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).

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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!

Why Luther? ~ G. Veith

Last Wednesday, Oct.18, 2017, this article by Dr. Gene E. Veith (director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN) was posted on Ligonier’s Tabletalk website.

At the beginning of the post Veith raises this matter of “Why Luther?”:

Rarely has a single individual had the historical impact that Luther did. But why Luther? What was it about this particular monk, university professor, and struggling Christian that made him such a spiritual and cultural catalyst?

And he seeks to answer it by considering various angles on Luther’s life and times – how things were educationally, politically, and ecclesiastically, and how these were factors in why Luther became the Reformer he was. But in the end, Veith traces it to a fundamental truth Luther also discovered in the Bible – that of vocationthe divine calling to do this or that at a specific moment of history.

Pay attention to this in the following paragraphs. And praise God it was so.

And then be encouraged to fulfill your own vocation, with the gifts God has given you and in the time and place that He appoints.

But again, why Luther?

When Luther himself was asked about this, he would say that he did nothing. God did everything. Specifically, God’s Word did everything:

I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip [Melanchthon] and [Nicolaus von] Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.3

Here we might see an allusion to one of Luther’s most significant teachings—the doctrine of vocation. Luther taught that God works through human beings to govern His world and to bestow His gifts. God gives daily bread by means of farmers and bakers, creates new immortal souls by means of fathers and mothers, protects the innocent by means of earthly authorities, and proclaims His Word by means of pastors.

God’s callings are mostly quite ordinary—everyday relationships in the family, workplace, church, and community—in which Christians live out their faith in love and service to their neighbors. But God sometimes works in extraordinary ways as well, and when He does, He works by means of vocation; that is, through human instruments.

The best answer to the question “Why Luther?” is that God called him.

Source: Why Luther?

First 2017 “Standard Bearer” Special Reformation Issue

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and being mailed, and it is 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.

From the front cover of the issue you can see some of the topics treated. And from the table of contents posted below, you can see the rest of the important subjects covered in this issue.

You may have noted that I wrote “first” special issue in my heading. That is because we have also planned and will publish a second special issue on the Reformation this year. 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!

SB-Ref1-2017-contents

For today, we take a quotation from Prof. D. Engelsma’s article on the controversy over the bondage of the will, a subject of vital concern to the Reformers. Lord willing, we hope to feature another article from this issue as well.

The truth of the bondage of the will, including its being fundamental to the gospel of grace, has its urgent application to churches and professing Christians in AD 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of 1517. The doctrine is not a petrified mummy safely sealed up in an ancient ecclesiastical museum. It is not a truth to which hypocritical ministers and church members can pay lip service when this is convenient for them (as in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, although even then the bondage is usually not one of the topics of their celebrations), while effectively denying it in their synodical decisions, in their preaching, in their writings, by their church membership, and by their ostracism and slander of churches and theologians whose only offence is an uncompromising confession of the bondage of the will.

First, applied to the heart of the elect believer, this truth assures him of his salvation in that his willing of God and the good by a true faith carries with itself the assurance that he is saved. His will is free, and it is free because it has been freed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will glorify God on account of his salvation.

Second, confession of the bondage of the will is a fundamental mark of a true church. Confession of the bondage of the will is an essential element of the proclamation of the gospel of grace, and the true church proclaims, confesses, and defends the gospel of grace—the gospel of salvation by grace alone, without the will and works of the saved sinner.

Third, confession and defense of the alleged free will of the natural, unsaved, man, which purportedly cooperates with grace and upon which grace depends, are the mark of an apostate, false church. In our ecumenical age, God’s people need to know this, and to act accordingly.

Reformation 500 in Periodicals

A week or so ago I shared a picture of some of the new Reformation 500 books we have added to the PRC seminary library in the last year.

But today we may also report by way of picture that the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 is also being noted and annotated in many of the periodicals we receive. 

Today I pulled together a sampling from the magazines and journals we have, and took this photo.

Looks like plenty of good reading for this year’s remembrance – and for years to come! What are YOU reading for Ref500?

Published in: on October 16, 2017 at 9:41 PM  Leave a Comment  

Teaching Our Children Love for the Church – Rev. A. denHartog

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer is now available, and the October 1, 2017 issue is indeed a special one.

For one thing, it marks the beginning of volume year 94. That’s correct, this issue marks the beginning of the 94th year of publication for this Reformed magazine. And the magazine, reflecting the conviction of its editors and writers, is as committed to promoting (truth) and protecting (from error) the Reformed faith as it was in 1924 when it began.

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For another thing, this issue heralds a new look in the history of the magazine. With the leading of the publisher, the RFPA, the SB has undergone another redesign, and we trust you will appreciate and benefit from the new appearance and layout – complete with pictures of the writers!

Editor-in-chief Prof. R. Dykstra introduces the new volume year with these opening words:

With all thanks and praise to God, we begin the 94th year of printing the Standard Bearer. The first issue of the SB consisted of sixteen pages, containing nine articles and three poems. Four men made up the entire staff. I am more thankful than I can express that in the upcoming year the SB has a total of 38 different writers who have agreed to contribute articles – from two articles to ten or twelve. By God’s grace working in these men and women, the SB will continue to be a Reformed magazine devoted to defending and expounding the Reformed faith over against error.

One of the edifying articles found in the October 1 issue is listed on the cover – Rev. A. denHartog’s “Teaching Our Children Love for the Church” – penned for the Christian family rubric, “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.” Fittingly, on this Sunday night, we post this paragraph:

Teaching our children love for the church begins with teaching them the greatness, holiness, and truth of the God of the church.  The church is the place where God dwells in the midst of His people; He shows His glory and greatness and majesty there. He is such a great God who must be worshiped with fear and trembling and with holy reverence and awe. He is to be worshiped with joy and thanksgiving, praising Him for His great salvation of His people and their children.

Coming to church is not a form of entertainment similar to going to a concert or a sports event. Neither is it to be considered a boring ritual only engaged in out of necessity or mere formal tradition. We do well as parents when we prepare ourselves sincerely and prayerfully for the holy exercise of the worship of God. Because our children have the same sinful nature as we parents do, there will be times when our children go to church grudgingly, desiring rather to use the Lord’s Day for worldly pleasure and entertainment. This sinful attitude must be patiently and firmly resisted and driven from the sinful hearts of our children; certainly it must not be tolerated or made light of [p.18].

Winning the Souls of Unbelievers – J. Payne

As we pointed out earlier this month (see my Sept.10 post) the September 2017 issue of Tabletalk has as its theme “Soul Winning,” with the featured articles covering the various aspects of the Christian calling and methods of this task (based Prov.11:30).

I have once again profited from these articles, including that by Jon D. Payne, “Winning the Souls of Unbelievers.” In the first main section of this article, headed by the words “Wonderfully Ordinary,” Payne gives the “regular” believer great encouragement in the calling to evangelize.

I post these paragraphs tonight, so that you too may be assured that God has you right where you ought to be to be a means to win souls.

Rather than heap guilt on regular Christians for not soul winning on street corners or in market squares (which few believers are called or gifted to do), wouldn’t it be far better to foster a view of evangelism that naturally flows from the ordinary rhythms of daily life and weekly schedules? Shouldn’t we view gospel witness primarily as the overflow of a sincere walk with God in the particular sphere in which God has placed us?

God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He has placed each one of us right where He wants us (Ps. 115:3; Acts 17:26–27). You may wish to be somewhere else, but right now you are exactly where God wants you to be. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9; see Rom. 8:28). Therefore, God calls us to reach the lost right where we are. He has sovereignly placed us in a distinct sphere of influence, in part, to reach out to nonbelievers with the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dear believer, God by His sovereign hand has put you in a specific community and planted you in a particular neighborhood or apartment building. He has also given you a distinct vocation. Why? In part, so that you would shine the light of the gospel to those around you in the ordinary course of your life.

Source: Winning the Souls of Unbelievers

God: The Winner of Souls – September 2017 “Tabletalk”

The September 2017 issue of Tabletalk has been out for over a week now and it is time to introduce its theme and contents. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue on “Soul Winning” with his editorial “Rescuing Souls from Death.”

The first featured article is Dr. David Strain’s “God: The Winner of Souls,” in which he emphasizes that fundamental to our reason and motive for evangelizing is the truth that God is the One who saves sinners by His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.

Here are a couple of paragraphs that bring that home – one at the beginning of the article and the other at the end:

Though we may not realize it, behind and before our “lisping, stammering tongues” ever manage to proclaim the good news about Jesus, before we can muster the courage to speak a word for Him, God Himself has been in hot pursuit of sinners to save. Few truths offer more encouragement to us in our efforts to share the gospel than this: God is the great winner of souls.

…So here is the liberating truth: God is the true and great soul winner. The Father purposed to save sinners in love, and so He sent His Son for us. The Son of God has loved us and given Himself for us. The same Spirit who rested upon Christ now gives life to dead sinners, uniting us to Christ, and He empowers us in turn to bear witness for Christ. When we realize these great truths, when we see that God is the Evangelist, evangelism will cease to be a fearful work, pursued in an effort to curry divine favor. Instead, it will become a joyful expression of gratitude and an outpouring of holy zeal that others might know the salvation that has been lavished upon us by Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Read the full article at the link below. And, by the way, Ligonier has made a new special website for Tabletalk, with more content and featured articles available online. Check it out when you visit the link below.

Also, the daily devotions continue on the doctrines and practices restored to the church at the time of the great Reformation. This month they are on “The Reformation of Worship.” Want a sample of what they are like? Here’s part of the devotional for Sept.1:

Often when we think of the Protestant Reformation and what it accomplished, we focus on the doctrinal reforms related to such topics as divine grace, justification, and the authority of Scripture. This association of doctrinal reform with the Reformation is, of course, good and proper, for the Reformers were concerned to conform Christian doctrine to the teaching of God’s Word. However, the Reformers understood that there could be no true doctrinal reform without a corresponding reform of the church’s worship. In fact, in The Necessity of Reforming the Church, written to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, John Calvin listed the reform of Christian worship first in his explanation of why the Reformation was necessary. Our worship and our theology are inextricably linked.

Source: God: The Winner of Souls

Sept. 1, 2017 Standard Bearer: “Treasure”

With the new month comes the September 1, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer (cf. cover and contents below).

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One of the special features of this issue is the latest word study penned by Rev. William Langerak for the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken.” This one is titled “Treasure,” and that’s what it is – a treasure of valuable gems mined from the holy Scriptures.

I can only give you a sample tonight, though I wish I could give the whole article. For that you will just have to subscribe, or wait for the online edition in a few months.

The fundamental truth about treasure is this: God is our treasure, and we, the church, are chosen to be His treasure (Ps. 135:4). Our God is an infinite store of life, righteousness, power, wisdom, grace, and mercy. The world and its fullness is His treasure (Ps. 50:12). He has treasuries of rain (Deut. 28:12), snow and hail (Job 38:22), wind (Ps. 135:7), darkness (Isa. 45:3), and food for the belly of man (Ps. 17:14). And yet to His church alone He says this: “If ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine” (Exod. 1:11;19:5).

The fundamental attitude we must have toward treasure is this: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21). Jesus taught this. It is essentially the command to believe and trust alone in Him, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).

Do we? Jesus, knowing both His rich beneficence in giving earthly treasure and our propensity to covet it even while trying to establish our own righteousness, said: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21). Similarly, He likened the kingdom of heaven to treasure in a field, which when a man finds, he sells everything he has, and buys that field (Matt. 13:44)

If you would like to see other short biblical word studies like this, visit this page on the PRC website.

As you can see, the rest of the issue is packed with other gems (including a great book review!). You are encouraged to become a regular subscriber by visiting the SB webpage. There will find prices, information on how to sign up, and a free sample issue.