Perusal* – Spring 2015

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Hebrews 7:25; Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Disease is something all of us suffer.  It could be the “common” cold, the latest strain of flu, or the “emperor of all maladies”, cancer.  Our Creator has formed bodies with an immune system that identifies the invading germ and with laser like precision narrows its attack on the virus or bacteria that are doing us harm.  Except for cancer.  We now know that cancer cells are our own cells that have mutated and grow exponentially, masquerading as good cells and like a machine, methodically killing us from the inside.

Sin is very much like cancers.  Often we do not feel its consequences or see its devastation until far too late.  It is natural to our mortal bodies and minds, so much so that it will bring about physical, but more importantly, spiritual death.  If ignored, or avoided, sin eventually controls us, corrupting minds and bodies with ungodly thoughts and  crippling ends. The triune God knows this so much better than we mortals.  True to His word in Genesis 3 when he promised Adam and Eve they would surely die if they disobeyed His law, He also was true to bring about the cure for our sin, Jesus Christ, God the Son!

We may want to cure dreaded diseases, keep our children from unholy people claiming wrong as right, and stopping pilots from intentionally flying planes into the ground.  We want to, but cannot.  We do not have the ability. We may want to prolong life with no fear of diseases’ consequences.  Scientists and doctors have made great strides to eradicate disease from earth, but new ones arise that will continue to stretch their mental capacitates. Their ability is limited to the one thing that keeps them from finishing their work - their own death.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David.  He fulfilled all scripture that pertains to the Messiah (Luke 24:44). His incarnation provided to humanity he is the greatest of all Prophets.  He now graciously is our high priest and will very soon return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Be reminded that there is no resurrection without the ignominious suffering of the cross.  The author of Hebrews tells his readers that our salvation is due to Christ Jesus ability to save, literally our salvation is “fully ended, completed”.  So, it begs the question, what are we saved from…why do we need to be saved?

John Piper writes, “If, to be saved forever, we need Christ to intercede for us forever with God, then what is the implication about what we need saving from? The implication is that we need to be saved from God. Specifically we need to be saved from the wrath of God that burns against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Christ can save us forever from the wrath of God because he intercedes forever with God. He continually puts himself between the Father and us as an asbestos shield against his white-hot anger against sin. Hebrews 10:30-31 says, "We know Him who said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Thankfully, the resurrection signaled to all time that the Son of God’s cruel death assuaged God the Father’s intense wrath against sin.  It follows that what Jesus endured on Calvary continues today in God’s throne room of heaven.  His role as prophet was completed on Golgotha’s hill and our Lord is now our great high priest making intercession for his children.  God did that for his children.  He ordained a Prophet and a High priest, God the Son, who lives to intercede.  Jesus doesn’t need to plead his case with our Father. The resurrection proved God’s complete and final acceptance of His Son’s sacrifice and ordained Jesus as our great high priest.

The Gospel is simple in demonstration of faith, but complex in its execution. Simply, the good news is that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show power over sin in the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.”

The execution of the Gospel demonstrates to all that would repent and believe that the love of God rescues us from the wrath of God, in such a way that the justice of God is vindicated and the glory of God is exalted.

The Trinity’s justice was vindicated in Jesus’ death and the glory of God is revealed by raising Christ from the dead.  God is for you and I and wants to be with us.  Do we want to be with Him?  God brings peace in the Gospel of a Person, Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13: 20 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Thankfully, the resurrection accords to believers an able Savior, resurrected and alive forevermore, making eternal intercession before the throne of God.  Jesus prays for us and that secures our salvation!

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that you might confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The Lord is raised indeed!

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Winter 2015, Reflections on Cabin Fever…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Psalms 62:1; For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

2    He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

This is being written on a Sunday morning.  Robby & I are not with our Flat Creek family and we miss them.  The providence of our great and sovereign God has determined that the mildness of the winter in December through to almost the end of February would be interrupted this week.  This has been the coldest week in the history of central Virginia, at least as far back as the 1840’s when records were started.  In fact, Friday morning was the coldest day ever in central Virginia; -11o F.  Where are the geniuses forecasting an apocalyptic “global warming”?

Cabin fever is the hot topic among central Virginians.  Our youngest daughter Megan Epps and her family, Dean, Wyatt, and Sawyer, were featured on our local TV station in Lynchburg, WSET, talking about “cabin fever”.  The New England states have had it much worse than Virginians – over 100” of snow and also record, bitter cold.  Perhaps they can give us some pointers on surviving “real” cabin fever.

So, what should believers think during these abnormal weather days?  Our Lord often reminds us in His word to “Be still and know that I am God”, Ps. 46:10. But how often are we “still”, or “silent”, or “peaceful”?  Our days and weeks are filled with activity, entertainment, busyness, and sometimes, just plain nosiness.  The ordinary drumbeat of our lives must be titillated with extra sensory experiences, even in our churches.  Acts of God today are no longer just weather phenomena; they must be resounding miraculous events or circumstances.  We must feel the “earth move under my feet” (w/ apologies to Carole King). Little do we think of God’s sustaining grace every single day of our lives through the means He has ordained to grow us in his grace – preaching, teaching, and the ordinances of baptism and celebration of Lord’s Supper.

During this winter time and especially on an inclement Lord’s Day, what better opportunity to reflect, in silence, on His gift of salvation in God the Son.  “I am making Jesus”, we say, “my personal Lord and Savior”, as if we could make him anything!  This assumes we start as autonomous individuals that “own” ourselves, forgetting that “You are not our own” (1 Cor. 6:18).  We have traded the Savior in exchange for whatever He can give us in return.  The Gospel, the Good News, is that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior. We do not make him anything! It is what He has made us – coheirs of his estate and adopted as his brothers and sisters. Good to meditate in silence on the true rock of our salvation.

David talks of his Lord as his “fortress”, or so says the ESV (Easy Southern Version, or English Standard Version, whichever you prefer).  The KJV uses the English word “defense”.  Both are appropriate.  David was longing for a refuge from Absalom, his treasonous son.  The word can mean “an isolated cliff, lofty and inaccessible”.  It is thought to be Misgab in Moab, a strong citadel built in the highlands.  David often wrote of hiding places, isolated venues to escape his enemies and reflect on Gods’ great stability and salvation.   

Christ Jesus is God incarnate, divinely human and humanly divine.  Michael Horton writes, “He did not remain in heaven while writing messages in the sky or on giant screens. He sent prophets in His name and, in the fullness of time, he came down himself – assuming our flesh.”  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Do you know the Savior in silence? Are you satisfied with His ordinary influences in your believing life? Remember, we cannot make God any greater than He is.  The ordinary triune God is always extraordinary!  We don’t need another hero and need not to make Christ Jesus our hero.  He is our Savior, Redeemer, Friend, Counselor, Fortress, elder Brother, Creator, and Judge.  Reflect on these things silently, humbly, steadily; in the ordinary course of day to day life!

Cabin fever is meant to cause us pause, meditation, reflection, and serenity in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Autumn 2014, Reflections on Church Skeletons…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

1 Corinthians 3:9-11 - For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 10. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The summer is passing rapidly and my favorite season of the year is approaching – autumn! Summer’s humidity is waning and fall’s crispness is waxing.   The mornings begin with the mist of late summer, a fog that reminds us that much of life is lived, as C. S. Lewis wrote, in the shadows. The evenings end with the chorus of tree frogs signaling a change is coming. Our God has so elegantly ordered His universe with reminders that He set the foundations of the earth and upholds them through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The local church also is ordered by our Lord.  He created structure for His universe, and instruction for His church, His body.  Churches need foundation, structure, a skeleton to support the Body.  Thankfully the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ and He left wise instructions for the care of His body!

Flat Creek will begin to study a little book by Jonathan Leeman entitled, “Church Membership, How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus”, beginning September 14 at 6:30 p.m.  I don’t think that there is any other biblical doctrine as ignored today as that of the local church.  In fact, many professing believers have assumed that the local church can be easily snubbed.  Let them “go through the motions”, my personal needs and objectives supersede the uninformed in the local church. Where do we learn of proper Christian behavior, from the church or our intuitions? I like what 9 Marks ministries states, “Ask the Bible, not the Crowd.”

So, what do the scriptures say about church membership?  Two thirds of the NT was written to local churches it stands to reason that believers should be baptized and take their place in a local church. Paul apparently was faced with similar factions in the Corinthian Church.  He adroitly moves to correct the factions and friction in the first 4 chapters.  Paul reminds the factions that the Holy Spirit sent him to Corinth for the purpose of establishing a church there.  He starts with a skeleton, a foundation, and teaches them the foundation for the church is the Lord.  Christ Jesus builds His church as his body through the teaching in the Gospels and re-enforcement in the Epistles.

Jesus, and subsequently his apostles, understood that born again believers need instruction and discipline with reference to the use of their respective gifts in the local church.  Paul speaks of this in the latter chapters of 1 Corinthians.  By deduction and direction of the Holy Spirit we learn that converted people are to be associated with a sound, healthy local church.  Here we learn to have no other gods before the triune God, honor and respect and obey God’s word, love the brethren, love our enemies, and evangelize the world with the powerful truth of the Gospel.

Christ Jesus is our foundation and the head of the church.  We are part of His body.  We are not the head. This means we are to rely upon His Spirit for direction. This requires submission.  We submit to Christ for salvation and we submit to Him through the Word of God in our churches.  Christ Jesus has also established pastors and teachers to oversee the ministry of the local church.  The author of Hebrews in 13:17 writes, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

It has been my privilege to pastor the people of Flat Creek Baptist Church for almost twenty years.  It has also been my joy, even in the face of misunderstandings and false accusations.  Our God has grown His people through the relentless proclamation of God’s word.  The results are many growing, maturing spiritual folks.  How do I know?  I know because they submit to the word of God and minister to all, even those that take advantage of them.  They are committed to missions in ways that are visible and invisible.  They have hazarded their lives in the lives of others, even when others reject them.  They are growing in their sanctification to become like Christ….not all the time, for none of us do.  But they are genuine, loving, and not too hasty to judge for they look at people’s hearts, not appearances or numbers. They use their gifts to glorify our Lord, genuinely, not professionally. 

A few years ago John Piper wrote a book entitled “Brothers, We are Not Professionals”, reminding pastors that humility is the grace that displays our Savior’s love to the world.  I trust you know the difference between genuine humility and professional polish.  The house of the living God displays genuineness.

The church is also the family of God. Sometimes there are families by blood of kinship but always by blood of Christ. This is good, wholesome, and supernatural. We are part of a larger and more harmonious family of God. Are we not called brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord? He is our elder brother and believers should be in many instances, closer than blood brothers. Families are the foundation of human life and the fact that many are related by blood, both naturally and supernaturally, is a wonderful blessing of our Lord.

It is my prayer that you join to worship with us on the Lord’s Day, especially as we begin to learn together what is expected of born again believers.  After all, skeletons need flesh to live!

Eph. 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Spring 2014, A Rolling Stone…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Luke 24:1-8; “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them,[a] came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”8 And they remembered His words.”

Jesus is the living Word, only because He is alive! Having been crucified, confirmed dead by Roman soldiers keen about execution, His body was laid to rest before the high Sabbath night began. When the two Marys’ returned after the high, holy Sabbath, they were surprised to find the large stone affixed with a Roman seal lest it be disturbed and moved out of its rolling trough. The stone was rolled in a trough to cover the tomb’s entrance and prevent graves from being robbed.  Luke declares to Theophilus that two men in radiant apparel stood by, while Matthew records an earthquake, the second in three days, rocks Jerusalem and an angel rolls back the stone and sat upon it, causing the soldiers to become afraid and desert their post.  This fact speaks to Joseph of Arimathaea’s wealth and his love for our Lord.  Strange events during this Passover - the consequence of death by crucifixion would be followed by the unintended consequence of the resurrection. 

The purposes of the resurrection are many but it primarily displayed the satisfaction of God the Father with the obedience and passion of His Son.  Jesus was committed to the grave as sin’s hostage, for our debt was imputed to Him.  But as the earthquake and angels conspired to roll back the stone, Jesus was already gone from the tomb. He was ceaselessly active during the three days his body lay in the tomb as His spirit returned to His Father for a brief celebration before returning to declare victory to his disciples.  The rolled away stone is an eternal monument to the fact that the grave could not hold Him, or those that believe in this monumental event.

The rolling stone also reminds us that the resurrection is the foundational event for Christians.  It is the keystone of Christianity. The words of the great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon are appropriate; “Disprove the Resurrection of our Lord, and our holy faith would be a mere fable. There would be nothing for faith to rest upon if He who died upon the Cross did not also rise again from the tomb. Then “your faith is in vain,” said the Apostle, “you are yet in your sins,” while “they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” All the great Doctrines of our Divine religion fall asunder like the stones of an arch when the keystone is dislodged—in a common ruin they are all overthrown, for all our hope hinges upon that great fact. If Jesus rose, then is this Gospel what it professes to be; if He rose not from the dead, then is it all deceit and delusion, but, Brothers and Sisters, that Jesus rose from the dead is a fact better established than almost any other in history; the witnesses were many; they were men of all classes and conditions; none of them ever confessed himself mistaken or deceived; they were so persuaded that it was a fact that the most of them suffered death for bearing witness to it!”

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that a heart of stone may be rolled away and a new heart of grace and gratitude be transplanted by the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

The Lord is risen indeed!

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Winter 2013, Reflections on Shiny Things….

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Matthew 2: 1-3, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…”

The Holiday season is upon us again.  Soon folks will travel to malls, revitalized downtowns, big box stores or small Mom and Pop shops to traipse around, waiting for something shiny to catch their eye.  Or some will set in front of a computer screen “surfing the web” for the lowest price, latest gimmick, or next “got to have” item.  When our girls were children for a couple of years Cabbage Patch dolls were the rage.  Robby and I could not respond fast enough to purchase the real thing so we had a lady make us two for Stephanie and Megan.  (This may have had something to do with our refusal to stand in freezing weather, hours on end to make a consumer purchase of another faddish doll). They were just as excited over the handmade dolls as they were over the real thing.  In fact, we bought the real deal a few months later after the craze had subsided and for less mammon (that’s USD $).  They were grateful of course, but the newness, the shininess, had worn off. 

 Things that are shiny attract young and old alike.  We decorate our homes today from the top of chimney down to the basement.  Theme Christmas trees are popular - college mascots, Disney characters, NASCAR…the list is endless.  Each dressed just so, shiny and bright.  I can remember when mom and dad put up our Christmas tree, just a couple days before Christmas.  We enjoyed searching to find a suitable pine tree in the fields or woods about our home.  We all helped with the decoration and our eyes danced with the reflection of the multi-colored large lights that were wrapped about the tree. Santa arrived (somehow), and two or three days later, the tree was removed.  Christmas was a memory until next year.

 Today, the shiny decorations of Christmas can be seen before Halloween.  Even churches become captive to shiny as their theme this time of year.  Christmas extravaganzas, spectacular light and laser shows, dancing bears and sugar plum fairies are the norm. And yes, there must be a crèche, and don’t forget the Magi. They were attracted to a shiny light, were they not?

 Even the Gospel may appear shiny at first. But, because of sin, it loses its luster.  The Gospel, thankfully, doesn’t change and is forever fresh and new.  Its message is bound in the person of Christ Jesus.  Announced to our little world under the beam of a shiny star he journeyed eventually just five miles from his birthplace to be crucified for the sins of mankind.  No shiny stars then…in fact the sun refused to shine as His father forsook Him. 

 The earth was dark that day but the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shone brightly three days later when He rose again.  Men in shining garments appeared to announce Jesus’ resurrection.  The shining lights of Christmas give way to the shining, radiance and effulgence of the Savior and Lord of the world rising from the dead. 

 The Magi followed a star, or perhaps a constellation of stars supernaturally arranged in time to announce to these pagans that Someone very unique had arrived.  Christ’s birth wasn't shiny, none of today’s trappings, revealing parties, baby showers, or Facebook announcements.  He left Glory, condescending into poverty for our sake.  Angels, bathing the countryside with glorious light, announced the most profound message – peace could be had for all that welcomed Emmanuel.  They left, leaving Jesus in the care of two young earthly parents, relying on His father’s protection for the few years that lay before Him.  Nothing shiny here, move along, nothing to see here.   

Peter would write in 2 Peter 1:19, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” 

Has our Lord Jesus Christ arisen in your heart this year?  Has the light of the world, God’s magnificent Son, made His abode in your heart? Is the shiny just so much glitter in a world gone made with spotlights?  The star in the East that led wise men is the “…Root & Offspring of David, the bright and morning star!”

Merry Christmas and my prayer is that 2014 will be known in your life as the year of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey