No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman

No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

DFurman sketchPart of my Sunday reading also included this fascinating “TT” interview with Pastor David Furman, who pastors Redeemer Church in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

While there are many interesting insights in this interview about planting and maintaining a Reformed church in the heart of the Middle East, I truly appreciated the way Furman answered two questions in particular. I post them here, encouraging you to follow the link above to learn more about this church in Dubai.

TT: What aspects of the reformed tradition have most equipped you for ministry in Dubai?

DF: The first and biggest thing that came to mind when I read this question was the crystal-clear call of Christ. Jesus says: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). It is hard to describe how encouraged I am by the Reformed doctrines of grace that describe how Christ assuredly calls His elect, that the elect respond, and that He keeps them forever. This strengthens my heart to endure hardship, to labor over expositional preaching, and to glorify Jesus when I see fruit or face rejection. Reformed doctrine has fueled our sharing of the gospel and emboldened us to be faithful to Christ in difficult times.

TT: What advice can you give Christians for sharing the gospel?

DF: Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God. There is no need to change it, distort it, add to it, or subtract from it. Indeed, we must not alter the gospel. If you add one drop of works to the gospel, you destroy it, change it, reverse it, and oppose it. Gospel revision always equals gospel reversal. I would tell all Christians to hold on to and herald the one true gospel. We’ve seen it change lives time and time again. I read in a biography of Charles Spurgeon a story about his grandfather preaching one night. The story goes that one night Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, was running late getting to the church, and by the time he got there, his grandfather had already started preaching. Young Spurgeon was already widely known at that time, and when he walked in, his grandfather paused his sermon and said something to this effect: “My grandson is here now; he may be a greater preacher than I, but he can’t preach a greater gospel.” All Christians are equipped with the same message. We need to hold out the gospel. There is no better message and no greater news.

A Passion for Preaching and A Long Line of Godly Men: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson

A Passion for Preaching: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson by Steven Lawson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT_Interview_LawsonThis month’s Tabletalk (June 2014) included another interview feature, this time with pastor Steve Lawson, well-known preacher and author, who has begun a new ministry devoted to church reformation through expository preaching – OnePassion Ministries.

There are many good parts to this interview, but there are two sections in particular I will post here today: one on the great need of the church today and one on his series of books – “A Long Line of Godly Men.” I believe you too will find these interesting and profitable.

To read all of the interview, follow the Ligonier link above.

TT: Why have you focused so much of your attention to the practice of expository preaching and to helping both preachers and laypeople see its importance?

SL: I strongly believe that no church can rise any higher than its pulpit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church. The deeper the preacher takes his flock into the Word of God, the higher they will rise in worship. The stronger they are in the Scripture, the stronger they will be in the pursuit of holiness. Likewise, strong preaching leads to sacrificial service in the Lord’s work. Strong exposition kindles hearts for the work of evangelism and the cause of worldwide missions. Every great movement of God in church history has been ushered in by a renewed commitment to solid preaching of the Word. If we are to see a spiritual awakening in our day, the church must recover the primacy of preaching. I desire to be used by God to help equip a new generation of preachers and laypeople in recognizing the importance of this primary means of grace.

TT: Why did you decide to establish the book series A Long Line of Godly Men, and what other men do you hope to profile individually in this series?

SL: The Long Line series was birthed in my teaching ministry at the church that I pastor. As I was teaching the men of my church sound doctrine from Scripture, I wanted them to see that what we believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace has been the mainline position by great men and movements down through the centuries. Out of this Friday morning teaching series has arisen these books so that these essential truths may be made available to a wider audience around the world. There is much instruction and inspiration to be drawn from this profile study. In the future, I need to write volume three of the larger books, which will move from John Knox to this present hour. In the smaller books, there are other key figures who I want to address such as William Tyndale, John Wycliff•e, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and, yes, R.C. Sproul.

Encouraging Our Spiritual Leaders (Especially Pastors) – Jared Wilson

Encourage Leaders with Faithful Graciousness by Jared Wilson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-May2014Besides reading the last of the featured articles on this month’s Tabletalk theme (“Never Before Seen” by J.Mark Beach; see the cover to the left for the theme), I found the above-linked article important for us who profit from our faithful pastors and preachers each week. It is written by a pastor, but it is written for us who often take our pastor’s leadership for granted (and that includes elders) and who need to be reminded that these men (also weak and sinful as we are, and frequently discouraged) need our encouragement.

So read this article carefully and put into practice what it communicates. You and your pastor and elders will be better off because of it. I give you just a portion of it here; the rest may be found at the Ligonier link above.

Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that our leaders will have to give an account. Do we want them to have to bring to the Lord in prayer our selfish neediness, our unwilling submission, constant criticisms, and questions? Or do we want them to go to the Lord in great thanksgiving out of the joy of being our leaders? I want those in authority over me to be able to say, “Oh, Lord, thank you for the gift of Jared! What a great joy it is to lead him,” rather than “Oh, Lord, help me with this guy. He’s so difficult.”

In the short term, disregarding commands like Hebrews 13:17 is a great way to gets lots of attention and, perhaps, even lots of satisfaction. In the long run, however, it is spiritually dangerous. Giving your leaders cause for groaning is “no advantage to you.” In the end, obediently submitting to our leaders by living lives of faithful graciousness in the church is a commitment of faith in God because He has placed these leaders in your church. By submitting to God-appointed authorities, we submit to God. No, the pastor isn’t perfect. No, he doesn’t always get things right. Yes, he too is a sinner—just like you. But when we know this and submit anyway, we give God glory and our pastor grace. This is good for us. We may not be immediately interested in our leaders’ joy, but if we are interested in our own spiritual advantage, we will repent of our selfishness and seek our leaders’ joy.

Let it be a great joy to our pastors to have us as their sheep. Let us give them great cause to “boast of us” in Paul’s godly way (2 Cor. 8:241 Thess. 2:19). Your leaders probably won’t tell you to do this. They will fear that it will seem self-seeking or self-pitying. And this is all the more reason why you should obey and submit to them, encouraging them tremendously with your commitment to faithful graciousness.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (6)

As we were coming home from our evening service at Faith PRC (Jenison, MI) last night, I said to my wife: “We are so blessed to have the preaching we do in our church and churches!” What a day of being fed by and of feasting on the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ! Our souls were filled with the good news of Christ crucified for sinners such as ourselves!

In the morning we attended a special family baptism event at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI and were richly fed by pastor Carl Haak’s message on Mary of Bethany’s act of anointing Jesus’ head (Mark 14:1-11). He is doing a series on significant events that took place during the days of the Passion week of Jesus, this sermon being the one for Wednesday, and titled “A Memorial Left Behind”. You will be able to find this sermon and others in the series at this link to Georgetown PRC’s Sermonaudio page.

Last night we were favored to have Rev.James Slopsema from our First PRC of Grand Rapids as our guest preacher. He is doing a series on the seven (7) cross words of Jesus and he preached on the middle one for us: “Forsaken by God”. It was another wonderful message, which brought us to the dust in the knowledge of our sin and lifted us up in the knowledge of what our Savior did for us on Calvary. You may find this message on Faith PRC’s website.

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieWith these gospel messages in our hearts – and many more that you have heard, I am sure – we also hear again today from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (ed. by Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2009). I plan to post something each day this week from this wonderful devotional. Today’s quote is from a piece by the Anglican J.C. (John Charles) Ryle. Titled “The Sufferings of Christ” and based on Matthew 27:27-44, it is taken from his familiar Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. May his thoughts also serve to humble us as well as lift us up through the knowledge of our deliverance from sin.

But we must not be content with a vague general belief that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of his passion. We may follow him all through, from the bar of Pilate to the minute of his death, and see him at every step as our mighty substitute, our representative, our head, our surety, our proxy – the divine friend who undertook to stand in our place and, by the priceless merit of his sufferings, to purchase our redemption. Was he flogged? It was done so that ‘by his wounds we are healed’ (Isa. 53:5). Was he condemned, though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty. Did he wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory.  Was he stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness. Was he mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed. Was he reckoned a criminal,a nd counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin. Was he declared unable to save himself? It was so that he might be able to save others to the uttermost. Did he die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well: they are worth remembering. The very key to peace is a right apprehension of the vicarious sufferings of Christ (pp.58-59)

Word Wednesday on Thursday – “Homiletics”

First, allow me to apologize for not posting my customary word items yesterday. The day got away from me and I had no time for posts! But the good news is we are doing it today! “Word Thursday” we will call it this week! :)

HomileticsLet’s tackle another good Seminary course word today. How about “homiletics”? You may have heard this word before but perhaps do not remember what it means or to what course it refers. Today we will help you better understand what “Homiletics” is all about.

If you go to the PRC Seminary catalog, you will discover that this word is at the top of the list under “Practical-Theological Studies” – and with good reason. Because “Homiletics” is the

“study of the history, principles, and methods of sermon preparation. Included is a study of the liturgical forms used in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (treating their history, content, importance, and doctrinal teachings), as well as a study of the history of liturgy and the biblical principles and elements of Reformed worship”.

Homiletics, then, includes (at least in our Seminary) “Liturgics” (the study of worship – perhaps we can look at the origin and meaning of that word in the future), what Prof.B.Gritters is teaching this semester. But “homiletics” proper has to do with the making of sermons. And, as you know, this is at the heart of what is taught in our Seminary. Because the chief task of the minister of the gospel is to preach the Word. And preaching means crafting sermons, usually two per week for our pastors, and sometimes three.

So at the core of Seminary training is sermon making. The students are taught how to make “homilies”. And they start their first semester already. And they never stop learning to make sermons their whole way through. Nor when they are in the ministry. “Homiletics” is truly a lifetime course. Ask any of our pastors or professors.

But how did a course on sermon making get this fancy name? Dictionary.com will help us:

World English Dictionary
homiletics  (ˌhɒmɪˈlɛtɪks)
n
( functioning as singular ) the art of preaching or writing sermons
[C17: from Greek homilētikos  cordial, from homilein  to converse with; see homily ]

 

And under “homily” the entry is:

hom·i·ly

[hom-uh-lee]

noun, plural hom·i·lies.

1.

a sermon, usually on a Biblical topic and usually of a nondoctrinal nature. (But that’s not what we want, is it?! -cjt)
2.

an admonitory or moralizing discourse.
3.

an inspirational saying or cliché.
Origin:
1545–55;  < Late Latin homīlia  < Greek homīlía  assembly, sermon, equivalent to hómīl ( os ) crowd ( hom ( ) together + -īlos,  masculine combining form of ī́lē  (feminine) crowd) + -ia -y3 ; replacing Middle English omelie  < Middle French  < Latin,  as above

 

There, now you have learned another word and have another course in our Seminary down. I trust this is of interest to you. If it isn’t, it ought to be!

Last semester the first year students started putting some homilies together (more of a meditation) and delivering them in class. This semester they are doing even more – exegeting a passage and putting together their first sermons. It has been interesting watching them go through this process. Though they have heard many sermons, this is the first real one they have to make. They are meeting often with the professors to discuss the process of making this initial sermon. They are focused and taking this very seriously. Which is good and what we want.

Pray for them, that they may become good homiletes. Because good homiletes make good preachers. And that’s what the church needs!

PRC Archives – Thursday’s Answer and Challenge!

Student Sermon-2_Page_1Last week we published a mystery document again for our PRC archives item (mystery item #5) – some handwritten sermon notes. It seems that most of you were stumped by this one, and I will grant you that this was not an easy one, even with the hints.

But one sharp fella in Edgerton, MN got it – Skip Hunter (see the comments under that post)! He correctly guessed Rev.Herman Veldman (1908-1997), who was actually Seminarian H.Veldman at the time (PRC Seminary, 1929-1932 – ordained and installed in 1st PRC of Pella, IA in Sept. of 1932), for these sermon notes on Psalm 19:15 were found in his student sermon folder in the archive room.

That sweet smell emanating from these notes was from Rev.Veldman’s pipe, which he smoked diligently until the end of his life, and is one of my own fond memories of him (sorry, anti-smokers, but that was a wonderful odor!). We also took note of his fine handwriting, another characteristic of this meticulous minister. I asked if anyone had heard this sermon, or knew where and when it had been preached, and it appears that will stay a mystery – at least for now.

I have many good memories of Rev.H.Veldman (besides his dignified Genevan preaching gown!). He was my own pastor at Hope PRC, Walker, MI when I was a young boy (1963-66). Later on, when I was in Seminary, I believe, he preached our Heidelberg Catechism sermons in the morning while we were vacant. He memorized his sermons word for word, and I will say I was mesmerized by his style of preaching. I still recall him ending many sermons with his arm raised and his finger pointed out, a large smile on his face, as he would state with utter confidence, “And that’s the way it is, beloved!” O, I loved that! And God used that to build my own confidence of faith in the truth of the gospel at a challenging time in my life.

After I was married, I lived in the same trailer park as he did and had the privilege of picking him up for catechism classes. What a treat! Yes, he smoked his pipe in my car, and I didn’t mind it at all. And if I had, he probably would have smoked it anyway! :) But he was always full of advice and stories. I only wished I had written them down and kept them to heart.

I also have some fun(ny) memories of this servant of God – some of my own and some from my father. Rev.Veldman liked to enjoy his glass of cold water (with ice!) on the pulpit, and let his audience know it. He would lift it high, rattle the ice around, and then take a drink, letting out a loud “Ah!”, as if to say, “Now, that was a great glass of water! Thank you very much!”

Rev.Veldman was also known to be quite helpless when it came to practical matters at the parsonage. My father, who served on the Building Committee (he was an electrician), told us a few choice stories. Such as the time Rev.Veldman called him to change a light bulb in a dark closet. And asked him to come over and get his study fan working again. Dad looked it over, traced the cord back, and plugged it in. Bingo, fan working! :) That was Rev.H.Veldman too.

Perhaps you have your own stories. Feel free to share them here. I could tell you many more, such as how he handled unruly teenagers in the back of church, or crying babies, but I will stop for now.

Because now we have to get on to the next mystery item! Today we return to the photograph feature. And once again it is a Young People’s Convention picture. I found this yesterday in some Beacon Lights’ folders in the archives room. It is a collage of pictures (There is also a first page, which I will wait to reveal.), which makes it quite interesting and challenging. I recognized some of these people immediately, even though they preceded my own birth (1958!) – there’s your one and only hint. But I had no idea what year this one was and where the convention was that year until I looked.

So, go ahead, pour over this collage, and let me know who these folks are if you recognize someone. And what year you think this convention was. And who the host societies were that year, which will include where the convention was held that year. The pictures are numbered, so that will help you when we leave a guess (Click on it to enlarge even more). Enjoy mystery item #6!

MysteryYPsConv-1_Page_1

PRC Archives Day! Mystery Item #4 Solved and Item #5 Published: Old Sermon Notes

It’s Thursday, and that means time for our PRC archives feature! Last week we posted something different from a photo for the first time – a church bulletin – thinking that perhaps this would stump our audience. But, no, Mr.Ken Hoksbergen got it without a problem (see the comment)! Another of you guessed the church correctly, but I believe that means the rest of you were mystified! Good! Mission accomplished! Well, except for Ken.

MysteryBulletin-Jan1953This was indeed the bulletin of Rock Valley PRC (Iowa – a congregation no longer in existence), where Rev.Sebastian Cammenga was pastor (who left us after the schism of 1953). Great job, Ken! I am curious to know how you knew. Was the sole name given in the bulletin enough for you to guess?

I can add a personal note here connecting myself to this former PRC minister. When I was attending Calvin College and working part-time at the Grandville D&W Foods grocery store, I met Rev.S.Cammenga’s son Robert, who also worked in the produce department. Rev.Cammenga was then serving as pastor of Hope CRC in Grandville, MI (There’s another PRC connection, you may remember!). Robert and I became good friends, to such a degree that he stood up in my wedding. I met Rev.Cammenga a few times when I was in Robert’s home, though we never talked much about what happened in 1953. I regret that now. :( But Robert and I had our share of discussions and disagreements about CRC-PRC doctrines and relations.

Student Sermon-1_Page_1

But now it is time to introduce PRC archive mystery item #5! And once again we draw from a document, not a picture. I have culled from the file cabinet in the archive room a sweet-smelling (There’s a little hint :) ), hand-written sermon by a PRC minister (to the end of his life – there’s a second hint) – a sermon produced when he was a student in the PRC Seminary according to the file in which it is enclosed. And, as you will see, this young man had rather fine handwriting (Do they teach penmanship anymore?)!

Above is the cover to the sermon; below are the first two pages, which include the introduction, sermon title, and sermon divisions. Give me the name of the minister (student at the time) and the years he was in Seminary. And if any of you ever heard this sermon, you may answer this bonus question: where and when was it preached in our churches? Have fun! (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Student Sermon-2_Page_1

“One Holy Passion” – Rev.C.Haak

haak_smallSpeaking of excellent, edifying Reformed sermons, we were blessed in Faith PRC last evening to hear the above-titled sermon by Rev.C.Haak (pastor of Georgetown PRC, Hudsonville, MI), based on Romans 11:36. If you wish to learn what the Reformed faith is about at its core; if you wish to know why the doctrines of grace are so God-centered and man-abasing; if you wish to know what the Christian world and life view is; if you wish to be stirred in your soul to thank and praise God for the gracious gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, – then listen to this sermon – “One Holy Passion”.

I have also been updating the sermon audio page on the PRCA website. Check it out for a fine selection of recent sermons preached through the PRC.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Investing in Our Children – R.C. Sproul Jr. & Conversion and the Covenant Child – R.Dykstra

Secure Investments by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TTOct2013Yesterday morning during our worship service in Faith PRC we witnessed two infant baptisms. As is my custom, I took my issue of Tabletalk along to read some of the feature articles. Prior to the morning service I read the above article by R.C.Sproul, Jr., in which he writes under the rubric “Seek Ye First”, based on Jesus’ words at the end of the great Sermon on the Mount.

Belonging to those words of Jesus are his admonition in vss.25ff. about fear and worry, words that tie in well with the theme of this month’s TT – “The Seven Deadly Fears” (And, by the way, you  too may read the next article on this theme “Fear of Failure” by Dr.R.Pratt, Jr.). Toward the end of his article Sproul had some fine thoughts about our worries about finances in comparison with our concerns about our children’s destinies.

Needless to say, his words hit home – and fit well the occasion of baptism. I quote a portion here and encourage you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. Caution: your conscience will be pricked. But that is a good thing.

Were I to poll the evangelical church and ask this question, “Which is more important, the eternal state of the souls of your children, or your financial position?” chances are we’d have a radically lopsided poll. If, however, I were to construct a worry meter, and attach it to the hearts of those evangelicals, what would it show us?

Again, the two, our money and our children, may be connected. We excuse our money worries by asserting our concern is for their inheritance. But why, then, are we so much less concerned about the spiritual inheritance we give them? Our treasure is where our fear is.

Which is why, of course, Jesus directs us to love, to cherish, to treasure that which can never be taken away. When we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are not merely pursuing the more valuable as opposed to the less valuable. Rather, we are also pursuing what we cannot lose, as opposed to what we cannot hope to keep. When we seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, when we teach them the way they should go when they are young so that they will not turn from it when they are old (Prov. 22:6), we are not just investing in eternity, but we are investing in that which cannot be lost. When we plant the seed of the Word, we know it will not—because it cannot—return to Him void.

There is a simple and wise trick to get us over our worries. We need only to ask ourselves, “In a thousand years, will this really matter?” With respect to our children, the answer is always “Yes. For thousands of thousands of thousands of years it will matter.” Invest in eternity. Invest in your children.

RDykstra1I might add here too that Prof.R.Dykstra, who has been preaching our Heidelberg Catechism sermons in the morning at Faith PRC since our pastoral vacancy, preached a fine baptism sermon on “Conversion and the Covenant Child” based on Romans 6 and LD 33 of the HC. I also encourage you to listen to this sermon by using this link.

PR Seminary Convocation Tonight!

The Protestant Reformed Seminary will be holding its annual Convocation program tonight in Faith PRC in Jenison, MI, beginning at 7:30 p.m. You are hereby cordially invited to join us as we mark the beginning of a new year of instruction and preparation for the gospel ministry. Below is the announcement which was placed on the PRCA website. We would be honored and delighted by your presence this evening.

For our friends and supporters who cannot attend tonight’s program, please note that the event will be live-streamed (Eastern time, U.S., 7:30 p.m.) from Faith PRC’s website. (See the note at the top of the website.). We hope that in this way too you may join us for our special night.

RDykstra1The 2013 PR Seminary Convocation, marking the beginning of the new school year, will be held this week Wednesday, September 11, in Faith PRC at 7:30 P.M.  Prof.Russell Dykstra will speak on the topic “Pray for Us.”  The male quartet, “Voices of Victory”, will provide special music. The seminarians (10, maybe 11 of them!) will also be introduced as part of the program.  You are welcome to join the seminary in this convocation for the new year and to fellowship with professors and students alike. If you cannot attend, the evening will also be live-streamed through Faith PRC’s website, starting at 7:30 p.m. Visit their website and follow the link at the top of the page.

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