Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

February Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

2/1/09 John 15:12-17 “You Are My Friends”
2/8/09 Matthew 10:34-39 “Lose Your Life"
2/15/09 Romans 13:8-10 “Love One Another”
2/22/09 I John 2:7-11 “An Old Commandment”
2/25/09 Ash Wednesday 7PM Isaiah 58:1-12 "The Lord’s Choice”

Join us for worship at 10:30AM!

Review: "Ministering Like the Master: Three Messages for Today's Preachers" by Stuart Olyott

Having taken preaching classes in two seminaries, I can confidently say there is much nonsense and garbage being taught and written about preaching; I can count on one hand the number of good books on preaching I have read – none of which were used in the seminaries I attended. Ministering Like the Master: Three Messages for Today’s Preachers by Stuart Olyott is one of the good ones.

Olyott’s little book (86 pages) is a collection, as one might guess, of one lecture and two sermons: three messages for today’s preachers.

All three messages look to the Lord Jesus as a preacher and draw conclusions from His Ministry and Preaching.

The first message, the lecture, entitled, “Our Lord Was Not a Boring Preacher,” looks at the structure of our Lord’s Preaching. “State–Illustrate–Apply.” Olyott goes through in primer fashion and explains how an effective sermon is structured.

The second, “Our Lord Was an Evangelistic Preacher,” investigates how Jesus preached such as to cause people to respond – to change – to not remain the same as they were before they heard Him preach.

The third, “Our Lord Was Not Just a Preacher,” looks at how Jesus lived out His Preaching among His Contemporaries and how we ought to do the same.

This is a small but powerful and well-instructive book that one would do well to give to seminarians and pastors – because they probably won’t ever hear of it in seminary.

Review: "How to Read the Psalms" by Tremper Longman III

How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman III is an excellent introduction to the Psalms for the lay person and the seminary student.

He divides his book into three large sections: First, he deals with the use of the Psalms in their historical context, exploring the genres of the Psalms, who wrote the Psalms and when, how one can understand the Psalms to be a summary of the Bible and the self, and how the Christian may interpret the Psalms in the light of the New Testament and the coming of the Promised Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the second section, he explores the grammatical and poetic structure of the Psalms, pointing out issues and devices that are not easy to see in English translations.

In the third section, he looks at sections of three Psalms and employs what he has said in the interpretation of them.

As I said, this book is a helpful work for any Christian interested in understanding the Psalms.

I would, however, note, that from my own study, there are a few weaknesses in his book: On page 41, he explains his view that the titles, or ascriptions, of the Psalms are later editions, though of reliable tradition. And again, on page 46, he talks about how some of the Psalms have been “updated” to include material that would otherwise been unknown to the actual author. In both such cases, I find it problematic to say that the biblical text has been “changed.” If it has been changed, how can we know that any of it is truly reliable? If it has been changed, can we say that there is any real prophecy in the Bible?

One other issue is his explanation of “mythological allusions in the Psalms” beginning on page 118. Longman does an excellent job of showing how the Psalmists use the gods and beliefs of pagans in parallel ways in the Psalms to show that God is the only God. But, then, he calls such beings as Leviathan “mythological.” It seems to hurt his case to say that such beings do not exist, simply because they are misused in the pagan religions. If there is no such being as Leviathan, for example, God’s rebuke of Job loses much of its power, does it not?

Those things being said, there is much in this book to recommend it. It is very readable and should find itself used greatly to the benefit of the Church, student, and minister.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"You Are My Disciples" Sermon: John 13:31-35

“You Are My Disciples”
[John 13:31-35]
January 25, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? How would others answer this question about you?

Our Scripture this morning takes place after the Last Supper. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and, in so doing, he revealed that Judas was His betrayer. Judas, then, ran out into the night to seal his betrayal of Jesus. So, our Scripture begins by telling us that our reading occurred “when he had gone out.” Jesus told the eleven these things after Judas had left.

Jesus told the eleven three things that they needed to know to face what would soon occur. Jesus told them three things about being glorified. Let us remember that when we talk about glorifying, we are not talking about adding to God – to any member of the Trinity – what we mean by glorifying is that we are making Who God is more clear. We function like a telescope when we glorify – we bring God – Who is bigger than our minds can fully comprehend – and we make Who He is more clear to ourselves and others.

Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified.”

What had happened that made this the time that the Son of Man was glorified? Judas had been identified as the betrayer. If there was any chance that Judas would repent and turn back from his sin, it was now gone. He had been confronted by Jesus, and Judas became possessed by Satan himself (John 13:27), and he went out to complete his betrayal of Jesus – to lead the Romans and the Pharisees to the place where He would be praying, so they could arrest Jesus, try Him, have Him sent to be tortured and then crucified – the most horrific form of death humans have ever come up with.

Why is this the glorification of Jesus? Because this is why He came Jesus came to die The prophet Simeon told Mary and Joseph, “‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed’” (Luke 2:34b-35, ESV). The crucifixion reveals Jesus and the means of His Mission. Jesus could not have lived and died in any other way and fulfill the prophecies of the Savior. Jesus could not live a “normal” life and die of old age and fulfill the prophecies of the Savior. Jesus could not have overthrown the Roman government and set up an earthly kingdom then and fulfill the prophecies. No, Jesus is glorified – He is better seen for Who He is and what He came to do – as the Pharisees lead Him through a mock trial, gave Him over to the Romans to be tortured, and then cried out with glee to have Him nailed to the cross and left to die.

In the generations to come, Christians would be mocked and persecuted for believing that some dead criminal is God. But Christians look to the crucifixion and hear Jesus say, “It is finished,” and rejoice, because He accomplished all that the Father sent Him to do.

Then Jesus said, “and God is glorified in him.” How is the Father glorified in the crucifixion and death of Jesus? How do we see God the Father more clearly through the slaughter of the God-Man?

At least in three ways: in the crucifixion, we see the fulfillment of the Promised Savior, and the way He would come and save, as it was promised to our first parents: “‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).

Second, God fulfilled His Justice and Holiness by not allowing sin to go unpunished. God could not be Holy and Just if He allowed sin to go unpunished, for He said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a, ESV). We see Jesus receiving the Full Wrath of God for all of the sins of all of us who would believe as He “descended into Hell” while on the cross. When we make that confession, we understand that Jesus endured all the suffering of eternity in Hell for each one of us who would believe in those hours on the cross. It was so horrible, so unimaginable, that Jesus cried out, “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46B, ESV). In some horrible way that we cannot understand, the One God, in the Person of the Father, broke the eternal communion that the Trinity had from eternity past, and deserted the One God, in the Person of the Son, on the cross. Somehow, God disrupted the unity of Himself and imposed all of the eternities of Hell that we, believers, deserve, on Himself.

And third, God was also glorified in this horrible act of crucifixion, as He, at the same time He meted out His Justice and Holiness in punishing our sin on our Substitute, by showing us the greatness of His Mercy and His Love towards we who believe. “See what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are” (I John 3:1a, ESV).

This leads us to the third way in which we see glorification in the events of the crucifixion: “If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.” What is Jesus saying? Jesus is telling the eleven – and us – that the crucifixion is not – cannot – be the end of the story. God did more than promise that all those who believe would be forgiven for their sins. God did more than promise that the Savior would die to redeem us. Because if that’s all Jesus did, the first time we sinned, we would be lost and doomed to Hell again. No, Jesus, since He is Holy and Sinless, death could not hold Him, and God raised Him from the dead and God seated Jesus – the God-Man – on the eternal throne of the Son of God. “Therefore God has highly esteemed him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the father” (Philippians 2:9-11, ESV).

God has glorified Jesus is raising Him from the dead and giving Him the throne of the Eternal Son, by giving Him the Name that is above every name, by causing all who believe to confess Him as Lord and Savior now and by causing all who do not believe to confess Him – to justify their damnation – on the last day. And the glorification was at once – Jesus was raised on the third day and seen and examined by hundreds of witnesses. They would not have to wait, but had salvation confirmed to the glory of God the Father in the resurrection of Jesus that Sunday morn.

So, Jesus assured the eleven by letting them know that the crucifixion was not the failure of His Mission, but the culmination of it – the crucifixion had to happen for salvation and to the glory of the Father and the Son.

This was hard news, even so. So, Jesus addressed the eleven – once Judas, the unbeliever, had left – calling them “little children.” Jesus expressed His Affection – His Love for the eleven – and for all of us who believe. Jesus speaks to us tenderly and assures us that He is sovereignly in control of history.

And then He tells them, explicitly, that He was going to leave them, and they would not be able to follow where He went. That was not to say that the eleven would not die for their faith – most of them did. What Jesus was telling them is that He must die, and they must not be afraid to allow Him to fulfill His Mission in this way. Jesus was calling them to trust Him and the Plan of God.

We know that’s not always easy. How do we trust a God we do not see? How do we trust when it seems like everything is going wrong? Do we question where God is or why God has allowed things to occur the way they have? Do we trust that God knows what He is doing, even when we don’t? As we see God glorified in all that He has done, we know Him better, and we can, with greater confidence, trust that God will not fail to accomplish what He intends, even though it may be hard for us to understand on any given day.

Then Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.” How is this a new commandment? Hasn’t God told us from the beginning to “love our neighbor as ourselves”? The difference is that, here, Jesus is emphasizing that the eleven – and all Christians – must love each other. What does that mean?

C. S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, (which I heartily recommend to all of you – it is short and very readable), explains that the Greeks have four words for “love.” The Greeks distinguished among four types of love: they have a word that means “affection for one another,” a word a means “brotherly love; comradery,” a word that means “sexual desire and/or intimacy,” and a word that means “self-sacrifice.”

The word that Jesus uses to described what He was doing and what He expects from those who believe in Him is agapeo – the love of self-sacrifice. Jesus was not saying that we all have to like each other’s personalities. He was not saying that we all have to be best buddies – BFFs. He was certainly not saying that we all ought to be sexually involved with each other. What Jesus was saying is that He commands all those who believe in Him to love each other with a self-sacrificial love. We are to love each other in a way that is willing to go out of our way for each other because Jesus loved us in that way and gave His Life for us.

The story is told of the conductor, Stravinsky, who was so passionate in his conducting on one occasion, that he dislocated his shoulder. Have you ever been willing to be dislocated to help a fellow Christian? Jesus commands us to be willing to love so much that – in every way that we are able – we are to be willing to show our love by being dislocated – by doing anything and everything we are able to do to make our brothers’ and sisters’ lives better. How often do you ask yourself what you can do to help the members of this congregation? If we love each other, as Jesus says we are to love each other – the way that He loved us – even to death – when we are able, we are to be willing to put ourselves out for each other. Most of us will not be asked to die for each other, but are you willing to give up your afternoon nap to help someone in this congregation for an hour?

Jesus said that it is by this type of love that the world will know we are His disciples. What are disciples? Disciples are followers or students or pupils of a teacher. Notice, Jesus does not say that we will be known for being part of the same denomination, or using the same hymnal, or agreeing on every point of teaching. Jesus says that we will be known as the disciples of Jesus because we are willing to love each other sacrificially. We are willing to go out of our way for each other. We are willing to give of our time and talents and gifts – as we are able – we all have different abilities and blessings – some people are able to do some things and some are able to do others.

Are you willing to look at a fellow believer in Christ and put aside their politics and personality, their quirks and eccentricities, their – whatever it is that puts you off – and recognize that this is a person for whom Jesus gave His Life, so you are called to do what you can for him or her? Are you a disciple of Jesus?

As Jesus looked forward to the crucifixion, He told the eleven that they ought to be comforted and trust in Him and in God as He and the Father glorify each other through His Horrific Death, and then through the Resurrection and Ascension. He tells them to be confident and trust in the Plan of God, because He is Sovereign over history. And then He tells them to love each other self-sacrificially, like He loves them – like He loves you and me and all those who believe in Him. Will you love each other like that? Will you be known as a disciple of Jesus?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for glorifying Yourself, Father and Son, in the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. We thank You that You loved us so much to die to reconcile us to You. We ask that You would give us grace and help us to love each other in that way, that the world would know that we are Your disciples. May You be glorified in this and all we do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"You Are Children of the Light" Sermon: Ephesians 5:1-21

“You Are Children of the Light”
[Ephesians 5:1-21]
January 18, 2009 Second Reformed Church

You are the children of the Light.

If the Lord is willing, we will spend the next six weeks looking at who we are in Christ and what that means for our relationship with one another. Who are you now that you believe in Jesus Alone for your salvation? What does that mean for how you ought to behave, especially towards other Christians.

Paul tells the Ephesian Christians and us a number of things that ought to be true of us if we have believe in Jesus Alone for our salvation – if we have received God as our Father and Christ as our Brother:

First, since we who believe are the children of God, we ought to be imitators of God. The child ought to be like the parent – in good things – and since our Heavenly Father is Only Good, we, children, ought to strive to be like our Father.

To do that, we need to know God, we need to be in a passionate and intimate relationship with Him. We ought to find ourselves hungering to know Him as well and as deeply as we can. We need to open His Word, listen to it read and preached, learn the Character of God and do likewise. We have the Bible on MP3CD free in our literature rack, both in an adult and a children’s version. Pick one up if you haven’t before. If you don’t have an MP3CD player, it will play in most DVD players. Spend time in God’s Word – every day. We have Bible reading schedules for free in Freeman Hall. If you come across a difficult passage, ask me, look it up in a reliable commentary. Don’t give up – God wants you to know Him. The Bible was written for shepherds and slaves and the illiterate, not scholars.

We must be careful, though. Being imitators of God is not as simple as some would portray it. Paul is not simply telling us to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Why not? Because we are not Jesus There is no other God-Man. We cannot and ought not do everything Jesus did. We are the representatives of Christ; we are not Christ.

What does it mean, then? Jesus said, “‘But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’” (Matthew 5:44-45, ESV). And “‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends’” (John 15:14, ESV). Being imitators of God primarily means walking in love with one another, even to the extent of being willing to lay down your life for a brother or sister, as a sacrifice to God.

As disturbing as that sounds, in America, we can usually just shrug and say, “Sure, I’d lay down my life for so-and-so on behalf of the Gospel.” It would be a more difficult question in China and India and Iraq and Iran where Christians are systematically being put to death. It may come to the United States. There is a bill in Congress now to make it a hate crime for a minister to preach that it is a sin to engage in homosexual acts. If that bill goes through – if it becomes a law, I could go to jail for years for preaching the Bible. Would you stand with me? Would you stand before the news cameras as I am taken away and say that the Bible does teach that – that it is not a hate crime – would you be willing to go to jail for what the Bible teaches?

If hate crimes become punishable by death, would you stand by what the Bible says? Would you stand by my preaching? Would you be willing to die for the sake of Christ for my preaching? Would you be willing to die for Marla? Artie? Dorothy? Maria? For a true believer at a church you have never met? God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. Are we willing to die for the sake of what is clearly taught in the Bible? Are we willing to die for Christ and for those who belong to Him? To be a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”?

Second, Paul says that we ought to be known as a people who refrain from sin.

Paul says that we are to be known as a people who do not engage in sexual immorality. We are to be known as a people who do not commit sexual sins, who do not lust, who do not engage in anything that would tempt others to engage in sexual sins. That means we will not do certain things that God has forbidden in His Word. It means that we will watch how we dress, how we speak, the books and movies we see. And there is not a specific list here because much of this – except for those things that God has specifically forbidden – are matters of Christian liberty. We need to know ourselves and the brothers and sisters we are around and not engage in those things that lead us into sin or engage in things before others that will lead them into sin. That’s hard work. It means we need to get to know each other – and ourselves.

Paul also says that we are to be known as a people who are not greedy, covetousness, filled with prideful desire. We ought to be known as a people who are satisfied with the Providence of God. We ought not to be striving to get more and accumulate more and crying out that we are not appreciated or recognized enough. “He who dies with the most toys wins” is a lie. This life is not about us – we’ve seen that over the past few weeks. This life is about Jesus – about His Gospel – about bringing Him glory. Christianity is about showing how great Jesus is – it’s not about showing how great we are – or about making us great.

And Paul says we ought to be known as a people who guard our mouths. This is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things, since we tend to consider this an acceptable sin, so it flourishes in the Church. We are not to use our tongue for foolishness, for foulness, for gossip, for backbiting. Instead, we are to use our tongues for giving thanks to God. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that this is a difficult struggle: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire And the tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:3-6, ESV).

There’s a difference we must learn between concern and gossip and backbiting: for example, it is fine to come to me after seeing me have a piece of cake at coffee hour and express your concern for my health and wonder what you can do to help me better my health. It is another thing altogether, to whisper among yourselves about how much I ate and what I ate and how you know that’s wrong and I’m a horrible person, and so forth.

We all need to be more careful with our tongues. It’s not easy, but our bad habits can be broken. “That’s the way I was raised.” “I’ve done that all my life.” “That’s just the way I am.” Those are not acceptable excuses for the children of God. Paul wrote, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11, ESV). In Christ, we can reform our tongues. Rather than talking behind each other’s backs and making assumptions, let us go to the person who has offended us or with whom we are concerned, and express that to them. And then, leave it, unless you know that a brother or sister is persisting in unrepentant sin. Then there are Scriptural guidelines for that. And Paul tells us, that if a person is truly a child of God, when confronted with continuing in unrepentant sin, a Christian will repent and give thanks to God. If a person refuses to repent and remains in unrepentant sin, such have “no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.”

Third, Paul says that we are to be known as a people who are not swayed – that are not deceived – by empty words – by people full of hot air.

American Christians fall so easily for people full of hot air! We are not a people who look to our Bibles to check to see what they actually say. I would be so rich if I had a dollar for every time someone told me the Bible is full of contradictions, and then I ask them if they have read it and they say “no.” Or I ask them to show me one, and they say they don’t know, but read so-and-so or watch such-and-such a program. I remember my sister, Libby, coming home when she was in elementary school, after they had begun teaching evolution, and she said, “Well, it must be true, it’s in a book.” I remember a friend of mine coming to me with a copy of The Da Vinci Code, and she told me that it proved Christianity false, and that the author even had a preface where he said that though it is a piece of fiction, all of the historical evidence is true. Well, he lied. He distorted and made up the “historical evidence” in his novel. Brothers and sisters, we must go back to the source material – especially the Bible. If someone says something strange, especially about the Bible, ask them to show you where, and if it is confusing, bring it here, or look it up in a reliable commentary.

The Gospel of Judas proves that the Gospels are wrong and Judas is really the Savior, and it has been suppressed for centuries!” No, it was known and refuted by the early Church fathers, and it was recently mistranslated to make money.

“There are several modern atheists who have proven that God doesn’t exist and all evil is caused by Christianity!” So the news would have us believe. Have you read any of these infantile authors and their rants? They put up straw men and false teachings and claim it is truth.

Brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled by them! Don’t be swayed by them. They are full of hot air. Check the Bible. Don’t believe things just because they are in print or on the news. There is plenty of garbage in print, and the news is merely a “reality show” based on events that occurred – it’s not truth.

Paul says we are not to associate with people who propagate such nonsense. Does that mean we should not share the Gospel with them? No, what Paul means is that God gives some people over to hardness of heart. Some people desire to remain in their sin so much, that God lets them go. Paul wrote, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:24-25, ESV). When Paul tells us not to associate with them, he means that we are not to join with them in leading others into sin.

On the contrary, fourth, Paul says that since we are children of the Light, we are to be exposing the darkness.

We are to walk as children of the Light, living and explaining to others why these teachers and ideas are wrong. We are to spend our lives illuminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Explaining, showing others that there is salvation only in Jesus. We are to show why other religions are not true, and we are to lead the world in living according to the Love and the Law of God. Keith Green has a song called, “Asleep in the Light,” in which he criticizes the Church for claiming the benefits of Christ, while refusing to follow Him and live out the Gospel before the world: “The world is sleeping in the dark that the Church just can’t fight, ‘cause it’s asleep in the Light. How can you be so dead when you’ve been so well fed, Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can’t even get out of bed!”

No, we must walk according to the wisdom of God. We must pray to understand, seek to understand more and better that we can be shining lights to all those who are still in the darkness. We need to turn away from sin – from the “unfruitful works of darkness” – and turn to “the fruit of the light...all that is good and right and true,...try[ing] to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

“‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” If you are a Christian, you have been raised from the dead, you have been awakened from your sleep, the Light of Christ has shone on you, and you are now a child of the Light – get up! Stop hiding. Stop pulling the blankets over your head. Stop putting your “light under a bushel.”

Paul tells us to walk carefully, to search after the wisdom of God in His Word, to let others know, because the days are evil – that is, the time is short, and we each only have a short time on this earth. We need to spend our time and our efforts, our gifts and blessings, on those things that will last, on those things that are meaningful, on those things that shine the Light of Christ on Him and His Gospel. Don’t waste your life. Don’t be a fool. There is nothing more valuable that learning at the feet of Christ – read His Word, learn from those who preach it and teach it biblically.

There are those who have accepted a fatalistic view of the world and say, “Eat, drink, for tomorrow we die.” And there is a sense in which they are right – we don’t know how long we have to live on this earth, which is why we dare not waste our lives. Paul tells us not to spend our time being drunk on wine – we ought not spend our time in “debauchery.” Literally, Paul says that we are not “to abandon ourselves to recklessly immoral behavior” (Bible Windows Analytical Lexicon). We are not to do anything that throws our lives away in sin.

Rather, Paul says, we are to be filled with the Spirit – and God the Holy Spirit indwells all those who believe, and He helps us to grow and mature and to understand God’s Word. And then, rather than addressing our brothers and sisters in sin or insincerity, let us come together, joining in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Let us join together, bound together in knowing and understanding the Scripture together. Let us literally sing together and let us spiritually be united in perfect harmony in Christ. Let us put aside our criticism of imperfect notes and hear the perfect melody of Christ that flows through each believer.

And then let us be thankful. One of the great criticisms in the Bible is that God’s people are not thankful. Seek and find reasons to be thankful every day and give thanks to God for them. The more time we look for reasons to be thankful, the more things we will find to be thankful for – even in our bloated and unthankful country. And as we spend more time giving thanks, it will change our attitude and life. Christians ought not to be a people who look like they have been sucking on lemons their whole lives – the most melancholy Christian has reason to give thanks, and that will show. If you are a thankful person, it will show. It will change you and it will change those around you. Especially as we give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Understand, I have said before, we are not be told that we should enjoy suffering. God is not telling us to be thankful for suffering itself. For example, if you get a flat tire, we are not being told to thank God for the flat tire. What we are being told, is to give thanks for the tire not blowing up, for not getting into an accident, for having the ability to get the tire fixed, and so forth. There is always reason to give thanks. We have real disappointments, real frustrations, real sufferings that we live through and ought to call on God for help with, yet, we always have reason to give thanks.

One of the ways we show our thanks is by “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words, in thanks for what Christ has done for me, I’m willing to do this for you and that for you when you ask me. In thanks for what Christ has done for me, I am willing to submit to the government of the Reformed Church in America – our denomination – while I serve as a minister in her. Etc. That does not mean that we should be a doormat or use others as a doormat; it does not mean that you always have to do anything and everything another Christian asks you to do. What it means is if you are able, you should submit to the request of a brother or sister, and this is reciprocal, there ought to be thanks shown to each other as we submit to each other in Christ.

This is some of what it means to live as children of the Light. Let us find ourselves striving to be known as children of the Light by the world and living out that call in love and service to each other.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for choosing us to be children of the Light and for giving us brothers and sisters with our Brother, Jesus. Lead us away from sin and cause us to be ever more desirous in knowing You and loving each other for Your Sake. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: "Stand: a Call for the Endurance of the Saints"

I recently finished reading Stand: a Call for the Endurance of the Saints edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. I can honestly say that this book came along at the right time for me, and I would heartily recommend it for anyone who is pastoring in difficult circumstances and even for any Christian going through difficult circumstances.

This book is a compilation of essays from a 2007 conference and ends with transcripts of two roundtable discussion among the speakers/authors.

The first essay, by Jerry Bridges, is about four essentials for finishing well: “daily time of focused personal communion with God, daily appropriation of the gospel, daily commitment to God as a living sacrifice, and a firm belief in the sovereignty and love of God” (18). Bridges does an excellent job of fleshing these out and calling Christians to live every moment before our God and Savior.

John Piper picks up writing about “getting old to the glory of God.” He references a number of historical figures to show how they did this, and it was reminiscent of his Don’t Waste Your Life.

John MacArthur writes about “certainties that drive enduring ministry” in which he looks at a number of truths that Paul embraced – the overarching theme being that our ministry and our lives are not about us – they are about Jesus and His Gospel. If we are focused there, we will endure.

Randy Alcorn, at the request of the team, tells the story of how he has come to financially run his ministry the way he does. I had never heard the story before, and frankly, it blew me away. I’ll let you read it for yourself if you don’t know it. Alcorn looks at the life of Jesus and shows that, from the mouth of Jesus, we have no right to expect better than Jesus received. That being the case, American Christians have it pretty easy.

Helen Roseveare finishes off the collection presenting her conviction that an enduring ministry must be focused on “one thing.”

If you or your minister ever has need to be encouraged to endure in the service of Christ, pick up this book.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"The Servant & the Spirit" Sermon: Isaiah 42:1-9

“The Servant & the Spirit”
[Isaiah 42:1-9]
January 11, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Israel was captive in Babylon at the time that Isaiah preached. The Babylonians had conquered Israel and brought the Israelites to Babylon – to what we call Iraq and Iran, today. The prophecies of Isaiah are a combination of condemnations of the Israelites and the Babylonians – for different reasons – and passages of a glorious restoration of Israel – and the world – that would come one day.

The second half of chapter forty-one of Isaiah is his condemnation of Israel for worshiping idols. He tells them that it was the sin and the stupidity of worshiping idols that caused God to send them into captivity as punishment. He asks them what good it does to make an idol out of wood or metal and worship it? It cannot hear; it cannot see; it cannot do anything, because it is merely an idol that a human has created. It is not the Almighty God.

John Calvin, one of the reformers who led part of the Church back to the Reformed – we would say, biblical – understanding of the Scripture, said that humans are naturally idol-makers. We naturally, sinfully seek to put something else in God’s place – so we don’t have to submit to God, so we can have control over our circumstances – over God.

Most of us don’t have carved statues that we pray to and worship, but we commit idolatry whenever we put our trust in something above God. Look how many are committing idolatry in this current economic situation: how many have put their trust in their finances above God, and when they slip away, they sink into despair. It’s times like these that we need to stand up before the world and let them know that we do not put our hope and faith in the things of this earth, but in Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, Who has and will always provide us with ever need that we have. Are you putting your trust in something other than God and His Savior this morning? Are you putting your trust in something that can be lost or taken away? That’s idolatry.

Isaiah turns from this condemnation to revealing part of the glorious future that would come to Israel in the form of the Servant: “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him;”

This morning’s Scripture is God directly speaking through Isaiah, and God tells Israel that He has chosen and appointed His Servant to do something. This Servant will be Someone in Whom God delights, and in Whom God gives the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. And in 2009, we will remember what happened in those first days of Jesus’ Ministry as He submitted Himself to the baptism of John the Baptist, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV) On this side of the cross, it is obvious Who Isaiah is prophesying about.

The Servant, Isaiah says, will bring justice to the nations, and surely Israel heard this to mean that they would get their land back, and that is part of what it means, but it is not the whole story: not only will the land of Israel be returned to her, but when the Servant comes, He will rule over and govern, not only Israel, but all nations.

And when He comes, as we just celebrated, “He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” This is a message of reconciliation through Christ. We remember, He did not come with all the pomp and circumstance of kings – few people knew of His Birth, and when people realized Who He is, He often told them not to tell anyone. It was not His Plan in His First Coming to announce Himself to the world – remember we saw last week that He gave it to the Church – all those who believe throughout space and time – to spread the Gospel before His Second Coming.

And see, the Servant comes with mercy: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” If a branch had been damaged, but has not completely broken off the plant, we will often break it off; if a candle, or a lamp, has an ember of fire on the wick, we will stamp it out. Not so with the Servant And here, he is referring to faith – to belief – Jesus came to the weak, the bruised, the failing, the hurt – He healed the branch and blew the ember back into a flame.

Remember what Paul wrote, “For consider your calling, brothers, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what was foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing that things that are, so that no human may boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (I Corinthians 1:26-31, ESV).

Most Christians are not in the top echelon of those the world sees are “valuable.” The Servant has come and chosen – mostly – from the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks to claim a people for Himself. Remember, last week, I said that we were like a litter box that God has put a diamond in, and the point of God putting a diamond in a litter box is so that it will stand out and emphasize the glory of the diamond Don’t feel dismayed that God doesn’t put you on a pedestal, instead, let us rejoice and be glad, knowing who we are, knowing our sin and our weakness, and that God has chosen us to make the world know how glorious He is through us!

Matthew tells us that these first four verses were fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus: “Jesus, aware [that the Pharisees wanted to kill him], withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 12:15-17, ESV) and then he quotes those four verses. The Servant came with mercy for those who are His people.

Yet His Mildness and Humility should not be misunderstood for weakness. Isaiah continues, “he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he established justice in the earth; and the coast lands wait for his law.”

Here, when it is said that the Servant will bring justice, we understand this to mean full justice – the end of evil – and this justice is for the whole earth, not just for Israel, but for beyond the coast lands. Matthew tells us that Jesus ministered where He did to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, “‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned’” (Matthew 4:15-16, ESV).

This prophecy has obviously not been completed: justice has not come to the whole earth, evil has not been punished, not everyone throughout the world has heard the Gospel. So, let us understand that this began with the Incarnation of the Servant – with Jesus’ Birth, and it continues through His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, and through the age of the Church – when we are the light of the world, the deliverers of His Gospel, until the day when He returns to Judge and restore all things.

So, Isaiah told Israel, “God has not forgotten His Promise to send a Savior: He will send a Savior. The Savior will be indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. But He will come quietly and to the poor and the humble, and not only to the Jews, but to every nation, as was promised to Father Abraham. But He will accomplish his Work – Judgment and Restoration – in His Time.”

After giving them this glorious hope, God swears by Himself that this is true. God confirms their faith and assures them by swearing on Himself:

God says that they can trust in that promise because God is the God of the Creation – nothing exists that exists except by the Will and the Word of This One God. He can be believed and trusted.

God says that they can trust in that promise because God is the God that caused humans to come into existence. He is the God that put breath into their bodies, and He gives the Holy Spirit to those who walk in His Ways. He can be believed and trusted.

God says that they can trust in that promise because called out a people for Himself. He has made them righteous for His Sake and by Himself. He has taken them by their hand – God will never leave or forsake them – they are His forever. God has entered into a covenant with them – a treaty – God has reconciled them to Himself through His Servant. God has looked down in mercy at the spiritually dead, and given them life; He has opened the eyes of the spiritually blind; He has freed the prisoners of sin and called them sons and daughters of God; He has rescued them from everlasting darkness and brought them into the Light. He can be believed and trusted.

God says that they can trust in that promise because He swears on His Own Name, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” God tells them the most valuable thing in the world to Him is His Glory and He will not allow anyone else to have it, so He swears by His Name and the Glory He is due that He will send the Servant, Who will be victorious – they will see the Glory of God as He fulfills His Promises. He can be believed and trusted.

God says that they can trust in that promise because it is already coming to pass: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” He can be believed and trusted.

These promises and this assurance is not just for the believers of Israel, but for the whole Church – for all throughout time and space that believe – including you and me. In 2009, we know that some of these things have come to pass, but God is still working through the Church, and He will work through us until He returns. God has given us the priceless gift of Salvation through His Servant, Jesus, and God has sworn by Himself that He will bring to pass all that He promised, and God’s past actions give us no reason to doubt Him, rather, let us trust Him.

God sent His servant, Who was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and now the Servant gives to all those who believe in Him the same indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Let’s put away our idols. Let’s put away our fears. Yes, let’s use the wisdom and the gifts God has given us, but let us rely on the Spirit and the Servant and His Word, trusting in God because He is the One and Only God, Who has sworn by His Name that all these things shall occur, and all our needs shall be met.

Rather than worrying our bank accounts, rather than worrying about terrorists and war, rather than worrying about the future, let us trust God and tell others how glorious He is. He can be believed and trusted.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You are the Only True God and You keep all Your Promises. We thank You for letting us live on this side of the cross so we can see Your promises fulfilled and being fulfilled. Help us to trust You and to put away our idols. Make us be Your light in this world, and glorify Yourself through us. For it is our joy, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Consistory Meeting

Consistory members, please remember that we are meeting on Sunday after worship, D.V. This is a very important meeting, and if we are not able to meet due to the impending snow storm, we will need to schedule a meeting during the week. Please keep that in mind in case we wake up snowed in Sunday -- and pray the snow is gone and cleared by Sunday morning!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Annual Meeting and Pot-Luck Lunch

D.V., we will hold our annual meeting after worship on Sunday, January 25th. We also plan to have a pot luck lunch. Please sign up with what food you will be able to bring and plan to stay to discuss the business of the church and elect a new elder.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"The Mystery Revealed" Sermon: Ephesians 3:1-12

“The Mystery Revealed”
[Ephesians 3:1-12]
January 4, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Today is Epiphany Sunday. What does “epiphany” mean? Have you ever heard someone say they had an epiphany? Most generally, it refers to an insight, to something being revealed, to a revelation. This morning, we are turning to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to look at a mystery that was revealed to Paul.

In the first three verses of chapter three, Paul is defending himself as an apostle. We will remember that Paul, who was named Saul, was one of the most vicious persecutors of the Church. He will a murderer who sought to stamp out Christianity, so when he converted, there were not a few sceptics.

So Paul tells the Ephesians to remember that he was now in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles – to the non-Jews. He reminds them of the work he did by God’s Grace in Ephesus. And he tells them to remember how the mystery of Christ was revealed to him. Do you remember?

After Paul’s conversion, many did not believe him and sought to cast him away, if not kill him. In the book of Acts, we have Paul’s testimony:

“‘Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.’

“And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

“‘I am a Jew; born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted the Way to death, blinding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed towards Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“‘As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, at noon a great light from heaven suddenly shown around me. And I heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And I answered, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord said to me, “Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.” And since I could not see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand of those who were with me, and we came into Damascus.’

“‘And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” And that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”’

“‘When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance, and I saw him saying to me, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” And I said, “Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.” And he said to me, “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles”’” (Acts 22:1-21, ESV).

Paul told them, when they remember how he, a prominent Jewish rabbi and scholar, became the apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesus was in what we now call south-western Turkey), and they remembered the mystery of Christ, which he just went over in chapter two: that all mere human beings are born dead in sin and under the Wrath of God, but God in His Mercy sent Christ to save us, while we were dead in our sin and didn’t want anything to do with Christ – God chose some to be His and made us His without our help and without our will – remember, Paul hated Jesus and he hated Christians, but Jesus took Saul and made him Paul, suddenly, unexpectedly, without the help or will of Paul, then, Paul told them, they could also understand the mystery that was revealed to him: the Gentiles – the non-Jews – “are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”

Remember, the Jews were looking for the Savior of the Jews to come, not the Savior of all peoples. They understood that there was an occasional faithful non-Jew that God saved in His Mercy, but the history of the Old Testament is the history of a people – the Jewish people – that God chose to be His people – the people through whom He would work out His Plan of Salvation. They had become blind to the wideness of God’s Mercy. They forgot the promise of God to Father Abraham, “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3, ESV). This is exactly what Jesus was referring to when He said, “‘And I have other sheep who are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock and one shepherd’” (John 10:16).

Yes, God chose the Jews to be His people, but all the peoples of the world are to be blessed through the Savior. Jesus came first to bring the Gospel to the Jews, but the Gospel is for every type of person and every nation.

When I was in college, I read the autobiography of Charles “Tex” Watson, Will You Die for Me? Watson was the man who actually committed the infamous Manson murders. Watson’s story is the story of how he went from being willing to die for Charles Manson to being willing to die for Jesus Christ.

I read the book and there was an address you could write to, so we began corresponding, and I told my pastor at the time about Watson and his conversion to Christ, and he told me it is not possible for a murderer to come to Christ. That pastor is wrong. All I have to do is ask the question, “What about the murderer, Saul of Tarsus? Was his conversion a fraud?”

Even if we believe that God can change all types of persons, it’s not easy to sit next to a former murderer, a former rapist, a former politician. We only sin polite sins. We only sin nice sins. No one would have a reason to be afraid to sit by us. Because we’re better than they are – though we wouldn’t say it, because we’re better than they are.

No, all believers in Christ, no matter what our past, are “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Certainly, we need to do what we can to keep each other out of situations where we might fall into sin: a former pedophile should not be the sole provider in the nursery; a former gossip should not be told things that need to be kept private. We all have sins we struggle with, but in Christ we are one. Paul, the murderer, was made a minister of the Gospel, by the Power of God. You and I and all who believe receive Christ by the Power of God.

Then Paul says in verses eight and nine, “To me, though I am the very least of the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”

Why does Paul call himself, “the least of the saints”? Is this false modesty? Paul is recognizing that he was a murderer of Christians, and he still was a sinner, but mostly, he was recognizing that his joy was not found in himself or what he had become, but in the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” We remember we saw John the Baptist say that same thing a few weeks ago: “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30, ESV).

In other words: the Gospel is not about you and me, it’s about Jesus Christ. And the more we get our eyes off ourselves and off our church and off our minister and off our perceived problems and, instead, focus on Jesus and making sure that we make His Name Glorious, that we let others know Who He is, our joy will increase!

When I was first in seminary, some of my classmates encouraged me not to go into the ministry because I had just found out I had some heart issues. They said the ministry is too stressful; this is probably a sign that you should teach or do something else. I have been fairly frank with you about my health: I am chronically and incurably ill. Some days are better; some days are worse. I’m told I will have more worse days than good as time goes by. I don’t tell you that for your sympathy, and I don’t enjoy being sick – sometimes it’s very difficult for me.

However, there is a real sense in which I rejoice in being ill, because it is a reminder to me that I cannot save myself. I cannot do anything except through Jesus Christ. And it is my privilege and my joy to be the pastor of this church because I want you to see Jesus – not me – not us – Jesus. Everyone in this sanctuary and everyone outside of these doors needs to know that Jesus Alone will save you if you repent and believe in Him. He is able – we are not – I am not.

John said he must decrease. Paul said he was the least of the saints. We need to present the Gospel as it is – the lifting up and glorifying of Jesus. The Gospel is not about what you and I can get or be – though God gives us “unsearchable riches in Christ.” But when I am gone and your new minister arrives, nothing will have changed. Your new minister may be better at some things than I and worse at others, but that’s not the point. The mystery that has been revealed is that the Gospel – Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone – is for every type of person in the world, and it’s all about Him – not me, not you.

So, what shall we do? How do we go forward in the hope and promise that this is all for Him?

Paul wrote, that this mystery has been revealed to us, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

God from before the foundation of the world chose to have the mystery of salvation delivered through the Church. What is the Church? The Church is everyone throughout time and space who believes in Jesus Alone – God’s Savior Alone – for salvation. Think about that – God chose to use those who believe in Him and His Savior to deliver the message of Salvation to the world.

And someone may be thinking, “Well, then, God is pretty dumb. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for God to broadcast the news of His Salvation to everyone at once? If God is really all-powerful, He could have done that. Just look at Christians: we remain sinners in this life. We have thousands of denominations – many divided over petty issues. How can the world see unity in us – in our message?”

Here’s the answer that Paul gives us, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (II Corinthians 4:7, ESV). Listen again: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

If you drop a diamond in a diamond encrusted jar, it’s not going to stand out, but if you drop a diamond in a litter box, it will stand out, right? God chose to deliver the Gospel through Christians because it would be more obvious – it would show up better – it would make it clear that all glory and all power is God’s, not ours.

He must increase; I must decrease. Don’t be discouraged if I say you are a litter box. The Bible uses words that are even more gross than that. Be encouraged that God chose to save me – God chose to save you who believe – not because of who you are or what you could do – but because it pleased God to save you. Before the foundation of the world, God chose me to be a pastor for Him. My health is not good. I struggle with sin and I will until Jesus returns. I am not the most intelligent person or the best speaker in the world. Compared to who I am, I don’t have the ability to properly convey to you how glorious, how wonderful, how unsearchable the riches of Jesus Christ are.

And isn’t that the point, beloved? The better we know ourselves, the better we know Jesus – that He is Holy, Beautiful, Awesome – He is everything and more than anyone could ever desire or enjoy. We do well to rightly examine ourselves, as I said this morning, but let’s not get fixated on the litter box – let’s turn our eyes to the diamond that God has given us. Let us rejoice in knowing that God is making us like that diamond – like His Son, so on that final day we will be like Him, fully righteous, holy, perfect – that we might perfectly worship and glorify Him forever.

But what about today. And tomorrow. What are we to do with this mystery that has been revealed to us – that Jesus Alone is Salvation for anyone and everyone who will believe?

“In [Jesus Christ] we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”

The author of Hebrews tells us that since Jesus is our Savior, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV), and, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean 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. 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” (Hebrews 10:19-25, ESV).

Since Christ saved us by Himself, we can come boldly before Him and ask Him to forgive us and make us willing and able to make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples. And since He has promised to give us His Grace – to strengthen us for this work – we can confidently let others know that He is the Truth, the Only Salvation, our Only Hope – not because we figured it out – not because we’re so wonderful – but because God chose to reveal the mystery to us – the Church – and now sends us forth in His Power.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for revealing the mystery of Jesus Christ and His Salvation to us and for all peoples. We thank You that Your Salvation is not made or broken by who were are or what we are able to do. We ask now, as we receive the bread and the cup in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, that You would give us more of Your Grace – that You would meet with us here in the elements – and that You would strengthen us, making us bold and confident in You – that others would look at us and hear us and know that You are the Great God and Only Savior. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Review: "Romancing Opiates"

I just finished reading Theodore Dalrymple’s Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy. Dr. Dalrymple worked for fourteen years in a hospital in Britain where he dealt with over 20,000 patients. His thesis in this brief work is that opiates are non-addictive. It is the media and the pharmacological industry, for financial interest, that has caused the widespread belief that opiates are addictive.

The book is fascinating, relying on ken logic and anecdotal evidence. Dr. Dalrymple specifically takes issue with the Beat writer, William S. Burroughs and his writings about opiates, showing that Burroughs does contradict himself and present withdrawal as a minor issue with opiates.

The book is written for lay people, I would say, and he presents a strong argument. The one area of weakness is that this book is anecdotal. There is no presentation of scientific support for his thesis. (But then, one could argue it is not possible to provide proof for a negative...)

This is certainly a work to make one think as we minister to those who abuse drugs. It is also a work that should make us consider what action we ought take regarding our politicians and the pharmaceutical companies and their claims. There is talk of weakening the restrictions on prescriptions, for example. Do we want less proof and less regulation with our medications?

January Sermons

D.V., I will preach:

1/4/09 Communion/Epiphany Ephesians 3:1-12 “The Mystery Revealed”
1/11/09 Baptism Isaiah 42:1-9 “The Servant & the Spirit”
1/18/09 Ephesians 5:1-20 “You Are Children of the Light”
1/25/08 John 13:31-35 “You Are My Disciples”