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Lord’s Day 16, 2020

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”


For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38–39

Hymn XXI.
A Chamber hymn.


What tho’ my frail eye-lids refuse
Continual watching to keep,
And punctual as midnight renews,
Demand the refreshment of sleep;
A sov’reign protector I have,
Unseen, yet for ever at hand,
Unchangeably faithful to save:
Almighty to rule and command.

From evil secure and its dread,
I rest if my Saviour is nigh,
And songs his kind presence indeed
Shall in the night season supply;
He smiles and my comforts abound,
His grace as the dew shall descend,
And walls of salvation surround
The soul he delights to defend.

Kind Author and ground of my hope,
Thee, thee, for my God I avow,
My glad Ebenezer set up,
And own thou hast help’d me ’till now;
I muse on the years that are past,
Wherein my defence thou hast prov’d,
Nor wilt thou relinquish at last
A sinner so signally lov’d.

Inspirer and hearer of pray’r,
Thou feeder and guardian of thine,
My all to thy covenant care
I sleeping and waking resign,
If thou art my shield and my sun,
The night is no darkness to me,
And fast as my moments roll on,
They bring me but nearer to thee.

Thy minist’ring spirits descend,
To watch while thy saints are asleep,
By day and by night they attend,
The heirs of salvation to keep;
Bright seraphs, despatch’d from the throne,
Repair to the stations assign’d,
And angels elect are sent down,
To guard the elect of mankind.

Thy worship no interval knows,
Their fervour is still on the wing:
And, while they protect my repose,
They chaunt to the praise of my king.
I too, at the season ordained,
Their chorus for ever will join:
And love and adore without end,
Their faithful Creator, and mine.

The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady: To the Holy Spirit (London: J. Chidley, 1837).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation
if you can possibly help it.
But if you’re in need of a good sermon
, try these.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: We Walk by Faith

We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight ST. BOTOLPH We walk by faith, and not by sight; no gracious words we hear from Him who spoke as none e’er spoke, but we believe Him near. We may not touch His hands and side, nor follow where He trod; but in His promise we rejoice and cry, “My Lord and God!” Help then, O Lord, our unbelief; and may our faith abound to call on You when You are near and seek where You are found. That, when our life of faith is done, in realms of clearer light, may we behold You as You are, with full and endless sight. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). Right tune, wrong hymn: The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

Eyes on the Prize, or An Excellent Lesson

I have recently—by necessity—discovered the usefulness of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and with that discovery, have rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. This is a truly wonderful implement, wonderfully performing a wonderful variety of wonderful functions right before my wondering eyes. Big deal, you say. Where have you been? Well, since you ask, I’ve been clinging to the age of pencils, ink, slide rules,* and paper. It’s an age we would all do well, for the sake of our cognitive health, creative capacities, and mental tranquility, to visit as often as possible, even if we can’t maintain our permanent residence there. But we have to use modern tools to do modern work in the modern world, and so, here I am, pecking away at a keyboard, sharing with you my adventures in this digital age—which, I’m sure, you all find fascinating. But back to the spreadsheets. As many of you modern folks in skinny jeans and constantly-morphing facial-hair configurations already know, Excel can combine the data from a virtually unlimited number of cells in a chart to produce a result in another. All you have to do is learn the necessary formulas. You can do something as simple as adding a column of figures to dictating actions based on the conditions entered in multiple columns. (There are many possibilities that extend far beyond my education and mental capacity, but that covers my requirements thus far.) I’ve written formulas as simple as A+B, and others that, by comparison, make Puritan writers seem brief and concise, and tax the mind (mine, at least) with their complexity. You might assume that I do all this for profitable purposes, and you would be right. What normal person would do all that work if there was no tangible gain involved? Probably none, but I like it; in fact, I find it immensely enjoyable. I could do it all day, even if I was just tracking the weather and determining which of my imaginary powers to use to make it behave as I wish. And this is the lesson of this story: Sometimes the pleasure of an activity overshadows its ultimate purpose to the extent that we never actually realize its intended result. The formulas in the afore-mentioned spreadsheet are intended to guide me to specific actions that will (it is hoped) produce profitable results. I, however, would be happy to play with this tool as if it were just a toy, even if I never took any real action, rendering the results purely hypothetical. In what other activities might this be true in my life—or in yours? I often fear it is true in my study of scripture and other theological works. I can become so absorbed in gaining knowledge, and in the process of gaining knowledge, that I forget the end goal, which is gaining closer communion with Christ (and his body, the church), and increasing conformation to his image. Lest you misunderstand, the pursuit is good and necessary, and it should be joyful. I never want to lose that. But the goal of learning about God is not merely more knowledge of God. It is God himself, and godliness. * No, I’m not that old. I’ve never actually done any real-world calculations with a slide rule, but I do know how to use one, sort of.

Name That Tune Again

It happened again. A tune got stuck in my head, so I just had to deal with it. And this is how I do that. If you recognize the meter and guess the tune, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re old, but you’re probably on your way in that direction. Donuts, Cake, Pie, Brownies, Too I need wholesome food, it’s true, but just beans will never do; So I beg of you: Donuts, cake, pie, brownies, too. Salad’s fine, but not alone; Soup is good, but when I’m done, I need sweetness, too: Donuts, cake, pie, brownies, too. Bring me a burger, bring me some fries, Bring me a milkshake, and please supersize; Show me you love me with a big slice of pie; Mix up some batter, get ready to fry. I don’t mean to be so sad; It’s been so long since I’ve had Even just a few Donuts, cake, pie, brownies, Donuts, cake, pie, brownies, Donuts, cake, pie, brownies, too. There. Now, when my song-writing career takes off, you’ll be able to say you knew me when.

When Revival Is Real

Many events are named “revival.” Few deserve the title. Sinclair Ferguson describes genuine revival: In his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Jonathan Edwards draws on 1 John 4 to show that all true works of God share several features: 1. A high esteem for Christ. 2. The overthrow of Satan’s Kingdom in our hearts. 3. A reverent view of, and close attention to, God’s Word in Scripture. 4. The presence of the Spirit of truth convincing us of the reality of eternity and the depth of our sin and need. 5. A deep love for both God and man. But what does this mean in real-life terms? A Microcosmic View . . . Many years ago, I witnessed revival in its most microcosmic form in a sudden, unexpected, and remarkable work of God’s Spirit on a friend. The work was so dramatic, the effect so radical, that news of it spread quickly to different parts of the country. . . . I [asked] my friend . . . What this remarkable experience had involved. The answer was illuminating. Five things seemed to have happened . . . 1. A painful exposure of the particular sin of unbelief occurred. Listening to preaching was a staple of my friend’s spiritual diet, but what came with overpowering force was a sense that God’s Word had actually been despised inwardly. God’s own Word, preached in the power of the Spirit, stripped away the mask of inner pride and outward reputation for spirituality. There was a fearful exposure to sin. 2. A powerful desire arose to be free from all sin. A new affection came, as if unbidden, into the heart. Indeed, a desire seemed to be given actually to have sin increasingly revealed and exposed in order that it might be confessed, pardoned, and cleansed. Disturbing though it was, there was a sweetness of grace in the pain. 3. The love of Christ now seemed marvelous beyond measure. A love for Him flowed from a heart that could not get enough of Christ, ransacking Scripture to discover more and more about Him. 4. A new love for God’s Word was born—for reading it, for hearing it expounded and applied, and especially for knowing every expression of God’s will, so that it might be obeyed. 5. A compassionate love for others now flowed. It came from this double sense of sin and need on the one hand and grace and forgiveness on the other. Christian witness ceased to be a burden and became the expression of Spirit-wrought and powerful new affections. It was thus for King David: Have mercy upon me, O God . . . According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. . . . Purge me . . . Wash me. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God. . . . My tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. —Psalm 51:1–4, 7, 10, 14 —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 103–104. August 7, 2008

Eternal Priorities

I love these stories of survival: 101 in Italy 102 in Italy 103 in Italy 104 in Oregon 107 in Holland We are warned that the coronavirus is especially deadly for the elderly. This, no doubt, is true, and so it is perfectly sensible for older folks to be extra-cautious. But the stories above remind us that God is sovereign over life and death. The deadliest virus cannot kill anyone outside of God’s predetermined will. As he has written: See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. —Deuteronomy 32:39 The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. —1 Samuel 2:6 Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain. You also open Your eyes on him And bring him into judgment with Yourself. Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass. —Job 14:1–5 The span of each person’s life is ordained by his creator, from the day of his birth to the day of his death. No matter how or when death comes, it can never be said to be premature. No one dies before his time. Although we should take care—for ourselves and others—to keep healthy and safe, we must know that death is coming, and will not be cancelled or postponed. Scripture assures us that “it is appointed for men to die once.” This is an undeniable fact, but it is not the fact that should concern us most. The reality that should be foremost on our minds is that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). In this time in which the world is focused on saving lives, let us not forget that the business of the church and its members is the salvation of souls. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? —Matthew 16:26

A Trinitarian Transaction

Sinclair Ferguson on the Trinitarian transaction that sent the Holy Spirit: [T]he coming of the Spirit indicated that a heavenly transaction had taken place. The often-overlooked words of Acts 2:33 record it: “being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit. . . .” Here, momentarily, a door into heaven is opened and we are given a glimpse into the fellowship between the Son and the Father. The ascended Son comes to the Father. What will he say? “Father, do you remember what you promised the Great King? You said, ‘Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession’ (Ps. 2:8). You said about the Suffering Servant, ‘Behold, My Servant . . . Kings shall shut their mouths at him. . . . He shall see his seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. . . . I will divide Him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death . . .’ (Isa. 52:13, 15; 53:10, 12). Father, fulfill your promises to me.” How was this world-wide dominion to be established? All authority now belonged to Jesus. He had promised that the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit and He would give them power to become witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. The disciples, therefore, would go into all the world proclaiming Jesus. He would be with them to the end—through the presence of the Spirit-witness. —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 90–91. August 6, 2008

Lord’s Day 15, 2020
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: God Moves
Monergistic Regeneration: A Live Demonstration
An Acted Parable
Called to Evangelism
The Fight of Faith
Made Sin

Lord’s Day 13, 2020
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: If Thou but Trust
Miniature Gods
Dogma before Life
How Economics Roll
Values without Value

Lord’s Day 14, 2020
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: What God Ordains
For Murderers and Sunday School Teachers
Self-Denying Christianity
The Gift of Guilt
Only Human Flesh
The Vexed Soul’s Refuge


Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

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