Sermon Manuscript: Malachi 3:6-4:6 “God’s mercy distinguishes, therefore return to him.”

highplainsparson:

Please share, in an effort to inform people about an effort to form a new church in the Omaha/Bellevue area.

Originally posted on Reformed Fellowship of Bellevue:

For November 23, 2014, if the Lord wills.

Text:
Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not…

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The scandal that weakens the Church

The loose way in which many members wear their plain obligations to the church is a scandal which enormously weakens its influence.  Desultory church attendance, neglect of public worship, failure to identify oneself of the church’s work and mission in the world, niggardly gifts, lack of a personal interest and loyalty: these are ways in which the laity of today rob god of the honor to which he is entitled. Raymond Calkins on Malachi 3 in The modern message of the minor prophets, 140. Quoted in the Word Biblical Commentary, volume 32 by Ralph L Smith.

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The Authority of a Church, When a Christian Has a Scruple

The power of church government is to determine matters based on the authority given to her by Christ himself and based on the instructions he has given her in Holy Scripture.  Church power is ministerial and declarative, not magisterial or legislative.  That submission which Christians owe to the human government of the church is free from all dogmas, dictums, and decrees, which are in any way contrary to Scripture, and in matters of faith or worship, from anything beside them (i. e. not contained in the Scriptures,) as the assembly of divines at Westminster so ably summarized in their chapter on Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience:

XX.II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

The elders of the church must take care to protect the liberty that Christians have to obey God in his word.  Although submission to the elders of the church is required of all Christians, this submission is not limitless, but is “in the Lord”, meaning that it is only based on the Lord’s authority as he has revealed himself in his word, and that Christians are not to submit in matters which they do not believe to be coming from the word of the Lord.  To submit to human authority against ones own conscience in matters of faith or worship is sin, for anything that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23), and the Christian is required to “obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

Even as Christians are obligated to do everything in their power to keep the peace and unity of the church, as far as it lies within them, even so the elders of the church are not to proceed in a way that puts pressure on Christians to sin against their conscience, even in matters in which they may need to be corrected.  In such cases, the elders may determine that the individual Christian’s belief is not only unwarranted by Scripture, but also potentially divisive to the church, and for that reason cannot be allowed.  In that case the elders of a particular church would counsel the Christian to unite with another body whose beliefs are more in line with his scruples.  It is also entirely appropriate for the elders to continue to seek to persuade the Christian that that which he has scruples about is not in fact a sin, or that he is incorrect, based on the teaching of Scripture, and that he should change his thinking on the subject.  It is entirely inappropriate, pernicious, and does violence to that liberty which Christ purchased for the Christian on the cross, for the elders to require or even suggest that the Christian submit to their authority against his conscience despite his scruples about a given matter of faith or worship.  That is equivalent to asking the Christian to sin, which elders in the church are never permitted to ask.  (Yes, this applies to individual pastors, too.)

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“Abba” is not “Daddy”

highplainsparson:

“our intimacy with God does not become an excuse for immaturity”

Originally posted on The Reformed Reader:

It isn’t quite right to say that the Aramaic “abba” means “daddy.”  In other words, to call the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “daddy” at the outset of our prayers is a bit too casual and irreverent.  Philip Ryken explains.

“To call God ‘Abba, Father’ is to speak to him with reverence as well as confidence.  Abba does not mean ‘Daddy.’  To prove this point, the Oxford linguist James Barr wrote an article for the Journal of Theological Studies called ‘Abba isn’t “Daddy”.’  What Barr discovered was that abba was not merely a word used by young children.  It was also the word that Jewish children used for their parents after they were fully grown.  Abba was a mature, yet affectionate way for adults to speak to their fathers.”

“The New Testament is careful not to be too casual in the way it addresses God.  The Aramaic word abba…

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Eugene Peterson’s Advice to Seminary Students

Originally posted on Lucid Theology:

Eugene Peterson’s advice to seminary students:

Eugene_Peterson (1)“I’d tell them that pastoring is not a very glamorous job. It’s a very taking-out-the-laundry and changing-the-diapers kind of job. And I think I would try to disabuse them of any romantic ideas of what it is. As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are.

“The one thing I think is at the root of a lot of pastors’ restlessness and dissatisfaction is impatience. They think if they get the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics, it’ll be a snap. And for some people it is: if you’re a good actor, if you have a big smile, if you…

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Much Ado about the Sabbath

highplainsparson:

True words.

Originally posted on Gairney Bridge:

The difference between the Puritan Sabbath and the Continental Sunday should not be exaggerated, especially so far as the actual practices of churches in the Reformed tradition are in view. To be sure, at the confessional level, there are differences, although these, too, are not as substantial as sometimes maintained. The Three Forms of Unity, the confessional standards of Continental Calvinism, do treat the Sabbath much less extensively and with a somewhat different accent than the Westminster Standards. But in the main, especially beginning in the seventeenth century following the Synod of Dort, British-American Presbyterianism and Continental Calvinism became of one mind on what Sunday observance should look like: in view of the continuing validity of the fourth commandment, Sunday is to be a day of rest from our daily work, devoted primarily to the worship of God.

Richard Gaffin, “Westminster and the Sabbath” in The Westminster Confession into the…

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Fatherly Punishment: Zechariah Devotional, part 12, chapter 8:10-17

God reminds us through the prophet Zechariah that blessing comes to those who learn from His loving chastisement, not to those who obstinately continue as if nothing has happened when He punishes us as our Father.  If we love God and are thankful to Him, it will show in our obedience to Him, in reflecting His justice, love and mercy to others, especially in the Church of Christ.

Zechariah 8:10 For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.

11 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts.

12 For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

14 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:

15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.

pruned vines in May, Wikimedia Commons

For God’s people, (which in Old Testament times was the nation of Israel, and is now known as the Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Christians of every nation), sin angers God.  When we stray against God, he sends his rod to chasten us, not out of hatred, but out of His fatherly love, in order to correct our attitude and restrain our bad behavior.  There are times, as in the history of God’s people Israel recounted in the words of the prophet, when we provoke God’s anger through sin.  Chief among these sins is the sin of idolatry, of having false gods.  This can be the blatant idolatry of bowing down to false gods represented by images invented by man’s imagination, as the Jews engaged in before they had been taken to exile in Babylon, or it can be in the more subtle form of the rule of other life priorities in our hearts, the place where God’s rule is meant to be seated and expressed in our life together as the Church.  These other priorities may be money, work, family, or community, which are blessings if used for God’s glory, when they are not allowed to take priority over God in our lives and hearts, but are idols if they are allowed to be more important to us than him.  God forebears for a long time in the face of such idolatry, when he allows the material blessings to continue.  But sooner or later out of love our Father removes certain blessings in order to discipline His people, to teach us to be more faithful to Him as His obedient child, noted in verse 10 above as the removal of economic blessing and the introduction of strife between the people.  But as with any loving father, His punishment does not last forever.

There is a blessing promised, when the Church will flourish and Her hard times will be remembered no more, as even bystanders looking from the outside see that God is in her midst to bless and keep her.  This blessing involves a remnant being kept by God from among the people, while those who remain in their sinful rebellion, who, instead of repenting of their sin and learning from God’s punishment, continue obstinately in their former ways, are cut off from the people of God.  The promised blessing is for those who prove to be faithful as a result of God’s chastisement, who learn obedience to Him from it.

Let us be those who learn the lessons that God gives us opportunity to learn, teachably, receptive to what He instructs us in his word and by the events that transpire, for we know that He is in sovereign control of everything that happens to us.  God teaches us in his word, and applies it to our lives often through the events that transpire.  Let us be open to what He has to teach us so that we will receive the spiritual peace and prosperity that He promises, which is so much better than even material blessing.

16 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:

17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.

The blessing of God is received in thankfulness when we keep His commandments.  When we speak the truth to one another, love truth, and make just and right decisions as His Church, it shows that we are His people, beloved by Him, chastened but not killed, walking in thankful obedience in response to His grace to us.  When we love our neighbor and keep our word, for His glory, out of thankfulness for the blessings He has showered upon us, it shows His work written upon our heart, that we have been taught of Him and know Him.

 

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Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral

highplainsparson:

A good corrective to modern funerals.

Originally posted on :

funeralThere will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?

Because I do care now, and will care even after I’m with the Lord, here are some things I hope and pray are not said at my funeral. I care about those who will be there, about what…

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Zechariah Devotional, part 11, chapter 8:7-9, Strength from Heaven

God chastens his own as a loving father punishes his children.  He does it not to hurt us, but to help and heal us when we go astray.  If we keep focused on the salvation that God has promised us, the eternal life that we have to look forward to in him, this will spur us to achieve great things as his Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, as the grace of God and our thankfulness to him spur us to good works.  The special promise remains with us, that God is our God, and we will be his people forever.

Zechariah 8:7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;

And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

God has caused his people to be taken captive, the northern tribes by Assyria, and Judah by Babylon, and now Judah has been restored to the land.  Now God gives a more general promise to save his people wherever they might be, from the east to the west, from anywhere on earth.  At no time in the Bible’s history were the northern tribes of Israel restored to the land of Israel, or enabled to gather to Jerusalem for Passover and other feast days, but they were intermingled as an ethnic group with the Assyrians until they ceased to exist.  This promise, then, concerns something greater.  In the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is the Church, Israel restored at Pentecost (Acts 1:6-8), all of God’s chosen ones of every nation from everywhere under heaven, that is, spiritual Israel, will be saved from all their enemies that oppress them: especially, death, sin and the devil.

Jerusalem was the place of God’s presence among his people Israel in Old Testament times.  This presence is now found in the New Jerusalem, the Church of Jesus Christ, where God indwells and communes with His own (Revelation 21:2).  It is in the Church of Jesus Christ that truth and righteousness are found, for in her his word is proclaimed and his law is kept.  We who gather to this Church enjoy a special relationship with God that the rest of the world does not, to have him not just as God, but to be his people and to have him for our God forever.

Though we walk through life as a valley of tears, struggling against indwelling sin, suffering from death and disease, and being tempted and buffeted by Satan, yet God has saved us from being slaves to these things.  The living hope that we have in him sustains us through all the difficulties of the Christian life.  Though all of the world may be against us, yet our happiness in God is secure, knowing that He is present among us, especially when we gather to worship every Lord’s Day as his people, and that He will be our God forever.  Though our enemies are stronger than we, we feel secure knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

“Building of Solomon’s Temple” Comestor’s Bible, 1450, Wikimedia Commons

God’s grace strengthens us for the work that he would have us to do together.  His peace enables and invigorates us to build his temple.  Although Christ is the builder of his Church, yet he gives us an important role in the work, that of proclaiming the free grace of God in Jesus Christ to sinners of every category and walk of life, and of growing up together in him by his word and Spirit, and walking in mutual discipline according to the law of love.  God’s salvation is assured.  With the outcome secured, we are free to work.  It is hard work, but worthwhile and refreshing.  There is no more important or worthy labor on earth than to work for the purity, peace, and prosperity of the Church.  It is vital, and wonderful.

Let our hands be strengthened and not slack off in this work.  If we allow our own prejudices and preferences to take hold, instead of adhering steadfastly to the word of truth, and the rule of righteousness that God has completely given in the Holy Scriptures, Christ’s Church will be structurally damaged and her construction stymied.  But with God’s grace in our hearts, obedience to his word as the only rule for everything we do in the Church, and love for one another in the unity that God’s truth brings, we will engage in this work with pure intentions and a singularity of purpose, that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will yield great blessing in the building project, as Christ’s own rule (contained in the Holy Scriptures) is gloriously kept and displayed in us as the Church to a watching world.

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Preacher in the hands of an angry church: the fall of Jonathan Edwards

highplainsparson:

Encouraging material for any pastor.

Originally posted on Grateful to the dead:

Minister. Thinker. Revivalist. America’s greatest theologian. “Homeboy” to today’s Young Reformed. Hero. Icon.

Failed pastor.

Why exactly was Jonathan Edwards, godfather of American evangelicalism, ejected from his own congregation–the church he had served faithfully for over twenty years? And what happened next? How did he respond? I explored these questions in an article for Leadership Journal:

[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. For his claim to the title “father of evangelicalism,” see this one. On Edwards as the original “ancient-future” evangelical, see here.]

Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church
by Chris Armstrong

As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point…

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