Book Alert: “Handle with Care!” – Dr. J. Kennedy

Handle-with-care-kennedyA few months ago I was made aware of a new book produced by Dr. Julian Kennedy and today I want to notify you of it while reserving fuller review for later (cf. note below).

The book is Handle with Care! A Biblical and Reformed Guide to Sexuality for Young People (Wipf & Stock, 2017; paper & epub, 114 pp.).

You will find this summary of the book at the publisher’s site:

God’s good gift of sexuality has been corrupted since the fall of man into sin so that man in his depravity is not able to use it for God’s glory and for his own good. Sex between unmarried (fornication), adultery, including divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality are accepted as normal in modern society and young people, even Christian young people, are being influenced by this Satanic lie that “if it feels good–do it!” This booklet is sent out with the prayer that it will save many young people from heartache and the curse that these serious sexual sins will bring on them. There is the good way, the biblical or reformed way for living chastely as a single person, finding and courting a mate, and marrying and staying faithful to that mate. This booklet has been a long time since inception to publication! First conceived thirty years ago, very few copies of an older version were produced by Covenant Keepers for young people in Singapore in 2011. The original has been substantially expanded by quotations from Protestant Reformed Church ministers.

In his “Introduction” the author offers us these important thoughts on this timely topic:

This booklet aims to explain the truth about sex, love and marriage from the view of the Reformed* Faith of Scripture. God alone, who instituted the first marriage, can tell us what love really is and how sex in marriage can be used for the greatest benefit. Much will be said in this booklet that contradicts the popular notions
about sex that are portrayed in the glossy popular magazines, newspapers and on TV soaps, in films, or in novels of today, where people hop in and out of bed and of marriages, with sad and destructive consequences to themselves and any children involved. God knows that building a lasting relationship on the rock of scriptural truth will mean it will stand in the storms of life. Prevention is better than cure, so practice godly courtship and marriage and save yourself from much heartache and many problems. The statistics on cohabitation, fornication, divorce, adultery, teenage pregnancy and homosexuality even among professing believers show how God’s instructions are being ignored and it is my prayer that this booklet will help many to find God’s best in love, marriage and sex.

We thank Dr. Kennedy for his contribution to the literature available on sexuality – rare because it is Reformed. Reformed because it is rooted in God’s Word (biblical!) and the Reformed confessions of the historic church.

Knowing a book’s contents help reveal its value. I trust as you review this content of Handle with Care! that you will see its value:

Part One: What God Says
Chapter 1
Dynamite!—Handle With Care | 3
Chapter 2
Battle for the Mind—Impure Thoughts | 5
Chapter 3
Why Wait? | 14
Chapter 4
Homosexuality | 18
Chapter 5
Two Become One | 22
Chapter 6
The Proper Basis and Purpose of Marriage | 25
Chapter 7
Singleness | 29

Part Two: The Facts of Life
Chapter 8
How Does Sex Start? | 39
Chapter 9
Men versus Women—What’s the Difference? | 41
Chapter 10
Boy Meets Girl | 44
Chapter 11
Friendships | 46

Part Three: Finding the Right Mate
Chapter 12
The Meaning of Love | 51
Chapter 13
Finding Your Help Meet | 55
Chapter 14
For Girls Only | 57
Chapter 15
Courtship, Dating and Right Relationships | 59
Chapter 16
The Wedding is Soon | 79
Chapter 17
Family Planning | 81

Appendix—The Reformed Faith: The Five Solas | 89

I have requested a review copy of this new title. When I have that in hand, I will be better able to make a more full evaluation of this book.

Save

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: God: The Winner of Souls

“Or-di-nar-y”: Lonely But Precious Word – M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014A book I wanted to read when it first came out a few years ago is Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). Last week in a thrift store I found a clean used copy and this past week I started to read it.

Chapter 1 (“The New Radical”) is where I will start with you too, because that’s where Horton decries the trendiness of modern evangelicalism with its “Radical. Epic. Revolutionary.” (the opening words of chap.1) – that is, her excitement with all things new and “extra”-ordinary .

There are so many good points and lines in this opening chapter, but I give you these for now.

‘Ordinary’ has to be one of the loneliest words in our vocabulary today. Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, ‘My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary?’ Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church, and has ordinary friends and works an ordinary job? Our life has to count! We have to leave our mark, have a legacy, and make a difference. And all of this should be something that can be managed, measured, and maintained. We have to live up to our Facebook profile. It’s one of the newer versions of salvation by works. [p.11]

A few pages later Horton expands on these thoughts:

American Christianity is a story of perpetual upheavals in churches and individual lives. Starting with the extraordinary conversion experience, our lives are motivated by a constant expectation for The Next Big Thing. We’re growing bored with the ordinary means of God’s grace, attending church week in and week out. Doctrines and disciplines that have shaped faithful Christian witness in the past are often marginalized or substituted with newer fashions or methods. The new and improved may dazzle us for the moment, but soon they have become ‘so last year.’ [p.16]

As we end another week, let’s be grateful for the ordinary Christian life God has given us. As we go through another ordinary Sunday, attending our ordinary churches, where we worship in very ordinary ways, hearing ordinary sermons on the ordinary Word of God, let us thank God for such common, regular events and experiences.

Because when you think of all this “ordinariness” in terms of God’s grace and mercy to us sinners, it’s all actually quite extraordinary.

The Christian’s Hope in This Life – J. Calvin

Rom-7-24Therefore, the goal of believers – when they assess this mortal life and realize it’s nothing in and of itself but misery – should be to direct themselves wholly, briskly, and freely toward contemplation of their future and eternal life.

…Therefore, earthly life, when compared with heavenly life, must certainly and readily be condemned and despised. It should never be hated, except to the extent that it makes us liable to sin – though properly speaking our hatred should be toward sin, not toward life itself. Although we may be so moved with weariness and hatred of this life that we desire its end, we must be prepared to remain in it according to God’s will. And so, our weariness won’t result in complaining and impatience. For the Lord has stationed us in an outpost, and we must keep guard here until He calls us home.

…If, then, we must live and die to the Lord, let us leave to Him the decision of when our lives will end. But let us do so in such a way that we burn with desire for the end of this life, and let us remain constant in meditation on the next life. Indeed, considering our future immortality, let us scorn this life. Considering the mastery of sin in this life, let us long to give up this life as soon as it should please the Lord.

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017). This is taken from chapter 4, “Meditation on Our Future Life”, where Calvin treats the sure hope of the believer for heaven, pp.98-101.

Theology and Worship: Reflexive Relation – A. McGrath

Finally, we must emphasize the link between theology and worship. Theology has done its job well when it leaves us on our knees, adoring the mystery that lies at the heart of the Christian faith. There is a sense in which worship provides a context and offers a corrective to theology.

Worship provides a context for theology in that it represents a vigorous reassertion of the majesty and glory of God. It reminds us of the greater reality behind the ideas and language that theology can be overconcerned with getting right. When theology becomes dull and stale, worship can rejuvenate it: worship is the fiery crucible of joy in which theology can reconnect with its true object. In this way worship corrects inadequate conceptions of theology, especially those which treat theology simply as a set of ideas.

Yet theology can also act as a corrective to worship. Worship can too easily be seen as a purely human activity, capable of enhancement and adjustment by appropriate techniques. But true worship is not improved by whipping up the emotions or turning up the music; rather it is enhanced and authenticated by reflecting on who God is and thus naturally yearning to respond in praise and adoration [p.42].

PassionateIntellectbookTaken from Chapter 2, “Mere Theology; The Landscape of Faith 2”, in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and picked up again to continue reading.

Save

Working out of Love for God – J. Hamilton, Jr.

Work-Hamilton-2017On this Labor Day holiday in the U.S., we reference a new book published by Crossway this year titled  Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton, Jr. (paper, 123 pp.).

Part of a new series, “Short Studies in Biblical Theology,” this title along with the others (so far on Jesus the Son of God, marriage, and the covenant) are designed “to serve as bite-sized  introductions to major subjects in biblical theology.”

I introduced this review book (still available!) a few months ago, and after reading a few more chapters last night with a view to the holiday today, I decided to post a nice section from chapter 3, where Hamilton treats work from the viewpoint of “Redemption,” that is, “Work Now That Christ Has Risen.”

Under the section “Work as an Expression of Love for God” the author gives these four (4) profitable summary points based on NT passages:

  1. Work to please God: the parable of the talents (Matt.25:14-30). In the parable of the talents Matthew presents Jesus commending initiative, diligence, and even savvy attempts to earn interest on one’s money (Matt.25:20-23, 27). He likewise discourages a slothful, fearful failure to be fruitful (25:26-30).

  2. Do all for God’s glory (1 Cor.10:31). First Corinthians 10:31 communicates Paul’s view that all things should be done for God’s glory. God created the world to fill it with his glory, and those who would make God’s character known should join him by pursuing his renown whether eating, drinking, or doing anything else.

  3. Do all in Christ’s name (Col.3:17). The name of Jesus is about the character and mission of Jesus. To work in the name of the Lord Jesus, then, is to work in a way that reflects his character and joins his mission. To  put the character of Jesus on display is to be transformed into the image of the invisible God (2 Cor.3:18; Col.1:15). This means that for Paul to speak of working in Christ’s name is another way for him to urge working for God’s glory.

  4. Work from your soul for the Lord (Col.3:23). In addition to working for God’s glory, Paul instructs the Colossians to work from the soul (ek psukes [my transliteration of the Greek]) for the Lord. This appears to mean that they should put all they are into their work rather than merely doing things to preserve appearances before men. Christians should employ their creative capacities and soul-deep energies as they seek to serve God in their work. With God’s glory as our aim, nothing less will suffice [pp.84-85].

So you see again that the Christian perspective on work – according to God’s Word, our only standard and guide also for our earthly labors – is fundamentally different from that of the world about us. May we so work, today and every day, according to God’s principles.

Sept. 1, 2017 Standard Bearer: “Treasure”

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

SB-Sept1-2017-cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reshaping Marriage, Reformation Style – “Refo Thursday”

On this Thursday, the last day of August, we bring to mind again the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And we do so through another video clip from the Church History Institute, which they are sending out each Thursday this year – what they refer to as their “Refo Thursday,” “your weekly throwback to the Reformation.”

This particular video, sent out on August 10, celebrates the Reformation’s reform of marriage, including Martin Luther’s wonderful union with Katherine von Bora. On this day of my own thirty-ninth wedding anniversary to my lovely bride (August 31, 1978!), this post seems appropriate. Verna and I are personally grateful to the Reformers for restoring this aspect of the Christian life to its biblical foundation!

The article that goes with it – “The Reformation of Marriage” – includes these paragraphs at the beginning:

It is a remarkable fact that none of the leading Protestant reformers ended up a bachelor—Luther, Zwingli and Calvin all married in the course of the Reformation. It is remarkable because the prevailing late medieval ideal was that one should not marry in order to devote full attention to serving God. The same ideal prevailed for women. St. Jerome, writing in the fourth century, even offered a kind of algorithm for measuring one’s devotion to God. He assigned a spiritual value of 100 to virginity, but to marriage he assigned a paltry spiritual value of 30. The message was clear: if you really loved God, you would remain a bachelor or bachelorette.

The Reformation is most often identified with theological debates, whether over  justification by faith alone, predestination, or the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. However, it can be argued that the most enduring consequence of the Reformation was not theological developments, but the transformation of the institution of marriage. By 1520, just three years after the 95 Theses, Luther publically renounced clerical celibacy in his famous pamphlet, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.

Read the rest of the article at the link provided, and be sure to watch this video and many others that make up this informative and interesting series. You can sign up to receive the “Refo Thursday” posts each week at the CHI website.

A Little Book with Large Theology

little-book-theologians-kapicA small theology book I recently came on is Kelly M. Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (IVP Academic, 2012). While the book is little, the theology found in it is large. I referenced it a few weeks ago and do so again today.

I appreciated these thoughts at the end of chapter 3, “Theology as Pilgrimage”:

It is vital to recognize that one should not give up on theology because of our limitations, for our confidence ultimately rests on God, not on ourselves. In this sense we recognize and delight in the axiom drawn from the brilliant medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas: ‘Theology is taught by God, teaches of God and leads to God’ (Theologia a Deo docetur, Deum docet, et ad Deum ducit). All good and faithful theology comes from God, who is the ultimate theologian – the only one who can, without weakness or misunderstanding, speak of himself.

And then, after pointing us to Jesus Christ, “God’s great self-revelation” and the one in whom alone true knowledge of God is found (Kapic quotes Jesus’ words in Matt.11:27), he says,

Clearly, ‘knowing’ in this context is not merely referring to cognitive assent. Our call is to come, to gaze at Christ, to hear his word and to respond in faith and love. Here theology and worship come together: we are answering the call of our heavenly Father to speak words from the basis of an intimate knowledge of the Word, which is possible only by the gift of the Spirit. Theology is wrapped up in this response to God’s call. Hence, it is to be faith-full: faith is always required for genuine theology. We rightly respond to God’s revelation when our words about God, whether many or few, are placed into the matrix of worship. When we see the relationship between theology and worship we are moved beyond intellectual curiosity to an engaged encounter with the living God [pp.36-37].

Book Alert! “Knowing God in the Last Days” – M. Hoeksema

KnowingGod_2_Peter_MH-2017Just in time for the start of Bible study season, the Reformed Free Publishing Association has published a new commentary on the NT book of 2 Peter called Knowing God in the Last Days: Commentary on 2 Peter (2017, 96 pp., hardcover).

The author is Mark H. Hoeksema, who was trained in the PRC Seminary and served in two pastorates in the Midwest U.S. Hoeksema is also the author of several Bible new study guides published by the RFPA, specifically on the books of Acts, Romans, and James.

The publisher provides this description of the book:

Knowing God in the Last Days is an explanation of the general epistle of Peter to the early New Testament church. The primary theme of the letter is the knowledge of God, a concept that occurs many times and in various contexts throughout the book. This short epistle contains a wealth of instruction for the church today.

The secondary theme of 2 Peter is the application of the knowledge of God to the last days in which we live. Especially in his third chapter, Peter reveals to the church the knowledge of God as it relates to the end times.

Based on exegesis of the Greek text, this commentary gives clarity of explanation to God’s people regarding necessary and important aspects of today’s Christian life. May all who read be edified.

The “Foreword” is penned by his current pastor, Rev. Nathan Decker, who, among other things, gives this profit of the title:

Its value lies in its brevity. There is certainly a place in the lives of God’s people for longer and deeper commentaries on each book of the Bible, and many have been written. Such it not this volume. Instead, it is concise and to the point, briefly explaining 2 Peter verse by verse. The commentary will be excellent for a quick read to grasp the book as a whole in its general themes, for a needed reference to understand a particular section, for the family to read aloud around the dinner table for family worship, or for believers in a Bible study to generate thoughts and discussions on this portion of God’s word.

As an example of the books contents, we quote part of the author’s exposition of chap.1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

By way of a positive contrast, Peter teaches that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. This is one of the clearest proofs that can be found for the inspiration of scripture. It is also the death of all compromise of this doctrine. Contrary to the teaching of many, including some purportedly Reformed theologians, there is not a primary author (God) of scripture and a secondary author (man). Nor is there a divine factor and a human factor in the speaking and writing of prophecy. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the one and only author of all scripture, while men are the writers, the instruments whom God is pleased to use to produce his word (Belgic Confession 3).

These men are called holy not because they are personally perfect, but because God has sanctified and prepared them to write the scriptures. Thus they are men from God, that is, they were sent from God, and they spoke and wrote from God. It is the Holy Spirit who moved these men as the wind carries a ship along, a descriptive figure that explains inspiration. [p.39]