grace notes- pastoral letter 2.1.23

01-31-2023 Grace Notes – Pastoral Letter Monthly memory verse: “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb 12:3-4).Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,It was wonderful to see you and spend time praising our sovereign and gracious God and Savior together this past Lord’s Day.  I have been praying for you in the time since, and I hope this letter finds you and yours healthy in body and joyful in spirit as you lean upon the Lord and serve in His strength, and that you will be found daily delighting in Him until we gather again.  And what a blessing it is to know that, whatever a given week holds, if the Lord wills, we will indeed gather again to praise Him, because He established it as a regular, weekly pattern for our lives.  That thought has often encouraged me lately, and has had me thinking about the purpose of our worship.  It is a line of thought that was aided as I read through the early chapters of Exodus this past week, and came upon Exodus 12, in which, among many other things, the Lord states the central emphasis of the annual Passover Feast.  It is a clear reminder about what is the central, the primary, purpose of our worship.Our worship is first and foremost designed for the glory of God.  To some it may seem obvious, to others it may seem quite counter-intuitive.  It is certainly contrary to much of what fills the churches in our land on a given Lord’s Day.  But, as I read through Exodus 12, there it was, as plain as day.  Having struck the firstborn in Egypt, saved His people by hiding them behind the blood of a slain lamb, and brought His people out from under their burdens and harsh slavery by a mighty hand, the Lord instituted the Passover as an annual feast to be kept by His people.  And, as He prepared to give further regulations for how the feast was to be kept, the Lord stated what, or rather Who, was the center around which this act of worship would revolve.  In His own words, “It is a night to be kept for Yahweh for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for Yahweh, to be kept by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations” (Exod 12:42, LSB, emphasis mine).  And there it is.  The feast would certainly be a blessing to God’s people.  It would remind them of His great past deliverance from Pharaoh’s tyranny.  It would remind them of His provision of a sacrifice to preserve them alive as His judgment fell heavy upon Egypt.  It would encourage them to hope for further deliverances.  Ultimately, it would direct them to look and long for the Passover Lamb, who would take away the sins of the world, release them from slavery to Satan, and bring them into the freedom of the sons of God.  So, it would certainly contain ample blessing for God’s people.  But, centrally, it was a feast for Yahweh.  It was a feast designed to bring Him glory, by declaring, just as the Lord’s Supper does each week, the glorious things that He had done (cf. 1 Cor 11:26).  It was a feast designed to magnify His sovereign might in raising up and then casting down Pharaoh and all his hosts.  It was a feast designed to magnify His sovereign mercy in redeeming His chosen people to be His prized possession. In short, it was a feast designed to declare to God’s people and to any onlookers that there is no one like Yahweh, the only living and true God, the Judge of all the earth, and the Savior of all who seek refuge in Him.  The feast would be a joy for His people – a privilege in which they would delight to be granted to participate.  But, before all else, it would be an enacted declaration of the greatness and mighty works of the Lord.  It is a helpful and necessary reminder that our worship is first and foremost designed for the glory of God.And this has some very significant implications for the way we think about our weekly gatherings on the Lord’s Day.  In the modern mind, the undisputed center of all things is the all important “I” – it is all about me, what I want, and what I think I can get from something or someone.  Sadly, this way of thinking is so pervasive that it has found its way, often without notice, in the mindset of many Christians, and has thereby influenced the way we think about and fashion our worship.  As a result, the determining factor for many in whether or not to attend worship on a given week based on whether “I” feel like it.  The measuring stick by which many measure whether a given worship service was “spirit-filled’” is whether or not “I” felt a certain way, and whether it was crafted in a way that “I” find appealing.  The sad result is that great numbers of professing believers fail to become deeply rooted in faithful, biblical churches, because no particular church can possibly succeed at making countless individuals feel like coming to worship every week, and feel like they had a very moving, emotional experience at every service.  Church leaders who submit to the spirit of the age labor in vain as they try to pull of the impossible, and those who profess the love the Lord wander more-less aimlessly as they continually seek the non-existent church that deliver the craved, ongoing high, each wanting a service with which “I” am pleased – aesthetically, emotionally, and so on.  To such, the Word of God comes with a much-needed word of correction.  While it is immensely beneficial to us, far from being about us, worship is, “for Yahweh,” it is, “for the LORD” (Exod 12:42).  Before anything else, worship is about rendering Him the glory He is due, in a manner pleasing to Him.  It is about bringing the whole of our being, emotions included, into submission to the Lord – observing His command to come together in a way shaped by His Word to remember, delight in, and magnify Him for who He is, and for the great things that He has done.  Thus, the key question in determining whether we should attend worship is decidedly not, “How do I feel today?” but, “What has the Lord commanded me to do today?”  And, the measuring stick by which to measure a given service is not, “What did I feel?” but, “Was it what the Lord has commanded to be done in His worship?”  Of course, if I attend faithfully and determine that a given service was in fact biblical, but still didn’t feel a certain way, then there may well be a problem.  Yet, it isn’t a problem to be resolved by uprooting myself and planting elsewhere, but rather by praying and asking the Lord to awaken my heart so that I will delight in that which He has revealed to be pleasing in His sight, as I should.  After all, He does mean for me to delight in His worship.  Not “I”-centered worship, but His worship – worship that is decidedly just what He has called for it to be – for Yahweh.Therefore, as we near another Lord’s Day, let us be in prayer for the Lord to increasingly align our hearts with His, such that our aim would be, not to seek to satisfy an emotional craving considered in itself, but to delight ourselves in the Lord.  Let us ask Him to re-fashion our desires, such that, to gather according to His command and to worship according to His Word would be for us a source of true joy.  At the same time, let us ask Him for the God-centered sort of thinking that determines, whenever our emotions run counter to His Word, to submit entirely to His Word, trusting that He will enliven our affections at the proper time, using the worship He has designed and commanded to this very end.  Which is simply to say, let us be constant in prayer that He would make it our aim, our resolution, and increasingly our flight to consistently engage in worship that is for Yahweh.In Christ,Pastor Eric P.S.Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.Please mark your calendars!  If you ever need to double-check dates, events are usually kept up to date on the church’s website calendar:  https://covenantofgracews.org/event-calendar/· Daily devotions
o I continue to encourage you to daily read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening as we seek to maintain a spirit of unity.  It is widely available – here is one link:
§ https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/today
 

‘Vision Statement’  Covenant of Grace is a loving church family that equips people to know God and His Word through serious, joyful, Christ-centered worship and service, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

Matt 22:37-39
37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Love God.  Love people.

 

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PO Box 26511
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