A Thanksgiving Meditation on Psalm 100

1Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! 2Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

————————————————-

Loved ones, we sometimes joke around when we sing to the LORD off key… and we might say “Well, we’re called to make a joyful noise, right?” Well, as much as it’s true that the sound of our singing doesn’t have to be perfect to bless the Lord… what verse one of Psalm 100 is commanding us to do has a different meaning.

When the Word of God tells us to make a joyful shout to the LORD, it’s referring to the homage-shout and fanfare that is due to a king when he enters a room or when he makes a procession. We’re to blow the regal trumpet of our voices, shouting out all the triumphant praise that our Great King deserves. For he is indeed the Great King who made and owns all the earth.

Verse three commands us to understand that our Great Covenant LORD and King is God himself. It is he who has made us, and not we ourselves. We belong to him and were created to serve and glorify him alone. And although in and of ourselves, we’re unworthy and unprofitable servants he has made us his people by his grace.

And because of this saving mercy we’re his redeemed lambs who have the blessed privilege of grazing in his pasture land… within the pastures of his church here on earth in this life, feeding on his Gospel Word… and within the eternal pasture land of heaven in the life to come, feasting with our Good Shepherd face to face.

By his grace we’ve been made servants of the great Shepherd King. And so, as verse two calls us… let’s serve the LORD with gladness knowing that our King is God our Savior. So let us always come before his high majesty with reverence and awe, trembling and joy… singing and shouting our hearts out in gratitude knowing that we are not our own… but belong to him.

And verse four commands us to enter into his temple gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise… to be thankful to him, and to bless his name. We come to our Holy God knowing that his holy temple courts are closed to the unrighteous and defiled but open to his redeemed people [Rev 21:27]. He has opened wide his courts to us who have had our sins forgiven in Christ and who have had his very own righteousness imputed to us through faith alone.

He has even opened up to us the very holy of holies itself and has granted us free access to his majestic presence. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the [Holy of Holies] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” [Heb 9:19-23].

Truly, loved ones… the LORD is good! We deserve none of these things… but yet we have them all in Christ. And we have all these divine benefits both now and forever more… because his mercy is everlasting and his truth endures to all generations.

Christian! In view of these heavenly mercies that our great God and King has bestowed upon us… let us not only joyfully shout to the LORD and enter into his gates with praise and thanksgiving… but let us also present our entire lives and bodies to God as a living sacrifice to him in grateful response. Amen.

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Thanksgiving Meditation on 1 Chronicles 16:8-10, 34-35

From Emmanuel United Reformed Church’s Thanksgiving Day Service:

1 Chronicles 16:8-10, 34, 35

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!

Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

And say, Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us together, and deliver us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise.”

————————————————

This morning we’re here to give thanks to the LORD in song, in prayer…by making his deeds known, talking about his wondrous works… by glorying in his Holy name and by rejoicing in our hearts as we seek the LORD! But why are we doing these things? Why are we giving thanks… why are we going to sing and pray and recount his deeds and rejoice?

Because He’s been good to us. What are some of his good and wondrous works and deeds? What are we to make known to the peoples and recount back to the LORD in praise and prayer?

First, let us make known that he alone is God. In six mornings and evenings he made the heavens and the earth. And he made us. And as our Maker, he alone is our sustainer and provider. He has given us the breath we breathe, the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the homes we live within, our parents, children, siblings, and our spouses.

He also upholds this world so that we can live and glorify him. All that we need for life on this earth, he’s given to us. Truly in him we live and move and have our being. There is no other God beside him. All that we have we owe to him. May our praises and our prayers to God be full of this remembrance today.

Second, Let us make known that he is the LORD; he is YHWH. This is his great covenant name and it is holy. He is righteous, just, absolutely pure and judges sin. And we all deserve his punishment for Adam’s original sin and our own actual sins. May our praises and our prayers to the LORD be measured with this sober recognition today.

And third, let us make known that our holy and righteous covenant LORD is also full of mercy at the same time. In his sovereignty, he has chosen to set his love upon us and yet pour out his justice on his only Begotten Son instead of on us.

This is how we’re able to Glory in the LORD’s holy name and rejoice at the same time when we seek him. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ came and sought us while we were yet lost sinners and he died in our place… the just for the unjust… so that we would be declared righteously fit through faith alone to seek the Lord, be found in him…. And so that we would give thanks to his holy name and triumph in his praise forever more.

Today, may our praises and our prayers to the LORD be filled with gratitude for all his marvelous deeds. Amen.

Let’s now talk of all these wonderful things in song and prayer!

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

An Opening Prayer For A Thanksgiving Meditation

1 Chronicles 16:8-10, 34-35.

Gracious Father, this morning we thank you for all your many blessings to us. We desire in this time to give you the thanks that you alone deserve for creating us, redeeming us in Jesus Christ our Savior, and for the sure hope that one day you will give us the full inheritance that Christ has merited for us…the eternal Promised Land of Heaven… even as you swore so to our forefather Abraham.

Father, forgive us, we pray, for our ingratitude and for all our constant forgetfulness of all your benefits that you have so freely bestowed upon us… both common in this world… and special in Christ. Soften now our hearts that we might rightly and sincerely thank and praise you as we ought.

We now call upon your great name, O LORD, and we desire to show our gratitude to you by meditating on your great deeds and making them known among the peoples. Father, may you sit enthroned upon our praises as we sing psalms and hymns of thanksgiving to you and talk of all your wondrous works.

Heavenly Father, as we glory in your holy name… let our hearts swell with joy and our mouths burst open with triumphant thanks because you have plucked us up out of our sins and misery and have gathered us together into your Church and made us to be your righteous and holy people in and through Jesus Christ Our Lord… all by your overflowing grace.

For His sake and in His name, receive now our thanks, O LORD, as we declare your great goodness and your forever enduring mercy. Amen.

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two Kingdoms, Bite-size Style

Dr. Riddlebarger has written a short, helpful blog post primer on the Two Kingdoms doctrine.

He lists several concise thesis statements concerning this important doctrine. Then he presents some key distinctions between Christ’s Kingdom and the Civil Kingdom. And finally, he concludes with stating the lamentable consequences of confusing the two kingdoms.

You can read it here.

Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Soli Deo Gloria

Tomorrow evening I have the privilege of preaching from Romans 11:36, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”  Below is an excerpt from my conclusion:

Understanding that all of creation is from God, through God, and to God… for his glory alone… and understanding that our salvation in the Gospel is also from God, through God, and to God… for his glory alone… Understanding these things ought to constrain us to fight against our constant temptation to preoccupy ourselves with our own glory rather than God’s.

These truths are meant to compel us to live with a singular focus … to magnify the glory of our awesome God alone… our Creator and Redeemer in Christ… and no one else.

May everything that you think, say, and do chiefly glorify God… Make this your highest goal. This is the very purpose for which you were created.

And in so doing, loved ones, you’ll discover with great joy that this is the only goal in this life that will truly bring meaning and satisfaction to your soul. There is no higher calling in this life and there is no more satisfying endeavor in this life than to glorify your God and Savior.

As 1 Cor 10:31 says – Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria… To God Alone Be The Glory. Amen.

I cannot wait to preach this. I must preach this or I think I might fall over dead.

Published in: on August 7, 2010 at 6:37 pm  Comments (1)  

The Perfect Handshake?

Pastors shake a lot of hands on a regular basis. I think I’ve experienced a broad spectrum of successful and unsuccessful ones. While I appreciate a good handshake, I laughed at the quote below from a recent news article:

Beattie’s guide to the perfect handshake applies to both men and women and reads: use the right hand; a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong); a cool and dry palm; approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigor, held for no longer than two to three seconds.

The handshake must also be executed with eye contact kept throughout and a good natural smile with an appropriate verbal statement, according to the scientist.

Nice worldly advice, but I can’t imagine executing the perfect handshake after Lord’s Day services when people are lined up to shake my hand and are whizzing by.

The article even lists the scientific equation for a good handshake:

PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(4<s>2)(4<p>2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4<c>2 )(4<du>2)}2

(e) is eye contact (1=none; 5=direct) 5; (ve) is verbal greeting (1=totally inappropriate; 5=totally appropriate) 5; (d) is Duchenne smile – smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1=totally non-Duchenne smile (false smile); 5=totally Duchenne) 5; (cg) completeness of grip (1=very incomplete; 5=full) 5; (dr) is dryness of hand (1=damp; 5=dry) 4; (s) is strength (1= weak; 5=strong) 3; (p) is position of hand (1=back towards own body; 5=other person’s bodily zone) 3; (vi) is vigour (1=too low/too high; 5=mid) 3; (t) is temperature of hands (1=too cold/too hot; 5=mid) 3; (te) is texture of hands (5=mid; 1=too rough/too smooth) 3; (c) is control (1=low; 5=high) 3; (du) is duration (1= brief; 5=long) 3.

I think someone had too much time on their hands to come up with this equation…

The article is here: http://tinyurl.com/26jlt7e

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Animal Costumes, Banners, And Interpretive Dances?

The recent GA of the PCUSA must have been a strange sight to behold:

http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2419:pcusa-general-assembly-opening-worship-skunks-rabbits-and-wolves-oh-my-&catid=92:pcusa-general-assembly&Itemid=145

Reading this brought me as close to laughing and crying at the same time as I’ve come in quite a long time. The only phrase that comes to mind is Judges 17:6, “And everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Published in: on July 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Sufficiency of Scripture is Sufficient for Me

As I was reading Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World, by James Montgomery Boice, I appreciate this quote regarding ways the sufficiency of Scripture is eroding today:

Do we really believe that in this book God has given us what we need to do all necessary spiritual work? Or do we think we have to supplement the Bible with man-made techniques or devices? Consider these questions about four important areas of the church’s work:

Evangelism: Do we need sociological techniques to do evangelism? Must we attract people to our churches by showmanship and entertainment?

Sanctification: So we need psychology and psychiatry for Christian growth?…

Discerning God’s will: Do we need extra-biblical signs or miracles for guidance? Does God speak by personal revelations or “in our hearts”?

Impacting society: Is the Bible’s teaching adequate for achieving social progress and reform?

Unfortunately, it is possible to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, as many if not all evangelicals claim to do, and still effectually to repudiate it because we think that it does not work today and are convinced that other things need to be brought in to accomplish what the Bible cannot do. (p. 33-34)

Healthy words to consider, eh? It can be tempting for Reformed churches to run after man-made techniques in order to be “more effective” in doing the spiritual work of the church. But when we follow after these things we end up repudiating what we believe and confess about the sufficiency of Scripture.

The Belgic Confession, article 7, speaks clearly to this matter:

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures; nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects…

Churches are prone to add man-made techniques to the sufficiency of the ministry of the Word. My desire is to always depend on the Holy Spirit of God to attend unto the Word of God for accomplishing the will of God in all things within the Church of God. The sufficiency of Scripture is sufficient for me.

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 10:45 am  Comments (2)  

A Strange Gospel Conversation With An Odd Stranger

The church where I pastor is located at a fairly busy stop sign intersection. My house is right next to the church building by this intersection as well. Cars often pull into the church parking lot and then pull up and park right in front of my house. I observe this all day long from my office window in the church.

Most of the people who pull over in front of my house have stopped in order to talk on their cell phone. This doesn’t bother me because I’d rather they stop and be safe than drive distractedly while on the phone. But every once and while the driver of a car that parks in front of my house seems suspicious. And since the distance from this spot to the front door of my house is less than 10 yards, I tend to start getting protective. So I walk out to the car and ask the driver if everything is ok. Most of the time the answer is yes, they’re ok and then they pull back onto the road… no harm, no foul.

But today someone pulled up in front of the house and something about the way he pulled up just didn’t seem normal. So, as usual, I walked out there to see what was up. As I approached the car I could smell smoke… and it wasn’t the normal kind of smoke, if you know what I mean. He said that everything was fine. He told me that he was waiting for his wife to meet him… here of all places. Very odd.

He looked away for a moment.  Then he looked back at me again from the driver’s side of the car through the open passenger window… and I could see by his eyes that he was somewhat nervous talking to me. I was about to politely, yet firmly, suggest that he park somewhere else and not in front of my house. And just as I was about to open my mouth to that end, he asked me if I was the pastor of the church on this corner.

I told him that I was and introduced myself. He said that he drives by here all the time and often wonders what it means for a church to be Reformed. And so I explained a few things to him about what Reformed churches believe concerning the Good News of God’s grace in Christ toward sinners.

He then eagerly asked, “So, you guys base what you believe and what you do on the Bible and aren’t all crazy weird and stuff?” I replied, “yes, basically.” I chuckled out loud because I’ve never been asked that question in that manner before. Then I explained that our worship services aren’t crazy and wild shows… and that we worship God reverently. He said he liked that.

So, I invited him to join us here on Sunday. Just then his wife showed up in her car and he asked me what time we meet on Sundays. I told him that I’ll get a business card for him with our service times on it and with my contact info on it. He said that’d be great.

I went back to my office and grabbed two business cards, walked back out to the man and his wife, and gave both of them my business card. I again invited them to join us for worship… and they said they just might do that… and off they went in their respective cars.

I guess you never know when the opportunity to open your mouth for Christ is going to present itself. This strange encounter led to sharing the Gospel with an odd stranger and his wife. The Gospel isn’t just meant for “normal” people…it’s also the power of God unto salvation for odd strangers too.

Published in: on June 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Forgiven and Forgiving

This past Lord’s Day evening I preached from “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” from the Lord’s Prayer.

Here’s the audio: Mt. 6:12 – Forgiven and Forgiving .

Also, Dr. Wes Bredenhof at his blog has posted a tremendous testimony of someone who forgave because he’s forgiven. You can view it here: http://yinkahdinay.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/because-ive-been-forgiven-parts-1-and-2/

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.