Grace Upon Grace

I recently finished a new brochure for our church on the gospel. The brochure covers the basics of the gospel and answers the question of how we become a Christian. You can find a pdf of the brochure by clicking here. Here's an excerpt...

How Do I Become a Christian?

In some ways becoming a Christian is the hardest thing imaginable. It is hard because our hearts are hard. Left to ourselves we cannot choose God... we will not choose God. The Bible says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside” (Romans 3:10-12). Because we are thoroughly corrupted by sin we are unable and unwilling to choose Christ. It is, in fact, impossible to become a Christian on your own power. It is the hardest thing imaginable.

Jesus’ own disciples recognized the difficulty of being saved. At one point they asked Jesus in despair, “Who then can be saved?” In Jesus’ answer we find our hope. Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Although we cannot save ourselves, God can save us. Although we cannot become a Christian by our own strength or will, God can make us a Christian by his own strength and will.

This means that to become a Christian we must first look to God to save us. We must call to him in prayer, asking for him to be gracious to us, asking for him to grant us faith in Christ, asking for him to give us new hearts and new minds through which we may finally love Jesus and believe his gospel.

We cannot do these things ourselves. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. And not only is it possible with God, he loves to do it. He loves to save us and make us his children. The Scriptures say that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7).

If you recognize your need for salvation, if you desire reconciliation with God, if you want to know the rich, eternal blessings of being counted as his child, do not hesitate, call on God for salvation today.

The Christian Hope: Fall Adult Sunday School

The Christian Hope Fall Quarter Adult Sunday School Taught by Pastor Aaron

The Christian study of the end times is called eschatology (from the Greek eschatos, meaning last), and eschatology is about hope. The Christian hope is not a vague or blind wishing that things will get better. Instead, it is a hope grounded in the promises of God – striking promises of new life, new bodies, a new creation, a new kingdom, a new rest, the end of death, the end of suffering and sin, and the beginning of infinite blessings in the presence of God.

The Christian hope recognizes that evil is doomed, that the darkness of this age is being overcome by the light of the next, and that there is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). The Christian hope fixes its gaze on Jesus Christ, in whom our inheritance awaits.

Join us in the Fall Quarter Adult Sunday School as we fix our gaze on Jesus and explore the present-day significance of our end-time hope.

Class Overview

Sept. 9 – From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An overview of the history and future of all things.

Sept. 16 – Pastor Aaron on study leave. Joel Ankney teaching.

Sept. 23 – Pastor Aaron on vacation. Joel Ankney teaching.

Sept. 30 – Resident Aliens: Our lives between the already and not yet.

Oct. 7 – The Millennium (part 1)

Oct. 14 – The Millennium (part 2)

Oct. 21 – Pastor Aaron on vacation.

Oct. 28 – The Return of Christ, the Final Judgment, and the Resurrection of the Dead.

Nov. 4 – The Antichrist, the Beast, and the False Prophet.

Nov. 11 – Israel and the Church: One people, one hope, one salvation.

Nov. 18 – Pictures of Heaven: A marriage feast, a holy city, a new temple.

Nov. 25 – A Sabbath Rest: Safe forever in the presence of God.

Dec. 2 – Questions and Answers

Finishing Strong

Last week one of our former pastors, Rev. Samuel Ward, went to be with the Lord. Rev. Ward served the congregation of Calvin from 1964 until his retirement in 1982. I am glad to say that his ministry is still bearing fruit today. Although I never met Rev. Ward, I am personally grateful for his faithfulness, and I praise God that he finished his long race strong in the Lord. A brief article on Rev. Ward can be found at The Aquila Report.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of GodSpring Quarter Adult Sunday School Taught by Pastor Aaron

The doctrine of God's love takes a special place of prominence throughout the Bible. God is love (1 Jn. 4:16); God abounds in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6); in love God predestined us for adoption (Eph. 1:4-5); and, God's steadfast love is better than life (Ps. 63:3). Few doctrines hold such a place of priority in the Bible.

Although prominent, the doctrine of God's love remains immeasurably complex and exceedingly difficult. How does God's love relate to his sovereignty and wrath? If God is love, why is there evil in the world? What does God's love require of us? How do we rightly love our enemies? How do we rightly love God?

Please join us as we explore these topics and more in this Sunday school.

Class Overview

  •  March 11 - Introduction: 10 Reasons why we must study God's love today.
  • March 18 - God Is Love: Developing a biblical theology of God's love.
  • March 25 - God's Love and God's Sovereignty: The passions of a God "without passion."
  • April 1 - God's Love and God's Wrath: The hatred of a loving God.
  • April 8 - God's Love and the Problem of Evil: If God is love, then why evil?
  • April 15 - The Commandment to Love: We love because he first loved us.
  • April 22 - Love and Forgiveness: The demands of love on our hearts
  • April 29 - Love and Our Enemies: A test case.
  • May 6 - Love and the Church: The submission and freedom of love.
  • May 13 - No class: Pastor Aaron on vacation.
  • May 20 - An Exposition on 1 Corinthians 13: Love never ends.
  • May 27 - An Exposition on Revelation 2:1-7: A love lost.
  • June 3 - Questions and Answers

News from the resistance...

One of the common themes in the book of Daniel is the calling for God's people to resist every temptation to compromise our faith and practice. Like the Borg in Star Trek, the world tells us that "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." But Daniel shows us again and again that resistance is not futile, assimilation is not inevitable, and although suffering and difficulty may come, those who continue to resist will "stand firm" (11:32); they will "be refined, purified, and made white" (11:35); and they will "shine... like the stars forever and ever" (12:3). There are many ways to faithfully resist. We resist when we put to death sin in our own lives (Col. 3:5). We resist when we speak against the open promotion and practice of evil and wickedness. We resist when we speak the gospel, love our enemies, and endure wrongs against us. And, we resist when we refuse to bow to the world's powers and authorities on matters of faith and practice.

A few weeks ago the PCA's Pittsburgh Presbytery found itself on the front lines of this resistance movement. We recently learned that one of our military chaplains is sometimes asked or commanded to compromise his faith and practice. He is sometimes commanded to participate in inter-faith worship services. He is sometimes directed specifically to not pray in Jesus' name. He refuses to obey the civil authorities on these matters, and our presbytery stood behind him with the following resolution:

Resolved to adopt the following statement about public prayer offered by ministers of this Presbytery, whether serving as Pastors or Chaplains, or in some other capacity:

Whereas Almighty God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left the conscience free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are contrary to, or in matters of faith and worship, in addition to his Word (WCF 19:2), and whereas civil government ought not, in the least, to interfere in matters of faith (WCF 23:30), and whereas the Constitution of the United States of America states that "congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise" of religion, We, Pittsburgh Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America, affirm that every citizen, whether as private citizen or public servant, is free to pray as his conscience directs, and that no authority lawfully exists with any branch or agency of the Federal Government to limit or forbid such prayer.

And, further, whereas Jesus Christ alone is the mediator between God and men (WCF 8:1, 21:2), and that every minister of this Presbytery, by his own vow, has bound himself to pray only under the authority and mediation of Jesus, we affirm the duty of every minister to pray publicly in such a manner and with such wording as satisfies his conscience that he is praying under the sole mediation of Jesus Christ, and we deny that any governmental authority can of right constitutionally forbid prayer offered in the name of Jesus Christ, or restrain a minister or citizen from so praying for any reason whatsoever.

In issuing this statement we have said that we will not bow to the world's powers and authorities on matters of faith and practice. It was an encouraging day to be a member of Christ's church, the greatest resistance movement this world has ever known. Resistance is not futile.

 

Why Study Leviticus?

Last Sunday I began preaching through Leviticus for our Sunday evening worship. For the most part I dealt with a single question, “Why study Leviticus today?” Frankly, Leviticus can seem like one of the most irrelevant, strange, gross, dull, difficult, and demanding books in all of Scripture. From its bloody sacrificial ritual to its extensive regulations about bodily discharges, Leviticus truly is a strange book for modern minds. But it is most certainly essential, especially for the Christian today. Here are twenty reasons to study Leviticus (these were explored in a little more detail last Sunday night).

  1. Leviticus is the word of God.
  2. Leviticus provides some of the greatest moral instruction mankind has ever known.
  3. Leviticus shows us the glory and the wonder of meeting God in worship.
  4. Leviticus shows us that God cares how we worship – it shows us that God regulates our worship.
  5. Leviticus shows us that God is holy.
  6. Leviticus shows us that God is eternal and living.
  7. Leviticus shows us that God is personal.
  8. Leviticus shows us that God is powerful
  9. Leviticus shows us that God is righteous
  10. Leviticus shows us that God is sovereign.
  11. Leviticus shows us that God is gracious and good.
  12. Leviticus shows us that God is jealous.
  13. Leviticus shows us what it means to be a holy nation.
  14. Leviticus shows us that we are part of a community.
  15. Leviticus gives meaning to the incarnation of Christ and our subsequent union with him.
  16. Leviticus points us to heaven.
  17. Leviticus calls us to witness to the world about the glory and graciousness of God.
  18. Leviticus shows us the blessings of God’s gracious covenant.
  19. Leviticus, by its various outward symbols of purification and holiness, shows us the need for inner purification and holiness.
  20. Leviticus gives content and meaning to Jesus’ death on the cross.

I’ll be out of the pulpit in the evenings through February, so we’ll pick up our study in Leviticus in March. Until then go ahead and give Leviticus a good read – maybe give Hebrews a good read too – and let’s continue to devote ourselves to prayer, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the life-giving power of the Word of God.

Wandering Thoughts in Prayer?

If your thoughts wander during prayer, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) has help to offer:

When you go to prayer, account it to be a great work. Set a high price upon your prayer, not as having any excellency in it because it comes from you, but set a high price upon it as a great ordinance of God wherein there is communion with God to be enjoyed and the inflence of God to be conveyed through it. So set a high price on prayer every time you are going to prayer.

"Lord, I am now setting upon a work that is of very great consequence, and much lies upon it. And I would account it to be a sore and a great evil to me if I should lose even this prayer." This would be a special means to compose your spirit and to keep you from wandering as Nehemiah did in Hehemiah 6:3. This is a place that I have sometimes quoted upon such an occasion, when the enemies of Nehemiah who would hinder the building of the temple sent to him that they might talk together. "No," he said, "I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down."

So when the devil and the vanity of your own heart would send you to parley and talk with you, give this answer: "I cannot stand parleying with these things. The work that I am about is a great work." There are very few people who account the work of prayer a great work. If you did, it would greatly help you against the vanity of your thoughts.

From Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship, pp. 305-306.

Thailand Partnership

Next fall our dear missionary friends Paul and Crystal Henry (and family) will be returning to Thailand to resume church-planting work in new unreached areas. Some of our church members will be joining Paul on a vision trip early this summer. All that to say - please continue to pray for this vital work. Pray for the church to grow in Thailand. Pray for the Henry's. Pray for the advance of the gospel. Pray for our church, that we would be an encouragement and help in this endeavor. Here are a couple of video's about the ongoing work in Thailand:

MTW~Thailand from MTW~Thailand on Vimeo.

Napada Thailand from MTW~Thailand on Vimeo.