Why Are the Psalms Difficult? – R. Godfrey

Learning-love-psalms-Godfrey-2017In the third chapter of his new book Learning to Love the Psalms (Reformation Trust, 2017), author W. Robert Godfrey asks and answers the question, “If the Psalms are so rich, why is it that many of us today do not treasure and appreciate them as the church did in the past?”

The chapter is titled “The Difficulty with the Psalms” and in it Godfrey provides five (5) reasons why he believes the Psalms present difficulties to this generation of believers. His first reason may surprise us:

The first is the diminished use of the King James Version of the Bible. The movement away from the King James Version has meant that the familiar poetic expressions of that version which had been passed down through many generations have largely been forgotten. With no one Bible translation replacing the King James Version, that poetry has not been effectively replaced for many contemporary Christians.

Striking isn’t it? So too is his second reason:

The second is the failure of many Christians in our time to study and use the Psalms. Few Christians sing the Psalms anymore. Even if a songbook contains a few psalms, and even if they are used occasionally, most singers will not notice that they are distinctive or particularly important. If we use the Psalter at all, it is probably in a rather superficial devotional way. Our minds and hearts are not saturated with the Psalms as the hearts and minds of earlier generations of Christians were [p.13].

Good food for thought in this Lord’s Day morning. Today as we spent time in God’s Word and as we enter the Lord’s house of worship and prayer, may we consciously embrace God’s speech to us in the Psalms – in the Word read and preached, in prayer, and in song.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn – Matt Smethurst

As we noted before, this month’s Tabletalk is devoted to the Beatitudes our Lord spoke during His ministry on earth (cf. Matt.5).

Each of these beatitudes are given a brief explanation and application in the issue, and for today we quote from the article of Matt Smethurst on the second beatitude, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

Here is in part what he has to say:

Deep Dive

Imagine awaking on the Fourth of July to a text from a friend: “Meet me for fireworks at 11 a.m.” You’d think it was a typo. Why? Because fireworks aren’t impressive in the noonday sky. The darker the sky, in fact, the more stunning the display. In the same way, the brilliance of grace must be set against the blackness of sin. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

For the world, grieving sin is regressive and constricting; for the Christian, it is the pathway to joy. Imagine the implications. If Matthew 5:4 is true—if Jesus really meets repentance with comfort, not condemnation—then no longer do you need to fear being exposed. No longer do you have to present an airbrushed version of yourself to fellow redeemed sinners. No longer do you need to fear studying your heart and plumbing the depths of your disease. If exploring sin brings you to the deep end of the pool, exploring mercy will take you to the Mariana Trench. And awaiting you at the bottom of the dive is not a black hole but a solid rock.

Scarred Savior

In the final analysis, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be separated from its speaker. Jesus prayed many prayers during His incarnation, but never once did He pray a prayer of confession. He didn’t have to. He mourned over many sins, but never once did He mourn over His own. He didn’t have any.

Ultimately, our comfort is anchored in the reality that Jesus doesn’t just mourn sin; He conquers it.

Source: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Matt Smethurst

The Uniqueness of the Psalms – Dr. Robert Godfrey

The book of Psalms remains an important object of study on the part of Christians and the Christian church. Every year new books about and commentaries on the Psalms appear. This year is no exception. No doubt with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, books will appear relating the two, since the Reformation was also a return to this OT songbook for the church.

Reformation Trust has recently published a new book on the Psalms, Learning to Love the Psalms (March, 2017; 263 pp.). It is written by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, president of Westminster Seminary (Escondido, CA) and professor of church history there.

The publisher provides this summary of the title:

The Psalms are undeniably beautiful. They are also difficult, and readers often come away convinced that tremendous riches remain just beyond their grasp. In this book, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey invites us to journey with him towards a greater understanding and love for these sacred verses. The timeless elegance of the Psalms, their depth of expression, and testimony to the greatness of God have enchanted and edified God’s people for centuries. Learning to Love the Psalms is intended to help today’s Christians share in that delight.

In connection with this new book, Ligonier posted a brief video with Godfrey describing the richness of the Psalms (dated April 11, 2017). You may watch it here:

This book has been added to the PRC Seminary’s collection of books on the Psalms. It may be a title you wish to add to your personal or family library as well.

Source: The Uniqueness of the Psalms

“Let us consider well this price.” M. Luther

Luther&LearningWherefore Paul saith here that Christ first began and not we. ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ As if he said, although He found in me no good will, or right understanding, this good Lord had mercy on me. He saw me to be nothing else but wicked, going astray, contemning God, and flying from Him more and more, carried away and led captive of the devil. Thus of His mere mercy… He loved me, and so loved me that He gave Himself for me, to the end that I might be freed from the law, sin, the devil and death.

Again, these words, ‘the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ are mighty thunderings and lightnings from heaven against the righteousness of the law and all the works thereof. So great and horrible wickedness, error, darkness was in my will and understanding, that it was impossible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such an inestimable price.

Let us consider well this price, and let us behold… the Son of God, …and we shall see Him, without all comparison, to exceed and excel for creatures.

…If thou couldst rightly consider this incomparable price, thou shouldst hold as accursed all other ceremonies, vows, works, and merits before grace and after, and throw them all down to hell. For it is a horrible blasphemy to imagine that there is any work whereby thou shouldst presume to pacify God, since thou seest that there is nothing which is able to pacify Him but this inestimable price, even the death and the blood of the Son of God, one drop whereof is more precious than the whole world.

Martin Luther on Galatians 2:20 in Commentary on Galatians (Kregel, 1979), 94-95.

The Church and Her Head – Guy Waters

TT-Sept-2016On this first Lord’s Day of September I began digging into my new issue of Tabletalk, the always-profitable devotional magazine produced by Ligonier ministries. And, by the way, the daily devotions continue the study of the Gospel According to Mark.

This month the theme is “The Church,” with eight-plus articles dedicated to explaining the Reformed doctrine of the church. Editor Burk Parsons introduces it with his article “Our Family Forever,” while Dr. Guy P. Waters leads off the featured articles with his, “The Head of the Church.”

Though brief, it is a fine summary of what it means that Jesus Christ is the only Head of the church, His body. After explaining the doctrine of Christ’s headship over the church, Waters has a fine application section at the end. It is from this that we quote today.

To read the rest of his article as well as to find other articles on the church, use the link Ligonier below.

Why is the headship of Jesus Christ over His church important for the life of the church? As Christians, it is both our duty and delight to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9). Since the church is the place where Christ’s lordship is on unique display in this world, how could a believer refuse to be part of the church of Jesus Christ? Our commitment to Christ requires us to commit to His church. This commitment means that we join a local church where the Word is purely proclaimed. It also means that we honor our vows of membership. For most churches, including my own (the Presbyterian Church in America), these vows include a commitment to live godly lives, to participate in and support the “worship and work” of the church, and to “submit . . . to the church’s government and discipline.”

Resolving to submit to the church’s government and discipline is difficult and countercultural. But it is also necessary. How can we live under Christ’s lordship in this way? Those who are called to be elders in the church should remember that they serve under the authority of Christ. They are servants, not lords. They are ultimately accountable to Christ for all that they teach and do in the church. But theirs is an important office. Through their labors, Christ is visibly governing His church.

Christians obey their leaders in the church because Christ has commanded them to do so. But Christian obedience is never blind. Like the Bereans, we measure everything our leaders say against the standard of God’s Word. God alone is Lord of the conscience. For government to work properly in the church, Christians must know their Bibles well and develop the capacity to discern biblically all that they hear and see in the church. It is in this way that Christ is glorified in His church’s government.

King Jesus often does extraordinary things through ordinary means. The church’s life and government are no exception. How does your involvement in the church put on display the reign of Jesus Christ?

Source: The Head of the Church by Guy Waters

The Christian and Suffering – R.C. Sproul

TT-Aug-2016Last night in our home church (Faith PRC) our Seminary intern, Justin Smidstra, brought a comforting message to us from James 1:2-4 about our calling to rejoice in the midst of all the trials God gives us in this life.

That tied in nicely to the article I read by Dr. R.C. Sproul Sunday morning. Writing in his usual column “Right Now Counts Forever,” Sproul explained the difference between and the connection between “bearing and enduring” as found in I 1 Cor.13:7.

For our profit today as we start a new work week and begin to face the manifold trials God places on our path, I quote a section from that article. May it give us proper perspective and enable us by God’s abounding grace to “count it all joy” when we fall into these trials.

Pain and suffering tend to eat away not only at our love but also at our faith, because we begin to wonder if God is loving and if He is even real. We ask how in the world He can let this relentless pain grip our lives. That’s why it’s so important for us to keep our attention on the Word of God. We are told not to be surprised when suffering comes our way. The New Testament doesn’t say that suffering might occur—it says it’s a certainty. Remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11 when he talks about what he bore for the sake of the gospel: beatings, stonings, being left for dead, shipwrecks, days and nights at sea, fighting with wild beasts, and constantly being the target of human hostility. Why was he willing to bear those things? Because he understood the divine purpose for suffering and the divine promise not only of relief from suffering, but of the redemption of the suffering itself. In this interim between Christ’s resurrection and return, Christians are called to participate in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). By bearing and enduring pain, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and mirror and reflect Him to onlookers. Pain and suffering are opportunities to show the love that God has shed abroad in our hearts.

Source: Bearing and Enduring by R.C. Sproul

The Prayers of J. Calvin (28)

JCalvin1On this last Sunday of July 2016 we return to our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-seventh lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 7:5-11, which includes Calvin’s comments on 7:11, “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD”:

And he [God] adds, ‘In this house, which is called by my name,’ that is, which has been dedicated to Me; for to call God’s name on the Temple means nothing else but that the Temple was consecrated to Him, so that He was there worshiped.

When God is truly worshiped, they who seek Him find that He Himself is present by His grace and power. As then God commanded the Temple to be built for Him, that He might there be worshiped, He says His name was there called, that is, according to its first and sacred appointment.

Absurdly indeed did the Jews call on His name, for there was in them no religion, no piety: but according to God’s institution, His name was called upon the Temple, as He had consecrated it to Himself. Hence, God reminds them of the first institution, which was holy and ought to have continued inviolable: ‘Know ye not, that this place has been chosen by Me, that My name might there be invoked? Ye stand before Me in the holy place, and ye stand polluted; and though polluted, not with one kind of vices but My whole law has been violated by you and my Tables despised, yet yet stand!’

We hence see the design of the prophet: for he condemns the effrontery and frowardness of the Jews, because they thus dared to rush into God’s presence in all their pollutions (p.373).

And this is the prayer with which Calvin concludes this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou buildest not at this day a temple among us of wood and stones, and as the fullness of Thy Godhead dwells in Thine only-begotten Son, and as He by His power fills the whole world, and dwells in the midst of us, and even in us, – O grant, that we may not profane His sanctuary by our vices and sins, but so strive to consecrate ourselves to Thy service, that Thy name through His name may be continually glorified, until we shall at length be received into that eternal inheritance, where will appear to us openly, and face to face, that glory which we now see in the truth contained in Thy gospel. -Amen

The Literary Traits of the Bible (3) – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue to look at Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are considering the content of chapter 4, in which Ryken treats the greatest classic of literature, the Bible.

Previously, we looked at what this means in general (that the Bible is a literary classic). Then we considered some objections that can be raised when viewing the Bible this way. For the third and final time we consider some of the literary traits of the Bible, which are what Ryken discusses in the next section.

This is how he describes the third trait of the Bible as classic literature:

In addition to taking human experience as its subject matter and packaging it in familiar literary genres [the first two literary traits of the Bible], the Bible is literary in its style. Regardless of its specific genre, a literary text displays special resources of language that set it apart from ordinary expository writing. Literary writing flaunts its figures of speech, its rhetorical patterning (with techniques such as repetition and contrast), and its stylistic flair. Literary authors are wordsmiths, and their writing has an aphoristic sparkle that makes it striking and unforgettable. The Bible is the most aphoristic book that we know, and it naturally rises to the level of literary discourse as a result.

And then Ryken concludes this section with this comment and fine quote:

More could be said about the literary nature of the Bible, but all that is required here is to establish the place of the Bible in the category that this book covers, namely literary classics. A good summary statement comes from C.S. Lewis: ‘There is a… sense in which the Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be read except as literature; and the different parts of its as the different sorts of literature they are’ (Reflections on the Psalms), [pp.39-40].

Published in: on July 12, 2016 at 6:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

New and Notable Books (July 2016) – T.Challies

Calvin-Institutes-Gordon-2016To add to our book lists this week, we include this post of pastor Tim Challies from this past Monday (July 4, 2016). In it he highlights some of the new titles that are available for your reading pleasure and spiritual growth.

It is a fine variety of books – the second one here (on the history of Calvin’s Institutes) was recently added to the Seminary library. The Ephesians commentary is one I will be getting soon.

Here are Challies’ introductory words:

When it comes to good books, we are spoiled. We have access to more good books than previous generations could have even dreamed of. That is true whether we want to read Christian Living books or read deep, academic works. Here is a round-up of some of the new and notables that have come across my desk in the past few weeks.

And here are the first two on his list; visit the link below to catch the rest.

Ephesians by Richard Phillips (A Mentor Expository Commentary). Richard Phillips has written some key volumes in the Reformed Expository Commentary series—Hebrews and John—and both have been of the highest quality. There is no reason to think his volume on Ephesians in the Mentor Expository Commentary will be any different and, in fact, with comes with commendations by Derek Thomas, Guy Waters and others. Thomas says it “easily rises to the top of recommendable books on Ephesians.” Here’s hoping it quickly makes its way to Logos. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion: A Biography by Bruce Gordon. The publisher says this: “John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a defining book of the Reformation and a pillar of Protestant theology. First published in Latin in 1536 and in Calvin’s native French in 1541, the Institutes argues for the majesty of God and for justification by faith alone. The book decisively shaped Calvinism as a major religious and intellectual force in Europe and throughout the world. Here, Bruce Gordon provides an essential biography of Calvin’s influential and enduring theological masterpiece, tracing the diverse ways it has been read and interpreted from Calvin’s time to today.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Source: New and Notable Books (July 2016)

And if you don’t do some reading this summer, this will be my reaction (compliments of Calvinist Cartoons):

No-read-shock

There, now you have your Friday Fun item too. 🙂

Overcoming Legalism – Sean M. Lucas

TT-June-2016You will recall that legalism is the theme of the June Tabletalk (the subtitle says it all: “the delusion of man-made religion”). In the last full-featured article on the subject, Dr. Sean M. Lucas addresses how to overcome legalism, with the revealing subtitle – “Let No One Disqualify You.”

His answer to the sin of legalism is really simple: the gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news of who Christ is for us, what He has done for us, and what we are in Him.

Here is a part of what he has to say (worth your time reading the rest of his article too):

Pilgrim’s Progress

This gospel formation means that Christianity really isn’t about rule-keeping. To be sure, a Christian obeys God’s Word, but the way to obedience is not by focusing on keeping the rules, flying right, and doing better. At the heart of what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 is to explode the notion that righteousness is about external obedience to the law. When He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20), He tells us that the way to righteousness is not through mere external obedience. Instead, the way to a righteous life is the Spirit’s inside-out transformation as we progress in living into the gospel. As we use the means of grace—including corporate worship that centers on the Word, sacraments, prayer, and fellowship, as well as private worship—God meets us, drives the gospel into our hearts, confronts our patterns of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and makes us new.

But this sort of gospel transformation takes time. We progress in it as we are formed and shaped and molded by the Spirit’s work. As we go further up and farther in, we see more sin, confront more deception, believe more gospel, receive more divine comfort. We learn by experience and gain wisdom and insight as we turn from folly to reverence and love the Lord.

And here’s the thing: as we live in step with the Spirit, we actually live in ways that “keep the rules.” Those who bear the Spirit-fruit of love will be those who keep the two tables of the Ten Commandments. Those who bear joy will know the strength to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Those who bear peace will be whole and wholesome, not restless or anxious. And so forth. We keep the rules, not by focusing on them as merely deeds that must be done, but by focusing our hearts on Jesus, who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing by the Spirit in us to make us fulfill the law.

Source: Overcoming Legalism by Sean Michael Lucas