Lord’s Day Eve – Valley of Vision

Lord’s Day Eve – Banner of Truth USA.

We have had another wonderful Lord’s Day in our home church of Faith PRC. Blessed worship, rich preaching of the gospel, and sweet fellowship with our fellow saints.

And precious family time too – some planned, some unplanned. God is good and kind in the midst of life’s hardships and trials. It was a good day of rest – a rest we needed and a rest our Lord supplied.

Because I was not able to bring a devotional this morning, I will close the day with one – taken once more from A.Bennett’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975).

GOD OF THE PASSING HOUR,

Another week has gone and I have been
preserved
in my going out,
in my coming in.

Thine has been the vigilance that has turned
threatened evils aside;
Thine the supplies that have nourished me;
Thine the comforts that have indulged me;
Thine the relations and friends that have
delighted me;
Thine the means of grace which have edified me;
Thine the Book, which, amidst all my enjoyments,
has told me that this is not my rest,
that in all successes one thing alone is needful,
to love my Saviour.

Nothing can equal the number of thy mercies
but my imperfections and sins.
These, O God, I will neither conceal nor palliate,
but confess with a broken heart.

In what condition would secret reviews
of my life leave me
were it not for the assurance that with thee
there is plenteous redemption,
that thou art a forgiving God,
that thou mayest be feared!

While I hope for pardon through the blood
of the cross,
I pray to be clothed with humility,
to be quickened in thy way,
to be more devoted to thee,
to keep the end of my life in view,
to be cured of the folly of delay and indecision,
to know how frail I am,
to number my days and apply my heart
unto wisdom.

To hear the two rich sermons we heard today, visit our church’s sermon page (see links below). Both messages ministered to our needs – comfort for afflictions (Prof.R.Cammenga on 2 Cor.4:17-18) and submission to the Kingship of the Lord (Rev.R.Van Overloop).

Samuel: Renewing the Kingdom
Rev. Ronald Van Overloop – 1 Samuel 11:14-12:25
Affliction Working Glory
Prof. Ronald Cammenga – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

New & Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

Today we will highlight five titles that have recently been purchased for the Seminary library and which will be of interest to our broader readership, I believe.

From-mouth-of-God -SFergusonThe first is a basic study on the place of the Bible in the life of the believer. It is titled From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible (Banner of Truth, 2014), and is written by Dr.Sinclair B. Ferguson, professor of systematic theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX and teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries. This looks to be a fine, practical book on how to view and study the Word of God, designed for the “person in the pew”. The three main sections cover the sub-title of the book: Part 1 is on trusting the Bible, taking into account the inspiration and authority of the Bible; Part 2 is on reading the Bible, covering the different types of literature found in the Bible and giving the basic principles of interpreting it; Part 3 is on applying the Bible, teaching the purpose of the Bible and how we take and use God’s Word in our daily walk. Appendices in the back of the book include a bibliography for further reading on the doctrine of Scripture and a daily Bible reading plan. Recommended!

 

Worshipping with CalvinThe second is by Terry L.Johnson (pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA) and titled Worshipping With Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism (EP Books, 2014). The publisher provides this description on its website:

In the ‘worship wars’ which have marked recent times, many aspects have been considered but rarely is the issue of truly Reformed worship addressed.  In this pertinent work, Terry Johnson effectually fills a void – countless books have been written about Calvin, but to date there has been scant material on Calvin and biblical worship.  The vital historical context is presented, and the practical ramifications for Reformed biblical worship today are explored.’

There is a revival in Calvinist thinking across a broad spectrum of the church today. As he takes notice of that, the author suggests that, in order for Calvinism to thrive, attention must be given to the ministry and worship that will sustain it. The belief is advanced that Calvin would not separate theology from worship and that the new Calvinism of today needs to take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not merely the theological.

Terry L Johnson takes note of the revival in Calvinist thinking that is evident across a broad spectrum of the church. But, he notes, for Calvinism to continue to thrive, attention must begin to be paid to the ministry and worship that alone will sustain and perpetuate it. The new Calvinism must take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not just the theological, if today’s dynamism is to endure. Calvin would not have approved of the separation of theology from worship. . . . Reformed theology determined Reformed worship; and conversely, Reformed worship was the nurturing womb from which Reformed piety and practice sprang. Theology, worship, and piety are inseparably linked, neither thriving without the supporting presence of the other. This is by no means a polemic against one or two forms of worship. Terry Johnson makes a strong historical and biblical case, so that whatever the readers preferred style of worship, this book will inform and challenge.

 

Theology of WestStandards-FeskoThe third book is another brand new one: The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Contexts & Theological Insights by J.V.Fesko, academic dean and professor of systematic theology and historical theology at Westminster Seminary California (Crossway, 2014). Crossway provides this brief summary of this significant work:

For centuries, countless Christians have turned to the Westminster Standards for insights into the Christian faith. These renowned documents—first published in the middle of the 17th century—are widely regarded as some of the most beautifully written summaries of the Bible’s teaching ever produced.

Church historian John Fesko walks readers through the background and theology of the Westminster Confession, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism, helpfully situating them within their original context. Organized according to the major categories of systematic theology, this book utilizes quotations from other key works from the same time period to shed light on the history and significance of these influential documents.

Medieval Bible-Van LiereThe fourth book relates to the church history period being studied this semester in our Seminary (Medieval) and to a recent lecture given at Calvin College by one of its history professors – the author of this book, Frans van Liere. An Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge, 2014) is a fascinating look at the history of the Bible during this age of the church. Topics covered include the Medieval canon (which included the Apocrypha), the text of the Medieval Bible, Medieval hermeneutics, and the Bible in worship and preaching. Cambridge offers this description:

The Middle Ages spanned the period between two watersheds in the history of the biblical text: Jerome’s Latin translation c. 405 and Gutenberg’s first printed version in 1455. The Bible was arguably the most influential book during this time, affecting spiritual and intellectual life, popular devotion, theology, political structures, art, and architecture. In an account that is sensitive to the religiously diverse world of the Middle Ages, Frans van Liere offers here an accessible introduction to the study of the Bible in this period. Discussion of the material evidence – the Bible as book – complements an in-depth examination of concepts such as lay literacy and book culture. This Introduction includes a thorough treatment of the principles of medieval hermeneutics, and a discussion of the formation of the Latin bible text and its canon. It will be a useful starting point for all those engaged in medieval and biblical studies.

Augustine-Preaching-SanlonAnd finally, related to one of the most significant fathers of the ancient church and to the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer is the title Augustine’s Theology of Preaching by Peter T.Sanlon (Fortress Press, 2014). We find this brief statement on the book at Fortress’ website:

Scholarship has painted many pictures of Augustine—the philosophical theologian, the refuter of heresy, or contributor to doctrines like Original Sin—but the picture of Augustine as preacher, says Sanlon, has been seriously neglected. When academics marginalize the Sermones ad Populum, the real Augustine is not presented accurately. In this study, Sanlon does more, however, than rehabilitate a neglected view of Augustine.

How do the theological convictions that Augustine brought to his preaching challenge, sustain, or shape our work today? By presenting Augustine’s thought on preaching to contemporary readers Sanlon contributes a major new piece to the ongoing reconsideration of preaching in the modern day, a consideration that is relevant to all branches of the twenty-first century church.

Stop in to browse these new titles and many others in the PR Seminary library! And, don’t forget, our on-line library catalog may be found on our website.

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.

Whatever Happened to Sunday? – John J.Timmerman

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanWhile browsing through Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman (Ed. by Rodney J.Mulder & John H. Timmerman; Baker, 1982) yesterday, I came across several well-worth-reading essays by this former Calvin College English professor, including one titled “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” (pp.58-63).

Here are some thoughts of his on what Sunday used to mean for Dutch Reformed folk (especially in the Christian Reformed Church):

At that time and even into the sixties (1960s-cjt), there was a remarkable consensus as to the meaning and practice of Sunday. Although the Bible did not specify the number of services to be held on Sunday, congregations attended with notable faithfulness and did not appear to grow weary of that kind of well-doing. Even though the services in the earlier decades of the century were a surcease from loneliness on the empty prairie, a stay against loss of identity in a strange land, and the warm concourse of friends, these reasons did not bring them to church. What did bring them to church was a felt spiritual need and a sense of duty. They believed God wanted them to come as often as they could and that it was good for them to be there. That kind of concensus has been eroding for years, whether out of spiritual amplitude, secular diversions, boredom, or alienation. So also has the drawing power of popular preachers. It has been decades since I have seen churches packed to hear a particular preacher. I can name half a dozen preachers during the thirties and forties who packed the evening service wherever they went. The sense of duty in going to church and the pleasure anticipated through the sermon have both waned, so that today churches with excellent ministers rope off many pews for evening services during the summer, while some of the saints go marching off (61-62).

It is not becoming so with us, is it? How is your and my sabbath observance? Waxing – or waning?

Psalm 84 – Psalter 227 Delight in Church Ordinances

Psalm 84 – Psalter 227 Delight in Church Ordinances – YouTube.

And for our music meditation today, we feature this beautiful arrangement of Psalm 84 found in the Psalter used in the PRC. This is #227 with the title “Delight in Church Ordinances” and it is sung by the PR Psalm-singing Choir.

The video produced by Josh Hoekstra, director of the Psalm Choir,  is posted below. You may also find this and many other videos on the Psalm Choir channel on YouTube. Follow the link above.

Here are the words to this versification:

1. O Lord of Hosts, how lovely
Thy tabernacles are;
For them my heart is yearning
In banishment afar.
My soul is longing, fainting.
Thy sacred courts to see;
My heart and flesh are crying,
O living God, for Thee.

2. Beneath Thy care the sparrow
Finds place for peaceful rest;
To keep her young in safety
The swallow finds a nest;
Then, Lord, my King Almighty,
Thy love will shelter me;
Beside Thy holy altar
My dwelling place shall be.

3. Blest they who dwell in Zion,
Whose joy and strength Thou art;
Forever they will praise Thee,
Thy ways are in their heart.
Though tried, their tears like showers
Shall fill the springs of peace,
And all the way to Zion
Their strength shall still increase.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 7:36 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The Church’s Heating Plant – C.H.Spurgeon

CHSpurgeonPicI stumbled on this quote on prayer today while cataloging a new book for the Seminary library. It is indeed a great illustration of the church’s “heating plant.”

Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented.

The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.

Peter D.Wegner, Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2009 (110). You may also find this illustration on this website.

J.Calvin on Psalm 150: “We may worship God, until… we sing with elect angels an eternal hallelujah.”

JCalvin1Today, for our further reflection on Psalm 150, we also turn to the thoughts of the Reformer John Calvin on vss.1 and 6. These are wonderful concluding words on the OT Psalter. May they too serve to feed our souls, inspiring us to magnify our God with great and majestic praises in all our worship.

1. Praise God in his sanctuary.

…The Psalmist, in order to awaken men who grow languid in God’s praises, bids them lift their eyes towards the heavenly sanctuary. That the majesty of God may be duly reverenced, the Psalmist represents him as presiding on his throne in the heavens; and he enlarges upon the same truth in the second verse, celebrating his power and his greatness, which he had brought under our notice in the heavens, which are a mirror in which they may be seen.

If we would have our minds kindled, then, to engage in this religious service, let us meditate upon his power and greatness, which will speedily dispel all such insensibility. Though our minds can never take in this immensity, the mere taste of it will deeply affect us. And God will not reject such praises as we offer according to our capacity.

6. Whatever breathes, etc.

…As yet the Psalmist has addressed himself in his exhortations to the people who were conversant with the ceremonies under the law, now he turns to men in general, tacitly intimating that a time was coming when the same songs, which were then only heard in Judea, would resound in every quarter of the globe.

And in this prediction we have been joined in the same symphony with the Jews, that we may worship God with constant sacrifices of praise, until being gathered into the kingdom of heaven, we sing with elect angels an eternal hallelujah.

 

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 150

Psalm 150On this final Lord’s Day of September we come to the end of the book of Psalms in our Sunday worship preparation devotionals, as we take a brief look at Psalm 150.

And while the Psalms are indeed a spiritual biography of the children of God, allowing us to see into the souls of the saints as they go through all of life’s experiences and express themselves with regard to these varied experiences, the Psalms are not really about God’s people. The book of Psalms is about God – all about God. God and His glorious character; God and His glorious works. God and His majestic work of creation. God and His sovereign work of providence. God and His might acts of salvation. God and His mercy and grace and faithfulness to His people in Jesus Christ and for His sake. Yes, God is the heart and soul of the Psalms!

And so the Psalms are all about praising this glorious God. This is a book of “Hallelujahs” – “Praise the Lord”. And as we have been seeing, this theme is coming to a climax at the end of the book of Psalms. Once again I quote from the Nelson Study Bible as it aptly describes this last psalm: “Psalm 150, a psalm of praise, is a development of the Hebrew word hallelujah, meaning ‘Praise the Lord.’ How fitting that this book of praises – the meaning of the name of the Book of Psalms in Hebrew – ends in repeated commands to praise the Lord” (1029).

Psalm 150, like Psalm 148, is a call to universal praise. That is, the psalmist calls for all creatures to praise the Lord – from those in heaven to those on earth – everything that has breath. And he calls for them to do this using all the means God has given, especially instruments of music. So that this too is a call to worship the Lord – in the sanctuary of His creation and in the sanctuary of His church.

As we prepare to enter that sanctuary of God this day, let us hear this call to praise our glorious God. Let us think on God and His glorious character. Let us ponder His mighty works – around us, as well as for us and in us. And as those who have received breath from God – even new breath from the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ – let us respond with glad and grateful “hallelujahs.”

Psalm 150

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 149 through music, I encourage you to listen to one of the versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “A Summons to Praise” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
In His temple God be praised;
In the high and heavenly places
Be the sounding anthem raised.

2. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah
For his mighty acts of fame;
Excellent His might and greatness;
Fitting praises then proclaim.

3. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah
With the trumpet’s joyful sound;
Praise with harp and praise with viol,
Let His glorious praise abound.

4. Hallelujah!  Praise Jehovah,
With the flute His praises sing;
Praise Him with the clanging cymbals,
Let them with His praises ring.

5. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All that breathe, Jehovah praise;
Let the voices God hath given
Joyful anthems to Him raise.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 149

Psalm 149As our glorious Savior and King calls us once again this day to worship Him in “the congregation of saints”, we may prepare ourselves by considering the fourth “Hallelujah” psalm, Psalm 149. As you read through this portion of God’s Word, you will find it to be a joyful summons to praise the Lord, and as such, fitting for our public worship today in God’s house with His people.

In fact, v.2 specifically enjoins us to praise the Lord in public with our fellow saints, a point the Nelson Study Bible points out nicely: “One of the primary emphases in the Book of Psalms is that the praise of God is to take place in the center of the worshiping community. Praise unites the people of God (33:1-3)”.

Yes, and what a blessing it is that we are still able to do this openly and unhindered in our land! Let us not take this for granted, but thank our God for it. And let us gladly take advantage of every opportunity to gather with God’s people in praise our God! This Lord’s Day again affords us such opportunities.

The call to praise and worship the Lord, also as we have it here in Psalm 149, includes the fact that we must do so in joy. Notice that element too as you read this psalm (especially vss.2,5). God will not have us stand before Him with grumpy spirits, offering up grudging praise. He will not have us sing a new song with an old man soul, nor dance before Him with dragging feet and drooping hands.

No, He is the God of joy, the happy and blessed God, and in our worship He will have us match what He is, in spirit and in behavior. So let us rejoice and be joyful in our singing and dancing and playing (of instruments) this day (vss.2-3). Let us skip and sing, from renewed and thankful hearts. Why? Because God takes pleasure in us (Can you imagine that?!)! Because He will beautify the meek with salvation (v.4)! Yes, be clothed with Christ and you will have joy, boundless and endless joy!

You will also notice a “twist” in Psalm 149. The worshiping people of God go from joyful praise to swinging a two-edged sword and executing vengeance and judgment on the heathen (vss.6-9). What is going on? Why this? Because the church of Christ is at all times in this present world also the army of God. Always she is surrounded by her and His enemies, who hate and oppose her and Him. And against these foes she must do battle, fighting in the Lord’s name. As she marches into her holy warfare singing God’s praises, she is also to swing His sword of judgment.

While in the OT that warfare took on a physical form, with real swords and literal vengeance (as in the church’s conquest of Canaan), now the NT church swings the sword of the Lord’s Word, chiefly the preaching of the gospel among the nations. Yet, also when we sing God’s Word (as in these psalms!), we are wielding the “sword of the Lord” and executing His judgments against unbelieving enemies.

Let us be mindful of that too as we worship today. Worship is serious and dangerous business. Not only because we stand in the presence of the sovereign, all-glorious King of heaven and earth. But also because we are the instruments of His judgments on the wicked. May that humble us, so that we sing God’s praises and swing His sword only under the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 149

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

2Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

4For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.

5Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.

6Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;

7To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;

8To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;

9To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the Lord.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 149 through music, I encourage you to listen to one of the versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “The Promise of Victory” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

 

1. O praise ye the Lord
And sing a new song,
Amid all His saints
His praises prolong;
The praise of their Maker
His people shall sing,
And children of Zion
Rejoice in their King.

2. With timbrel and harp
And joyful acclaim,
With gladness and mirth,
Sing praise to His Name;
For God in His people
His pleasure doth seek,
With robes of salvation
He clotheth the meek.

3. In glory exult,
Ye saints of the Lord;
With songs in the night
High praises accord;
Go forth in His service
And strong in His might
To conquer all evil
And stand for the right.

4. For this is His word:
His saints shall not fail,
But over the earth
Their power shall prevail;
All kingdoms and nations
Shall yield to their sway.
To God give the glory
And praise Him for aye.

The Congregational Prayer: Our Responsibility

StandardBearerFrom the September 15, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer:

The congregation has great responsibility as well with regard to congregational prayer (After treating the duty of the pastor who leads the congregation in prayer. ~cjt). First of all, our responsibility is to pay attention and not let the mind wander in the prayer. Truly to be led in prayer is hard sometimes. The congregation is called to take the words that are being said and make them their own in the prayer – to enter into the prayer. The congregational prayer is not a time to sleep, or to daydream. It’s not break time where we check out. This service is meeting God face to face after all. Prayer must be offered from an attentive and pious heart as we make the prayer our own. Strange it must be to God that people are here to meet Him and then in prayer this one is thinking about football, and that one about what she has to get done tomorrow. It is a struggle, and all of us know is. It will help if we focus on what we are doing, communing with God Himself.

Besides this, the congregation must help the minister to know her struggles and difficulties and joys and praises. Especially the elders should speak to the minister of things he should pray for on behalf of the congregation. But there is a place, too, for the whole congregation to express needs and joys that the minister should bring before God in congregational prayer.

Rev.Cory Griess (Calvary PRC), “The People of God Humbled and Healed: The Element of Prayer (8b)” in the rubric “O Come Let Us Worship”

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