grace notes – pastoral letter 11.9.22

1-09-2022 Grace Notes – Pastoral Letter
Monthly memory verse: If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared” (Ps 130:3-4).”

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,As I write this, I am deeply grateful to the Lord be part of the same local congregation together with you.  What a gift of His grace to make us members of Christ and parts of His body who are knit together in love.  It is always a blessing to gather with you to learn together and praise His name.  It is also a joy to have a family in Christ with whom to share both our sorrows and our joys.  Of course, His goodness abounds to us in all that we do, but it is especially sweet when we get to taste of that goodness together as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and children in Christ.  The fellowship of the saints is, as it were, a place of warmth and light in an often cold and dreary world.  This was on my mind this past week as I drove around and looked at the leaves, seeming to burst with color, all at once displaying the beauty of our God’s creation and declaring with one last hurrah that they will soon be gone and winter will follow.Indeed, as with the leaves, so are many things in this present life.  The Lord blesses us with  such an abundance of gifts that it is impossible to keep count of them all.  He gives to us life, breath, and everything (cf. Acts 17:25).  He gives us every good and perfect gift (cf. Jas 1:17).  We have nothing that we haven’t received from Him (cf. 1 Cor 4:7).  So, every single day we have plentiful reasons to give thanks to the Lord (cf. 1 These 5:18).  We can look at things like the brightly colored leaves and the stars in the heavens above and find reasons to be caught up in awe at the greatness and goodness of our God (cf. Ps 19:1).  And yet, for all of this, it remains true that the beauty of this present age is passing away.  Like the leaves which the Lord sets ablaze in strokes of fiery orange and crimson, but which soon fall, dry out, and turn to brown, so it is appointed to man to die, and so this world as it presently stands has an appointed end.  Such is the sad result of sin’s entrance into the world, and it leaves us in the strange state of finding our rejoicing often mixed with weeping as the glimpses of glory we catch here and there seem to fade as quickly as they appear.  I remember as a child, for example, feeling as if my heart were being torn in two when large family gatherings and annual vacations drew to a close, wondering why it had to end, why it couldn’t just go on forever.  It creates a tension, in which times of delight are mixed with yearning for something that doesn’t disappear, something that is lasting.  As with the radiant leaves giving way to browns and grays, so are many things in this present life.And yet, in His mercy, the Lord has not only promised all who are in Christ eternal life hereafter, but has  given to us a foretaste of that coming glory that won’t fade or be lost, but grow stronger until that great day dawns and all things are made new.  Such is the fellowship of the saints.  Like the Israelite homes in Egypt, this fellowship is a bright and shining light in a world that lies under a darkness so thick it can be felt.  Like a fire crackling beneath the hearth, it is a place of warmth in a world that long ago fell into a spiritual winter.  It is something that doesn’t end when this life ends, but only grows stronger as departed saints are made perfect in holiness and ushered into the presence of our Savior, together awaiting the perfecting of their bodies and that endless daylight that will dawn but never set in the new heavens and earth, being filled with the glory of the Lord.  It is a great comfort for the people of God, who are called strangers and sojourners while living in this present evil age.  Leaves may give way to barren branches and monotone skies, but the fellowship of the saints will continue to provide a lively place of refuge, encouragement, and hope through every season and all of life.  Good times may sometimes give way to harder times, but the body of Christ will prove a strong support through them all.  Laughter may be washed away by streams of tears and our heads may start to droop, but those who love the Lord and one another in Him will supply shoulders to cry upon and remind us to lift our heads once more, to remember the Lord, from whom our help comes.  Cutting winds may blow, and rain and snow may fall outside, but the songs of the saints will prove a thawing flame wherever they gather together to call upon the Lord and build one another up in love.  It is the glory of the church, the Bride of Christ.  She is never extinguished because He has promised to build and sanctify her.  She never ends but moves from one degree of glory to another until He comes and makes her perfect at last.  It is the gift of our great God and Savior to His people in a fallen and flawed world.  He has not only promised us eternal life hereafter, but has given to us, in the company of the godly, a small foretaste of that coming glory, which won’t fade or be lost, but grow stronger until that great day dawns when Christ returns and all things are made new.Therefore, at all times, and perhaps especially at the turning of the seasons, when many are prone to feel downcast and withdrawn, let us give thanks for, and make the most of, every opportunity to join in, the fellowship of the saints.  Let us wake early, spending as much of the Lord’s Day together as possible, starting with Sunday School and ending with evening worship.  Let us mark our weekly calendars and join our voices with our family in Christ at one of the two weekly prayer meetings.  Let us refuse to let busyness creep in and keep us from ladies’ and mens’ studies.  Let us go out of our way to get together to spend some time with a fellow believer, or group of fellow believers.  In short, when the darkness grows longer and the days shorter, when our spirits might be tempted to cool with the temperature, let us seek the warmth and brightness that emanates wherever the godly gather.  Let us be a light to one another and in the world, growing not less but more enthusiastic in our praise and service to the Lord.  Let us give thanks for, and make the most of, every opportunity to join in the fellowship of the saints.May the Head of the church Himself make it so, and may we be quick to praise Him as the Son of Righteousness rises in our hearts, the darkness flees away, and our souls are set all ablaze with love for our God and for one another.  In Christ,Pastor EricP.S.