A Reformed Congregation. Sierra View Presbyterian Church, Fresno, California

Month: October 2014

Seeing Life Through an Eternal Perspective

The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”

I grew up in Southern California, where the sun was always shining and if it was over 3 years old, your car was ancient.  But I wasn’t into cars.  Or even the beach, for that matter.  No, I was into motorcycles.  Dirt bikes, to be precise.  The more dirt, the better.  Mountains, desert.  Didn’t matter.  Just give me a dirt bike and place to ride it, and I was happy.

The older I got, the more important the gear became.  None more so than the goggles to protect my eyes and vision.  I still remember when they came out with new goggles that had the ability to ‘get clean’ as you rode.  You simply pulled a string, and a new, clear lens took its place across the goggle shield, allowing new and perfect vision.

Trouble was, it was easy to forget the string.  After a few hours of riding, the goggles got really clouded over by a layer of dust or mud.  Sometimes we’d be forced to stop and clean our goggles.  Other times we’d stop to rest, remove our goggles and only then see the beauty of our journey thus far.  If only we’d remembered to pull the string, the ride would have been so much more pleasant.

“The Lord in in His holy temple.  And his throne in is heaven.”   In effect, this is the psalmist pulling the string to gain a whole new vision of how things actually are.  It’s important to do that, isn’t it?  Sometimes we need to do that in our personal lives, and take stock of what we’re doing, or what we should be doing and aren’t.  Sometimes we need to do that in the church and ministry, as I have been doing for months, now.  Other times we simply need to put on new goggles and see life through an eternal perspective.

If it’s true that the Lord is in His holy temple, then the next question is, ‘so what?’  What does it matter if the Lord is in His temple?  The answer is, on a fundamental level, ‘it evidently matters to the psalmist, therefore it matters.’  But there are at least 3 far more practical reason that it matters that God is on His throne and that we have the visionary perspective to remember that.

First, it matters because it means that God is happy and exalted.  He is happy in His own being – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He is eternally blessed and self glorifying.  He enjoys being God.  He enjoys blessing His children and creation.  He takes pleasure in the repentance of sinners and in the worship of their multitudes.  It makes Him happy and exalted when His children cry out to him in prayer, because it exalts His throne when we confess our dependence on Him.  This is all true, because God is on His throne.  O the depths of the mysteries of God, that He is increasingly glorified in the perpetual exaltation of his already perfect glory.

Second, it matters because it means God is sovereign.  The same verse (Ps. 11:4) goes on to say that “His eyes see.”  That means He sees and knows all things in His sovereignty.  He knows your future and your fears.  He knows your anxieties and hopes.  And He is sovereign in them, wanting for you to regain a vision of His eternal love, which flows to you from His throne.  As we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

And it matters because it means that you can rest.  One day you will behold Him there.  “The upright shall behold His face.” (Ps.11:7) If God is on His throne in heaven, then you can lay hold of Him there, and enjoy all His benefits.  Nothing in this world, neither height nor depth, nor angels nor principalities, can remove God from His throne.  And when he says that nothing will harm you or bring you to naught, you can rest in that guarantee with the same measure of surety upon which God’s throne is built.

Don’t forget to pull the string, so to speak, and see clearly that God is on His throne with His eyes on you.  This is good news and cause for the humble hearts of His children to rejoice with exceeding gladness!

A Sense of Urgency and Steadafastness

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven

Imagine being away from your church for a while.  Suppose you’ve been transferred by work to another city or state.  It’s a church you love dearly and want to see prosper, because you know that it is strategically placed by God for Kingdom purposes.  Then you ask a friend how the church is doing, and the answer is: “It’s in shambles.  The building was destroyed by thieves, the leaders have all been arrested and the members have virtually nothing to do with each other anymore.”  Devastating.

That’s Nehemiah’s situation in Nehemiah 1.  The Jews have been mostly displaced.  Foreign gods are promoted and worshiped among them.  It’s a time of cultural decay for the Jews, as their homes and place of worship are on the brink, while at the same time the Persian Empire is rising with all manner of pomp and power.  Rome and Greece are not far behind.  The time for being ‘the people of God’ must have seemed like a distant memory.  Everything unravelled for Israel.  Not many of us will face that particular dilemma, but we can all certainly relate to Nehemiah’s sense of dread, fear, anger, isolation or doubt.

That’s what makes Nehemiah’s prayer so convicting.  He is burdened with the conviction to pray earnestly and immediately.  “As soon as I heard these things…”  Do you sense the urgency in Nehemiah?  Jerusalem became a city under siege, with no wall or gate for protection.  A city without a wall is a fish in a barrel.  No safety, no peace.

It’s Nehemiah’s sense of urgency and steadfastness that I want to my soul to lay hold of.  I don’t know about you, but I tend toward vision-casting and long range strategic planning when I grow restless or concerned about something.  Anything, really.  Most especially the church.  In the end, that’s because I feel certain that I can plot my way out of just about anything.  It’s folly.

When Nehemiah was faced with enormous challenges, the kind too big for a man to meet on his own, he instinctively went to the Lord of Hosts in prayer.  He confessed God’s faithfulness and steadfast love (1:5).  He embraced the power and authority of God, and pleaded with Him to be attentive and graciously to give His ear. (1:6). He did so quickly, earnestly and continually (1:2).  And he did so prophetically, interceding for the people  (1:6-7).  Nehemiah knew.  He knew the hard reality that God will often withhold his blessings until the people repent and return ‘to the ancient paths’ of faith and selfless obedience, where promised rest is found (Jeremiah 6:16).

It’s the same with you.  What is your biggest concern?  How’s your marriage or your money?  Maybe your cup runneth over in both.  Or, then again, maybe you have neither.  How about your career or children?  Whatever weighs heaviest on your heart, you need to remember that God is bigger, His purposes are more far-reaching and His thoughts are above yours.  Immediately go to Him in prayer, seek the tenderness of His sweet presence, and remember the ancient paths.  As we do so as a church and on behalf of one another, Nehemiah-like, then we can expect God to prove Himself faithful and merciful, and the people of God will sing with joy.  Will you be Nehemiah for this generation, that the church will be lit, as with fire?  Let it begin with us.  Let it begin with me. This is my prayer for our church.

Very lovingly,

Pastor Brian


Lord, Glorify Yourself Through Me

Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given Him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom you have given to Him.” John 17:1-2

The Gospel of John, known sometimes simply as The Fourth Gospel, is different from the other three.  John alone accounts for certain events in the life of Christ, while only he leaves others out.  For example, the other three gospels record Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as the final moment of intimate and personal preparation for the Awful Errand that awaited Him.  But John is different.  He records what the others leave out, namely, The High Priestly.  It’s a sacred moment of a veil being pulled back and we are granted front row privilege into the heart of the soon-to-be-betrayed Jesus.  When He is done, Jesus will walk out of that upper room, across the Kidron Valley and into the appointed place where Judas will bring his friends.

It’s a weighty moment for our Lord.  So He prays.  Even a cursory glance at John 17 reveals that Jesus first prays for Himself, then for His disciples, and then for all of us.  But there is an apparent burden that undergirds all of it.  Like a foundation beneath the house, if you like.  Jesus is committed to the glory of His Father through His own glorification, which will come through sacrifice.  “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”

To give glory to God means, among other things, to ascribe Him worthiness through our worship and devotion.  That is, God is worthy of all praise and adoration, and a lot of it.  An eternity-full of it.  To give glory to God is say to Him, “You, O Lord, are worthy of my praise and devotion, and I must decrease so that my affection for you may increase.”  To do so is to put God squarely at the center of our considerations in this life.

This is Jesus’ concern in The High Priestly Prayer.  He wants the Father to be exalted, or lifted up, because He is worthy.  And what He wants for Himself is to be used up by God in that endeavor. “Glorify Me, so that I may glorify You.”  Everything for Jesus, even His own sufferings and His own glory, centers on and flows toward the majesty of God.

If you keep a prayer journal (I don’t, but it’s a good idea!), look back and see how often your prayer life centers on this: “Lord, glorify yourself through me.”  God is glorified in the intentional, selfless undoing of our own interests for the sake of His kingdom purposes.  These kingdom purposes include the mundane and the ordinary, which is often the most difficult place to trust God, isn’t it?  This decreasing of the self (John 3:30) comes only through prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit, as God pours out His grace in your soul.  The hour has come for God to be glorified in you.  Is your soul prepared to glorify Him by advancing His purposes through the defeat of your own?  This is my prayer for our beloved church this week.

Press on,

Pastor Brian


Make Room in Your Hearts

Make room in your hearts for us.

Have you ever had a person in your life that you know is hurting, but it’s hard for you to feel compassion toward them?  Maybe someone who is a little harder for you to love than someone else is?  Amazing, isn’t it, how God frequently puts those very people in our lives?  Why do you suppose He does that?

The apostle Paul had a special relationship with the Corinthian church.  He wrote at least 2 important letters to them, and one other that is now lost.  The two letters we have are, of course, known as 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In them, Paul is at times firm and direct, and at other times he is tender and gentle.  What a fine pastor!  But there is something else that can be discerned in Paul’s letters to his Corinthian friends: he pleads with them.

Maybe he had a strained relationship with some of the members of the church there.  He knows there are some in their church that are a little harder to love.  And apparently it’s a two way street.  There are some in the Corinthian church who might respect Paul, but they seem to have a hard time loving him.

So in the middle of his great announcement about the triumph of Christ and that we are the heirs of His promises, Paul says, “Make room in your hearts for us.” (2 Cor. 7:2).  There is a fuller context in which he says, in effect, ‘when I think of you, my joy is overflowing.’  But in our verse he pleads with them, ‘make room for me in your own hearts, too.’

God is deeply concerned with the unity of the brethren and that every Christian  make room for another in our hearts.  Jesus even prayed specifically for you and me, “That they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us…”  (John 17:21a) Unity and love for one another does not always take the shape of uniform opinion.  In fact, it probably never does.  But because we are all made in God’s image, and by grace are restored to His family, we all have a common inheritance and a common connection.  That means that we must take care to make room in our hearts for every son or daughter of God that He brings into our lives.  And we must run from the temptation of shutting some out because they are less comfortable to us.

You understand, don’t you, that when you make room for something, it means you have to move one thing out of the way on behalf of the other?  Who can you make room for in your heart this week?  Is your heart too crowded with affection for lesser things like personal preferences or reputation?  My love for this world can crowd out my love for God and His people.  You too?  Pray for them.  Serve them and reach out to them.  Look for the work of God in them, and your joy will overflow in them.

Jesus knows that there is an evangelistic component to our affection for one another “…so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21b).  This is my prayer for our beloved church this week, that we may experience the joy of making room for one another in our hearts, and that through our sacrificial love, God will build His church.

Keep pressing, my brethren.

Very warmly yours,

Pastor Brian