The Divine Will – The Valley of Vision

ValleyofVisionOn this Sunday morning we consider another Puritan prayer devotion from the book The Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett (Banner of Truth, c.1975).

This prayer is taken from the first section “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and is titled “The Divine Will.”

The Divine Will

“O Lord,

I hang on thee; I see, believe, live when thy will, not mine, is done;

I can plead nothing in myself in regard of any worthiness and grace, in regard of thy providence and promises, but only thy good pleasure.

If thy mercy make me poor and vile, blessed be thou!

Prayers arising from my need are preparations for future mercies;

Help me honor thee by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.

Show me what sins hide me from thee and eclipse thy love;

Help me to humble myself for past evils, to be resolved to walk with more care,

For if I do not walk holily before thee, how can I be assured of my salvation?

It is the meek and humble who are shown thy covenant, know thy will, are pardoned and healed, who by faith depend and rest upon grace, who are sanctified and quickened, who evidence thy love.

Help me to pray in faith and so find thy will, by leaning hard on thy rich free mercy, by believing that thou wilt give what thou hast promised;

Strengthen me to pray with the conviction that whatever I receive is thy gift, so that I may pray until prayer be granted;

Teach me to believe that all degrees of mercy arise from several degrees of prayer, that when faith is begun it is imperfect and must grow, as chapped ground opens wider and wider until rain comes.

So shall I wait thy will, pray for it to be done, and by thy grace become fully obedient.”

You may find all these devotionals on the Banner of Truth website.

The Perfect Game (Baseball) – T. Challies

Last week Friday following the annual MLB All-Star game and break, Tim Challies posted this wonderful article on why he perceives baseball to be “the perfect game.” Since it has been a while since I spoke of this game that I also love (other than my annual summer baseball “read”), and since Challies says it so well, I will simply let him speak of the perfection of this amazing sport.

By the way, speaking of the All-Star game, did you notice that the entire starting lineup of infielders for the National League was made up of Chicago Cubs?! And did you know that one of them (Kris Bryant) hit a home run?!

O, and did you notice that these Cubs are still in first place in their division, 6.5 games ahead of their rival Cardinals?! It is, indeed, a good year to be a Cubs’ fan! Hang in there, Cubbies!

Below is the beginning of Challies’ article; find the rest at the link that follows.

Baseball returns this evening from its annual mid-season classic. As the teams prepare to take the field I find myself thinking about the game I love, the game that has gripped and fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It is, to my mind, the best sport, the perfect game.

As a child I dreamed of mastering baseball and spent hundreds of sunny summer afternoons chasing the perfect fastball, the perfect swing, the perfect one-hopper from left field to the plate. When night came I fell asleep listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth as they called the highs and lows of the Toronto Blue Jays and when sleep took me I dreamed of taking my rightful place on my team—George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, and me. Eventually childish fantasy gave way to adult reality but even broken dreams did nothing to temper my passion for the game. A son was born and soon I began to introduce him to my game and to my team.

The cycle began anew. What is it about this game? Why is it that every April I feel a new optimism, a new hope, a new excitement for a new season? Why is it that every October I find myself longing for just a few more games, a few more series? Why do I have such love for this game?

Source: The Perfect Game

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Published in: on July 22, 2016 at 11:50 AM  Leave a Comment  

Justin Martyr – Apology (1)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In the weeks and months ahead we plan to post some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapter three of Justin’s first apology:

CHAPTER III — CLAIM OF JUDICIAL INVESTIGATION.

But lest any one think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve; [or rather, indeed, we ourselves will punish them.] But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgment, but by passion. And every sober-minded person will declare this to be the only fair and equitable adjustment, namely, that the subjects render an unexceptional account of their own life and doctrine; and that, on the other hand, the rulers should give their decision in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy. For thus would both rulers and ruled reap benefit. For even one of the ancients somewhere said, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” It is our task, therefore, to afford to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest, on account of those who are accustomed to be ignorant of our affairs, we should incur the penalty due to them for mental blindness; and it is your business, when you hear us, to be found, as reason demands, good judges. For if, when ye have learned the truth, you do not what is just, you will be before God without excuse.

Word Wednesday: Candle – Rev.W. Langerak

StandardBearerThe latest biblical word study has been published in the July 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer. This time Rev. W. (Bill) Langerak writes about the meaning and significance of the word “candle.”

We make it our Word Wednesday feature today. May his thoughts enlighten your mind and encourage you to shine as lights in this world of darkness.

Candle

The candle is a significant biblical picture.  This should not be that surprising, since for thousands of years candles were a prominent appliance in the everyday life and even worship of the church.  The fact that candles have little practical value and use today does not diminish their continued spiritual significance as an enlightening symbol for us.

   In general, the candle symbolizes the presence, life, and knowledge of God.  In a real sense, God gives to every man a candle.  The spirit of man (that God breathed into him in the beginning) is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly (Prov. 20:27).  But such light is not grace to all.  God’s presence indeed gives life and knowledge, but it also condemns man and his use of that life as unrighteous, unthankful, and wicked.  There is no reward to the evil man, and in anger the Lord shall put out the candle of the wicked (Prov. 24:20; Job 21:17).  His sentence upon man’s kingdom and culture of sin is that “the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee” (Rev. 18:23).  Only in Christ is God’s presence a candle of grace.  Knowing this, the believer joyfully exclaims, “Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps. 18:28).  This candle of the righteous shines so he can walk in darkness (Job 29:3).  The smoking flax (wick) of this candle the Lord will never quench (Is. 42:3).  And the candle of the virtuous woman goes not out by night, not merely because her godly care knows no limits, but because she lives constantly in the light of God’s gracious presence.

   The candle is also a glorious picture of the church.  A notable feature in the tabernacle was the menorah, a splendid seven-branched candlestick.  It is mentioned 22 times in the Torah, including how the Lord ordered it to be crafted out of pure gold, decorated with gold almond blossoms, and fueled by the purest olive oil (Ex. 25:31-35).  When moved, it was to be carefully wrapped in fine blue cloth, protected in a leather case, and carried on a pole.  When at rest in God’s house, it was to be lit every night. And on the day of dedication, the Lord gave special instruction from behind the veil that its candles were to be mounted to illuminate the way to His mercy (Num. 7:89-8:4).  Night and day, the Lord was always home, blessing His covenant people with the light of His Spirit, guiding them to His unfailing grace through His atoning sacrifice.

   This picture finds further development in the new covenant vision of the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 1:11-13).  Here, the candles represent more clearly, not simply the presence of God with us, but the church itself as she lives in the world—distinct yet united, imperfect yet glorious in righteousness and works of holiness, by Christ in their midst by His Spirit (Rev. 1:20).  As a candle, the church is a continual witness to the grace and glory of God enlightening them before the whole earth (Rev. 11:4).  And if any particular church stubbornly refuses to be such a witness by leaving her love for the Lord to walk with the world in unrighteousness, the Lord can and does remove such a candle out of its place (Rev. 2:5). 

   As candles lit by the Holy Spirit of Christ in the midst of a world dark with sin, the true church and her members have only one purpose:  to broadcast the light in us of the power of God’s grace to forgive sins, sanctify, and give eternal life.  Unlit candles are useless.  So are flickering ones.  To shine brightly, the whole body must be full of light.  Take heed, therefore, that the light in you be not darkness (Luke 11:35-36).  Equally useless are bright candles hidden in foolishness, fear, or shame.  Candles are not meant to be placed under a bed or a bushel (Mark 4:21).  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world; a city set on an hill that cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). 

   Yet, in spite of their significance and value here, in the new creation all this changes.  There will be no candles there.  Not one.  Why?  Because there in Jesus’ presence, there shall be no night, only day; and no darkness, only light (Rev. 22:5).

For more such word studies from the Scriptures, visit this section of the PRC website.

Note to Self – Initiate

Begin by reading and meditating on Matthew 28:19-20.

God has placed you in a unique context and equipped you in a unique way to be the one who reaches out to those in need – this means those who need encouragement as well as those who need correction. And this includes those who do not know Jesus, as well as his disciples, those who are apparently healthy, and those who are obviously hurting. You will have more opportunities to initiate than you can take, but you are likely to take fewer than you should.

Look around yourself. God is giving you chances to act. He has put people near you who need your help financially, your time relationally, and your words of bold encouragement and gentle rebuke. The opportunities are always there, but they are difficult to see if you are too focused on yourself. You must take the time to be truly present where God has put you. Begin to think of others as they really are – men and women in need of grace.

What will compel you to take the first step toward those around you in need? The deepness of their need? The desperateness of their situation? Perhaps it will be an understanding of what you have received from others who have been faithful to God and have taken the initiative with you, to help you see the truth, know Christ, grow in grace, and persevere through difficulty. Or maybe it will be that God not only commands you to do this but empowers you to do it, as well. Wherever you are, today you should be the first to move. Initiate for the glory of God and the good of those around you.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.21 “Initiate” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.79-80.

Supernatural Friendship – Ryan Townsend

TT-July-2016One of the edifying and encouraging articles I recently read in the July Tabletalk is the one on friendship named above. In it the author gives us three reasons why friendships are important in the Christian life. The one I have chosen to include in this post is the second one, but you may read the others at the Ligonier link below.

May these words remind us of the great need and blessing of godly friendships in our lives.

Encouragement and Exhortation

During high school, I visited England. We were driving one afternoon in the country, and I remember seeing a flock of sheep for the first time in my life, stumbling down the road right in front of us. I had never seen sheep so closely before. I thought sheep were white, but they’re not. Up close, they’re dirty—and messy and stupid. Some were falling into the ditch by the roadside; some were going the wrong way and biting at each other. But after ten minutes or so, with the help of the shepherds and the sheepdogs, they all made it home safely to the sheepfold.

In the same way, stronger and weaker Christians need one another—for love, discipleship, and encouragement. You see, we’re often like those sheep. We snap at one another and are easily swayed off the path. We fall into ditches and go the wrong way, but, by God’s grace, by being together in a flock, we can make it down the road.

This means we’re better stuck in the middle of the flock, even if it inconveniences our lives now. Why? If you know your own heart well, you know that it is actually more dangerous to be alone or on the edge of the flock because we’re prone to wander. Older men and women in the faith are commanded by Paul to disciple and encourage younger Christians (Titus 2). Younger Christians are also called to care for and love older Christians. That means that in the church, there is no such thing as an individualistic Christian. God has bound us together as one body in Christ and commanded us to care for one another (Heb. 10:24–25).

By joining a local church, stronger and weaker Christians make their love for Christ definite by loving others in a committed fashion. These friendships become the instrument that enables us to:

Encouragement is a powerful antidote to unbelief. And friendships are a great gift of God that bring us together in covenant love.

By God’s grace, they enable us to carry out the countless “one another” commands and make disciples who image His holy, pure, unified, and loving wisdom (Eph. 3:10). This brings us to the third reason why friendships are important to the Christian life.

Source: Supernatural Friendship by Ryan Townsend

A True Love Story – Grace Gems

Romans8-39This “Grace Gems” devotional was sent yesterday (July 16, 2016) and is fitting for our contemplation on this Lord’s Day. It contains not the fictions of human love stories, but the facts of God’s gospel love story.

The journey which our Divine Lover took

(Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873)

The story of Christ’s redeeming love surpasses anything related in the pages of the wildest romances. These tell of a prince, who, enamored with a humble maiden, assumed a disguise. Doffing his crown and royal state for the dress of common life, he left his palace, traveled far, faced danger, and fared hard–to win the heart of a peasant’s daughter, and raise her from obscurity to the position of a queen!

Facts are more wonderful than fables. The journey which our Divine Lover took was from Heaven to earth. To win His bride, He exchanged the bosom of the eternal Father–to lie, a feeble infant, on a woman’s bosom. The Son of God left the throne of the universe, and assumed the guise of humanity–to be cradled in a feeding trough and murdered on a cross!

In His people, He found His bride deep in debt–and paid it all. Herself under sentence of death–He died in her place. A lost creature, clad in rags–He took off His own royal robes to cover her. To wash her–He shed His blood! To win her–He shed His tears! Finding her poor and miserable and naked, He endowed her with all His goods–and heir of all things. Everything that He possessed as His Father’s Son–she was to forever enjoy and share with Himself!

New U.S. Head Librarian Portrayed as Liberal Activist

In major library news this week, it seems even our national library is not safe from progressivism. The Heritage Foundation reported on the confirmation of the new person to head the Library of Congress, and judging from this article, it is not good news.

We shall see what transpires with this pick, but the potential for fundamentally changing the nature and purpose of the Library is real. Let us hope that Carla Hayden will maintain the high standards and philosophy of her predecessors.

Below is part of the report; read the rest at the link below.

Conservative critics of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Library of Congress were blindsided Wednesday when a key Republican engineered her lopsided confirmation by the Senate despite concerns she is, in the words of one opponent, “an unqualified, far-left progressive.”

The Senate voted 74-18 to confirm Carla D. Hayden, who leads Baltimore’s public library system, as the 14th librarian of Congress.

…Critics said Hayden falls short of the scholarly credentials traditionally expected of the nation’s librarian of Congress.

However, Blunt, chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee, scheduled a June 9 committee vote that recommended Hayden’s confirmation to the full Senate.

“Hayden has made a name for herself in the far-left community as a radical activist,” the conservative group Concerned Women for America wrote Blunt and the committee before that vote. “This position is not one for radical activism, but for academic honesty and integrity.”

Before the Senate vote, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, called Hayden “an unqualified, far-left progressive.”

“Republicans should be very concerned about what her confirmation could mean for the Congressional Research Service, which is the research arm from which they get unbiased, nonpartisan research,”  von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal.

“This is someone so far to the left that The Nation magazine ran a headline when she was nominated about how a ‘radical librarian’ may soon run the Library of Congress,” von Spakovsky said in an interview just hours before Blunt’s unexpected move to bring the nomination to the Senate floor.

Hayden, 63, succeeds James Billington, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan who served for 28 years before retiring last fall.

Source: GOP Senator Gets Obama’s ‘Far Left’ Pick Confirmed

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Published in: on July 16, 2016 at 1:27 PM  Leave a Comment  

Hope PRC Church Dedication Program – June 9,1965

As we have noted here previously, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI (Riverbend area in Walker), the congregation in which I have my own roots.

SpiritualHouse-HopePRC-100thMy wife and I have been browsing our copy of the new RFPA book that marks and celebrates this centennial (A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River’s Bend, 1916-2016), and are thoroughly enjoying it. It is a treasure-trove of fascinating and instructive history, including the many photographs and anecdotes.

Last week for our PRC archives feature we posted an old Reformed Witness Hour program that a member recently brought it. That same donation included a program from the dedication of Hope’s current church building, dated June 9, 1965.

Hope-PRC-GR-dedication-1965_0001

The cover is striking for its color graphics and calligraphy, though it does not contain an image of the new church. The inside is plain and the type mimeographed, so the text is not very clear, but it can still be made out.

hope-prc-gr-dedication-1965_0002

 

If you wish to see how the church building looks at present, visit Hope PRC’s website, or see it here on the PRC website.

The Story of P&R Publishing

Ever wondered how Christian publishing company P&R got its start? Do you remember its original name – Presbyterian and Reformed? And did you realize that in its early years it also published a journal called Christianity Today?

This history of P&R was recently posted on their website (July 7, 2016) and I found it quite interesting. I am personally grateful for such Christian publishing companies, and P&R continues to be true to its mission after 86 years. Our Seminary library has titles from those early years of publication and continues to purchase their books to this day.

Read on and be informed – and grateful for such Christian companies.

Below is a start to the article; visit the link at the bottom to read the rest.
In 1930 former Presbyterian minister Samuel G. Craig (1874–1960) was forced to leave his five-year term as editor-in-chief of The Presbyterian. The denominational paper dismissed Craig after he threw his support behind J. Gresham Machen, who had founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in response to Princeton Seminary’s modernist reorganization in 1929. Along with Machen, Craig founded The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. in May 1930 to produce a needed conservative answer to the liberal-leaning Presbyterian. The company started publishing a monthly journal called Christianity Today, then priced at $1 for a yearly subscription. The journal featured articles on Christianity and theology, book reviews, sermons, news in the Presbyterian church, and letters to the editor (see archived issues at http://www.pcahistory.org/HCLibrary/periodicals/CT/v01.html).

Source: The Story of P&R – P&R

Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 6:53 AM  Leave a Comment  
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