Today in Paradise

“One thief was saved that no sinner might despair, but only one, that no sinner might presume.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke, p. 471).

“Not the unconfident word of a crucified malefactor, but the confident statement, the absolutely binding promise, of the Messiah is conclusive evidence for us that this corrupt son of Abraham was the object of the favor of grace. Christ accepts him. . . . He [the thief] surrendered himself. To whom? To Christ. By what means? By the hearing of the preached word. Small bits of the revelation of Christ Jesus had fallen into his ‘heart.’ Was it not a beautiful thing that he joined himself with the very last things which he himself heard and saw in Jesus?” (K. Schilder, Christ Crucified, pages 320–321).

“That which is striking about Jesus’ pronouncement is, in the first place, the absolute power and authority with which he bestows the partaking of the heavenly glory, and in the second place, the expression, ‘with me.’ It is the communion with Jesus, whom the malefactor confessed openly as the Christ, which guarantees salvation to him immediately after death.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, pp. 276-277).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church

In the Midst of a Pandemic Your Heavenly Father Cares for You

One of my sisters, Mary Bonner, has reflected in a blog on God’s care as she journeyed (and continues to journey) through cancer (see The artwork on that site was painted by her daughter, Rachel Arlena Heaton, and is reproduced here with permission from both.

“This reliance of faith is not confined to the critical moments of life, it is to be the abiding, characteristic inner disposition of the disciple with reference to every concern. To trust God for food and raiment is as truly the mark of the disciple in the kingdom as to depend on him for eternal salvation.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Kingdom Of God and The Church, p. 97).

“[In this book] I’m going to reinforce a message that may sound counterintuitive in our world: anxiety is a spiritual tool in the hands of a mighty God. . . . [Y]our focus will fall on the status of your soul before an all-powerful, soft-voiced shepherd, leading you moment by moment, calling you to trust, pulling your neck gently with his shepherd’s crook, bringing you back into the fold, fixing your ears on his voice.” (Pierce Taylor Hibbs, Struck Down But Not Destroyed: Living Faithfully with Anxiety, p. 3).

“These [early disciples] were the people for whom the petition ‘Give us today the bread we need for the coming day’ (v. 11) rang true each day, and it was the confident offering of this prayer to a ‘Father in heaven’ that was their essential safeguard against worry.” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 266).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC

Reflections on a Pandemic—and Worship

Serving as pastor in the congregation in which I work here in Newberg, Oregon, is a joy. I am particularly thankful for the way in which the saints (which is what the Bible calls believers) reflect the grace and comfort of God. In the broader world I see fear and panic on one side, and on the other, some dismissing safety concerns as irrelevant, or at least as not applying to them. The members of the church have been reaching out to one another (by phone or email) as well as looking for ways to be of help in the community at large. They are taking seriously the danger of spreading the COVID 19 inadvertently and are abiding by the necessary restrictions. At the same time, they refuse to live in fear. They know One who has conquered the grave. I am thankful for their encouraging, servant hearts.

This is a congregation that loves to gather for worship. Yet this past Lord’s Day (and apparently for some time to come) they could not, both because that would have put others in danger, and because of restrictions on gatherings. Since we could not gather in our building where we usually worship, we moved to live streaming. We cannot not worship. We will not stop worshiping. But we have changed how we gather for worship. It has been a learning curve for me, who has never put together a YouTube video, much less live streamed. Although the morning was a bumpy start, by the time of the evening service it seemed to be coming together, thanks to helpful advice from others.

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Where Is Your Treasure?

“Where the love of God is absent, there an idolatrous love of the world and of self enters, and a positively offensive and hostile attitude towards God results. . . . Man is so necessarily bound to God in his inmost consciousness, that absolute indifference or neutrality are excluded.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Kingdom of God and the Church, p. 93).

“The kingdom of God is a gift granted by God according to his good pleasure (Matt. 11:26;16:17; 22:14; Luke 10:20; 12:32; 22:19), yet it is also a reward, a treasure in heaven, which has to be aggressively sought and gained by labor in the service of God (Matt. 5:20; 6:20; 19:21; 20:1ff.; and so forth).” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, p. 254).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church

Prayer and Fasting

“The true fast is to loose the bonds of injustice (Isa. 58:3–6; Jer. 14:12). In large part the struggle of the prophets is directed against the external, self-righteous worship of the people. Accordingly, the essence of the new dispensation is that the Lord will make a new covenant with his people. He will give them a new heart and write his law on it. He will pour out his Spirit on all so that they will love him with their whole heart and walk in his ways….” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, p. 659).

“Fasting, like almsgiving and prayer, is to be between the disciple and God. No one else should know. (Perhaps that is why we know so little of early Christian practice in this regard.)” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p 255).

“If a man is living entirely to the glory of God, you need not prescribe for him when he has to fast, you need not prescribe the sort of clothes he has to put on or anything else. If he has forgotten himself and given himself to God, the New Testament says that man will know how to eat and drink and dress because he will be doing it all to the glory of God.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol. 2, p. 44),

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church

Lead Us Not into Temptation

“When we suffer [allow] a temptation to enter into us, then we ‘enter temptation.’ While it knocks at the door we are at liberty; but when any temptation comes in and parleys with the heart, reasons with the mind, entices and allures the affections, bi it a long or a short time, do it thus insensibly and imperceptibly, or do the the soul take notice of it. We ‘enter into temptation.’”

“Our blessed Savior knows full well our state and condition; he knows the power of temptations, having had experience of it (Heb. 2:18); he know our vain confidence, and the reserves we have concerning our ability to deal with temptations, as he found it in Peter; but he knows our weakness and folly, and how soon we are cast to the ground, and therefore does he lay in this provision for instruction at the entrance of his ministry, to make us heedful, if possible, in that which is of so great concern to us. If then, we will repose [place] any confidence in the wisdom, love, and care of Jesus Christ toward us, we must grant the truth pleaded for.” (John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. By Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, pages 160, 167–168).

“We are here taught to ask God to deliver us from the evil that is in the world, the evil that is within our own hearts, and not least from that evil one, the devil. We confess that, so long as we are in the body, we are constantly seeing, hearing, and feeling the presence of evil. It is about us, and with us, and around us on every side. And we entreat Him, who alone can preserve us, to be continually delivering us from its power.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 1, pages 54–55).

Quotes used in the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church

Forgive Our Debts

“True repentance strips sin of all that is accidental. It resembles an inner chamber where no one and nothing else is admitted except God and the sinner and his sin. Into that chamber all the great penitents like David and Paul and Augustine and Luther have entered, and each one in the bitter anguish of his soul has borrowed the words of the psalmist: ‘Against thee, thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clean when thou judgest.’ A repentant sinner acquits God and condemns himself…. The fact of sin, while as such irrevocably accomplished, yet so far as the guilt is concerned must be undone, if God is to remain the God of sinner. Here the truth taught by Jesus leads directly to Paul’s doctrine of atonement and justification. To the heart that has had the Sermon on the Mount interpreted to itself by the Holy Spirit there is no other solution and refuge than the cross underneath which Paul found shelter. To such as hunger and thirst after righteousness the flesh of the Son of man is meat and his blood is drink, indeed.” (Geerhardus Vos, “Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness,” in Grace and Glory, pages 37–38).

“[Jesus] speaks of ‘the human heart’ as the place from which proceed evil thoughts and all kinds of crimes. He teaches his disciples to pray for forgiveness of their debts as well as for their daily bread (Matt. 6:12)…. Jesus’ preaching is based on a view which denies to the man principally the attribute of ‘good’ and characterizes him rather as ‘evil,’ as a sinner, a debtor before God.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 222).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church