May “TableTalk”: Reformed (Covenant) Theology – Burk Parsons

Reformed (Covenant) Theology by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-May2014The new issue of Tabletalk is out, and this month’s theme is (and should be!) a very special one to our readers - the doctrine of the covenant. Under the title “What’s So New About the New Covenant?”, the editor and writers have put together an interesting collection of articles defining and defending Reformed covenant theology, especially from the viewpoint of how the NT covenant is different from the OT covenant (i.e., what is its newness?).

Our PRC readers will be especially and keenly (and should be!) interested in what is set forth in this issue. There are going to be significant differences in what is taught from our own distinctive views, yet it is good to read what others teach about this key Reformed doctrine so that our own faith may be sharpened. And there are also things we may learn from others, so that we are better understand their position and be able to defend the truth of God’s Word at those points at which we differ. Read to learn and to discern, therefore.

“TT” editor Burk Parsons introduces the theme with the above-linked article. I also read yesterday the first feature article by Dr. Mark Jones, a PCA pastor from Vancouver, BC. He opens the main articles with one titled “What is a Covenant?”, where he defends the idea of conditions, though with qualification. You will want to read that carefully and respond Biblically and confessionally.

But here for today is part of Parsons’ introduction. Good thoughts to get us revved up about covenant theology!

My theological journey to Reformed theology was not an easy one. For more than two years I fought against the doctrines of grace with all of the free will I could muster, until I came to my knees and admitted that God is God—that God is sovereign and I am not. Coming to grips with the sovereignty of God not only changed my understanding of salvation; it changed my understanding of everything. For two more years, armed with all my dispensational presuppositions, I continued to fight against confessional Reformed theology. I carefully examined Scripture, and with great scrutiny I studied our theological forefathers on every side of the debate about covenant theology. But it wasn’t until I came to grasp the newness and the nature of the new covenant and the relationship between the old and new covenants that I came to see God not only as sovereign over the salvation of His people, but also as covenantal in the way He relates to, sanctifies, and saves His people. In the end, I came to see that “Reformed theology,” as R.C. Sproul has said, is just a nickname for “covenant theology.”

…The new covenant is new in that the long-awaited Messiah has come and has fulfilled the old, and the new covenant is superior in its scale, simplicity, and scope. Rather than narrowing the scope of the new covenant, covenant theology consistently portrays the broad and beautiful vista of the new covenant, leading us as God’s covenant people to worship our covenant-keeping God, coram Deo, before His face, both now and forever in Christ our covenant head.

And, by the way, we might also mention that the daily devotions continue on the book of Romans with chapter six and the truth of our sanctification being treated at present.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 133

Psalm133Our psalm for consideration for worship preparation this first Lord’s Day in May is the fourteenth “song of degrees” (or ascent), the brief but beautiful Psalm 133. Sung and shouted by the OT church as she made her pilgrim journey to Jerusalem, the city of God, we the NT church join the throng in making this melodious music as we make our pilgrim journey through this world to the heavenly city of God.

We have already seen that these “songs of degrees” cover the spectrum of the church’s life here on earth – from her joys to her sorrows, from her corporate life of worship to her personal family life, from her confession of sin to her confession of God’s great, saving mercy. Now in this next song of ascent we hear God’s people describe another key element of her worship – and therefore of her preparation for worship: her precious unity in Christ revealed in the communion of saints.

Listen to Zion’s song in this part of God’s holy Word:

Psalm 133

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard,even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Do we have a strong sense of the importance of this precious unity of the body of Christ as we prepare for worship today? Are you and am I ready and desirous to sing that first stanza? Is the gift of dwelling together in unity as so many diverse Christians really good and pleasant to us?

We look forward, I trust, to our blessed fellowship with our covenant God through Christ and His Spirit. But do we also look forward to our fellowship with our fellow covenant believers? We want to dwell unitedly with our Father in heaven, but do we also wish to dwell unitedly with His people on earth? Are we thrilled to see the Lord in His beauty today, but are we also thrilled to see our fellow saints in their beauty?

If we doubt or downplay the beauty and blessedness of this precious unity in the church, then we need to read and re-read these three verses. Yes, as NT believers, we should read and sing them in the light of  John 17 and the book of Ephesians, for example. So that we remember what our Lord prayed for for us before He laid down His life to accomplish this unity of His body. And so that we may learn all that He did to make this communion a reality for every Jew and Gentile He would save and incorporate into His elect church. It is heaven-rending, earth-shaking, heart-storming, life-changing work! To make this selfish, hateful,  independent sinner a member of His church, able to dwell together with other such sinners, took the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God in our flesh! As well as the pouring out of His Spirit on His entire body!

No wonder the church shouts at the outset, “Behold!” “Stop and take note of this blessed unity of the church! Look and see what the Head of the church did to achieve it! Marvel at His grace and goodness in joining us together into a fellowship and making us dwell together in unity!” How good and how pleasant indeed! How precious is communion with Christ and how precious is communion with His body!

Right here, in this sacred fellowship of the church, where the blood-bought, Spirit-bestowed unity of His Son is revealed, Jehovah God commands the blessing (v.3). O, that blessing is like the oil that ran down Aaron’s beard. And it is like the dew that fell on Zion’s mountains. But it is really is incomparable and inestimable. What is that blessing? Not merely the unity. But life – life for evermore! Everlasting life!

Now read the end of the book of Revelation, and see where this precious unity ends. Remember the ultimate sabbath to come and the perfect worship that will be. Imagine the bliss of that unity! And now, go and sing with God’s people in the presence of the Lord of glory, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Amen!

Psalter1912If you wish to meditate on this psalm through the music of the Psalter, I encourage you to make use of this versification, Ps.#370. The lyrics are posted here; the music you may find at the link provided.

1. How good and pleasant is the sight
When brethren make it their delight
To dwell in blest accord;
Such love is like anointing oil
That consecrates for holy toil
The servants of the Lord.

2. Such love in peace and joy distils,
As o’er the slopes of Hermon’s hills
Refreshing dew descends;
The Lord commands His blessing there,
And they that walk in love shall share
In life that never ends.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 132

Psalm132Today for our “Sunday worship preparation” devotionals we return to our series on the book of Psalms. Specifically, we are treating the ‘songs of degree” (or ascent) at present, ready to examine the thirteenth one, Psalm 132. For a brief reminder and review of the nature of these psalms, go back to our last post, on Psalm 131.

For now, let’s move on to Psalm 132, where we find this Word of God in Christ:

Psalm 132

Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions:

How he sware unto the Lordand vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob;

Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed;

I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids,

Until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.

6Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.

We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.

Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.

Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

10 For thy servant David’s sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.

11 The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.

12 If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.

13 For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.

14 This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.

15 I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.

16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

17 There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.

18 His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.

It is immediately evident that this is a significant psalm for the church in both the OT and the NT. This prayer (that is its form, even a prayer of lament) centers on the covenant God made with David – the “sure mercies of David” (cf. Is.55:3 and Acts 13:34) and the promised Son of David in the covenant, our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Lu.1:32; Acts 2:30).

Here the psalmist (who probably was not David, as the heading to my Bible states) beseeches God to remember David and to fulfill His covenant promises to him, especially as regards that Messianic Son and as regards God’s dwelling in Zion as His abiding resting place. In fact, the second part of the psalm is nothing else but a repetition of the Lord’s promises to David concerning his covenant Son and concerning dwelling in Zion. This, in effect, is the psalmists petition and appeal: “Lord of the covenant, fulfill Thy word to king David, because this is what Thou hast said! Bring the promised Son, dwell in Zion, and bless her richly! Do not forget Thy word or this covenant, and do not forsake Thy servant!”

And we should, then, clearly understand that all of Israel’s salvation and life was wrapped up in these two matters of the covenant – the coming of the Son of David and the Lord’s making of the church His dwellingplace. Take those away and Israel (the church) is nothing. If these two covenant promises are left unfulfilled, Israel is not saved and the church is an empty shell. And then, there also is no worship, as you can see from the rest of the psalm (vss.7-9). It is that simple and that serious. The psalmist understood this, and this is why he prays so fervently. Do we understand this too? And do we pray equally fervently?

It would be easy for us to say, “But the psalmist’s concerns in Psalm 132 have been answered. The Lord did keep His word to David. He did fulfill His covenant promises to His anointed. Christ Jesus, the Son of David, has come. He perfectly kept God’s covenant and testimony (v.12) on behalf of the elect He came to save. As their sinless Priest-King, he made the perfect sacrifice for their sins. God has come and made Zion His dwellingplace. Through the risen Christ and His poured-out Spirit, God rests now in His church. And He is blessing her constantly – satisfying her poor and clothing her priests (vss.15-16). This is why we as the church gather in His presence each week and worship at the feet of our covenant God. This is why we saints shout for joy! Yes, God has accomplished His covenant promises in Christ! It’s all done!”

But while this is true, it is not the complete picture. For reality is that God is not done with His covenant promises in Christ, and we as His NT church have not yet received the fullness of  salvation in the Son of David. If we can imagine it, there are even bigger and better things yet to come! We still await the manifestation of the heavenly kingdom of our Lord in the new creation and the perfect life of the covenant with God in glory. God is bringing David’s Son from heaven once more and when He does, His tabernacle will be completed and His resting place fully achieved.

And we who still experience the burden of sin and the sufferings of this present life, also in our worship, (as the psalmist did in his age – cf. v.1 again – “all his afflictions”), but who have the Lord’s sure promises to David and David’s Son ringing in our ears and stirring up our hearts, – we pray earnestly, “Arise, O LORD, into thy rest! Bring Jesus once more and accomplish the perfect rest of the new heavens and earth! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly and fully realize the tabernacle of God!”

Because now our worship is so imperfect – on account of our sin and weakness, and on account of the fact that we are still in this old world of sin and shame. But we desire the perfect day of worship when God and we are at perfect covenant rest. Do you see now why this psalm-prayer must be and is ours? Then, as long as we wait for our Savior to come, let’s pray it and sing it!

Psalter1912If you wish to meditate on this psalm through the music of the Psalter, I encourage you to make use of this versification, Ps.#368. The lyrics are posted here; the music you may find at the link provided.

1. Arise, O Lord, our God, arise
And enter now into Thy rest;
O let this house be Thy abode,
Forever with Thy presence blest.

2. Thy gracious covenant, Lord, fulfill,
Turn not away from us Thy face;
Establish Thou Messiah’s throne
And let Him reign within this place.

3. Thy Zion Thou hast chosen, Lord,
And Thou hast said, I love her well,
This is my constant resting place,
And here will I delight to dwell.

4. I will abundantly provide
For Zion’s good, the Lord hath said;
I will supply her daily need
And satisfy her poor with bread.

5. Salvation shall adorn her priests,
Her saints shall shout with joy divine,
Messiah’s power shall be revealed,
His glory in His Church shall shine.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 128

Psalm128Hearing the Triune God’s call to assemble with our fellow saints in worship of Him, we ready ourselves physically by rising and refreshing ourselves, but also spiritually by rising and refreshing our souls through the Word of God and prayer. As we do so, we may well consider the Scripture in Psalm 128, the next “song of ascent” (or degrees) which we study together. Here is the Word of God in that place:

 Psalm 128

Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.

2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall bewell with thee.

3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.

4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.

5 The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.

6 Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.

You will notice that this is another “family psalm”, closely tied to the previous one, which we considered last time (see my Feb.2, 2014 post). I encourage you to go back and read my introductory comments on Psalm 127 about how the focus on the covenant family applies to the worship of the church in the OT as well as in the NT, since those same thoughts apply to Psalm 128.

With Psalm 128 before us, we should also picture the pilgrim people of God singing these words as they make their journey to Jerusalem (“going up”) for public worship. And as the body of Christ goes together, single believers but also godly husbands with wives at their sides and children in tow, they are deeply conscious of God’s covenant blessings. Together they make up God’s covenant community, with God as their Father, Jesus Christ as their elder Brother, and with one another as spiritual brothers and sisters.

Yet the church is also made up of so many individual covenant homes, led by God-fearing husbands and fathers, who take seriously the worship of the Lord. Because they fear Jehovah, the unchanging God of the covenant, and walk in His ways (v.1), they practice private, family worship in their home. These godly men lead their wives and children in reading and learning God’s Word and in prayer. They teach their families the fear of the Lord and call them too to walk in His ways. And in this way too they prepare their families for public worship. And when the sabbath comes, these God-fearing men make sure their wives and children are present at and participate in the public worship of Jehovah.

In other words, the worship of covenant families is indispensable for the worship of the covenant church! It is important for us to remember this vital connection. Do we expect our wife and children to worship on the Lords Day if we do not worship with them during the week? Do we expect them to desire the presence of the Lord and to participate in worship if there is no desire for Him and no worship of Him during the week? Do we think they will want to grow in the knowledge and fear of the Lord on Sunday through public worship if we are not leading them in these matters in family worship during the week?

My fellow husbands and fathers, let us heed the import of this psalm according to its context! The public worship of Jehovah begins in our own hearts and in our own homes, as we fear God and lead our families day by day in worship of the Lord. Are we diligent and faithful in this? Are we daily reading God’s Word and praying together? This is the man that is blessed according to Psalm 128. And this is the man whose godly family impacts the church for great good. Read those last two verses again and see the close tie between the godliness of our marriages and homes and the blessing of the “good of Jerusalem”, even “peace upon Israel”!

May we remember, repent of our own sin and weakness in this, and return to the godly way of worshiping as families – for the great blessing of our homes. And that will lead to godly worship on Sunday – for the great blessing of the church of Christ.

Psalter1912If you wish to meditate on Psalm 128 through the music of the Psalter, I direct you to this versification. At that page you will also find piano accompaniment. Here are the lyrics to Ps.#360:

1. Blest the man that fears Jehovah,
Walking ever in His ways;
By thy toil thou shalt be prospered
And be happy all thy days.

2. In thy wife thou shalt have gladness,
She shall fill thy home with good,
Happy in her loving service
And the joys of motherhood.

3. Joyful children, sons and daughters,
Shall about thy table meet,
Olive plants, in strength and beauty,
Full of hope and promise sweet.

4. Lo, on him that fears Jehovah
Shall this blessedness attend,
For Jehovah out of Zion
Shall to thee His blessing send.

5.Thou shalt see God’s kingdom prosper
All thy days, till life shall cease,
Thou shalt see thy children’s children;
On Thy people, Lord, be peace.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 127

Psalm127For our worship preparation this Lord’s Day we turn together to our next “song of ascent”, Psalm 127. This one is attributed to Solomon, the wise king of Israel, and along with Psalm 128 contains wise counsel for godly families in the midst of the church.

We are accustomed to treating these psalms simply as God’s Word on the covenant family, and they certainly do have much to say about the look and life of a believing home. Yet we must not isolate these psalms from their context or from their original purpose, which was that they be sung as the pilgrim people of God made their way to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Keeping this in mind, we will see that at the heart of the church is the covenant family, God-fearing parents with their covenant children. And so, when the covenant community of the church comes together to worship, at the heart of that community are the communities of worshiping families.

Which is why we do not believe that the children of the church ought to be taken out of the worship service, no matter how young and small. They must be kept with their families and preserved within the broader fellowship of the church. They must worship and serve the Lord with all the other covenant church members, for they belong to God’s church and covenant by His covenant grace.

Now, picturing the covenant families of the OT travelling together to go up to Jerusalem for worship, hear them singing this song of ascent together:

Psalm 127

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

When covenant families are preparing for worship in the Lord’s house, it is good for them to remember the vanity and futility of building their home without the Lord. If we believe that God is our sovereign Savior and Lord, that He is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God (the great, unchanging “I am” – Jehovah – notice the name used here.) , that our children are His gift and blessing, then it is vain to construct our homes spiritually without Him. Yes, the Lord is pleased to use us as parents to build a covenant home. Yes, we are laborers together with the Lord. Yes, we must be faithful and diligent builders of a godly home and trainers of our covenant children. But HE builds it; He blesses it; He makes our efforts useful and profitable. Without Him and without dependence on Him our work is all for naught.

And to remind ourselves of this we ought to sing Psalm 127, even as we are going up to the Lord’s house! For we are going to stand in His presence and worship Him, and shall we boast of our labors, of the work of our hearts and hands, of our successes with our covenant homes? Or shall we say, “Unless the Lord is building my house, we labor in vain”?! “These children whom we have taken with us for worship are the Lord’s heritage and His reward. We will bless the Lord alone together! We will teach them to praise God alone for all our covenant blessings!”

And we can extend that principle to the building and defense of the church too. It is the Lord and the Lord alone Who builds His church (Matt.16:18; 1 Cor.3:5-11). Not pastors, not elders, not deacons, not covenant families or individual church members. God lays her foundation (Jesus Christ! Eph.2:20-22); God makes the stones and set them where He wills (1 Pet.2:5-6); God establishes and constructs His Zion and His Jerusalem! She is His building, His house, His temple.

And He alone guards and defends her too! Note how v.1 speaks to this too. Yes, the city of God has watchmen, and they must maintain their post and guard the Lord’s citizens against spiritual harm. Especially pastors, professors of theology, elders, and deacons are given this charge. But if they are trying to do this without the Lord of the city and without dependence on the great Gate-Keeper, they are watching and guarding in vain!

Which means that they must be godly men of prayer. But also, that we who are being protected by the Lord through them must pray for them, in humble dependence on the Lord of the church. Are we? Already this morning? Shall we do that right now as we prepare?

If you wish to reflect on Psalm 127 through the music of our Psalter, we point you to this special versification of it. The lyrics are also posted here, but you will find the piano accompaniment (media file) at the link provided.

1. Unless the Lord the house shall build,
The weary builders toil in vain;
Unless the Lord the city shield,
The guards a useless watch maintain.

2. In vain you rise ere morning break,
And late your nightly vigils keep,
And of the bread of toil partake;
God gives to His beloved sleep.

3. Lo, children are a great reward,
A gift from God in very truth;
With arrows is his quiver stored
Who joys in children of his youth.

4. And blest the man whose age is cheered
By stalwart sons and daughters fair;
No enemies by him are feared,
No lack of love, no want of care.

An Old Book of My Grandpa Terpstra

I&Children-WMasselink-1931cover_Page_1One of the things I would like to feature on “archive Thursday” besides old pictures is some old books. Some of these will be from the Seminary library, while others will be from my own personal library.

Today’s featured old book is from my own library, and is a very special one to me. I came into possession of it just last year, as my father gave it to me through my uncle Larry Terpstra.

It is a book from my Grandpa John Terpstra and is the book he received, I believe, at the time he made public profession of his faith in Jesus Christ and became a member in full communion of the Alpine Ave. Christian Reformed Church on the near north side of Grand Rapids, MI. That is also the congregation in which my father, Gordon, was baptized and received his spiritual training.

At the time of my grandpa’s profession of faith Rev.William Masselink was the pastor (from 1928-1942), and he is the one who signed the book given to him. As you will see, it is signed March 13, 1932.

But you will also notice that the book is authored by pastor Masselink. Its title is I and the Children Thou Hast Given Me or Our Covenant Youth and Worldy Amusements (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1931). The book is composed of two parts. In part one, Rev.Masselink treats “The Covenant of Grace” (which as also published separately) and in part two he deals with “Worldly Amusements”.

NoteinsideI&Children-WMasselink-1932Now, this book is significant for other reasons beside the fact that it belonged to my grandpa Terpstra. For one thing, his doctrine of the covenant is one with which we in the PRCA sharply differ. Masselink (following L.Berkhof, by his own admission) taught that the covenant was an agreement between God and sinners and that it was conditioned by the sinner’s faith. And he was also a common grace defender, as we would expect. But it is significant that he wrote this book on worldly amusements so soon after the CRC had adopted the three points of common grace in 1924. Yet, he was simply “toeing the line” in the CRC.

You may remember that the CRC also issued a strong warning about worldly amusements immediately after adopting the doctrine of common grace, because, as they stated, they did not want the doctrine to be abused. Now, if a doctrine is adopted by a Reformed church and is said to be on solid, Biblical ground, should you have to issue a warning about it?! But, we can save that for another time.

My purpose is simply to highlight this old book and its value to my library. In spite of its weaknesses, it is a treasure to me. No, because of its weaknesses, it is a treasure to me. For this too belongs to my personal past through my father. I am thankful for his Christian upbringing in the CRC, but also for the fact that he joined the PRC when he married my mother, Eileen (Engelsma). And I am grateful that I have had the privilege of being spiritually trained in the environment of the twins truths of God’s sovereign, particular grace and unconditional covenant. Soli Deo Gloria!

One other tidbit of this history comes to mind. My dad told us that Rev.Masselink had the nickname of “Weeping Willie” because of his emotional style of preaching. I wish I could have heard him :).

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 126

Psalm126As we enter the Lord’s gates of righteousness and joy today (Ps.118:19), we consider together Psalm 126, the seventh of the songs of ascent sung by God’s OT pilgrim people as they journeyed to Jerusalem for worship. Here is the Word of God in this song:

Psalm 126

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.

3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.

5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

We can see immediately that the setting of this psalm is a late event in the history of Israel – the return from captivity in Babylon after 70 years (see also Psalm 137). And we also catch the note of joy and gladness – this is a celebratory psalm! The OT church is celebrating the joyful event of the return to Israel and Jerusalem with laughter and singing because it was the work of their sovereign God and Savior, v.2-3. Though it was the Persian king Cyrus who granted them release from Babylon, it was the Lord of Persia and Cyrus Who “turned again the captivity of Zion”, v.1 (Read the history of this again, especially in Isaiah, to see the Lord’s sovereignty over all the details of this event. You will recall that Cyrus is even called the Lord’s anointed servant, Is.45:1.)

In fact, it was the “LORD” – Jehovah, the faithful God of the covenant, the One Who remembered His promise to His own and Who never forgets or forsakes His people, no matter how much time goes by or how many events take place. The Lord of salvation set His people free from Babylon and restored them to the land of promise. And He did that in His love, mercy and grace for His elect remnant, because Christ was in them and they were in Him.

No wonder then that their mouths were filled with laughter and their tongues with singing! No wonder they sang praise to God and attributed this saving event to Jehovah! “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad”, v.3. As in the time of harvest, God had turned their weeping into joy, vss.5-6. Sowing in tears, they now reaped with rejoicing, because the Lord had turned all things – even the troubles and temptations of the captivity in Babylon – for their good.

This glad song is also ours today. And even more so. For we know about a greater return from captivity. We know the reality to which the return from Babylon pointed and still points: to our release from the bondage of sin and the return to the joyful freedom  of serving God! To the perfect work of God’s highest Servant, Jesus Christ, Who for us miserable sinners went to Calvary to pay the full price of our release and return, even the wrath of God and the sufferings of hell. But Who also rose again from the dead for us and went to heaven for us and is coming again for us, so that someday we may fully leave the Babylon of this world and enter the joy of our Lord!

O, what great things the Lord has done for us! And for this we are glad, so glad! O, how our weeping has been turned into joy! So we laugh and we sing, and we worship and shout our praises to the God of our salvation! Today, on the Lord’s Day, the day of our risen, victorious Savior! And every day! For we have begun to live the endless life of our return to God, and the full day of rest is not far off. God’s Servant, our Savior, is soon coming to set us fully free and bring us home!

And so,  we, like the OT church, still pray, “Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south” (v.4). Even as we celebrate God’s work of turning again the captivity of Zion, we long for the full and perfect day. For we are still sit in the Babylon of this world. We still suffer from the remnants of our bondage to sin. Satan can still hinder us and hurt us. But our Lord is coming! The day of our full return is seen on the horizon! “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” May that be our prayer as we laugh and sing and celebrate God’s work for us today.

If you wish to meditate on Psalm 126 through the music of the Psalter, we post this versification of it and link you to the page where you may also find piano accompaniment.

1. When Zion in her low estate
Was brought from bondage by the Lord,
In ecstasy we sang for joy,
By grace and wondrous love restored.

2. The Lord in greatly blessing us
Before the world His power displays;
Yea, great things God has done for us,
And filled our hearts with joy and praise.

3. O Lord, refresh us by Thy grace,
Revive and quicken all our powers,
As failing streams are made to flow,
Replenished by abundant showers.

4. The sower bearing precious seed
May weep as in his toil he grieves,
But he shall come again with joy
In harvest time with golden sheaves.

New Reformed Education Blog

RefdEduc-DJEAs a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s post about the book on Christian school Board leadership, I want to make you aware of a new blogging venture on Reformed education. Rick Mingerink, administrator at Adams Christian School, has started a blog on this subject with the sub-title “Thinking about the Calvinist day-school”. This is how Rick introduces his blog in his first post:

In 2009, I started a running commentary on various matters and issues that pertain to Reformed education.  For two and a half years, I filled the back of Adams’ Monday Note with my thoughts, concerns and ideas in regards to education in the Calvinist day-school.

I’m looking forward to using a new format for my thoughts.  The blog is ideal for an activity such as this.  Among other conveniences, it also allows others to respond.  For me, that is important.  Whether you challenge my thoughts or you encourage them, I would be appreciative if you contributed your own thinking.

One of the biggest threats to Reformed education is not thinking about it.

His most recent posts concern the educational views of Rev.Herman Hoeksema in a sermon he preached in 1916 on Deut.6:7, when he was still a minister in the Christian Reformed Church (later published in The Standard Bearer, 1927). I encourage you to check out Rick’s blog, support and encourage him by subscribing to it, and begin following these interesting and informative posts on Reformed education.

We must think about it! And talk about! Thanks, Rick, for continuing the conversation in this powerful way!

P.S. Thanks to those who responded to my post on Christian school Boards yesterday too. If you haven’t checked out  the comments yet, do so. Three people – all involved in Christian education at different levels and ways – left helpful notes that are of benefit to all of us.

Serving God on the Christian School Board – R.W.Lowrie

I am in my final year (six months actually) of serving on the Board of Heritage Christian School, where some of our children attended and where we now have four grandchildren. It has been a privilege and joy (and learning experience!) to serve with other Christ-devoted, covenant-committed men the last two and a half years.

When it comes to Board work, it seems to be “learn on the job” training. Our Christian school administrators and teachers receive plenty of training for their positions, but Board members do not. Except of course, the life-training of being parents, business men, church leaders, etc. And I do not minimize this “training”. In many ways it is the best training.

At the same time, I wish there could be more training materials for Board members. In the PRC we have plenty of helps and on-going training for our teachers, but we have none for Board members. We have a great publication on Reformed education, but nothing specifically for Board members, as far as I know. We ought to develop some good, foundational resources that would serve Board members.

ServingGodChrSchoolBoard-LowrieI did not know there was anything “out there” on serving on the Christian school Board until I found a book by this very title in a Thrift store a few weeks ago. The book was originally penned by Dr.Roy W. Lowrie, who served as headmaster of Delaware County Christian School for twenty-six years and then as first president of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). He also taught in the graduate program for Christian school administration at Grace College and Seminary and Columbia International University. His son, Roy, Jr. has kept this work alive with revisions to the second and third editions to Serving God on the Christian School Board.

Even though this book is not written from a Reformed and covenantal perspective (more broadly evangelical and even fundamentalistic), it is still helpful, containing many good thoughts. I take a few of these from the introduction today and will perhaps follow up sometime with some additional material. This is written by john Schimmer, Jr. and includes a quote from Roy W.Lowrie.

Serving on a Christian school board is a holy calling, a ministry unto the Lord that deserves our best-informed effort. It behooves us to stury board literature and to receive training so that we can carry out our responsibilities with knowledge and wisdom. We must serve in a way that honor our Lord.

While the criteria for serving on a Christian school board are quite similar to those of other private schools and nonprofit baords, the essential distinctive for Christian schools is that every trustee must be a mature Christian leader who is committed to thinking Christianly and modeling the teachings of Scripture in the boardroom, the school, and the community. Dr.Roy W.Lowrie, Jr., wrote, ‘Board members should be thinking Christianly when they come to the decisions that they have to make. Their decisions need to be as biblical as [their expectations of] the decisions of teachers and of administrators. This is why it is critical to have spiritually qualified board members…. It is better to have a smaller board of qualified people than to have a larger board with some being unqualified spiritually’ (Administration of the Christian School).

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 125

Psalm125To help guide our minds and hearts as we prepare for our worship in the Lord’s house of prayer this day, we turn to the sixth of the “songs of Ascent”, Psalm 125. As we read this portion of God’s Word, we can hear the men, women and children singing this song as Mt.Zion, the mountain of God, and Jerusalem, the city of God, come into view and the pilgrims begin making the climb to their destination. Listen to them:

Psalm 125

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.

2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.

4 Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.

5 As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

Jerusalem-Ancient imageCan we picture it? With the help of a picture of Jerusalem built on Mt.Zion, one of the seven peaks in that area, we can. And then we can understand why this metaphor entered the psalmist’s mind and became the inspiration for writing this psalm, under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ.

The people would have come a long way by the time they reached the holy city, and they would have come through many dangers. The site of the mountains around Jerusalem pointed the saints to their temporal and eternal security in the Lord their God. Jehovah, their mighty Savior and strong Defender, surrounded them in His grace and love. In Him they were safe in the face of all natural dangers and spiritual evils. Their arrival at the gates of Jerusalem proved that to them.

And seeing the mighty hills of God around Jerusalem and seeing the temple on Mt.Zion taught them to place all their trust in this God alone, v.1. They must live by faith and not by sight. That faith would be rewarded in their worship, as they would receive from the Lord God the assurance of their salvation from and security in Him.

It is no different for the NT church and people of God. Though we no longer go up to the physical city of Jerusalem when we worship, we do go up to the spiritual mountain of God’s presence and we do enter the spiritual city of God’s sovereign rule and protection in Jesus Christ. Wherever God’s church gathers, even if it is only two or three saints and in a flimsy shelter or open field, God surrounds her and is in the midst of her; she cannot be moved (Ps.46:5). Yes, wherever we meet today today, our King is with us and around us, and we are safe and secure by sovereign grace and the Spirit of our Lord! Nothing and no one can take us away from our God or remove us from His saving presence! The gates of hell cannot prevail against Christ’s church (Matt.16:18)! Are we conscious of this today as we go up to the hill of our God?

But then we too must trust in Him, v.1! Not the safety any building affords us or the security any earthly ruler may grant us must give us our confidence. Our hope and trust must be in the Lord alone! Our faith must be in the One Who surrounds us in Christ! We must look up, not to any physical mountains, but to the Lord and His sovereign presence with us! Are we doing that, even now as we prepare for worship?

Then we too will not want the rod of the wicked to rest on us, v.3. We will not seek the rule of evil in our midst, lest we join the wicked around us and stretch out our hands to iniquity. Many churches and people have done exactly that, as they have fallen into unbelief and departed from the good ways of God’s Word and covenant. Israel of old did too and was severely chastised. And we are certainly capable of that sin of apostasy. Let us learn and be warned! Let us seek only the Lord and His ways of truth and righteousness! Let us continue in the ways of His covenant, walking in the friendship and fellowship of our God!

And so, let us pray, as the saints did in this song, v.4: “Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” “Good” by grace alone, of course. For we know well the curse of the Lord that comes on those who turn aside and walk crookedly, v.5. We want the peace of God on Israel. And that can be only when God is good to us in Christ, pardoning our sins, making us holy so as to delight in His ways, and preserving us unto our eternal home. For that we must pray. Daily. On the Lord’s Day too. Shall we?

May you and I, in the way of trusting in this mighty God of grace, experience this peace and security today.

If you wish to meditate on this psalm through the music of the Psalter, we give you this versification of Psalm 125 and point you to this page where you may also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along.

1. Like Zion’s steadfast mount are they
Who in the Lord confide;
Secure, immovable they stand,
Forever to abide.

2. As round about Jerusalem
The mountains give defense,
Jehovah is His people’s guard,
Their lasting confidence.

3. No tyrant’s scepter o’er the good
Shall undisturbed abide,
Lest righteous men, oppressed by wrong,
To evil turn aside.

4. O Thou Jehovah, to the good
Thy goodness now impart,
Thy lovingkindness show to them
That upright are in heart.

5. All those that turn from righteousness
With wayward, wandering feet,
With sinners God will lead them forth,
The sinner’s doom to meet.

6. O Thou Who are Thy people’s shield,
Their helper and their guide,
Upon them let Thy grace and peace
Forevermore abide.

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