“What can this thought produce but comfort?” ~ J. Calvin

It’s remarkable, however, that many who brag about being a Christian are possessed by dread rather than longing for death. And so they tremble at the very mention of death, as it is were an ominous and disastrous thing. It is, of course, ordinary that our natural senses should react to the news of our own undoing. But it’s entirely inappropriate that Christians should lack within themselves the light of piety that conquers and suppresses fear by a stronger feeling of consolation.

If we remember that this unstable, vicious, corruptible, perishable, decaying, and rotten tabernacle of our flesh will be undone in order to be subsequently renewed in constant, perfect, incorruptible, and – in sum – heavenly glory, then faith will compel us to fervently desire that very death which nature dreads. If we remember that through death we are recalled from exile to dwell at home – indeed, our heavenly home – what can this thought produce but comfort?

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017). This is taken from chapter 4, “Meditation on Our Future Life”, where Calvin treats the sure hope of the believer for heaven, pp.101-102.

Comfort in Life and Death

As you have noticed, I have been absent from these “pages” for a week. That was due to circumstances surrounding care for our ailing mother, whom God delivered out of this vale of tears and shadow of death and ushered into everlasting glory this past Monday morning.

A private family funeral and committal service was held yesterday morning and a public memorial service last evening, both in dad and mom’s home church, Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

moms-obituary-2017

Watching one’s mother die is one of the hardest experiences in life but, when she is in the Lord and has the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ in her heart, it is one of the most precious experiences in life. We praise God for His mercy to our dear mother, and for His sustaining, comforting grace to us as a family.

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was timely and comforting, as this is the way mom always taught us to live – one day at a time, without fear or worry for the next. I pray it comforts your heart as it did mine, whatever your circumstance may be today.

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life!

(J.R. Miller)

“As your days–so shall your strength be!” Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life
, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day–but the bit of God’s will for that day. If we do that well–we have absolutely nothing else to do.

Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day–had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty–for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be–if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering–if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.

We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are–life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down–we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat–if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with–and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time–more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.

The Christian’s Hope in This Life – J. Calvin

Rom-7-24Therefore, the goal of believers – when they assess this mortal life and realize it’s nothing in and of itself but misery – should be to direct themselves wholly, briskly, and freely toward contemplation of their future and eternal life.

…Therefore, earthly life, when compared with heavenly life, must certainly and readily be condemned and despised. It should never be hated, except to the extent that it makes us liable to sin – though properly speaking our hatred should be toward sin, not toward life itself. Although we may be so moved with weariness and hatred of this life that we desire its end, we must be prepared to remain in it according to God’s will. And so, our weariness won’t result in complaining and impatience. For the Lord has stationed us in an outpost, and we must keep guard here until He calls us home.

…If, then, we must live and die to the Lord, let us leave to Him the decision of when our lives will end. But let us do so in such a way that we burn with desire for the end of this life, and let us remain constant in meditation on the next life. Indeed, considering our future immortality, let us scorn this life. Considering the mastery of sin in this life, let us long to give up this life as soon as it should please the Lord.

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017). This is taken from chapter 4, “Meditation on Our Future Life”, where Calvin treats the sure hope of the believer for heaven, pp.98-101.

Ascension Day and the Pilgrim’s Progress

Christian Reaches the Celestial City

christian-flees-city--destruction

After thinking about the classic The Pilgrim’s Progress the last few days, and in the light of this being Ascension Day (the church’s remembrance of Christ’s going up to heaven), it seemed fitting to post this part from the Tenth Stage of John Bunyan’s allegory, where Christian and his fellow pilgrim cross the river and enter the Celestial City.

May this encourage all true Christian pilgrim’s to continue to make their trek through every valley, over every mountain, and in battle against every enemy to the heavenly city, knowing that our great Pilgrim has gone before us, conquering and preparing (Heb.6:19-20; 12:1-2).

Now, upon the bank of the river, on the other side, they saw the two shining men again, who there waited for them. Wherefore, being come out of the river, they saluted them, saying, We are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those that shall be the heirs of salvation. Thus they went along towards the gate.

Now you must note, that the city stood upon a mighty hill; but the pilgrims went up that hill with ease, because they had these two men to lead them up by the arms: they had likewise left their mortal garments behind them in the river; for though they went in with them, they came out without them. They therefore went up here with much agility and speed, though the foundation upon which the city was framed was higher than the clouds; they therefore went up through the region of the air, sweetly talking as they went, being comforted because they safely got over the river, and had such glorious companions to attend them.

The talk that they had with the shining ones was about the glory of the place; who told them that the beauty and glory of it was inexpressible. There, said they, is “Mount Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect.” Heb. 12:22-24. You are going now, said they, to the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life, and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof: and when you come there you shall have white robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of eternity. Rev. 2:7; 3:4,5; 22:5. There you shall not see again such things as you saw when you were in the lower region upon earth; to wit, sorrow, sickness, affliction, and death; “For the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4. You are going now to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob, and to the prophets, men that God hath taken away from the evil to come, and that are now “resting upon their beds, each one walking in his righteousness.” The men then asked, What must we do in the holy place? To whom it was answered, You must there receive the comfort of all your toil, and have joy for all your sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, and tears, and sufferings for the King by the way. Gal. 6:7,8. In that place you must wear crowns of gold, and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One; for “there you shall see him as he is.” 1 John, 3:2. There also you shall serve him continually with praise, with shouting and thanksgiving, whom you desired to serve in the world, though with much difficulty, because of the infirmity of your flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and your ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the Mighty One. There you shall enjoy your friends again that are gone thither before you; and there you shall with joy receive even every one that follows into the holy place after you. There also you shall be clothed with glory and majesty, and put into an equipage fit to ride out with the King of Glory. When he shall come with sound of trumpet in the clouds, as upon the wings of the wind, you shall come with him; and when he shall sit upon the throne of judgment, you shall sit by him; yea, and when he shall pass sentence upon all the workers of iniquity, let them be angels or men, you also shall have a voice in that judgment, because they were his and your enemies. Also, when he shall again return to the city, you shall go too with sound of trumpet, and be ever with him. 1 Thess. 4:14-17; Jude 14,15; Dan. 7:9,10; 1 Cor. 6:2,3.

Now, while they were thus drawing towards the gate, behold a company of the heavenly host came out to meet them: to whom it was said by the other two shining ones, These are the men that have loved our Lord when they were in the world, and that have left all for his holy name; and he hath sent us to fetch them, and we have brought them thus far on their desired journey, that they may go in and look their Redeemer in the face with joy. Then the heavenly host gave a great shout, saying, “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.” Rev. 19:9. There came out also at this time to meet them several of the King’s trumpeters, clothed in white and shining raiment, who, with melodious noises and loud, made even the heavens to echo with their sound. These trumpeters saluted Christian and his fellow with ten thousand welcomes from the world; and this they did with shouting and sound of trumpet.

This done, they compassed them round on every side; some went before, some behind, and some on the right hand, and some on the left, (as it were to guard them through the upper regions,) continually sounding as they went, with melodious noise, in notes on high; so that the very sight was to them that could behold it as if heaven itself was come down to meet them. Thus, therefore, they walked on together; and, as they walked, ever and anon these trumpeters, even with joyful sound, would, by mixing their music with looks and gestures, still signify to Christian and his brother how welcome they were into their company, and with what gladness they came to meet them. And now were these two men, as it were, in heaven, before they came to it, being swallowed up with the sight of angels, and with hearing of their melodious notes. Here also they had the city itself in view; and they thought they heard all the bells therein to ring, to welcome them thereto. But, above all, the warm and joyful thoughts that they had about their own dwelling there with such company, and that for ever and ever; oh, by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed! Thus they came up to the gate.

Now when they were come up to the gate, there was written over it, in letters of gold, “blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

Then I saw in my dream, that the shining men bid them call at the gate: the which when they did, some from above looked over the gate, to wit, Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, etc., to whom it was said, These pilgrims are come from the City of Destruction, for the love that they bear to the King of this place; and then the pilgrims gave in unto them each man his certificate, which they had received in the beginning: those therefore were carried in unto the King, who, when he had read them, said, Where are the men? To whom it was answered, They are standing without the gate. The King then commanded to open the gate, “That the righteous nation (said he) that keepeth the truth may enter in.”  Isa. 26:2.

Now I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured; and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honor. Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, “enter ye into the joy of your lord.”

I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb, for ever and ever.”

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal.

There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

This quotation is taken from the online edition found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Save

Comfort in God’s Sure Covenant

evening-thoughts-winslowOn this sobering Monday, reflecting on the brevity of life and our hope in Christ, the evening meditation for April 30 from Octavius Winslow’s book Evening Thoughts is certainly fitting.

Taking his thoughts from the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 23:5, Winslow wrote:

God sometimes comforts the cast-down, by bringing them to rest in the fullness and stability of the covenant.

…What a cloud was now resting upon his [David’s] tabernacle! How bitter were the waters he was now drinking! But see how God comforted him. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”

Believer, this covenant is equally yours. You have the same individual interest in it that David had. The ‘sure mercies’ of the true David are yours, as they were those of ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel.’ In the midst of domestic trial – family changes – thwarted designs – blighted hopes, God has made with you in the hands of Jesus, its Surety and Mediator, ‘an everlasting covenant.’

In it your whole history is recorded by Him who knows the end from the beginning. All the events of your life, all the steps of your journey, all your sorrows and your comforts, all your needs and your supplies, are ordained in that covenant which is ‘ordered in all things.’ While mutability is a constituent element of everything temporal – ‘passing away’ written upon life’s loveliest landscape, and upon the heart’s dearest treasure – this, and this alone, remains sure and unchangeable.

Let, then, the covenant be your comfort and your stay, your sheet-anchor in the storm, the bow in your cloud, upon which God invites you to fix your believing eyes; yes, all your salvation and all your desire, though He makes not domestic comfort to grow.

Note: to find this book in print, go here or here; to find it online, go here.

Confidence in God and Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”

Everything that could go wrong did. The plague had come to his city. Their infant daughter died within a few short months of her birth. He had felt the pain of betrayal. He was still reeling from the throes of a war, with both sides feeling as if he had somehow let them down. He had started a movement that was nearly drowning him. This was one of the most difficult years of his life. The year was 1527, and Martin Luther wondered if he could survive it.

Time-for-confidence-nichols-2016-2So begins Stephen J. Nichols in the second chapter of his new book,  A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society (Reformation Trust, 2016). The title of this second chapter is “Confidence in God.”

In that light, Nichols asks and answers the question, What was Luther’s response to these dark days he was experiencing? Quite simply, he trusted in God! How did he demonstrate this trust? By writing one of the great hymns of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

As Nichols goes on to say,

Luther knew the reality of human limitations. He was nearly omnicompetent, a driven individual. He was a larger-than-life personality. Yet, he knew his own limitations. In 1527, as stormy events surrounded him, he knew he needed to look beyond himself, past his own strength and ability. He knew that God alone is our ‘mighty fortress,’ our ‘bulwark never failing.’ He knew how futile it would be to trust in our own strength.

To which the author adds this wonderful summary of Luther’s theology tucked away in that grand hymn:

The point of this entire book is captured in this one hymn from Martin Luther. Luther based the hymn on Psalm 46, which thunders, ‘The God of Jacob is our fortress.’ That phrase is not abstract; it is richly textured. This is the God of Jacob. We know of the foibles of Jacob. We also know of God’s tender and never-ending care of Jacob. This is the God who sees, hears, knows and cares. This is not a far-off, aloof God. This God who cared for Jacob is our fortress. This phrase from Psalm 46 prompted Luther to think of all the benefits that belong to us.

From there, Nichols takes each line from that majestic song (“Who is on our side? “The Man of God’s own choosing.” What abides? God’s Word abideth still.” And the last line; “His kingdom is forever.”), ending with these thoughts:

That is the resounding truth that anchored Luther in the storms of 1527. It is God. It is His Son. It is His Word. It is His Spirit. It is His kingdom. This is what matters [pp.21-23].

The question for us is, Does it matter for us too, in these days? And will it matter in those times of difficulty and persecution that are sure to come? Ponder the truths of Psalm 46 and have confidence in God, as Luther did. The God of Jacob is with us and for us.

God is the Lord: Implication #2 – H. Hoeksema

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHAnd here is implication #2 (see previous post) from Herman Hoeksema’s Oct.26, 1941 radio message broadcast on the Reformed Witness Hour, “God is the Lord”, treating the absolute Lordship (sovereignty) of God.

As we live in the conscious faith that God is the Lord, a second practical implication of his lordship is that we will be without fear and terror in the world, because we will live the tranquil assurance that all things must ‘work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom.8:28).

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who manifested his love toward us in  the death of his Son and who surely will give us all things with him, is the Lord of all. He holds the reins. Whatever happens, he will surely save his church. As the church makes her voyage across the seas of the centuries, tempests may rage furiously, and the waves may rise mountain high, but we know that our God is Lord of the tempest and that the waves must do his bidding. In the world we may have to suffer tribulation, but God is the Lord of the tribulation, and we may even glory in it. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

Therefore, we will not be afraid

Though hills amidst the sea be cast,
Though foaming waters roar,
Yea, though the mighty billows shake
The mountains on the shore.
(versification of Psalm 46:2,3 [from PRC Psalter])

Nor will we fear though the nations rage furiously, and though we hear of wars and rumors of wars; yes, though all hell break loose and all the powers of darkness set themselves against us, we will not be afraid but be of good cheer, for we know that we have a covenant with the only potentate and that we are of the party of the living God, who only does wondrous things. The Lord of hosts is his name (p.31-32 in Knowing God & Man, RFPA, 2006)

In God We Trust – RFPA Blog

us-motto-in-godHere is another biblical and comforting perspective for us to take as we await the results of today’s election.

Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of the Doon (IA) PRC penned this post, which appeared today on the blog of the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

We quote from the middle of the post; find the rest at the RFPA link above or below.

What are we as Christians to think as we stand in line to vote, as we sit around the computer monitor awaiting the results, as we go about our callings in the next days and weeks?

Remember, Christ is King! In Psalm 2:6, after describing the raging of the heathen, God says, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” That King is the risen and exalted Lord Jesus who rules over all things, both great and small, upon the earth. And he does so for his Zion, his church.

Our confidence is that King Jesus rules today over the election. What determines the outcome of the election is not the candidates and their campaign staff, not the Democratic or Republican parties, not even the American people. The King of kings governs this country and this election, and he will be the one to determine sovereignly who will occupy the oval office for the next four years.

King Jesus will rule over this election guided by the eternal counsel of God. His determining of the next President will serve the grand purpose of God in leading all things to the goal of his glory in his second coming, the judgment of the ungodly, and the salvation of the church.

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — In God We Trust

The Origin (and Security) of the Church – John Muether

TT-Sept-2016As we have noted here before, this month’s Tabletalk carries the theme of “The Church,” with eight-plus (brief) articles dedicated to explaining the Reformed doctrine of the church.

As we contemplate the Lord’s Day tomorrow and prepare to exercise our place in Christ’s body, part of which is worship, we may benefit from the thoughts of Dr. John R. Muether (professor of church history and dean of libraries at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL and an OPC ruling elder).

He wrote an article on “The Origin of the Church” and, strikingly (for our doctrinally weak age), roots the church in the eternal counsel of God, specifically, the covenant of redemption and sovereign election in and by the Triune God.

He has some excellent points by way of application of this truth, two of which I include here – his closing paragraphs. Deep thoughts, but rich thoughts. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is supremely practical and comforting, as you will see again. And that, in turn, should lead us to deep praise to our Savior God.

The eternal counsel of peace highlights the Son as the “surety” of the covenant, and so we find in Christ alone the hope and security of the church. “All that the Father gives to me will come to me,” Christ assures us, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). The “peace” of this covenant is purchased for us according to Christ’s priestly office, maintained and defended by His kingly office, and revealed by His prophetic office. Because the God who decrees the church is the same God who sustains the church, the future of the church is in God’s hands. This encourages us to see the church with the eyes of faith. It is bigger and stronger than its frail and precarious human expression suggests. Though despised and disparaged by this world, the church is the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8) that will prevail against all of her enemies.

Finally, the eternal origin of the church provides our assurance of faith. Commenting on God’s words in Jeremiah 31:3 (“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”), Geerhardus Vos famously wrote, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” That everlasting love finds expression in the covenant of redemption. As the Heidelberg Catechism beautifully puts it, the church is “a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (Q&A 54).

Source: The Origin of the Church by John Muether

Note to Self: Speak to Others

Note-to-self-Thorn(Recall the last one was “Listen to Others.”)

Begin by reading and reflecting on Hebrews 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

Are you connected to others in such a way that affords you opportunities to speak into their lives? Just as God has put people near you to speak to you for your God, so he has intended to use you to speak words of grace to others. The questions are – are you connected, and are you speaking?

…At times you feel as if you have little to say, or that your words are too simple and not deep enough. But when you doubt that you have anything to offer, you question God’s ability to use you beyond your own weakness. Your usefulness in the lives of others is not dependent on your intellectual or creative abilities, though God will use your talents whatever they are. Your usefulness to God and his people is connected with your dependence on God and his Word and your love for his people.

The people around you need to hear from you. Share God’s Word with those who need to hear it.

Taken from Chap.24 “Speak to Others” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.85-86.