Perusal* – Spring 2012, Reflections on Dependence…

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

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who know no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” 

A few days ago I returned from a very long journey to South Africa.  The travel took better than 24 hours on jet planes and two donkeys to the hotel (that’s a prevarication, not true….but it did take a very long time to arrive at the destination)!  Today’s modern modes of travel are taken for granted.  It requires the harmony of complex mechanisms – aircraft with mechanics and electronics in concert with software that digitally moves within the framework of computers.  But all of the marvels of technology are useless without a human crew.  And we depend upon those skilled with the craft of understanding the piloting of airplanes to transport us from point A to point B.  I am grateful for these men and women that perform their duties behind the scenes without promotion.  Thousands every year depend upon their dedication for most of us cannot fly the plane independently. 

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ did not occur until he suffered and died an ignominious death on the Cross. He had repeatedly reminded his disciples of his date with crucifixion.  They were ignorant of his prophecy until they deserted him and watched his murder from afar.  We too have deserted him.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Isaiah wrote these beautiful, haunting words almost 3000 years ago.  They are as true today as then.   

We are dependent individuals that pride ourselves on a false image of independence.  Left to do our own thing we will certainly chose to desert the Savior that loves us and demands repentance and complete submission.  The resurrection made this ever so clear – God crowned His Son with the spirit of holiness because He was made sin for us.  This crown was earned by obedience and due to Him because of his heritage.  He alone wears both crowns – the stephanos, or earned crown and the diadem, given because he is God’s Son.

Our insatiable cry for rights and freedoms will, if not humbled by the Holy Spirit, doom us and eventually damn us.  God did create us as free moral agents but scripture reminds us often that we have gone astray. We have all sought our own way and are far from God.  Little wonder there is so much hurt in this world, often of our own making.   

God demands righteousness in us and thankfully the Lord Jesus provides this righteousness. We are dependent on His work, His will, His worship to become the righteousness of God.  Jesus gave himself for our sakes.  He did this unreservedly in love, pitying sinners in mercy and crowning them with the marvel of grace.  Yes, we are dependent and should declare this dependence upon the person of the Redeemer, resurrected to become our Mediator! 

Hallelujah, what a Savior! 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Winter 2011, Reflections on Mercy…

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

Luke 1:76-79 “ And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
      For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
      To give knowledge of salvation to His people
      By the remission of their sins,
      Through the tender mercy of our God,
      With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
      To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
      To guide our feet into the way of peace.”  

Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied these words after his son’s circumcision, or dedication to the Lord.  They remind us that the world into which the Messiah was birthed was a cold, dark, and desperate place.  It was also the world of the Baptist.  He had little choice in his destiny, but this did not seem to bother him.  He is not heard from again until the baptism of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This too, did not seem to bother him.  He would declare in John’s gospel, “He must increase and I decrease.”  Oh for Christians today that are as humble as John the Baptist! 

John understood mercy.  Mercy is the kindness and goodness of the triune God to pitiful and desperate people.  We are pitied by God.  His mercy endures because the sin of unrepentant persons endures.  Jesus Christ is the mercy of God in human form.  It is hard to believe that a mere babe in the manger reflected the kindness of God.  But He did and does still. 

God’s mercy was not exhibited when the angels sinned.  Lucifer did not know God’s mercy and surely Satan will never experience God’s pity.  We alone of the creation are beholders of and  partakers of His mercy!  Is this not cause for rejoicing - is this not cause for praise – is this not cause for humility? 

The Lord stooped to lie in an animal trough, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, to have no permanent place of shelter.  Although a carpenter he built himself no place of rest.  He was intent on declaring His Father’s mercy to a world mired in the bleak mid-winter of our discontent.   He had no urgent demand to demonstrate mercy.  He was under no time constraint; no sinner ever deserved the slightest notion of redemption.  His mercy is His to dispense and His to withhold.  But, nonetheless God commended His love to us while we were yet in our sins.   

This is what it means to be God.  Absolute and utter freedom to make whatever choice glorifies Him most.  And this He does without sin! I am humbled when I reflect upon my Father’s mercy.  I am delighted when I revel in His grace.  And I am comforted to know His love – a love that surpasses all human expectations! 

Mercy is a reflection of humility.  They are both graces given by the Holy Spirit to regenerate persons born again by the Spirit of God.  As believers we are to express both humility and mercy to all, for this is what our Lord expects and commands.  We cannot demonstrate the extent of God’s mercy, but we can demonstrate its intent.  Without mercy we all would surely be consumed.  Since our God has demonstrated his love, mercy, and grace to the world in Jesus the Christ, his children are to follow his lead.

Merry Christmas and my prayer is that 2012 will be the best year for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory. 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Autumn 2011, Reflections on Landmarks…

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

Jeremiah 31: 21 “ Set up signposts, Make landmarks; 

      Set your heart toward the highway, The way in which you went. 

      Turn back, O virgin of Israel, Turn back to these your cities.  

Flat Creek has enjoyed a summer of weddings, four to be exact.  And each one has been beautiful, poignant, and different in their style and formality.  The couples selected meaningful reminders of their lives to that particular moment when they were united as husband and wife.  The music and songs were selected, scripture was carefully and solemnly read, the vows were tailored especially for each young couple….the ceremonies reflected their love for each other and their love for their Lord, Jesus Christ. 

What occurred on each of their special days will be remembered for years.  The moments were photographed and videotaped and then posted to the latest social network craze of the day - Facebook.  They have established landmarks in their young lives.  Events they can return to year after year to reflect on commitments made before hundreds of people that they will be faithful to each other and to Christ Jesus as long as they live. 

We think of landmarks as stationary things along the sides of country roads or interstates that lend themselves to finding a specific address, place of business, church, school, or home.  With the advent of GPS systems I suspect they are not used as frequently as years ago.  But some people still use them.  In fact this week I provided a lady with directions to Flat Creek that not only included road numbers but also a few landmarks to easily locate the church. Hope she found them informational.

Our Lord is gracious in providing spiritual landmarks for our guidance.  The passage above is taken from Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah.  The specific chapter, 31, mentions landmarks that are made for the purpose of correcting their bent to sinning.   They are mentioned together with signposts and highways, normal methods of traveling from one point to another.

Jeremiah is preaching to his kindred about repentance, turning back or turning around, changing direction. The church needs a change in direction.  We need to establish the landmark of God’s word as it promotes His Son Jesus Christ as the only remedy for the world’s sin and sinners.  We need to be reminded of the signposts that warn us of impending danger, the washed out road ahead or the sharp curve that we happen upon too quickly.  We should pay attention to the highways of sin’s attraction that eventually will rob us of our joy in the Savior. 

Flat Creek is celebrating 180 years of continuous service in the Lynchburg area.  There have been and continue to be landmarks from the church’s past.  Outside Flat Creek’s Educational building are two stone “stiles”.  These were used decades ago when people attending church rode horses to the services.  They are steps made from granite that permitted people to mount and dismount their horses. They are landmarks from an earlier time, perhaps a simpler time.  And they remind us that men, women, boys and girls served our Lord Jesus Christ long before we knew of Him. They were made many years ago, were used hundreds of times, and now remain as reminders of Flat Creek’s legacy.  If the Lord Jesus tarries His Coming the stiles will continue to be reminders of this legacy to believers that follow us long after we are gone. 

In the same chapter 31 of Jeremiah the Lord tells His prophet that He will make a new covenant with His chosen people.   

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” 

As God’s people let us not forget the landmarks He has left to remind us of His great mercy, his unmerited grace, and His everlasting love. 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Summer 2011, Rest, Relaxation…Reformation

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

Matthew 26: 35 & 56b: Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" And all the disciples said the same.  Then all the disciples left him and fled.” ESV 

Flat Creek is blessed this summer to celebrate the glorious gift of the covenant of marriage not once, but four times.  As this perusal is being written two wonderful weddings are “in the books” and our congratulations to Geoff and Rachel Sanders on their most recent wedding! They have begun a brand new life together in our Lord Jesus Christ, to share the wealth of His grace and love and to enjoy each other. Our prayer is that the very same God that gave away the first bride, Eve, will grow them as believers in His Holy Spirit. 

Summer is here – in fact, the weather prediction is for temperatures close to 100o F for the next few days.  Robby and I and two other couples recently returned from traveling to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming.  These areas experienced record snow falls this winter past, over 700” in some places.  Snow was still glued to the mountain passes up to 30’ in height.  The weather during the day was typically western, rain and thunder squalls with clearing and temperatures warming from the thirties to the sixties. Quite a relief from the heat indexes of 100+.  It was difficult for us to imagine that the beauty of creation and the senses to enjoy such beauty was brought about by random acts of natural selection.  The Bible informs those that will listen that God “…gives us richly all things to enjoy!” 1 Timothy 6:17.  And what glory is seen in the works of His fingers! 

No matter what process or agency our Lord used to bring about the creation, as He spoke the worlds responded ex nihilo  - out of nothing.  Only our God does this.  Out of nothing He brought forth material things in physical form including humanity.  And provided the capacity to respond to what He provided.  What a God!  But our response is more often than not muted and oblivious to His compassionate mercy because of our criminal sin.  Such was the case of the twelve chosen to witness the kingdom of God in the glory of the Gospel.  They were muted and callous as Jesus told of his impending death.  As men they responded much the same as men of all time have responded.  “We will not deny you; we will follow you to the cross and die if necessary.”  Oblivious to the fact that the work of God is done by God alone they enthusiastically and with one voice tried to encourage their Lord, turning their rally hats around and resolutely turning their faces into the chilling winds of sure death. 

Courage is not the ability to boldly make claims of bravado.  Courage is the fortitude to be thrust into great trials and boldly persevere not knowing the outcome.  This is even more compelling when we think that Jesus Christ was well aware of the trials before Him.   When faced with the real possibility of death, especially that of crucifixion, the disciples to a man deserted Him.  John did return with His mother, but not before skulking away from the clamoring crowd.  What our Lord did in the atonement He did alone.  Alone and separated from His Father.  Alone and deserted by His closest friends.  God ventures into the valley of the shadow of death alone so that His bride the church will never be left alone!  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus promised. 

Summer is a time when some decide to leave others alone to worship in God’s house.  These boldly declare that they “work so hard…” they require vacation.  Yes, we need vacation.  But 12-13 weeks of leaving God’s people to themselves is more than vacation.  It is desertion.   

Let us as believers celebrate earthly marriages as illustrations of God’s love in Christ Jesus for his church.  Let us also as believers support each other during the vacation months – rest, relaxation, recuperation…and reformation in the Lord’s house.   

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Spring 2011, “While the earth remains…”

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

Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." 

One week ago (at the time of this writing) our weather was cold, less than 40o F.  This weekend temperatures have approached record warmth levels.  Perhaps there is something to the climate change hysteria.  Or, perhaps the earth is engaged in cyclic weather patterns that fluctuate annually, much like my weight! The Creator controls the phenomenon by the mere edges of His ways Job declared more than 3500 years ago.  He does this as a reflection of His glory and is dispensed to mankind to search it out, Proverbs 25:2. Our voices should praise Him in unison while enjoying the on set of Spring. 

Flat Creek Baptist Church celebrates its 180th anniversary during 2011.  It has been my great privilege to pastor Flat Creek for almost sixteen years.  Our Lord has caused me to grow in His grace and knowledge over these years and I have been humbled by the tenure.  The willingness of God’s people to work together for the purpose of fulfilling the great Commission has humbled me.  Sharing in the suffering of godly saints has humbled me.  Rejoicing in their triumphs has humbled me.  Disciplining fellow believers has humbled me.  Most of all, learning of the grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ, has led to an increasingly humility and amazement that the triune God would stoop to love a wretched sinner as I. 

Five years ago Flat Creek was blessed to celebrate our 175th anniversary.  This year we are planning for a great day of Jubilee on October 16, 2011.  Dr. Andreas Kostenberger, author of more than twenty books and professor of New Testament Theology and Director of PhD studies at Southeastern Baptist Seminary will be our plenary speaker.  He also is the key contributor of www. Biblicalfoundations.org website and has traveled extensively having spoken last year in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, England.  Dr. Kostenberger is noted for his unerring love of the truth of God’s word and his dedication to the restoration of godly marriages in our churches now furthered by the second edition of his work God, Marriage, and Family.   

We are blessed to have this opportunity to listen to Dr. Kostenberger as he declares the One with whom we all have to do, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has debated Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina about the foundations of Christianity and has written a book in defense of the orthodox understanding of our faith, ironically titled The Heresy of Orthodoxy. The simplicity of the Gospel is under attack today perhaps as never before and Dr. Kostenberger is on the front line battling the good news of God’s character in Jesus Christ. 

Over the next few weeks more will be written concerning our 180th celebration.  Make your plans to join with the saints of Flat Creek committed to the continuing declaration that Jesus died for sinners of whom I am chief!  Remember we are to proclaim the Gospel while the earth remains.  

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey