Seeking the City That Continues in 2019

sb-logo-rfpaThe first issue of the Standard Bearer in the new year is now out (Jan.1, 2019) and the opening meditation by emeritus PRC pastor Rev. James Slopsema contains many good thoughts for us as we stand at the beginning of this new year of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The meditation is based on Heb.13:13-14, which reads, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”

Among Rev. Slopsema’s profitable words of exposition are these:

Here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.

To seek something speaks of an earnest desire for something. It also implies that one does all in his power to attain the thing that he desires.

So also we seek the continuing city that is to come.

The “we” includes all the true seed of Abraham that have the same faith as Abraham.

The fact that the true believer seeks the heavenly city of God arises out of his faith.

Faith does not seek the things here below but the things that are above. That is, faith is not interested especially in things earthly and physical – earthly riches, pleasures, position, power, and so on. Faith is interested in the things that are eternal – the continuing city that God has reserved for His people in Jesus Christ with all its spiritual riches and pleasures. Faith is interested in the earthly only in so far as it is necessary to serve the Lord God and enjoy a foretaste of the eternal riches that are to come.

And so the believer is one that seeks the continuing city that is to come.

And this truth leads him to make this final application in terms of our calling in 2019:

This seeking of the eternal city of God must control our lives for the New Year and for every year the Lord gives us during our earthly pilgrimage.

Interestingly, what is stated as a fact in this passage for the true believer is also given as an admonition in other passages, although using different language.

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:1-2)

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:31-33)

The necessity of these admonitions is the sad fact that the believer in weakness of faith does not always seek the things that are heavenly and eternal but the things here below. His desires are too much earthly and not enough heavenly. He becomes distracted by the things that perish, losing sight of the things that continue. This also hinders him from going outside the camp to be sanctified in the blood of the Lamb.

Let us this year and every year that remains live in the faith of our spiritual father Abraham who looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

“…We foolishly imagine that we shall nestle in this world forever.” – J. Calvin

Ps90-12For this final day of 2017, fittingly the last day of rest this year for us God’s pilgrim people, we consider these powerful words of John Calvin on Psalm 90:3-8, as found in his commentary on that passage (Vol.V, Baker, 1979, p.465, or online here).

The design of Moses is to elevate the minds of men to heaven by withdrawing them from their own gross conceptions. And what is the object of Peter? [in 2 Peter 3:8]. As many, because Christ does not hasten his coming according to their desire, cast off the hope of the resurrection through the weariness of long delay, he corrects this preposterous impatience by a very suitable remedy. He perceives men’s faith in the Divine promises fainting and failing, from their thinking that Christ delays his coming too long. Whence does this proceed, but because they grovel upon the earth? Peter therefore appropriately applies these words of Moses to cure this vice. As the indulgence in pleasures to which unbelievers yield themselves is to be traced to this, that having their hearts too much set upon the world, they do not taste the pleasures of a celestial eternity; so impatience proceeds from the same source.

Hence we learn the true use of this doctrine. To what is it owing that we have so great anxiety about our life, that nothing suffices us, and that we are continually molesting ourselves, but because we foolishly imagine that we shall nestle in this world for ever? Again, to what are we to ascribe that extreme fretfulness and impatience, which make our hearts fail in waiting for the coming of Christ, but to their grovelling upon the earth? Let us learn then not to judge according to the understanding of the flesh, but to depend upon the judgment of God; and let us elevate our minds by faith, even to his heavenly throne, from which he declares that this earthly life is nothing.

End the Year in Worship and Song

Looking for a profitable way to end the year tonight? Allow me to give you a couple of ideas.

First, attend the special Old Year’s worship service held in one of the local PRCs.

Second, join the Voices of Victory, Sacred Harmonies, and the Covenant Quartet at Hudsonville Reformed Church anytime between 8 and 11 p.m. this evening, for a night of remembering, reflecting, and praising our God in song.

Here are the details! We would love to see you there! Come when you can, stay as long as you like.

vov-old-years-program-2016

Thanksgiving Day 2016

PilgrimThanksgivingFrom my wife and myself we extend to all of our readers a blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day greeting!

May we together give deep thanks to our God for every blessing in Christ our Lord, resting in contentment and joy in all of God’s goodness to us this day and throughout the year, and trusting Him for every need for every day.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

For our reflection today we post this prayer/meditation from The Valley of Vision titled “Blessings.” I believe you will find it fitting for this Thanksgiving Day.

Thou great Three-One,
Author of all blessings I enjoy, of all I hope for,

Thou hast taught me
that neither the experience of present evils,
nor the remembrances of former sins,
nor the remonstrances of friends,
will or can affect a sinner’s heart,
except thou vouchsafe to reveal thy grace
and quicken the dead in sin
by the effectual working of thy Spirit’s power.

Thou hast shown me
that the sensible effusions of divine love
in the soul are superior to and distinct from bodily health,
and that oft-times spiritual comforts are  at their highest
when physical well-being is at its lowest.

Thou hast given me the ordinance of song as a means of grace;
Fit me to bear my part in that music ever new,
which elect angels and saints made perfect
now sing before thy throne and before the Lamb.

I bless thee for tempering every distress with joy;
too much of the former might weigh me down,
too much of the latter might puff me up;
Thou art wise to give me a taste of both.

I love thee
for giving me clusters of grapes in the wilderness,
and drops of heavenly wine
that set me longing to have my fill.

Apart from thee I quickly die,
bereft of thee I starve,
far from thee I thirst and droop;

But thou art all I need.
Let me continually grasp the promise,
‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’

And this music video from the PR Psalm Choir is also an appropriate song of thanks for our reflection.

Things That Remain – Mrs. M. Laning

StandardBearerIn the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer (November 15, 2016), Mrs. Margaret Laning contributes to the  regular rubric on the Christian family, “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.”

Her article this time focuses on our need (especially that of the Christian wife and mother) to hold on to the “things that remain” in the midst of life’s trials and temptations.

Here is part of what she has to write on this important and timely subject:

In our trials when pressure and strain builds, when everything around us seems to be collapsing, we seek to hold on to something stable, too. Whether our stress adds up to 10 points or 310, God uses events like this to teach us that He alone is our unshakeable Rock. He teaches us this by the use of illustrations, as well. Earthquakes are for “…the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). We must examine what we are standing on in our afflictions – is it the created or the Creator, the shaken or the unshaken? When we stand on what we thought was dependable but is now crumbling right from under us, we are standing on the wrong thing. Christ is teaching us to hold on to, to trust, that which will remain.

…Christ is coming to remove the shaken in order to reveal that which cannot be shaken! All the sin, wickedness, and haters of God will be destroyed, while Christ and His unmoveable kingdom will be revealed in all of its fullness, glory, and majesty. We long for the birth of this new day.

Until then, we are prone to tremble with fear and doubts when the Lord gives us trials. Our home is destroyed. Our health or the health of our loved one is failing. We have anxious thoughts, fearing the unknown. Will the surgery be successful? Will the chemotherapy work? Our child is wayward. Our husband loses his job and financial worries keep us awake. Our spiritual enemies do not want us to be firmly grounded upon the Lord. They try ways to shake us to stop trusting our heavenly Father. They tempt us to doubt God’s love and inscrutable wisdom in the trials God sends for our good. These are the times, most especially, that God is turning our eyes to look upon the things that remain.

Good thoughts for us today and every day. On this Lord’s Day of our returning Savior may we fix our minds and hearts on the “things that remain.”

 

Happy 240th Birthday, America!

As we U.S. citizens celebrate our country’s 240th birthday today, this little historical note on why July 4 became our “Independence Day” from “Today I Found Out” is instructive.

We should never forget the history behind our independence, nor how God has used this liberty to bless and preserve His church and people in this land. And may we as God’s people count it a blessing to belong to this great land, while also remembering that our true liberty is in Christ and His glorious kingdom of grace.

Have a wonderful 4th!

Why the 4th of July was Chosen as Independence Day in the United States

While it is often said that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, this isn’t actually correct. In fact, nobody signed it on the 4th. This is contradictory to Thomas Jefferson’s, John Adams’, and Benjamin Franklin’s account of events. On top of their accounts, the public congressional record of events back their story. So how do we know it didn’t happen this way?

To begin with, the Secret Journals of Congress that were eventually made public in 1821 paint a different story. They contain an entry stating, on August 2nd: “The declaration of independence being engrossed & compared at the table was signed by the Members.”

Now if this was the only evidence, one might lean towards a typo in the journal and believing the aforementioned three individuals and public congressional record. However, one of the other signers of the declaration, Thomas McKean, denied the July 4th signing date and backed it up by illustrating a glaring flaw in Jefferson’s, Adams’, and Franklin’s argument- namely, that most of the signers were not members of congress on July 4th and thus wouldn’t have been there to sign it. As McKean said in 1796: “No person signed it on that day nor for many days after.”

Further evidence comes from the interesting fact that the parchment version of the Declaration of Independence that is on display and kept in the United States National Archives wasn’t actually written until July 19th; this being a copy of the approved text that was announced to the world on July 4th, with about 150-200 copies being made on paper and distributed on that date (26 of which are still around today, thus pre-dating what is now generally thought of by most as the “original”).

This little tidbit also came from the Secret Journals of Congress which has an entry on July 19th stating: “Resolved that the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of ‘The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America’ & that the same when engrossed be signed by every member of Congress.”

So, in the end, this signed document probably would have been copied by Timothy Matlack, Jefferson’s clerk, rather than penned by Jefferson himself, and certainly couldn’t have been signed on July 4th.

It’s also interesting to note that John Adams thought that July 2nd, not July 4th, would be celebrated in the future in the United States.  On July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, Adams noted:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

So why did he think July 2nd would be Independence Day and how did July 4th end up getting the nod instead?  Because July 2nd is when the Second Continental Congress voted to approved a resolution of independence. Although nobody voted on or signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th,  that was the date the Declaration was announced to the world, and why it was ultimately chosen as Independence Day.

A Significant First PRC-GR Bulletin – August 30, 1964

For our PRC archives item today we publish a bulletin from First PRC, Grand Rapids, MI, dated August 30, 1964. An inconspicuous date, you may think – until you read the notices and see what was happening in this historic PRC, especially as regards her crippled pastor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema.

Here you will find from his own pen, a significant pastoral note to the congregation informing them of his condition following his second stroke. This would mark the beginning of the end of his earthly sojourn.

Below is the front cover of the bulletin as it appeared in those days, and the inside pages with its various announcements – other significant ones too (click on the images to enlarge). Reminding us on this date of July 23, 2015 that the life of God’s people – pastors too – is one of affliction and hope – for we are all pilgrims and strangers in this world.

1stPRC-Gr-Bulletin-Aug1964-cover_Page_11stPRC-GR-Bulletin-Aug1964-Inside_Page_1

Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness – J.Walker

Passing-Through-JWalker-2015Such is the title of a brand new book published by Reformation Heritage Books, which was sent to me for review. The author is Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England, who also authored the popular book A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ. 

In Passing Through, Walker attempts to answer the question of the Christian’s relationship to the world. After establishing the significance of the question and the contemporary danger of worldliness, he points out that we can be guided by Christ’s prayer in John 17:14-19 (which see here). As he opens up this passage, he starts by making this important point:

Here in John 17 the Lord speaks of Christians as those who, having been given His world, now sustain a relationship to the world that is conditioned by their likeness to and connection with Him: ‘They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ But notice further that the Lord does not pray that the world would be taken away or that we would be taken out of the world. Instead He pleads that we would be protected and preserved from the evil one as we make our way in the world. Our relationship to the world is conditioned by and patterned after His own. So the Savior prays that we would be holy in this world – living distinctively and increasingly as those who belong to and are set apart by and for God – under the influence of the truth of God. He desires that we should conduct ourselves in accordance with the purposes for which we have been sent in just the same way that the Son was sent by the Father. To this end and for this purpose, on our behalf the Son sanctified Himself: He consecrated Himself entirely and without reserve, committing Himself entirely to His duty before God in such a way as to secure the same end for His people (p.3).

I have been doing some more reading in the book and am being edified by Walker’s presentation of the life of the Christin as a pilgrim. By the way, Walker derives his title from a poem by Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), which I also post here:

Passing Through

I walk as one who knows that he is treading
A stranger soil;
As one round whom a serpent-world is spreading
Its subtle coil.

I walk as one but yesterday delivered
From a sharp chain;
Who trembles lest the bond so newly severed
Be bound again.

I walk as one who feels that he is breathing
Ungenial air;
For whom as wiles, the tempter still is wreathing
The bright and fair.

My steps, I know, are on the plains of danger,
For sin is near;
But looking up, I pass along, a stranger,
In haste and fear.

This earth has lost its power to drag me downward;
Its spell is gone;
My course is now right upward, and right onward,
To yonder throne.

Hour after hour of time’s dark night is stealing
In gloom away;
Speed thy fair dawn of light, and joy, and healing,
Thou Star of day!

For thee its God, its King, the long-rejected,
Earth groans and cries;
For thee the long-beloved, the long-expected,
Thy bride still sighs!

On the RHB website is posted the Table of contents, which I give you here so that you can see how Walker handles the subject.

Table of Contents:

  1. A Way in the World
  2. Strangers and Pilgrims
  3. Understand the Environment
  4. Know the Enemy
  5. Fight the Battles
  6. Pursue the Mission
  7. Respect the Authorities
  8. Alleviate the Suffering
  9. Appreciate the Beauty
  10. Anticipate the Destiny
  11. Cultivate the Identity
  12. Serve the King

If any of our readers wish to review the book in more detail for the Standard Bearer, contact me and the book is yours.

Prayer and Chastisement – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoTonight our church discussion group will be treating  three chapters from Prof.H.Hanko’s book When You Pray: Scripture’s Teaching on Prayer (RFPA, 2006). Chapter 11 deals with the subject of “prayer and chastisement”, an important matter to every child of God.

Near the beginning of that chapter Hanko points to “three ways in which chastisement is related to prayer”, the first of which I post here today – for your benefit too. I trust you will see why, as each of us struggles in Christ’s school of prayer, not only to learn how to pray but also to pray, period.

Here are Hanko’s thoughts on one of the reasons for needing chastisement:

First, chastisement may come, and frequently does, because we fail to make prayer the important part of our life that it ought to be. We become very involved in our obligations, our work, and our pursuit of pleasure. We rarely have time to think of God, much less to walk in the consciousness of our dependence on him. Prayer, if we engage in it at all, is sporadic, hurried, stereotyped, and mechanical. God uses chastisement to teach us to return to a life of prayer and fellowship with him.

We are called to walk as pilgrims and strangers in the world. At times we find ourselves altogether too much at home here, so that every thought and desire of heaven fades from our consciousness. This needs correction, and God does what is necessary to correct us. Calvin says in his commentary on the Gospel according to John that God sends us afflictions so that we do not forget that heaven is our home (p.85).

The Days of the Years of Our Life – Rev.G.Vos

Vos, GerritFor many years, as many of you know, Rev.Gerrit Vos penned meditations for the Standard Bearer. He was gifted with a unique style of writing that matched the purpose and meaning of a meditation. His writings put the Word of God not merely right in front of you but made it penetrate your soul.

This week, while looking for a few fitting end-of-year meditations to post on the PRC website, I found this one, based on Psalm 90:10 and written for the January 1, 1963 “SB”. The full text of “The Days of the Years of Our Life” may be found both here and here.

I pull a section out of it here for your profit, encouraging you to read all of it sometime before the end of 2014. It will be good for you soul. It was for mine.

And the deepest reason why our days, our best days, are labor and sorrow is this: the wrath of God.

The Lord God walks among us and cuts off the stream of time allotted, and says at every sickbed which turns into a deathbed: Return, ye children of men! Return to destruction!

God carries our days away as with a flood. Our days are consumed by His anger, and by His wrath our days are troubles. In fact, all our days are passed away in Thy wrath, the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us.

Here we stand at the end of another year that was given to us, but the end of that year says: it is soon cut off and we fly away!

Yes, we soon fly away like iron to the magnet. And the MAGNET here is God! The moment we die we see God, the living God.

You see, He gathers us in, both the good and the bad. No one ever escapes from this ingathering.

And when the last man is gathered in at the end of the ages, the books shall be opened, and the dead, both small and great shall be judged according to what is written in those books.

And let me tell you right here that if there were no Jesus, all of us would be cast into everlasting hell.

Even God’s people, with all their good works, would be lost if it were not for Jesus.

In order to know that, look at your good works. Go ahead, look at them.

If you look long enough, with the spectacles of the Word of God on your nose, and the Spirit of truth in your heart, you will blush. You never did a good work that was absolutely perfect. Besides, also look at all the filth and corruption you are, spoke, did and thought. Oh yes, you will blush alright.

Listen to Moses, he will tell us: “Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.”

Yes, it grows very still in the waning hours of the last evening of nineteen hundred and sixty-two.

You know, I think that a very good prayer in that last night would be: O God, be merciful to me, the sinner!