For This Reason

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”

                                                                                                                                                                Colossians 1:9

                It is important at a time like this that we stop and reflect upon what is of crucial importance to us as believers in the LORD Jesus Christ.  We can easily fall into a self centred panic or defiance.  I have heard, and experienced both during these past few days.  That is both from others, and within myself as well.  Phil Newton approaches at time of crisis with a reflection upon the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians with the following quotation.

                “It is important to remember that whenever the New Testament writers addressed problem situations, or distressing circumstances, they always pointed the Church back to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.  It was in seeing Christ afresh and reliving the glories of the gospel that they were strengthened to persevere.”

                This is what Paul calls us to in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians.  His response is rooted in intercessory prayer.  “We have not stopped praying for you.”  Intercessory prayer is the calling of every believer.  We are to be in prayer constantly for one another, especially in times of crisis.  In these past days we have been given a gift of time.  Time has been given where we can get down on our knees and pray for one another.  It is vital that we do so. 

                As we look more closely at Colossians one it is important that we take note of what Paul is praying for.  It is that the Colossians be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual understanding.  The word that Paul uses here for understanding is a word that is best translated as “putting the facts together”.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we are to be given an experiential understanding of God’s purposes in our lives.  He is in fact at work within us causing us to know His will for us.  Paul tells us that this understanding will be seen in at least four areas.

  1. So that we will live a lifestyle that is worthy of the LORD, pleasing Him in every way.
  2. That we will bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
  3. That we might be strengthened with power according to God’s glorious might so that we might patiently persevere.
  4. That we might joyfully give thanks to the Father who has qualified you, (through the cross), to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
  5. For He has delivered us from darkness to light by forgiving our sins.

The LORD has a wonderful purpose which is at work in our lives.  All of this is received in faith.  Do you believe?

                In closing we have provided ministry through this website for you.  There is a video Bible Study on the Bible Study page.  Please also check out the video sermons which will be posted for every Sunday morning on the Sermon page.  We will hopefully be adding other features in the coming days.  As always we will be continuing to pray for each of you.

Some Thoughts On Our Present Crisis

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”

                                                                                                                                                                Romans 1:17

                In recent days we have found ourselves facing a health care emergency which is testing each of us.  It almost seems as if everything is out of control.  We find ourselves tempted to give into panic, joining the crowd rushing to the stores in order to hoard supplies.  Some of us are tempted to defy the advice we have been given.  We want to continue to do what we have always done.  Our world seems to be out of control and we don’t know how to best respond to the circumstances we are facing.  It is there that the Apostle Paul’s quotation from the Book of Habakkuk is so helpful.  Habakkuk was facing difficult, dangerous and uncertain times when he approached God for a word of wisdom.  In essence God said to him “trust me”. 

                No matter what we think the Lord is still sovereign over the crisis we are facing.  We, as people of faith, are called to live not by fear, but by faith.  In doing so we must first of all believe that the LORD is in control.  He has put us into a certain set of circumstances.  It is all part of His refining process as He calls us to really trust Him.

                Therefore we will be following the wisdom which we have received regarding short term decisions we must make in order to keep everyone safe.  We will therefore be doing the following over the next two weeks.  That is from now until the end of March.

  1. All Services and Meetings in person will be cancelled until the end of the month. 
  2. This includes board meetings, outreaches, Church Services, and Bible Studies.
  3. We will be endeavouring to communicate with as many as possible over social media to provide Sermons and Bible Studies.
  4. We will be holding board meetings by phone and email.
  5. We will be looking for new ways to provide ministry to each of you. 
  6. Keep checking this blog for updates on our programs.

Above all keep in mind that we are called to be people who love the LORD Jesus Christ and who want to serve Him and the people around us.  Take note of the people in need around and do what you can to serve them.   This morning I came across this helpful quotation  from Brian Zahnd in his helpful Lenten book The Unvarnished Jesus.

      “The sixth sign of the healing of the man born blind takes up an entire chapter and is filled with drama as the man who was healed bests the Pharisees in theological debate and is expelled from the synagogue for it. The story opens with the disciples observing the man born blind and raising a theological question of who is to blame for it. But Jesus dismisses this line of questioning. Jesus is saying that when we observe suffering, the question isn’t who is to blame, but how can we help. We’ve all seen Christian leaders assign blame upon the victims of epidemics, earthquakes, and tsunamis. But blame is what the satan does. Followers of Jesus are called to co-suffering love, not theological stone throwing. So Jesus instructs his disciples that when we observe suffering, it’s not an opportunity to assign blame, but an opportunity to do the works of God by helping to heal, restore, and alleviate suffering. Blame is the devil’s game—love is the high calling of the Christian. As Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed.” And this brings us to the main point of the sixth sign. The meaning of the sign is made explicit at the end of the story. Look at the last verse of the chapter as Jesus says to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not have sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” There is an innocence in admitting that we are too blind to pass judgment on others. We don’t have to have an opinion on everything, especially when the question is who is to blame. It’s enough for us to say, “I don’t know who is to blame, I’m just here to help.” But when we claim to have 20/20 vision in judging the sins of others and assigning blame, our own sin remains. This is the sin of Job’s friends. They couldn’t resist the temptation of trying to explain what had happened by blaming Job. The book of Job is a study in the seductive cruelty of blaming the victim. The lesson we should learn from the story of Jesus healing the man born blind and the Pharisees’ reaction to it is that we should acknowledge our own blindness and let Jesus be both healer and judge.         Lord Jesus, we confess that we are too blind to pass judgment on others, so we turn away from seeking to blame and turn toward trying to love. Help us, we pray. Amen.” (from “The Unvarnished Jesus: A Lenten Journey” by Brian Zahnd)

Doctrine Matters

“The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

                                                                                                                                                Romans 6:10-11

                The doctrine that we believe matters to us.  So often in this day and age we live as if it does not.  Practically we live as if everything depends upon the body of work that we accomplish in life.  In recent years I have heard various commentators in the United States referring to their society as a “meritocracy”.  What they seem to mean by this phrase is that we get in life what we deserve, or what we have earned.  For so many even in our society here in Canada we find ourselves living solely upon the understanding that we will only get in life those things that we have earned.  We believe that what we have received is what we deserve.  We either boast about what we have, or we find ourselves depressed by how we have fallen short of what others have earned. 

                It is in this type of thinking that we must find ourselves recognising that doctrine matters.  As the Apostle Paul has been writing to the Romans he has been proclaiming the true Gospel to them this is that we are redeemed not based upon what we have earned.  If that were the case then we would all be lost for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Think about that if God gave each of us exactly what we deserved based upon the life that we have really lived we would all be lost.  He has not given us what we deserve however.  He has given us a free gift, grace in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified on Calvary’s cross.  When the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross, Paul states in his doctrine in Romans 6:10, He died to sin once for all.  It was an even that only had to take place once.  That one act of God was eternally effective in dealing with all of our sin.  Nothing else was needed.  Therefore everything in our lives was changed when we came to believe in Him. 

                Paul applies this to us in a very practical way.  “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Robert Haldane puts it this way.  “Unless we keep in mind that we are dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord, we cannot serve Him as we ought:  we shall otherwise be serving in the oldness of the letter, and not in the newness of spirit.”  What Paul is writing here is that we are to keep the doctrine of the crucified Christ always in mind.  Nothing is more important to us than this.  Our flesh loves to fall back in all manner of practical ways into the doctrine of merit.  We trust in it for our salvation believing that we have surely overcome our own sinfulness.  We also use it as a guide for evaluating one another.  How does this other person deserve to be treated?  Consequently we find ourselves boasting in our own flesh.  In doing so we forget that we have fallen short of God’s glory.  We have nothing substantial to boast about. 

                If however we believe the doctrine found here we find ourselves cast upon the finished work of Christ.  We reckon, or count, ourselves as one who has received grace from God in Christ.  He have died with Jesus on the Cross once for all.  It is a finished work, done by God, not by us.  We, by faith, are now living unto God, receiving what Christ has graciously merited for us.  Everything has now changed for us.  Practically we now know that our future is secured by his grace.  We also have been set free to extend the same grace we have received to others.  We love as He has loved us.  Do you believe the doctrine?

Rejoice Greatly

                “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.  He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.”

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 9:9-10

            Reflection on the Word of God always seems to usher me into a feeling of awe as I encounter the tremendous promises which our God makes through His servants the Prophets and Apostles.  The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that “No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”  Such is the feeling I have as I reflect upon the tremendous word spoken by the Prophet Zechariah in the quotation which heads this page.  This promise, which is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week leading up to His cross, comes in the middle of the first part of Zechariah’s twin burdens regarding the events which are coming for the people of God.  As God speaks through the prophet about the judgment of the nations and the salvation of God’s people He gives us this tremendous word of hope.  “Your King comes to you.”   A better translation of this is “Your king comes for you.”  He is coming for our good, in order to sanctify us.  All that God is doing has this end to make us fit for eternity.  Apart from what our King comes to do, in His cross, resurrection, and intercession for us, we will find ourselves without hope when we stand before God in judgment. 

            Thomas Boston, in a quotation found on the Puritan at Heart website, puts this powerfully as he reflects upon our hope for eternal happiness. 

“When death comes, they have no solid ground to hope for eternal happiness. “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has

Thomas Boston

gained, when God takes away his soul?” Job 27:8. Whatever hopes they fondly entertain, they are not founded on God’s word, which is the only sure ground of hope; if they knew their own case, they would see themselves only happy in a ‘dream’. And indeed what hope can they have? The law is plain against them, and condemns them. The curses of it, those cords of death, are about them already. The Savior whom they slighted, is now their Judge; and their Judge is their enemy! How then can they hope? They have bolted the door of mercy against themselves, by their unbelief. They have despised the remedy, and therefore must die without mercy. They have no saving interest in Jesus Christ, the only channel of conveyance through which mercy flows– and therefore they can never taste it.

The ‘sword of justice’ guards the door of mercy, so as none can enter in, but the members of the mystical body of Christ, over whose head is a covert of atoning blood, the Mediator’s blood. These indeed may pass without a harm, for justice has nothing to require of them. But others cannot pass, since they are not in Christ– death comes to them with the sting in it– the sting of unpardoned guilt. It is armed against them with all the force which the sanction of a holy law can give it. 1 Cor. 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” When that law was given on Sinai, “the whole mount quaked greatly,” Exodus 19:18. When the Redeemer was making satisfaction for the elect’s breaking it, “the earth did quake, and the rocks rent,” Matt, 27:51.

What possible ground of hope, then, is there to the wicked man, when death comes upon him armed with the force of this law? How can he escape that fire, which “burnt unto the midst of heaven?” Deut. 4:11. How shall he be able to stand in that smoke, that “ascended up as the smoke of a furnace?” Exod. 19:18. How will he endure the terrible “thunders and lightnings,” verse 16, and dwell in “the darkness, clouds, and thick darkness?” Deut. 4:11. All these comparisons heaped together do but faintly represent the fearful tempest of wrath and indignation, which shall pursue the wicked to the lowest hell; and forever abide on those who are driven to darkness at death.”
Thomas Boston–Human Nature in its four-fold state]

But Now

March 1, 2020 – Rev. David West – Ephesians 2: 11 – 22

Providence

                “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”

                                                                                                                                                Micah 6:8

                Years ago a friend of mine challenged me by their actions to become a student of the Scriptures.  It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord builds into our lives those key moments in His providence which we look back upon and discover that was when so much of our path in life became set.  This is one of the arguments for God’s grace.  These key moments come about unsought but they form the foundation for our lives.  My friend was sitting in a hallway reading her Bible after classes were finished for the day.  I was with the school track team preparing for our daily workout.  Another friend came by and asked my seated friend what she was doing. Her answer, overheard by me, changed my life.  It was that it had recently occurred to her that she was a pastor’s daughter and she did not understand the Bible.  She then said that she had set herself a goal to read twenty chapters a day so that she could begin to understand God’s Word.  It was as if those words were said for my benefit, because I instantly knew that I must begin to read God’s Word for myself.  There and then began my quest to become Biblically literate.  It is a quest that I am still engaged in.

                Now all of that may seem to be an unusual way to introduce a reflection on Micah 6:8. It is however crucial to my understanding of the verse because it is rooted in the Old Testament Biblical context which calls us to a radically transformed way of living.  John Calvin reflects upon this verse in context by stating that what we see here is God’s confrontation with us based upon His covenant love for us.  So often we approach God in a way that seems right to us.  We believe that anything goes in worship because our intention is to Worship God.  Calvin puts it this way.

                “We think that God must approve of our actions because of our intention to worship Him.”

                                                                                                (John Calvin; Sermons on the Book of Micah, p. 306)

However the evidence of the entire Scripture helps us discover that God is to be approached only through His Covenant love.  Such love was revealed at Sinai in the Old Covenant and in the cross in the new.  There is no other way. 

                There is a message of great joy here for us.  Each of these covenant events was in fact an event of grace.  Both describe something that God did for us which we in fact could not do for ourselves.  He touched our lives at the key moment and nothing will ever be the same again.  It is just like the words from my friend which I overheard in a High School hall.  They were not said with the idea of their eternal significance.  That is however how God used them.  In the process of obeying what God had called me to do I began the journey which led my discovery for myself of God’s gracious invitation to come to the cross of Christ and receive life.  I praise God for His grace and for His providential intervention in my life for without it I would be lost.