Winning the Souls of Unbelievers – J. Payne

As we pointed out earlier this month (see my Sept.10 post) the September 2017 issue of Tabletalk has as its theme “Soul Winning,” with the featured articles covering the various aspects of the Christian calling and methods of this task (based Prov.11:30).

I have once again profited from these articles, including that by Jon D. Payne, “Winning the Souls of Unbelievers.” In the first main section of this article, headed by the words “Wonderfully Ordinary,” Payne gives the “regular” believer great encouragement in the calling to evangelize.

I post these paragraphs tonight, so that you too may be assured that God has you right where you ought to be to be a means to win souls.

Rather than heap guilt on regular Christians for not soul winning on street corners or in market squares (which few believers are called or gifted to do), wouldn’t it be far better to foster a view of evangelism that naturally flows from the ordinary rhythms of daily life and weekly schedules? Shouldn’t we view gospel witness primarily as the overflow of a sincere walk with God in the particular sphere in which God has placed us?

God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He has placed each one of us right where He wants us (Ps. 115:3; Acts 17:26–27). You may wish to be somewhere else, but right now you are exactly where God wants you to be. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9; see Rom. 8:28). Therefore, God calls us to reach the lost right where we are. He has sovereignly placed us in a distinct sphere of influence, in part, to reach out to nonbelievers with the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dear believer, God by His sovereign hand has put you in a specific community and planted you in a particular neighborhood or apartment building. He has also given you a distinct vocation. Why? In part, so that you would shine the light of the gospel to those around you in the ordinary course of your life.

Source: Winning the Souls of Unbelievers

God: The Winner of Souls – September 2017 “Tabletalk”

The September 2017 issue of Tabletalk has been out for over a week now and it is time to introduce its theme and contents. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue on “Soul Winning” with his editorial “Rescuing Souls from Death.”

The first featured article is Dr. David Strain’s “God: The Winner of Souls,” in which he emphasizes that fundamental to our reason and motive for evangelizing is the truth that God is the One who saves sinners by His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.

Here are a couple of paragraphs that bring that home – one at the beginning of the article and the other at the end:

Though we may not realize it, behind and before our “lisping, stammering tongues” ever manage to proclaim the good news about Jesus, before we can muster the courage to speak a word for Him, God Himself has been in hot pursuit of sinners to save. Few truths offer more encouragement to us in our efforts to share the gospel than this: God is the great winner of souls.

…So here is the liberating truth: God is the true and great soul winner. The Father purposed to save sinners in love, and so He sent His Son for us. The Son of God has loved us and given Himself for us. The same Spirit who rested upon Christ now gives life to dead sinners, uniting us to Christ, and He empowers us in turn to bear witness for Christ. When we realize these great truths, when we see that God is the Evangelist, evangelism will cease to be a fearful work, pursued in an effort to curry divine favor. Instead, it will become a joyful expression of gratitude and an outpouring of holy zeal that others might know the salvation that has been lavished upon us by Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Read the full article at the link below. And, by the way, Ligonier has made a new special website for Tabletalk, with more content and featured articles available online. Check it out when you visit the link below.

Also, the daily devotions continue on the doctrines and practices restored to the church at the time of the great Reformation. This month they are on “The Reformation of Worship.” Want a sample of what they are like? Here’s part of the devotional for Sept.1:

Often when we think of the Protestant Reformation and what it accomplished, we focus on the doctrinal reforms related to such topics as divine grace, justification, and the authority of Scripture. This association of doctrinal reform with the Reformation is, of course, good and proper, for the Reformers were concerned to conform Christian doctrine to the teaching of God’s Word. However, the Reformers understood that there could be no true doctrinal reform without a corresponding reform of the church’s worship. In fact, in The Necessity of Reforming the Church, written to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, John Calvin listed the reform of Christian worship first in his explanation of why the Reformation was necessary. Our worship and our theology are inextricably linked.

Source: God: The Winner of Souls

Giving an Answer – August “Tabletalk”

The August issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine) uses 1 Peter 3:15 as the basis for its focus on Christians’ calling to be faithful witnesses to and apologists of the gospel of our Lord.

You will remember how that text calls us to this:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

And so the theme of this issue is “Giving an Answer.” Editor Burk Parsons introduces the theme with his article “Searching for Truth.”

The ten featured articles respond to questions often raised by questioners in the world today: Is the Bible the Word of God?, Does God Care?, Is There Only One Way of Salvation?, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?, to give you but a few.

The opening article is by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, and it answers the question “Is There a God?” Here is part of his excellent answer:

➝ 1 God the Creator is the only solution to Gottfried Leibniz’s and Martin Heidegger’s ultimate riddle: “Why is there something there, and not nothing?”

Ex nihilo nihil fit—“Nothing comes from nothing.” Let us note that nothing is not a “pre-something”; it is not “something reduced to a minimum.” Nothing is NO thing, no THING. Nothing—a concept impossible for the mind to comprehend precisely because nothing lacks “reality” in the first place. To transform Rene Descartes’; famous dictum Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) we can say, Quod cogito, non cogito de nihilo (Because I am, I cannot conceive of nothing). That leads to another Descartes-esque thought: Quod cogito, ergo non possibile Deus non est (Because I think, therefore it is impossible that God does not exist). The cosmos, my existence, and my ability to reason all depend on the fact that life did not and could not come from nothing, but requires a reasonable and reasoning origin. The contrary (time + chance = reality) is impossible. Neither time nor chance is a pre-cosmic phenomenon.

➝ 2 This God must be the biblical God, for two reasons. The first is that only such a God adequately grounds the physical coherence of the cosmos as we know it. Second, His existence is the only coherent basis, whether acknowledged or otherwise, for rational thought and communication. Consequently, the nonbeliever of necessity must draw on, borrow from, indeed intellectually steal from a biblical foundation in order to think coherently and to live sanely. Thus, the secular humanist who argues that there are no ultimates must borrow from biblical premises in order to assess anything as in itself right or wrong.

Source: Is There a God? by Sinclair Ferguson

Browse around on the Tabletalk page at the Ligonier site and benefit from the variety of articles found there on our calling to “give an answer” to those with questions around us – even the atheists and skeptics.

O, and the daily devotions this month are on the Reformers’ doctrine of the church! Tolle Lege!

May 1, 2017 Standard Bearer – Special Missions & Evangelism Issue

The last issue of the Standard Bearer (May 1, 2017) was another special issue in this volume year (93, 2016-17). This one featured the Great Commission of our Lord and the PRC’s work of missions and evangelism in obedience to that call.

Below you will see the cover and the contents of this special issue, as all of the major labors of the PRC and some of the local evangelism efforts of the PRC congregations were featured.

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Rev. Daniel Holstege, the new missionary to the Philippines, penned the meditation on the Great Commission, expounding Jesus’ words in Matt.28:19,20 and Mark 16:15, spoken to His disciples just before He ascended into heaven.

Below are a few of his thoughts, significant for those called to herald the gospel to this nation and the nations of the world, and for all who are called to bear witness to the Lord and to support these heralds. May God use these words to encourage us in this grand labor of our ascended Lord through His church.

What an amazing privilege He has just given to us, His specially called and ordained apostles! To be leaders in His church whom He will use to build His church upon the rock of brother Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God! We are no men of high repute or earthly power, no kings or governors, whom He has sent to do this task, but mere servants of our King, in a spiritual kingdom, ordained ministers of the gospel.

What a blessed work we are sent to do – and not only we, but all whom the Master calls into this ministry of the Word, laborers in His vineyard, pastors and teachers in His church, preachers of the gospel of peace and glad tidings of good things! Let all who follow after us do the work of an evangelist! Let them go out into the highways and byways and bid their neighbors to the marriage of the Lord! Let them not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but be eager and open and ready to speak with their lost, heathen neighbors. Let them go, too, into other nations, across vast oceans, over mighty mountains, afar off to preach the gospel or aid and encourage those who do.

And, O, that all His disciples, male and female, farmer, sailor, builder, lawyer, doctor, engineer, craftsman, businessman, single and married, mother and father – would support and participate in our great commission! O that they all would pray for us, with intimate understanding of our work, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified! O, that they would give cheerfully and liberally to support us who preach the gospel, so that we need not make tents or have another occupation to eat our daily bread! O, that they might have opportunity to visit us on faraway mission fields to witness the glorious work and appreciate it all the more!

But, O, that they would themselves participate, being ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them! O, that they would shine as lights in the world, in the midst of crooked and perverse nations, ready and eager to hold forth the Word of life to those who are without! Not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but knowing that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes! Would to God that they will radiate every day with the hope of eternal life, having faces that show that the joy of the Lord is their strength! Master, use them too to bring others into the fold to hear the blessed tidings of salvation! Give them too to hear the call – GO! – as the Lord puts in front of them an opportunity in their daily life to bear witness of Christ Jesus!

The Reformed Witness Hour at 55 Years – 1941-1996

Yes, it is true, as we have noted several times already this year, that 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the Reformed Witness Hour radio program – a program under the supervision of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI and supported by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, our sister churches, and other friends.

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But today for our PRC archives post, we feature the program from the 55th anniversary, which was held at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI on April 18, 1996. This was another “live broadcast” program; in other words, part of the program was recorded live for broadcast on the RWH program (which turned out to be broadcast #2886).

You will note that one of our current radio pastors spoke that night – Rev. Carl Haak – under the theme “That All the World May Know.” You will also see that a variety of musical groups were part of the program – the Voices of Victory quartet, the Faith PRC choir, and the SE PRC choir.

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Inside the program was a special insert for this RWH “rally”, with notes on it from Rev.R. Van Overloop, who led the program. Those notes included some special recognitions for those who served on the radio committee: Stu Looyenga (treasurer) had served 18 years at that point, Dwight Monsma (president and announcer) for 15 years, and Bill  Swart (recording, dubbing, printing/mailing) for over 30 years.

As we celebrate our 75th this year, we may continue to be thankful for these men and the many other men and women who have served on the RWHC over the years.

And, while we are on the subject, we hope you will join us THIS SATURDAY for our very special 75th anniversary program and mission awareness morning, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI. If you need the details, visit this page on the PRC website.

Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 4:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self – Initiate

Begin by reading and meditating on Matthew 28:19-20.

God has placed you in a unique context and equipped you in a unique way to be the one who reaches out to those in need – this means those who need encouragement as well as those who need correction. And this includes those who do not know Jesus, as well as his disciples, those who are apparently healthy, and those who are obviously hurting. You will have more opportunities to initiate than you can take, but you are likely to take fewer than you should.

Look around yourself. God is giving you chances to act. He has put people near you who need your help financially, your time relationally, and your words of bold encouragement and gentle rebuke. The opportunities are always there, but they are difficult to see if you are too focused on yourself. You must take the time to be truly present where God has put you. Begin to think of others as they really are – men and women in need of grace.

What will compel you to take the first step toward those around you in need? The deepness of their need? The desperateness of their situation? Perhaps it will be an understanding of what you have received from others who have been faithful to God and have taken the initiative with you, to help you see the truth, know Christ, grow in grace, and persevere through difficulty. Or maybe it will be that God not only commands you to do this but empowers you to do it, as well. Wherever you are, today you should be the first to move. Initiate for the glory of God and the good of those around you.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.21 “Initiate” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.79-80.

Reformed Witness Hour in PRCA 25th Jubilee Book

In the Twenty-five Year Jubilee of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America, 1925-1950, the Reformed Witness Hour was featured (along with four other radio programs sponsored by PR congregations! Can you name them?) on pages 59-67.

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There are several pages of information (see above image) and some pictures (see below), some of which I post today.

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Keep in mind that in October of this year the RWH will celebrate her 75th anniversary. And, don’t forget the special celebration event planned for Saturday, August 13 at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI, from 9-12 in the morning.

Published in: on June 30, 2016 at 12:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

Christianity and Islam: Theologies Compared and Contrasted – J.D. Greear

TT-April-2016Yesterday I finished reading the main articles in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, including those on the theme of Islam. Both of the last two on this subject were excellent, including this one by Dr. J.D. Greear, author of Breaking the Islam Code (the other article  is “Sharing the Gospel with Muslims” by Dr. Bassam M. Chedid).

In his article – as the title indicates – Greear compares and contrasts the teachings of Christianity with those of Islam. After addressing a few misconceptions, he focuses on what he believes is the central difference – the doctrine of salvation. He calls Islam “the ultimate religion of works” and lays out plainly why this teaching is false and why Christianity has the only answer for man’s need of salvation.

This is what he says by way of introduction to this matter:

The biggest difference between Christianity and Islam is our view of salvation. Islam stands as a paragon of works-righteousness. Christianity alone stands as a religion of grace.

The Qur’an gives a long and detailed list of how to act, dress, think, and behave. If you follow carefully these instructions, Allah will approve of you, and you are more likely to be accepted into eternal bliss. Islam is the ultimate religion of works. From top to bottom, it exemplifies the principle “I obey; therefore, I am accepted.”

From here, Greear lays out three (3) reasons why this religion of works never works. Here is the first:

(1) Works-righteousness fails to address the “root” idolatries that drive our sin.

The root of sin is esteeming something to be a more satisfying object of worship than God. Works-righteousness religions, including Islam, fail to address that issue. They simply give a prescribed set of practices to avoid judgment or inherit blessings.

Islam, for example, warns Muslims of the terrors of hell and uses that to motivate Muslims to obey. It promises them sensual luxuries in heaven if they live righteously. Many Muslims pursue these things without caring for God at all. They are using God. For them, God’s favor is a means to an end. But any end other than God is idolatry.

The starkest New Testament example of this kind of attitude is Judas Iscariot. Many New Testament scholars believe that Judas betrayed Jesus because he was disappointed with him. Judas wanted a Messiah who would reward “the righteous” (himself included) with power and money. Jesus taught that He Himself was the reward. Judas never accepted this. For him, Jesus was always a means to something else, and never the end itself.

Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God. Righteous acts are righteous only when they are done out of a love for righteousness and not as a means to anything else.

The Qur’an is not an adoring, worshiping love letter about God. It is a guide for what behavior will increase your chances of avoiding hell. Merit, threat, and reward form the entire foundation on which Islam is built. And this never addresses the root of man’s sin—our desire to substitute God with something else.

To finish reading the other two reasons, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Theologies Compared and Contrasted by J.D. Greear

An Apology for Apologetics – Stephen Nichols

TT-Jan-2016The first issue of Tabletalk for 2016 treats the important subject of apologetics, with the sub-title “giving an answer for our hope.”

You may recall that this branch of theology (practical) deals with the Christian calling to defend his faith, not only against attack from outright enemies (polemics), but also in answering those who ask us a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet.3:15-16) – an aspect of evangelism or personal witnessing.

Editor Burk Parsons gives his usual introduction to the subject in these opening words:

When people first hear the word apologetics, they typically think of our modern use of the word apology. They often conclude that the task of apologetics is apologizing for the Christian faith as if to say we are sorry for our faith. However, the word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give an answer” or “to make a defense.” Apologetics is not an apology, it’s an answer—a defense of what we believe. In his first epistle, Peter writes, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols has the first featured article on this topic (linked below) and adds this by way of further definition:

The Command

The Greek word apologia means literally “to speak to.” Over time, it came to mean “to make a defense.” When Athens accused Socrates of being harmful to society, Socrates had to offer his defense. He titled it Apologia. He stood before the “men of Athens,” offering his reasoned defense. The New Testament uses the word seventeen times. Many instances concern court cases, such as the time Paul appeared before the Jewish Council in Acts 22 and before Festus in Acts 25. Paul also speaks of his imprisonment in Rome as an apologia of the gospel (Phil. 1:716).

The classic text for the Greek word apologia is 1 Peter 3:15–16. Peter’s first epistle was written to the “exiles” living in Asia Minor, located in modern-day Turkey. These exiled Christians were ostracized for their faith and suffered persecution. They were insulted and slandered. Some of them suffered at the hands of their own family members.

Peter commands these exiles not to live in fear or cower before opposition. Instead, he commands these exiled Christians—and us—to be always ready to make a defense. The main verb “to make a defense,” from the Greek word apologia, is in the imperative mood. The imperative mood is used for commands. There’s no procedure for deferment here. The command extends to all of us.

Further, Peter tells how to make our defense. He notes that we should “always be prepared.” That’s a tall order. Questions about our faith tend to come at unexpected times. In order to be always ready, we must know our faith, which means knowing our theology. We must also know our audience. We see this in Paul’s example of being an apologist on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16–34).

Peter also tells us that we need to make our defense “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s an even taller order. The word translated “respect” could equally be translated “reverence.” It’s the same word used of how we should approach God. So we exiles are to treat our examiners with gentleness and reverence.

Then there’s verse 16. Peter reminds us that who we are is every bit as crucial as what we say. May the testimony of our lives not put the testimony of our words to shame. Instead, “may our good behavior in Christ” also be our apologetic.

Source: An Apology for Apologetics by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

If you are seeking to learn how to defend your faith in this unbelieving world, you will also find articles on general revelation, God, man, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, and the resurrection. Visit the Tabletalk website for details.

Sept.1, 2015 “Standard Bearer” – “Visiting (YOUR) Mission Fields” – Prof.R. Dykstra

SBcover-Sept1-2015The latest issue of The Standard Bearer (Sept.1, 2015) contains an editorial by Prof.R. Dykstra in which he addresses the importance of church members taking interest in the mission work of the churches. While this interest certainly includes financial and prayer support for the fields, Prof. Dykstra specifically encourages us to visit the mission fields, which means visiting with the missionary and his family as well as fellowshiping with the members of the field.

He has many good and profitable points in this opening editorial (a following one on this subject is also planned and will appear in the Sept.15 “SB”.). Below are a few of his general comments related to visiting your mission fields:

     The goal of this editorial (and the next) is to encourage the members of the Protestant Reformed Churches to visit your mission fields. The Protestant Reformed Churches have missionaries preaching in two areas – Pittsburgh, PA, and in the Philippines. A visit to our some of the smaller churches is included in this goal. Readers who are not members of the Protestant Reformed Churches should know you are cordially welcome to do the same, and the editorial intends to encourage you also to visit a mission work of the PRC, or a mission field of your own church(es).
Visiting a mission field is to be encouraged because of the many benefits it yields both for the field and for the visitors. This was reaffirmed recently in another connection. This past summer five seminarians had opportunity to live for three to six weeks on a mission field (or a small congregation in a mission-like situation, Spokane Covenant of Grace P.R.C. of Spokane, WA). All the students returned aglow with enthusiasm for the work being done, for the saints they came to know and love, and for the worship they enjoyed in these places. Likewise the reports from the fields/congregation expressed appreciation for the visits and labors of the students.
Obviously the longer the visit, the greater will be the mutual benefits. But even a one-Sunday visit is usually better than no visit at all.

From here, Prof. Dykstra treats some of the specific benefits of visiting mission fields:

     What, specifically are the potential benefits of a visit to a mission field, (or a small congregation with a good mission outreach mentality)?
For the people on the field, the benefit is first and foremost, encouragement. This includes a boost in the attendance at the worship services in the day, weeks, or months you attend. Probably only members of small congregations will fully appreciate this point, and yet, do not we even in large congregations enjoy visitors to the worship services? But in a small group, to have additional voices in the singing and confession of faith, more chairs filled, more fellowship before and after the service, add an unmistakable vivacity to the service. The benefits are perhaps difficult to quantify, but they are real.
In addition, the mission group is encouraged by your interest in them and in the work. Your presence indicates to them that the churches are aware of them and are behind the work, not merely the calling church, consistory, and mission committee. For the same reasons, your visit also encourages the missionary greatly. He can at times feel quite alone and forgotten in the work, far from family, from the calling church, and from the center of the churches’ life. Your visit reminds him that he and the work are both remembered and supported by the churches as a whole.

To learn more about the Standard Bearer or to become a subscriber, visit the “SB” website.