Redeeming the Time – Rev. J. Mahtani

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (Jan.15, 2017) is once again filled with a variety of interesting and instructive articles (cf. cover below).

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One of these is found under the rubric “Strength of Youth”. Rev. Jon Mahtani, pastor of Cornerstone PRC in Dyer, IN and a new writer for this rubric, has a timely article for the new year titled “Redeeming the Time.” In it he explains and applies – especially for the benefit of Christian young people, but applicable for all ages – the Word of God in Eph.5:16, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Here is part of what he has to say:

In Ephesians 5:16, God does not call us to buy cars, clothing, jewelry, appliances, or homes, but time. The word for “time” here however, does not refer primarily to the duration of time—the seconds, minutes, and hours going by on our clocks. Rather, “time” refers to “opportunities” in our life.

…But wait! Stop! Before you go off to buy every opportunity that comes your way, remember what a good buyer does. First, he senses or discerns the more valuable from the less valuable. Just as not every product on the market is of equal worth, so not every opportunity is equally worthwhile. Just as you cannot purchase everything online, so you cannot buy every opportunity that presents itself!

How do you determine which opportunities are most valuable? As a child of God, with the wisdom of His Holy Spirit and His word, you should know that the most valuable opportunities are measured by spiritual profit! No, we do not discern valuable opportunities by asking, “What is most fun? What is most entertaining? What feels the best? What is good for my reputation, my career, my bank account?” Instead, the golden opportunities are determined by prayerfully asking, “What is best for my soul?”

Prioritize your life. What is more valuable? Devotion time or sleep time? Bible society time or sporting event time? Church fellowship or what I already put on my schedule? Overtime at work or quality time with the family? Homework time or your primetime T.V. show? Time to pray or time to play? We may be able to see some value in all of these opportunities, but a good buyer of time first senses and chooses which is most valuable.

Prayers of the Reformers (19)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this fourth Sunday of the new year we post another prayer from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

This is a prayer or hymn of Martin Luther and is taken from the section “A Calendar of Prayer.” The German title is “Es Wollt uns Gott genaedig sein,” taken from the first line.

You will find these words to be fitting for our worship today as well as for our life and labors in the week ahead.

May God unto us gracious be,
And grant to us His blessing;
Lord, show Thy face to us, through Thee
Eternal life possessing:
That all Thy work and will, O God,
To us may be revealed,
And Christ’s salvation spread abroad
To heathen lands unsealed,
And unto God convert them.

Thine over all shall be the praise
And thanks of every nation,
And all the world with joy shall raise
The voice of exultation.
For Thou the sceptre, Lord, dost wield
Sin to Thyself subjecting;
Thy Word, Thy people’s pasture-field,
And fence their feet protecting,Them in the way preserveth.

Thy fold, O God, shall bring to Thee
The praise of holy living;
Thy Word shall richly fruitful be,
And earth shall yield thanksgiving.
Bless us, O Father! bless, O Son!
Grant, Holy Ghost, Thy blessing!
Thee earth shall honor – Thee alone,
Thy fear all souls possessing.
Now let our hearts say, Amen.

Luther, 1524

This hymn has also been set to music by J.S. Bach, which you may find here along with a different English translation. For one version available on YouTube, see below.

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (2)

listen-up-ashThe last few weeks we have begun to examine a short booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009) and is penned by Christopher Ash.

Once more let’s get before us the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

Tonight, to help us prepare for hearing the Word of God tomorrow, let’s “listen up” as Ash instructs us in that second ingredient“Admit God knows better than you.” As you will see, also this “ingredient” has to do with the authority of the message the faithful preacher of God’s Word brings; but more than that, it also has to do with the content of that message.

…What we really want [Ash means, by nature] is for the Bible to tell us we’re ok, what we’ve done is ok, and what we believe is ok.

But it isn’t ok. It’s not at all ok. Far from coming to the Bible as a clean sheet, I come to the Bible as a thoroughly messed-up person, unable to think straight, speak right or act as I ought. That means I must expect the Bible to call me to repentance and not reassure me that I’m ok. It will never make me comfortable or complacent in my sin.

…Faithful Bible teaching will always cause offence.

…The voice of God spoken by a faithful Bible teacher will get under my skin. It will cut to the core of my being (Hebrews 4 v 12, 13). It will challenge me to ‘get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted’ in me (James 1 v 21). And I mustn’t expect to like it. Sometimes I may even feel insulted.

Concerning which the author concludes:

To listen humbly is to be realistic about this. What is more, it is to recognise that there is more than one way to evade the challenge of the Bible. The simple way is just to say: ‘The Bible is wrong. I don’t agree with it, and that’s all there is to say.’ But the more common way in Christian circles …is to find a clever way to reinterpret the Bible so that I can persuade myself that, although I must admit it looks as if it challenges me, in fact it doesn’t. This preserves my impression of piety while safeguarding my rebellion against God….

Which brings this closing point: “…To listen humbly is to admit that the Bible is right and I am wrong, that God is God and I need to change” (pp.7-8).

Will we listen humbly to the Word preached tomorrow and let it convict us that God is right about us and we are wrong?

Presidential Inaugurations and the Bible

Today here in the United States our forty-fifth president, Mr. Donald Trump, is being inaugurated, along with his vice-president, Mike Pence.

As is the custom of those being inaugurated into office, these men will swear their oath of allegiance on the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Whether or not they profess to be Christian and take that vow seriously, those who take office stand before God and are responsible to honor and obey that Word on which their hands will rest. And God will judge them according to that oath and that Word.

CNS News reported yesterday on the special Bibles that Trump and Pence will use for their swearing-in ceremony:

Both President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will swear their oaths of office Friday on historic Bibles used by former Republican Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) announced.

Trump will be sworn-in by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts using the same Bible that President Lincoln used during his swearing-in by Chief Justice Roger Taney on March 4, 1861.

In addition, Trump will also use another Bible that was given to him by his mother in 1955 when he graduated from Sunday Church Primary School at the First Presbyterian Church in New York.

…Pence will be sworn-in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – who will become the “first African-American in history to administer the oath of office to the Vice President or President of the United States” – using the Reagan Family Bible. He will be the first official since Reagan to do so.

The Reagan Family Bible is on permanent display behind bulletproof glass at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. During Pence’s swearing-in, it will be “open to the same passage used during President Reagan’s two inaugurations,” according to the PIC.

[Reagan Family Bible. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute)]

That passage is from II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The Museum of the Bible posted a couple of videos recently on past presidents and the Bibles they used for their oath of office. Below is one of them.

As is our own duty before God and according to His Word, let us pray for our new president, vice-president, and their cabinet, as those entrusted with a sacred and solemn responsibility. And let us give them due honor and submission, as unto the Lord Who has set them in office for this time and for His purpose (Rom.13; 1 Tim. 2).

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Dr. Klaas Schilder and the PRC

The PRC Seminary’s 2017 Interim course ends today. Prof. R. Dykstra, by rotation, taught his course on the Schism of 1953, that tragic but necessary rupture that occurred in the PRC over the doctrine of the covenant of grace and the nature of salvation (conditional or unconditional; general or particular).

Much of that history involved Dr. Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) of the Netherlands, himself ousted from the State Church in the Netherlands in the 1944, following which he helped found the Liberated Churches that same year (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed in N. America).

Schilder was an opponent of common grace, which in part caused him to be befriended by Rev. Herman Hoeksema and prompted visits to the U.S. and conversations with PRC leaders in 1939 and 1947. However, on the doctrine of the covenant he and Hoeksema parted. Because of Schilder’s influence on many PRC ministers, his conditional theology was instrumental in the schism in 1953.

Prof. Dykstra gives out many handouts for his class on this history, both original and secondary sources. He (and his classes!) also enjoy visuals, including pictures. So I gathered what we had in the PRC archives, scanned them, and sent them to him for use in his PowerPoint presentations.

Today I share them with you as well, including a brand new one that came in this week from the T. Newhof family – thank you!

We will start with that one, since it is one of the largest and clearest pictures of Dr. K. Schilder that we have, and because it relates to the first visit he made to the U.S. and the PRC in 1939. It shows him sandwiched between Rev. George Lubbers (minister in Pella PRC at the time) and Rev. William Verhil (minister in First PRC, Edgerton, MN at the time) next to the old Doon PRC in Doon, IA.

lubbers-schilder-verhil-1939

kschilder-pics-hh-wife-picnic
This is also a new one, compliments of Mark Hoeksema, showing his grandfather and grandmother (Rev. Herman Hoeksema) at a private picnic with Dr. K. Schilder.

kschilder-pics-gvos-ca
Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. Gerrit Vos in the mountains of S. California

kschilder-pics-apetter-la-zoo
Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. A. Petter (minister in Bellflower, CA PRC at the time) at an outing at the Los Angeles, CA zoo.

kschilder-pics-theol-conf-1947
Dr. K. Schilder (just to the right of Rev. H. Hoeksema and Rev. G. Ophoff in the front) and PRC ministers and elders at the Theological Conference held at First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI on November 6, 1947.

In March of 1952 Dr. K. Schilder died suddenly, prompting this brief but warm memoriam in the Standard Bearer from the pen of the editor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema:

Early this morning, March 24, I received a telegram from my friend, Arnold Schildre at The Hague, informing me that his brother Klaas, the well-known Dr. K. Schilder had on the previous day, Sunday, March 23, passed into his eternal rest.

I was deeply shocked.

For although I certainly did not agree with him in regard to the question of the covenant and the promise, I nevertheless esteemed him for his work’s sake, esteemed him, too, as a highly gifted scholar, and, above all, as a brother in Christ.

And now Dr. Schilder is no more.

It would seem to us that his work was not finished.

Certainly, he himself cannot have been aware of the fact that his end was so near. At least, if we consider the very elaborate set-up of his work on the Heidelberg Catechism (he was writing) on the tenth Lord’s Day), he must have felt that he still had many years of labor before him.

But the Lord took him out of his busy sphere of labor and pronounced it finished, nevertheless.

May the Lord comfort the bereaved family, with whom we express our heartfelt sympathy.

And may He teach us so to number our days that we apply our hearts unto wisdom.

H.H.

The library: “an oasis of bookish tranquility”? – N.Carr

A particularly striking illustration of how the Net is reshaping our expectations about media can be seen in any library. Although we don’t tend to think of libraries as media technologies, they are. The public library is, in fact, one of the most important and influential informational media ever created – and one that proliferated only after the arrival of silent reading and movable-type printing.

A community’s attitudes and preferences toward information take concrete shape in its library’s design and services. Until recently, the public library was an oasis of bookish tranquility where people searched through shelves of neatly arranged volumes or sat in carrels and read quietly.

Today’s library is very different. Internet access is rapidly becoming its most popular service. According to recent surveys by the American Library Association, ninety-nine percent of U. S. public library branches provide Internet access, and the average branch has eleven public computers. More than three-quarters of branches also offer Wi-Fi networks for their patrons’ use. The predominant sound in the modern library is the tapping of keys, not the turning of pages.

shallowsbookcover-222x300Taken from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2010), chapter 5, “A Medium of the Most General Nature,” p.97 (slightly edited).

I am thankful to report that the dominant sound is our Seminary library is still the turning of pages and the dominant sight that of students reading in their carrels. In the classroom, however, the tapping of keys is prominent (the sound of the professor’s voice is still dominant – 🙂 ).

The Latest PRC Seminary Journal

Though a few months late, the November 2016 issue of the PRC Seminary’s Theological Journal is now out.

nov-2016-50-1-cover

The digital version has been available for a few weeks now, while the print version became available the first week of January (the other digital versions will be forthcoming). Both domestic and foreign copies have now been mailed out. If you are on our mailing list, you should be receiving your copy soon. If you would like a copy mailed to you, let us know. And if you would like to pick up a copy at the Seminary, feel free to do that too.

The PRTJ’s editor, Prof. R. Cammenga, introduces the issue with these comments:

Editor’s Notes
This issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal is the first issue of volume fifty. That, certainly, is a milestone! For fifty years, without interruption, the Lord has made it possible for the Protestant Reformed Seminary to publish two issues per year of its theological journal. Founded in 1966, at a time when the seminary was housed in the basement of the First Protestant Reformed Church, located on the corner of Fuller Avenue and Franklin Street, the first issues were a “testing of the waters” to determine whether there was sufficient interest to warrant continued publication. From the enthusiastic reception of those first issues to the present day, the PRTJ continues to occupy a place on the shelves and in the hearts of those who love the heritage of the Reformed faith. After fifty years, PRTJ continues to publish scholarly theological articles that set forth and defend the Reformed faith, as that faith has been delivered to the Protestant Reformed Churches and preserved and developed in her seminary. And after fifty years, we continue to be one of the only theological journals that does not charge its subscribers an annual subscription fee. The costs of publication and mailing are covered by the generous donations of the PRCA and our readership. To you who regularly contribute, we express our thanks.

You will find this issue to be similar in content to previous issues. We include a slate of articles, two by members of the faculty of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, one by a fourth-year seminary student, and one by a recent guest speaker. That guest speaker was the Reverend Thomas Reid, librarian and occasional lecturer at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. This past Spring, Mr. Reid gave two outstanding lectures to the faculty and student body of the Protestant Reformed Seminary on the history and struggles of the French Reformed church. We judged the lectures to be worthy of wider distribution and he has kindly consented to prepare them for publication. For a number of reasons, brother Reid has a special interest in the French Reformed church, including the fact that his wife Geneviève traces her roots to the French Reformed. The first of those two lectures, “The Battles of the French Reformed Tradition,” is included in this issue of PRTJ. His second lecture focused on one of the important recent theologians of the French Reformed church, Auguste Lecerf. Look for that lecture to be included in the April 2017 issue of PRTJ.

Included in this issue is also the translation of the sermon preached by the Reverend Simon Van Velzen on the Lord’s Day following the death of Reverend Hendrik De Cock, the father of the Dutch Reformed reformation movement known as the Afscheiding. The sermon text was Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” The sermon is a sound, moving, exegetical work, full of practical application—exemplary in so many respects. The sermon was translated by the late Marvin Kamps. He was so captivated by the sermon that he translated it and submitted it for publication in our journal, convinced of its value for as wide an audience as possible. We agree. To our knowledge, it has never before been translated from the Dutch in which it was originally preached and transcribed.

And, of course, included in this issue of PRTJ are a number of book reviews. These are books that will be of value to seminary students, ministers, and professors of theology, not only, but to the informed Reformed believer who desires to stay abreast of the latest publications promoting—at least, hopefully—the Reformed faith and worldview. This is always a worthwhile section of our journal, and I am sure you will find it so in this issue as well.

Read and enjoy!
Soli Deo Gloria!
—RLC

It’s not too late to get started with your reading! As you will see, all of the articles are worthy of your attention.

The books reviewed in this issue are as follows:

  • Bolt, John. Bavinck on the Christian Life
  • Engelsma, David. Christianizing the World:
    Reformed Calling or Ecclesiastical Suicide?
  • Gordon, T. David. Why Johnny Can’t Preach:
    The Media Shaped the Messenger
  • Owen, John. Communion with the Triune God
  • Roberts, Dewey. Historic Christianity and the
    Federal Vision: A Theological Analysis
    and Practical Education
  • Sheers, Janet Sjaarda. Ministers of the
    Christian Reformed Church and
    Classical Assembly 1857-1870;
    General Assembly 1867-1879; and
    Synodical Assembly 1880:
  • Wielenga, B. The Reformed Baptism Form:
    A Commentary

Biblical Success – January 2017 “Tabletalk”

tt-jan-2017Last week we took a look at an article in the January 2017 issue of Tabletalk, but not one on the theme. Tonight we will do so.

The theme this month is “Success”, a timely topic at the beginning of a new year. Having read a couple of articles on the theme now, I can say there is much profit in treating this subject from a Reformed and biblical perspective. For starters, I suggest you may read the editor’s editorial – “True Success.”

I read the second featured article today, titled “Biblical Success”, written by Dr. Iain Duguid, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and found it very edifying. Perhaps nothing new in the article, but healthy reminders of how we as Christians must measure true success according to the Word of God and according to Jesus Christ our Savior.

I pull a couple of paragraphs from it, so that you too may benefit from Duguid’s thoughts. As always, the full article is available at the Ligonier link below.

Of course, biblical wisdom does not simply turn conventional wisdom on its head so that now the poor and lowly are automatically counted successful while anyone with wealth or rank is dismissed out of hand. There are certainly people in the Bible who used their wealth or high position wisely, such as Joseph or Daniel. Even in a pagan environment, these men served the Lord faithfully at the highest level of government. Likewise, Joseph of Arimathea used his wealth to provide a tomb for Jesus after His crucifixion (Matt. 27:57–59). But more than wealth or position, what these men had in common was that they served the Lord and His kingdom first, with the resources He had given them.

This is surely what it means to succeed from a biblical perspective. In place of serving the goals of our own personal kingdoms, whatever they might be—comfort, approval, money, and so on—the successful person puts first God’s kingdom. He is willing to give up any of these things if they get in the way of serving God, or to use them for God as resources over which he is a steward who will one day be called to account (see Matt. 25:14–30). The successful steward is not the one who is entrusted with the most resources, of whatever kind. It is the steward who is faithful with the resources with which he has been entrusted (Matt. 25:21).

And then at the end, Duguid points us to our exalted Savior and the success we find in Him alone:

…One day, every knee will bow before Him and acknowledge that He is the true measure of success.

As a result, all those who are united to Christ are linked forever to His glory. The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ. It is this that frees us to spend ourselves and everything we have in service to Christ’s kingdom. And it is this that also frees us from crushing guilt over our past and present failures to take up our cross and follow after Him. Whether I “succeed” or “fail”—by whatever standard—ultimately counts for nothing. What counts is the fact that Christ has succeeded for me, in my place. My only hope and boast rest not in my faithfulness but in the fact that whether I am rich or poor, prominent or obscure, weak or strong, my faithful Savior has loved me and given Himself for me. That is all the success I—or anyone else—will ever need.

Source: Biblical Success by Iain Duguid

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (1)

listen-up-ashLast week Saturday – in time for Sunday worship and sermon-hearing – we began to look at one of the short books I am reading this year (this will fulfill one from my 2017 reading challenge list – a book under 100 pages!).

The book(let) is penned by Christopher Ash and titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009).

After giving some justification for reading and taking to heart such a book, I listed the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them. Here they are listed in order:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

Tonight, as part of our preparation for hearing the Word of God tomorrow, let’s “listen up!” as Ash instructs us in that first ingredient – “expect God to speak.”

…When the Bible is faithfully opened up, we are to listen to the preacher’s voice as the voice of God Himself. The preacher stands in the great tradition of prophets and apostles who spoke the word of God. Unlike them, the Christian preacher cannot offer new or fresh ideas to add to the Bible. But like them, there is a borrowed authority to speak what God wants spoken. We ought to listen to this kind of sermon with the utmost seriousness.

There should be nothing casual about our listening, as if this were ‘just another sermon’ or simply ‘what always happens at this point in our meetings.’ When Ezra the preacher opened the written word to read and preach it, all the people stood up as a mark of respect and attentiveness (Nehemiah 8 v 5). In the same way, there ought to be a reverent hush as the Bible is read and preached in our meetings.

…Remember, we will not instinctively hear preaching as the voice of God. Our natural reaction is to take it simply as the voice of people. One of the wonderful things the Spirit of God does is to open our ears so that we receive it not just as the voice of people, but as the voice of God. We need to pray for Him to do this in us (pp.4-5).

Published in: on January 14, 2017 at 8:23 PM  Leave a Comment  

Why I Became a Minister – Cornelius Hanko

chankoOur PRC archives post is a day late this week, but I want to get it in. This one features Rev. Cornelius Hanko, 1907-2005 (father of Prof. Herman Hanko), former minister of the Word in the PRC.

At various times in the Beacon Lights, the PR young peoples’ magazine, articles were penned by ministers and seminary students, in which they reflected on their call to the ministry and/or on their seminary experiences. Recently, Kevin Rau (my library/archives assistant) found several of these, which he photocopied for the archive files of these ministers.

Among these articles was one by Rev. C. Hanko, which appeared in the February 1978 issue (unfortunately the BL archives do not go back that far as yet). Today we quote from a portion of this article for your benefit (which I have slightly edited).

It was shortly after the split of 1924, in the spring of 1925 that I approached Rev. Herman Hoeksema with the suggestion that I would like to attend our seminary, which was to open in June, as soon as the other schools closed for the season. His first remark was that there were others who had expressed the same desire, but that there were no churches for us to serve.

I informed him that I had always had a strong desire to become [a] missionary rather than [a] minister. You see, for years we had brought our nickels and dimes to Sunday School for the Rehoboth mission [CRC mission work]. A few times Rev. J. W. Brink had come to our Eastern Avenue congregation, the calling church, to tell us about his labors there. Besides, I had heard and read about mission work in the Sudan, in Newfoundland, and many other places, all of which intrigued me very much. So, as a matter of course, I informed Rev. Hoeksema of this desire, upon which he responded that our churches would need missionaries also. So again the Lord opened the way for me to prepare for the ministry.

The next four years were difficult years. Of the twelve [students] that began, only three finished the course. Often we had to take our lessons and prepare them in some home in Iowa, preaching on Sunday and studying during the week. There was such a shortage of supply, that during the years I was in seminary, I never was able to take my final examinations with the other students; but, except for the classical exam, always took them by myself after returning from the churches. We received practical training as well as education from books (pp15-16).

Published in: on January 13, 2017 at 6:52 AM  Leave a Comment