Success

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To fail is human, to succeed is divine.

We’ve all heard the saying to err is human and to forgive is divine but as you look at the world’s governments, authorities, doctors, legal systems and religions they are all riddled with failure. The failures in child protection and the police have been recently highlighted. Humans make mistakes, often cutting corners for selfish reasons or laziness and others suffer or even die. Corruption is rife in every government worldwide. Our own lives too, if we are honest, are riddled with failure and regret. Sin means missing the mark!

What a comfort to the Christian believer to know he has a Father who is God Almighty who never fails in his purposes. He willed to create the universe and did so. He willed the salvation of his people for whom Christ died and accomplishes this (John 17:12). No one, human or devil, can thwart him (Psalm 115:3, Isaiah 46:10, 55:11). And he will accomplish all his will for this world and for us (Psalm 138:8). We will be preserved and persevere, the fifth point of Calvinism. We shall one day see him and be like him (I John 3:2-3). Hallelujah!

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Nails

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The outer skin and the nails of fingers and toes are all made of a protein called keratin. Incidentally so also are hair, feathers, horns and hooves. All these tissues are “dead” in that they do not have a blood supply but they all grow from a root (see diagram).

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Hair and horns I will write about another time, because as words, they appear often in Scripture. Nails meaning the hard tip to the back of our fingers and toes only appears twice in all the Bible in Deuteronomy 21:12 and Daniel 4:33 and both, perhaps as you would expect, are in relation to their length! In the first place it relates to a captive woman about to be taken as the wife of an Israelite and the shaving of her hair and paring of her nails are part of her cleansing and preparation for marriage. “ And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.” (Deut.21:11-13).

     With Nebuchadnezzar the opposite situation pertains. This godless monarch full of pride boasts about all his achievements with the result that God humbles him by temporarily giving him the mind of an animal so that he lives outdoors eats grass and his hair and nails grow very long. This was a direct and accurate fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy to him. “The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” (Daniel 4:33). They might have looked something like this.

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Not a pretty sight.

Nails form very early in embryonic life (see pic).

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But why do we have them?

Well, simply put, if you didn’t have nails and the end of your fingers or toes were soft all over, they would distort every time you touched something or went to pick it up or walked. The pulp (soft part) of your fingertip needs a hard backing to push against to allow gripping and pressing and touching without distortion. The underlying bone, and the nail which is almost directly on top of it, allow us to have useful non-compressible, non-distorting fingers and toes.

They enable us to scratch, pick up small objects and give some protection to the fingertip –but still hurt immensely if hit by a hammer! I guess God knew as well we would use them as ornaments with nail varnish!

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The average growth rate for nails is 0.1 mm each day (or 1 centimetre in 100 days). Fingernails generally grow faster in young people, in males, and in the summer. Fingernails grow faster than toenails. The fingernails on the right hand of a right-handed person grow faster than those on their left hand, and vice versa.

So, they are not an evolutionary hangover from ancestral claw-bearing animals but rather part of God’s wise creation and detailed forming of us. Praise his name!

Flourishing with age.

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“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree:
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
They shall be fat and flourishing;
To shew that the Lord is upright:
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”  Psalm 92:12-15

What a blessed, spiritual picture this Word of God paints before our eyes!

Trees strong and all, firmly planted in the house of the Lord, and flourishing in the courts of our God!  Their roots are sunk deep into the fertile soil, watered by living streams.  The sunshine of God’s Word shines upon them, the rays soaking into their green leaves.

In that environment they grow beautiful and glorious.  They are fat and flourishing, all made evident in the fruit that they bear, even to old age.

That fruit is manifold.  That fruit is, of course, the vibrant praises and heartfelt worship of the living God.  They delight to turn to Him in all seasons and times, to bless His name, to praise Him for His mighty acts and excellent greatness.  They rejoice to come to Him, in order to pour out before Him all their ways and their burdens.

Abundant fruit pours out of their hands in deeds of love, mercy, kindness, and courtesy.  Much fruit proceeds out of their mouths in words of good cheer, encouragement, and blessing.  Plenty is seen from the friendly kindness and deep interest in their neighbour that shines out from their eyes.

But why this fruit?  Why its abundance, and why its longevity, that the righteous should still bring it forth in old age?

“To shew that the Lord is upright: He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

What kind of God would the Lord be, if He were to bring His people to His fellowship and communion in His sacred courts, and there they only struggled for life, hanging between life and death?  What should one think if they never brought forth fruit, or perhaps worse, only evil, poisonous fruit?

These questions should become all the more weighty because of all the promises of God, that He will give His people everlasting life, that He will renew them after His own image and likeness, and that He will guide them in His blessed ways.

Here is the reason why His people, blessed with His righteousness, must flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar in Lebanon: the Lord is always righteous to remember His people according to His promise.  As He promised, so He performs.  He has promised to bless His people with life.  So He gives them life.  He has promised to regenerate and renew them.  So He regenerates and renews them.  He has promised to bless their lives to His glory and praise.  So He blesses them.

The Lord is upright!  He is our Rock!  There is no unrighteousness in Him!

So may we show forth the righteousness of the Lord with all the fruit of our lives.

Thanks to Rev.Martin VanderWal, Wingham PRC, Canada.

Kingdom of God (8b) It’s realm (cont)

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Reading Mark 11:1-11. The reading is Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he is hailed as Messiah, son of David.

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We looked at the Kingdom from the viewpoint of God’s Fatherhood of its citizens.

He is our Father by ADOPTION and REGENERATION (both of which necessarily imply SALVATION).

The Lord’s Prayer links God’s FATHERHOOD, the KINGDOM and SALVATION viz. Our FATHER which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy KINGDOM come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but DELIVER US FROM EVIL.  For thine is the KINGDOM, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer is part of the Sermon on the Mount which is full of references linking God’s FATHERHOOD, SALVATION and the KINGDOM.

The KING is our FATHER which means he saves, cares for, and defends his children. It makes us PRINCES! Note that Israel (Jacob), the progenitor and one often chosen to represent God’s chosen people (along with Abraham and Isaac) means “prince with God.” We are heirs.

When the Kingdom was confined to Israel (the land), David and Solomon were it’s kingly rulers to whom God was a father (II Sam.7:13, 14, Psalm 2:7; 89:26, 27, 30) and represented Messiah as types.

We see very clearly John the Baptist, Christ and the disciples preaching the GOSPEL of the KINGDOM (e.g. Mark 1:15, Matt.4:23).

Luke 4:18 serves to emphasize the error of liberation theology and the social gospel which equate Christianity with socialist principles and philanthropy without the call to repent, believe and become well-taught disciples. The gospel is good news to the poor IN SPIRIT and those who are spiritually NEEDY, not necessarily to the poor (financially) although many more poor than rich or high and mighty are saved.

We discussed the meaning of mission, firmly believing that it consists pre-eminently the preaching of the whole counsel of God and the making of disciples but alongside this there is a place for lay skills e.g. Christian schooling, literacy work, medical work, orphanages and ,say, water resourcing to compliment the primary purpose of planting true churches.

 

True love

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1. To love is to give: “God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3:16). The evidence of the love of God is Christ and what he generously provides for us in gifts to share (Rom.8:32).

2.Love is not optional. That is, giving and sharing are mandatory.

3.Giving thus becomes the indelible test of true discipleship.

4.But love is not warmth of feeling or fired-up emotions. Love is obedience to the commandments and specifically the commandment to share (John 14:21,i John 4:11).

5. The believer’s claim to saving faith is confirmed by love, that is generous giving of all that the believer has to share.

From “The Deacons Handbook” by Berghoef and Koster, Christian’s Library Press 1973.

Just do it! (no excuses)

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If you have a sedentary job you need to add exercise to your life. Even if you have arthritis or a bad back there is something you can do! If you have gotten overweight you need to diet and exercise to lose it-you need to burn more calories than you take in-it is that simple-and you need to build new habits of eating wisely and exercising to get into the best shape you can for the age you are.

Aerobic exercise (eg walking, swimming, treadmill, running, cycling, elliptical trainer, rowing) and resistance exercise (free weights and machines) are two modalities of exercise commonly chosen in physical conditioning. Each modality has its unique advantages. Aerobic exercise is effective in improving one’s cardiorespiratory fitness and in promoting energy expenditure and fat utilization. Resistance exercise can serve as a potent stimulus to the musculoskeletal system necessary to bring about gains in muscle size, strength, endurance, and power. It is recommended that a comprehensive training routine combines both aerobic exercise and resistance exercise because improvements in both cardiorespiratory function and musculoskeletal function allow individuals not only to reduce health risks and symptoms associated with physical inactivity but also to perform activities of daily living comfortably and safely . The challenge for the fitness professional is to balance concurrent aerobic training and resistance training properly to maximize the performance benefits of both modalities. And this applies to adolescents and adults of both sexes and all ages. Just do it!

 

Progressive sanctification−yes or no?

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Major Biblical metaphors and verses that underline the truth of progressive sanctification:

a ) Change or transformation (II Cor.3:18).

b) Renewal (Rom.12:2)

c) Growth of humans and plants (II Peter 3:18; Heb.5:11-14).

d) Increasing (more and more) (Phil.1:9; I Thess.4:1, 10)

e) Victory in the battle or race (overcoming, resist, fight, exercise, run)

f) Backsliding is the opposite of going forward!

We are told in Scripture to “grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord” (II Peter 3:18). Grace in Scripture not only means God’s irresistible power in salvation but also its fruit which is spiritual beauty, hence Christ was full of grace and truth (John 1:14).Does this metamorphosis in II Corinthians 3:18 not mean change for the better and an enlargement of character? Listen to John Gill, “But grow in grace,…. In the gifts of grace, which, under a divine blessing, may be increased by using them: gifts neglected decrease, but stirred up and used, are improved and increase. And though men are to be thankful for their gifts, and be contented with them, yet they may lawfully desire more, and in the use of means seek an increase of them, which may be a means of preserving themselves, and others, from the error of the wicked. Moreover, by “grace” may be meant internal grace. The work of grace is gradual; it is like a grain of mustard seed, or like seed cast into the earth, which springs up, it is not known how, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear; saints are first babes, and from children they grow to young men, and from young men to fathers. There is such a thing as growth in grace, in this sense; every grace, as to its act and exercise, is capable of growing and increasing; faith may grow exceedingly, hope abound, love increase, and patience have its perfect work, and saints may grow more humble, holy, and self-denying: this is indeed God’s work, to cause them to grow, and it is owing to his grace; yet saint, should show a concern for this, and make use of means which God owns and blesses for this purpose, such as prayer, attending on the word, and looking over the promises of God, for an increase of faith;” The fact we are born again and can mature (Hebrews 5:12-14) must of necessity mean we GROW! Here’s Puritan Thomas Boston on the topic,” “Having nourishment ministered, they increase with the increase of God,” Col. 2:19.

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“The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon,” Psalm 92:12.

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A cedar.

Grace is of a growing nature; in the way to Zion, they go from strength to strength. Though the holy man is at first a little child in grace—yet at length he becomes a young man; then a father, 1 John 2:13. Though he does but creep in the way to heaven sometimes—yet afterwards he walks, he runs, he mounts up with wings as eagles, Isaiah 40:31. If a branch grafted into a stock never grows, it is a plain evidence of its not having knit with the stock.” Amen.

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We are not speaking about our being set apart and being justified and sanctified in Christ, which is our standing both now and forever! We are talking about what we ARE! Look at Ephesians 4:15 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Does growth, in relation to plants or animals not mean a getting bigger and more mature? Was Peter when writing his epistle the same man who denied Christ thrice? I think not, for he knew his future and was prepared to die for his Lord. Was the son of thunder who would bring down fire from heaven in the gospel, the same John , the apostle of love, who wrote his epistles? Again I think not!

     Dear believing friend we are made a new man in Christ and this new man can be and is renewed daily (Romans 12:2, Col.3:10, Eph.4:23). Why would Paul pray the following if it were not God’s will, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thess. 5:23). Holiness can be and will be perfected in us, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Cor. 7:1). We are saved from the dominion of sin, we shall be saved from the presence of sin, meantime we are being saved from and have to work out salvation from the power of sin. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure( Phil.2:12-13). Yes our old man is untouched, yes the blessed Spirit in us changeth not, but WE, the new man created in Christ Jesus, are meant to, and will, grow! By his unchanging omnipotent irresistible grace!

This is creedal. Belgic Confession Article 24

This message underlines the truth: LRF sermon Oct 26th 2014

The Company we keep and the Books we read

” Bad company corrupts good morals” (I Cor.5:9, II Thess.3:14) and conversely being a member of a true church (Psalm 119:63) and reading good Reformed books (II Tim.4:13) encourage godliness.

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Albert Barnes: “It is a law of our nature that we are moulded, in our moral feelings, by the persons with whom we associate, and by the objects which we contemplate. We become insensibly assimilated to those with whom we have social contact, and to the objects with which we are familiar. We imbibe the opinions, we copy the habits, we imitate the manners, we fall into the customs of those with whom we have daily conversation, and whom we make our companions and friends. Their sentiments insensibly become our sentiments, and their ways our ways. It is thus with the books with which we are familiar. We are insensibly, but certainly, moulded into conformity to the opinions, maxims, and feelings which are there expressed. Our own sentiments undergo a gradual change, and we are likened to those with which in this manner we are conversant. So it is in regard to the opinions and feelings which from any cause we are in the habit of bringing before our minds. It is the way by which people become corrupted in their sentiments and feelings, in their contact with the world; it is the way in which amusements, and the company of the frivolous and the dissipated possess so much power; it is the way in which the young and inexperienced are beguiled and ruined; and it is the way in which Christians dim the luster of their piety, and obscure the brightness of their religion by their contact with the happy and fashionable world. And it is on the same great principle that Paul says that by contemplating the glory of God in the gospel, we become insensibly, but certainly conformed to the same image, and made like the Redeemer. His image will be reflected on us. We shall imbibe his sentiments, catch his feelings, and be moulded into the image of his own purity. Such is the great and wise law of our nature; and it is on this principle, and by this means, that God designs we should be made pure on earth, and kept pure in heaven forever”  (Notes on 2 Corinthians, pp. 64-65).

(Thanks to Rev.McGeown for quote from LRF bulletin)

The Ascension

Heidelberg Catechism  Lord’s Day 19

  • Q. 50.  Why is it added, “and sitteth at the right hand of God”?
    A.  Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that He might appear as Head of His church, by whom the Father governs all things.
  • Q. 51.  What profit is this glory of Christ, our Head, unto us?
    A.  First, that by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly graces upon us His members; and then that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.

Zacharias Ursinus: “From what has now been said, we may give a more complete definition of Christ’s sitting at the right hand of the Father. It is to have the same .and equal power with the Father; to excel all the angels and men in his human nature, both in the number and excellency of the gifts which were conferred upon him, and also in visible glory and majesty; to declare himself Lord of angels and men, and so of all things which are created: to rule immediately, in the name of the Father, his kingdom in heaven, and the whole world, and especially to govern the church in the same manner by his power; and, finally, to be acknowledged and praised by everyone as Lord and Head of all …. The benefits of the kingdom of Christ glorified are, that he rules us through the ministry of his word and Spirit, that he preserves his ministry, gives his church resting places, makes his word effectual in the conversion of the elect, raises them up at length from the dead, delivers them from all their infirmities, glorifies them, wipes all tears from their eyes, places them upon his throne, and makes them kings and priests unto his Father” (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 255-256, 259).

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Pride

The words “puffed up” occur thrice in I Corinthians 4 where Paul describes proud people in the church. He also states that knowledge can “puff up” (I Cor.8:1) and that true Christian love is not “puffed up” (I Cor.13:4).

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Pride led to the downfall of Lucifer and our first parents. God hates and opposes pride (Prov.8:13, I Peter.5:5,6).

Pride is thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Rom.12:3), it is thinking we are better than others (Luke 18:11), it is exhibited in an unwillingness to be corrected or shown to be wrong or acknowledging sin. It is an inflated sense of one’s own importance. Scripture uses leaven (yeast) as a picture of sin and pride because it puffs up bread and also causes fermentation and some yeasts cause disease.

God must humble us that we confess we are sinners in need of the Saviour.

Martin Luther: “How can he acknowledge himself as a sinner if he cannot tolerate even a word of criticism against himself or his actions or intentions, but immediately flares up in anger, refusing to admit that he ever even spoke an untruthful word but claiming always to have been truthful and well-meaning? So he regards it as mean of others to oppose him and to accuse him unjustly. When he is forced to endure this or that, he gets furious and wearies everyone around him with the complaint that he and he alone has been done an injustice. You have here an hypocrite, one who confess himself a sinner, but he does not want to do or bear anything that behooves a sinner to do but only what a righteous and holy man is entitled to! … For nobody is eager to be contradicted in what he thinks of himself, or reproved in what he does, or despised in what he plans to accomplish… The pride of our feeling and willing is so much deep-seated! Nobody is completely free from this pest, especially if things go against us” (Comment on Romans 3:5, third Corollary).

Lord cleanse us from this deep-seated iniquity.

(Thanks to Rev.McGeown for last quote from LRF bulletin)