Encouragement for sheep who think they might be goats

goat-and-sheep-friendsBefore Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:32,33).

According to the Bible, there are two types of people in the world. To use Jesus’ description in Matthew 25, you can think of these two groups as “the sheep,” and “the goats.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd; His people are His sheep. The goats are those on the outside, those who don’t believe in Him, don’t trust Him, and don’t follow Him.

In theology, we talk about “election” and “reprobation.” Election is God’s choice of certain people to be a part of His flock – the “sheep.” Reprobation is the “flip-side” of election, you could say. The “reprobate” are those that God has decreed not to save – the “goats.”

This post is going to be about the sheep and the goats, the elect and the reprobate. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue over the past few days, as I’ve been preparing for my next lesson on the Canons of Dort, which I’m going to give this coming Sunday afternoon. And in particular, I’ve been thinking about the ways that the sheep and the goats can think of themselves. The fact is, sometimes sheep will think they’re goats, and goats will think they’re sheep. And this is what Article 16 of the First Head of Doctrine in our Canons of Dort is all about. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions

 

ST_link_bigIt’s that time of year once again, the time for resolutions. This year, I resolve to memorize Scripture. I’m not going to set a specific goal for the year, but my long-term goal, however long it takes, is to memorize the Letter to the Hebrews.

You should see a link to ScriptureTyper above. I’ve been using this website on and off for the past year or so. I know the benefits of memorizing God’s Word – it’s amazing how passages will come to mind in situations when they’re the most needed. And considering the kind of flotsam and jetsam our minds hold, if it’s at all possible to shove some of the junk out of my brain, and replace it with the Word, that’s what I want to do!

I’m not a great memorizer, and some of my most traumatic memories from my years at the Theological College were our regular Scripture memory tests. I still have nightmares about them! Well, not quite, but you get the picture. At one point I went so far as to buy one of those mini tape-recorders, recorded the passages I had to memorize, and played them back while I slept. It didn’t work…

It’s quite amazing that, using ScriptureTyper, I’ve been able to memorize Hebrews 1-3 so far, with a start made on chapters 4-6. It really does work (and I’m not being paid to advertise it)! So if you want to memorize Scripture, but have had trouble doing it, give ScriptureTyper a try.

Salt and Light

SaltShakerLast Sunday morning, I preached a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16, where the Lord Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.

Unfortunately, something strange happened fifteen seconds into my sermon – my phone rang. I use my iPhone to record my sermons, and this is the first time that’s happened. And no, I didn’t answer it – as it turns out, it was one of those recorded messages that begins with the word, “Congratulations!” and just goes downhill from there.

So as I struggled with my vibrating phone behind my lectern, I switched the “record” button off, and the sermon wasn’t recorded. But here’s the written text of the sermon. On the last day of 2014, it’s good for us to reflect on passages like this – looking back over the year that was, while at the same time looking forward to the year to come. We are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. How did we do in our preserving and light-reflecting task in 2014? And what will we do to fulfil our calling in 2015?

Here’s the sermon:

Sermon on the Mount Sermon Series (2014) #9 – Matthew 5:13-16

Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:1-21

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

For thousands of years, before there were refrigerators and freezers, there was salt. Without salt, you wouldn’t be able to store many types for food for any length of time; your meat or your fish would rot, and you would go hungry. So, in the pre-industrial world, salt was not a luxury – it was a necessity. Salt was a precious commodity; you had to have salt if you wanted to live.

And before electricity was understood and harnessed, before the invention of the lightbulb, light was also a precious commodity. We don’t even think about it today – we flick a switch, and we have plenty of light. We can read, we can do our work, we can go about our activities as usual, even in December, when we’re living in darkness for much of the day. But in the ancient world, it wasn’t like that. Light wasn’t something that people took for granted; they had to plan, they had to work hard, to stave off the darkness. And what light there was on a dark night was nothing like the brightness we experience as normal in the 21st Century, whatever the time of year.

In that context, the Lord Jesus told His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world.” First of all, we need to pay close attention to the words the Lord Jesus uses here; He doesn’t say, “You must be the light of the world,” and “You must be the salt of the earth,” and He doesn’t say, “You have the light of the world,” or “You are in possession of the salt of the earth.” He says, “This is what you are. And because this is what you are, this is what you have been made, this is what you must be.”

So this morning, on this last Sunday of the year of our Lord 2014, we will see what this means for us. What is our role as God’s people, as the disciples of Christ today, as we live in relation to the world? We’ll look at why the world needs us to be salt and light, and also what it means for us to be that salt and light. Continue reading

Some pictures of the PG congregation

As usual, I had to do some scrambling near the end of the year to take some pictures for the mission calendar. Here are some of the results: some of the men, engaged in what appears to be serious congregation and looking very thoughtful; the young people, including the obligatory texter, and some of the kids, who I managed to get to stand still just long enough for this shot. This is what the Prince George mission congregation looks like!

PG men 2 PG YP PG kids