GRACE NOTES-PASTORAL LETTER 5.3.23

Monthly memory verse: “Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb 4:14).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,I have been praying for you since we gathered to praise our great God and Savior together this past Lord’s Day.  It was a joy to open the Word with you both morning and night, and I hope that you have been meditating on His Word and increasing in His knowledge in the days that have followed.  After all, this is the place of blessedness, peace, joy, and comfort beyond measure.  There is nothing in all the world to be compared with drawing near to the Lord as we open His Word, especially together, but also in private in our homes, and receive the countless good things He has stored up for us therein.  It is not only something wonderful and refreshing to the soul, but most necessary in a day when unceasing headlines and ever-new sources of anxiety rush at us from the time we wake in the morning until we lie down to sleep at night.  In the midst of all of this, the Lord offers to HIs people life and peace, if we will but fix our minds and hearts upon Him, learning to hope and rest in Him by faith.  It is something of which I was happily reminded as we read Psalm 46 at our Thursday morning prayer meeting last week.The world certainly presents us with plenty of opportunities to be overwhelmed with anxious cares.  Day after day, politicians on the local, state, national, and global stages boast of great things – breathing out ungodly ambition and making sometimes more and sometimes less veiled threats – against each other, and sometimes against the very people they’re supposed to be representing and ruling for their good.  In the words of Psalm 46, using imagery commonly used in Scripture to describe great nations and the tumultuous sins of ungodly people, it appears that, “the mountains [will] be moved into the heart of the sea,” as, “its waters roar and foam” (Ps 46:2-3).  That is to say, it appears that the very stability of the world at large, and the nations that fill it, is about to be utterly undone, leaving everything, life as we know it, in ruins.  I mentioned at the prayer meeting that recent announcements about presidential campaigns had this very effect on me, as I bemoaned another campaign season, with all of its vitriol, along with the increasing likelihood of violence that now seems to accompany such heated seasons in the life of our nation.  Every day will present new headlines in bright, bold, red letters – stating that the worst of all imaginable things either has happened, or is about to happen.  Every day will be filled with angry ranting marked by a mix of true but nasty declarations and unfounded slander.  And, if the news networks have anything to say about it, many will be made to feel that we are on the verge of an apocalyptic event, that is, if things in the election don’t go the way a particular news organization wants them to go.  In other words, if the nations are mountains and people’s sinful outbursts are foaming waves, it will appear as though the mountains are crumbling while the waves rage and swallow them up, leaving only a dark, despairing sea of frothy-shame.  This is the picture painted by those who want to tell you how to think and feel on a daily basis, in order to manipulate you into watching their programming and supporting their particular ideology and agenda.  At all times, and especially in ever-longer campaign seasons, the world certainly presents us with plenty of opportunities to be overwhelmed with anxious cares.But, those who trust in the Lord need not be overwhelmed with anxious cares – indeed, right in the midst of this sin-scarred world, we can know true life, peace, and gladness.  It is the plain declaration of Psalm 46, which is why Luther found such comfort in this Psalm, claiming it as his own while the Roman Catholic church was busy seeking his life, so that it came to be known as the battle hymn of the Reformation.  And, it still holds forth this same comfort – this same life, peace, and gladness in the Lord – to us who trust and hope in Him today.  There is, of course, the prominent declaration at the outset of the Psalm that, for all this world’s raging, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1).  “Therefore,” say the sons of Korah, “we will not fear” (Ps 46:2a).  How could we, when the one who holds the nations in His hands and sees them as less than dust on the scales has become to us, in Christ, a Strong Tower of defense?  How could we be anxiety-ridden and driven to despair by world events when the Lord who commands heaven’s angelic armies is with us, a Fortress to defend us against any and everything that would seek undo us and remove us from His care (cf. Ps 46:11)?  Surely, unless we have moved our eyes away from Him and His precious promises to us, we need not fear!  Surely, we should not fear – not when the One whose Word never fails has promised to always be with us, even to the end of the age, to work everything together for our good, to supply our every need, to bring to completion HIs work in us, and to bring us into the full enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance He has stored up and presently guards for us (cf. Isa 46:10; 55:10-11; Matt 28:20; Rom 8:28; Phil 4:19; Phil 1:6; 1 Pet 1:3-5)!  Surely, we need not fear, whatever may be happening around us.  But, Psalm 46 goes further than that – it declares not just that we don’t need to fear, but that we can know true life, peace, and gladness in the Lord.  We read, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High” (Ps 46:4).  In this case, the river refers to the very presence of God Himself, as the following verse goes on to make clear enough, and in particular to the Holy Spirit, who is at times spoken using this very imagery (cf. Jn 7:37-39; Rev 22:1-2).  To His Old Covenant church, using the language of Jerusalem and the temple therein, the Lord promised not a literal river of water, which Jerusalem doesn’t have, but His own vital presence to sustain them in the midst of surrounding, raging nations.  And, to His church in the New Covenant age, He promises the same, calling us living stones that make up the dwelling of God, which He is pleased to fill, individually and corporately, with His Holy Spirit.  And, this living presence of our God within and among us produces for those who daily fix their thoughts and hopes upon Him, among other things, the fruit of joy and peace (cf. Gal 5:22-23).  So that, as we meditate on the Word of our God and gather for His praise, as we are transformed by the renewal of our minds with the Spirit’s help, we can take upon our lips the very words of Psalm 46 and sing aloud in troubled times, as Luther did long ago, “A mighty fortress is our God”!  Yes, while the seas roar and foam, while the mountains shake and melt, we can stand upon the Everlasting Rock and dare even to sing, “It is well with my soul”!  Daily trusting in the Lord, we need not be overwhelmed with anxious cares, but can know true life, peace, and blessedness.At all times then, and especially when things around or even in our lives seem increasingly hectic and threatening, let us not neglect the worship of our God and daily meditation upon His Word.  Let us gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ, let us hope our Bibles often, and let us take in the living Word of God that holds forth true and eternal life, and joy greater than the best the world can offer – the streams of His presence making glad His secure city, a bright light in a dark and mad world.  And, may the glory for that distinction be His alone, as we freely confess that He has done it! 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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