The Attraction of the Psalms – W. R. Godfrey

Learning-love-psalms-Godfrey-2017From the first chapter of his new book Learning to Love the Psalms (Reformation Trust, 2017), W. Robert Godfrey gives us four (4) points about “The Attraction of the Psalms”:

Several features of the Psalms have been especially attractive to me. The first is the beauty of the language and the poetic expression of the great truths of the faith. Consider the simple words, ‘The LORD is my shepherd’ (Ps.23:1. How much comfort they have brought to many, many souls in distress.

…The second attraction is the discovery that the more you dig into the Psalter, the more you discover. Like all great poetry, the Psalms are like a mine with ever new depths to reach and ever more gold to find. They reward abundantly whatever effort we make to know them better.

Third, there are psalms for all occasions. The Psalms … mark all the important spiritual moments and emotions in the lives of the people of God. As John Calvin said, ‘I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all Parts of the Soul:” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.’ The Psalms teach us how to express our emotions to God in all the circumstances of our lives.

Fourth, the Psalms are full of Christ. They not only explicitly prophesy the coming of Christ…, but the message of the Psalms always pulls the soul to Christ and His great saving work. As was said in the ancient church, ‘Always a psalm in the mouth, always Christ in the heart.’ …The Psalms intensify our fellowship with Christ [pp.3-4].

*Note: This book is available for review in the Standard Bearer if you are interested, as I received a review copy from Ligonier last week.

If you wish to hear some beautiful Psalm music from the Psalter used by the PRC (as well as some other psalmody traditions, such as the Scottish Psalter), visit the YouTube channel of the PR Psalm Choir, directed by Mr. Josh Hoekstra (a sample video is provided below).

And don’t forget that TONIGHT is the second of the Psalm Choir concerts in the Grand Rapids, MI area – at First PRC in GR, beginning at 8:15 p.m.

May 1, 2017 Standard Bearer – Special Missions & Evangelism Issue

The last issue of the Standard Bearer (May 1, 2017) was another special issue in this volume year (93, 2016-17). This one featured the Great Commission of our Lord and the PRC’s work of missions and evangelism in obedience to that call.

Below you will see the cover and the contents of this special issue, as all of the major labors of the PRC and some of the local evangelism efforts of the PRC congregations were featured.

SB-cover-May1-2017

Rev. Daniel Holstege, the new missionary to the Philippines, penned the meditation on the Great Commission, expounding Jesus’ words in Matt.28:19,20 and Mark 16:15, spoken to His disciples just before He ascended into heaven.

Below are a few of his thoughts, significant for those called to herald the gospel to this nation and the nations of the world, and for all who are called to bear witness to the Lord and to support these heralds. May God use these words to encourage us in this grand labor of our ascended Lord through His church.

What an amazing privilege He has just given to us, His specially called and ordained apostles! To be leaders in His church whom He will use to build His church upon the rock of brother Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God! We are no men of high repute or earthly power, no kings or governors, whom He has sent to do this task, but mere servants of our King, in a spiritual kingdom, ordained ministers of the gospel.

What a blessed work we are sent to do – and not only we, but all whom the Master calls into this ministry of the Word, laborers in His vineyard, pastors and teachers in His church, preachers of the gospel of peace and glad tidings of good things! Let all who follow after us do the work of an evangelist! Let them go out into the highways and byways and bid their neighbors to the marriage of the Lord! Let them not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but be eager and open and ready to speak with their lost, heathen neighbors. Let them go, too, into other nations, across vast oceans, over mighty mountains, afar off to preach the gospel or aid and encourage those who do.

And, O, that all His disciples, male and female, farmer, sailor, builder, lawyer, doctor, engineer, craftsman, businessman, single and married, mother and father – would support and participate in our great commission! O that they all would pray for us, with intimate understanding of our work, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified! O, that they would give cheerfully and liberally to support us who preach the gospel, so that we need not make tents or have another occupation to eat our daily bread! O, that they might have opportunity to visit us on faraway mission fields to witness the glorious work and appreciate it all the more!

But, O, that they would themselves participate, being ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them! O, that they would shine as lights in the world, in the midst of crooked and perverse nations, ready and eager to hold forth the Word of life to those who are without! Not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but knowing that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes! Would to God that they will radiate every day with the hope of eternal life, having faces that show that the joy of the Lord is their strength! Master, use them too to bring others into the fold to hear the blessed tidings of salvation! Give them too to hear the call – GO! – as the Lord puts in front of them an opportunity in their daily life to bear witness of Christ Jesus!

A Godly Mother

Mothersday2011

A Godly Mother

A special gift that God prepared for me –
‘Twas given me ere I saw the light of day;
This gift was someone specially prepared
To guide my footsteps in His holy way.

Day after day she cared for me and taught
Not just the skills I’d need for daily living;
She taught me first of all to seek His face
In joy and sorrow, working, playing, giving.

She held before me God’s own word, that it
Could be a light upon my pathway ever.
She helped me learn to sing Jehovah’s praise,
And told me of the love that naught can sever.

She taught me to confess my sins, and seek
to flee from evil thoughts and words and deeds,
To follow righteousness; stand firmly in the faith;
Turn from the wrong and follow where He leads.

So through the years, her godly walk has been
A source of strength – a life to emulate.
I thank the Lord for His gift of a mother
Who taught me reverence for His name so great.

A Mother’s Day poem written by Mrs. Thelma Westra, a fellow church member at Faith PRC. They may be found in her  collection of Christian poetry titled Poems of Praise (self-published), p.44.

Today may we rise up and call our godly mothers blessed, even as we bless the God who gave them to us (Prov.31:28). I am thankful for my own godly mother, for the godly mother of our children (my wife), and for her godly mother. You are truly beautiful women and your price is “far above rubies” (v.10). May you hear God’s honor and praise through us and your children today.

For another encouraging word to godly mothers and women in Israel, read Rev. Josh Engelsma’s post on the RFPA blog yesterday. Here’s the first part of it; find the rest at the link above.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. The stores are stocked with “World’s #1 Mom” cards. The greenhouses are filled with husbands and children picking out hanging baskets and flower pots. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere are receiving hugs and text messages of thanks.

They are not likely to be forgotten.

And this is perfectly appropriate. For many of us we have had faithful, loving mothers. We are appreciative of their devotion, hard work, and self-sacrifice, and we want them to know it.

But there are some for whom this day is not one of rejoicing. Rather it’s a day of sadness. It’s a day in which they hold their pain close and pretend like everything is alright. It’s a day they wish would be over again for another year.

Sadly, these women are likely to be forgotten.

They might be forgotten because we don’t know about their struggle. It’s too private, too personal, and they aren’t ready to share it. They also might be forgotten simply because, well, we forgot. We didn’t stop to think about what they’re going through.

But they’re there. They’re present among us, shouldering silently a heavy burden.

The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017So, first, what does the Bible tell us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible?

…The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. In other words, each time we pick up the Bible to read, we should intend that reading would lead to this end.

The way that we as individuals are caught up into this ultimate aim as we read the Bible becomes clear as we spell out six implications that flow from this proposed answer to our question. When we say that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation, we imply that:

  1. the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshiping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

Taken from the “Introduction to Part 1” of Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017), p39.

In light of these thoughts, we may ask ourselves on this Saturday night: Has our Bible reading of this past week (including today) made us see and savor the infinite worth and beauty of our God, such that we are ready to fill tomorrow (the Lord’s Day) with “white-hot worship” along with our fellow blood-bought members of Christ’s bride?

Reset: Relax by Reading

Reset-DMurray-2017Yes, Dr. David Murray does indeed recommend reading (daily!) as a way to relax in the next chapter of his book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Taking us into “Repair Bay 5”, Murray points to the importance of taking time to relax in order to prevent burnout in the mad rush of life we experience in our modern culture. His call is to experience the reality of God’s Word in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

But how can we experience this stillness and silence of God’s presence with so much pressure on us from work, family, and church, so many activities screaming for our attention, and such great noise and distraction from our technological world?

Murray does indeed tell us to mute our phones and device notifications, to limit our use of social media, texting, and emails, and to shut things down in the evening and weekends. But he also points us to the benefits of reading in order to experience true relaxation. Here is part of what he says:

The last daily bump I want to recommend is reading, which may sound strange given that we are trying to rest and relax the mind. There is something about reading, however, especially reading real paper books, that can be especially health giving. In “How Changing Your Habits Can Transform Your Health,” Michael Grothaus says, ‘Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.’

…But Grothaus’ further research revealed that such transformation through reading wasn’t weird, but was ‘the norm for people who read a lot – and one of the main benefits of reading that most people don’t know about’ (97-98).

And so Murray gives us his own reading regimen and experience:

I try to set aside thirty minutes each evening for reading non-work-related books – usually biographies, works on history or fitness, New York Times nonfiction bestsellers, and so on. It’s amazing how many fantastic books you can get through – maybe two or three a month – with just that short time every day. And for all my fellow type A’s, remember that the point is not to chalk up ‘books read’ or to use the time for sermon prep if you’re a pastor, but to relax and enjoy (p.98).

There is no question that as Christians we ought to read for a variety of reasons. But let’s not forget this one either – simply to slow down and relax. And if we are reading for the growth of our souls, for knowing and drawing near to God, then by all means let us keep our mind’s eye on Psalm 46:10.

Luther: Bold Reformer – Reforming Our View of God

bold-reformer-steeleIn the sixteenth century, Luther identified the areas where the church needed to be reformed. The word reformation comes from the Latin verb, reformo, which means ‘to form again, mold anew, or revive.’ In our day, there is an ongoing need for the church to be remolded and revived. There is urgent need for reformation in the church of Jesus Christ.

…Three specific areas need reformation.

First, our view of God must be reformed. We live in a culture where the doctrine of God is constantly under fire. Open theists attack God’s comprehensive foreknowledge. Modalists deny the distinctions in the Trinity and denounce the Trinity. Inclusivists reject the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. And many evangelicals embrace a vision of God that is captivated by his love but casts aside any notion of wrath or eternal judgment.

…Four strategic initiatives will help ensure our view of God is always reforming:

  1. Recover Our Vision of God’s Greatness.
  2. Recover Our Thirst for God’s holiness.
  3. Recover Our Passion for God’s Glory.
  4. Recover Our Holy Fear of God

…One way we can recover our holy fear of God is by preaching and teaching about the wrath of God. Once again, Trueman casts light on this important subject. He highlights the reluctance of our culture to acknowledge that God is holy and deserves to be feared. He adds, “‘Luther’s doctrine of justification depends upon two things: the constant preaching of the wrath of God in the face of sin; and the realization that every Christian is at once righteous and a sinner, thus needing the hammer of the law to terrify and break the sinful conscience.’ [Quoted from Luther on the Christian Life by Carl R. Trueman]. Sadly, some Christians shy away from this God-centered counsel and minimize God’s wrath or even discard it all together. The net result is a devastating blow to the cause of Christ. To remove God’s wrath is tantamount to theological treason.

Our view of God must be reformed by recovering our vision of God’s greatness, recovering our thirst for God’s holiness, recovering our passion for God’s glory, and recovering our holy fear of God. A key aspect of this commitment is to warn sinners that God is angry with sin and will unleash his wrath on the unrepentant.

Read today in part of Chapter Two, “Bold Reformers Recognize the Need for Reform,” in Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther by David S. Steele (Kindle ed.).

Listen Up! How to Listen to Bad Sermons (3)

listen-up-ashWe are wrapping up Christopher Ash’s booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), on how to listen to good (that is, biblically faithful) sermons (cf. my Saturday and Sunday posts in January, February, and March of this year), and have one more post to go.

As we pointed out at the beginning of this series of posts, Ash also has an “appendix” section in which he deals with “how to listen to bad sermons” (pp.24ff.). Ash recognizes that sometimes God’s people are subjected to bad sermons, and he wants us to understand  that in these cases too we have a responsibility to listen well.

You may recall that at the outset of this appendix section, the author divides “bad” sermons into three types: sermons that are “dull,” sermons that are “biblically inadequate,”and sermons that are “heretical.” Having considered “dull” and “biblically inadequate”sermons, we turn to the final subset of bad sermons – “heretical” ones. Yes, Ash deals with these too, and so must we.

Ash begins by defining what a heresy is, giving us three points:

  1. “First, it is an error in something central to Christian faith and not something peripheral” (he mentions as an example not a difference in church government but one who denies Jesus as the Messiah).
  2. “Second, a person is not a heretic if they get something wrong by mistake [or weakness], and then put it right when they are corrected. They are heretics, however, if they hold obstinately to teaching which the Bible shows to be wrong”[and we would add, contrary to the historic Confessions of the church].
  3. “Third. it is only heresy when the person actively seeks to teach this error in the church. A private opinion is not heresy. The mistake of a Christian is not heresy. ..A heretic is not only a false-believer but also also a false-teacher.”

So, what is our responsibility in cases where a minister of the Word is teaching heresy? Ash’ counsel is simple and direct:

The way to listen to these sorts of sermons is to stop listening to them! That is to say, we ought to move away from that kind of church and find a church where they believe and teach the Bible faithfully. We will not look for an exciting church, where the preaching entertains; we will look for a faithful, Bible-teaching church [p.28].

I am thankful to belong to such a church and denomination. Do we appreciate the good sermons we hear from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day? Are we praying for our pastors and, specifically, for their sermon preparation? And are we praying for our listening and for that of our fellow believers?

Ash ends with a good word for all of us:

Not all poor preaching is entirely the fault of the preacher; the congregation has a vital part to play. When a congregation makes it clear that they are reluctant to hear faithful preaching, that they want the sermons to be shorter and play a more marginal role in the meeting, when they listen stony-faced and give no word of encouragement, it is very hard for even the most faithful preacher to persevere (although they ought to, as Jeremiah had to). By contrast, a congregation eager for faithful, challenging Bible preaching is much more likely to get it [p.29].

To that, let’s give a hearty “Amen.”

Reset: Take Care of Your Body!

Reset-DMurray-2017We have been pointing you to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017). It is written with men especially in view, men in danger of burnout, as the title intimates.

After chapters on doing a “reality check” (repair bay 1) and performing a “review” of our lives (repair bay 2), Murray takes us into repair bay 3, where he taught us the practical importance of sleep (“Rest).

Now in chapter four he has us take the “car” of our lives and pull into “repair bay 4”, which he titles “Re-create.” This is a chapter about taking care of our bodies, not now in terms of sleep and rest but in terms of proper diet and exercise. But he starts once again with a “body theology,” which is a brief exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Part of that includes this:

Your body is for the Lord (vv.13-14). The apostle replaces a false slogan the Corinthians were using to abuse their bodies – ‘foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods’ – with a true slogan to bless their bodies: ‘The body is… for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.’

‘The body is for the Lord.’ God has given each of us a body to give back to him. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to anybody and everybody in immoral sexual relations. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to overwork or sloth. He gave us a body to give back to him. The body is for the Lord.

‘The Lord is for the body.’ He made it , cares for it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. He even took on a body, suffered in a body, and rose again in a body. he has a body to this day. The Lord is for the body. This is not of minor importance. Our future resurrection shows how much honor God puts on the body and how much we should honor in the meantime what he will honor for all time [p.75].

And then Murray goes on to apply this “body theology” with subjects such as “stand up (on posture and care for our backs),” “exercise,” and “manual labor.” Let me take a snippet from the section on exercise for our benefit, men.

Moderate physical exercise helps to expel unhelpful chemicals from our systems and stimulates the production of helpful chemicals. It strengthens not just the body but also the brain. Research has shown that walking just two miles a day reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia by 60 percent. And aside from the long-term benefits, exercise triggers the growth of new brain cells in the hippcampus and the release of neurotrophic growth factors – a kind of mental fertilizer that helps the brain grow, maintain new connections, and stay healthy. Exercise and proper rest patterns generate about a 20 percent energy in crease in an average day, while exercising three to five times a week is about as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression [pp.78-79].

Good thoughts for us in the middle of the work week. Life is busy. Work is demanding. Time is elusive. But our bodies are the Lord’s, bought with a precious price. What are we doing to care for them the way He wills?

Comfort in God’s Sure Covenant

evening-thoughts-winslowOn this sobering Monday, reflecting on the brevity of life and our hope in Christ, the evening meditation for April 30 from Octavius Winslow’s book Evening Thoughts is certainly fitting.

Taking his thoughts from the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 23:5, Winslow wrote:

God sometimes comforts the cast-down, by bringing them to rest in the fullness and stability of the covenant.

…What a cloud was now resting upon his [David’s] tabernacle! How bitter were the waters he was now drinking! But see how God comforted him. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”

Believer, this covenant is equally yours. You have the same individual interest in it that David had. The ‘sure mercies’ of the true David are yours, as they were those of ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel.’ In the midst of domestic trial – family changes – thwarted designs – blighted hopes, God has made with you in the hands of Jesus, its Surety and Mediator, ‘an everlasting covenant.’

In it your whole history is recorded by Him who knows the end from the beginning. All the events of your life, all the steps of your journey, all your sorrows and your comforts, all your needs and your supplies, are ordained in that covenant which is ‘ordered in all things.’ While mutability is a constituent element of everything temporal – ‘passing away’ written upon life’s loveliest landscape, and upon the heart’s dearest treasure – this, and this alone, remains sure and unchangeable.

Let, then, the covenant be your comfort and your stay, your sheet-anchor in the storm, the bow in your cloud, upon which God invites you to fix your believing eyes; yes, all your salvation and all your desire, though He makes not domestic comfort to grow.

Note: to find this book in print, go here or here; to find it online, go here.

World-Tilting Gospel: God’s Grand Salvation Plan Accomplished by Christ

world-tilting-gospel-phillipsThe truth of God’s saving plan and its culmination in Christ makes us world-tilters because we now know where our rescue comes from. What did mankind contribute to this operation? What was our part?

We contributed:

  • The traitor
  • The corrupt politicians
  • The religious hypocrites
  • The lynch mob
  • The soldiers
  • The whips
  • The thorns
  • The cross
  • The nails
    …and, most especially…
  • The sins under the burden of which Christ groaned, suffered, bled and died

So we know that the world is wrong in looking for deliverance within its own corrupt and deceitful heart. We know that the world is wrong in whistling past the graveyard, kidding itself that sin is not a big issue to God. The world is equally wrong to deny God, or to seek Him within or in nature.

We know that God is transcendent and holy. And we know that He has launched one and only one rescue operation. We know that the plan was laid in eternity. And we know that it was executed by the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that He accomplished what we could not.

But too much of the church is wrong, too. Those parts of the church that sideline Christ’s saving work, His Gospel, this age-spanning rescue plan of God, are terribly wrong. …Eager to be accepted by the world, they offer the world what the world wants on the world’s terms with just a light sprinkling of God-dust.

Given that Christ and His cross are central to God, they must be central to the church of God as well. Given that God pivots everything on the person and work of Christ, the church of Christ should do the same in its preaching, thinking, worship, and practice.

To put it bluntly: If we think we have something better to offer, then we think we know something God doesn’t know.

Taken from Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel; Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight (Kregel, 2011), Chapter 6, “God’s Rescue Operation Executed” (Kindle version), which I read tonight. I simply had to share this end-of-chapter quote with you on this Sunday night.

Are we truly thankful for this world-tilting gospel of our sovereign God?! Let it be plain in all we say and do as those redeemed by the Lamb’s precious blood.