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

What’s New in the Seminary Library? April – June 2018 Additions

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I recently completed my list of “significant additions to the PRC Seminary library” for the second quarter of this year (April – June). I began this two years ago for the benefit of the faculty and students as well as for the Theological School Committee.

You will notice that title says “significant additions.” The list I produce is not a complete list of everything added to the library in the last quarter, for there are actually many more (including small pamphlets and articles to the vertical files). But this list is designed to highlight some of the more significant titles in various categories, so that these titles are representative of what we obtain for and add to our library.

By the way, these lists are now being published in our PR Theological Journal, although our last issue (Spring 2018) was too full and we had to leave the last two quarters out. Hopefully, we can catch up in future issues.

I hope this list not only gives you a feel for the quality of resources we are adding to our library, but also inspires you to find one to read and perhaps even add to your personal or family library.

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Commentaries (series)

  • Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41) & Vol.3 (90-150), John Goldingay; Tremper Longman, III. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, c2006.
  • Focus on the Bible Series:
    o A Commentary on the Song of Songs / Richard Brooks. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1999.
    o Matthew: The King and His Kingdom / Charles Price. — Revised ed., 2012
    o Ephesians: Encouragement and Joy in Christ / Paul Gardner. – Revised ed.; Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2007.
  • The IVP New Testament Commentary Series:
    o Romans / Grant R. Osborne; Grant R. Osborne, ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c2004 (vol.6)
    o 1 Corinthians / Alan F. Johnson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c2004 (vol.7)
    o Ephesians / Walter L. Liefeld; Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, c1997 (vol.10)
    o Hebrews / Ray C. Stedman; Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c1992 (vol.15)
    o James / George M. Stulac; Grant R. Osborne, ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c1993 (vol.16)
    o 2 Peter and Jude / Robert W. Harvey; Philip H. Towner; Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c2009.
  • Mentor Expository Commentary:
    o Jeremiah, Chapters 21-52: An Introduction and Commentary, Volume 2 / John L. Mackay (2004).
    o Ecclesiastes, Richard P. Belcher, Jr. (2017)
  • Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT & NT (IVP) – Jeremiah, Lamentations / J. Jeffery Tyler, ed.; Timothy George, gen. ed. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2018.
  • Tyndale NT Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary / F. Foulkes, W. B. Eerdmans, c1963, 1975.
  • Understanding the Bible Commentary: Matthew / Robert H. Mounce. — 1st-reprint-pb. — Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Books, c1991, 2011

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Individual Biblical Studies Titles

  • Has the Bible Been Kept Pure?: The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture / Garnet H. Milne; David J. Engelsma. Australia: Independently published, 2017.
  • How to Study the Bible / John MacArthur. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, c1982, 2009.
  • Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well / Glenn R. Paauw. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016.
  • A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized / Michael J. Kruger. ; J. Ligon Duncan III. ; Guy Prentiss Waters. ; Michael J. Kruger. — 1st-hc. — Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016.
  • Coping with Change: Ecclesiastes / Walter C. Jr. Kaiser. Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2013.
  • The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament [Isaiah 53] / John MacArthur. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018.
  • Interpreting the Parables / Craig L. Blomberg, 1955-. — 2nd, rev. and expanded. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, c2012.
  • Paul: A Biography / N. T. Wright, (Nicholas Thomas). San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018.
  • A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians / C. K. (Charles Kingsley) Barrett, New York: Harper & Row, 1968 (Harper’s New Testament Commentaries)
  • The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians: An Exposition / Charles R. (Charles Rosenbury) Erdman, 1866-1960. ; Earl F. Zeigler. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1966. The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Exposition was also added (1966)
  • Be Joyful: A New Testament Study – Philippians / Warren W. Wiersbe. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, c1974.
  • First & Second Peter / Louis Barbieri. Chicago: Moody Publishers, c2003 (Everyman’s Bible Commentary)

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Church History/Biography

  • Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact / Marvin D. Jones; Michael A. G. Haykin, ed. — Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2014 (Early Church Fathers (Christian Focus Publications)
  • Cyprian of Carthage: His Life and Impact / Brian Arnold; Michael A. G. Haykin. — Revised ed. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland : Christian Focus, 2017 (Christian Focus Publications)
  • Irenaeus: Life, Scripture, Legacy / Sara. Parvis; Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, c2012.
  • The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity / Robert Louis Wilken. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012.
  • The Reformation / Cameron A. (Cameron Alexander) MacKenzie. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2017.
  • Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind / Michael Massing. New York, NY: Harper / HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.
  • Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist/ John H. Gerstner. Orlando, FL: Northampton Press, 2018.

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Creeds/Confessions/History of

  • The Belgic Confession: A Commentary, Vol.1 / David J. Engelsma. Jenison, MI : Reformed Free Pub. Association, 2018.
  • By This Our Subscription: Confessional Subscription in the Dutch Reformed Tradition Since 1816 / Roelf C. Janssen. Kampen: Theologische Universiteit, 2009.
  • The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith / Stanley D. Gale. Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2018

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Dogmatics/Theology/Historical Theology

  • Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastic Theology / Richard A. (Richard Alfred) Muller (2nd ed.) — Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, c1985, 2017.
  • Canonical Theology: The Biblical Canon, Sola Scriptura, and Theological Method / John Peckham; Craig G. Bartholomew. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2016.
  • In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective / Joel D. Heck. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, c2011.
  • The God of Creation: Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1 / Richard D Phillips. Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP BOOKS, 2018.
  • Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: With the Pertinent Documents from the History of the Reformation / Kurt Aland; Martin Luther, 1483-1546. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing
  • Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Life / Edward. Engelbrecht. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Pub. House, 2011.
  • Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology / Mark A. Garcia. ; David F. Wright. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008 (Studies In Christian History And Thought)
  • Being In Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Investigation in a Reformed Perspective / Hans Burger. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, c2009.
  • Peter Ramus and the Educational Reformation of the Sixteenth Century / Frank P. (Pierrepont) Graves. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1912.
  • Cartesianism in the Netherlands, 1639-1676: The New Science and the Calvinist Counter-Reformation / Thomas A. McGahagan — Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1976.
  • The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes / Mark. Dever; Steven J. Lawson. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018. (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
  • A Covenantal Confession: Geerhardus Vos and the Doctrine of the Covenant in the Westminster Confession of Faith / Eric B. (Brian) Watkins. Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009.
  • A Question of Consensus: The Doctrine of Assurance after the Westminster Confession / Jonathan. Master. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015.
  • Jus Divinum: The Westminster Assembly and the Divine Right of Church Government / John Richard. De Witt. Kampen : J. H. Kok, 1969.
  • Debating Perseverance: The Augustinian Heritage in Post-Reformation England / Jay T. Collier; Richard A. (Richard Alfred) Muller. New York : Oxford University Press, 2018 (Oxford Studies In Historical Theology)
  • 20th-Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age / Stanley J. (Stanley James) Grenz, 1950-2005; Roger E. Olson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c1992.
  • Determined to Believe: The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith, and Human Responsibility / John C. Lennox. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.
  • Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches About Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security / C. Samuel Storms. Wheaton, IL : Crossway, 2015.
  • High King of Heaven: Theological and Pastoral Perspectives on the Person and Work of Jesus / Michael Reeves; Paul Twiss; Mark Jones; John MacArthur. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2018.
  • Retrieving Eternal Generation / Fred Sanders, (Fred R.), editor; Scott R. Swain, editor; Donald A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, c2017.
  • Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation / Peter Mead. — Revised-pb. — Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2015.
  • Between Wittenberg and Geneva: Lutheran and Reformed Theology in Conversation / Robert Kolb; Carl R. Trueman. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017.
  • New Calvinism: New Reformation or Theological Fad? / Josh Buice. ; Paul Washer; Steven J. Lawson. — Revised ed. — Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2017.
  • A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God? / Leonardo de Chirico. — Fearne, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2017.
  • Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches About Life to Come / Derek Thomas. Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2018.
  • The Pleasures of God / John Piper, Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, c1991.
  • Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status / James Anderson. Eugene, OR: Paternoster/ Wipf & Stock, 2007 (Paternoster Theological Monographs)
  • Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics / Oliver Crisp, editor. ; Fred Sanders, (Fred R.) , editor. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
  • God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of Priesthood / Andrew S. Malone. ; Donald A. Carson. London/ Downers Grove, IL : Apollos ;InterVarsity Press, USA, 2017 (New Studies In Biblical Theology) vol. 43

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Practical Theology – Church government, Counseling, Family, Marriage, Missions, Prayer, Preaching, Sermons, Worship

  • Sunday / W. B. (William Bouverie) Trevelyan, 1853-. ; W.C.E. and Darwell Stone Newbolt. — London, New York, Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1903 (The Oxford Library of Practical Theology)
  • Lutheran Worship: History and Practice / James Leonard. Brauer; Fred L. Precht. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, c1993.
  • Out of the Blues: Dealing With the Blues of Depression and Loneliness / Wayne Mack. Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing (MN), 2006.
  • Reformed Theology and the Style of Evangelism / John H. Leith. ; James C. IV Goodloe. — Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2010.
  • Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving / Bob Burns, 1950-. ; Tasha Chapman; Donald Guthrie. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2013.
  • Spiritual Leadership / J. Oswald (John Oswald) Sanders, 1902-1992. 2nd ed. Chicago: Moody Press, c1994 (Commitment to Spiritual Growth Series)
  • The Heart of an Executive: Lessons on Leadership from the Life of King David / Richard D. (Richard Davis) Phillips. New York: Doubleday, c1999.
  • Leading One Another: Church Leadership / Bobby Jamieson; Mark Dever; Jonathan Leeman. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012 (9Marks: Healthy Church Study Guides)
  • God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer / Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperOne, c2008.
  • A Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Foundation for a Vibrant Church / William Boekestein; Daniel R. Hyde; Cornelis P. Venema. Welwyn Garden City, UK: Evangelical Press, 2015.
  • Elders and Deacons and Saints, Oh My!: Defining Biblical Roles, Structure and Organization for a Team Ministry That Achieves the Fivefold Purpose of the Church / James Kirkland. Bloomington, IN: Crossbooks, 2011.
  • God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems: Radical Change by the Power of God / Wayne A. Mack; Joshua Mack. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2014.
  • Broken Vows: Divorce and the Goodness of God / John Greco. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2013.
  • Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching As Worship / John Piper, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018.
  • Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Loss / Paul. Tautges. Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 2014 (Practical Shepherding)

Misc. (Apologetics, Culture, Education, Music, Politics, Science, World Religions, etc.)

  • God Among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader / Kenneth R. Samples. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017.

Periodicals (Old & New)

  • Davenant Digests (from Davenant Institute)
  • Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology

“…Struck dumb by the impossible beauty” of God’s grace – W. Wangerin, Jr.

little-lamb-wangerinOne of the books I took along on vacation last week to continue reading was Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004. Mine is a first ed., hardcover).

As I have mentioned here before, Wangerin is one of my favorite Christian (Lutheran) authors. He has a way with words – sometimes humorous but always serious – as well as keen insights into the historic Christian faith and life. I came across some gems last week and decided to share a few of them here with you.

The first is taken from a chapter with the title “How Precious Did That Grace Appear,” which you may recognize as taken from the hymn “Amazing Grace.” As Wangerin describes his Lutheran confirmation ceremony (similar to our profession of faith), which involved answering questions about the Christian faith in front of the congregation (based on the Bible and the catechism of Luther), he relates the wonder of the truth of God’s saving grace – a blessed reality he came to experience more fully as he matured.

He tells of how he answered publicly and with conviction the question of his pastor “What is grace?” by quoting Eph. 2:8-9. But then, powerfully, he says this about the nature of the grace he just confessed:

I was a smart kid.

And yet I did not really know what I was talking about. I had just accomplished this most difficult task. I did it. Therefore, although I could speak well and wisely of grace, that was in itself the problem which condemned me: I could speak of grace, even glibly and casually. I was not struck dumb by the impossible beauty of the thing. I was not overwhelmed by the absolute absurdity, the flat illogic, the utter conundrum of this act of God.

Grace should not be.

In fact, by every moral and human right, grace cannot be.

Nevertheless, it is.

And without it, we die.

One ought to lay one’s hand upon one’s mouth in the presence of such a thaumaturge [that’s a great Greek-origin word to look up!] and answer nothing. One ought to confess that he has spoken without knowledge, that he has uttered things too wonderful for him, and so repent in dust and ashes.

But I was self-important in those days. I had not actually experienced love when I knew I didn’t deserve it.

Doctrine may teach us the definitions of our faith’s most fundamental truths; but the truths themselves elude us until we meet them ourselves and experience them: meet them, greet them, and find ourselves to be borne aloft by them. Then we know what hitherto we’d only learned by rote.

Wangerin is a faithful Christian husband and father and I highly recommend this book about his own godly rearing as a child and then his experience as a parent raising his own children. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all you will grow in the knowledge and experience of that “precious grace” of our perfect Father.

 

I have another gem for you – this time about praying for a sick child. Marvelous!

Praying the Holy History Found in the Psalms – D. Bonhoeffer

Psalms 78, 105, 106 tell us about the history of the people of God on earth, about the electing grace and faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness and the ingratitude of his people. …How ought we to pray these Psalms?

Then after giving a brief summary of Psalm 106 and how that can guide us in praying these historical Psalms, Bonhoeffer gives us concrete help:

We pray these Psalms when we regard all that God does once for his people as done for us, when we confess our guilt and God’s grace, when we hold God true to his promises on the basis of his former benefits and request their fulfillment, and when we finally see the entire history of God with his people fulfilled in Jesus Christ, through whom we have been helped and will be helped. For the sake of Jesus Christ we bring thanksgiving, petition, and confession.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the ninth section, “Holy History” (pp.34-35), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

Blessed Are the Meek – Rev. C. Haak

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This week’s message on the Reformed Witness Hour radio/Internet program (Sunday, June 17, 2018) was “Blessed Are the Meek” by Rev. C. Haak, pastor of Georgetown PRC.  Radio pastor Haak is currently doing a series on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12, and this past Sunday he spoke on the third one as recorded in Matt.5:5, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

The audio file of the message is linked above on the PRC website and it may also be found on the RWH’s website and on her Sermonaudio channel.

Tonight I post a portion of the transcription of the message, finding it fitting for our reflection today.

 Meekness is the result, it is the fruit, of being poor in spirit and of knowing what it is to mourn before God.  It makes one receptive in his heart before God.  In one word:  meekness is the absence of pride.  A meek heart is the antithesis, the opposite of pride.  It is the opposite of stubbornness and fierceness and vengefulness.  Meekness is the dethroning of sinful pride and making us now teachable of God, gentle toward one another, submissive to God, confident and strong in God and in His faithful love to me.

Not only does one not assert himself, but he also sees the sin of that.  A meek person does not glory in himself.  He is not always interested in himself.  He is not watching always after his own interest.  He is not always on the defensive.  He is not always saying, “What about me?”

Beloved, by nature, we spend our whole life watching out for ourselves.  We worry about ourselves and what others are going to say about us.  We talk to ourselves.  We say, “You’re having a hard time.  Too bad people don’t understand you.  How wonderful I am and if only people would give me a chance.”  That is pride.  The meek are self-emptied people.  They are not defending the citadel of me.  They are lowly before God.  They are ready to leave everything in the hands of God, to leave themselves, their rights, their cause, their whole life, in the hand of God.  Meek.

This meekness will be seen in the attitude that we carry.  The fruit of meekness is, first of all, seen in an attitude toward God, an attitude of submission and quietness.  How often do we not struggle with the sovereign ways and the sovereign will of God?  I am not talking, now, of accepting our sinful ways or being indifferent.  But I am referring to the fact that God sovereignly appoints my portion in this life.  He arranges my life, personally and in my family, and economically, in all the details of my life.  Very often we struggle with that.  We find it very hard to be submissive to the way and to the will of God.  That is our pride.

Meekness, now, is submission, submission to the great God of heaven.  And, thus, meekness is strength!  The meek person is strong because he knows that God is holding him up.  We read in Psalm 147, “The LORD lifteth up the meek:  he casteth the wicked down to the ground.”  In meekness we are able to bear God’s chastenings in quietness and hope.  We are able to do that with a meek and a quiet spirit.  There is an example of this in the Bible.  I bring to your memory the high priest called Aaron.  Aaron’s two sons had been killed by God for offering strange incense in the tabernacle.  They had worshiped God in a manner that He had not prescribed.  And God consumed them in fire.  God, then, told Moses to tell Aaron that Aaron could not mourn over his sons.  He had to submit, in his grief, to the hand of God.  And Aaron did.  Now Aaron was far from perfect.  The Bible makes that plain.  The Scriptures tell us of all of his faults.  Yet God gave to Aaron a meekness.  He suffered quietly before God.

…The second fruit of meekness is our attitude toward others.  Meekness makes us the most approachable persons on earth.  Not bristling in pride, not sharp, cruel, spiteful.  It is the meek in Christ with whom you feel a great kinship.  Meekness attracts others.  Meekness is mildness of manner, gentleness, harmlessness.  Remember what we read in Matthew 11:28.   The Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”  Why?  “For I am meek and lowly in heart.  You are safe with Me,” said Jesus.  “Because I am meek, you may come to Me.  I’m not dangerous.  You may set your heart upon Me.”

Still more.  In meekness, we will bear patiently the insults and the injuries that we receive at the hands of others.  In meekness we will not become inflamed, vindictive.  In meekness we will not assume a demeaning attitude toward those who differ with us.  We will not show ourselves to have a harsh, censorious temperament.  We will not enjoy finding fault in others.  Meekness will be seen in gentleness, humility, and patience.  It is the absence of retaliation.  It is the absence of paying back.  It is the absence of saying, “They’re gonna get theirs.”  No, it is longsuffering and patient, especially when we suffer wrongfully.  Then we will be meek.  Listen to Galatians 6:1.   “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  The Word of God is saying that only a spirit of meekness qualifies you to deal with another who may be embittered and resentful, to deal with someone who has fallen away.  You can deal with such a person only in the spirit of meekness.  Meekness means that you are emptied of yourself.  You are dependent upon and submissive to God.  You are gentle and you are teachable.  Blessed are the meek, said Jesus, for they shall inherit the earth.

Don’t forget the Facebook page of the RWH!

Children in the Worship Service: Parental Chore and Blessed Calling

ordinary-MHorton-2014Once more I am going to pull a quotation from the ninth chapter  of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). That chapter, from which I have quoted twice already, is titled, you may remember, “God’s ecosystem.”

In that chapter Horton is stressing the organic idea of the church – the saints’ spiritual life together in Christ – which is ever being sustained and growing in God’s garden, through the “ordinary” means of grace, especially the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments.

Toward the end of this chapter, the author focuses on the important calling the church has to make sure her children are growing up in Christ too. Critical of what the modern church through her “youth ministries” has done, Horton calls for a return to the “ordinary” in this area too – instructing the youth through catechism and bringing them into the regular worship of the church.

Tonight I give you some of his thoughts on this, and I truly hope it is an encouragement to our younger couples with little children whom they may dread to take into the worship service or despair of taking to church. Listen carefully to these words:

Having four of my own, I understand the difficulty of having children in church. Our church has a cry room, where parents can still participate in the service to some extent, but it is a chore. Yet isn’t it a chore of parenthood? Eventually the parents decide when they will move out of the cry room. It is remarkable how early children learn habits of sitting and listening. Even if they doodle and daydream for a couple of years, these habits of participation in the communion of saints are like a trellis. These habits do not guarantee that everyone will eventually respond in faith, but they do make for better hearing of that gospel through which faith takes root and grows in our hearts.

Besides the concern for parents, many Christians wonder if it is good for children to have them in the regular service. After all, they cannot understand what is going on. But imagine saying that you’re not going to have toddlers at the table for meals with the family because they do not understand the rituals or manners. Or keeping infants isolated in a nursery with nothing but mobiles and squeaky toys because they cannot understand the dialogue of the rest of the family around them. We know, instinctively, that it’s important for our children to acquire language and the ordinary rituals of their family environment in order to become mature. Or imagine keeping our teens from their grandparents’ funerals because they don’t understand it. We take them precisely so they will, knowing that our patience (and theirs) will be rewarded in later years and that the event will itself be an opportunity for maturity. Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge. He learned the Psalter and the rhythms of the synagogue liturgy. When, as a young adult, he took up the Isaiah scroll to read about himself, he knew exactly where to roll it.

At the grammar stage, children are simply absorbing the language of Zion: the terms and ‘the pattern of the sound words’ (2 Tim 1:13) that we share with the wider body of Christ through the ages. I think that we are sometimes too worried about ‘imposing’ our faith on our children. After all, it’s a personal relationship with Jesus, and we do not want to interfere with their free will. [I hope you sense the author’s rightful use of sarcasm here.] We don’t think this way about the other things that they are learning by rote at this stage. We do not upbraid teachers for ‘imposing’ the alphabet or multiplication table. Our moral sentiments are not offended when parents correct poor grammar.

So, do not hesitate to take your young children to church tomorrow. And if necessary, to take them out when they are noisy or misbehave. Just remember to take them back in. They are learning to live in the presence of God and worship Him just as you did when you were taken by your parents. They are soaking up the words of the church and of Jesus their Savior. They are growing roots and growing up as tender shoots in God’s garden. What better place could they possibly be? Never minimize what God is at working doing in them through His “ordinary” means of grace.

Besides, those cries of distress (or for mercy!) as you take them out are music to the hearts of their fellow, older saints. We support you, parents, in this “chore” that is also a marvelous duty.

Go and Disciple – June 2018 Tabletalk

The June issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional, centers around the theme of “Discipleship.”

This is another issue that features a larger number of articles, but considerably shorter. Eighteen writers draw our attention to various aspects of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, from the “mandate of discipleship” to the “rewards of discipleship.” I am again finding the articles instructive and inspirational.

Editor Burk Parsons sets the course of the issue with his introduction “Christians are Disciples.” In he makes this important point:

…Although many people don’t want to hear it, and while many pastors fail to preach it, there is no distinction between a Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christians are disciples. A disciple is someone who trusts Christ and who lives his life according to that trust, following Christ and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). His call is clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). If we are genuinely trusting Christ, we will follow Him, but if we’re not following Him, it means that we don’t trust Him. Similarly, if we know the gospel, we will strive to walk in a way that is worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27); if the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we will walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); if we are united to Christ, we will bear fruit in Christ (John 15:1–11); if we love Christ, we will obey Christ (John 14:15); if we are justified by faith, and faith alone, our faith will not remain alone but will result in a life of faith, repentance, and good works, which Christ prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8–10; James 2:14–26).

One of the other articles I reference tonight is by Rev. Anthony Carter, who penned a short piece titled “What is a Disciple?” We quote a portion of his article too:

In short, a disciple is a student. A disciple is one who disciplines himself in the teachings and practices of another. The word disciple, like discipline, comes from the Latin word discipulus, meaning “pupil” or “learner.” Consequently, to learn is to discipline oneself. For example, if one is to advance in the arts or the sciences or athletics, one has to discipline himself and to learn and follow the principles and fundamentals of the best teachers in that area of study. So it was and is with the disciples of Christ. A disciple follows Jesus.

When Jesus called His first disciples, He spoke the simple words, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17; 2:14; John 1:43). A disciple is a follower, one who trusts and believes in a teacher and follows that teacher’s words and example. Therefore, to be a disciple is to be in a relationship. It is having an intimate, instructive, and imitative relationship with the teacher. Consequently, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is being in relationship with Jesus—it is seeking to be like Jesus. In other words, we follow Christ to be like Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) because as His disciples, we belong to Christ. The disciple of Jesus has certain traits that are commensurate with a relationship with Jesus. What are the qualities of a disciple of Christ? What are the traits of those who follow and are called disciples of Christ?

To find out the answers to those questions, follow the link below and finish reading. For the other articles, visit the Tabletalk link above.

Source: What Is a Disciple?

Book Alert! “The Belgic Confession: A Commentary” by David J. Engelsma

belgconf-comm-DJE-2018This week I received the latest offering from the Reformed Free Publishing Association – my personal copy along with that of the seminary library. The new book may have an unassuming title – The Belgic Confession: A Commentary – but it represents a new subject matter for the RFPA and helps fills a major void in  English for those who embrace this Reformed Confession (also known as the Netherlands Confession).

The author of the commentary is well known – emeritus PRC Seminary professor David J. Engelsma – and his commentary is the fruit of a ministry spent preaching, teaching, and writing about the Reformed doctrines summarized in this Calvinistic creed.

The publisher gives this description of the new book:

An orthodox commentary on the confession, that is, one that is in wholehearted accord with the teachings of the confession, and resolutely faithful to them, will be profitable to Reformed Christians and churches in the twenty-first century, not only for invaluable instruction in the Reformed faith, but also for the maintenance and defense of Reformed orthodoxy.

Founded on holy scripture, the Belgic Confession determines sound doctrine for Reformed churches and believers. This doctrine is rich, lovely, and powerful. The confession also authoritatively exposes contemporary heresies. As they read this commentary which proclaims the doctrine and authority of the confession, all believers who love the Reformed faith will be faithfully guided in the truth of the “old paths.”

Volume one covers Articles 1-21 of the Belgic Confession.

The first volume is a hardover of 368 pages, retailing for $31.95. But join the RFPA Book Club and the title is yours for only $20.77! The author promises in the introduction that the second volume is not far behind (that will cover Articles 22-37 of the Belgic Confession).

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In his introduction, Engelsma sets forth the importance of the Belgic Confession for the modern reader and church member:

As the official authoritative creed of Reformed churches worldwide, how great is the importance of the Belgic Confession! It authoritatively defines the truth of scripture. Explicitly and by implication, it also authoritatively defines heresies. It identifies true churches of Christ in the world. It constitutes the authoritative witness of these churches to other churches and to the world outside the church. On the title (front) page of the original publication of the Confession was a quotation of 1 Peter 3:15: ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.’ It is a document to instruct the members of reformed churches in the biblical truth that they profess, especially the children of Reformed believers. It is the guide of reformed preachers concerning the doctrines they must teach and defend. It is the defense of the Reformed faith against errors by which the faith is threatened, whether by heretics within the churches (always a danger, to all churches) or by the winds of false doctrine blowing upon the true church from without [pp.12-13].

All Reformed Christians interested in bolstering their faith with solid teaching and practical counsel will want to add this volume to their personal and family libraries. And don’t forget those church libraries also. 🙂

Contact the publisher at the information found at the links above to obtain your copy and to join the book club.

What Justification Does the Christian Have for Reading Secular Literature? A PR Perspective

litclassicsYou may recall that a few weeks ago we examined another section of Dr. Leland Ryken’s valuable book on the Christian’s reading of literature, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). That particular section dealt with the Christian justification for reading secular literature (classics), and you will remember that Ryken grounded this first of all in the doctrine of “common grace.”

We took issue with this position, even though Ryken appealed to Scripture (without any specific texts) and to Calvin (with a couple of quotes that only proved that God also gives unbelievers “excellent gifts,” which may be of use to the believer – something with which we agree; we just don’t call it “grace”, not even if you call it “common” and not “saving.”). But it is not enough to say we do not ground the Christian’s right to read secular literature in common grace; we must state the justification positively, with Reformed and biblical grounds.

And we Protestant Reformed people do, even though many think we do not. To be sure, we do unashamedly affirm the antithesis, that spiritual “line in the sand” (separation) God by His sovereign, saving grace makes between the Christian and the ungodly world, between our renewed thinking and their perverse thinking, between our good works and their evil works (of literature too), between our Christ-directed purpose for living and their self(-ish)-focused purpose for living. That means that there is filth that the world produces that the Christian has no use for and may not use, including in the realm of literature (cf. 2 Cor.6:14-18; the first part of Eph.5; I Jn.2:15-17, e.g.).

But we also believe that God puts us in this world to live out our faith fully, to use this world and its things, including the works of fallen, unconverted sinners, to the glory of God and for our development in grace as His people. That includes their works of literature – with limitations and discernment, of course – but also with a free and good conscience governed and informed by the Word of God. That’s the key to the Christian’s use of this world – we view it and employ it through the “lens” of God’s Word (Calvin referred to this as living and learning through the “spectacles of Scripture.”).

What I want especially to point out to you tonight is that the Federation of PR Christian School Societies has produced various guides for the teachers to use in the areas of instruction that they teach. And one of these is a “Literature Studies Guide,” available on the page linked above. Part of that guide specifically addresses the Christian’s reading of secular literature, and from that part I would like to quote. These are the thoughts of Mr. Fred Hanko, a now-retired but long-tenured Christian school teacher. Let them be a guide to you as you make use of the classics of unbelievers:

In exploring the problem of what the Christian can do with the literary works of the unbeliever, there are a few basic ideas with which I would like to begin.
First it must be understood that there is an objective reality which includes God Himself, all things in the universe which He has created, and all the works that God has done in history.
Second, the Christian is called upon to know and understand this reality as far as his limitations and capacities allow. Third, the Christian is required to respond to this reality. The response must be of acceptance of the good and rejection of the evil, as well as belief and worship. Further, the response must include behavior toward God, toward men, and toward the earth.
Now the business of literature is communication. The objective reality is the material with which the author works. He explores this reality, he responds to it, he interprets it, and he uses the written word to communicate the results to the reader.
Note that the special feature of literature that makes it differ from other writings is that literature bears the imprint of the writer. The author himself appears in all works of literature. It may appear in his selection of materials, his interpretation of reality, in his response to reality, in any or all of these. The job of the author is to explore reality and to communicate the results to us. The author says to us, this is what I see. Do not you see it too? This is what I feel. Don’t you feel as I do? This is what we ought to do. Go forth now and do it.
When the author is a Christian, we have no problem in dealing with his works. We see reality as he sees it and we respond as he does. From his work we gain knowledge, insight we have never had before, feelings that are new to us or deeper than we have ever had before. We become better Christians than we have ever been.
Our problem, however, lies with the work of the unbeliever. Can he know reality? Can he interpret it correctly? Can he respond to it as he should? And if he can do none of these things, why should we study his work?
The answer to the first of these questions seems to be the most difficult. It seems clear that just as the scientist can observe a flower and report accurately its structure, and function, so the poet can observe the flower and say accurately, This is what I see, and this is how I feel about it. Does either the scientist or the poet speak the truth? Or both? Or possibly neither?
Since we are dealing here with the work of man, it seems proper before we try to answer that we say a few things about the nature of man. We are agreed, I think, that with the fall of Adam man lost the image of God. The loss of the image of God means that man lost the true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. From that time forward his knowledge was only that of evil, his works were all unrighteousness. Man is opposed to God and in league with Satan. “All the thoughts of man’s heart were only evil continually.” Without the grace of God which restores the image of God man remains only the creature created to be an image-bearer of God but now bearing the image of Satan.
There is in man and in the works of man no neutrality of thought or actions. He is for God or he is against Him. As one created to be an image-bearer, however, he has the faculties of intellect and reason which make it possible for him to know what is true, but this truth he will not acknowledge. (Cf. Romans 1)
The unbelieving author, then, can observe reality correctly and can report it accurately even while his purpose may be to serve his idol gods. He may even be more shrewd in his analysis than the God-fearing man is. The unbelieving poet may see something in the flower that we would never see of ourselves. By reading the work of the poet, we also may see, and by our special knowledge we may gain a better understanding of God. Although the writer may have done his work in sin, we may use His work to the greater glory of God. Even the Apostle Paul used the learning of the Greeks quoting from one of their own poets in his speech at Athens.

There are more to these thoughts, and you may find them at the link above. By all means read the entire guide. You will profit immensely. And then go read, with your spiritual “eyeglasses” on.

Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior and Attention – The New York Times

The New York Times recently posted this article online and it was picked up by some of the book and reading news sources I receive, which immediately caught my attention. While it is not anything new, it confirms once more what other studies have proved – that reading to children at an early age is a tremendous benefit to their psychological, emotional, and educational development. And we would add, of course, that when God’s Word and other good Christian literature are read to them, their spiritual development is enhanced.

The article begins by pointing to the results of another new study that found the great benefits of reading to very young children:

It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.

“We think of reading in lots of different ways, but I don’t know that we think of reading this way,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, who is the principal investigator of the study, “Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development,” published in the journal Pediatrics.

After covering the special program that teaches parents during pediatric primary care visits how to be involved in their children’s lives through reading and playing, the article concludes with these additional thoughts:

But all parents should appreciate the ways that reading and playing can shape cognitive as well as social and emotional development, and the power of parental attention to help children flourish. Dr. Weisleder said that in reading and playing, children can encounter situations a little more challenging than what they usually come across in everyday life, and adults can help them think about how to manage those situations.

“Maybe engaging in more reading and play both directly reduces kids’ behavior problems because they’re happier and also makes parents enjoy their child more and view that relationship more positively,” she said.

Reading aloud and playing imaginative games may offer special social and emotional opportunities, Dr. Mendelsohn said. “We think when parents read with their children more, when they play with their children more, the children have an opportunity to think about characters, to think about the feelings of those characters,” he said. “They learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”

“The key take-home message to me is that when parents read and play with their children when their children are very young — we’re talking about birth to 3 year olds — it has really large impacts on their children’s behavior,” Dr. Mendelsohn said. And this is not just about families at risk. “All families need to know when they read, when they play with their children, they’re helping them learn to control their own behavior,” he said, so that they will come to school able to manage the business of paying attention and learning.

This “truism” is worth remembering in our own homes as well. I hope we are exposing our children to good literature at an early age and giving them the thrill of seeing and hearing words and experiences expressed in the world of books. The benefits are well documented.