Ringing the Bell


Andy at the Casey Jones Museum in Jackson, TN!

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Firetrucks & Funerals

Andy’s Fifth Birthday!
We celebrated Andy’s 5th birthday on Saturday by going to the local fire station. That was a hit because what little boy doesn’t want to crawl all over a firetruck? Andy, and his new friend, Dalton immediately started up the side of the ladder truck and one of the firefighters tried to stop them. He quickly realized the futility of doing so, and both boys went right up the side, and up on the ladder. That is where this photo was taken. Joey also crawled up there and both had an excellent time looking down on everyone else. As all parents say, it’s hard to believe that he is already 5 years old. He even has trouble realizing it. The other day he woke up and asked if he was still 5. “Yes,” I said. “Are you glad?” He was. I guess he feared that he might have to go back to being 4.For the record, we had a robot cake that was very good!

Funerals
On the other front, we had to go over to Sherwood, AR, on Sunday so we could attend my aunt’s funeral. Marvelle Swindle Harmon died last week. She was my favorite aunt and a very strong believer. We knew that she probably would not last long, given that her health was so poor and that Uncle Bill, her husband of 60 years, died six months ago.

So her death was not a surprise to us. She wanted to be with her Lord, and her husband. Yet, she will be missed because she was such a wonderful lady. When Hank, one of her sons, gave the euglogy, he started with something he had written, but ended up just talking about who she was. That is a testimony to her character. She was a wonderful woman and all those who knew her was blessed by being her friend.

I remember when I had graduated from high school, I took some time to go visit them. During the course of time, I came down with a horrible headache. Being raised a Christian Scientist, the typical response was to simply deny the reality of the headache. Needless to say, I lived with a lot of headaches. Given that she was susceptible to migraines, as I am, she offered some aspirin. I wondered if I could, since I was a Christian Scientists. Christian Scientists never take medicine or see doctors… unless it’s really bad. I reluctantly took the aspirin.

Miracles of miracles, my headache went away. I couldn’t believe my Aunt had discovered a miracle drug.

The other time she came to my rescue with miracle drugs was when I was visiting and came down with strep throat. I went to a Christian Scientist practitioner, which is a person you pay to pray for you so you can be healed. I told her I wasn’t feeling well, and she prayed for me.

Needless to say, I didn’t improve. I got worse. Finally, Aunt Marvelle suggested that I go see a doctor. Again, I eyed her with suspicion. Didn’t she know I was a Christian Scientist? Well, yes she did. That’s why she suggested I go see a doctor. I did at her urging and discovered another miracle drug: antibiotics. I felt better in a few days.

I did call the practitioner and told her I was all well. She was all excited, until I told her I went to see a doctor and was on antibiotics. Then she got mad a me. Too bad. I was better, thanks to Aunt Marvelle and her miracle drugs. In fact, I think Aunt Marvelle and Uncle Bill actually prayed that I would get better and didn’t charge me a thing. Not a bad deal at all. Free prayer, and drugs that actually work. I was on my road into agnosticism, which eventually lead me away from Christian Science and into the true faith.

Aunt Marvelle will be missed… but only for a short time in the grand scheme of things.

Conversations with Pre-Schoolers

Yes, my boys are at it again. Humoring us in the normal course of the day.The Boy Who Knows Everything
As we were driving home from Kroger the other night, Andy, all of 4 years old, proclaimed in the back seat of the minivan that he was the boy who knew everything! Yes, everything! I really didn’t think that would start until he got into his teens, but I’ve always thought he was a tad bit ahead of the curve when it came to intellectual matters.

I couldn’t let it rest. I just had to test his great knowledge.

“Andy, since you know everything, what size shoe do I wear?”
Without much pause, “Your shoes are bigger than your footprint!”

I laughed the rest of the way home.

The Boy Who Knows His Name
As I was trying to get Joey in bed the other night, he started to get up one more time. In my “authoritative” voice, I said, “You lay down young man!”
He responded: “I’m not a young man, I’m Joey.”

Authoritative voices were replaced with voices trying to remain in control.

Family Ties — Sunday’s Sermon

(I posted the opening illustration to Sunday’s sermon in the post before this one and several asked for the sermon in it’s entirety. I’m too tired to try and make it presentable, so you are getting it in note form. There should be enough there for you to fill in the gaps. It’s taken from Hebrews 2:10-13).

For it was fitting for Him… simple words.. but so true. It was fitting for Him b/c He was God’s Son, b/c He was a man, b/c He was crowned with glory and honor, b/c He might taste death for everyone.

He was the only One fit for doing what He did. Christ alone, accomplishes this…

Need reminder… tend to think we can do it once we are “in Christ.” Fool ourselves into thinking: “Yes, I’m in Christ, now I can take over and do the rest.” We will see that this is NOT true… It is Christ alone.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one…

Even He is sanctifying us… Christ alone… this is why it was fitting for Him to do what He did. His death was successful… He set out to achieve a purpose and He did accomplish that purpose… no more need for wonder… salvation is accomplished in Christ.

Christ is fit to be our Savior

This is why writer attributes to Him deity status when He writes: for whom are all things and by whom are all things… This is a statement that can only be made about God. Only God holds all things together… Only God holds all things together. This points to His sovereignty once again… need to be reminded that nothing comes to pass without His decree being fulfilled.

When His decreed will is fulfilled, we can take comfort in that which comes to pass, knowing that for some reason, God wanted these things to fall out as they have. God is ordering all events to unwind as they do. We may not understand the events, or control them, but we can control our reactions to them. But we see Jesus… (9) looking unto Jesus (12:2) therefore trusting in Our God, Jesus Christ…

What is His purpose here?

V. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Christ leads His children into The family.

Bringing sons to glory – salvation open to all. Makes us a family… brings us together in a way that was impossible before Christ.

Adoption… WCF only confession that deals with adoption… being adopted into the family. Eph. 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that (purpose) we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

Ordo salutis… order of salvation: effectual calling, regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, glorification. All happening simultaneously… but the order helps us understand what takes place… key here is adoption.

Jesus sets out to bring us into the family.. we are in the family.. as rightful heirs by way of adoption…He knew what we were… and still adopted us… have all the rights and privileges as the any other child… (Why do adopted children look for original parents??? Your parents are those that adopted you… not a second-class child. No second-class citizens in the family of God).

How did He bring us into the family?

Through His leadership and sufferingin bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Through His sufferings He accomplished our redemption. He took on our sins… making Him the captain of (our) salvation… He is going ahead of us in bringing about salvation.

(Good Shepherd) John 10:3-4 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

He is the captain of our salvation in that He leads us in our salvation. He is not One to leave us alone, but goes on ahead of us to help us and comfort us. (Not like the Imams of Islam that are encouraging their young men to blow themselves up… while they remain comfortably in their mosques.)

Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Just as God brought Moses and Joshua to deliver the people of Israel to the promise land, so too does He provide His incarnate Son to deliver us safely into the enjoyment of salvation. He does the work… not striving in order to find the Father’s good pleasure, we find it because we are in the One who has found it…

O the freedom this is… think of our strivings for perfection in this fallen world, and when it comes to the one area where we need to strive the most, yet have the least amount of ability… He provides for us… He has given it to us!

Not only captain, but He also suffered.

Suffered pains of death… for us… substitutionary atonement. Given righteousness apart from ours… take on our sins for us… by His sufferings, He pays our debts. This is why He is author and finisher of our faith.

BTW, notice His form of leadership… through humility and suffering… not something you will find in the board room of a Fortune 500 company.

Problem

to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings

Term perfect in Hebrews is to be understood as achieving the highest goal. It does not mean that He was less than perfect and become perfect. He was already without spot or blemish…

In the context of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the term to make perfect signifies that Jesus removed the sins of his people from the presence of God and thus His sacrificial death on the cross consecrated the ‘many sons.’

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Christ not only leads His children into the family, but He also sanctifies His family.

Christ sanctifies His family.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.

What is sanctification?

This is at the heart of so much understanding in Christian circles… what is it? WCF, LC answers it this way:

Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

Christ is doing the work in making us holy, and we follow in obedience for we know that this process of becoming holy is not a one-time event, but a life-long event. “The path of sanctification lies in obedience to doing God’s will, and that obedience is out of gratitude.”

In Christ, we cannot lose our holiness, but we can soil it. When we sin, we soil that which God is doing in us, and this, of course, bring the necessity for repentance. We repent and Jesus Christ stands ready to make us clean. He is doing the work to cleanse us, and we are willingly accepting that work upon us.

There is a lot of confusion on this issue, for many feel that there are two different levels of sanctification, one for those who are really filled with the holy spirit, thereby they enter into full time-ministry or go over seas, and then the rest of us… who just barely get into heaven.

What is taking place here is confusing indicative and imperatives.

Imperative: Girls: stop living with your boyfriend. That’s imperative.

The appeal here is to the indicative. Paul asks: How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Not invited to die to sin… or to a higher level… We are invited to live in gratitude of who we are, therefore we quit living in sin.

The believer has died, is buried, is raised, is seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and so on. These are not plateaus for victorious Christians who have surrendered all, but realities for every believer regardless of how small one’s faith or how weak one’s repentance… Thus, we must stop trying to convert believers into these realities by imperatives: “Do this,” “Confess that,” “Follow these steps,” and so on. Union with Christ ushers us into conversion and conversion ushers us immediately into all of these realities so that, as Sinclair Ferguson writes; ‘The determining fact of my existence is no longer my past. It is Christ’s past.’”

Therefore we are to live as we are, not as we use to be… and in the process He cleanses us… How?

Ephesians 5:26 … that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word…

Paul is speaking of Christ’s bride, therefore Christ is going to do what is best for His bride… cleanse her…

The indicative also helps us understand the reality of who we are as believers. We are those who have been set apart by God, to live under His domain in the world, being rescued from the domain of Satan and his power. This frees us up to enjoy the fellowship and freedom we have in serving Christ in every realm of our existence. While others are still under the darkness of Satan’s rule, Christ has freed the believer for special fellowship and service. This does lead to the imperative.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Let us live in light of the reality of who we are: God’s servants.

Yet, the writer here is not telling us to do anything, but helping us see the wonderful position we have in Christ. This is why He sanctifies us. Jesus is set apart and holy. This is who He is. Since we then belong to Him, He is making us more like Himself.

Why?

Because we are one.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.

This speaks of our union with Christ. When we believe, we are grafted into the vine through conversion and baptism. We are made a part of the vine, of which, we are never to separate ourselves.

Only those, out of a love for the pleasures of the world, perish. Those who refuse His leadership and His sacrifice are lost, because they do not believe… But for those who do:

For which reason He is not ashamed to call (us) brethren.

WE are His family. Since this is true, it is fitting that He would clean us up. He is the One working in us to make us complete. Not only does He clean us up, He boasts about us as well.

Christ Boasts About His Family….

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying:



“ I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”[a]

13 And again:

“ I will put My trust in Him.”[b]

And again:

“ Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”[c]

At first we might be struck by what Christ does because of our sinful nature. We know how sinful we are, and if that sin is exposed, we would be rightly ashamed. We know that if we look at our lives from the stand point of the imperatives, this is the case.

This is why the indicative is so important. Christ views us from the lens of who we are in Him. He is not seeing us apart from His glory or His righteousness. Just as the Father does not see us in that light any longer. God sees us in the light of who we are in Christ.

It is because of His righteousness and His atoning work that Christ can and does boast about us. His work has taken that which is sinful and despicable and cleaned us up to make us presentable to the Father.

“(The Christian) does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” – C. S. Lewis

Ephesians 5:26-27 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Because of His work, we are presentable to the Father. Because of His work, we are worth boasting about. Not that we boast, but He boasts in that He has taken fallen men and women and made them into something worthy of praise.

This seems odd to us, but we must remember who is doing the boasting and why. Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Conclusion — With Christ going to all this trouble to make us His family and to make us His brethren, can we really say that our earthly family comes before our heavenly family? Can we really think of the church as just a group of people we get together with on occasion, when in reality, we are bound together by faith for eternity?

Opening Illustration

(The following is my opening illustration for my sermon on Sunday)

One of the sad aspects of ministry, is that we often times get to see the less than glorious side of those in the church. In other words, we get to see the sinful natures of those we have been placed with in the body of Christ.

We also get to hear some things that just don’t ring true with Scripture. You know those statements? Things like, “Jesus helps those who help themselves.” That just isn’t true. A more accurate rendition of that statement would be: “Jesus helps those who cannot help themselves.” That is the gospel. He saves those who come to the end of their wits concerning salvation and turn to Him in faith in order to be saved.

One statement that I heard recently from a man who was disgruntled with the church was the statement: “God first, family second, the church third.” This was his justification in leaving a particular church. The problem with his statement is that it isn’t biblical. If you truly put God first, and become one of His children, then the church doesn’t fall into the third slot because in reality, it belongs in the second slot.

When we trust in Jesus Christ, the church becomes our family. We may not be related directly by blood, but we are related directly by faith. If you spend any time in Scripture at all, you will realize that this is a far more deep relationship than the blood relationships that we have. This relationship that we have in faith, bound in Christ, is eternal and more real than our blood relations. In fact, for many of us, the moment that our blood relations are broken through death is the moment that those relationships have come to an end, and they will never again be revived.

Therefore, we need to focus on the relationships we have in Christ all the more, and let Christ work in us. This is one reason why I believe in church membership. We need to make a commitment to one another, publicly because of what is says about Christ’s work of salvation.

After all, it is His work, since He is the one that accomplishes this bond.