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.

What It Means to Be Reformed: Christian Life – Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerIn the May 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer Prof.B. Gritters concluded his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed.” The last segments of the series treated the Reformed Christian life.

One of the sub-points in this part of the series was the truth that the Reformed Christian lives a “dual citizenship” in this life – in the church and in the world. This is how he explains the first citizenship:

When the Reformed Christian’s spiritual GPS asks him to assign an address for “Home,” he enters “Church.” Membership in and life in a true church is the starting point and ending point of his existence. The center of his life is the church— the church as institute. Although he has many interests in the world and a multitude of responsibilities, these interests and responsibilities all trace their significance back to his membership in the church.

What demands that he make the church central is his union with Christ. Christ Himself makes the church central. He ascended into heaven “that He might appear as head of His church,” as the Heidelberg Catechism says. God “put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1. “The church He loveth well,” the Psalms teach us to sing. For the Reformed Christian, no minimizing of church is permissible. Hold that thought.

But, then, he also goes on to show that the Reformed Christian lives a full life in this world – though he is not “of it.”

Reformed Christians also live in, and have a citizenship in, the world. They are citizens in a particular country and reside in an earthly community where not all are Christians. They have responsibilities there. They do not flee the world, Anabaptist-fashion, but live as productive citizens in it, engaging freely but cautiously in all its dimensions. They seek an occupation that fits their gifts, study to advance understanding in science and the liberal arts, and delight in good music and arts. In other words, they live broadly as productive citizens with a view to the welfare of the community. Part of that life is submitting to the magistrate. Reformed Christians usually cast votes for their leaders and, if necessary, write letters of concern to the powers that be. Some will sign petitions to keep a business closed on Sunday, or to
bar from the neighborhood a so-called Gentlemen’s Club, an abortion clinic, or a casino. Others will join with fellow citizens—of course, in a manner that does not compromise their Christian principles—to oppose evils like abortion, or do good for the community or nation in which they live. They are citizens of an earthly country.

In that connection, he also points out the real danger of neglecting this part of the Christian life:

There is a real danger that we Reformed Christians belittle or even shun these components of the Christian’s existence, huddle in a little corner, and avoid contact with the world. There is a history of Christians making this mistake, and we must not repeat it by an unbiblical understanding of antithetical living. Living antithetically does not mean physical separation from the world. Healthy Reformed Christians grasp the teaching of the Belgic Confession’s Article 36, and appreciate its reference to I Timothy 2’s call to pray for rulers. And even if they do reject the new, but common and foolish, interpretation of Jeremiah 29:7—that Babylon must somehow be transformed by our efforts and even become the friend of the church—they also properly understand Jeremiah’s call to seek the peace of today’s “Babylon.”

How then shall we live? In this way, by God’s sovereign grace.

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship – D.Hyde

Psalm122The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has a new aspect to its Internet witness and that is “Meet the Puritans,” a brief daily article highlighting Puritan teaching and practice. In a recent post, pastor Danny Hyde (a URC minister whose name many of you may be familiar with) wrote about the importance of having and attending BOTH services on the Lord’s Day.

After a quote from John Owen, one of the great Puritan preachers and writers, Hyde points to a recent note he gave his congregation about being faithful in attendance at the evening service. While not everything he communicates matches our own (PRC) experience, we can certainly appreciate his ten practical reasons for maintaining our own attendance at the second service on Sunday.

A while back in my weekly email to my congregation, I gave my people my “Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship” in an ongoing effort to educate, encourage, and exhort. They are not exhaustive and they apply to my context, in particular, but the principles should be applicable to any who reads this. May God move his people in our time to sanctify the Christian Sabbath, leading to a renewal of evening worship.

  1. God promises to be present in our midst unlike anywhere else in public worship.
  2. This is a practical help for us to sanctify the Lord’s Day with morning and evening bookends.
  3. This lays a foundation for our children to be evening attenders as well when they grow up (and not what the Dutch call a “oncer”).
  4. Since the Word of God is the food for our souls, we get “breakfast” and “dinner” every Lord’s Day with two sermons.
  5. We also read through the Old and New Testaments in evening worship with a chapter from each.
  6. We sing through the biblical Psalms together with two Psalms a week [we’ve done this 10+ times in 15 years].
  7. Our evening service is based on the historic form of evening prayer from the Protestant Reformation, thus giving us a sense of the communion of the saints through the ages.
  8. We pray biblically-saturated, ancient prayers together at evening worship, thus giving us a sense of transcendence.
  9. We get to bear each other’s burdens as we lift up prayer requests in each other’s midst.
  10. Since there is no Sunday school after, we have more time to fellowship and enjoy each other’s presence after the evening service.

Source: Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship – Meet the Puritans

Prayers of the Reformers (15)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this first Lord’s Day in May we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

These prayers (slightly edited) are taken from the section “Prayers for Baptism” and, as you will note, accord with the Reformed, covenantal (biblical) view of children.

For sanctification

Almighty and everlasting God, who of Thy infinite mercy and goodness hast promised unto us that Thou wilt not only be our God, but also the God and Father of our children: We beseech Thee, since Thou hast vouchsafed to call us to be partakers of this Thy great mercy in the fellowship of faith: that it may please Thee to sanctify with Thy Spirit and receive into the number of Thy children this infant, whom we shall baptize according to Thy Word.

May he, coming of age, confess Thee as the only true God, and Him whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ, and serve Him and be profitable unto His church, in the whole course of his life. After this life be ended, may he be brought unto the full fruition of Thy joys in the heavens, where Thy Son our Christ reigneth, world without end. In whose name we pray as He hath taught us…. Amen.

For the Spirit of light and grace

O Almighty God, which in commanding us to pray hast assured us that we, believing steadfastly in Thy promise, shall have all that we desire, especially concerning the soul, wherein we seek Thy glory and the wealth of our neighbors; our humble petition to Thee, O most dear Father, is, that forasmuch as this child is not without original sin, Thou wilt consider Thine own mercy, and according to Thy promise send this child thy good Spirit, that in Thy sight it be not counted among the children of wrath, but of light and grace, and become a member of the undefiled church espoused to Christ, Thy dear Son, in faith and love unfeigned, by the means of the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (attributed to M.Coverdale)

 

PRC Seminary Lectures on the French Reformed Tradition- Dr. T. Reid

Today and tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. (ET) the PRC Seminary will be hosting two special lectures by Dr. Tom Reid of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

While the Seminary is limited in seating and the event is especially for our faculty, students, area ministers, and special guests, the lectures are going to be live-streamed both days.

Below is the notice of the lectures from Prof.R. Cammenga and below that is the video link to the Seminary’s YouTube channel, from which you may watch the live-stream. We welcome you to join us in this way – at 1:00 p.m. TODAY and TOMORROW.

On Thursday and Friday, April 28 and 29, Mr. Tom Reid of the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary (Pittsburgh, PA) will be giving two addresses to our student body, faculty, and area ministers. Both speeches will begin at 1:00 PM. On Thursday, April 28, he will speak on “The Battles of the French Reformed Tradition,” and on Friday, April 29, he will speak on “A Recent French Reformed Theologian, Auguste Lecerf.”

This is the video link for Thursday’s lecture (full recording):

This is the live-stream video link for tomorrow’s (Friday) lecture:

Note:

Yesterday we experienced some initial difficulties with our first major live-stream effort of the first lecture of Mr. Reid – our apologies! Mid-way through his speech the stream worked fine and that portion of the video is available on our YouTube channel. But I have also posted above the full video recording of this first lecture above.

The second lecture will be held Friday at 1:00 p.m. I have the event scheduled at the link above. If this is not working, I will start a new live-stream event, which may be found at the link provided.

The Prayers of J. Calvin (27)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday of April 2016 we return to our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-sixth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:24-7:1-4, which includes Calvin’s comments on 7:1-4:

Now the object of his sermon was, to exhort them seriously to repent, if they wished God to be reconciled to them. So the Prophet shews, that God did not regard their sacrifices and external rites, and that this was not the way, as they thought, of appeasing him. For after they had celebrated the feast. every one returned home, as though they all, after having made an expiation, had God propitious to them. The Prophet shews here, that the way of worshipping God was very different, which was to reform their lives.

…God indeed esteems as nothing this external worship, except it be preceded by inward sincerity, unless integrity of life accompanies your profession.

…We hence see that external rites are here repudiated, when men seek in a false way to gain favour before God, and seek to redeem their sins by false compensations, while yet their hearts continue perverse (pp.362-63).

Calvin conclude this lecture with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we so abuse thy forbearance, that thou art constrained by our depravity to deal sharply with us, –

O grant, that we may not be also hardened against thy chastisements, but may we with a submissive and tractable neck learn to take thy yolk, and be so obedient to thy government, that we may testify our repentance, not for one day only, and give no fallacious evidence, but that we may really prove through the whole course of our life the sincerity of our conversion to thee, by regarding this as our main object, even to glorify thee in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen

Certainly fitting thoughts for us on this Lord’s Day as we gather for worship in God’s presence with our fellow saints. May we remember well the worship that alone pleases God and come with the pure sacrifices of penitence and praise.

A History of Islam – Dr. Ryan Reeves

TT-April-2016With the arrival of April, it is time to introduce the latest issue of Tabletalk and its content.

This month’s issue is focused on the subject of Islam and the need Muslims have for the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. This is a timely and bold subject to address, and this issue covers it well, with subjects on the history and teachings of Islam as well as on how to share the gospel with Muslims.

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this subject with an editorial titled “Muslims Need Christ.” In this post I point you to the first featured main article, “A History of Islam,” which provides us with a fascinating and informative overview of the clash between Islam and Christianity throughout history.

You would do well to read the entire article by Dr.Reeves, but here is a portion of it to get you started. Follow the link below to find the rest.

Unmoved by the setback in France, the early Islamic kingdoms worked double time to conquer Christian lands under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. Westerners should remember that the lands of Asia Minor, Egypt, and North Africa at this time were majority Christian, with a lineage of Christian theology and church life that extended centuries into the past. (Augustine was from North Africa, and the great ecumenical creeds were written mostly in Asia Minor.) The situation was bleak for Christians in these lands, due in large part to the rise of perhaps the most influential and important kingdom in the history of Islam: the Abbasid caliphate. The Abbasid house assumed control early in Islamic history and then established the city of Baghdad as its capital. From 750 to 1517—the year Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses—Islamic culture experienced a golden age under the Abbasid dynasty. Many of the stories of advanced Islamic civilization, philosophy, architecture, and the sciences originate from this period under Abbasid rule.

The earliest history of Islam, therefore, was marked both by its conquest by the sword and the thickening of its cultural heritage that would shape the religion until today. Many of the lands Islam conquered remained religiously the same for centuries—though Christians, Jews, or pagans in these cities immediately found their world awash in Arabic names, while mosques quickly began to dot the cityscape. However, during the medieval period, the non-Islamic faiths in the conquered lands, especially Christianity, eventually became the minority.

Christians who witnessed the fall of these lands to Islam longed for an eventual response by Christian armies to retake these lands and free their brethren. In the end, the Crusades were launched.

Source: A History of Islam by Ryan Reeves | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Instruct One Another – Brian Cosby

TT-March-2016As we have been seeing, the March issue of Tabletalk addresses the believer’s important calling to live in the communion of saints and carry out the Bible’s “one another” duties toward his fellow believers.

Yesterday I read two more articles pointing out these duties we owe one another in the church of Christ. One is the article linked below by Dr. Brian Cosby (PCA pastor), titled “Instruct One Another.”

Also this article is profitable, as it points to a calling we often overlook or leave to the officebearers. Cosby directs us to three (3) concrete ways in which we can “instruct one another.” Here are two of them; find the third and the rest of the article at the Ligonier link below.

The several Greek words that scholars have translated as “instruct” in our English versions of the New Testament can mean “teach,” “admonish,” “counsel,” “prove,” or even “warn.” The principle of “instruction” is rather broad. Even though the context of each specific passage determines the meaning, the idea of “instruction” includes a variety of God-honoring, truth-seeking, and humility-infused words and actions.

Consider the following three ways in which all believers are called to instruct one another: First, we are called to show our brother or sister the “speck” in his or her eye—after, of course, we first recognize the log in our own. This takes shape when we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) or admonish others by humbly pointing out areas of inconsistency in their walk with Christ and warning them of potential dangers.

Second, we can teach others to know and love sound doctrine. In our day, many in the church are running from a robust study of doctrine to embrace more pragmatic methods of Christian growth. This is not the biblical pattern. Paul exhorted Timothy to be “trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). If you are a small-group leader, you must move beyond mere facilitating to be able to explain and defend such important doctrines as justification and sanctification. This means that we need to set aside time to learn and meditate on the truths of Scripture so that we will be adequately equipped to teach others. Seeking out resources from knowledgeable pastors can prove to be a great help to this end.

Source: Instruct One Another by Brian Cosby | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Stir Up One Another – to Worship! Jon Payne

TT-March-2016As we pointed out  last week, the March issue of Tabletalk addresses the believer’s beautiful and blessed calling to live in the communion of saints and carry out the Bible’s “one another” duties toward his fellow believers.

We find another of these “one anothers” in Heb.10:24-25, where God’s Word calls us to stir up one another to love and good works, especially in connection with public worship. Dr.Jon Payne explains this well in his article “Stir Up One Another” (link found below).

Here are a few of his closing thoughts – good food for our souls this week:

While members of the body of Christ will possess varying gifts for graciously “stirring up” others to “love and good works,” the author of Hebrews reminds us of the most obvious way in which we all may spur on fellow believers: through faithful attendance to weekly Lord’s Day worship services. When Christians gather together to worship in spirit and truth—to hear the Word, confess sin, sing praise, confess the faith, witness baptisms, receive communion, take vows, and warmly greet one another in Christ—they actively and mysteriously foster Christian unity and “stir up” others toward godly living. Dear Christian, your active and joyful participation in Lord’s Day worship is integral to the spiritual encouragement and growth of others. Your absence, however, has the opposite effect.

Reformed commentator Simon J. Kistemaker notes that one of the first indications of a lack of love toward God and neighbor is for a Christian to stay away from worship services. Such a Christian forsakes the communal obligations of attending these meetings and displays the symptoms of selfishness and self-centeredness.

Steady devotion to corporate worship communicates not only a love for and dependence upon the triune God but also a love for and commitment to the body of Christ. To confess the “communion of the saints” in the Apostles’ Creed is to affirm that every Christian “must feel himself bound to use his gifts, readily and cheerfully, for the advantage and welfare of other members” (Heidelberg Catechism 55). Unless providentially hindered, therefore, make church attendance the highest priority in your weekly schedule, and thus “encourage one another … all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25b).

Source: Stir Up One Another by Jon Payne | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

“One Anothering” in the Church – March “Tabletalk”

TT-March-2016Yesterday I dug into some of the featured articles in the March issue of Tabletalk, the theme of which is “One Another,” that is, living in the communion of saints so that we “welcome one another,” serve one another,” “forgive one another,” “submit to one another,” and other “one anothers” that belong to our life in the fellowship of the church (a total of nine “one anothers” are dealt with in this issue).

Editor Burk Parsons has an excellent introduction to this theme, part of which I quote here. I encourage you to read the rest of it, and to start reading the various “one another” articles. The two I read yesterday, “Welcome One Another” and “Submit to One Another” are very edifying.

If you have forgotten what it means to live in the body of Christ, or have started to pull away from your fellow saints, or have left the church altogether – for whatever reason, you need to read this editorial and these articles. They will show why you need your fellow saints – and why they need you.

Here then is an excerpt from Parson’s editorial:

The love language of all marriages is self-denial. When both husband and wife are consumed not with their own immediate happiness but with the happiness of one another, they will enjoy a happy marriage. The same is true for enduring friendships and for authentic community.

With the disintegration of marriage has come the dissolution of community. As such, community has fallen on hard times. What every generation in every society in all of history has enjoyed, the rising generation will have to fight for. With the rise of online communities, online church, and online everything, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, shoulder-to-shoulder community has become increasingly difficult to find. Moreover, many don’t know what real community is and thus don’t know what to look for. Real community doesn’t happen on its own—it takes time, patience, repentance, forgiveness, and love that covers a multitude of sins. The church community is not just a crowd of people on a Sunday morning; it is the gathered, worshiping people of God in a congregation where masks aren’t needed and where real friends help bear the real burdens of one another. Community is not just getting together; it is living together, suffering together, rejoicing together, and dying together.

Source: The Orthodoxy of Community by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

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