January 2019 Tabletalk: Commemorating the Synod of Dordt

We are overdue in noting the January 2019 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries monthly devotional magazine. This month’s issue is a special one for all Reformed Christians and true Calvinists, for it is a tribute to the 400th anniversary of the great Synod of Dordt (1618-19).

Editor Burk Parsons gives a fine introduction to the theme with his “Five New Points of Old Heresy.” Here are a few of his thoughts:

If indeed we are Christians, we will care what we believe and, therefore, what we confess in our creed, for what we believe is the very basis of whether we are biblically orthodox or whether we’re heretics. The historic Reformed creeds and confessions summarize and systematically articulate what the Word of God teaches us, to the end that we might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If we care about what we believe, we will care about the historic creeds and confessions of the church, and we will care about what happened in the Netherlands four hundred years ago and how the Reformed church responded.

Tonight we also wish to call attention to the first featured article, which is penned by noted Reformed historian Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. He writes the article linked below, “The Reason for Dort.” He provides a historical overview of the synod and its work, demonstrating why this “great synod” was necessary. That reason was chiefly the false teachings of James Arminius and his followers, known as Arminians, which made a defense of the absolute sovereignty of God and His saving grace so crucial.

We pull a few paragraphs from his article, encouraging you to read the rest at the link below.

The Dutch Calvinists decided that the synod should be more than simply a national synod. They invited representatives from most of the Reformed churches of Europe to attend and to be full voting members of the synod. The result was the greatest and most ecumenical gathering of Reformed churches ever held. (Lest my Presbyterian friends feel that I am slighting the Westminster Assembly, let me remind them that that assembly was not properly a church gathering but a gathering of theologians to advise the English Parliament.)

The Synod of Dort did its work carefully and thoroughly. It met from mid-November 1618 until late May 1619, first hearing the Arminians and then, when they were uncooperative, reading their writings. The greatest accomplishment of the synod was the preparation of what are known as the Canons of Dort. These canons or rulings of Dort respond to the five points of Arminianism. Strictly speaking, Calvinism does not have only five points; rather, it has the many points that one finds in the Belgic Confession or the Westminster Confession of Faith. Calvinism has five answers to the five errors of Arminianism. The canons respond point by point to the Arminian summary presented in 1610. The synod’s first head (or chapter) is on unconditional election. The second head is on limited atonement. The synod combines the third and fourth heads to show that total depravity is maintained only when the necessity of irresistible grace is taught. The fifth head teaches the perseverance of the saints because of the preserving grace of God.

And then, after pointing out some of the synod’s other work, Godfrey ends with this:

The Synod of Dort did outstanding work that is well worth celebrating four hundred years later. It preserved the true teaching of the Bible on salvation and provided in other ways as well for the well-being of the life of the church. The synod fought the good fight to which Jude calls Christians. The fight did lead to a fracture in the church. A small minority left to form the Remonstrant Brotherhood. But as Jude makes clear, such a division is not the fault of the orthodox but the fault of those who oppose the truth (Jude 19). The great accomplishment of the synod was that it kept, taught, and defended our faith, “our common salvation” (v. 3).

Source: The Reason for Dort

Additionally, and related to this, Ligonier will soon be releasing a new work on Dordt by Godfrey. The title is Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort (Reformation Trust, Jan. 2019). This is the publisher’s description:

There has been renewed interest in the five points of Calvinism among many Christians today. But these doctrines are not a product of the twenty-first century. So where did they come from, and why are they so important? Dr. W. Robert Godfrey takes us back to 1618-19 when the Canons of Dort were written in response to a mounting theological assault on Reformed Christianity. Now, for its four-hundredth anniversary, he offers a new translation and pastoral commentary on the canons, equipping the next generation with these God-glorifying truths.

A New Year’s Resolution from M. Henry (plus Commitment to and Plans for Reading God’s Word)

New Year’s Day has traditionally been a time to make resolutions, by which one resolves (determines and promises) to do certain things in the new year that is before one. And while the people of the world make theirs today too, Christians are able to make genuine and meaningful resolutions. And there is a proper place for them in our lives, as long as we make them biblically and from the heart. (I may mention here that Burk Parsons has a fine article on this that was published yesterday on Ligonier’s website – “New Year’s Resolutions for God’s Glory, Not Our Own.”)

Today’s “Grace Gem” devotional contains the brief but beneficial resolution of Puritan pastor and commentator Matthew Henry, which may serve as a model for us. Based on Psalm 31:15, “My times are in thy hand,” it reads as follows:

Firmly believing that my times are in God’s hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year, to the wise and gracious disposal of God’s divine providence. Whether God appoints for me . . . .
health or sickness,
peace or trouble,
comforts or crosses,
life or death–
may His holy will be done!
All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus–and even my common actions. It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor–that Jesus Christ may be magnified in me.

In everything I have to do–my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength. And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in His name, to make Him my Alpha and Omega. I have all from Him–and I would use all for Him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year to me–I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon Him, His everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in Him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year–then my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus. And with a humble reliance upon His mediation, I would venture into the eternal world looking for the blessed hope. Dying as well as living–Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep me always a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity–together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for both righteousness and strength.

The devotional closes with some other profitable items, which I include here:

“Remember that your life is short, your duties are many, your assistance is great, and your reward is sure. Therefore faint not, persevere in ways of holiness–and Heaven shall make amends for all!” Thomas Brooks

~  ~  ~  ~

You may want to read J.R. Miller’s insightful one page article, “A New Year“.

~  ~  ~  ~

On this New Year’s day, you might want to ponder and seriously consider The RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards.

One thing we can and ought to commit to in 2019 is diligent reading of God’s Word. There are many good devotional plans, including in the daily devotions found online on the PRC website.

Ligonier always publishes one this time of year; you may find that here. And Crossway has a useful devotional plan to start the year that makes use of Paul Tripp’s fine book New Morning Mercies; you may find that here, as well as information on other reading plans.

And, while you are there (Crossway’s site), you might consider reading Donald Whitney’s article “Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.” Need some motivation? Here you go:

Consider the Direction of Your Life

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

December “Tabletalk”: Jesus is the Promised Messiah (and Paying Attention in Worship)

We are midway through this last month of 2018 and I have not yet referenced the December issue of Tabletalk, so tonight I will. I was able to get a lot of reading in it done today, and this new issue is once again packed with beneficial articles.

As you will see from the cover, the appropriate theme is “The Promised Messiah,” and there twelve articles based on OT passages showing how Jesus is the true Christ of God (Messiah). Editor Burk Parsons introduces the theme with his editorial “The True Israel of God,” part of which includes these important comments:

Jesus repeated, advanced, and fulfilled the history of Israel in the climax of His work. He suffered the exile of His death on the cross (Matt. 27:32–50), where He also fulfilled His role as the greater High Priest and the sacrificed Passover Lamb (26:1–13; 27:51). There, the temple of His body was destroyed (26:61; 27:40), but on the third day He was restored from the exile of death in His resurrection, raising up the temple of His body (28:1–10) and becoming the cornerstone of the new temple, His church, which is the fulfillment of God’s plan for His true people Israel (1 Peter 2:4–8). God’s sovereign plan and promise could not be thwarted, for now Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth, and is with us to the end of the age, and He will return as our King and take us to the heavenly Promised Land.

The article I focus on tonight, however, is one written by John R. Muether for one of the regular rubrics – “For the Church.” His title forms part of the title of this blog – “Paying Attention in Worship” – and follows nicely on my blog post of last night. The author has some helpful thoughts about avoiding distractions in worship and being focused on our main purpose for being present – fellowship with and adoration of our God. Here are some of his closing words – good for the end of this sabbath day (read the rest at the link below):

Single-minded attention is strange to us, even in worship, because we take pride in our ability to navigate our busyness with speed and nimbleness. In a multitasking world, Marva Dawn rightly concedes that worship is a “royal waste of time” because we are focused on something that our frenetic culture dismisses as inefficient. And yet, neuroscientists have come to the consensus that multitasking is a myth. We accomplish far less when we juggle several tasks than when we focus on one thing at a time. What is worse, our digitally enhanced distractions are becoming addictive: our brains crave constant stimulation and instant gratification. How ironic, then, that we program our phones with “alerts” and “notifications” for so-called breaking news when they have the effect of diminishing our alertness, prompting thoughtlessness and negligence to the task at hand. In sum, the spirit of our age is inimical to the careful and sustained attention that public worship demands.

Is it possible anymore to resist the persistent distractions of our digital age that obscure the message of the gospel? We need not abandon such a hope. Traditional church practices refocus our attention on the gospel and enable our worship of the transcendent God. Public worship and Sabbath keeping are the most culturally disruptive witnesses for Christians to practice. On a day designed for the soul to feast, we must resist habits that distract us and others. I am trying to go completely offline during the day. It is proving to be a great struggle, but I trust that it will awaken me from the stupor that can come from living in a culture that prizes distraction.

The stakes may be higher than we think. As distraction dulls our senses, it can lead even believers to indifference about heavenly matters. The book of Hebrews (which many commentators believe was originally a sermon) speaks powerfully to our digital age when it warns, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).

Source: Paying Attention in Worship

Loving the Word Enough to Read It – Rev. D. Hyde

For our Sunday night post, I take one more look with you at the November 2018 issue of Tabletalk with its theme of “Living by the Word,” that is, living by the Bible as God’s holy Word to us His people.

In one of the final articles on this theme, Rev. Daniel Hyde writes on the critical calling we have to love the Word of God. Indeed, we cannot live by God’s Word unless we love His Word. And, as Hyde states at the beginning of his article, we show our love for God and His Word by reading it. And he points to three ways in which we are to do that. This is the section I wish to quote here this evening.

You have heard me say here before that, while the reading of other good books is a necessity for the Christian, nothing is more important than reading and feeding on God’s book. Hyde affirms that with these three ways to do so in our lives. Meditate on these and profit from them.

Publicly. We love God by loving His Word read publicly. This was done in the ancient Jewish synagogue, as evidenced by Jesus’ entering the synagogue and performing the appointed reading from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16–24). The early church carried on this practice, as Paul tells us (1 Thess. 5:27; Col. 4:16), and continued the practice after the close of the Apostolic age. For example, Justin Martyr said, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” And Tertullian said, “We assemble to read our sacred writings . . . with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast.”

As a family. We love God by loving His Word read as a family, if the Lord provides us with a family. Moses exhorted the Israelites to teach the commandments to their children (Deut. 6:6–7). Family Bible reading is necessary to propagate the Christian religion in our children. Studies show the rising generation in American churches leaving those churches; is it any wonder when parents, especially fathers, are not taking the time to read the Word with their children? Ignorance of Scripture leads to ignorance of Christ.

Privately. We love God by loving His Word read privately. Psalm 1 speaks of the singular “man” (v. 1) who is blessed because “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (v. 2). To read the Word and meditate on the Word as a believer causes one to be like a well-watered and fruitful tree (v. 3). Psalm 119 is also the meditation of an individual believer: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). Meditating on the Word makes one wise (v. 98), makes one godly (v. 101), and gives us a spiritual delight as the Word is “sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103). This is why one writer said, “To neglect [the reading of the Word] is to despise our own souls, and deprive ourselves of the advantage of God’s instituted means of grace.” If we love God, it is our duty to read the Word of God.

To read the entire article, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Loving the Word

Where Is the Word of God? November 2018 “Tabletalk”

The November 2018 issue of Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Living by the Word of God,” an extremely important subject in our day of moral relativism and Scripture-denying doctrine, and that within the nominal church and among many professing Christians. As Christians we claim to be “people of the Book,” the Word of God. But as this issue shows, that begins with a right understanding of what this Book is, and then with a practice that matches what we confess it to be. If this Book is indeed the Word of God, then we must truly live by it. If you are in need of those reminders (and aren’t we all?!), then read on!

In addition to the daily devotions (on the gospel of John), I have been working my way through the various articles, including editor Burk Parsons article titled “Our Only Infallible Rule.” He makes a powerful point in his introductory comments on the theme:

Anyone who says the Bible is boring isn’t reading the Bible with a heart of faith, and anyone who says the Bible is easy to read isn’t really examining the Bible. The Bible never actually calls us simply to read it. It calls us to study it, examine it, search it, meditate on it, hide it in our hearts, and let it dwell in us richly. Yet many Christians seem to read the Bible as quickly as they can so that they can tell everyone they have read it. We do indeed need to read the Bible—sometimes multiple chapters and entire books in one sitting—yet we are also called to study it so that we do not simply allow the sacred Word of God to pass before our eyes without properly considering its manifold splendor. Not only that, but many professing Christians don’t read the Bible much at all. Many are looking for a special word from God while their Bibles sit on their shelves gathering dust. If we want a special word from God, we need only open the Bible and read it, and if we want to hear a special word from God, we only need read the Bible aloud. For the Bible is the special revelation of God, and it is our only infallible rule for faith and life.

The first main article I read on Sunday is the one in the title to this blog post, “Where is the Word of God?” by Dr. Michael J. Kruger. After explaining that God’s Word is “the ultimate standard for all of life,” he goes into the importance of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. But then he also issues some cautions about misunderstanding and misapplying this truth, one of which is this one:

Of course, like many core Christian convictions, the doctrine of sola Scriptura has often been misunderstood and misapplied. Unfortunately, some have used sola Scriptura as a justification for a “me, God, and the Bible” type of individualism, where the church bears no real authority and the history of the church is not considered when interpreting and applying Scripture. Thus, many churches today are almost ahistorical—cut off entirely from the rich traditions, creeds, and confessions of the church. They misunderstand sola Scriptura to mean that the Bible is the only authority rather than understanding it to mean that the Bible is the only infallible authority. Ironically, such an individualistic approach actually undercuts the very doctrine of sola Scriptura it is intended to protect. By emphasizing the autonomy of the individual believer, one is left with only private, subjective conclusions about what Scripture means. It is not so much the authority of Scripture that is prized as the authority of the individual.

The Reformers would not have recognized such a distortion as their doctrine of sola Scriptura. On the contrary, they were quite keen to rely on the church fathers, church councils, and the creeds and confessions of the church. Such historical rootedness was viewed not only as a means for maintaining orthodoxy but also as a means for maintaining humility. Contrary to popular perceptions, the Reformers did not view themselves as coming up with something new. Rather, they understood themselves to be recovering something very old—something that the church had originally believed but later twisted and distorted. The Reformers were not innovators but excavators.

Kruger has other good points that are worth your reading. Follow the link below to read his full article.

Source: Where Is the Word of God?

Rhythms of Piety – Jon D. Payne on the Importance of the Weekly Sabbath

It should be no surprise, then, that God designed the Christian life to possess rhythms of piety. These rhythms of piety include the weekly cadence of the Lord’s Day, as well as regular (even daily) times of private and family devotion (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.6).

The Lord’s Day has fallen on hard times. We need to recover the day that God Himself established to be a spiritual blessing to His church—a weekly occurrence of rest from our ordinary activities for the purpose of God-centered worship, renewal, and fellowship (Gen. 2:1–3; Ex. 20:8–11; Mark 2:27). Our loving heavenly Father set apart an entire day of the week for us to cease from our hectic schedules, to “be still, and know that [He is] God,” and to abide in Christ through the soul-nourishing means of grace (Ps. 46:10; Acts 2:42; WCF 21.5).

The weekly observance of the Sabbath— especially in the gathering of the church for morning and evening worship—is intended to be a primary rhythm of Christian discipleship in order that our faith might grow and mature (Ps. 92:1–2). It’s no wonder that Matthew Henry wrote, “The streams of religion run deep or shallow, according as the banks of the Sabbath are kept up or neglected.”

The rhythms of piety are not limited to the Lord’s Day, however. We also seek God during the week through regular Bible reading and prayer. A consistent rhythm of private and family devotions, in addition to weekly Lord’s Day observance, helps to foster a consistent and growing walk with the Lord (Deut. 6:7–9; Ps. 63; Mark 1:35; Eph. 6:4).

To neglect these rhythms of piety can leave one vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, the seductive temptations of the world, and the sinful wanderings of our own hearts. The disciplines of grace are means by which we daily put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10–20).

Dear Christian believer, perhaps it’s time to renew your commitment to the rhythms of piety.

Drawn from the weekend Tabletalk devotional for Oct.20-21 (cf. link below). After describing how God has designed and built the “beautiful and instructive rhythms of nature” into the creation, Dr. J. Payne writes about the “rhythms of piety” God has also designed and built into the Christian life.

Good food for thought as we begin this new week and seek ” a consistent and growing walk with the Lord.” Fellow believers, shall we renew our commitment to God’s “rhythms of piety”?

Source: Rhythms of Piety – October 2018

Communing with God through His Word – N. Stewart

The October 2018 issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine) has the theme “Perfectionism and Control.” The articles deal with the basic issues involving God’s sovereignty and our responsibilities in the Christian life. Some of the subjects dealt with are:

  • The Illusion of Control – T. Brewer
  • Planning for the Future While Trusting God’s Provision – M. Emlet
  • The Place of Godly Ambition – D. Dodds
  • Ordering the Home without Being Controlling – P. Tripp

Burk Parsons summarizes the theme in his editorial for “Coram Deo” under the title “Out of and under Control.”

But tonight, as the Sabbath comes to a close, I want to point you to a few outstanding thoughts from Neil Stewart’s article for the rubric “Heart Aflame.” You will see the title from the heading to this post and the link below at the Tabletalk website. He begins his article with these important words:

Communion with God in Scripture is one of the great distinguishing marks of a Christian, an acid test of true spiritual life. Whatever else we are as believers, we are people who meet God in the Bible.

At the end of his next paragraph he adds that God’s glory may be seen in creation and in providence, but not like it is in Scripture:

There is enough in nature to leave us without excuse (Rom. 1:18ff), but there is not enough to renew us deep within. This peculiar glory belongs to Scripture alone (Ps. 19:7). We may see His glory elsewhere, but only in Scripture do we hear His voice. How should we then approach the Bible?

In answer to that question he has seven (7) wonderful points. Tonight I share a couple of them with you, hoping that you too will capture the vital importance of reading and studying God’s Word. We have said it here before and repeat it now: there is no more important book in all the world for you and for me to read and receive.

1. Come fearfully. God is in this book. Scripture is the breath of His mouth (2 Tim. 3:16), the Word of His Son, the light of His presence (Ps. 109:105), the unveiling of His mind (1 Cor. 2:16), the bread of His baking (Deut. 8:3), the mirror of His glory (2 Cor. 3:8), the energy of His creation (Gen. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:6), the repairman of His image (John 17:17), the irrigating water of His life in the soul (Ps. 1:2–3), and the sword of His Spirit (Heb. 4:12). We should read “rejoicing with trembling” (Ps. 2:11).

3. Come thoughtfully. Scripture does its best work in us when we linger and hide its truth deep within. “Thy word I have hidden in mine heart [not scattered carelessly across its surface] that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11, KJV). Skimming Scripture will not lead you down into the depths of the deep things of God. Memorizing portions of the Bible will be of tremendous help here. Try to stretch your capacity beyond a verse or two, consigning paragraphs and even whole chapters to your heart. Then you will enter into the psalmist’s experience, “As I mused, the fire burned” (39:3).

7. Come expectantly. The closest possible connection exists between God and His Word. Why do you think He made the universe with words, when a mere thought would have done it all? Was it not to teach us the glory of His voice? When He speaks, nothing remains the same; everything changes. And when His Son came into the world, how does He introduce Him to us? As His Word, His voice of self-revelation, through whom He made all things (John 1:1–3). So, when we come to the Bible, we should come expecting to meet the Lord Christ. It is His book. It is all about Him. He is the righteousness of the Law, the wisdom of the Proverbs, the singer of the Psalms, the king on the throne, the voice of the Prophets, the sacrifice on the altar, the judge in the end, and the glory of it all. He is all of this in union with us, His people.

This book is alive with the life of Christ. It comes to us as a spiritual virus. Most viruses, of course, take life from us; this one has quite the opposite effect. It infects us with a restorative glory. Reading it, our vision returns, and we see things as they really are.

Source: Communing with God via Scripture

September 2018 Tabletalk: Eternity in Our Hearts

As we close out the Lord’s Day, it is fitting to examine the September 2018 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier’s monthly devotional magazine. This issue has as its theme “Between Two Worlds,” setting forth the Christian’s life and calling in this present world as a redeemed pilgrim while longing with his renewed heart for his final hope in Christ – glory in the new heavens and earth.

The quotes we have for you tonight tie in well with yesterday’s post by M. Horton on the believer’s “already/not-yet” life and experience here.

Burk Parsons (editor) gives a profitable introduction to the theme under the title “The Already and the Not Yet.” Here are a few of his thoughts on the subject:

In this world we will have tribulation, but “take heart,” Jesus said—not because we will eventually overcome the world, completely change the world, get used to this world, or come to love the world—but because Jesus declared, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And so, we wait between the already and not yet, between what our Lord has declared is already true and what has not yet been revealed. However, our waiting is not in vain, nor is it a passive waiting or an isolated waiting. Rather, we wait for our Groom so that He might gather His bride from every tribe, tongue, and nation for His glory. We wait with hopeful expectation, with active participation in the mission of God, and in community with the church of Jesus Christ. For Christ is the light of the world, and we who are united to Him by faith—and by faith alone—are in Him. As such, as soon as Christ calls us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, He sends us back into the darkness to shine in both word and deed before the watching world. As the world sees our good works and as the world hears our proclamation of the glorious gospel, the elect bride of Christ from around the world will glorify our Father in heaven.

One of the main articles on the theme is the one linked below: “Eternity in Our Hearts” by Dr. John Tweeddale. He has some wonderful thoughts throughout, but those at the beginning and at the end struck me. I leave these with you tonight also:

Few things better capture the anticipation of seeing Christ face-to-face than a wedding. On January 14, 1632, the Scottish Presbyterian pastor and theologian Samuel Rutherford wrote a letter drawing attention to this phenomenon. He states, “Our love to [Christ] should begin on earth, as it shall be in heaven; for the bride taketh not by a thousand degrees so much delight in her wedding garment, as she doth in her bridegroom.”

If you have ever been to a wedding, you will appreciate Rutherford’s observation. No matter how beautiful her dress, the bride never walks down the aisle with her gaze on her gown. Her focus is on her soon-to-be husband. Rutherford extends the illustration to help us see more clearly the real wonder of heaven. He continues, “So we, in the life to come, howbeit clothed with glory as with a robe, shall not be so much affected with the glory that goeth about us, as with the bridegroom’s joyful face and presence.” Under the surface of Rutherford’s old-fashioned prose is a profound illustration. As stunning as heaven will be, what makes it so marvelous is that we will finally see our Savior’s face. The church as the bride will be with Jesus as the groom, and they will live happily ever after.

And then at the end he writes this:

…Being confronted with our finitude [in the book of Ecclesiastes] should increase our dependence on God. We are to live our lives from the vantage point of eternity.

Sin, however, distorts this perspective. We no longer treat work as a gift from God but as a platform for personal greatness. Time is seen not as something beautiful that should be redeemed but as something inconsequential that can be squandered. History is understood not as the arena of God’s providential rule but as the playground for the powerful to prey on the weak. And eternal life is not to be desired but to be mocked by those who only live for the moment. Ecclesiastes teaches us that such fatalism is futile. We are made to know God. Nothing apart from eternity with Him will satisfy our deepest longings.

The good news is that Christ provides the way for sinful people to dwell in the presence of God forever. As the Apostle Peter states, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). This eternal hope is what we live for. As pilgrims who are traveling from this world to the next, we wake up each morning eagerly awaiting the return of our King. We recognize that every Lord’s Day is a foretaste of eternity. And for the rest of the week, we punch our time clocks knowing that even our toils are being used by God to prepare us for Immanuel’s Land.

Once at the Tabletalk website, you may find many of the featured articles online. Edifying and encouraging reading for your soul.

O, and the daily devotionals continue to take one through the gospel of John (Chapt.15ff.). Also good for the soul at the beginning of the day.

Source: Eternity in Our Hearts

Becoming What We Behold – B. Thune

Today before our worship services I did some more reading in the August 2018 issue of Tabletalk. Besides reading a few more articles on the featured theme (“The Lord is My Shepherd” – Psalm 23), I also read a couple of the regular columns. That included the one titled above by Rev. Bob Thune, for the rubric “Heart Aflame.”

Thune writes about our ongoing calling to be conformed to the image of Christ, an aspect of our sanctification. And, perhaps a bit surprisingly, he ties it to our worship. This is what he says about that connection at the beginning:

Deep within every true Christian is a longing to be more like Christ. We are not content as we are; we want to be changed. This longing comes from the Holy Spirit, who not only gives the new birth (John 3:5–8), but fills regenerated people with a zeal to glorify God (Rom. 8:1–5).

The question is, How can we become more like Christ? The biblical answer to this may be surprising to us pragmatic modern folks. We tend to look for methods, strategies, and action points. But the Bible teaches that we become like Jesus as we worship Jesus.

And then, toward the end of his article, he points us to three ways in which this transformation through beholding Christ in worship takes place. Here are his thoughts:

Here, then, are three biblical ways we can purposefully worship the Lord and be changed into His likeness.

  1. Contemplation/meditation (reflecting on God’s worth). The Bible urges us to think on the Lord (Ps. 1:2; Phil. 4:8). In contemplation, we slow down our minds and hearts to ponder God’s goodness. We mull over His promises, allowing them to sink into our souls. We read His Word thoughtfully, pondering its implications for our lives.
  2. Praise/thanksgiving/singing (declaring God’s worth). The Scriptures encourage us to make our praise explicit by singing and making melody to the Lord (Ps. 96; Eph. 5:19). When we sing, we join our voices together to testify to God’s worth and beauty. Singing also lightens the heart and engages the body in purposeful worship of God.
  3. Obedience/action/service (displaying God’s worth). The Bible is clear that our worship of God must find tangible expression in works of merciful neighbor-love (Isa. 58; James 1:27). As we serve the church, help the poor, and meet the needs of others, we demonstrate that Jesus is our true treasure (Matt. 6:21) and we learn afresh that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

We become what we behold. So, empowered by the Holy Spirit, let’s behold the glory of the Lord Jesus by meditating on His Word, singing His praise, and obeying His commands. The more clearly we see Him, the more we will become like Him.

Having been in the house of the Lord for worship today, we find these thoughts fitting and applicable as we face a new week of striving to be like our Savior. Let us behold our Lord in these ways and then behold how He works in us to make us more like Him.

Source: Becoming What We Behold

August 2018 “Tabletalk”: The Precious, Powerful Gospel of Psalm 23

The August 2018 issue of Tabletalk, the monthly (and daily!) devotional magazine of Ligonier Ministries, truly is a special issue with a special theme. That theme is the universally familiar and comprehensively comforting Psalm 23. Fittingly, the cover carries the gospel of that wonderful first verse: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

All the articles cover the entire psalm, verse by precious verse and phrase by beautiful phrase. Burk Parsons sets the tone in his “Coram Deo” editorial, “The Great Shepherd.” Here is part of what he says about this marvelous psalm:

The full biblical picture the Lord paints for us is that of a Shepherd-Warrior who cares for His sheep, lovingly disciplines His sheep, rescues His sheep, and protects His sheep from themselves and from their enemies. This is why Jesus calls Himself the Great Shepherd, and He does not drive His sheep with a whip from behind but calls His sheep by name and leads them into green pastures. For He is the author, the pioneer, and the captain of our faith who goes before us, even laying down His life for His sheep, and He is the finisher of our faith who protects and preserves us to the end.

The other article I reference tonight is that by Sinclair Ferguson, which is also linked below. After describing how David was uniquely able to write this psalm, both as a shepherd himself and as a student of God’s revelation through the previous OT fathers, Ferguson points us to how Jesus saw and fulfills this powerful psalm. This is how he ends his thoughts:

Jesus saw depths of meaning in these words; He must have sung them with joy. He looked back to His fathers Jacob and David and like them trusted His Father to provide all His needs. Indeed, as He explained to His puzzled disciples, His Father provided His nourishment: “I have food to eat that you do not know about. . . . My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:32, 34).

But Jesus must also have read Psalm 23 with a deep sense of burden. For He knew that, ultimately, He Himself was “the good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11, 14). What Jacob and David saw only dimly, Jesus saw clearly. The Shepherd must suffer for His sheep.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus would take the place of His sheep and be led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7). For them He would be smitten (Zech. 13:7; see Matt. 26:31). He would give everything of Himself to provide everything for us. The implication? Since He was not spared but delivered up for us all, we can be sure He will give us everything we need (Rom. 8:32).

This is what a Christian means by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

You will find the rest of these articles on the Tabletalk website, starting at the link below. If you think you know this psalm so well, you will still be profited in reading the manifold articles in this issue. Your faith will be further founded on the saving work of your Great Shepherd. And that will prepare you for all the experiences of the sheep who need this Shepherd’s perfect care.

Source: The Lord Is My Shepherd; I Shall Not Want