A Christian Reading Manifesto (Worth Your Time!)

This was a mention in one of Tim Challies’ a la carte last week, and it is powerful piece on the need for a new generation to take up the deliberate and diligent labor of reading. Yes, the author writes especially with young adults and young people in mind, and I would echo that urgent plea.

The author, Dr. David Steele, begins by laying out his concern as we face our technologically rich “information age”:

Despite the benefits of recent technological tools, we are also experiencing a phenomenon that should be of grave concern to pastors and Christian leaders. Many people, especially millennials (people born between 1981 and 1995) are eager to learn but appear resistant to reading. They are “on the verge,” in the prophetic words of Neil Postman, “of amusing themselves to death.”2 They may eagerly listen to a podcast or watch a YouTube video, but a growing number of people pass when it comes to the written page. They are quick to listen but slow to read. Thus, we stand at the crossroads. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips but many resist the challenge to read books. Pastors should be especially concerned as they seek to train and equip the next generation of Christian leaders, who are in many cases, reluctant to read.

But then he lays the groundwork for his “reading manifesto”:

Mark Noll laments, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”3 Thirty years earlier, Harry Blamires offered an even grimmer assessment: “There is no longer a Christian mind; there is no shared field of discourse in which we can move at ease as thinking Christians by trodden ways and past established landmarks.”4 These allegations should serve as a warning and alert Christians, thus refueling their resolve for learning and spiritual growth. My own view is one of cautious optimism. That is, I maintain (despite the evidence) there is still hope for the evangelical mind. But a new awakening will require a commitment to, you guessed it … reading.

I offer this Christian Reading Manifesto as a brief rationale and apologetic for evangelicals, especially young people. My hope is that many will respond to the challenge and enter a new era of learning which will accelerate their Christian growth and sanctification. Lord willing, this new resurgence of learning will impact countless lives in the coming days and help spark a new Reformation.

What follows are his seven (7) points about reading, each of which is essential. I encourage all our readers – and especially our young people! – to take note of these points. Print this article off and reference repeatedly this summer. And then dive into a classic of the Christian faith. Steele offers some good suggestions, but there are plenty of others. I think of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or A.W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God. If you need help finding a book, I’d be happy to assist you. I’m confident we could find one that matches your interests and that would challenge you at the same time.

Source: A Christian Reading Manifesto – Veritas et Lux

Living or Dying in Christ

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Photo taken last night at Lake Michigan – beautiful “glory” sky!

As noted last week here, PRC missionary (and good friend) Rev. Aud Spriensma is writing some special meditations for the PRC website this month. The one he gave me to post for this past Monday (May 18) was especially relevant, as my wife and her family lost their father, Vern Klamer, the day before, Sunday, May 17. He was a godly Christian family man (husband, father, grandfather) and church man (served as deacon and elder), and we will miss him dearly.

Vernon L Klamer - MKD Funeral HomesAs he was facing the end, he and we with him shared our only comfort (and hope) in life and in death, that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who has fully satisfied for all our sins, delivered us from all the power of the devil, and preserves us according to Father’s perfect will so that everything (even death!) is subservient to our salvation.

Below is that special meditation missionary-pastor A. Spriensma wrote for this past Monday. Reading it, you will see why it is so relevant for our times – and for our present family time. God is good, and we praise Him for His mercy to us in our crosses and losses. In Christ, we have all and gain all, no matter what befalls us!

Meditation on Philippians 1:21

Living or Dying in Christ

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

A short Scripture text means a short meditation, right? No, it does not, especially for ministers. The less notes I take in the pulpit, the longer the sermon is. In our text, we need to understand what it means for the Apostle Paul when he states, “to live is Christ.” Second, how we learn to live for Christ, Third, we need to know why “to die is gain.” Should we wish for death?

The Apostle Paul wrote these verses to the believers in Philippi. They were concerned for him. Paul was a prisoner in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. This trial could end with the Apostle facing death. In Paul’s absence, there were some who were preaching Christ out of envy and strife, and therefore they were adding affliction to Paul’s prison life. Paul wrote to comfort those saints who were concerned about his welfare. He said that all that was really important was that Christ was being preached. Paul was only concerned that his Savior was exalted and the gospel extended. Paul’s greatest concern in either life or death was magnifying Christ, his Master (vs. 20). Paul informs the Philippians that he is not afraid to die. He would be with Christ.

When the Apostle said so emphatically, “to me” placing this word at the very beginning of the sentence, he is giving a profound personal testimony. At the same time, he was drawing a contrast between the preachers who are proclaiming Christ out of selfish ambition. Paul was not self-centered, but Christ-centered. “For me to live is Christ.” Is this true of your life? Paul was concerned with the honor and glory of his wonderful Redeemer.

Paul was speaking of his life lived from day to day, continuous living on earth as a child of God. He could have spoken of the continuous hardships that he had faced. He experienced a thorn in his flesh that he had prayed might be removed. He had been beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He had been in prison both in Philippi and now in Rome. Oh, how he had suffered for the sake of the gospel. But he did not speak about those things. He spoke about Christ! Christ was the center of his whole life. Christ was everything. This was not just his preaching to others. Paul himself relied upon Christ for the whole of his salvation. He would boast in nothing but Christ crucified.

What is it to live in Christ? It is to derive one’s strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13), to have the mind, the humble disposition of Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), to know Christ with the knowledge of Christian experience (Phil. 3:8), to be covered with Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9), to rejoice in Christ (Phil. 3:1; 4;4), to live not for self but for His glory (II Cor. 5:14,15), to rest one’s faith on Christ and to love Him in return for His love (Gal. 2:20).

How is this life possible? Not in ourselves. We would live for pleasure, sin, earthly things. Paul had been trying to by his own works to be right with God. It was only by Christ taking ahold of him on the Damascus Road. It was by the Spirit of Christ giving him a new heart and working conversion and faith. Paul was turned around from a physical life that leads to death to a new life lived for Jesus Christ.

Can you make this personal confession, “For me to live is Christ”? Do you and I live this confession with our daily lives: in our marriage, being a parent, in the workplace, the friends that we have, in our recreation, what we think, what we desire, and everything that we do? May God work in us and give us the grace to live in Christ.

Then “to die is gain.” This seems so strange, for death is loss. It is the loss of earthly relationships, family, friends, earthly things, and even our earthly bodies for a while. We know from Rom. 6:23 that death is God’s punishment for sin. But my friend, the sting of death has been taken away ( I Cor. 15:55). Christ bore all the punishment for our sins in our place. Death now becomes a servant to take us as pilgrims and strangers to a far better land. Dying physically meant gain for Paul. It meant that he would be with Christ (see vs. 23), “at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Death is the gateway to a clearer knowledge, more wholehearted perfect service, more exuberant joy, and a closer walk. No more sin or temptation, no more sickness, pain, trial, sorrow, affliction.

Death is gain! I will be with Christ. I will be like Christ. All the blessings of Christ will more abundantly be poured out. What do you live for? Is the glory and honor of Christ’s name more important to you, or is comfort and ease of life? Paul’s life was so wrapped up in Christ and the gospel that he wanted nothing more than to see the gospel advance, even if it meant that others sought to add to his affliction. When life’s circumstances get difficult, it is easy to become focused on self. May we say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall. Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better friend; I trust him now, I’ll trust him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend; Beautiful life that has no end,; Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my friend.”

“Once, in King James’ day, Scripture led the English language. Now, it follows it – to the dump….” ~ P. Kreeft

Sometimes in striking places and in subtle ways one finds a notable tribute to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, along with a sharp warning of what happens when you tinker with God’s Word, as many modern translations do. Such as this one, in the book noted at the bottom:

Besides undermining their faith, we’ve [the devil’s minions] also given them the impression that the world’s most popular book could be understood only by professional scholars (in fact, they’re the only ones who can misunderstand it that badly!); that the world’s most exciting book is the dullest book in the world, and that the millions who fed at that table for millennia were simply superstitious simpletons mumbling misunderstood formulas for their private fantasies.

Fortunately for us, Christendom is now so well divided that they’ll never get together on one standard translation again. We keep them moving, and inspire new translations every year: the Liturgical Fidget must be supplemented by the Biblical Fidget. After all, the Bible has to keep up with the ‘progress’ of the language (i.e., the decay of words).

Once, in King James’ day, Scripture led the English language. Now, it follows it – to the dump, just as the American Church is following the world to the dump rather than leading it to the Heavens. Their ‘dumpster language’ is an index of their dumpster destination. Keep giving your patient little pushes in that direction, and he’ll ride with increasing speed the bandwagon of Our Father Below down to the place of pure noise (with lyrics of perfect torment).

Snakebite-Letters-Kreeft-1993Taken from Peter Kreeft’s The Snakebite Letters: Devilishly Devious Secrets for Subverting Society as Taught in Tempter’s Training School (Ignatius, 1993), pp.75-76.

Keep in mind this is a Roman Catholic writer describing Satan’s work in the church and schools in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. While Kreeft’s Catholicism comes out clearly (not without some potent criticisms too), his insights into the devil’s influence in church and education are enlightening and instructive. And I find it rather ironic that the author would defend the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture and private interpretation of it, when his own church does not. But I take that as another ‘poke’ at his own. In any case, I benefited from this deep though brief study into Satan’s ways.

May 1, 2020 Standard Bearer – Special Issue: “Since by Man Came Death…”

SB-May-1-2020-coverThe latest issue of the Standard Bearer has been released digitally (printed copies are not allowed at present due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and you are encouraged to download and read this timely issue. The May 1, 2020 issue is the second special issue in this volume year (96) and carries the theme “Since by Man Came Death….”

At the time the editors planned this issue (in January/February of this year), we had no idea how timely and relevant it would be in the face of the worldwide coronavirus situation. But now this crisis has put death and dying before all of us, and, while unbelieving fears are being exposed, true faith is also being tested. How can we face the awful reality of an unknown disease with its prospect of severe illness and perhaps death? What hope do we have in such times – for this life and for the hereafter?

The articles in this special issue address these questions and more – openly and realistically – yet also with sure faith and hope, because the answers come from God’s Word and from the biblical and Reformed confessions of Christ’s church based on that Word (penned in times of crisis like our own). If you are living with real fear right now, and are without hope, then this issue is must reading. But even if you are an established believer, and your faith is being tried deeply in these days, then these articles will speak peace to your heart and give you sure hope in Jesus Christ.

The editorial, “Confronted by Our Mortality and Our Last Enemy – Death,” was written by Rev. Ken Koole. We post an excerpt here today, urging you to read all of it – and the rest of the issue in the next few weeks. It will enrich your faith, strengthen your hope, and increase your love for the Lord God, in whom alone we have the victory over this mighty foe. By all means “take up and read.”

 But… but… is hope and gladness clean gone forever? Has God forgotten to be kind, that God whom we and our first parents have so highly offended? After all, death is His sentence and His “creature” set loose upon the human race and on creation itself. Is there no remedy? Just the sadness of farewell and the terror of what follows hereafter?

What can be said to the dying or to those struggling to cope with that empty spot due to a beloved family member taken and gone? What indeed.

Not this: this is evil. It is not God’s will or doing. It is just the Devil’s mischief. God is too loving and kind to have willed this to happen.

Not so. For, if the calamity was not what God willed, He was, evidently, powerless to prevent it. And then, to what purpose is this death? Really, to no good purpose at all, except to magnify Satan’s power prevailing against God’s will. All comfort is gone. We cannot put our trust in or turn to God as the Almighty after all. Who can be sure whether death will not have the last word and mocking laughter after all!

Powerless to prevent it, powerless to overcome it.

Away with such nonsense!

To be sure, death is an awful power, and as far as we mortal men are concerned, invincible. But there is one mightier than death, and that is the Almighty One, who is Jehovah God.

And God be thanked, to those living in the midst of death in a creation under the sentence of death, this Lord God has given a Word, a Word that gives us mortal men words to withstand the horror of death. Words that give hope so real that the believer can stand at the lip of the grave and say “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?” Words of defiance when nothing but a corpse remains and the grave is about to swallow our loved one.

How can this be?

It can only be because of who Jehovah God is. The almighty Creator God to be sure, but also God triune, who as such is a covenant-making and keeping God. And not only within Himself, but also regarding a people, a remnant of the human race He would call His own.

How God’s people dealing with the awful power of death need to hear this!

How pastors and preachers need to remember this!

Wisdom from John Calvin on COVID-19

What would John Calvin say to the likes of us about facing COVID-19?

One of the newer blogs I recently started following had a fine post yesterday (April 28) about insights from Calvin’s Institutes on our present pandemic catastrophe. It is in one of the places where Calvin is treating the sovereign providence of God – not as an abstract doctrine, but as the pastoral truth that it is, especially in times of affliction and trouble.

Be sure to read the beginning of the post where Calvin sets the stage for the entrance of the divine hand, but here is how Joel Hart (the author) ends his post. You will discern the relevance of the doctrine and its comfort for us now.

How true Calvin’s somber observation: life is frightening, particularly if all we see around us is “fortune”. It is then, though, that Calvin turns a corner in his meditations. He writes:

Yet, when that light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from the extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care. For as he justly dreads fortune, so he fearlessly dares commit himself to God. His solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it.[3]

What a statement! In the face of all this, we fearlessly dare to commit ourselves to God. Can this be our testimony, our fearless dare, our confident solace in these times? If it seems too difficult to fearlessly dare, we must turn to Scripture. Calvin recognizes this, and from there, Calvin quotes from Psalms 91, 118, 56, 27, and 22. These Psalms provide particular comfort in these days. Perhaps these would serve as Calvin’s “family worship guide” for the time of COVID-19.

I must conclude with one more observation. The Institutes were written, or expanded, over a series of editions. The portion I’ve quoted from here comes from the 1539 edition. This would be quite early in Calvin’s career in Geneva, and before some of his greatest sorrows.

The following years were ones with joy – and sorrow – for Calvin. In 1542, plague broke out in Geneva and caused great calamity. Conflicts confronted Calvin at home and abroad.

More personally, just a year after those sober yet confident words of 1539, Calvin married Idelette de Bure. In the next nine years, Idelette was a source of joy to Calvin. At the same time, all three children she bore to him died in infancy. And in 1549, Idelette passed away after a lengthy illness.

Calvin experienced firsthand the reality of the world he wrote about so clearly in 1539. And yet in later editions of the Institutes, written after these calamities struck Calvin, we find the same words of confidence. The same truths that prepared him for calamity now sustained him. And we even find that in that same chapter, Calvin added one final articulation of confidence:

“David, on account of the various changes by which the life of men is continually turned, and as it were, whirled about, betakes himself to this refuge: that his “times are in God’s hand” (Ps. 31:15). He could have put here either “course of life” or “time” in the singular, but he chose to express by using the plural “times” that however unstable the condition of men may be, whatever changes take place from time to time, they are governed by God.”

May it be so of us. Whatever changes take place, may we take refuge that our times are in God’s hand.

Source: Wisdom from John Calvin on COVID-19

A Heavenly Vision – Our Hope of Seeing the Face of God

The April 2020 issue of Tabletalk carries the theme of “Misunderstood Doctrines,” and considers such truths as Sola Scriptura, Limited Atonement, Predestination and Human Actions, and Paedobaptism (infant), among others.

Burk Parsons, the editor, includes these comments in introducing the issue:

The proper study of doctrine is not easy. It takes time, a lot of hard work, and much prayer. For those reasons, many people don’t study doctrine. Others don’t study doctrine because they think it is just for professionals, and even some pastors don’t study doctrine because they think it is just for scholars. Still, there are others who don’t study doctrine because they are indifferent to it. They are content with being fed milk and knowing only the basics of the faith, but they are largely apathetic to pursuing the doctrinal meat of the faith.

I find it hard to tolerate this kind of indifference in myself and in other Christians. Indifference when it comes to what we believe is deplorable, for how can we be indifferent to those vital truths that can save or damn our souls? As one Puritan pastor said, “Indifference is the mother of heresy.” If we become indifferent about doctrine, we will soon become indifferent about Scripture and eventually indifferent about God. [“Indifference to Doctrine”]

The featured articles are worth reading (I found the one on Limited Atonement by Jonathan Gibson to be excellent!), but the one I wish to highlight this Saturday evening is one that appears in the back of the issue. It is written by Stafford Carson for the rubric “Heart Aflame” and is titled “A Heavenly Vision.” It seems especially relevant for these times. And as we anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, we have a foretaste of what he describes and calls us to hope for.

I give here an extended quotation, but find the rest at the link provided here.

There is only One who shows us the Father, and in Him we see His glory, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; see also 6:46). The glory of the gospel is that the invisible God makes Himself visible to us in Jesus Christ. Having tasted His grace and truth, we desire to view that face in all its majestic glory and attractive radiance.

Recent theological reflection on eschatology has not given prominence to this hope of seeing the face of God. The emphasis has been on the renewal of creation rather than on understanding Christian hope as “going to heaven when we die.” For many people, the climax of redemptive history consists merely in our resurrected bodies and the renewal of the earth. Little is made of our hope of standing in the presence of God and beholding the face of God first in heaven and then in the new creation.

Without denying that more earthly understanding of the glory to come, rightly maintaining a heavenly perspective is crucial to our Christian devotion and discipleship now. The psalmist prays,

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Ps. 27:4)

Of all the matters for which David sought the Lord, here is his first priority, his “one thing”: to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

The priorities of our lives are transformed by this desire to see the face of God. As a result of our fallen nature, we once lived “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:3). But now we are called to consider our “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3), to be filled with “all the fullness of God” (3:19), with “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (1:23). Maintaining that eternal focus means that our loves and desires here and now have been recalibrated (4:1–3). Consider John Owen’s words:

The constant contemplation of the glory of Christ will give rest, satisfaction, and complacency unto the souls of them who are exercised therein. Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts;—fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts, do make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion. But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, spiritual frame. For “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.” A defect herein makes many of us strangers unto a heavenly life, and to live beneath the spiritual refreshments and satisfactions that the gospel does tender unto us.

The psalmist realizes that one day he will fall asleep in death. But that will not be the end of his story or his experience. He will awake and will be satisfied with seeing God’s face and in being fully transformed into the likeness of his Savior. The face of God will not destroy him or annihilate him; it will satisfy him. All his longings, desires, and hopes will be fulfilled. If this life is one of unfulfilled longings and unmet desires, then that will not be true of the life to come. Then we will say: “This is it. This is what I have longed for and desired all my life. I need nothing more.”

Christian Encouragement from All over the World – Tim Challies

When this daily email from pastor and author Tim Challies came into my box yesterday, I knew it could serve as my next post, since it follows nicely on the heels of the previous one – a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s goodness.

In Challies’ post are Christian responses to the question he raised last Saturday when he said he needed encouragement as a pastor in the midst of the present crisis, and so asked people to answer this question: “What are some of the surprising ways you have witnessed or experienced God’s goodness in this difficult time?”

The response was overwhelming – in his own words, “Hundreds of answers came pouring in from all over the world. There were far too many to share them all, so I picked at least some and am now sharing them here so you, too, can be encouraged. Here are how Christians around the world are seeing God be true to his promises in this difficult time.”

In this post, I include a few of them, urging you to visit the link below and read through these testimonies to God’s goodness in this dark hour of history. It will encourage your heart, as it did his.

And may I remind you that our pastors, who are so busy encouraging us at this time, also need our encouragement. Why not send yours a note in the next day or so, perhaps giving your witness to God’s goodness during these lockdown days. I heard that one of our pastors is doing this very thing with his congregation. A great idea.

Here, then, are some of those responses from Christians all over the world:

The slowdown of social life during this pandemic has not been easy. Even with video chat and other ways of keeping in touch, there’s much to miss about face to face interactions. My children have missed their friends and extended family. Not long ago my 4-year old-son walked in the room smiling. The following conversation ensued: Me: Are you happy? Son: (Smiling even more) YES! Me: Why are you so happy? Son: Because God is taking good care of me! May we remember God’s loving care even when we are in the valleys. (Lincoln, Kenya)

We live in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. It is said that 30 percent of our children face lung related problems. But we praise God for the time of renewal that he has sent upon the environment. Air Quality Index has moved from ‘hazardous’ to good’. We feel closer to nature than before: the sound of birds chirping, trees and plants looking greener and fresher without all the dust and pollution. We will praise God till it lasts, and we will praise Him beyond that. Indeed, he works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose. (Navin, India)

I’ve experienced God’s goodness by enjoying the little things with my family. We’re all Christians but our own activities at school or work have made it harder for us to spend time with each other and just talk, cook a meal together or clean the house together. I thank God for this quarantine because it’s brought us closer together, I’ve had long and meaningful talks with my parents that I don’t we’d have had otherwise and it makes me very happy to see how we’re growing together and learning more and more about our loving God. We’ll continue praying for our brothers all around the world that might be discouraged in this difficult time. God bless you. (Daniel, Mexico)

I gave birth to our second child on Monday, April 13. Leading up to the birth My husband and I were nervous about being in the hospital given the current pandemic. I also began exhibiting signs of preeclampsia. I don’t think a day went by that someone from our church family or friend or family member didn’t call or text to tell us they were praying for us. We had an army interceding for us. God has shown His faithfulness to us over and over again through His people. (Brooke, USA)

God has shown his goodness by reminding me that he is the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient shepherd who cares and looks after his people. It’s been fantastic to have more opportunities to get in touch with church members, pray, meditate on God’s word on a daily basis and depend on him as we feel so fragile. This lockdown has been a fantastic opportunity to train church members to read their Bibles and learn to run a family service at home. As a parent of three children, we have had more time to read God’s word on a daily basis. Our two boys have loved listening to Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings during the lockdown. (Maxime, France)

Ok, now go read some more and let your heart and soul be lifted up to praise the God and Father who loves us and cares for us in perfect wisdom!

Source: Here Is Christian Encouragement From All Over the World – Tim Challies

Some New Helpful Reformed-Christian Perspectives on COVID-19

I realize that we are probably weary of all the mixed and confusing information being published relating to COVID-19, both in terms of the data about the pandemic and in terms of the response we ought to have as Christians. I understand, and admit that I have reached the point at times that I do not want to hear anything more about it.

But two new items entered my email box overnight that I found very helpful, in part because they are both from a clear and consistent Reformed-biblical perspective. In these days in which we all struggle with our proper attitude and calling, it is good to listen to other Reformed-Christian voices about us. I judge these two to be good examples.

The first is a new venture from Reformed Perspective (magazine and more) – a podcast on COVID-19 and its challenges to the Christian and Christ’s church. It is called “Focal Point” and is done by Chris DeBoer. You may find the YouTube version below. The Facebook version may be found here. I think you will find that most of what Chris says resonates with our faith and practice, even if you may differ with a few details. His practical suggestions at the end about how to manifest the communion of saints during this time is quite profitable.

The second item was a new post from Reformation21. Pastor Grant Van Leuven presents an open defense of his Session’s decision to submit to his government’s decisions (he serves in San Diego, California) and abide by the mandates as a conscious act to serve God and love the neighbor. I think you will find his arguments compelling because they are biblically and confessionally balanced.

Here are a few paragraphs from the beginning of his post. Follow the link below or above to read all of it.

A few weeks ago, due to the present coronavirus pandemic, our Session decided to postpone face-to-face assemblies of worship at the church building electing (for a time) to serve Christ and our covenanted saints through online Lord’s Day webcasts.[1]  This decision was not unanimous but we moved forward with it in hearty unity.

…While it sometimes seems unclear from our State and Federal mandates (or strong recommendations) of what “essential” may include or exempt for public gatherings, our local and national magistrates are strictly guiding us to presently stay home and not assemble to avoid spreading COVID-19 and the coronavirus to other citizens and risk their deaths.  After prayerful study and discussion, we decided to follow our civil leadership for this civic concern and adhere to our magistrates’ current timelines.[3]  We here provide Scriptural and confessional support.

…Let us now reflect on much of what informed our decision that our temporary change to online worship webcasts would not be disobeying God but rather submitting to Him.

First, it is important to recognize that the present government mandates are not religious persecution (if they were we would insist on public worship together and be ready to face the consequences).  Everyone in our society is suffering indiscriminately.  The government is not forbidding Christian worship assemblies in principal but is trying to curtail an unknown pandemic that life’s religious sphere affects.

Second, Christianity is a religion of submission and we are to submit to God’s authority through His ordained ministers not only in the sphere of Church but also of State.  We mainly turn to Romans 13:1-10 for our consideration and leave the reader to attend to this and other Scripture references directly.

In summary, Paul teaches that as citizens of this world we must not rebel against our earthly authorities in the civil sphere of life for they too are ministers ordained by God to serve us just as are ministers of the Word over the religious sphere of life; as Kingdom of Heaven citizens we are to lovingly work for the good of our earthly societies under their lawful jurisdiction and to do so is to obey the Law of God.

 

 

Source: Submit to the Government Serving God to Save Lives – Reformation 21

 

Christian Meets Two Children: Passion and Patience (The Pilgrim’s Progress)

passion-and-patience-pilgrim-progress

I saw moreover in my dream, that the Interpreter took him by the hand, and had him into a little room, where sat two little children, each one in his chair. The name of the eldest was Passion, and the name of the other Patience. Passion seemed to be much discontented, but Patience was very quiet. Then Christian asked, “What is the reason of the discontent of Passion?” The Interpreter answered, “The governor of them would have him stay for his best things till the beginning of the next year, but he will have all now; but Patience is willing to wait.”

Then I saw that one came to Passion, and brought him a bag of treasure, and poured it down at his feet: the which he took up, and rejoiced therein, and withal laughed Patience to scorn. But I beheld but a while, and he had lavished all away, and had nothing left him but rags.

Christian: Then said Christian to the Interpreter, Expound this matter more fully to me.

Interpreter: So he said, These two lads are figures; Passion of the men of this world, and Patience of the men of that which is to come; for, as here thou seest, passion will have all now, this year, that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world: They must have all their good things now; they cannot stay till the next year, that is, until the next world, for their portion of good. That proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is of more authority with them than are all the divine testimonies of the good of the world to come. But as thou sawest that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags, so will it be with all such men at the end of this world.

Christian: Then said Christian, Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and that upon many accounts. 1. Because he stays for the best things. 2. And also because he will have the glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

Interpreter: Nay, you may add another, to wit, the glory of the next world will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone. Therefore Passion had not so much reason to laugh at Patience because he had his good things first, as Patience will have to laugh at Passion because he had his best things last; for first must give place to last, because last must have his time to come: but last gives place to nothing, for there is not another to succeed. He, therefore, that hath his portion first, must needs have a time to spend it; but he that hath his portion last, must have it lastingly: therefore it is said of Dives, “In thy lifetime thou receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” Luke 16:25.

Christian: Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now, but to wait for things to come.

Interpreter: You say truth: for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18. But though this be so, yet since things present and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbors one to another; and again, because things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another; therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity, and that distance is so continued between the second.

Taken from “The Second Stage” of The Pilgrim’s Progress, the classic work by John Bunyan.

In the midst of our present tribulation it is good to read (and re-read) this wonderful work that helps us see our true journey as pilgrims and strangers through this present world. Let the difficult but steady progress of Christian be an encouragement to you in these times. Having fled the City of Destruction, we press on for the City of Zion that lies ahead. Let Patience be our model as we await its glory.

 

“His God, his God—he [David] cannot live without his God.” ~ C.H. Spurgeon on Psalm 42

Psalm42One of our seminary students (Matt Koerner) told me this week that he had read some precious quotes from a sermon of Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 42 recently. I asked him to share them with me and yesterday he did. So tonight I share the fruits of his labors with you.

He found them especially relevant for the times in which we find ourselves at present, when, with our full worship of God and fellowship with His people hindered, we find ourselves, like David, panting after the Lord. May these words be a blessing to you as they were to him, and to me.

The hart pants after the waterbrooks, and David pants after his God, the living God. I do not find him expressing a single word of regret as to his absence from his throne. Probably he wrote this Psalm when he had been expelled from his country by his ungrateful son, Absalom; but he does not say, ‘My soul panteth after my royalties and the splendour of the kingdom of Judah;’ no, not a word of it; he lets the baubles go, he gives up these uneasy pomps, content to let all go for ever if he may but find his God. Well may we let the chaff go if we retain the wheat…[David’s] one sigh is for his God, the God of his life, his exceeding joy. When shall he come and appear before God? When shall he join in the assembly and keep holyday? This one grief, like a huge mountain-torrent, swept away all minor streams, absorbing themselves into its own rush and volume; like an avalanche, which binds the snow-masses to itself as it descends, so his one desire concentrated all the vehemence and force of his nature. His God, his God—he cannot live without his God. He cries for him as a lost child for its father; as a bleating lamb he will not be content till he finds his parent.

In the margin of your Bibles you have, ‘As the hart brayeth after the waterbrooks;’ it lifts up its voice; it is usually so silent, so all but dumb, but now it begins to bray in awful agony after the waterbrooks. So the believer hath a desire which forceth itself into expression. That expression may often be inarticulate, he may have groanings which cannot be uttered, and they are all the deeper for being unutterable; they are all the more sincere and deep, because language may not be able to describe them. In the Psalm before us, you find that David expressed his desire in prayers, and then, if these did not suffice, in tears, and then he turned to prayers again. The child of God will so continue to cry, and pray, and seek, and weep; nor will he be satisfied till by all manner of ways he has expressed before his God the insatiable longing of his thirsty spirit.

After showing that the cause for this longing of David’s was partly rooted in his past and partly in his present experience, Spurgeon said it was also partly rooted in his future hope:

Hope thou in God,’ saith he, ‘for I shall yet praise him.’ He panted after his God, because he had a keen perception that peaceful times would yet return to him…God will appear to his people; he cannot forsake them. ‘Can a woman forsake her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.’ It is not possible that he who counts the stars, and calls them all by names, should pass over one of his elect, his called, his adopted people. Be of good cheer, then, thou shipwrecked one; though each billow should be angrier than the former, and drown thee deeper in distress, yet the arm of God is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear. Look thou forward to better times, and looking forward, let thy pantings and thy longings increase. May God give thee a hunger because there is a banquet; may he give a thirst because there are flagons of which thou mayst drink. May he give thee great desires, for if thou openest thy mouth ever so wide he will certainly fill it.