The age of applied technology: “…before long you are in bondage to it.” – B. Catton

The trouble with that kind of advance is that there is no end to it. [Catton is writing about how the Indians turned away from the “advances” copper was sure to bring to their lives after its discovery in Northern Michigan.] Development becomes compulsive. It is never possible to call a halt. Once you take the first step you have committed yourself to the last, some day, even if the last step goes straight off the edge of a precipice. It is fairly easy for man to assert his mastery over his earthy environment, but once he has asserted that mastery he has to go on exercising it no matter where the exercise takes him. The age of applied technology has one terrible aspect – each new technique has to be exploited to its absolute limit, until man becomes the victim of his own skills. The conquest of nature cannot end in a negotiated peace. Invent a simple device like the automobile, to get you from here to there more quickly than you could go without it; before long you are in bondage to it, so that you build your cities and shape your countryside and reorder your entire life in the light of what will be good for the machine instead of what will be good for you. Detroit has shown us how that works. (pp.5-6)

waiting-train-catton-1987Taken from Bruce Catton’s first essay “View from the Frontier” in the book Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1987). This is the author who is a noted Civil War scholar, author of A Stillness at Appomattox and This Hallowed Ground, and who at age 70 wrote this book (Waiting for the Morning Train) on his childhood life in Benzie County, Michigan. I recently discovered this title in a thrift store and started reading it. It is a good read on life in the northern part of our great state!

You may be interested to know these facts about the little town of Benzonia where Catton grew up and the Protestant influences that surrounded him, as told by his son William in the “Foreword”:

Benzonia, in short, was always heavily church- and school-oriented, and the upbringing that my father and his contemporaries underwent reflected this. The upbringing included large doses of strict Protestant orthodoxy, but with Dad only select portions of this took; the values instilled by Benzonia that remained a vital part of his adult life were those of a kind of stock Victorian humanism; God-fearing, to be sure, but with emphasis upon virtues like courage, fortitude, duty, hard work, belief in education, faith in progress. The progress that mattered was spiritual and moral, not material (xiii-xiv).

These Protestant influences, including many biblical allusions, are evident in Catton’s writings.

I found Catton’s comments on the “bondage” of technology quite revealing, given that he was speaking at the time of the automobile and the life-changes it brought to the  American way. Imagine what he would say about the technology of today and our bondage to it.

The Christian’s Helmet: The Hope of Salvation

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaTonight we gathered again with some fellow believers from Faith PRC for our Sunday night discussion group. This Fall we are continuing our study of spiritual warfare using the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura (RHB, 2014).

Tonight we discussed Chapter 9 , “The Helmet of Salvation,” based on Eph.6:17, with its parallel passage in 1 Thess.5:8, where the additional element of hope is included. Toward the end of the chapter the authors stress this aspect of the Christian’s saving hope as our helmet that protects our minds as we battle Satan and his hosts in this world. Here are a few of those thoughts – for your benefit too.

We can infer from his mention of hope the idea that despite all the trials and hardships we face in our battles with Satan, we will not always be combatants in this war. There is a coming day of triumph. Before long, fellow Christian, we will be in glory! Before long, we will be with Jesus! Before long, Satan and his minions will be vanquished foes, and we will be worshiping and serving our God without opposition – days without end!

What great joy and confidence these facts should impart to us in the midst of difficulty. the devil may sorely try us at present, but soon, in Immanuel’s land, he will be banished! Though at times it seems as though the enemy gets the upper hand in our lives, his day is coming (Matt.25:41; Rev.20:10), and so is ours (Matt.25:34)!

…Christian, let these wonderful thoughts fill your mind and think on them often. Just as the helmet protected the head of the ancient soldier and gave him confidence in confrontation, so also this firm assurance of your final and complete salvation protects you under the relentless blows of your spiritual adversary.

Daily meditate on the eternal glory with Jesus that awaits you. Regularly dwell on the reality that a day is coming when you will have no more struggles at all! Let these thoughts constantly fill your mind. As they do, you will be comforted and confident in the present struggle. as these truths saturate your thinking, you will be sustained, strengthened, and steadfast in the battle. Believer, in light of such things, never take off this spiritual helmet. Let it always be part of your daily protective covering. As [William] Gurnall says, ‘Take it so as never to lay it down until God takes off this helmet to put a crown of glory in its place.’ [Kindle ed.]

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Labor for the Rest – H. Hoeksema

Yea, let us labor.

Oh, to be sure, the realization of that rest is certain and depends not on our labor, but solely on the amazing toil of the restgiver, who shed his lifeblood for us. Never vainly and proudly imagine that your labor adds at all to his merit and to the infinite value of his toil.

But has it not been given us in the cause of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to battle and to suffer with him?

Is it not his own good pleasure that for a short time we should be in the world to the praise of his glory?

The way to the final rest for all the children of God must be a way of struggle and labor, of toil even unto death.

It cannot be otherwise.

For as we enter into God’s rest by faith and partake of his liberty, we become estranged from the world, cease from its evil works, and are children of light. These things are inseparably connected. No one is able to profess that he has entered into God’s rest unless he is also actually translated out of darkness into God’s marvelous light and begins to show forth the praises of him who called him. For no one can serve two masters, God and mammon, and no one can consistently seek two cities, the earthly and the heavenly. If we have become partakers of the rest of God in Christ Jesus and have been made citizens of the heavenly city, we have also become strangers in the world and condemn its evil works. For that reason the prince of this world and all his host are opposed to us. They will impede our progress to the heavenly city. They will attempt to seduce us from the way. And they are powerful masters of many means. Now they sow doubt and unbelief by vain philosophy; now they blind the eyes and captivate the heart by the glitters of treasures and the attraction of pleasures; now they intimidate by threats and menaces of sufferings and persecutions.

And a powerful ally they have in our own evil hearts, so easily induced to believe the lie, to seek the pleasures and avoid the sufferings and persecutions of the world.

Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest.

Let us diligently endeavor, let us put forth all our effort, let us faithfully struggle, that we may attain to the heavenly city.

How necessary is the admonition!

PeaceForTheTroubledHeartHHTaken from the meditation of Herman Hoeksema, “Labor for the Rest” based on Heb.4:11, originally written for the Standard Bearer, then republished in Peace for the Troubled Heart, edited by David J. Engelsma (Reformed Free Publishing Association – rfpa.org, 2010), pp.251-52.

Covenant Connections for “the Young and the Restless”

United to one body with one Head, it is our differences from each other that give each part of the body what it needs.  The younger need the older. Wealthier believers needs the gifts of poorer members. Rather than feed a comfortable narcissism, we need to be enriched by the insights, fellowship, and correction of brothers and sisters from ethnic, political, and economic backgrounds different from our own. The church is not a circle of friends, but the family of God. The covenant of grace connects generations, rooting them in that worshiping community with the ‘cloud of witnesses’ in heaven as well as here and now (Heb.12:1).

Yet today the market has become the new Pharoah who defies God’s order to let his people go so that they may worship him in the desert at his mountain. ‘Divide and conquer’ is the logic of this new lord. By separating the generations into niche markets, the powers and principalities of this present evil age pick at the covenantal fabric of God’s new society. Satan works tirelessly to create gaps between generations in the church – gaps that the fathers and mothers cannot reach across to pass the baton. Someone wisely said, ‘The church is always one generation away from apostasy.’

Continuity is the covenantal approach to generations; novelty is the decree of our age.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter three, “The Young and the Restless,” of Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014, p.53) where Horton addresses the contemporary church’s false and dangerous attempt to focus on the youth in her worship and ministry. As he shows, God’s covenant of grace – its  doctrine and practice – is the perfect answer to this error.

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!

“A shelf in my head.” C. H. Spurgeon

spurgeon_sm1I appreciated this recent devotional that appeared on Grace Gems (October 15, 2017). Taken from Charles H. Spurgeon’s popular devotional book Morning by Morning, it shows the importance of Christ for all of our knowledge and understanding. It is my hope that it profits you as well.

A shelf in my head!

(Charles Spurgeon)

Before I knew the gospel I gathered up a heterogeneous mass of all kinds of knowledge from here, there, and everywhere–a bit of chemistry, a bit of botany, a bit of astronomy, and a bit of this, that, and the other. I put them altogether, in one great confused chaos.

When I learned the gospel, I got a shelf in my head to put everything in its place, just where it should be.

It seemed to me as if, when I had discovered Christ and Him crucified, I had got the center of the system, so that I could see every other science revolving around in order.

From the earth, you know, the planets appear to move in a very irregular manner–some are progressive, retrograde, stationary, etc. But if you could get upon the sun, you would see them marching round in their constant, uniform, circular motion.

Likewise with human knowledge. Begin with any other science you like–and truth will seem to be amiss. But if you begin with the science of Christ crucified, you will begin with the sun–and you will see every other science moving around it in complete harmony.

The old saying is, “Go from nature–up to nature’s God.” But it is hard work going up hill. The best thing is to go from nature’s God–down to nature. If you once get to nature’s God, and believe Him and love Him–it is surprising how easy it is to hear music in the waves, and songs in the wild whisperings of the winds; to see God everywhere, in the stones, in the rocks, in the rippling brooks; and to hear Him everywhere, in the lowing of cattle, in the rolling of thunder, and in the fury of tempests.

Get Christ first, put Him in the right place–and you will find Him to be the wisdom of God in your own experience.

10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther | Crossway with H. Selderhuis

On this Reformation Day 2017 – the 500th anniversary of the great reforming movement planned, prepared, and produced by our sovereign Lord (albeit through His reforming agents, the magisterial Reformers) – we consider this fine summary post of Crossway publishers, written by Herman Selderhuis, and based on his new book Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography.

Selderhuis gives us ten things to remember about this German monk, things that we probably know, but which are well stated and good to recall today.

I’ve selected a few of the ones that stood out in my mind tonight. You may find all ten at the link below. I am determined to read Selderhuis’ book this year too, though I must admit, I may be over-booked.

What are YOU reading for Reformation 500?

5. Luther published prolifically.

Luther wrote a lot more than ninety-five theses and a few sermons. The official edition of his works—the so-called Weimarer Ausgabe—consists of more than one-hundred and twenty thick volumes.

Central to this impressive set is his work on the explanation and the translation of the Bible. Luther was appointed as professor of biblical exegesis and that remained his profession all of his life. This resulted in many rich commentaries.

Although he was not the official pastor of Wittenberg, we also have a great number of his sermons in which the fruits of his exegesis can be enjoyed. And then there are polemical and theological works, tabletalks, letters, and so much more.

7. Luther was a family man.

Luther was a little late when it came to starting a family. He was forty-one when he got married and forty-two when he became a father for the first time.

He wrote letters to his children during the many times he was away from home; sometimes he even took them with him on his journeys. At home, he would play and make music with them. He was also a father with worries and sadness. For example, he was besought with grief over the death of one of his daughters and was concerned when a son struggled at school.

Foundational to the Luthers’ home life was his wife, Katharina von Bora. She not only took care of the children but also told their father straight if his talk was too full of animosity of if he wasn’t taking good care of himself.

10. Luther remained a monk all of his life.

When Luther entered the monastery, he said he was searching for God—and, in a way, he kept searching for God the rest of his life.

Having found God as the gracious God, he kept searching for him, knowing that he needed him every day and also aware that sometimes God hides himself.

In becoming a monk, Luther promised God eternal obedience, poverty, and chastity—the three famous vows every monk had to make. Luther remained faithful to these vows all of his life. He remained obedient to God all of his life and even tried to obey the Roman Catholic Church as long as possible. Although the printers of his books became wealthy, Luther remained poor as he didn’t care much for money. Finally, while he did break his vow of celibacy by getting married, he embodied chastity as a husband.

Even on his deathbed, Luther’s last written words hinted at the fact that he thought of himself as a monk all of his life: “We are beggars. This is the truth. Amen.”

 

Source: 10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther | Crossway Articles

There are a host of good Reformation Day sales going on (many beyond today). I encourage you to check out these links:

 

The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

As we come to the close of this Reformation month, an important subject we have not yet touched on is Christian education. Just as the Reformers, by returning to the fundamental truths of the Word of God, impact all areas of the Christian life, so too did they influence the realm of education.

The special Lutheran website, The Hausvater Project (German for house-father, calling fathers to lead their homes in God’s ways, according to Luther’s own comments in his Small Catechism), recently highlighted this aspect of the Luther’s reforming work.

Below is a portion of the article by Ryan MacPherson, as he asks and answers five basic questions in this article:

  1. What Should Be Taught?
  2. How Should It Be Taught?
  3. To Whom Should It Be Taught?
  4. By Whom Should It Be Taught?
  5. How Shall We Honor Luther’s Legacy Today?

Though written for a Lutheran audience, this article may also be read for profit by us Reformed folk, and by all Protestant Christians. Read this part, and then read the rest at the link below.

Martin Luther may be best known for his theological reformation of the medieval church, which had strayed from the pure teaching of God’s Word. Luther did not, however, pursue his theological aims in isolation from other concerns; his writings touch upon politics, social life, and the arts. He also recognized the importance of education, both for the church and for the civil realm.

In 1520—after nailing the 95 Theses but before saying “Here I stand” at Worms—Luther published “An Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate.” Developing the sola scriptura principle of the Reformation, Luther wrote that “the Scripture alone is our vineyard in which we must all labor and toil.” Although he encouraged the universities to teach classical languages, to assign readings in the church fathers, and (cautiously) to glean insights from Aristotle and other pagan authors, Luther above all emphasized the value of the biblical languages and he sternly warned: “I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme.”

Source: The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

Reformation Sufferings: The Reformed in the Netherlands – J. Foxe

Huguenot-persecutionAs we mark the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation, we can easily forget that the cause of the Protestant and Reformed gospel was not without its grievous hardships, mostly in the form of intense persecutions, and mostly from the apostate Romish church.

In his speech this past Saturday at the PRC Seminary Reformation conference, Rev. S. Key, in talking about the progress of the Reformation in the Netherlands (Lowlands), reminded his audience that the Reformed believers in that region endured great tribulations for their faith.

That made me think that maybe John Foxe covered this in this famous Book of Martyrs. Indeed, he did, and that is the content of my post this Sunday night.

Having worshiped freely and openly in a faithful Reformed church today, we can thank God for what He worked through the courageous men and women of the 16th century in our motherland. The blood of these martyrs was also the seed of the church – and that blood is still producing fruit in our time. God be praised!

Below is part of Foxe’s account of these Protestant martyrs in the Netherlands, taken from chapter 11, “An Account of the Persecutions in the Netherlands.” You may read the rest of the chapter at the link below.

It would also be worth your while in the next few days to read the other chapters covering the stories of the Reformation martyrs. You will be humbled by the grace of God working in these pious saints. And also inspired to make that martyr’s faith your own. Are WE as committed to the glorious gospel restored to the church in that day?

A.D. 1568, three persons were apprehended in Antwerp, named Scoblant, Hues, and Coomans. During their confinement they behaved with great fortitude and cheerfulness, confessing that the hand of God appeared in what had befallen them, and bowing down before the throne of his providence. In an epistle to some worthy Protestants, they expressed themselves in the following words: “Since it is the will of the Almighty that we should suffer for His name, and be persecuted for the sake of His Gospel, we patiently submit, and are joyful upon the occasion; though the flesh may febel against the spirit, and hearken to the council of the old serpent, yet the truths of the Gospel shall prevent such advice from being taken, and Christ shall bruise the serpent’s head. We are not comfortless in confinement, for we have faith; we fear not affliction, for we have hope; and we forgive our enemies, for we have charity. Be not under apprehensions for us, we are happy in confinement through the promises of God, glory in our bonds, and exult in being thought worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. We desire not to be released, but to be blessed with fortitude; we ask not liberty, but the power of perseverance; and wish for no change in our condition, but that which places a crown of martyrdom upon our heads.”

Scoblant was first brought to his trial; when, persisting in the profession of his faith, he received sentence of death. On his return to prison, he earnestly requested the jailer not to permit any friar to come near him; saying, “They can do me no good, but may greatly disturb me. I hope my salvation is already sealed in heaven, and that the blood of Christ, in which I firmly put my trust, hath washed me from my iniquities. I am not going to throw off this mantle of clay, to be clad in robes of eternal glory, by whose celestial brightness I shall be freed from all errors. I hope I may be the last martyr to papal tyranny, and the blood already spilt found sufficient to quench the thirst of popish cruelty; that the Church of Christ may have rest here, as his servants will hereafter.” On the day of execution, he took a pathetic leave of his fellow prisoners. At the stake he fervently said the Lord’s Prayer, and sung the Fortieth Psalm; then commending his soul to God, he was burnt alive.

Hues, soon after died in prison; upon which occasion Coomans wrote thus to his friends: “I am now deprived of my friends and companions; Scoblant is martyred, and Hues dead, by the visitation of the Lord; yet I am not alone, I have with me the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; He is my comfort, and shall be my reward. Pray unto God to strengthen me to the end, as I expect every hour to be freed from this tenement of clay.”

On his trial he freely confessed himself of the reformed religion, answered with a manly fortitude to every charge against him, and proved the Scriptural part of his answers from the Gospel. The judge told him the only alternatives were recantation or death; and concluded by saying, “Will you die for the faith you profess?” To which Coomans replied, “I am not only willing to die, but to suffer the most excruciating torments for it; after which my soul shall receive its confirmation from God Himself, in the midst of eternal glory.” Being condemned, he went cheerfully to the place of execution, and died with the most manly fortitude, and Christian resignation.

Foxes-martyrsSource: FOX’s Book of Martyrs