More on Sunday Observance from John J. Timmerman

The fundamental outline of Sunday, its mood, church services, and dominant activities were not enormously changed by the thirties and forties. What is certain is that none of us has escaped the indelible impressions of that Sunday. To me the Sunday of my boyhood in Iowa and my youth in New Jersey meant two things supremely. Sunday was to be markedly different from Thursday in church attendance and in other activities which should be spiritually centered, positively contributory to the distinctiveness of the day. The second, in that honorific and stilted phrase, was the preaching of the word. The latter is still, however brilliant or bumbling it may be, the heart of Sunday services. I am thankful for the spiritual insight and inspiration I have received over the years from many sermons. To have attended half of them would have impoverished me; to have fragmented the spirit of the day with antithetical secular diversions would have made it almost indistinguishable from Thursday (p.63).

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanTaken from the essay “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” in Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

For my previous post from this article, go here (Oct.15, 2014).

Augustine – Homily on John 10:1-10

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineThe quotation below is found in the new Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer (October 15, 2014), a Reformed semi-monthly magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. This special issue is devoted to the church father Augustine, and the opening meditation is an excerpt from a sermon (homily) of Augustine based on John 10:1-10.

Notice how the doctrines of sovereign grace permeate what he says in this section while acknowledging the mixed nature of the church in this present world.

12. You hear, brethren, the great importance of the question. I say then, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” He knoweth those who were foreknown, He knoweth those who were predestinated; because it is said of Him, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. If God be for us, who can be against us?” Add to this: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not with Him also freely given us all things?”

But what “us”? Those who are foreknown, predestinated, justified, glorified; regarding whom there follows, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Therefore “the Lord knoweth them that are His;” they are the sheep. Such sometimes do not know themselves, but the Shepherd knoweth them, according to this predestination, this foreknowledge of God, according to the election of the sheep before the foundation of the world: for so saith also the apostle, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” 

According, then, to this divine foreknowledge and predestination, how many sheep are outside, how many wolves within! and how many sheep are inside, how many wolves without! How many are now living in wantonness who will yet be chaste! how many are blaspheming Christ who will yet believe in Him! how many are giving themselves to drunkenness who will yet be sober! how many are preying on other people property who will yet freely give of their own! Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers.

In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated,—of those whom the Lord knoweth that they are His.) And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.

For information on how to receive this issue or to subscribe, visit the Standard Bearer website.  Or you may visit this news item about it on the PRC website.

Biblical Dichotomies: Clean and Unclean – Benjamin Shaw

Clean and Unclean by Benjamin Shaw | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Oct 2014Part of my Sunday magazine reading included this featured article on another “biblical dichotomy” in this month’s Tabletalk. “Clean and unclean” are two more significant opposites in Scripture, and as Dr.B.Shaw demonstrates, we need to understand them properly in order to understand the gospel correctly.

This time I quote from the end of the article, urging you to start at the beginning and read it all.

By this statement (Mark 7:14-23 ~cjt), Jesus is telling the people that those laws of clean and unclean were intended to be a picture that showed them that the totality of their lives was, by nature, unclean. Uncleanness was not sin, but it was a picture of sin. As it was almost impossible to get through a day in ancient Israel without contracting some sort of uncleanness, the Lord by these laws was showing how thoroughly sin had corrupted human life. There was really no escaping it. In reality, their hope was not to avoid uncleanness. Instead, their hope was to be delivered from it. As the author of Hebrews says, the blood of bulls and goats only sanctified for the purification (or cleansing—again, an obvious allusion to the cleanness laws) of the flesh. It is only the blood of Christ that cleanses our consciences from dead works to the true service of the living God (Heb. 9:13-14).

So the next time you read through Leviticus 11-15, slow down. Read the details. Contemplate how deeply sin affected the ordinary life of the ancient Israelite. From that, be reminded how deeply, and how thoroughly, sin affects your life. Give thanks that you do not live under the burden of the shadow of the law, with its washings and its sacrifices. Rejoice that you live under the easy yoke of Christ, whose blood has cleansed your conscience from dead works and enables you to serve, from the heart, the living God.

 

The Blessed Trinity – Prayer and Praise

This morning in my home church (Faith PRC) we will hear the gospel contained in the truth of the Trinity, as taught us in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8, Q&As 24-25. So simply stated, yet so wondrously profound. I cannot comprehend the Tri-unity of my God; but I believe it with all my head and heart because this is how He has revealed Himself to me. My one God and Father is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thinking about my post for this Lord’s Day, I found this prayer/devotion in the book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett (Edited by Arthur Bennett; Banner of Truth, 1975). It is simply titled “The Trinity”, but it too contains profound truths concerning our Triune God.

May it lead us to contemplate with awe our amazing God, and to fall down before Him with deep praise according to the depth of His Being.

Three in One, One in Three, God of my salvation,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;

O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;

O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered my heart,
implanted there eternal life, revealed to me the glories of Jesus.

Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, so wondrous,
so mighty to save the lost and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep, jewel, portion;

O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;

O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
implanted faith within me, subdued my stubborn heart,
made me one with him for ever.

O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,

O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my petitions,

O Holy Spirit, thou art willing to help my infirmities,
to show me my need, to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.

O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those
things that concern thy kingdom and my soul.

Let me live and pray as one baptized into the threefold Name.

This is a video of Max Maclean reading this devotional, if you prefer to have this devotional read to you.

Blessing and Cursing – T.D. Alexander

Blessing and Cursing by T. Desmond Alexander | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Oct 2014Last week we began to introduce the October issue of Tabletalk and its theme of “Biblical Dichotomies”. Today we can continue by considering the next feature article, “Blessing and Cursing”, by Dr.T.D. Alexander (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Union Theological College in Belfast, N.Ireland).

Alexander explains well these two dichotomies found throughout the Scriptures, tying it especially to Jesus Christ, in Whom alone fallen sinners are blessed.

I leave you with his starting point and encourage you to follow through and read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

 Although it is rarely noted, the concept of blessing lies at the very heart of the gospel. The Apostle Paul highlights this in his letter to the Christian believers in Galatia. In vigorously defending the inclusion of Gentiles within the people of God, he writes, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’ ” (Gal. 3:8). As Paul goes on to emphasize, the blessing given to Abraham comes to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ (v. 14).

Paul’s observations recall how the concepts of blessing and cursing are highly significant within the book of Genesis. At creation, God blesses humanity when He instructs them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). Unfortunately, Adam and Eve’s subsequent disobedience of God brings them under His condemnation. Blessing gives way to cursing, as God pronounces the punishments that will blight the lives of Adam and Eve and their descendants (3:16-19). God’s curses upon humanity bring hardship for both man and woman, affecting the whole of creation.

Against this background, God summons Abraham to initiate a process by which blessing may be restored to people everywhere.

Prayer is “lovers’ talk” – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoFrom the first chapter (“The Idea of Prayer”) of Herman Hanko’s book When You Pray: Scripture’s Teaching on Prayer (Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006), which our discussion groups at Faith PRC begin studying tonight:

Prayer is to the Christian what breathing is to a healthy person. Without breathing a person cannot live. Without prayer a Christian dies. Breathing is spontaneous; in many ways so is prayer.

Prayer is like a river that returns to its source, for prayer has its power in the Spirit of Christ working life in the heart of God’s child; that life returns again in prayer to God who gave it. It is the expression of the thirst for God that makes a stag panting after water brooks an apt simile (Ps.42:1).

Prayer is lovers’ talk, for it is a holy conversation between the living and eternal God and the redeemd child of God in which both speak to each other in the most intimate relationship of love.

Prayer is a child coming to his Father, knowing that his Father loves him and will provide for him in every need. We must begin our prayers, the Lord says, with ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ (p.1).

At the heading to this chapter Hanko also has this wonderful quotation from Charles H. Spurgeon:

Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love.

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

holding handsMen, this is for you (Wives, you may read this and pray that we take this to heart.) – from one man to another. From a fellow husband (R.C. Sproul, Jr.) who lost his beloved two years ago.

If this doesn’t move (convict!) you to think about one small but significant way to show our wives we love them, then something’s wrong – with us. And let’s admit, we don’t do this enough. But we can learn. Before it’s too late. So, be brave and manly – and take her hand from time to time.

Read on, but here’s how it starts:

That is likely my deepest regret, that I did not hold her hand more.

It’s not, of course, that I never held her hand. It is likely, however, that I didn’t as often as she would have liked. Holding her hand communicates to her in a simple yet profound way that we are connected. Taking her hand tells her, “I am grateful that we are one flesh.” Taking her hand tells me, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” It is a liturgy, an ordinary habit of remembrance to see more clearly the extraordinary reality of two being made one. It would have, even in the midst of a disagreement, or moments of struggle, communicated, “We’re going to go through this together. I will not let go.”

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 8:03 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Our Covenantal Holy War – Rev.B.Huizinga

RomanStandardbearerRev.Brian Huizinga has some great thoughts for us Christian soldiers (young and old!) in his latest installment for the rubric “Strength of Youth”, under which he is writing a series on teaching young people to wage godly warfare in the kingdom of God in this world.

We find these thoughts under a sub-heading describing our “holy war” as covenantal:

To emphasize the positive of the foregoing assertion, our warfare is covenantal. ‘Our holy war’ is the war we wage as members of God’s covenant joined together in the Spirit (I Cor.12). In catechism class one is not taught to identify himself as the individual militant, but part of the church militant. We war as those eternally chosen and made members of one body that from the beginning to the end of the world is gathered, defended, and preserved by Christ’s Word and Spirit. To fight in this war against every appearance of the kingdom of darkness led by Satan is to join with the church of all ages from Adam and Abel to you and me.

A necessary and significant implication of this covenantal aspect of our warfare is the necessity of membership in the church institute, the visible manifestation of that universal, invisible body. A soldier might claim he has enlisted in and fights on behalf of his national army. He may even wear a uniform. But if he has never joined the visible manifestation of that army at camp and on the battlefield, his speech betrays him. In our holy war. young people make church membership a priority in their life, joining the covenantal assembly.

October 1, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.91, No.1), 20.

Biblical Dichotomies – October “Tabletalk”

Every Jot and Tittle by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Oct 2014Though I have been using the daily devotions for a few days already (still on Romans), yesterday I began digging into the other articles of the October issue of Tabletalk. This issue has the intriguing theme of “Biblical Dichotomies”, which editor Burk Parsons explains in his introduction (see below).

The concern of this issue is that we as God’s people learn to study not simply the themes of the Bible but every word, every “jot and tittle”, as Parsons’ title indicates. And learning to see the Bible’s dichotomies helps us understand it better. All the feature articles touch on these dichotomies (“Creator and Creature”, Blessing and Cursing”, Clean and Unclean”, etc.), and I look forward to delving into them, so that I might grow in my understanding of God’s Word too.

Here is an important paragraph from Parsons’ introduction; find all of it at the link above.

Some words we come across in the Bible require that we not only examine their meaning, but also the meanings of related words. This is because a word itself is often just one part of a two-part concept—a dichotomy—in Scripture. For instance, when we come across the word blessing, we must also know the biblical and theological distinction between blessing and its opposite, cursing. Similarly, in order to fully grasp the meaning of wisdom, we must examine the meaning of foolishness. If we study one without the other, we do ourselves a great disservice in our understanding and application of the theology of God’s Word. God’s Word is truth—it not only contains the truth, it defines the truth, and it is by that truth we are sanctified. Consequently, the more we know God’s truth, the more we will grow in the grace, knowledge, and holiness of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Let us therefore study not only the major stories and theological themes of the Bible, but also every word, every jot and tittle, that we might know and love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, coram Deo, before the face of the God who has revealed Himself to us for our eternal good and His eternal glory.

And here is the link to the first feature article on the theme – a fine one by Dr.Douglas Kelly on “Creator and Creature”. I must give you a little slice of that one too – be sure to read it all!

There are many advantages to an intelligent grasp of the biblical doctrine of the Creator and of His creation. It shows that God alone is God, and that the Eternal One has an eternal and all-inclusive plan for everything that happens in His creation. It restores meaning and hope to life. It has the massive advantage of refusing to grant divine attributes to anything that is less than God, whether the material world, humanity, or, especially relevant these days, the would-be omnicompetent state or world order. Creation by God is always the basis of resistance to statist (or ecclesiastical) tyranny.

The biblical doctrine of creation also benefits us by showing that the God of order made a creation with orderly components, proper sequence, overall regularity, and intelligibility; these assumptions are the basis of all true science (as even non-Christian historians such as Alfred North Whitehead have argued). Genesis 1 and 2 also show us that God created all things “very good” (Gen. 1:31). This means that the material creation, including the human mind and body, are positive goods, not evils that we should seek to escape (as is taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age religions).

Jehovah Our Sun and Shield – H.Hoeksema

All-Glory-HHoeksema-2013Our meditation on this first Lord’s Day of October is taken from the latest collection of devotional meditations by Herman Hoeksema (series: “Reformed Spirituality”, edited by David J. Engelsma) published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association (rfpa.org) titled All Glory to the Only Good God (2013).

The fourth meditation in this book, “Jehovah Our Sun and Shield”, is based on Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Today we pull a quotation from the middle of this meditation originally published in The Standard Bearer.

May it be used to renew our faith in the God Who is both our Light and our Protector in this world of sin and suffering.

A sun is Jehovah God. The God of our salvation is also a shield.

At first there seems to be an irreconcilable contrast and antithesis between these two figures.

…How could the psalmist think of his God under the images of a sun and a shield?

What need has he who walks in the light of the protection of a shield?

Yet how real to experience is the figure.

Scarcely have you begun to meditate upon the rich beauties and blessedness of the Lord God, and to rejoice in the privilege of his communion, but you look about for a shield to protect you. For the Lord gives grace and glory. When he does so, he makes you partaker of his light. His light is reflected in your life. With the reflection of his light in your life and walk, you stand for his name and glory in the world. It is true that in the world you are in danger as soon as you bid farewell to the darkness of sin and walk in the light of God, for the world is in darkness and loves the darkness. Because it loves darkness, it hates light, since its works are evil. As it loves darkness and hates light, so it loves and protects its own children and hates and persecutes the children of God’s light. The world battles those who dwell in the tabernacle of God’s light and reflect his grace and glory. It attacks you. It fights with the deceitful weapons of flattery and vain philosophy, offering you all the glory and riches of the world. It shoots the poisoned arrows of reproach and shame or openly threatens its death-bringing sword.

And all the while it aims at the light in us. All the while its purpose is to extinguish the light poured into our hearts and lives from Jehovah God, who is a sun.

But Jehovah is a shield!

A most perfect shield is he. …Jehovah’s protection is perfect. If he covers us, we are safe. If he watches over us, the enemy cannot reach us. For he is the Almighty, mightier than all the mightiest together, supreme in power. There is no sword that he cannot break; there is no hostile attack that he cannot repel. He never fails to watch, for he neither slumbers nor sleeps. Always his eyes are over the righteous. Constantly he watches to protect the children who dwell in his light and whom he made partakers of his own grace and glory.

…How safe, then, are they who trust in him! (24-25)

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