November 3, 2017

Wait, What?

The LORD had just delivered His people from the madness of Pharaoh … parting the waters of the Red Sea, bringing them safely across, and then letting gravity resume its course when Pharaoh and his hoards ventured onto the seabed. “Then they believed His words” we are told in Psalm 106:12. And then “they sang His praise.” And rightly so! They had doubted Him (v.7) when their backs were against the wall of the Sea, with Pharaoh in hot pursuit. But God had saved them anyway, “for the sake of His name” (v.8)! And rightly did they sing! And rightly did they now believe God’s promises to them! It must have been a marvelous scene!

And they all lived happily ever after, right? They went right on their way from the Red Sea, singing with faith, right? Surely that’s what the psalm will tell us! So let’s keep reading this story of triumph:

Then they believed His words;
They sang His praise.
They quickly forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel
Psalm 106:12-13

Wait, what?

Did I miss something between verses 12 and 13? They believed God? Yes. They sang? Yes, and rightly so! And the very next thing we read is that these same people forgot the mighty deeds, and “did not wait for [the] counsel” of the very same God who had just rescued them? Yes!

I know, I know. Most of us know the details of these events well enough that verse 13 doesn’t actually surprise us. We know about the Israelites’ backsliding. But it still ought to startle us to read about the rapidity of it! “They believed His words; They sang His praise” … and, without missing a beat, the very next words of the psalm are: “They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel”? Not to say that they forgot and became impatient as rapidly as we can read about it in Psalm 106. But it did happen “quickly”! And the rapidity of the about-face between vv.12-13 is startling. And so are the sad details of that about-face, rehearsed for us as we read on in the psalm.

How quickly Israel forgot the kindnesses and promises and mighty acts of their God! And how rapidly they began doing things their own way! And aren’t we glad that we are not like that? Except that, sometimes, we kind of are!

Now it’s true, the New Covenant people of God (all of whom are truly converted, Jeremiah 31:31-34) will not usually turn as far, and forget as deeply, as Old Testament Israel sometimes did. And we praise God for that! But, even though we who have been born again may not typically fall as hard or as far as the Israelites, we still often find ourselves fairly rapidly forgetting the promises of God, and the mighty deeds that He has done, and the prayers He has answered. And we still often find ourselves doing things our own way, don’t we? We still find ourselves, sometimes, moving fairly quickly from faith to forgetfulness, and from singing to self-direction! We still sometimes find ourselves doubting, sulking, murmuring, despairing, disobeying, and taking matters into our own hands.

Sometimes the testimony of our lives can read: ‘They believed! They sang! They forgot! They turned to their own ways!’ So let us be warned by the rapid backsliding of Israel. By God’s grace, let us cultivate better memories! And by His grace, let us dig deeper wells of faith! And the better those memories, and the deeper those wells, the more consistent will be the songs and the obedience which flow from them!

October 26, 2017

Post Tenebras Lux

Or in English: ‘After Darkness, Light.’ This became a motto the Protestant Reformation. For, after centuries of unbiblical, superstitious, soul-destroying Roman Catholic darkness … God, through the reformers, made His gospel light to shine clearly once more. Post Tenebras Lux.

But this phrase, famously connected with the Reformation, could equally be described of other great periods in the history of God’s dealings with mankind, could it not? And it could be written as the caption beneath many lesser-known interventions of God, as well.

We might hang this beautiful Latin phrase as a banner over the great reformation and revival that took place under King Josiah of old (2 Kings 22-23), when God’s book was (literally) rediscovered, and God’s worship was rightly restored. Post Tenebras Lux.

We might also inscribe these lovely words on the record-books of the great Evangelical Awakening that overspread Great Britain in the 18th century. The clouds had grown dark, spiritually and morally, by the early 1700’s. But, through the preaching of men like Whitefield, Wesley, Rowlands, and others, the light of Christ dawned once more. Post Tenebras Lux.

Your own story, too (if you are in Christ) is an example of this same theme, is it not? Your sins left you shrouded in darkness. But God, in the gospel of His dear Son, “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Post Tenebras Lux.

And, of course, the greatest bursting of light into darkness came when Christ Himself, “the Light of the world”, entered into the darkness, not only of “Galilee of the Gentiles” and Judea of the Pharisees, but of an entire world fallen into sin … so that “the people who walk in darkness” (the Galileans, in Isaiah 9:2; but not limited to them, in the grand scheme of things) would “see a great light.” Post Tenebras Lux.

‘After darkness, light’ is God’s modus operandi, you see! He loves to rescue, redeem, restore, and revive. And the Reformation, whose 500th anniversary is nearly upon us, is one of the greatest examples of this love! And there are many more examples, too – each of which should add to our confidence in the Post Tenebras Lux God! Each of them should urge us – when we think of the spiritual night that seems to be descending upon our land, or the deep darkness in which some of our family or friends continue to walk – “to pray and not to lose heart.” God is still the God of Post Tenebras Lux!

October 19, 2017

"If we walk in the Light"

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

I love this verse! I have quoted it numerous times in recent years. But I have to admit that, of the two benefits of walking in the light, I have mostly focused my attention on the latter – “If we walk in the Light … the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” That’s a marvelous truth! It’s a wonderful comfort! And it is a strong inducement to, indeed, “walk in the Light” – to come out into the open about our sin, and to bring it to Christ in repentance and faith; to “confess our sins,” as John puts it just two verses later. If we do so, the blood of Christ will make us clean – “whiter than snow”, as David puts it elsewhere! So thank God for the second of the two benefits mentioned in our text!

But I haven’t always paid as much heed as I ought to the first of those benefits! I haven’t always given a lot of thought to the fact that “walk[ing] in the Light” – coming out into the open about our sin, and repenting of it – has an effect, not only on our fellowship with God (through the cleansing of our sin), but also on our fellowship with other people (and particularly, in the context of the verse, with other believers). But, though I haven’t always given much notice to this fact, it’s right there in the text, isn’t it? The verse doesn’t just say that “if we walk in the Light” we’ll be cleansed before God, but it also says that “if we walk in the Light … we have fellowship with one another” (emphasis added).

How so?

Well, consider the bitterness or frustration that can build up in relationships (yes, even between believers) when someone consistently refuses to simply admit when they have done wrong; when they regularly try and pull a curtain over their sin, desperate to keep it from coming into the full light – when they engage in cover-ups, or make excuses, or shift blame, or shade the truth, or posture things in such a way as to avoid having to simply say: ‘I was wrong. I have no excuse. It’s my fault. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?’ Have you experienced that? It’s mindboggling, isn’t it? And it can create breaches in our fellowship with one another. But, on the other hand, our text says that if we’ll just bring our sins out into the light, fellowship will be the result. Because, while we ought to forgive people even before they confess (and even if they don’t confess) … the reality is that, a proper confession actually seeks forgiveness … and very often finds it (especially in the Christian context from which John writes!). Furthermore, if we are honest about our sins, they can then be worked through, and moved past (both by ourselves, and others). And, in a truly Christian context, they usually will be! And, not only that, but honesty about our sin creates an atmosphere of reality and vulnerability in a church which lends itself to true fellowship, rather than to ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ Christian mask-wearing. And so “if we walk in the Light … we have fellowship with one another.”

Consider also the scenario where you yourself are hiding some sin in the darkness. You took something; you broke something; you fudged something; you lied about something; you were unfaithful to your spouse (whether through physical adultery, or persistent heart adultery). And you ought to make your sin known to the offended party, and seek to get things right … but instead you’re keeping it a secret. It can be miserable, can it not? And not only because you may find yourself walking around, laden with guilt. But also because that guilt can ramp up when you’re with the person you sinned against, and to whom you ought to confess. And so now, even if they don’t know it (and through no fault of their own), you are uneasy around them. Maybe you become emotionally distant from them, or even find yourself avoiding them. And fellowship is dampened … because you haven’t been willing to “walk in the Light”; you haven’t been willing to confess and seek forgiveness. But if you will come out into the open about your sin, not only will you gain the relief of no longer having to keep it hidden, but the person you’ve sinned against, once he/she has been made aware of your wrong-doing, now has an opportunity to forgive you for it – and he/she probably will (especially if he or she is among the believing “one another” of 1 John 1:7)! And fellowship will be restored! You’ll no longer have reason to be uneasy or distant!

So let’s rejoice in both benefits of 1 John 1:7 – in both cleansing and fellowship. And let’s allow them both encourage us to pull back the curtains, and to bring our sin out into the light.

October 9, 2017

Looking Ahead at PRBC

The last 2½ months of the PRBC year are always a season of good opportunities and important preparation. This year is no exception. To get you ready (and praying), here’s a little head’s up as to some of what is, Lord willing, ahead between now and the close of the year:

Reformation Reading. In this month of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, don’t forget about all the materials that are on our Resource Rack, to help you learn more about the great work of God in restoring the Word and the gospel to His church.

Reformation Hymn-Sing. The King’s Chapel is hosting an evening of celebrating the Reformation through the singing of hymns. October 29, 6:30pm at The King’s Chapel. Join in!

Servant Ministry Roles. We’re asking the church family to be thinking and praying, this month, about how God might have you serve in and through PRBC in 2018. Please do make every effort to consider this carefully, and to turn in your questionnaires by 10/29. Be praying for the elders and deacons, too, as they gather in November to piece together a proposed servant ministry roster for the coming year.

Possible New Elder. The elders and deacons are considering recommending Brad Garrison for the position of elder. See today’s bulletin announcement for details. Please pray that the elders and deacons would have the mind of Christ in this matter … and that we all, as a congregation, would have Christ’s mind about this as well.

2018 Budget. Please be in prayer for the elders and deacons, also, as we gather in November to put together a proposed 2018 budget.

Operation Christmas Child. We’ll begin collecting various gifts for Operation Christmas Child on October 22. Keep an eye out for bulletin inserts that will inform you of what can (and cannot) be donated. Please note that toothpaste and candy cannot be donated this year.  Our wrapping party is scheduled for 11/17.

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We will use our 9am prayer meeting on Sunday, 11/5, to concertedly pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. The hour will feature a video and prayer materials from The Voice of the Martyrs. The children’s class at that hour will also pray, and watch a children’s video.

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. Each year, in December, we collect this offering … 100% of which goes to support our International Mission Board's missionary efforts. Be thinking and praying about what you might give this year!

Lots of opportunities for joining in! And lots of reasons to pray! Join us in doing both!

October 3, 2017

Vernacular Scriptura

One of the great blessings of the Protestant Reformation was the rediscovery of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura – the truth that what we believe, in matters of Christian faith and practice, must come from Scripture alone. But perhaps of equal value, both during the Reformation, and even before it, was what we might call Vernacular Scriptura – that is, the translating of the Bible into the vernacular; into the language of the masses!

Praise God for this development! For, how far would many of the needed reforms have gotten if Reformation leaders had obeyed the unjust laws of their day, which forbade translating the Bible into the common tongues of the people; if the written word of God had remained locked away in a language (Latin) which most people could neither read nor understand? So praise God for men like Wycliffe, Luther, Tyndale, and others who brought the word of God to the people, in their own languages! We are still benefitting, today, from this great Reformation advance!

And how ought we respond, given the precious blessing of having what so many people, for so many years, did not have – the Bible in our own tongue? Let me make three suggestions:

1. Read it! It’s quite simple, isn’t it? Men and women of old were willing to risk their lives in order to make the Bible available in the English language. Most of us have multiple copies – resources that they would have given almost anything to possess. Let us not let them go to waste! Let us, very simply, take advantage of what the Reformation has bequeathed to us. Let us actually read these English Bibles that are at our fingertips!

2. Give it away! Preaching is indispensable … and it was so during the Protestant Reformation. But so, also, was the newly acquired opportunity for the literate population to actually read the Bible for themselves. The providential dovetailing of Bible-translation into the common tongue, coupled with the recent invention of the printing press, put the Bible in front of many, many eyes that had never read it before! And it was spiritual dynamite across Europe! And maybe, just maybe, something like that could happen in our own day, if we began to put the Bible before eyes that have scarcely read it. Our neighbors’ reasons for not reading the Scriptures are different from many of the people of the Reformation era, but maybe some of our contemporaries would read if we gave them a neat little copy, say, of the gospel or Mark, or Luke, or John. And who knows what God might do!

Note also that The Voice of the Martyrs is working to provide many Christians, “living in hostile and restricted nations,” with their own copies of the Bible!  You can give toward this worthy cause at vombibles.com.

3. Support translation! There are still languages in the world, today, into which the Scriptures have not yet been translated! Not for the same reasons as in Europe of old, but there are still people who have never read the Bible in their own language – and some who will never read it at all, unless it is provided in their own language! And yet, praise God, there are people and organizations committed to remedying this lack! Pray for them! Consider supporting them financially! And, if you have a gift for languages, consider studying Bible, Greek, and Hebrew so that you might, perhaps, join them someday in the mission of Vernacular Scriptura!

“The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). May we continue to unfold those words, brothers and sisters, both for ourselves and others!