The Gospel Cure for Dishonor of God and Neighbor

Into our second week of this month, it is time to get acquainted with the February issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier ministry’s monthly devotional magazine. The theme this time is “Honor,” perhaps one we might dismiss lightly; but we ought not, as the twelve special articles developing this theme demonstrate. Those special articles treat such subjects as “What is Honor?”, “Honoring Marriage,” “Honoring Parents,”The Blessing of Honor,” and “What If Honor Is Lost Altogether?”

Burk Parsons gives us a “foretaste” of honor’s importance in his sobering editorial “The Disappearance of Honor.” Here is some of what he has to communicate:

It should not surprise us that many young people are leaving and despising the church when their parents have long dishonored weekly congregational Lord’s Day worship, dishonored their own membership vows to the church, and dishonored their elders, pastors, and fellow congregants. Nor should it surprise us how many who profess faith in Christ have such little regard for the sacred Word of God when so many pastors have exchanged the preaching of the Word of God in season and out of season for watered-down, attractional, sociocultural, pop-psychological anecdotes and stories combined with ear-tickling, emotionalistic entertainment. Such preaching honors only the pastor and not the God of Scripture. Although honor may be rapidly disappearing in the world, we must never let it disappear from our hearts, homes, or churches that we might always honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17) and honor our Lord whose honor will not be mocked.

One of the featured articles I have chosen to highlight in this post is the one by David W. Hall – “Honoring God.” As he shows, this is where all honor begins and ends. Read and reflect on these thoughts, and then read more to strengthen yourself in the duty to “show honor to whom honor is due,” beginning with the Great Sovereign of heaven and earth.

Romans 1:21 vividly depicts what happens when honor disappears. This clear verse is a mirror that shows what honor is and what it is not and how honoring God is tied to our essential moral fabric. Yes, morality begins with theology. Though the dishonorable retain some spiritual sense, Paul, in fleshing out the doctrine of total depravity, lists some of the consequences of dishonoring God, including not giving thanks, becoming “futile in their thinking,” and having “their foolish hearts . . . darkened.”

Note that verse’s three degenerative components. First, not honoring God is compared to not giving thanks. Thanks is the expressed gratitude for another. Honor, thus, is a more comprehensive concept than gratitude. Nonetheless, they are united here. Failing to give God thanks often, sincerely, and regularly reveals that one does not, practically speaking, view God as one’s superior.

A second consequence is that when one fails the “Honor-God-by-Thanking Test,” things neither remain neutral nor improve. Indeed, failing to honor God negatively affects one’s cognition; one’s very thinking becomes futile or dysfunctional. Disobeying God by dishonoring Him leads to systemic deterioration.

Third, not only one’s mind but one’s heart and emotions become blurred, confused, and darkened. Once again, something as basic as honor, if absent, harms our rationality and emotions.

The only cure is found in Romans 1:16. The gospel is the power of God that changes us from self-absorbed egotists into those who want instead to exalt and honor our Sovereign.

Should there be a recovery of honor, we might find increasing order, flowering humility, and revived civility. Maybe, rather than exalting ourselves to be like the Most High (Isa. 14), we can excel in giving honor to those whom we are called to honor—and, above all, to God.

To continue reading this article, visit the link below. To read more in the issue, visit the Tabletalk link above.

Source: Honoring God

WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – WORLD

As we near the end of the year of our Lord 2018, it is good to reflect on all that has transpired according to the sovereign plan and providence of our almighty God in this year. That, after all, is what we believe all the events of history are – the unfolding of our God’s perfect plan through His mighty providential hand. And, we also add this, that all these events of history – of 2018 too – are for the salvation of Christ’s church and the good of His redeemed and renewed people.

Many news sources produce year-end summaries of the year’s major stories, which are useful in helping us to reflect on the more significant events of the year. World Magazine (a Christian news source) has also produced its summary of the major stories it reported online throughout 2018. It included this list of 25 items today as part of its “Saturday Series” (which often feature books, writing, reading), and I thought it worth your while to point you to it here.

What follows here is the little blurb that introduced the list; after that I post here the last five news items (which were published at the “top” of the list on their website).

In 2018, WORLD’s online readers were drawn to major cover stories and timely features from the magazine, daily news reports from The Sift, and insightful Saturday Series essays. But issues related to marriage, family, and sexuality were often foremost in the minds of our readers this past year, as the website’s weekly Relations roundup makes multiple appearances in our countdown of the 25 articles that grabbed your attention the most.

25. A long way from home

Before getting lost in a cave, Adul Sam-on found direction for his future at a Thai church and school

by Angela Lu Fulton
July 13 | WORLD Magazine | Features

24. Moody Bible Institute leaders resign amid turmoil

Moody Bible Institute announced Wednesday the resignation of President J. Paul Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck amid ongoing turmoil following staffing cuts

by Leigh Jones
Jan. 11 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

23. Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

The elders of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago said in a letter Saturday they could have done a better job holding former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels accountable for inappropriate behavior toward women

by Lynde Langdon
April 23 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

22. Facing cultural storms

Six trends that are rapidly reshaping the lives of American Christians

by John S. Dickerson
Nov. 24 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

21. Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

by Leigh Jones
March 13 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

Find the other 20 top stories at the link below.

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – Media – WORLD

Evaluating the Christian’s Engagement with the World – James D. Hunter

Change-world-Hunter-2010In this essay, I consider the ways in which Christians in much of their diversity actually think about the creation mandate today, examining the implicit theory and explicit practices that operate within this complex and often conflicted religious and cultural movement. Let me emphasize that I am not just talking about Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, in spite of the fact that they have been the loudest, most energetic, and most demanding of all Christians in recent decades. This essay and the ones that follow are concerned with Christianity in its variety – at least much of it: conservatives as well as moderate and progressive, Protestant as well as Catholic. The subject of these essays is the social imaginary that serves as a backdrop for the ways in which the majority of those in America who call themselves Christian engage the world. I contend that the dominant ways of thinking about culture and cultural change are flawed, for they are based on both specious social science and problematic theology. In brief, the model on which various strategies are based not only does not work, but it cannot work. On the basis of this working theory, Christians cannot ‘change the world’ in a way that they, even in their diversity, desire. But that is just the beginning; the entry point for a longer reflection on the Christian faith and its engagement with the world.

Such is the way James Davison Hunter introduces his main subject and theme in his significant book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010), p.5. His opening chapter, the end of which is quoted above, is part of his first essay titled “Christianity and World-Changing.” A friend and educator put me on to this book (a copy of which we have in the PRC Seminary library), so I have begun to dig into it. It is not a light read, but that is good; I will enjoy the challenge. This is worthwhile “meat” to chew on.

After reviewing the contemporary models for “changing the world,” the author ends the second part of that first essay with these words:

At the end of the day, the message is clear: even if not in the lofty realms of political life that he [the British social reformer William Wilberforce] was called to, you too can be a Wilberforce. In your own sphere of influence, you too can be an Edwards, a Dwight, a Booth, a Lincoln, a Churchill, a Dorothy Day, a Martin Luther King, a Mandela, a Mother Teresa, a Vaclav Havel, a John Paul II, and so on. If you have the courage and hold to the right values and if you think Christianly with an adequate Christian worldview, you too can change the world [p.16-17].

But here’s the rub according to Hunter: “This account is almost wholly mistaken.”

How so is what we will examine with him in the months to come. Be prepared to put your “thinking caps” on! 🙂

Final Remembrances of Life in Beulah Land – B. Catton

waiting-train-catton-1987For our Thursday history post today we take you back one more time to Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987), the multifaceted story of his life growing up in northern Michigan, specifically, Benzonia.

The author ends the book with his final reminiscences about his last year at the Benzonia Academy in 1915-16, when “life was extremely pleasant and singularly uneventful.” (p.235) Part of that pleasantness was the Sunday afternoon walks he and his friends would take. His memories are quite descriptive, though he writes that “when I try to recall that time I remember hardly anything specific.” (p.235)

But I enjoyed his “vague” description anyway, as this part of Chapter 12 (“Night Train”) shows. It is clear how much this little Christian community shaped him and his world. This final quotation brings together much of what we have looked in this fascinating book.

…I remember the spring sunlight lying on the campus, and the academy buildings taking on dignity and looking as if they were going to be there forever – which, alas, they were not; I remember the band practice, and the orchestra practice, and the long, aimless walks we took on Sundays, tramping off the last vestiges of childhood, seeing things for the last time without realizing that it was the last time, unaware that once you leave youth behind you see everything with different eyes and thereby make the world itself different.

We would go across country to the power dam on the Betsie River, or along the shore of Crystal Lake to the outlet; and sometimes we went down the long hill to Beulah and then crossed the low ground to go up Eden Hill, a big shoulder of land that defined the horizon to the east. …Eden Hill and Beulah Land, named by godly settlers for the Paradise where the human race got into the world and the Paradise it will enter when it goes out; or so people believed, although we lived then in the present and asked for no Paradise beyond what we had then and there.

From the summit of Eden Hill you could look far to the north and west, across the Platte Lakes to the limitless blue plain of Lake Michigan, with Sleeping Bear crouched, watchful, in the distance and the Manitou Islands on the skyline. Beyond the green weeded country to the east, hidden by the rolling easy ridges, was the lumber town of Honor, and if we felt like making a really long walk out of it we could go on over to Honor, walk around the mill and its piled logs – they were still carving up some last allotment of first-growth wood, although most of the country’s mills were stilled – and then we could tramp the long miles home by way of Champion’s Hill.

Crystal-lake-1937

Published in: on September 20, 2018 at 10:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

An ‘Ordinary’ Life Driven by Our Hope in Christ

There are two kinds of prosperity gospels. One promises personal health, wealth, and happiness. Another promises social transformation. In both versions, the results are up to us. We bring God’s kingdom to earth, either to ourselves or to society, by following certain spiritual laws or moral and political agendas. Both forget that salvation comes from above, as a gift of God. Both forget that because we are baptized into Christ, the pattern of our lives is suffering leading to glory in that cataclysmic revolution that Christ will bring when he returns. Both miss the point that our lives and the world as they are now are not as good as it gets. We do not have our best life or world now.

…The difficult place to stand is at that precarious intersection of this present age, which is captive to sin and death, and the age to come, which is the fruit of Christ’s victory that the Spirit is planting, tending, and spreading in our hearts and in our world through the gospel. The garden is growing, but like a bright patch weather-beaten by the conflict between these two ages. The hot winds blow hard against us, but the Spirit’s cool breeze of grace keeps the garden blossoming and spreading across the desert.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 11,  “After Ordinary: Anticipating the Revolution” (p.205) of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I have now completed, having received great profit and rich satisfaction.

This last chapter deals with our Christian hope in connection with that ‘ordinary’ life the author has been at pains to explain in this book. But, as this final chapter shows once again, the believer’s ‘ordinary’ life is anything but, in view of what is to come when Jesus returns. Living the “already/not-yet” paradox of our glorification, we learn that our life in Christ now and in the future truly is ‘extra-ordinary.’

Perhaps we shall cull one more gem from this book and chapter before we take leave of it.

For God and Country – The U.S. 4th of July 2018

For our Reformed reflection on this Independence Day 2018, I reference again (I did so also in 2012) a pamphlet with the above title written by Rev. Aud Spriensma, a home missionary-pastor of Byron Center (MI) PRC and former chaplain in the U.S. Army. This pamphlet is based on a speech he gave shortly after the traumatic event of 9/11 in this country, when patriotism not only ran high, but when there also seemed to be a greater national consciousness of God and an openness to the gospel (which quickly waned).

As one who has served our country as a military chaplain and who serves the church as a Reformed pastor, Rev.Spriensma is qualified and equipped to address the calling we Reformed Christians have toward “God and country”. Hence, his speech and the printed pamphlet that followed.

I will quote only a small portion of it (different from the previous time); you may find the entire pamphlet here. It would make for good reading and discussion at some point today. May we remember today, as we celebrate our nations 242nd birthday, that we are to live as those who are both for God and for country – true Reformed patriots.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the Fourth Book, especially chapter 20, John Calvin argues against the notion that government is a polluted thing with which the Christian has nothing to do. Calvin writes: “The political state has indeed functions directly connected with religion. Government protects and supports the worship of God, promotes justice and peace, and is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven; as necessary as bread and water, light and air; and more excellent in that it makes possible the use of these and secures higher blessings to men.”

Notice how important government is. Rather than disparaging it as something corrupt and something to be avoided, John Calvin says it “is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage … as necessary as bread and water, as light and air, and more excellent…” Over against the Anabaptists, Calvin insisted that government is not of Satan, but is God-given, a benevolent provision for man’s good, for which man should give God thanks.

We need to hear that. Perhaps our cynicism has not been as great since 9/11. But cynicism is always there. Now several years later, when we discover that the reasons we went to war were flawed, the cynicism is rampant. We are able to find all kinds of abuses in government and then laugh and put government down. As believers, we need rather to give thanks to God for government. John Calvin writes in his Institutes, “the function of the magistrate is a sacred ministry, and to regard it as incompatible with religion is an insult to God.”

Politics is a rotten, dirty business? Patriotism is an idolatry? Absolutely not! Rather, we must insist that it is only the child of God who can really be patriotic; the Christian makes the best citizen because he obeys for God’s sake. He is subject to the powers that be because he loves God. Not only is it true that a Christian should be patriotic, but ultimately it is only the Christian who is truly patriotic. That is the kind of patriotism that should be taught to our children.

March “Tabletalk”: Loving the Neighbor and Resisting the Spirit of Our Age

TT-March-2018We have not yet introduced the March 2018 issue of Tabletalk and tonight affords us the opportunity.

This month’s issue has as its theme “Loving Our Neighbors.” Editor Burk Parsons leads us into a good understanding of the subject and of our calling as Christians in his editorial “Enabled to Love.” Here is part of what he has to say:

Although we often hear about loving God, we don’t as often hear about loving our neighbor. And while we can certainly distinguish between these commandments, we cannot ultimately separate them, for we cannot claim to love God while at the same time hating our neighbor. If we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. What’s more, those who attempt to narrowly restrict the identity of who our neighbor is must remember that Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–45). As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called not only to love our neighbor but to love our enemies, and sometimes they are one and the same. Just as our love for one another demonstrates that we are disciples of Christ (John 13:35), our love for our enemies demonstrates that we are sons of our Father. If we belong to the Lord, we will love the Lord, because He first loved us—enabling us to love Him and our neighbor to such a degree that we would pray for and speak the truth in love to our neighbor. We love our neighbor in the hope that he might know the truth of God and, by His grace, turn to the Lord in faith, believing the gospel as the Spirit enables him to love the Lord and his neighbor, even sinful, albeit justified, neighbors like us.

Subsequent articles in the issue address who our neighbor is and why we should love him, loving ourselves, loving our family, loving the church, loving our communities, loving the unlovely, and Christ and the love of neighbor. Profitable subject, indeed.

It is, however, another rubric article that I wish to draw attention to this evening. Under the rubric “City on a Hill,” Matthew Roberts writes about “Resisting the Spirit of the Age.” In it he tackles the “new” religion of today’s secularists who claim to have freedom from religion. He shows that while they argue that they are free of all gods (especially the Christian one!) and all religious beliefs and practices, in reality they have simply taken another idol god and practice another false religion.

What follows is part of what he says by way of Christian response:

So, then, this is the spirit of our age. How are we to respond? In the same way, of course, that Christians in every age are called to respond to the reigning idols of their day. Let’s go back to Paul in Acts 17.

First, we must get God right (vv. 24–25, 29). The God of the Bible is the only, the true, the ultimate God. There are no fundamentals of human civilization deeper than Him. We must see the secular version of “freedom” not as our friend or a safeguard for our private religion, but as a false, invented deity to be decried and to be denied the worship it desires. There will be no defeating of identity politics and all the horrors of our secular age in any other way.

Second, we must get history right. The “progress” of “freedom” assumed by our age is an illusion and a lie. Rather, history is leading unstoppably from the resurrection of Christ to His return to judge the world (v. 31). The story of now is the story of the risen Christ calling people to turn from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9–10). We live waiting for that day. We therefore need to lose our fear of persecution. It is to be expected for those who refuse to worship the idols of this age. But it will be temporary, and at its end is a crown of glory.

Third, we must get the gospel right. For too long, conservative Christians have presented the gospel as if it were an option, one of the ways in which those who hear us may exercise their (unquestioned) service of the god “freedom.” But the Bible never speaks in this way. Rather, God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). We don’t ask the world to give people permission to worship the Christian God; we proclaim to the world the imperative to worship the Christian God. And attached to that imperative is the promise of mercy to all who come to do so through Christ.

We resist the spirit of the age by refusing to worship the idols of the age. And we do this by trusting, obeying, and worshiping the one true God of this and every age, who has called us to know Him forever through His Son and by His Spirit.

This tied in well with our pastor’s sermon this morning on the first article of our Christian faith: “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” He explained the Heidelberg Catechism’s beautiful explanation of this truth in Lord’s Day 9:

Q. 26.  What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father;3 on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

What a blessing of God’s grace to know and trust in this one true God, who has revealed Himself to us in His Word and in all His daily providences as our loving Father – for Christ Jesus’ sake!

Ordinary Callings: Cultural Transformation or Loving Service ? M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014The above is the heading of a section of Michael Horton’s book Or-di-nary (see details below), in which he contrasts the gospel’s call to “ordinary” Christian service in the church and in the world, based on Christ’s saving work for believers and the Holy Spirit’s work in them, with the popular idea of transforming society or culture.

Here are a few of his significant thoughts (He makes five of them):

First, the call to radical transformation of society can easily distract faith’s gaze from Christ and focus it on ourselves. Such people hold that the gospel has to be something more than the good news concerning Christ’s victory. It has to expand to include our good works rather than to create the faith that bears the fruit of good works. The church has to be something more than the place where God humbles himself, serving sinners with his redeeming grace. It has to be the home base for our activism, more than being the site of God’s activity from which we are sent and scattered like salt into the world.

…Far too many people hold that it’s not who we are that determines what we do, but what we do that determines who we are. Community service becomes something more than believers simply loving their neighbors through their ordinary callings in the world. It becomes part of the church’s missionary task. It’s not what we hear and receive, but what we are and do that gives us a sense of identity and purpose. We need something more than the gospel to trust in – or at least the gospel has to be something more than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners Apparently, Jesus got the ball rolling, but we are his partners in redeeming the world.

Instead of following the example of John the Baptist, who pointed away from himself to ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29), we offer our own lives and transformations as the good news. But this is to deny the gospel and therefore to cut off the power of true godliness and neighbor love at its root.

And in his next point he makes this solid point:

Second, radical views of cultural transformation actually harm our callings in this world. The most basic problem is that it reverses the direction of God’s gift giving.  According to Scripture, God gives us life, redeems us, justifies us, and renews us. He does this by his Spirit, through the gospel – not just in the beginning, but throughout our lives. Hearing this gospel, from Genesis to Revelation, is the means by which the Spirit creates faith in our hearts. United to Christ, our faith immediately begins to bear the fruit of evangelical repentance and good works. We offer these not to God for reimbursement, but to our neighbors for their good. If we reverse this flow of gifts, nobody wins. God is offended by our presumption that we could add something more to the perfect salvation he has won for us in his Son. We are therefore on the losing side of the bargain, and our neighbors are too, since our works are directed to God on our behalf rather than to our neighbor on God’s behalf.

Taken from chapter 8 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is strikingly titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.155-57.

Apologetics: “Enabling people to glimpse something of the glory and beauty of God.” – A. McGrath

Where does theology come into apologetics [the defense of our Christian faith and practice]?

…First, a proper understanding of Christian theology gives us a mental map which allows us to locate the resources and tasks of apologetics. Apologetics is often presented simply as a technique for winning arguments. …Yet a right understanding of apologetics, resting on a secure theological foundation, insists that God is involved in the apologetic enterprise. It is unthinkable to dissociate the grace of God from the understanding of commending God. To think of apologetics in terms solely of human techniques and arguments is to run the risk of lapsing into some form of Pelagianism, which neglects, perhaps even denies, God’s presence, power and persuasion in the past of apologetics.

Furthermore, the apologetic task cannot be limited to developing arguments. In some way we must realize that apologetics involves enabling people to glimpse something of the glory and beauty of God. It is these, not slick arguments, that will ultimately convert and hold people. True apologetics engages not only the mind but also the heart and the imagination, and we impoverish the gospel if we neglect the impact it has on all of our God-given faculties.

…Arguments do not convert. …[A]pologetics is not about developing manipulative human techniques but about recognizing and coming to rely on the grace and glory of God. [pp.87-89]

PassionateIntellectbookTaken from Chapter 6, “The Tapestry of Faith: Theology and Apologetics”, in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.

WORLD’s Top 25 articles and columns for 2017

As we end the year of your Lord 2017, we reflect on the many events that have transpired in our lives, in our churches, and in our nations.

We know that nothing happens by chance or without purpose, but all by the hand of our almighty Father and all for the good of His people and the glory of His name.

World magazine has posted its top 25 articles for this year (part of its “Saturday Series”), and it is worth remembering these stories and how they impact us as believers. And, of course, we remember these stories and reflect on them in the light of God’s Word, our spiritual lens for all things that happen.

Here is World’s brief introduction, followed by three stories from the list. Use the link below to read the rest.

In 2017, we witnessed tragedy and scandal. We celebrated a theological anniversary and said goodbye to a gifted Reformed communicator. As Christians, we responded to issues concerning our origins and the way God made us. As Americans, we fought for our rights to life and liberty. WORLD covered these stories throughout the year in our magazine, on our website, and on our podcast. Here are the Top 25 articles and columns that grabbed your attention the most.

6. Burying vs. burning

A preference and a proposal for Christians to choose burial instead of cremation

by John Piper 
July 8 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

5. Esther’s story

In a state known for legal assisted suicide, one terminally ill young woman instead chose to live each God-given day to its fullest

by Sophia Lee
Oct. 14 | WORLD Magazine | Features

4. Walt’s story

Walt Heyer is a man again, and he has a manly purpose: protect the vulnerable from the transgender movement

by Sophia Lee
April 15 | WORLD Magazine | Features

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles and columns for 2017