I have learned much from him and I appreciate his works.  I even really appreciate his Religious Affections, the work I have my quibble with. So, here is my quibble or question.  I disagree with Edwards emphasis on finding assurance in our affections.  Here is one such quote,

From hence it clearly and certainly appears, that great part of true religion consists in the affections. For love is not only one of the affections, but it is the first and chief of the affections, and the fountain of all the affections. From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we love, or which oppose and thwart us in those things that we delight in: and from the various exercises of love and hatred, according to the circumstances of the objects of these affections, as present or absent, certain or uncertain, probable or improbable, arise all those other affections of desire, hope, fear, joy, grief, gratitude, anger, &c. From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin, fear of sin, and a dread of God’s displeasure, gratitude to God for his goodness, complacence and joy in God, when God is graciously and sensibly present, and grief when he is absent, and a joyful hope when a future enjoyment of God is expected, and fervent zeal for the glory of God. And in like manner, from a fervent love to men, will arise all other virtuous affections towards men.

I agree that where our affections lie certainly is evidence of where we are spiritually, but I am concerned that he is causing his readers to look inward rather than outward to Christ for assurance of faith.  The overall emphasis of Edward’s work here appears to me to be that we should look for evidence of faith in ourselves – where our affections lie, rather than trust in the promises of God alone. Yet when I read the Reformers, and the Three Forms of Unity, it appears that they avoid the teaching that we should look inside of ourselves but rather outside of ourselves to Christ.  To quote Luther in his Lectures on Genesis:

Abraham is Righteous…because he believed God who gave a promise…For faith is the firm and sure thought or trust that through Christ God is propitious and that through Christ His thoughts concerning us are thoughts of peace, not of affliction or wrath.  God’s thought or promise–these belong together…The confident laying hold of the promise is called faith; and it justifies, not as our own work but as the work of God…Faith alone lays hold of the promise, stretches out its hand when God offers something, and accepts what He offers…The only faith that justifies is the faith that deals with God in His promises and accepts them…Furthermore, every promise of God includes Christ; for if it is separated from this mediator, God is not dealing with us at all. (Emphasis added.)

The Canons of Dort (CoD) says in 5/10:

This assurance is not produced by a certain private revelation besides or outside the Word, but by faith in the promises of God, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort; by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit that we are children and heirs of God; and, finally, by the serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. And if the elect of God did not have in this world the solid comfort of obtaining the victory  and this unfailing pledge of eternal glory, they would be of all men the most miserable. 

I may be completely mistaken, but what I perceive Edwards to be saying is that we are to look inward to judge whether we are looking to Christ.  Now the CoD appear to say something similar as Edwards when it mentions the “serious pursuit of a clear conscience and good works.”  Obviously a pursuit of good works will have its affections in Christ.  But there is a subtle difference, I think. Edwards appears to call us to look to the quality of our faith, while the Reformers and the Reformed confessions exhort us to look away from ourselves and to cast our gaze upon the work of Jesus Christ. And what of Lord’s day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism?

That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Do you see it?  It says, “by His Holy Spirit He also assures me…”  it does not say, “by the affections I have He assures me…”

I am not an emotional person.  I am very even keel in my affections.  I don’t get to high, or too low – for the most part. My wife will confirm that I love her deeply, but emotional affection is not prevalent in my personality.  If I look too my affections, I have to admit that there are times when looking at myself I wonder if I am saved or if I care about anyone or anything in the world.  There are days, when I am simply done, exhausted, and my affection is sinful and for myself.  If I look for assurance in myself at those times, I would certainly be damned to hell.  So even on the good days, when I am standing on a mountain top and God is near, and it feels like Jesus is close, and my heart is overflowing with affection for him, I can not take comfort in that. But I can take comfort  from the thought that Jesus Died for me. I find assurance in the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  When my affections are not right, when I am faithless, His affection for me is good and He is faithful.

So have I completely misunderstood what Edwards is writing?  Thoughts are welcome.  I appreciate any feedback.  

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It is April once again.  That means it is time to make a few decisions.  First, whether to kill the moss in my back yard - it is nice and soft, and it is green – but it’s not grass.  Second I have to tune up the lawn mower ( it is making this horrific sound – I think something is bent). And third, it is time to suggest names for the office of elder and deacon in my congregation, and if you also go to a Church that has terms for office bearers, it is probably time in yours as well.

I was recently involved in a conversation that started like this, What do you think is the most important quality for an elder?”  Which turned into a topic of great debate, and forced us into the Word.  It is also a nice idea for a blog post.

So what do I think is the most important quality in an elder?  Well, let’s look at the qualifications for elders.

I Timothy 3:2-7:

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,  for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

From this passage, which do you think is the most important trait of an elder? I submit to you that the most important trait of an elder is that he is a godly man.

Wait. That is not on the list.

Ok. I concede that point, it is not on the list. So, what do I mean by godly? That he is a man of faith and prayer. His knees should be calloused, and his Bible worn and frayed, because without godliness, without prayer, without fervently seeking Jesus Christ and relying on Him alone, all the other duties and qualifications in this list will be worthless.

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Now, I should also add a disclaimer – Godliness is not the only requirement. Not every member who is Godly is qualified to be an elder. It takes more than just being godly to be an elder in the church. For example, new converts may be quite Godly, but they are disqualified based on their inexperience. Likewise those who are unable to teach, or who have little knowledge cannot be an elder – they may have faith to move mountains and may love to serve and give everything away for the glory of god and the benefit of the church, but they are disqualified on that point. And so on.

So while this post was about elders, please seek out godly men who meet the criteria for elder and deacon, and submit their names to your church council for review.  Unfortunately, some of us are more concerned with how the local sports team is doing, working in the yard killing moss, tuning up our noisy lawn mowers, updating Facebook statuses, gaming or pinning or tweeting or blogging or (insert favourite pastime here) rather than being concerned with the things of the Kingdom…especially with electing elders and deacons who will be held in account of how they keep watch over us.

So please prayerfully seek wisdom in the process and write a letter, or at least fill out that nomination form that was in your church mailbox…seriously, you just have to write down some names and sign it.  It is almost too easy. See that pen over there?  Pick it up…write some names down…after you get on your knees…

 

 

 

Dear people who think my church is apostate, or who have issues with people in the church I am  member of,

Before you slander my church ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish. I appreciate that you feel wronged by people in my church. I believe you when you say that you feel that the churches have wronged you, that you feel we are an apostate organization, that you feel we are sectarian, or stuck in tradition, or misogynistic, or…or whatever other issue it might be that you have.  Why would I doubt your perception? I pray that our faithful God would daily draw you closer to him so that you can find peace and comfort regarding these things. I believe that these things have left a big scar in your life since you are willing to write heartfelt a email to me and you don’t even know me.  But I am just a blogger, I am not sure what you expect me to do.

Before you slander my church please consider the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” 
Before you slander my church, ask yourself, will this build anyone up?  Does it give grace to those who hear?
In the book of Proverbs we read, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.”

Before you slander my church think about that. I am not going to respond to angry, slanderous, gossipy emails.  If I receive emails containing slander or gossip I will set my account to filter out your emails and send them to the trash based on the text above.

Before you slander my church, please know that I am not going to allow you to use my blog as a platform for your anger. It hurts when people slander my church.  I pray that the Lord would bless you and grant you peace about whatever it is that you are upset about.  That you would turn to him and find in him all that you need.

Before you slander my church or gossip…don’t bother, I won’t read it anyway.

Blessings,

Ryan

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  

Bible-Verses-On-Tithing-Malachi-3-10-HD-Spring-Sun-WallpaperI was dumbfounded when I read an article in the national Post about a “mystery man” roaming the city of Halifax and handing out large sums of cash to complete strangers at random.  The mystery man turned out to be a Richard Wright who wanted to give generously to strangers. His  generosity caused suspicion amongst the police and he was arrested and placed in a psych ward for this behaviour.

Is this strange behaviour?  Sure is.  If a random guy came up to me and handed me 100 bucks and said, “Thank God and pass it along!”  I might wonder about his mental stability.  BUT…is this reason to arrest him?  IS this reason to lock him in a psych ward? If the police can simply trample over a man’s civil liberty and can arrest him because he is giving his money to those less fortunate, saying, “Thank God,”  I shudder to think what would happen if the police knew what most of my brothers and sister’s do every Sunday again.

Really, in the eyes of the secular world what would be more insane?  Giving $100 to a random person on the street, or giving 10% of all my earnings to an invisible God?

We got a nice tax return this year, and I am sure many of my brothers and sisters did as well.  I would assume that most of us gave a substantial portion of it away to an invisible God, out of thankfulness.  Not much different than Richard Wright giving $100 to a stranger and telling him to thank God…is it?  Imagine that the police arrest me and the psychiatrist assesses me and asks why I gave so much of my money away, and my response is because God has commanded that we give of our first fruits in a book written thousands of years ago… I really shudder to think what that assessment would be…

Honestly, if Richard Wright should be arrested for giving money away…what should happen to Christians? If we follow the logic, I guess we should be arrested for tithing.

As Christians we need to be aware of this and speak out against it. To quote Pastor Ken Wieske, commenting on this article, “If the State can, at its own discretion, deprive a citizen of his or her freedom when no law has been broken, then the State can do that to us too… As Christians who are citizens we ought to be vigilant for signs that the government is overstepping its God-given authority, and we ought to speak out while we still can.”

Read the article here.