GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 12.14.23

Monthly memory verse: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,I have been thanking our God for the high privilege of worshipping Him together with you, His gathered and holy people, this past Lord’s day.  Like all of the other benefits that flow from a living union with our Savior, this is a blessing that I know I don’t deserve.  It is therefore always humbling and a cause for joy when I see you and hear your voices blessing the Lord, which moves me to praise Him as well.  What a gift to be with His people, to receive good gifts from Him, and then to take what we have received and use it to make Christ known by word and deed as we go through the week.  Indeed, this is precisely what we’re called to do – whatever else we do, to always be about the business of leaving behind something of the goodness of our Savior – and, by God’s grace, it is precisely what He uses us to do.This is what gave the Apostle Paul hope and encouragement as he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, even as his own plans had been turned on their head.  In verse 12-13 of the second chapter of this epistle, he writes of having travelled to Troas with the intention of preaching the gospel there.  And, in His grace, the Lord opened a door, providing an opportunity for Paul to do just that.  And yet, Paul says, his spirit could find no rest, because, having hoped to find Titus in that place, he instead discovered that Titus was nowhere to be found.  As a result, though he certainly desired to remain in Troas and proclaim the person and work of Christ, he felt compelled to leave that place and travel on to Macedonia.  At first glance, and without taking through for God’s sovereignly, including His promise to work all things for His people’s good and His own glory, it might seem like a frustrating turn of events, an unexpected hiccup in what otherwise seemed like a perfect plan and opportunity to minister in the name of Christ.But, Paul didn’t see it that way at all.  Instead, he remembered that the Lord is the One who moves all things along by His sovereign hand, placing His people precisely where He wants them, exactly when He wants them there.  Paul called to mind the fact that, wherever he went, he went with the Spirit of God within his heart and the Word of God upon his lips.  And, in this, the Apostle found reason to take heart and even give thanks for the unexpected twist in his journey.  His plans may have changed, “But,” he declared, “thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor 2:14).  Whether in Troas or Macedonia, as He kept His focus on serving His Savior, Paul would be used to preach and teach about Him, and to reflect His character in all kinds of ways, even when it sometimes meant suffering for the sake of His name.  Though Paul’s carefully laid design had been turned on its head, the Lord’s had not.  And, if Paul would only continue pressing on toward the goal of faithfully serving and showing-forth Christ wherever he found himself, he would find opportunities to do just that.  So, this course-adjustment wasn’t a reason to grumble, but to give thanks and keep going.Now, I say all of that because I know this is a busy time of year for many of us.  You will likely find yourself running here and there a bit more than normal.  Some may have a bit of time off, but that often means the days you don’t have off will be fuller than normal, since the work still needs to get done.  Others will be buzzing about looking for gifts and checking off lists.  Most will have some kind of social gatherings and other events to attend.  Put together, this can make what many anticipate as a joyful time of year to instead seem a bit stressful, even downright frustrating.  Plans made, changed, and cancelled.  Finishing doing this thing over here only to realize you forgot that you have to turn right around and make it to that thing over there.  It can be a hectic time.  And, if we aren’t careful, we could easily lose sight of the bigger theme that is supposed to pervade and give purpose to everything else.  In our desire to get to the next thing, or our agitation at finding this or that plan turned all about, we might begin to forget that we’re supposed to be striving to honor our Savior and point others to Him in all places and at all times, even busier-than-normal times.  Yes, we might forget that in a world overseen by a sovereign God, there are no accidents or unforeseen events, and that, whatever happens and wherever we find ourselves, it has come about just as it had for a reason, and a good one at that – that we might, right then and there, leave behind the fragrance of Christ by the way we conduct ourselves and speak to others, above all, about our Savior.So, let this be an encouragement before the business reaches its peak, to remember Whose you are and the glorious purpose He has given you – to make known the Son who came, humbling Himself to the point of death for you, in order to give you peace with God and life without end.  Whatever the coming weeks may hold, aim, with the Spirit’s constant help, to meet it with a childlike faith that says, “What do you have for me here and now, Father?” and a simple prayer that aks, “Please help me to speak and conduct myself in a way that shows forth the perfect character of my Savior – at once diligent and patient, holy and compassionate, just and merciful, upright and generous, sobered by the weight of eternity and overjoyed by the knowledge that my eternity is safe in Christ.  Yes Lord, let me leave behind not the stench of my sinful shortsightedness, but the heavenly aroma of Jesus Christ.”To be sure, some, who can’t understand what seems to them an odd kind of holy joy, will find it aggravating – wanting you to be upset, angry, anxious, and downcast like them – refusing to hear of a better way in Christ.  But others, whose hearts the Lord is pleased to soften, will see something oddly attractive in it – in you – finding your presence wonderfully sweet and wanting to know how they might come to share something of the same (cf. 2 Cor 2:15-16).  And, in this, you have every cause to rejoice.  Whether loved or hated, received or rejected, welcomed or repelled, if your heart is set on magnifying Jesus Christ, it is Him to whom they are ultimately responding as He uses you to confront their spiritual senses with a heavenly fragrance, bidding them to follow it to its Source and live.Whatever may come, the Lord has a purpose in it – a purpose to magnify His Son by using you, His people, to make Him known in every way.  Let us remember this when our planners are perhaps a bit more tightly packed than normal, let us act and speak accordingly, and may the One who laid in the cradle in order to hang on the cross, and so to bring us to God, be glorified in all! 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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