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REDEEMER Reformed Presbyterian CHURCH


So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." - Luke 17:10

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reading God's Love Into a Situation
Dear Congregation and Guests to this blog:
My wife is teaching first grade at Spa Christian School until Easter, and this morning when she was heading out the door, she exclaimed "There's snow outside !"  What a surprise. . . neither of us expected it, even though both of us want snow and love it - - living here in foothills of the Adirondacks. 

In a broader sense, we all want snow, we want that "covering over" of that which is imperfect.  When we're painting a wall for the first time, we would never think of leaving a gaping hole in the middle unpainted . . . there is something primal driving us to fill in the hole, to fill in the gap.  And how many of us have observed our daughter or son diligently using crayons in a coloring book, determined to fill every nook and cranny of a picture's black outlines?

For Lois this morning, stepping outside to see the snow, and for us as believers, we live in the ever fresh experience of God's forgiveness and grace.  We need God's snow, God's covering, God's forgiveness, every day:

Isaiah 1:18  "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 

Just about a year ago I shared with many of you the beautiful song written by David Stearman Hayes - Somewhere It's Snowing 
Here is a link, to that blog post, dated Friday, January 7, 2011 (scroll down to the date) http://www.redeemerreformed.info/id26.html

We can count on God to cover the guilt of every corner of our every sin with His forgiveness, as snow covers a landscape and makes all things new.

I received more feedback about that post and that song than any other than I have written.

What hits me today is the faithfulness of God, which we can count on, and the continued experience of that, as something new, surprising, fresh and real.

Lamentations 3:22, 23 Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 

How can God reveal His compassions as "new every morning" when He has had compassion for His people continually since they fell into sin, and we have not been consumed?

How are His compassions "new every morning" when His faithfulness is great and He has never stopped being faithful?  What is new about something that has always been there?

Could the answer be that in this life, we live through varied experiences of sin and brokenness and suffering which make us wonder, can the LORD's mercies meet me even here, in this situation, in this heart-ache, in the guilt of this my most recent sin, in the midst of this illness? When we grasp God's compassion, even in this experience, even in this situation,  His great and steady faithfulness is received as His newly apprehended mercy.

God does not change, nor is there any variation in his just and loving character:
James 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 
Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

But what comes to us as "new" and different in this world, even that which God allows and ordains from His sovereign hand,  never ceases to amaze us in the ways that sadness and affliction can surprise.

Lam 3:17  You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. 
Lam 3:18  And I said, "My strength and my hope Have perished from the LORD." 
Lam 3:19  Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall. 
Lam 3:20  My soul still remembers And sinks within me. 

"Far from peace"
 a "forgotten prosperity", 
a "perished" strength and hope, 
bitterness . . . the wormwood and gall.

Do any of those words or phrases apply to you this day?

If so, I invite you to meet again the unchanging, faithful love of God, whose mercies are new-to-us-in-this-particular-situation, and therefore are "surprising" !

Lam 3:21  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 
Lam 3:22  Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 
Lam 3:23  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 
Lam 3:24  "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" 
Lam 3:25  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. 
Lam 3:26  It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD. 

When Elder Kirk and I were worshiping last Saturday at the New York State Presbytery meeting in Vestal, New York, I have to admit that the effects of getting up at 6 a.m. to check on the snowy weather, and a long night with the Brigade the evening before hit me hard around 11:30 A.M. sitting in the warm sanctuary.  I nodded off a couple times during the sermon from Ephesians 2:1-10, sorry to report, and I have a new sympathy for those of you whom I occasionally see dozing off during one of my sermons !   

But even if you doze off, I hope you get something out of each of my sermons, like I was able to catch this from the sermon at Vestal.  They went through a terrible flood from Hurricane Irene down there, a hurricane which sat over their area for eighteen hours last September.  Together with a majority of homes in their neighborhood, the flood destroyed their entire basement, with its educational, fellowship and kitchen facilities, and it is just now getting rebuilt. (If anyone would like to help out with sheetrock, a donation, or other work down there, let me know).  

What Pastor Ken Thompson was saying out of Eph. 2:1-10 is that God's love has been revealed to us once and for all in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .  verses 4 and 5, But God,  is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (New Living Translation).  And God has continued power to meet us with His demonstrated love in all the situations of our life.

So when we go through trials like 
"forgotten prosperity", 
bitterness . . . the wormwood and gall, then God means us to read the love of God into a situation, rather than reading the love of God out of every situation. (This phraseology is from Tim Keller).  Some situations are so bad, some illnesses so intractable, some griefs so heavy, the misery of sin can be so heavy, that we are not meant to look at those situations and say, "Oh, that shows me God's love."  Instead we are called to learn of God's love displayed in the gospel, believe upon God's love shown at the cross, trust in the power of God's love, which has all power over death - he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. - -  and then we are to read God's love into a situation, and prevail through that situation hoping and waiting quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 

God's mercies are new every morning, which means that in this particular new day we face, we read God's unchanging faithful love into our day in a fresh way, because his compassions fail not.   They fail not because He gives us the spiritual life, the resilience of a Christ-formed character to encounter this day and not be overwhelmed by the floods, hoping and waiting quietly for the salvation of our God, in whatever form of that salvation God chooses to bring to us....

5:29 pm est          Comments

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Redeemer Reformed Presbyterian Church
548 Luzerne Road * Queensbury * NY * 12804 * 518-798-9794