July 2017 “Standard Bearer” – Isaiah’s Vision of the Holy God

The July 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now available, and is its custom, this is the annual PRC Synod issue.

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Prof. R. Dykstra  summarizes synod’s work and decisions with an editorial that points to the spiritual aspect. Titled “The Effectual Fervent Prayer… Synod 2017,” his article emphasizes how the diligent prayers of the delegates and of the churches’ members carried synod along in its deliberations, especially in those times of overwhelming labors and discussions.

Rev. G. Eriks, the president of the PRC Synod of 2016, delivered the pre-synodical sermon on Monday night, June 12, in Hudsonville PRC. His message from Isaiah 6:1-4 (“The Vision of the Holy God”) set the tone for synod, as you will see from this quotation:

In this vision, God gives us motivation. What we need more than anything else right now is to see the glory of our holy God. Without this, what we fall into is the motivation of doing things to please man or to seek our own glory and honor. This a danger also for the men who are being examined by synod. May the motivation in the answers you give be the glory and honor of the God who is holy, holy, holy.

In this vision, God sets before us what we must be most concerned with in all of our work and in all of our conduct as a synod – the glory of the thrice holy God. God is glorified when we do things His way. We must not be concerned when it comes to protests and appeal with who wins and who loses. We must be concerned with God’s glory. When we are concerned with the glory of God, we will do things in His way instead of attempting to manipulate or to get our way. God is glorified when we work together to understand and apply what God’s Word and the confessions say about the issues before us.

We need the knowledge of God’s holiness because seeing God’s glory qualifies us for the work. This is what qualified Isaiah to be His servant in Judah at this time. In the verses following the text, Isaiah goes from shattered to saying confidently, “Here am I; send me.

As delegates to synod, we also are forged by the living, holy God to be faithful servants of His with this vision of God’s holiness. We are qualified as those who know the holy God. We are qualified, not because we are gifted and wise enough, but because we are forgiven in the blood of Jesus Christ. The God who calls us to the work will equip and strengthen us for it. We are qualified as those who know God and His mercy. We are qualified as those who have been and are in the presence of this thrice holy God.

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Besides a special picture section of the delegates and work of Synod 2017 and the seven candidates who were examined, this issue contains a couple of letters and responses, and two articles from regular rubrics: “True Worship” by Rev. R. Kleyn (“Believing and Confessing”) and “The Reformation and the Lord’s Supper in Worship” by Rev. C. Griess (“O Come, Let Us Worship”).

To receive this issue or to subscribe to the SB, contact the publisher at the link above.

Biblical Preaching: The Antidote to Anemic Worship – A. Mohler

One of the special articles in the July Tabletalk is the one quoted and linked below, in which Dr. Al Mohler comments on the rise of music as central in modern evangelical worship and the subsequent demise of the preaching of the gospel.

Toward the end of the article, after his criticism of contemporary worship music, Mohler begins to get at what should be “front and center” in evangelical worship:

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music above all else as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship is the preaching of the Word of God.

Following which Mohler adds these significant paragraphs:

Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and nonnegotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God.

The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8, we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). This remarkable text presents a portrait of expository preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle—he simply and carefully proclaimed the Word of God.

This text is a sobering indictment of much of contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the Word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals?

And that leads him to conclude with these words:

The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active Word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, opens eyes, and applies that Word to human hearts.

Let’s give thanks that at the center of our own Reformed worship remains the pure preaching of the gospel, not music or various forms of entertainment. But let’s also examine our own hearts to make sure that this is what we truly desire – in faithfulness to the Bible and the God of the Bible. Otherwise our own worship, though biblically right in form, is just as anemic as that practiced by others.

Source: The Antidote to Anemic Worship by Albert Mohler

Entertainment and Worship – July 2017 “Tabletalk”

The July 2017 issue of Tabletalk takes for its theme “Entertainment,” and though I am just getting started with the articles in it, I have profited from what I have read so far about this complex and difficult subject.

In his editorial “Discerning Entertainment” Burk Parsons touches on the proper place of entertainment as well the dangers of it for the Christian:

Entertainment of all sorts can be a wonderful way to rest and recuperate from the busyness, noise, and struggles of life. Entertainment allows our imaginations to travel the world and explore the universe, to go on adventures with hobbits and knights in shining armor, to go back in time and experience history, and to better understand people and our culture. But we must always guard our eyes and our hearts. For we cannot even begin to understand all the ways that Hollywood has affected us. Entertainment affects our minds, our homes, our culture, and our churches. Consequently, we must be vigilant as we use discernment in how we enjoy entertainment—looking to the light of God’s Word to guide us and inform our consciences.

In Joe Thorn’s article linked here for the rubric “Pastor’s Perspective,” he addresses the danger of bringing entertainment into our worship of God.

Below is part of what he has to say about the current trends found in the church today and what our focus ought to be when we enter the Lord’s presence:

The encroachment of entertainment into our worship is not a matter of style but of substance. Entertainment is a good thing, but its purpose is the refreshment of the mind and body, not the transformation of the mind or the edification of the spirit. The danger of entertainment in worship is not about which musical instruments are permitted or what era of hymns the church should sing. The danger is found in what the church is aiming at. Entertainment has a different aim than worship. Entertainment is something offered to people for their amusement. Yet worship has a different focus and produces a different result.

The focus of worship is God, not man, which immediately pits it against entertainment. We offer ourselves to the Lord individually and collectively on Sunday morning. The church ascribes honor to God in the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of His Word. True worship is inherently God-centered and God-directed. What is done when the church is gathered is to be done according to God’s will and for His pleasure. This stands in opposition to entertainment, which is a spiritually powerless work directed at the people.

To read the rest, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Entertainment and Worship by Joe Thorn

I might also add that the daily devotionals this month are on the Reformed-biblical view of the law, or as the issue has it in its introduction to the devotions, “The Right Use of God’s Law.”

Herman Hoeksema on the Twofold Kingdom | The Heidelblog

This interesting quotation from Robert Swierenga’s article, “Herman Hoeksema and the ‘Flag in Church’ Controversy,” was first published in Origins, the Christian Reformed Church archives-history periodical.

R. Scott Clark quoted a section from it on his blog last Friday (June 30, 2017), which I reference here. While Clark uses it in support of the Reformed “two kingdom view,” I find it also significant in connection with the Reformed view of church and state in light of our celebration of the U.S.A’s 241st birthday yesterday.

Here is a small portion of the quotation as found on “The Heidelblog”:

Hoeksema insisted that the Christian church, “as the manifestation of Christ’s body on earth, is universal in character; hence the church as an institution could not raise the American flag nor sing the national hymns.” The flag could be flown in the church edifice during choir concerts, Christian school graduation exercises, and similar events, but not during worship services. Members should also raise the flag at home, on the streets, and on all public and Christian school buildings. Hoeksema insisted that his congregants, as Christian citizens, “are duty bound to be loyal to their country” and to answer the call when needed for military service. Finally, he declared, “anyone who is pro-German in our time has no right to the name of Calvinist and is a rebel and traitor to his government.”

For the rest of the quotation by Clark, visit the link below.

I also did a post on this when this same article by Swierenga was republished in Leben magazine (the full article is now found online there). For that post, visit this link.

Source: Herman Hoeksema On The Twofold Kingdom | The Heidelblog

Blessed Pure in Heart, Blessed Peacemakers, Blessed Persecuted

As we noted before this month, the June Tabletalk is devoted to the Beatitudes our Lord spoke during His ministry on earth (cf. Matt.5).

Each of these beatitudes are given a brief explanation and application in the issue. Today I was able to read three more of these articles before our worship times.

On this Sunday night, I want to leave you with quotations from all three, so that you can also benefit from these edifying articles. I give you the links to each article so that you may also read the entire thing if you wish (they are all brief).

First is “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart” by Michael Allen:

…Our salvation involves nothing less than the gift of our Savior Himself. God is not merely the author of the gospel—God is the end of the gospel.

The “pure of heart” are those who see that we are made for and only satisfied ultimately by the sight of God. Other gifts are good; this prize alone is ultimately blessed. A crucial facet of growing in the kind of purity envisioned and given by Jesus is the insatiable sense that we would not delight in any other good or reward apart from His giving Himself to us. With David, the “pure in heart” can say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2).

Second is “Blessed are the Peacemakers” (linked below) by Dirk Naves:

Rooted firmly in the peace made by Christ, today’s peacemakers must look to His life as a model. His peacemaking earned Him the hatred of religious leaders and the derision of His family. His peacemaking led Him to a garden, not for quiet repose, but for midnight wrestling; not for cool refreshment, but an overflowing cup of almighty wrath. His peacemaking led Him to a cross. It led Him to outer darkness.

It also led Him to a crown, a throne, and a people from every tribe and tongue and nation. This is the lot of peacemakers. Their bodies are scarred and they have been despised, but their harvest is full and their title is no cause for shame. They shall be called sons of God.

And finally, we quote from “Blessed Are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake,” penned by Rev. Michael Glodo.

Finally, persecution testifies to our union with Christ. In Philippians 3:8–11, Paul relates how the persecutor became the persecuted and that even though he lost all that he once held dear, he gained Christ and the righteousness that comes through faith (v. 9). The purpose or goal of counting everything else as loss is knowing Christ and the power of Christ’s resurrection along with the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, for it is necessary to become like Christ in His death if we want to share in His life. Union with Christ means a share in all things that are Christ’s, including the rejection, reviling, and persecution that was His. For if we have a share in Him, ours truly is the kingdom of heaven. And with this knowledge, we will be able to persevere with joy in trials and answer our persecutors with a benediction (James 5:1; 1 Peter 3:9).

Source: Blessed Are the Peacemakers by Dirk Naves

Spring 2017 PRT Journal Available

The Spring 2017 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal is now available in print form and in multiple digital forms (Vol.50, No.2).

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As you will see from the cover image, this issue contains a variety of significant Reformed reading material.

Prof. R. Cammenga, editor of the PRTJ, gives these “notes” at the beginning in summary of this issue:

This is the second and last issue of the fiftieth volume of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.  We welcome our readers to its pages.  Included are several articles.  The Rev. Thomas Reid favors us with the transcript of the second of two speeches that he gave last spring before the faculty, student body, and area Protestant Reformed ministers.  The article highlights the labors and contributions of a recent French Reformed theologian, Auguste Lecerf.  PRCA pastor, Rev. Thomas C. Miersma, contributes an article on the special offices and gifts in the New Testament church.  He asks whether these gifts and offices continue in the church today, and if not, why not?  The undersigned has two contributions to the issue.  The first is the second part of my examination of the teaching of common grace in light of the five solas of the Reformation.  The contention of the series is that the doctrine of common grace vitiates the five solas that constitute the Reformation’s enduring contribution to the New Testament church.  The second contribution is another installment of the “John Calvin Research Bibliography.”  A number of our readers have expressed appreciation for the bibliography as a useful tool for doing research into all the main areas of Calvin’s theology.  The bibliography arose out of my work in crafting a special interim course on the theology of John Calvin.  The course is scheduled to be taught once again as the winter interim between the two semesters of the 2017-18 school year.

      Included in this issue is what we hope will be a regular feature from the seminary’s librarian, Mr. Charles Terpstra.  Mr. Terpstra highlights the significant recent additions to the seminary library.  We include this not merely for the information of our readers.  But we invite our readers to make use of our library for study and research.  We are even open to loaning our books to our constituency and friends.

      And, of course, we have our section of book reviews—a goodly number of reviews in this issue.  We want to do what we can to inform our readers of new books of special interest that are being published.

      Read and enjoy!

    Soli Deo Gloria!                                                                                                      —RLC

If you wish to receive a free print copy of this issue, or to be added to our mailing list, contact our secretary at the email found on our home page. To download free print edition, use the link given above.

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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn – Matt Smethurst

As we noted before, this month’s Tabletalk is devoted to the Beatitudes our Lord spoke during His ministry on earth (cf. Matt.5).

Each of these beatitudes are given a brief explanation and application in the issue, and for today we quote from the article of Matt Smethurst on the second beatitude, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

Here is in part what he has to say:

Deep Dive

Imagine awaking on the Fourth of July to a text from a friend: “Meet me for fireworks at 11 a.m.” You’d think it was a typo. Why? Because fireworks aren’t impressive in the noonday sky. The darker the sky, in fact, the more stunning the display. In the same way, the brilliance of grace must be set against the blackness of sin. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

For the world, grieving sin is regressive and constricting; for the Christian, it is the pathway to joy. Imagine the implications. If Matthew 5:4 is true—if Jesus really meets repentance with comfort, not condemnation—then no longer do you need to fear being exposed. No longer do you have to present an airbrushed version of yourself to fellow redeemed sinners. No longer do you need to fear studying your heart and plumbing the depths of your disease. If exploring sin brings you to the deep end of the pool, exploring mercy will take you to the Mariana Trench. And awaiting you at the bottom of the dive is not a black hole but a solid rock.

Scarred Savior

In the final analysis, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be separated from its speaker. Jesus prayed many prayers during His incarnation, but never once did He pray a prayer of confession. He didn’t have to. He mourned over many sins, but never once did He mourn over His own. He didn’t have any.

Ultimately, our comfort is anchored in the reality that Jesus doesn’t just mourn sin; He conquers it.

Source: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Matt Smethurst

Christian Librarians’ Conference

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I am excited to attend and report on my first ever Association of Christian Librarians’ Conference, being held this week at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.

Yesterday the conference began, including a special “meet and greet” for us “first-timers”, and I was able to connect with some new people already, including librarians from Dordt College and Liberty University among others – even an excited young man from Tanzania!

Today the main conference begins with a keynote speech this morning by Stephen J. Bell of Temple University and then various workshops and sectionals, including one for “solo” librarians (like myself) and a brand new one for seminary librarians. I am looking forward to learning new things and networking with new people to gain new information so as to better serve as librarian in our seminary.

tcl volume 57 issue 2 coverThe ACL also publishes its own Journal, The Christian Librarian, which is now available online here.

Perhaps a little humor is in order from my first-day conversations with several librarians about cataloging. We were discussing the importance of getting the right subjects in the record, and one librarian said he found a record recently on a work about God’s sovereign control of all things under the subjects “God” and “Providence”, with the words “Rhode Island” behind it. Oops!

Loving God and Our Minds – R.C. Sproul

TT-June2017-BeatitudesIn the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine, R.C. Sproul, Sr. has an edifying article on “Loving God with Our Minds.”

After pointing out the effects of sin on our minds, Sproul reminds us that our salvation by grace involves the renewal of our minds, and that this is in part why God calls us to love Him with all our mind.

For this Monday, as we begin our work week and the use of our minds and our hands in our God-given callings in life, Sproul’s thoughts are useful in guiding us in how to love God with our minds.

Jonathan Edwards once said that seeking after God is the main business of the Christian. And how do we seek after God? By pursuing the renewal of our minds. We don’t get the love of God from a hip replacement, a knee replacement, or even a heart transplant. The only way we can be transformed is with a renewed mind (Rom. 12:1–2). A renewed mind results from diligently pursuing the knowledge of God. If we despise doctrine, if we despise knowledge, that probably indicates that we’re still in that fallen condition where we don’t want God in our thinking. True Christians want God to dominate their thinking and to fill their minds with ideas of Himself.

Isn’t it strange that our Lord says that we are called to love God with our minds? We don’t usually speak of love in terms of an intellectual activity. In fact, most of our understanding of love in our secular culture is described in passive categories. We speak not of jumping in love but falling in love, like it was an accident.

But real love is not an involuntary thing. It is something we do purposefully based on our knowledge of the person we love. Nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind. And if we want to have an experience of God directly where we bypass the mind, we’re on a fool’s errand. It can’t happen. We might increase emotion, entertainment, or excitement, but we’re not going to increase the love of God because we can’t love what we don’t know. A mindless Christianity is no Christianity at all.

If we want to love God more, we have to know Him more deeply. And the more we search the Scriptures, and the more we focus our minds’ attention on who God is and what He does, the more we understand just a tiny little bit more about Him and the more our souls break out in flame. We have a greater ardor to honor Him. The more we understand God with our minds, the more we love Him with our minds.

To read the rest of the article, follow the link provided in the title above.

And, as you will see, this month’s issue is on the Beatitudes of Jesus. I have started to read those, including this one – “To Be Blessed” by Dr. Brandon D. Crowe.

The Courage to Be Reformed – Burk Parsons

The May 2017 issue of Tabletalk magazine is a special one, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. With the theme “Why We Are Reformed,” the magazine highlights some of its history and some of the core doctrines of the Reformed faith it seeks to broadcast.

As pointed out in a previous post this month, featured articles are on God’s sovereignty (Derek Thomas), biblical authority (Stephen Nichols), justification by faith alone (Robert Godfrey), salvation by grace alone (Steven Lawson), God’s covenant people (Sinclair Ferguson), and a closing one on the courage to be Reformed (Burk Parsons).

It is that final article that I reference today, as we consider some of the thoughts of the editor (Burk Parsons) on what it means to be courageously Reformed in our day. For one thing, it means being like the Reformers of the sixteenth century:

The Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century, along with their fifteenth-century forerunners and their seventeenth-century descendants, did not teach and defend their doctrine because it was cool or popular, but because it was biblical, and they put their lives on the line for it. They were not only willing to die for the theology of Scripture, they were willing to live for it, to suffer for it, and to be considered fools for it. Make no mistake: the Reformers were bold and courageous not on account of their self-confidence and self-reliance but on account of the fact that they had been humbled by the gospel. They were courageous because they had been indwelled by the Holy Spirit and equipped to proclaim the light of truth in a dark age of lies. The truth they preached was not new; it was ancient. It was the doctrine of the martyrs, the fathers, the Apostles, and the patriarchs—it was the doctrine of God set forth in sacred Scripture.

And so, Parsons calls us to be courageous – not as “closet Calvinists” – but as  truly confessional Calvinists, who love and live the Reformed faith in all of life – and not with the lip service of some in the Reformed and Presbyterian camp:

Reformed theology is also an all-encompassing theology. It changes not only what we know, it changes how we know what we know. It not only changes our understanding of God, it changes our understanding of ourselves. Indeed, it not only changes our view of salvation, it changes how we worship, how we evangelize, how we raise our children, how we treat the church, how we pray, how we study Scripture—it changes how we live, move, and have our being. Reformed theology is not a theology that we can hide, and it is not a theology to which we can merely pay lip service. For that has been the habit of heretics and theological progressives throughout history. They claim to adhere to their Reformed confessions, but they never actually confess them. They claim to be Reformed only when they are on the defensive—when their progressive (albeit popular) theology is called into question, and, if they are pastors, only when their jobs are on the line. While theological liberals might be in churches and denominations that identify as “Reformed,” they are ashamed of such an identity and have come to believe that being known as “Reformed” is a stumbling block to some and an offense to others.

That gives us good food for thought as we move into this new week as Reformed Christians. Are you and am I “TR” – truly Reformed – or is it just a hollow badge? And if we are truly Reformed in confession, does it show in all we say and do?

Source: The Courage to Be Reformed by Burk Parsons