Living in the Fear of our God and Father – January “Tabletalk”

TT-Jan-2018In the past week I began to use the new issue of Tabletalk (January 2018), the daily devotionals (going through the gospel of John this year), and today I started reading the articles. This issue is built around the theme of “Fearing God.”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with his article “The Fear of the Lord,” including these closing thoughts:

If we know the Lord, we fear the Lord, because He has put the fear of Himself into our hearts (Jer. 32:40). As Christians, we don’t have a servile, cowering, slave-like fear of the Lord. Rather, we have a filial, reverential, humble fear of the Lord. The gospel is the difference between being afraid of God and fearing God. It’s only when we come to fear the Lord that the Lord tells us to fear not. For when we know the love of God in Christ, the Spirit casts out all fear and instills in us love and adoration, that we might work out our salvation with fear and trembling and worship the Lord, coram Deo, before His face, with reverence and awe.

One of the featured articles I read today was for the “Pastor’s Perspective” column, one by Rev. John Sartelle, titled “Worship and the Fear of God.” He ended his fine piece with these words, fitting as we end the Lord’s Day and strive to walk as children of our heavenly Father in the week ahead:

The Apostle John had been as close as anyone to Jesus. He walked the roads and hills of Galilee with Him. They had spent long hours together conversing over meals. John was at the cross at Calvary, where Jesus committed to him the care of His mother. Yet, after His return to glory, when He revealed Himself to this faithful Apostle on the island of Patmos, what did John do? John says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17).

There is a tension here. God the Father is our Father through the rebirth. He has told us to address Him as “Father,” a close intimate family title. Jesus is our elder brother. Therefore, there is a genuine closeness to God, a relationship. However, God is also God—glorious, majestic, holy, just, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, transcendent. We never experience Him apart from those attributes. We have the privilege of addressing Him as Father, and there is the reality of a family relationship, but that relationship does not change the truth that we are creatures and He is the Creator. To be in His throne room with the great seraphim and romp around the throne as loving children is not a familial privilege—it is insolence to the Almighty. You never see that picture in Scripture. In that throne room, love must always be joined with reverence.

We must continually ask ourselves as ministers, officers, and members of His church, what does our worship say about our God to those who observe? Maybe the world’s lack of any fear of God has rubbed off on us more than our fear of God has rubbed off on them.

WORLD’s Top 25 articles and columns for 2017

As we end the year of your Lord 2017, we reflect on the many events that have transpired in our lives, in our churches, and in our nations.

We know that nothing happens by chance or without purpose, but all by the hand of our almighty Father and all for the good of His people and the glory of His name.

World magazine has posted its top 25 articles for this year (part of its “Saturday Series”), and it is worth remembering these stories and how they impact us as believers. And, of course, we remember these stories and reflect on them in the light of God’s Word, our spiritual lens for all things that happen.

Here is World’s brief introduction, followed by three stories from the list. Use the link below to read the rest.

In 2017, we witnessed tragedy and scandal. We celebrated a theological anniversary and said goodbye to a gifted Reformed communicator. As Christians, we responded to issues concerning our origins and the way God made us. As Americans, we fought for our rights to life and liberty. WORLD covered these stories throughout the year in our magazine, on our website, and on our podcast. Here are the Top 25 articles and columns that grabbed your attention the most.

6. Burying vs. burning

A preference and a proposal for Christians to choose burial instead of cremation

by John Piper 
July 8 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

5. Esther’s story

In a state known for legal assisted suicide, one terminally ill young woman instead chose to live each God-given day to its fullest

by Sophia Lee
Oct. 14 | WORLD Magazine | Features

4. Walt’s story

Walt Heyer is a man again, and he has a manly purpose: protect the vulnerable from the transgender movement

by Sophia Lee
April 15 | WORLD Magazine | Features

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles and columns for 2017

The Coming of Shiloh, Jesus, the Prince of Peace – Rev. D. Lee

Gen49-10

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”  Genesis 49:10

This is the prophecy in view, and is altogether astounding….

First, this is astounding when you consider the family to whom this prophecy is given, the prophecy of the king with his scepter! This prophecy was not given to a family with royal blood, not even to a family which was rich or noble and had some decent place or ranking in society. But it was given to the family of a poor shepherd, struggling to obtain food, using whatever they had for travel, and leaving the land of Canaan to come into Egypt for that food. This lowly shepherd’s family was more like helpless beggars. But it is to them that God gives this prophecy of a scepter-wielding king – sovereign and powerful, and with righteous authority!

Second, it is astounding also when you consider to which son of Jacob it is given to. It was not given to the oldest son, Reuben. Neither was it given to the next two sons in line, Simeon and Levi – these received curses instead! Nor was it given to the wisest and godliest son Joseph. But it was given to Judah! Judah, who was not even a son of favored wife Rebekah, but of Leah. Judah, who, though he turned his brothers from their purpose to kill Joseph, nonetheless persuaded them to sell him as a slave to the Midianites at Dothan. Judah, who was a fornicator with daughter-in-law Tamar. Judah was a wretched and guilty sinner! He had no right to obtain a blessing. But he did. For this promise of a mighty, righteous scepter-wielding King comes to him!

Is it not also the same with you, and with me, dear reader? We do not deserve any of God’s covenant promises of salvation. God graciously gives them to us because, like Judah we do not deserve them, The only explanation for this is God’s sovereign good pleasure. He does so in His wondrous, sovereign particular, love and mercy!

…Shiloh came! The Prince of Peace, heavenly Counselor and King of God, Jesus the Christ came! That earthly scepter left for dead through the centuries, Christ picked up and transformed to His heavenly scepter! But He would be crowned and ascend to His heavenly throne only in the way of humiliation: His lowly birth, His life-long sufferings, and above all His crucifixion and death on the cross! In that way, He would be raised and lifted up! From the dead to glorious, heavenly life! And then, lifted up and ascended into heaven at God’s right hand! And He who is now exalted in heaven above will come again — Shiloh will come again! And then, His crown and scepter, His kingship and kingdom, will be perfectly realized!

Marvel at this wonderful realization! In the way of all that history, when all seemed lost.time and time again: in the slavery of God’s people, in the failure of the earthly kings from the line of Judah, in the inter-testamentary period of 400 years. But also beyond all comprehension and expectation, in the way of God becoming man, one of His lowly creatures – this astounding prophecy made unto Judah would be realized!

Found in the meditation on this passage in the December 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer, written by Rev. Dennis Lee, pastor of Bethel PRC in Roselle, IL.

God’s Temple – Immanuel, Maranatha

TT-Dec-2017We are overdue for introducing the December 2017 issue of Tabletalk, which this month focuses on God’s grand work involving “The Temple.”

When we hear that word, we probably think immediately of the Old Testament temple of Solomon, or perhaps of the rebuilt temple built during Herod’s reign at the end of the OT. But as this issue of “TT” shows, God’s work of making His temple is all-embracing, covering the original creation, the tent made during the time of Moses (tabernacle), that more permanent OT house of Solomon, but more importantly, Christ (Immanuel!), the church chosen as living stones in the Stone (a living temple!), and then at last the new creation, which will be God’s perfect abode with His people. As you can see, “the temple” is a rich biblical concept and reality.

And as such, God’s temple is a fitting truth to ponder in this Christmas season. Editor Burk Parsons demonstrates that in his introduction to the issue, titled “Immanuel.” In it, he writes in part:

We were made to be with God. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He led His people Israel through the wilderness and dwelt among them wherever they sojourned, and He dwelt with His people in the tabernacle and temple. The earthly tabernacle and temple of Israel and all of their furnishings served Israel by manifesting God’s presence through symbols, types, and shadows. They pointed to the day when God—who is a spirit, sovereign, triune, transcendent, infinite, eternal, immutable, self-existent, self-sufficient, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and full of mercy, love, and truth—would condescend to us to dwell with us, among us, and in us. This truth is encapsulated in the name Immanuel, one of the most beautiful and comforting names that God reveals to us about Himself. Isaiah prophesied to Israel that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). The eternal Word, the Son of God, became flesh and dwelt among us. God is with us, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Before this issue gives us separate articles on the various details of God’s OT temple (the altar of burnt offering, the curtain, the lampstand, etc.), Dr. Michael Morales presents a marvelous survey of the biblical teaching on the temple in his article “The House of God.” Here is a portion of his article, which also ties in nicely with the season:

The transition from creation to new creation and from temple as house to temple as household centers upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the prologue of John’s gospel, we read that the Son became flesh and “tabernacled” among us, manifesting His glory (1:14, author’s translation). Through the incarnation, the eternal Son becomes a temple, His humanity the dwelling place of God. As a temple, Jesus is also the way to God. His self-sacrifice on the cross of agony atoned for our sins, fulfilling the sacrificial system of ancient Israel. Quite fittingly, Christ’s crucifixion resulted in God’s rending the temple veil (Mark 15:38)—through the veil of Jesus’ flesh, the “new and living way” to God has been opened (Heb. 10:19–22).

So, as we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s consider God’s magnificent temple – the true Temple of Christ and His church, destined for life with God in His everlasting house in the new world – certain to be revealed when Jesus comes again. “Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Death of Scholarship – Commentary

This powerful article on the current state of scholarship in the major universities and colleges of the U.S. appeared in the online version of Commentary magazine on Nov.13, 2017.

In it, author Warren Treadgold speaks forthrightly about how the left in America has taken control of the academic world and with its “progressive” ideology removed not merely the voice of conservative thinking (and any contrary thinking) but also the opportunity for conservatives to speak. They have done so by killing any true scholarship.

While the author’s point has broad application in the academic world, it also has narrower application for those of us who are Christians and function in the academic world. But it also has implications for all Christians and their voice in the “public square.”

Below are a few segments from Treadgold’s piece; find the rest at the link above.

Leftist professors have no such inhibitions. In their opinion, there can be no legitimate reason for scholarship except to pursue “the concerns of the present” and conduct “a search for new meaning and a rigorous testing of old bromides.” The works of Shakespeare or any other great men are of no use except to illustrate currently fashionable ideology. Moreover, since the only point of scholarship is to advance ideology, questions of accuracy are irrelevant. In combating racism, sexism, classism, heteronormativity, patriarchy, elitism, and other evils, the genuine study of literature, political science, philosophy, history, art, and religion is quite incidental. Scholarship done for nonideological purposes, perhaps especially if it faithfully represents the past in its own terms, can only serve to reinforce an unjust society and culture.

This attitude inevitably dominates not only academic scholarship but also college teaching. In 2015, the New York Times columnist Frank Bruni denounced Republican efforts to cut funding for higher education by describing how he had been “transformed” by a marvelous course in Shakespeare he took from an outstanding teacher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid-1980s. He promptly heard from his old teacher, now at the University of Pennsylvania, that such courses on “dead white men” are thoroughly out of favor in English departments today. “Shakespeare,” she told Bruni, “has become Shakespeare and Film, which in my cranky opinion becomes Film, not Shakespeare.” She advised him to look at the current course offerings of Penn’s English department—“Pulp Fictions,” “Sex and the City,” “Global Feminisms,” “Comic Books and Graphic Novels,” “Psychoanalysis, Literature, and Film,” and “Literatures of Psychoanalysis.” The sort of class that Bruni loved 30 years ago is not the sort that universities now teach.

The Biblical Idea of “Cover” – Rev. W. Langerak, Nov.15, 2017 “Standard Bearer”

After two special Reformation issues, the Nov.15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer returns to its regular rubrics and content.

SB-cover-Nov15-2017

One of the regular features is the condensed articles on biblical subjects that fall under the column “A Word Fitly Spoken.” In this issue, Rev. Bill Langerak treats for the first time the word “cover.” And, as you may guess, this simple word is also rich in meaning as it is found in God’s Word.

Here’s a taste of it:

With regard to us, the Lord covers us even in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). He covers us in the shadow of His hand and says, “Thou art my people” (Isa. 51:16). He covers us with robes of righteousness as a bridegroom adorns himself with ornaments and a bride with her jewels (Isa. 61:10). He covers our head in the day of battle (Ps. 140:7). He covers us with His feathers so that under His wings we trust (Ps. 91:4).

Most blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven; whose sins the Lord covers (Rom. 4:7). He that covers his own sins shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13). Mercy through Christ our Mediator. With His innocence and perfect holiness, He covers in the sight of God our sins wherein we are conceived and brought forth, and covers all our remaining infirmities as well (Heid. Cat., Q&A 36 and 81). Faith relies and rests upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone, which becomes ours when we believe in Him, and which is sufficient to cover all our iniquities and gives us confidence in approaching to God without fear, terror, and dread, and without following the example of our first father, Adam, who trembling, attempted to cover himself with fig leaves (Belg. Conf., Art. 23). And in the day of His coming, Christ will destroy the covering cast over all peoples and nations for He will swallow up death in victory (Isa. 25:8).

Long ago, the Lord promised that although darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people, “He shall arise upon thee and His glory shall be seen upon thee” (Isa. 60:2). We, upon whom this light of God’s love has now shined, cannot and may not cover it up with a bushel (Luke 8:16). So when shamed (insulted), the wise man will cover it while the fool is quickly angry (Prov. 12:16). When told the transgression of others, the man who loves God’s church will cover it, while the schismatic repeats it (Prov. 17:9). And although we must be sober and watchful in prayer for the end of all things is at hand, we are told that above all things, we must have fervent love among ourselves, for love covers the multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8-9).

If you would like to explore other such biblical word studies, you may find past ones on this page on the PRC website.

Loving Leaders in the Home – T. Witmer

TT-Nov-2017As we mentioned two weeks ago, the November 2017 issue of Tabletalk is on “Leadership.” One of the main articles I read yesterday is by Dr. Tim Witmer (author of The Shepherd Leader at Home) and is titled “Leaders in the Home”.

In his article, Witmer treats the leadership role assigned to husbands and fathers as prescribed by God in His Word. While he begins with the calling of wives to submit to their husbands, it is the section on the calling of husbands that I focus on today. Because I need this reminder as God’s appointed leader in my own home, and I believe my fellow husbands/fathers do as well.

Witmer heads this section of his article “Husbands: Loving Leaders,” and this is part of what he has to say in connection with the kind of loving leadership we are to provide:

The wife is called to a difficult role, but it is a role that will be much easier to bear if her husband fulfills his responsibility to provide loving leadership. It is interesting to note that Paul addresses forty words to wives but 115 to husbands. In Ephesians 5:25–33, he describes the role of husbands in marriage. The key is verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is the standard of love that is set before husbands? It is the sacrificial love of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His loving servant leadership that provides the environment for wives to follow. Let’s see how Christ’s love sets the example for the love of husbands for their wives.

First, Christ’s love is unconditional. There was nothing about you or me that deserved or required Christ’s love. Quite the contrary, “God shows his love for us in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Not only did we not love Him, but we were heading the opposite direction in our sin. It is the classic case of unrequited love. This is why our relationship with Him is solely by His grace.

Our love for our wives must be unconditional as well. We have to admit at the outset that the analogy breaks down because we are sinful human beings. We must admit that there were “conditions” that attracted us to our wives including personality, interests, and even good looks. However, our love for our wives is grounded in the commitment that we made in our wedding vows in the presence of God and witnesses. Your love for your wife must be unconditional in that it does not change based on circumstances. Husbands need to beware of communicating to their wives that their love is based on how they look today or how they respond to them today. Our love is based on commitment, not conditions.

Good food for thought as we begin this week. To finish reading the article (good for wives/mothers too!), visit this link at the Tabletalk website.

November 2017 “Tabletalk” – Leadership

TT-Nov-2017We start the week with our periodical features: yesterday the Nov.1 Standard Bearer and today Tabletalk.

The November 2017 issue is on “Leadership,” and editor Burk Parsons introduces it with his “Coram Deo” comments under the title “Faithful Servants”. Part of what he says on this subject is this:

Leadership and servanthood are not mutually exclusive. Leaders are first and foremost servants of God who serve by leading. The most essential quality of leadership is humility, and authentic humility is manifested by courage, compassion, and conviction. A faithful leader is a humble leader who leads foremost by love, not fear. A faithful leader is not concerned with being liked by everyone. A faithful leader knows how to delegate, trusts his delegates, and isn’t concerned with who gets the credit. A faithful leader knows his shortcomings and sins and leads a life of repentance and forgiveness. Ultimately, a faithful leader is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, who has led us by serving us with humility, sacrifice, and joy.

Dr. Al Mohler has the opening article on the theme, writing on the subject “Leading with Conviction.” Here are a few of his thoughts:

The leadership that really matters is all about conviction. The leader is rightly concerned with everything from strategy and vision to team building, motivation, and delegation. But at the center of the true leader’s heart and mind, you will find convictions that drive and determine everything else.

I find many of my most encouraging and informative models of convictional leadership from history. Throughout my life, I have drawn inspiration from the example of Martin Luther, the great sixteenth-century Reformer who was so convinced of the authority of the Bible that he was willing to stand before the intimidating court of religious authorities that had put him on trial, and even to stare down the Holy Roman emperor, declaring, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me.”

Here I stand. Those words are a manifesto of convictional leadership. But Luther was not merely ready to stand; he was ready to lead the church in a process of courageous reformation.

Other articles treat leadership in the church and in the home, as well as “leading for the glory of God.” I encourage you to check out the new Tabletalk website, where you will find these and many other edifying and encouraging articles to read.

Second “Standard Bearer” Reformation Issue – Nov.1, 2017

Even though Reformation Day 2017 is past, this year remains the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017) – reason for celebrating all year – and beyond!

We have called attention to the first special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer this year – the Oct.15, 2017 issue. Tonight we draw attention to the second special Reformation issue – the Nov.1, 2017 issue (cf. cover image below).

SB-Reformation-2-2017-cover

This one too is a wonderful commemoration of the great Reformation, packed with articles on seven (7) more aspects of God’s work through the Reformers in the service of the church. The articles in this issue range from those on the nature of the church to missions to the family, concluded by an article on “Reformed and always being reformed” – by the Word of God, of course.

For our purposes tonight, we post an excerpt from the first article, “The Earthen Vessels of the Reformation,” penned by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon (IA) PRC. In this piece, Rev. Engelsma points out six (6) characteristics of the Reformers as God’s “earthen vessels.” The fifth one is this:

The reformers were Christ-lovers.

The reformers were characterized by that one essential qualification of an officebearer: they loved Christ. As they went about their work, this motivated them: love for Christ. When they were slandered and abused, this sustained them: love for Christ. When they were praised by others, this grounded them: love for Christ.

Their love for Christ also meant a love for the church of Christ. They exhausted themselves for the church because they treasured her as precious in Christ.

They were not motivated by love of self or a desire for the praise of their own name. They did not compete with their colleagues to win for themselves a higher standing in the church.

Take Calvin, for example. When as a young man he stopped in Geneva for a night, he was cornered by the fiery Reformer, William Farel, who pressed him to stay to reform their church there. Calvin refused. He wanted to hide away in some forsaken corner with his books. But he ultimately relented. Certainly not for his own glory. Not even because Farel was such a convincing salesman. He did so because he loved Christ and loved Christ’s church.

And later, when Calvin’s enemies sought to smear him, they labeled him “that God-intoxicated man.” But what they intended as criticism is his highest commendation. He lived for the glory of his God.

Would to God that all officebearers and church members today be known by their enemies as God-intoxicated men and women!

Another Look at the Special Reformation Issue of the “Standard Bearer” – October 15, 2017

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and has been mailed out, and it is the first installment of our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

SB-Oct-Ref1-2017

The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

Last week we looked at one of the articles; today let’s do that with another today. Part of the wonderful heritage of the Reformation is the body of confessions, creeds, and catechisms that were composed during this period of church history. In his article “In Praise of a Well-Built Confessional House,” Rev. Brian Huizinga treats the beauty and benefits of this confessional heritage.

Here are a few paragraphs from his contribution:

A Well-Built House

The Reformation gave us an incredibly well-built house. The Reformation did not merely give us an attractive front façade (justification by faith alone or creation), a load-bearing interior wall (original sin or the necessity of divine satisfaction), roof trusses and a roof over us (Scripture or double predestination), a cozy fire place (providence or prayer), a spacious utilitarian kitchen (the means of grace or good works), or a private bedroom (assurance of our election or hope for the second coming). The Reformation era gave us a complete house of all the essential doctrines of Scripture.

Evidence of the indispensable work of the Spirit of truth is the fact that our house sits perfectly on the basement foundation that had been laid a millennium prior. The house of the Three Forms of Unity not only sits squarely on the foundation of the Ecumenical creeds, but, to employ another figure, it is the massive oak arising out of the acorn “Jesus Christ is Lord” and the little sapling of the Ecumenical creeds. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. Therefore, if we take the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” and open up each one of those words and the whole statement in the light of Scripture, we not only arrive at the narrower theology of the Ecumenical creeds, but the broader and more comprehensive theology of our Reformed creeds.

For example, “Jesus” means “Jehovah salvation” or “He shall save His people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21). To understand that one word “Jesus” we must ask the Bible: What is sin? What is the origin of sin? Who is a sinner? What is salvation? Who is Jesus? How does Jesus save? Whom does Jesus save? Why does Jesus save? Unto what does Jesus save? Work it all out according to Scripture and you end up with something like the Canons of Dordt with its five heads of doctrine. The same can be said of “Christ,” that is, “God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King” and “Lord.” Some professing Christians denounce creeds in opposition to the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord,” but creeds only take that simple confession and reveal the comprehensive theology contained in it. What a massive, structurally sound, tidy, spacious, comfortable and even luxurious house is our confessional house, covering all the doctrines from theology to eschatology

The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!