Let the Church Be the Church – R.C. Sproul

TT-July-2016Yesterday before one of our worship services, I re-read in the July issue of Tabletalk Dr. R.C. Sproul’s article in his usual rubric “Right Now Counts Forever.” In it Sproul explains what the church is following the inspired apostle’s teaching in the book of Ephesians.

“What Is the Church?” is a good reminder of what biblical ecclesiology is (the doctrine of the church) and what makes the church what she is (and must always be).

Below is part of what Sproul writes on this vital subject, including some good applications to the times in which we live. For the full article, visit the Ligonier link at the end.

The Apostle Paul explains the doctrine of the church so that we might understand what God has done and so that we may understand who we are. And in calling us to understand who we are and what we’re called to do, Paul says that we’re the church. We’re the church that God ordained from the foundation of the world. We’re His people; we’re His household, so let the church be the church.

We’re living in a time of crisis. Many Christians are decrying the decadence of American culture and complaining about the government and its value system. I understand that, but if we want to be concerned for our nation and culture, our priority must be the renewal of the church. We are the light of the world.

Government merely reflects and echoes the customs embraced by the people in a given generation. In a real sense, our government is exactly what we want it to be, or it wouldn’t be there. Change in culture doesn’t always come from the top down. It often comes from the bottom up. The change we need to work for, chiefly, is renewal within the church. As the church becomes the fellowship of citizens of heaven who manifest what it means to be the household of Christ, and when the church walks according to the power of the Holy Spirit—then the people of God will shine as the light of the world. When people see that light, they will give glory to God (Matt. 5:16). This will change the world. But Paul says, first of all, let the church be the church. We must remember who we are, who the foundation is, who the cornerstone is, who the head of our building is, who the Lord of the church is.

And then he makes these concluding comments:

Do we love the church? I doubt if there have been many times in our history when there has been as much anger, hostility, disappointment, and disillusionment with the institutional church as there is today. It’s hard not to be critical of the church because in many ways the church has failed us. But if the church has failed, that means we have failed. We are called to serve the church in the power of God the Holy Spirit.

We, the church, have been made for this task by the indwelling presence and power of God’s Spirit. Yet, we are called not so much to rise up but to bow down. And if we bow down to our Lord, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:14, the church will be the church, and our light will pierce the darkness.

Source: What Is the Church? by R.C. Sproul

Supernatural Friendship – Ryan Townsend

TT-July-2016One of the edifying and encouraging articles I recently read in the July Tabletalk is the one on friendship named above. In it the author gives us three reasons why friendships are important in the Christian life. The one I have chosen to include in this post is the second one, but you may read the others at the Ligonier link below.

May these words remind us of the great need and blessing of godly friendships in our lives.

Encouragement and Exhortation

During high school, I visited England. We were driving one afternoon in the country, and I remember seeing a flock of sheep for the first time in my life, stumbling down the road right in front of us. I had never seen sheep so closely before. I thought sheep were white, but they’re not. Up close, they’re dirty—and messy and stupid. Some were falling into the ditch by the roadside; some were going the wrong way and biting at each other. But after ten minutes or so, with the help of the shepherds and the sheepdogs, they all made it home safely to the sheepfold.

In the same way, stronger and weaker Christians need one another—for love, discipleship, and encouragement. You see, we’re often like those sheep. We snap at one another and are easily swayed off the path. We fall into ditches and go the wrong way, but, by God’s grace, by being together in a flock, we can make it down the road.

This means we’re better stuck in the middle of the flock, even if it inconveniences our lives now. Why? If you know your own heart well, you know that it is actually more dangerous to be alone or on the edge of the flock because we’re prone to wander. Older men and women in the faith are commanded by Paul to disciple and encourage younger Christians (Titus 2). Younger Christians are also called to care for and love older Christians. That means that in the church, there is no such thing as an individualistic Christian. God has bound us together as one body in Christ and commanded us to care for one another (Heb. 10:24–25).

By joining a local church, stronger and weaker Christians make their love for Christ definite by loving others in a committed fashion. These friendships become the instrument that enables us to:

Encouragement is a powerful antidote to unbelief. And friendships are a great gift of God that bring us together in covenant love.

By God’s grace, they enable us to carry out the countless “one another” commands and make disciples who image His holy, pure, unified, and loving wisdom (Eph. 3:10). This brings us to the third reason why friendships are important to the Christian life.

Source: Supernatural Friendship by Ryan Townsend

Hope PRC Church Dedication Program – June 9,1965

As we have noted here previously, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI (Riverbend area in Walker), the congregation in which I have my own roots.

SpiritualHouse-HopePRC-100thMy wife and I have been browsing our copy of the new RFPA book that marks and celebrates this centennial (A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River’s Bend, 1916-2016), and are thoroughly enjoying it. It is a treasure-trove of fascinating and instructive history, including the many photographs and anecdotes.

Last week for our PRC archives feature we posted an old Reformed Witness Hour program that a member recently brought it. That same donation included a program from the dedication of Hope’s current church building, dated June 9, 1965.

Hope-PRC-GR-dedication-1965_0001

The cover is striking for its color graphics and calligraphy, though it does not contain an image of the new church. The inside is plain and the type mimeographed, so the text is not very clear, but it can still be made out.

hope-prc-gr-dedication-1965_0002

 

If you wish to see how the church building looks at present, visit Hope PRC’s website, or see it here on the PRC website.

The Story of P&R Publishing

Ever wondered how Christian publishing company P&R got its start? Do you remember its original name – Presbyterian and Reformed? And did you realize that in its early years it also published a journal called Christianity Today?

This history of P&R was recently posted on their website (July 7, 2016) and I found it quite interesting. I am personally grateful for such Christian publishing companies, and P&R continues to be true to its mission after 86 years. Our Seminary library has titles from those early years of publication and continues to purchase their books to this day.

Read on and be informed – and grateful for such Christian companies.

Below is a start to the article; visit the link at the bottom to read the rest.
In 1930 former Presbyterian minister Samuel G. Craig (1874–1960) was forced to leave his five-year term as editor-in-chief of The Presbyterian. The denominational paper dismissed Craig after he threw his support behind J. Gresham Machen, who had founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in response to Princeton Seminary’s modernist reorganization in 1929. Along with Machen, Craig founded The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. in May 1930 to produce a needed conservative answer to the liberal-leaning Presbyterian. The company started publishing a monthly journal called Christianity Today, then priced at $1 for a yearly subscription. The journal featured articles on Christianity and theology, book reviews, sermons, news in the Presbyterian church, and letters to the editor (see archived issues at http://www.pcahistory.org/HCLibrary/periodicals/CT/v01.html).

Source: The Story of P&R – P&R

Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 6:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Not Ready for Church – J. Thorn

The title above heads a weekend devotional written by pastor Joe Thorn and published in the June 2016 issue of Tabletalk.

churchatsunriseThe following is taken from this profitable article and contains Thorn’s counsel for those times when we do not feel ready to go to church and worship. His thoughts are based on Psalm 73:16-17:

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

Here are some of thoughts:

…There are those Sundays when we feel as though we are not ready for worship. Our hearts are cold, our week was fraught with failure, and the idea of ‘going to church’ seems to be an exercise in futility if not an act of hypocrisy. Somehow, we believe the lie that it is better to stay home and try again next week when our hearts will be right. But the troubled soul is meant for corporate worship, and that is exactly where we need to be [At this point Thorn quotes Ps.73:16-17).

…The person who is slow to draw near to God because of sin or doubt is the person who will not find hope. Such is the man whose faith only continues to wither and whose strength continues to weaken, for in pulling back from the Lord and the means of grace, we deny ourselves access to the primary way in which God speaks to our hearts and lives. Staying home and licking our wounds does not heal but callouses the soul, making us increasingly less sensitive to the truth we need to hear.

The local church assembled for worshiping our triune God is the place where God’s Word and Spirit are at work to move us to repentance, revive our hearts, instruct our minds, and reveal to us the plan and purpose of God in all things.

…When we are not ready for church, we must remember that the church is ready for us. Jesus is ready for us. And grace abounds for the sinner who is willing to come to Christ (p.57).

The Pillar and Ground of the Truth – Prof.R. Dykstra

SB-June-2016-coverIn the June issue of The Standard Bearer Prof.R. Dykstra has a powerful and profitable editorial on the church as the pillar and ground of the truth.

The passage he expounds is the striking one in 1 Timothy 3:15:

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

In explaining this verse, he gives us these important thoughts for contemplation:

Scripture applies that figure to the church, calling the church the pillar and ground “of the truth.” In this figure, the truth is pictured as the roof, as it were. As the pillar of the truth, the church holds up the truth. As the ground, the church is that on which the truth rests. The picture reveals that the church on this earth acts as the support of the truth. Without the church the truth would come crashing down.

…What then must the church do to be faithful to this description, this calling? In a word, the church must defend, maintain, and promote the truth. What a glorious calling God has given to the church! The truth is a treasure beyond compare, for it is the revelation of God Himself, the sovereign Creator and Preserver of the entire creation. It is the truth of the Holy One, far exalted above all that He has made, infinite in His perfections. It is the truth about Jehovah, the Triune, covenant God.

That truth is set forth in God’s beloved Son, Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life. This Jesus is the very Word of God. When God speaks, He reveals Himself to His people. That speech is always in and through Jesus Christ, for “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). To His people, God’s speech expresses His love for them manifest concretely in the cross of Jesus.

What a glorious possession is God’s truth! Because God is unchanging, His truth is unchanging. God’s truth reaches “unto the clouds” (Ps. 57:10). All His “works are truth” (Dan. 4:37) and He “keepeth truth for ever” (Ps. 146:6). Thus, His “truth endureth to all generations” (Ps. 100:5), even “for ever” (Ps. 117:2).

Truth is a vitally important gift. “Mercy and truth preserve the king” (Prov. 20:28); it is the believer’s “shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:4). God “begat…us with the word of truth” (Jam. 1:18). Jesus promised all His disciples that they will “know the truth, and the truth shall make [them] free” (John 8:32). And He commanded that “they that worship [God] must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

The church is the pillar and ground of that truth. She is called to set forth that truth in all its beauty. The church studies the Bible with the desire to grow in understanding of God’s truth. She develops the doctrines of Scripture so that the truth is ever more clearly and precisely maintained. This happens weekly as the minister searches the Scriptures and preaches the truth to his congregation. This happens as believers expound the truth in articles, pamphlets, books. The truth is being held up, sharpened, and displayed.

May we seek that truth in Jesus Christ today as we worship with God’s church. And may we promote and defend that truth in all our life and labors as members of Christ’s church, so that He is seen in every place as The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Lunch with C.S. Lewis: Thoughts on Friendship

Lunch-with-Lewis-McGrathSo what might we conclude? Perhaps the most important point to take away from our lunch with Lewis is that friendship is of vital importance because friendship is transformational – both for ourselves and for our friends. This is key because any form of ministry or service or endeavor worth pursuing requires support and fellowship. It cannot be undertaken in isolation. Friendship is essential to fit us for the task.

That’s why the questions of friendship should be ones we ask ourselves on a regular basis: How are my friends influencing me? What task lies ahead of me that demands a community of support? How can I support my friends? Am I spending enough time and energy cultivating real friendships? And is friendship an end or a means – something good in itself or a good to be consumed? It is no wonder that so many successful churches encourage small groups to meet and discuss things that concern them. Lewis himself gave and received this kind of support. We must expect to do the same.

Taken from If I Had Lunch With C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C.S. Lewis by Alistair McGrath (Tyndale, 2014), a new Kindle book I am reading this summer.

God is God: A Fire in the Church’s Bones – H.Hoeksema

In connection with the 75th anniversary of the Reformed Witness Hour this year, we plan to post some excerpts from various messages delivered on the program in the past.

The very first message broadcast on the RWH (“The Protestant Reformed Hour” as it was initially called) was “God is God”, based on Isaiah 43:12 (“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”) and delivered by Rev. Herman Hoeksema, pastor of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHBesides being published in individual leaflet form, this message was later published by the RFPA in book form, along with the other messages in this series on the doctrine of God and another on the doctrine of man that followed it. That book is titled Knowing God & Man (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006).

Today we post this paragraph from that first radio message in this published form – a powerful word for the church today. At his point in his message, Hoeksema is explaining what it means that the church is a witness to the truth that God is God.

For the church to be witness of this implies not only that the church hears and believes the word of God and professes nothing about God of herself, but it also means that the church speaks and that her speech is strictly a testimony. The church is called to speak. She is under authority to speak. She has no choice in the matter, for God has chosen and ordained her for this very purpose. She has neither the alternative whether to speak or not to speak, nor the choice of what shall be the content of her speech. Always she must say, ‘God is God.’ The church cannot refrain from speaking, because the divine calling she has is irresistible. When God directs his omnipotent word to the church, saying, ‘Ye are my witnesses,’ the word becomes a fire in her bones, an overwhelming power that impels the church to speak. This is the reason the church institutes the ministry of the word wherever she comes to manifestation in the world. She must proclaim that God is God. The character and form of her speech is that of a testimony, for she witnesses of the word of God that she hears (p.8).

PRC Archives: Hope PRC (Walker, MI) Celebrates Centennial

HopePRC-GRThis weekend the Hope PRC of Walker, MI will celebrate her 100th anniversary, complete with a special program Friday evening in the First CRC of Jenison, a church picnic Saturday, and special services on Sunday led by her pastor, Rev. David Overway, and a son of the congregation, Rev. Ken Koole.

These are the advertisements they have produced and published for the event, to which you are cordially invited.

HopePRC-100th-Anniv-advert-2016

WE WELCOME YOU to the one-hundredth anniversary celebration of Hope Protestant Reformed Church on Friday, June 10, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in First Jenison Christian Reformed Church. The celebration will feature a meditation titled “A House Built by Christ,” singing by Hope’s children, young people, and anniversary choir, a PowerPoint presentation titled “One Hundred Years Ago in the River’s Bend,” a panel discussion titled “Reflections of the Past One Hundred Years,” with refreshments to follow. If you are unable to join the celebration in person, the events of the evening will be live streamed at www.sermonaudio.com/hopeprc.

SpiritualHouse-HopePRC-100thThe RFPA is publishing a special book marking this significant anniversary and covering the history of this congregation (which is also the church in which I grew up and where my parents as well as one brother and his family are still members). The title is A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River’s Bend and is edited by lifetime member and church historian Cal Kalsbeek (hardcover, 752 pp.). Whether you are a current or former member of Hope PRC, or grew up in the Riverbend area, or simply want to learn about the history of a faithful Reformed church of Jesus Christ, you will want to obtain and benefit from this book.

I did a feature over two years ago on Hope PRC, with a few pictures from her 50th anniversary booklet and one from a 1967 church picnic. Today I will add a few pictures from an archive folder we have on this congregation, and add a few from an early Young People’s Convention she helped to host.

Here is the former church building and parsonage (pictures taken in August of 1959 when I was a year old – but I remember the old church well!), situated where Hope PR Christian School is now (Who lives in the parsonage now?).

HopePRC-oldchurch-parsonage_0007

A young people’s society photo during the Rev. J. Heys’ years (1941-1955), including my own mother (next to her good friend Donna Kooienga front and far left – how many people can you identify?):

HopePRC-oldchurch-parsonage_0006

And from the 1958 PRC YP’s Convention booklet hosted by Hope and Creston PRCs:

Hope-Creston-1958_0005

Hope-Creston-1958_0004

UPDATE: Thanks to Nick Kleyn, we can include a video of one of Hope’s choir selections at the program that evening.

Published in: on June 9, 2016 at 11:43 AM  Comments (1)  

Note to Self: Stop Pretending

Note-to-self-ThornSome good thoughts for us as we start this week of work and school.

Start by reading Romans 1:12.

Dear Self,

Like everyone else, you are pretty good at pretending. It is not malicious, but you can put on a good face when in reality things are not that good. You want to appear strong even when you are weak, or you at least do not want to appear weak. This superficial persona is the front of pride that only encourages the sin to continue in yourself, and it ultimately robs you of gospel influence – the kind of influence Paul had with the church in Rome, and they had with him.

When you pretend, you lose gospel influence in two ways – inwardly and outwardly. You lose the inward influence of the gospel in that you are not honest with others and deny them the opportunity to speak into your life. When you lack transparency, people are left without the opportunity to encourage you where you need it most. For example, sometimes you become anxious, but you have a good poker face. So you hold it together on the surface, but underneath it all you are in trouble. You need to tell the truth about what you are going through, and you need someone to tell you the truth of God. You need to hear of God’s sovereign and good plan for the lives of those who love him, and how this is rooted in the gospel. You need to see the strong faith of others so that you can persevere through such times of anxiety and fear. You pretend to protect yourself but wind up sabotaging your own spiritual life by not being real.

…Know this – it is the gospel that allows you to be real. It admits us all as sinners and establishes us all as saints. Your local church is the only place where this reality, and not pretending, can be the culture of gathered community. Be real. Admit where you are and what you are. This will allow others to minister to you, and you to minister to others.

Taken from Chap.15 “Stop Pretending” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.67-68.

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