Divine Laughter (A Meditation on Psalm 2)

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This special meditation was prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Divine Laughter

Meditation on Psalm 2: 1-7

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

The Lord reigns! Just as Hurricane Laura came on our shores with howling wind and restless waves of the sea, so do the wicked rage. Psalm 2 describes the terrible opposition that David experienced once he was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. But the opposition against David is only a faint type of the reaction of the wicked against the Lord Jesus. Jesus, the righteous King is contrasted with the world that is filled with those who hate the instruction of the Lord. They are those who walk, stand, and sit in the counsel of the wicked (cf. Psalm 1). When Jesus’ righteousness reveals the wickedness of those in the world, they naturally respond in hatred. This is true not only for Christ, God’s anointed, but also for all those who follow Him. There is a conflict between those who seek shelter in the Christ and those who refuse Him. This is the conflict of the ages between the Lord’s Anointed and the nations.

Think back to the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Hearing of the birth of Jesus, Herod immediately began to plot against him. Later, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes plotted to kill Jesus. Jews and Gentiles (Pilate and the Romans) tried to extinguish the light of the world! In Acts 4: 24-28 the Apostles John and Peter report the evil treatment they received of the religious leaders. They pray to God using Psalm 2 to describe the opposition to Christ’s ministry. But clearly, they point out that the wicked doing this are only carrying out what God’s hand and counsel determined beforehand. The wicked put Jesus to death; the Lord raised and exalted Him.

What is the LORD’s reaction to this rebellion and hatred of his Son? The Psalmist writes, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.” Just as the raging sea could not hurt Jesus and His disciples when out on the Sea of Galilee, so also the plotting of the wicked cannot hold back the reign of Christ Jesus nor His kingdom. God has set His Son on His throne. He did this after Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and death in His death and resurrection. He ascended up into heaven, and His enemies are made his footstool. The Apostle Paul quotes this part of Psalm 2 in Acts. 13:30-33. Paul identified the resurrection of Jesus as His royal enthronement.

What comfort this was to the church in Paul’s day. They underwent persecution from the Jews and the Gentiles. The nations hatched their plots and schemes, yet the Lord “sitteth in the heavens” and laughs. Even though Christ has been installed on Mount Zion, the nations still conspire and rebel against His authority. Do we not still see this today? Think of all the persecution of the church in many nations. Think of the sinful and rebellious counsel of the wicked in our own land. The abortion of little children is seen as essential while the worship of the Lord in His house had been banned. What a rebellious and sinful world we live in. And it will only get worse!

For the rebellion of the wicked, Christ will come with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces. We see God’s judgment in the world today with the violence and upheaval in the streets of our cities. There are the natural disasters: fires, floods, and hurricanes. This is only the beginning. Kingdoms rise and fall. But Christ is coming again in glory, and will bring judgement. Not one of the wicked will escape. They will be broken like a piece of pottery.

The Psalm ends with a call to repentance. Instead of rebelling against the Lord’s Anointed, let people abandon their sinful ways and submit in faith to Christ. “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son…Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (vs. 11,12).

When we find ourselves suffering for the sake of righteousness, we too must seek shelter in the hope of this psalm. Try as they might, the nations and the wicked will not overthrow the reign of the Lord and his Anointed. Christ reigns and will shelter all those who take refuge in Him. Oh, the heathen rage! Many take counsel together against the Lord and His Christ in rebellion. But Christ is already enthroned. Those who take refuge in Him shall also one day reign with Him. Whatever the opposition, no human power can ever nullify or undo God’s divine purpose.

Are you allowing pessimism to affect you, or are you hanging on to the hope that Christ’s kingdom will prevail in every nation? Do you serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling? Have you kissed the Son in submission and love? One day, maybe very soon, Christ will return as Judge.

PRC Seminary Library Acquisitions – 2nd Quarter 2020 (2)

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As promised two days ago (see my previous post), here is the second part of the 2020 second quarter list of significant book acquisitions to the PRC Seminary library (April – June). I think you will agree that there are some valuable resources here for our seminary purposes, but also for our members and friends to benefit from. Perhaps a title in the theology section or in the practical theology sections will grab your attention and inspire you to delve into a new subject.

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Dogmatics, Biblical Theology, Historical Theology

  • Solus Decalogus Est Aeternus: Martin Luther’s Complete Antinomian Theses and Disputations / Martin Luther, 1483-1546; Holger Sonntag. Minneapolis, MN: Lutheran Press, c2008
  • Five: The Solas of the Reformation / S. D. Ellison; Michael A. G. Haykin. Lansvale, NSW, Australia: Tulip Publishing, 2020.
  • Calvinism and the Making of the European Mind / Gijsbert van den Brink; Harro M. Hopfl, editor. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2014 (Studies In Reformed Theology,) vol. 27
  • Propositions and Principles of Divinity: Propounded and Disputed in the University of Geneva, by certain students of Divinity there, under Mr. Theodore Beza and Mr. Anthony Faius, professors of Divinity. …a summary of common places / Theodore de Beza, 1519-1605; Anthony Faius. (1st English, bound photocopy). Edinburgh: Robert Walde-grave, 1592.
  • God Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology / Gerald Lewis. Bray. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.
  • The History and Theology of Calvinism / Curt Daniel; Joel R. Beeke; John MacArthur. Darlington (England): EP BOOKS, 2019.
  • The Theology of the Huguenot Refuge: From the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the Edict of Versailles / Martin I. Klauber, editor. Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2020 (Reformed Historical-Theological Studies)
  • The Works of William Perkins: Volume 9 – A Declaration of the True Manner of Knowing Christ Crucified [Etc.] / William Perkins, 1558-1602; J. Stephen Yuille; Joel R. Beeke, editor; Derek W.H. Thomas. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2020.
  • Divine Simplicity: A Dogmatic Account / Steven J. Duby. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018, c2016 (T & T Clark Studies In Systematic Theology), vol. 30
  • New Studies in Biblical Theology (recently on sale, filled out our holdings in this series), Apollos; InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham:
    • Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job / Robert S. Fyall. ; Donald A. Carson. 2002. (#12)
    • The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel / Peter Bolt, 1958-. ; Donald A. Carson. 2004 (#18)
    • A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah / Andrew G. Shead; Donald A. Carson. c2012. (#29)
    • The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation / Graham A. (Graham Arthur) Cole, 1949-. ; Donald A. Carson. 2013 (#30)
    • The Feasts of Repentance: From Luke-Acts to Systematic and Pastoral Theology / Michael Ovey, 1958-2017; Donald A. Carson. 2019. (#49)
    • Canon, Covenant and Christology: Rethinking Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel / Matthew Barrett, 1982-; Donald A. Carson. 2020 (#51)
  • A Theology of James: Wisdom for God’s People / Christopher W. Morgan, 1971-.; Robert A. Peterson. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., c2010 (Explorations In Biblical Theology)
  • A Power of God unto Salvation: Or Grace Not an Offer / Herman Hoeksema, 1886-1965. ; Homer C. Hoeksema, 1923-1989, Transl.; Cornelius Hanko, 1907-2005, Transl. — reprint – syllabus. Grandville, MI: Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, 1996 (Amazingly – and sadly, this English ed. was not in the library!).
  • Herman Hoeksema’s Theological Method / David B. McWilliams. Lampeter: University of Wales, 2000.
  • Approaching the Atonement: The Reconciling Work of Christ / Oliver. Crisp. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020.
  • Living for God: A Short Introduction to the Christian Faith / Mark Jones, 1980-. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020.
  • The Church: Her Nature, Authority, Purpose, and Worship / Jeffrey D. Johnson. New Albany, MS: Media Gratiae, 2020.
  • The Covenant of Grace / John Colquhoun, 1748-1827; Sinclair B. Ferguson. Orlando, FL: The Northampton Press, 2020.
  • Backdrop for a Glorious Gospel: The Covenant of Works According to William Strong / Thomas Parr. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2020.
  • Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage / Gavin Ortlund; Donald A. Carson. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020.
  • When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity / Rhyne R. Putman; David S. Dockery. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020.
  • Grounded in Heaven: Recentering Christian Hope and Life on God / Michael Allen. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018.
  • Biblical Eschatology / Jonathan Menn; Robert W. Yarbrough; Stanley Ntagali. (2nd ed.) Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2018.
  • A Continental View: Johannes Cocceius’s Federal Theology of the Sabbath / Casey B. Carmichael; Herman J. Selderhuis. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019 (Reformed Historical Theology) vol. 41
  • Eschatology / John C. McDowell; Scott A. Kirkland. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018 (Guides To Theology)

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Practical Theology (1) – Christian Living, Ethics, Family, Marriage, Missions, Prayer

  • Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles / David Powlison, 1949-2019. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2019
  • Waging War in an Age of Doubt: A Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Practical Approach to Spiritual Warfare for Today / Robert Davis Smart. Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2020.
  • Created to Draw Near: Our Life As God’s Royal Priests / Edward T. Welch, 1953-. Wheaton: Crossway, 2020.
  • Our Chief of Days: The Principle, Purpose, and Practice of the Lord’s Day / Jeremy R. Walker. Darlington, Co. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 2019.
  • Between Life and Death: A Gospel-Centered Guide to End-of-Life Medical Care / Kathryn Butler, 1980-. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019.
  • I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger Through Life’s Defining Moments / David T. (David Thomas) Harvey, 1960-. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020.
  • Marriage and Sexuality in Early Christianity / David G. Hunter, editor. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018 (Ad Fontes: Early Christian Sources)
  • A Covenantal Vision for Global Mission / Paul Ronald Wells, editor; Peter A. Lillback, editor; Henk Stoker, editor. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2020. (*Watch for Rev. D. Holstege’s next missions article in the Standard Bearer, as he interacts with an essay in this book that references H. Hoeksema’s doctrine of the covenant.)
  • Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose / Aimee. Byrd. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Reflective, 2020.
  • “The Sum and Substance of the Gospel”: The Christ-Centered Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon / C. H. (Charles Haddon) Spurgeon, 1834-1892; Nathan A. Finn, editor; Aaron Lumpkin, editor; Joel R. and Michael A.G. Haykin (series eds.). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2020 (Profiles in Reformed Spirituality)

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Practical Theology (2) – Church Government/Leadership, Counseling, Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, Sermons, Worship

  • Ancient Roots for Reformed Polity: De Synagoga Vetere and the Ecclesiology of the Early Church – An Annotated Compendium / Campegius (1659-1722) Vitringa; Joshua L. Bernard, Transl.; H. David Schuringa. (1st English ed.) North Star Ministry Press, 2020.
  • Presbyterianism: Its History, Doctrine, Government, and Worship / Samuel Miller, 1769-1850; Allen. Stanton; Harrison. Perkins. (reprint) Madison, MS: Log College Press, 2020.
  • Crucified and Risen: Sermons on the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ [Matthew 26-28] / John Calvin, 1509-1564. ; Robert White, Transl. Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2020.
  • Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers / Dane C. Ortlund. Wheaton: Crossway, 2020.
  • Does God Care How We Worship? / J. Ligon Duncan; Mark Dever. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2020.
  • Aiming to Please: A Guide to Reformed Worship / Wes Bredenhof. Fergus, ON: The Study, 2020.

Misc. (Apologetics, Culture, Dutch History, Education, Music, Politics, Science, Work, World Religions, etc.)

  • Origins of Teacher Education at Calvin College, 1900-1930: And Gladly Teach / Peter P. DeBoer. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, c1991 (Mellen Studies in Education) vol. 18
  • “That Old Dutch Disease”: The Roots of Dutch Calvinist Education in Alberta / Peter C. Prinsen. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta, 2000.
  • Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Survival and Success in the Twenty-First Century / Richard T. Hughes, (Richard Thomas); William B. Adrian. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., c1997.
  • With Wings as Eagles: A History of the First One Hundred Years of God’s Blessings to Plymouth Christian Schools, 1908-2008 / 100th Anniversary Committee; Kevin. Ash; Ben Engelsma. Grand Rapids, MI: Plymouth Christian Schools, 2008.
  • Dutch Households in U.S. Population Censuses, 1850, 1860, 1870: An Alphabetical Listing by Family Heads – Volume One: Aamink to Hoogesteeger; Volume Two: Hoogesteeger to Slaan; Volume Three: Slabbekoorn to Zymen and Addendum / Robert P. Swierenga. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1987.
  • The Reformed Christian Day School Movement in North America / Arthur H. DeKruyter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Theological Seminary, 1952.
  • Faith and Culture in the Governance of Calvinistic/Reformed Christian Schools / Leroy A. Hollaar. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta, 1989 (2 vols.)
  • The Spirit of Calvinist Christian Schools from the Netherlands to North America / William. Lodewyk. Chicago: Loyola University Chicago, 2004 (2 vols.)

I wish to thank Gary Vander Schaaf (Credo Books) for all the great Christian school resources, as well as the academic theses and other great books he brings by the seminary for my preview and purchase (and many that he donates). Through his knowledge and expertise we continue to add many valuable resources to the library. Never tire of seeing Gary’s van pull up in the parking lot! 🙂

PRC Seminary Library Acquisitions – 2nd Quarter 2020

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At the end of June, I completed the second quarter list of significant book acquisitions to the PRC Seminary library for this year (April – June). I make it a habit to share this list with the TSC (Theological School Committee) as well as with the faculty and students so that they can be informed of what is being added to the library.

But I am also convinced these lists are of value to you readers, which is why I post this one here. As noted before, part of my reason for posting them is not only to show you the kinds of books the seminary adds to its library, but also to stimulate you to find something to read. Yes, there are books here for the “common” church member, as well as for pastors and other officebearers. Some books are deeper in content than others, but there truly is something for most everyone in these lists. And, with Bible study season starting again soon, perhaps those opening sections of commentaries will be of use.

So, with that in mind, we give you this second quarter list – the first few sections of it, at least – with the rest to follow in a post later this week. Keep in mind these are not all the titles purchased, just the more significant ones. Happy browsing! Be on the alert for that book (or those books) that you may wish to read yourself!

Psalms For You

Biblical Studies/ Commentaries/ Biblical Theology

  • God’s Word for You (Good Book Co., UK – Carl Laferton, ed.)
    • Psalms for You / Christopher Ash (2017)
    • Daniel for You / David R. Helm (2017)
    • 2 Corinthians for You / Gary Millar (2020)
    • Ephesians for You / Richard Coekin (2015).
  • Mentor Commentaries (EP Books – UK)
    • Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary / John A. Kitchen (2012)
  • New International Greek Testament Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans)
    • The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text / Charles A. Wanamaker, 1990.
  • Welwyn Commentary Series (Evangelical Press)
    • According to Promise: Numbers Simply Explained. Gordon J. Keddie. Welwyn Garden City, UK, c1992, 2017.
    • Heavenly Love: The Song of Songs Simply Explained. Gary Brady, c2006, 2017.
    • The Name High Over All: A Commentary on Hebrews / Richard Brooks, 2016.
      Other Commentaries (Individual)
  • Unfolding Covenant History: An Exposition of the Old Testament, From Samuel to Solomon, Vol.6. David J. Engelsma; Mark H. Hoeksema. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2020.
  • In the Presence of My Enemies: Psalms 25-37 / Dale Ralph Davis. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2020.
  • Ever in Thy Sight: 31 Devotions on the Psalms / Abraham Kuyper, 1837-1920; James A De Jong, translator. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020.
  • The Song of Songs / G. I. (Gerald Irvin) Williamson, 1925-. (reprint) Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2020.
  • Revelation and the End of All Things / Craig R. Koester. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, c2001, 2018 (2nd ed.).
  • Seven Churches, Four Horsemen, One Lord: Lessons from the Apocalypse / James Montgomery Boice, 1938-2000; Philip Graham Ryken, editor. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2020.

The Hope Of Israel: Crowe, Brandon D.

Individual Biblical Studies Titles

  • Treatises on Noah and David / Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, -397; Brian Dunkle, translator. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2020 (The Fathers of the Church) vol. 140
  • Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis / Gary A. Anderson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017.
  • The Hope of Israel: The Resurrection of Christ in the Acts of the Apostles / Brandon D. Crowe. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020.

Defending Luther's Reformation: Its Ongoing Significance in the ...

Church History, General and Biography

  • Introduction to the History of Christianity / John H. Y. Briggs; Tim. Dowley; Robert Dean Linder. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2018 (3rd ed.).
  • Luther at Leipzig: Martin Luther, the Leipzig Debate, and the Sixteenth-Century Reformations / Mickey L. Mattox, editor.; Richard J. Serina, Jr., editor; Jonathan Mumme, editor. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2019 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions) vol. 218
  • Defending Luther’s Reformation: Its Ongoing Significance in the Face of Contemporary Challenges / John A. Maxfield, editor; Timothy P. Dost; Jonathan Mumme. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2017.
  • Huldrych Zwingli’s Private Library / Urs B. Leu; Sandra Weidmann. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2019 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions,) vol. 215
  • Calvin and the Early Reformation / Brian C. Brewer, editor; David M. Whitford, editor. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2020 (Studies In Medieval And Reformation Traditions,) vol. 219
  • Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation / Peter Marshall. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.
  • Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian / Paul L. (Paul Lee) Brewster; Michael A. G. Haykin. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010 (Studies In Baptist Life and Thought)
  • On the Side of God: The Life and Labors of Andrew Fuller / Jeremy (Jeremy R.) Walker. Conway, AR: Free Grace Press, 2020.
  • Immigration, Settlement, and the Origins of the Christian Reformed Church in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, c. 1950-C. 1965 / Gerrit H. Gerrits. Kentville, Nova Scotia: Vinland Press, 2015.
  • The American Puritans / Dustin. Benge; Nate. Pickowicz. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2020.

Help in Dreadful Distresses

sb-logo-rfpaThe August 2020 issue of the Standard Bearer contains a powerful, probing meditation from the pen of Rev. Steven Key (Loveland-CO PRC). The title is “Dreadful Distresses” and is based on Psalm 107:17-22,

Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near to the gates of death. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

From this text he explains not only the character of these dreadful distresses brought by the Lord on the church and on the world, but also the reason for them:

The text itself brings out the dreadful reason for this horrible reality that we also observe and that affects every one of us. Affliction, these dreadful distresses, are consequences of transgression and of iniquities! The word transgression speaks of rebellion, deliberately going against what God has shown as His will for us and His way with us.

God, the eternal I AM, created us to praise Him. In His own good pleasure He even formed a people set apart unto Himself. He provided for them their every need daily. He protected them. He revealed His goodness to them beyond what they ever would dare ask or think. He performed many wonderful works, revealing that He alone is God. In everything He pointed to Christ, the One Who would come to save them. He gave every reason for His people to thank Him, to praise Him, to live to His glory. He came down to their level to speak to them. He gave them His Word.

Now consider the history recounted in this Psalm. Repeatedly the children of Israel, the church, held the counsel of the Most High in contempt. They didn’t want His Word. They refused to live to His glory. They took for granted everything He gave them, even lived as if He owed them. And that rebellion against the living God came to expression in a multitude of iniquities. Man has become an offender, guilty of crimes against the eternal I AM. Guilt has consequences. That is what is described here as the reason for the horrible reality of our dreadful distresses.

Notice as well how those bearing these dreadful distresses are described — fools. “Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.” God Himself describes them as fools because in the pathway they have chosen, and in the way of their iniquities, they are afflicted. The emphasis, you see, is not on God’s execution of justice — though that is certainly expressed. But the emphasis is on the fact that fools bring upon themselves their dreadful distresses. That’s why they are called fools. They embrace that which destroys them!

It is important in our present calamities to understand this too. Men have always struggled with the concept of suffering. How can God allow suffering? That’s really the wrong question. The question is: Why do men and women willingly choose a pathway the consequences of which are death? God says, love Me. And we have chosen our own way, a way of transgression, of rebellion. The most hardened criminal knows there are consequences for his actions. Romans 2 tells us that every person has the works of the law written in his or her heart. Their consciences bear witness that there are consequences to wrongdoing. Why is there suffering in the world? The Bible’s answer is direct. We have brought it upon ourselves. “Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.”

But is there no hope or help for sinners in these awful distresses? Yes, in the very God who brings them. For the God of unflinching justice is also the God of saving mercy:

But listen now to the rest of the text. Revealed here is a wonderful deliverance, deliverance from our folly, from our transgression and iniquities, from the bondage into which we have fallen. God mercifully sets before us that deliverance in verses 19 and 20: “Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.”

The great Physician is present! We need to notice that. “Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble.” He didn’t enter because they cried. He is present. They cry because they have been given an awareness that He is near. The Holy One stands in the midst, the great and glorious God Who is God alone! He has given life. Whenever a person truly cries unto God, God has given that person life enabling him or her to cry unto Him. You don’t need to teach your children how to cry. It’s the first thing a newborn does, the first expression of life. And the cry noted here is clearly a cry of desperation from a lost sinner. It’s a cry of repentance, of sorrow — not for the affliction, but for the horrible reality of the dreadfulness of our distresses, for being fools who have rebelled against God and who have grievously sinned against Him. It’s the pouring out of one’s heart before Him Who alone can deliver.

“And he saveth them out of their distresses.” How He does that immediately follows in verse 20: “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” He sends the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, Who alone removes our guilt, Who washes away the poison of sin that had brought us into such distresses, Who gives life, relationships, joy and peace. The faithful I AM, Jehovah, sends the incarnate Word, powerful to save. He heals, making us new creatures!

Let us in our worship today praise and thank our great Deliverer for His beautiful and blessed grace in Jesus Christ. Wholly unworthy are we; supremely worthy is He.

If you wish to see a preview of this issue of the SB, visit this link. If you are interested in subscribing, visit this page.

Published in: on August 23, 2020 at 7:12 AM  Leave a Comment  

August 2020 Tabletalk – “Christian Discourse”

TT-Aug-2020We are already over halfway through the month of August and that makes it overdue to introduce the August issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries monthly devotional magazine.

The theme for this month is “Christian Discourse,” that is, how we as Christians must converse (carry on discourse) with others – with our fellow believers, including those of our own household, and with our unbelieving neighbors.

Burk Parsons gives his usual pithy summary of the subject (“Gentle Christian Discourse”), pointing out that

Elders, deacons, teachers, and all Christians are called to communicate with others in a charitable, gentle, and loving way. At the same time, we are called to speak the truth and to tell people hard things that they sometimes don’t want to hear. We are called to admonish, and we are commanded to go to our brother when he has sinned against us that he might have the opportunity to repent. Parents are called to train up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Pastors are called to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. We are all called to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Nevertheless, we must never forget that we are also called to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, speak the truth in love, and rebuke with patience. As Christians, we engage with other Christians in all of life, and as we do, we must strive to be humble, gentle, honest, and gracious. When we fail, we must be quick to repent, and we must all be quick to forgive and restore as we live in light of the gracious truth of the gospel coram Deo, before the face of God.

After that one paragraph, we already feel convinced of how relevant this matter is – and convicted of how miserable we fail to carry out truly Christian discourse.  But, there is a way forward, by the grace of God in Christ our Savior and by the power of the Holy Spirit He has given us. And with the Bible as our guide and goad, and the multitude of counselors with articles in this issue as our teachers, we can learn anew the way to speak to one another – from wife to co-worker.

One of the articles I read this past Sunday before service was especially helpful: “Truly Loving Discourse” by Dr. Jason K. Allen. Here is a section of it that strikes at the heart of what it means to practice biblical conversation with others:

One of Scripture’s most salient passages on the believer’s discourse is Proverbs 27:5–6, which states: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” In short, verse 5 instructs us to speak words of biblical rebuke, whereas verse 6 encourages us to receive them. These two instructions are pointed, perhaps challenging your sensibilities or forcing you outside of your comfort zone.

Yet, for you to live a healthy Christian life and to enjoy healthy Christian community, you must practice both. To this end, consider four words of reflection from these verses to foster truly loving discourse.

First, speak the truth in love. The Apostle Paul issued these words of instruction to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:15). Yet, they are essential for us in modeling truly loving discourse. Note that there is peril in undercommunicating either truth or love. Truth without love may be harsh and will likely win no one. Love without truth is mush and will win them to nothing helpful. The goal of confrontation is restoration, not alienation. Truly loving discourse works toward that end. Moreover, you should ask yourself if you’re equipped to receive such counsel. Do your spouse, friends, minister, or colleagues sense such an openness from you? Cultivate it in yourself just as you desire it in others.

Second, root out passive-aggressive behavior. Passive aggressiveness imperils Christian communities. Families, churches, and Christian institutions collapse under its weight. Accumulated grievances and festering conflicts bring about a relational frigidness that will persist until an eruption occurs. Truly loving discourse actually engages in discourse, not insinuation or subtlety.

Third, be willing to confront sin. Proverbs 27:5–6 speaks precisely to this point, both in confronting and receiving confrontation. It is always right to warn the sinner of his ways—doubly so if he is a loved one. This is why Jesus instituted church discipline in Matthew 18. James 5:20 reminds us, “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Fourth, learn to pronounce the word “no.” For many Christians, pronouncing the word no doesn’t come naturally. Whether out of fear of disappointing others or a reluctance to be perceived in a negative light, many Christians simply can’t utter this word. However, a sign of Christian maturity is developing this ability. Invariably, loved ones will embark on a hazardous path or contemplate a dangerous decision. Your ability to lovingly pronounce the word no might be their salvation.

Last, remember, as Jesus said, the tongue speaks from the overflow of the heart (Luke 6:45). These verses remind us that our discourse—even our willingness to lovingly confront—indicates deeper spiritual realities within us. Thus, to practice truly loving discourse, you don’t need a more polished or polite tongue; you need a redeemed one.

Justified (Saved) by Grace Alone (2) – H. Hoeksema

Rom8-30

But here several questions arise. The first of these is: how is it possible that God can justify the unjust? How can He pronounce a sentence of justification upon him who is guilty and corrupt? Does not Scripture teach everywhere that God is righteous and just, and that He will by no means clear the guilty? How then is it possible to believe in God as the God Who justifies the ungodly?

The answer of the Word of God is: through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The righteousness that is ours through the grace of justification is by faith of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that God revealed Himself as the God Who justifies the ungodly. Christ is the righteous one. In Him there is a righteousness that is so great and mighty that it blots out all our sins and clothes us with an eternal righteousness, makes us worthy of eternal life. In the judgment of God Christ took our place. He assumed full responsibility for us. All our sins He took upon Himself, and He bore them away for ever. For He not merely suffered the punishment for the sins of His own; but in suffering the wrath of God He was perfectly obedient, even unto the death of the cross. His death was an act. He laid down His life. He sacrificed Himself. Voluntarily, motivated by the love of God, He went down into lowest hell, that there He might bear the wrath of God against sin. And thus He satisfied the justice of God. He made an atonement. He removed the guilt of sin and merited eternal righteousness. And God justified Him and pronounced the verdict of perfect righteousness upon Him, when He raised Him from the dead and gave Him everlasting glory and immortality. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead God revealed Himself as the God Who justifies the ungodly. And if we believe on Him, we receive by that faith the sentence of God’s justification in our hearts. For this righteousness of Christ is imputed to all those for whom Christ died and was raised, so that we are as perfectly righteous before God as if we ourselves had performed that act of obedience on the cross which Christ performed for us. And by faith we lay hold upon this verdict of justification, so that we know that even though all things testify against us in this world of sin and death, we are righteous before God and heirs of eternal life.

But another question arises here. How can the righteousness of Christ be reckoned as ours? Or how could, in the justice of God, Christ die for our sins? Do we not rather meet here with a double injustice, namely, that the righteous is punished, and the guilty is acquitted? If in a worldly court one is found guilty of murder, would a judge inflict capital punishment upon another instead of the guilty one, even though that other would voluntarily offer himself to take the murderer’s place? Would that not be considered a double perversion of justice? Moreover, how can the death and obedience of the one be the righteousness of countless sinners?

But here we must remember that Christ is not merely another man, but He is the Son of God come into the flesh. No mere man has a life to substitute for another’s: for his life is not his own, and, besides, he is himself a sinner under sentence of death. But Christ is the Son of God, very God Himself, Who took our flesh and blood upon Himself voluntarily. He became man by an act of His own will. He had power to lay down His life for others, if He so pleased. And before the world was, He had been appointed the Head of all the elect, so that He represented them and was responsible for them. By God’s eternal decree of election they are one body, one legal corporation, represented by Christ Who is their Head. Christ, therefore, can be summoned before the bar of God’s judgment and appear there for all His own, assume responsibility for them, take all their guilt upon Himself, and pay for their sins by an act of perfect obedience on His part. And again, because He is not a mere man, but the Son of God in the flesh, His death is of immeasurable value, infinitely precious, capable of blotting out the sins of all His own and of procuring for them eternal righteousness and everlasting life and glory. This, then, is the marvelous grace of God in justifying the ungodly. He Himself came down to us, assumed our human nature, and in that human nature assumed responsibility for our sins, became obedient unto death, yea unto the death of the cross, thus blotting out the handwriting of our sins that was against us. In Christ He is the God Who justifies the ungodly. By grace are ye saved!

You say, perhaps, that we must believe in order to be justified before God, and that, therefore, it is faith that makes us righteous before God. And it is true enough that we are justified by faith only. He that believeth on Him Who justifies the ungodly is righteous, and he only. And that means that we must believe on God as He revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead. For this righteousness is imputed to us “if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Romans 4:24) There is no other way than that of faith to become righteous before God. We must try no other way. All our good works are but filthy works. All our own goodness and piety, our very religiousness and the very best of our religious acts must be utterly discarded as a ground of righteousness; and we must come before God as naked sinners, but believing on God Who justifieth the ungodly, if we would obtain righteousness and life. By faith we are justified. But let us beware, lest we make of faith another good work on our part on the ground of which we are justified. Faith is not the ground of our justification. We are not justified because we believe. Nor are we justified by faith because through faith we become holy and capable of doing good works. Christ crucified and raised is the only ground of our righteousness. And faith is only the means whereby we are united with Christ and the spiritual power whereby we lay hold on this righteousness, so that we know and wholly rely on God Who justifieth the ungodly.

Besides, let us not forget that faith itself is a gift of God. No man can or will of himself accept Christ and believe on God Who raised Him from the dead. God through Christ by His Spirit works within our hearts the justifying faith. And so it is all of grace. By grace God came down to us in our sin and death, and in the Person of His only begotten Son assumed our flesh and blood. By grace Christ died for our sins on the accursed tree and was raised on the third day for our justification. By grace God chose us and ordained us to eternal righteousness and life in Christ before the foundation of the world. And by grace He gives to us the power of faith, thus uniting us with Christ and causing us to believe on Him Who justifieth the ungodly. By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God!

Taken from chapter 8, “Justified by Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace by Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.70-71. This work has now been republished by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

For the first installment on this gospel truth, see this post.

Baseball 2020 and “Summer of ’98”

WrigleyFieldToday, at long last, we will have a baseball post here. With the delay of the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season because of the coronavirus pandemic, my interest in baseball was waning quickly. Summer life just wasn’t the same (due to many other things pandemic related too, of course) and I didn’t want to find an annual book on baseball to read either. Golf was on my weekly schedule (usually with my 87-year old dad, who still plays well!), and I was grateful to have that interest and involvement at least.

But then the MLB commissioner, owners, and players saved the season, a 60-game schedule was adopted, and at the end of July baseball sprang to life – a little late and a little short and with fan-less ball parks – but at least it was here again. And my beloved Chicago Cubs roared out of the gate – with great starting pitching (we won’t talk about the bullpen just yet) and timely hitting from their batting order of stars, they have climbed to 13-3 – their best start since 1907! Yay! Go Cubbies! Could we have a repeat of 2016 and have another world champion team?!

Summer-of-98-LupicaAnd with that revived baseball season and renewed interest, I also found my 2020 summer baseball read (once again, in a local thrift store) – Summer of ’98: When Homers Flew, Records Fell, and Baseball Reclaimed America by Mike Lupica (Contemporary Books, 1999). This is a great retelling of the season of 1998, when monster home-run hitters Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey, Jr. all chased Roger Maris’ 1961 record of 61 homers in a season (Babe Ruth had held the record of 60, hit in 1927, until Maris came along and hit one more than that).

I remember the season well, in part because I had just spent 8 years in the Chicago area, where I fell in love with the Cubbies, and also because two Cubs players would figure prominently in that season – the above-mentioned Sammy Sosa, and 20-year old rookie Kerry Wood (who would strike out 20 batters in a single game in his first MLB season – his fifth game, no less!).

So now I have the summer-of-2020 pleasure of watching and listening to ball games again, and reading my new book, a portion of which I share with you here. By, the way, this book is also a great story of how fathers and sons come to love and share the game, another gift my father gave to me (thanks, Dad, for letting me play Little League baseball in Georgetown back in the 60s and for all those late-night Tiger games in old Tiger stadium – what great memories we have!).

Because no matter how old you are or how much you have seen, sports is still about memory and imagination. Never more than during the baseball summer of ’98, when baseball made everyone feel like a kid again, when it felt important again.

…For one magic season, everybody’s eyes would be full of the sky.

I never thought I would have a better baseball season than the one I had in ’61, not just because of the home runs, but because of what I thought was the best Yankee team I would ever see in my life [The author is also re-living his own experience of watching the 1961 season and Maris breaking Ruth’s record.]. Now I saw more home runs, and a better Yankee team.

It was McGwire and Sosa and Ken Griffey, Jr., at least until McGwire and Sosa pulled away from him the way Maris had pulled away from Mantle once. It was a strikeout pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, a twenty-year-old named Kerry Wood who would strike out 20 batters in a game.

David Wells of the Yankees would pitch a perfect game for the Yankees in May, the first perfect game in Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen in the World Series of 1956.

…You couldn’t make up a season like this.

Sosa would join the home-run chase in June, when he hit 20 home runs in the month, another record in the home-run summer. Now this wasn’t just about an American-born home-run hero like McGwire, but one from the Dominican Republic, too.

…McGwire and Sosa hit. Kerry Wood threw. Cal Ripkin, Jr., finally took a day off, after sixteen years. He was thirty-eight the night he did it. Tony Gwynn was also thirty-eight in the baseball season of ’98, and would have sat down himself because of aching knees and a ruined Achilles tendon, but Gywnn was limping toward one more World Series, his first since he was a baseball kid in 1984.

…You always hope this will be your year [Cubs’ fans know that very well!]. You always hope this year will be better than last year. That has always made old men young in baseball (pp.10-11).

Indeed, what a season that was. But now there’s the summer of ’20. Did I mention the Cubs are 13-3? 🙂

Published in: on August 14, 2020 at 6:35 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Power and Blessing of Jesus’ Intercession for His People

Rome talks about providing an enduring efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice in the mass.

We reject that. And why do we?

In order to preserve nothing more than a cold, bleak emptiness and hollowness?

No, a thousand times over, no! It’s because only the intercession of Christ maintains the efficacy of that sacrifice! It also provides the unceasing effort and all-enabling strength that sustains the souls of the redeemed day and night. It blesses them!

So don’t ever think that the praying that Jesus does happens now and then based on your petition, your request, or your imploring him for his prayer. It’s not like your Savior has to be asked to pray on your behalf before the throne of grace. Look, Jesus doesn’t just pray for you some of the time or only once! He does so ceaselessly. Praying for you is his preoccupation; it’s his purpose for living! He lives for it. His life revolves around praying for you.

…He lives for uttering his supplications on our behalf before his Father’s throne. Such praying is his very breath. It amounts to pouring out his soul on behalf of his people. Such praying reflects the sacred effort of our redeeming Hero on behalf of those struggling here on earth.

That’s why Jesus’ praying is the lifeline tied to your soul that prevents it from sinking.

Jesus is praying for you even while you’re sleeping.

He’s praying for you even when in the busyness of your daily life you are no longer thinking about him.

As your Savior, he’s praying for you even when you cause him sorrow and distress.

Christ imploring God on your behalf is your constantly flowing stream of life. It’s the wind that fills your sails and moves you forward, even when you lie down exhausted in your little boat and give up struggling.

Yes, even when you approach death and hover between heaven and hell, it will be the praying of Jesus that upholds you, offers you support, and ultimately saves you.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.394-95.

This particular meditation (#16 of Volume 2) is titled “He Lives to Make Intercession for Them” and is based on Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

New Videos Featuring Rare Books of the Meeter Center for Calvin Studies

In an email this morning, the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies (off the main library at Calvun University in Grand Rapids, MI) announced a couple of items, one of which is a brand new feature.

Calvin, the Bible, and HistoryFirst, in a continuing series of podcasts, Director Karin Maag interviews Dr. Barbara Pitkin of Stanford University about her new book  Calvin, the Bible, and History, just published by Oxford University Press (June 2020). You may find that Meeter Center link here.

Second, the Meeter Center has launched a new venture on its YouTube channel. These new “Folios” episodes feature some of the rare books in the collection (and there are a treasure trove of them there!). The initial episode features a beautiful illustrated Bible published in Antwerp (Belgium) in 1543.

Be sure to watch this first episode – very interesting!

How Did French Enter the English Language? What’s This “Frenglish?”

Book cover for King Alfred's EnglishOne of my fun, lighter summer reads is a fascinating history of the English language by Laurie J. White with the title King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do (The Shorter Word Press, 2009). Designed to be a “light course” book for “students grades 7-12 and curious adults,” King Alfred’s English is truly a fun and fascinating read. I am learning and re-learning much about my native tongue, including why there are so many other language influences on English.

One such influence is that of the French (wonder why we ask for pie a la mode?) – and that part of the English language story is quite amazing. Trace it back to the great battle of Hastings in 1066! Here is that part of White’s narrative and the answer to the question of how French worked its way so strongly into our tongue:

Nevertheless, on October 14 in the year 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, the French-speaking Duke of Normandy [northern France] overwhelmed Harold and his Anglo-Saxon forces [the Earl of Wessex who was vying for control of England]. Harold was killed, William won the English crown that day, and, along with the title of king of England, he became known as William the Conqueror who conquered England.

…A new invasion of the English language had begun and the effect would be enormous, and the impact would be from French.

After the Battle of Hastings, William brought a whole entourage of French speaking aristocrats into England to be his royal court and to fill any and all important positions of the government and the church. In other words, anyone who was anybody was French. A few of those Norman French learned English as a second language, but not many — there was no real need. French alone was spoken in all the schools and in the homes of the upper class, in all government proceedings and courtroom business. The only exception was the use of Latin in the religious sector. The English language was considered crass and vulgar. The word vulgar here means common, not nasty. However, the French almost put English in the nasty category.

Just as most of us would be, the defeated English people were eager to impress those above them on the social ladder, and the top rungs of this ladder were now solidly French. People began throwing in French phrases and words, mixing them with regular English. Everyone wanted to sound and look as French as possible. One historian jokingly suggested that we call the English spoken during this period ‘Frenglish’ because it was such a complete mixture of French and English.

Believe it or not, all this foolishness got carried on for a very long time, centuries in fact. One can see the remnants of these things even today. A small, down-home restaurant might offer the soup of the day; whereas a restaurant aiming at more sophisticated customer would call it soupe du jour. That little bit of un-translated French adds cultural spice to the menu. The same things applies to a la carte and a la mode. If you think about it, the whole industry of fashion is saturated with words en Francais, from coiffure for hairstyle, to lingerie for undergarments.  French design equals style, and as most people know, Paris has been seen as the cultural center for trend-setting for decades. But what people don’t know is that it’s really been centuries. In fact, the cultural compass that points to France for sophistication was calibrated at the Battle of Hastings back in 1066 AD!

As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story!”

Published in: on August 4, 2020 at 10:40 PM  Comments (1)