Greetings, brothers and sisters…
I trust this day finds you giving thanks for warm homes with electricity, gas and water. Earlier today, Patti heard from her sister who lives in Grand Rapids, MI and at that point the neighborhood in which she lives has been without power since the early morning of yesterday. It never ceases to amaze me how much we take these sorts of things for granted. To be sure, this is evidence of our Lord’s common grace that He bestows on believer and unbeliever alike. But as believers we should be particularly thankful for all of His blessings.
It has been quite some time since I last included a Grace Gem in my weekly email, but I was particularly encouraged by the one I received this morning. I trust you will likewise find it to be most encouraging.
An almighty Watcher, a sleepless Guardian, a faithful Friend!
“You shall not be afraid of the terror by night!” Psalm 91:5
What is this terror? It might be the cry of fire, or the noise of thieves, or the shriek of sudden death!
We live in the world of death and sorrow. This should not alarm us, for be the terror what it may–the promise is that the believer shall not be afraid.
Why should he? God our Father is here–and will be here all through the lonely hours. He is an almighty Watcher, a sleepless Guardian, a faithful Friend!
Nothing can happen without His direction, for even Hell itself is under His omnipotent control. Darkness is not dark to Him. He has promised to be a wall of fire around His people–and who can break through such a barrier?
Worldlings might well be afraid, for they have . . .
an angry God above them,
a guilty conscience within them,
and a yawning Hell beneath them!
But we who rest in Jesus are saved from all these, through His rich mercy.
“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3
This Lord’s Day, Rev. Brett Mahlen will once again be in the pulpit for us. He will be preaching from John 6:25-34 where he will address the issue of “motives.” The reality is that even in our best times, even when our walk with our Lord is vibrant, our motives will still be tainted to one degree or another. Please pray for the ministry of the Word. Pray that it’s truths would take root in our hearts. The Order of Worship is attached.
Some of you are aware that we discovered a significant water leak that caused some damage in the toddler playroom and nursery area. We were compelled to shut the water off to the entire building until the leak could be isolated. The biggest concern was that a water line beneath the concrete slab on which the building sits had burst when it got so cold last week. In God’s kindness that proved to not be the case. It was up in the ceiling area and has subsequently been repaired. However, the toddler play room will not be usable for a while. Drywall and flooring in the bathroom area all need to be replaced. Thank you for your patience.
The Scottish Ball is coming up quickly….a week from today to be exact. Again, I would encourage you to join with your brothers and sisters for a time of delightful celebration with the covenant community of faith. I have again attached the pertinent information.
February 10–Young adults Fellowship Group (postponed)
· February 11–Ladies group
· February 13–Session meets
· February 15–Scottish Ball
· February 17–Adults Fellowship Group (westsiders)
· February 18–Adults Fellowship Group (townies)
· February 22–Family Game Night
· February 24–Neighborhood Fellowship
· February 24– Annual Congregational meeting
· February 25–Ladies group
Ah, here is the great difference between the unregenerate and the regenerate: the one harden themselves in their sin, the other are broken before God on account of it. —A.W. Pink
“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all!” quipped Spurgeon. “And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it.”
The secret of joy is Christ in me, not me in different circumstances. —Elisabeth Elliot
Godliness is more easily feigned in words than in actions. —Jonathan Edwards
Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. —Oswald Chambers
There are only two ways of dying. We can die in faith or we can die in our sins. —R.C. Sproul
Remarkable, Ordinary Churches
Something remarkable happened last Sunday.
I visited a church half an hour from where I live. The streets were filled with snow. I was sure the church would be empty, especially as I slid my way down the road where that church meets.
The church parking lot was unplowed. I counted only four other cars. I found my way to the church basement and found the pastor teaching six older adults. I could tell the pastor cared about them and about his message. READ MORE…
The Importance of What We Do in Secret
According to Jesus, it is what we do in secret that matters most. Jesus is not suggesting that the outward is unimportant—far from it. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14).
The answer is emphatically no. Still, it is also possible to have outward works but no inner reality. In this instance, religion is a pretense. Six times in the Sermon on the Mount, alluding to three distinct exercises, Jesus employs the term secret. READ MORE…
When Complacency Is Complicity
“You had to have known. You had to have smelled the stench.”
These are the words from a gripping scene in HBO’s miniseries Band of Brothers. It’s near the end of WWII, and the allied forces have moved into Germany. As they make their way through German towns, what becomes striking is the otherwise normalcy of life. German citizens are going about their days seemingly oblivious to the atrocities all around them.
One town, in particular, has a concentration camp located just far enough on the outskirts of town to allow for convenient indifference. But when the soldiers discover the camp, their indignation turns toward the village. They enter a local bakery where the owner is going about his normal baking routine, and they begin to take his bread to feed the famished prisoners of the camp. The baker is furious, screaming at the soldiers to leave his store, until one soldier shoves him against the wall and shouts,
“Shut up you Nazi!”
“Ich bin kein Nazi (I’m not a Nazi),” the baker replies aghast.
“You’re not a Nazi? OK, how about a human being? You had to have known. You had to have smelled the stench.”
The Third Reich is a fascinating look into the nature of evil, because it was a modern, developed, educated, and affluent culture that allowed for barbaric atrocities. The “banality of evil” is how Hannah Arendt famously described it in her essay from the Nuremberg Trials. Otherwise normal people, like you and me, indifferent or even complicit in widespread carnage. Indeed, evil could no longer be called unthinkable; it had become
Well, take heed and be not naïve, America, for the banality of evil is among us too. READ MORE…
The Five Tests of False Doctrine
T.D. Jakes says that God eternally exists in three manifestations, not three persons. Greg Boyd says God knows some aspects of the future, but that other future events are outside of his knowledge. Creflo Dollar says because we are created in the image of God, we are little gods. Mormonism says God revealed new scripture to Joseph Smith that supersedes the Bible. Roman Catholicism says we are justified by faith, but not by faith alone. This world is a murky madness of true and false. For every doctrine we know to be true, there seems to be a hundred pretenders.
No wonder, then, that John tells us to “test the spirits” and Paul says, “test everything” (1 John 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). It is our sacred responsibility to examine every doctrine to determine if it is true or false. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? In our opening article, I said that putting a doctrine to the test is the best way to determine if it is true or false. As we test the doctrine, we learn our responsibility toward it: We either hold to it or we reject it. I am returning to those tests today to explain them in greater detail. They provide a grid that is useful for testing any doctrine. READ MORE…
Quiet and deep Christianity
Ours is an age of fragmentation, of intellectual hopscotch, of results-oriented activity on the one hand and mindless entertainment on the other. We have demolished the stonewalls and uprooted the hedgerows of our intellectual past in favour of speed, convenience, and leisure; the mass production of information on which to gorge ourselves, without a thought for the mental and emotional habitats which have been destroyed in the process. Sooner or later we will have accommodated these changes to such a degree that we won’t even know to feel regret, and by the time my young children reach adulthood the concepts of silence, stillness, meditation, deep reading, and unbroken thought will be so far back in our history that they may scarcely seem real.
The twenty-first century has largely abandoned being informed in favour of staying notified, we have rejected leafing through the pages of great minds in favour of scrolling through the curated scenes of one another’s lives, we have repudiated analysis in favour of rolling coverage, and we have become addicted to allowing the facts to play catch up with our conclusions. The ultimate outworking of this in terms of education, ethics, philosophy and creativity are difficult to quantify, but these phenomena undoubtedly point towards a downgrade, the purchasing of progress performance enhancers, with subtle regress as their side-effect. READ MORE…
Walking in Wisdom toward Outsiders
Dennis E. Johnson
Christians often wrestle with how to balance grace and truth in our interaction with non-believers. Consider three scenarios: The couple down the street are friendly, helpful neighbors… and lesbians. Your coworkers take offense when you decline to unwind after the workday by barhopping with them. Your university professor loves to ridicule “fundamentalists” for their naïve faith. Should you, Christian, say something in these scenarios? If so, what, and when, and how?
Dilemmas such as these are not new. First-century Christians seemed “strange” to their pleasure-pursuing contemporaries (1 Peter 4:3–4). They trusted in a cross-centered message that looked feeble to some and foolish to others (1 Cor. 1:18–25). How, then, should they and we live among those who do not share our faith? READ MORE…
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
“In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” J. Gresham Machen
“When Christ calls a man – he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer