“A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working.” – A.Kuyper

If the Lord is to come as a thief in the night, the church should go about its daily duties in quiet devotion, until He suddenly appears. We are not to keep looking out the window, or climbing to the housetops to gaze eagerly into the distance, while neglecting our work and giving our household duties but scant attention.

Indeed we must watch. We must so live that we are ready to welcome Him at any moment. Like a Christian family that, having commended home and children to God’s care for the night, quietly goes to bed and to sleep, and awakens in the morning to resume the daily task, so the church of Christ upon earth must go on quietly, prayerfully, with its common daily tasks, until He comes, in His own time, to break off this round of daily duties.

A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working. For included in God’s covenant are also all the chosen who are yet to be brought into the fold, though they may now be drunkards, or thieves, or self-righteous rejectors of the truth. They are destined to be saved; and it is through the ministration of the church that they must be brought to the light and taught in the truth.

This one confession, that God is God, and that He will bring in His own, makes us patient to bear with the imperfections and weaknesses of the church, since He has seen fit to place that cross upon us. And it also keeps us humble before Him, as we must confess our own guilt. ‘The sin of the church is also my sin. I, yea even especially I, am at fault.’

…Being keenly aware of his own sins, and knowing full well that he has fanned the flames of sin perhaps more than others, the true Christian fights against sin the more earnestly and zealously.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.56-57.

Confessions of a Bibliophile – Keith Mathison

Confessions of a Bibliophile by Keith Mathison | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

bibliophile-1And here is another perspective on the value of being a lover of books and reading – only this time from a distinctive Christian perspective. I am grateful for Mathison’s clear voice concerning why we ought to be readers of good books.

For the full article (originally printed in Tabletalk magazine), visit the Ligonier link above. Here are Mathison’s closing paragraphs, which contain the heart of this thoughts.

Our God is a God who has revealed Himself in a book, in words. We learn about God and His will, therefore, by reading. We learn by reading and reflecting on His Word. We also learn by reading and thinking with the church. This means we read and reflect on the insights of our brethren, those who are still with us and those who have gone on before us. We may also learn by reading with discernment the works of those who have spent time “reading” God’s general revelation. This includes works of science, philosophy, history, poetry, and literature.

If I might offer a word of advice and encouragement to my fellow bibliophiles, it is this: As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). Millions of books have been published, and thousands more are published every year. We cannot read them all, so it is best to read the good ones. If you don’t know which books are the good ones, seek the advice of mature Christians. Find recommended reading lists by churches and ministries you trust.

Finally, while we read to learn about our God and His works of creation and redemption, we must not allow a love of reading to supplant our love for Christ. If we do, our books, even our Christian books, become nothing more than idols. All the reading in the world, if it does not ultimately promote our love of Christ and our brethren, is nothing but futility.

Prayers of the Reformers (2) – M.Coverdale

prayersofreformers-manschreckThe following two prayers I recently discovered while browsing further through the wonderful collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958.

These two are from the section headed “Prayers of Petition and Supplication” (pp.50ff.), and are both attributed to Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), whom we know as one of the early translators of the Bible into English. I found both of these fitting with my earlier post on the blessedness of our communion with Christ.

This saving union with our Lord is not and never must become static from our side, but must be experienced and developed daily, as these prayers assume and express. May they be ours in this coming week, as we seek to grow in closer, intimate fellowship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For increase of knowledge and truth

O gracious Father, grant unto us, which through thy Son have known thy name, that in such knowledge and light of the truth we may increase more and more; that the love wherewith thou lovest thy dear Son may be and remain in us; and that thy only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, our head, may in us his members continue still to work, live, and bring forth fruit acceptable unto thee. Amen (p.50).

Draw thou our hearts

O Lord Jesus Christ, draw thou our hearts unto thee; join them together in inseparable love, that we may abide in thee, and thou in us, and that the everlasting covenant between us may stand sure forever. O wound our hearts with the fiery darts of thy piercing love. Let them pierce through all our slothful members and inward powers, that we, being happily wounded, may so become whole and sound. Let us have no lover but thyself alone; let us seek no joy nor comfort except in thee. Amen (p.55).

The Antithesis and Learning at Calvin College – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanTwo weeks ago we began quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman describes the effect the antithesis had on learning.

The pervasive emphasis on the antithesis did not diminish the appreciation for learning or produce an index of forbidden books or a cowering from challenge. In the classroom it resulted in the search for truth from alien sources and a critical appraisal of fundamental religious options. Some teachers did this brilliantly, some rather feebly, but they all did it. Calvin College then, as afterwards, emphasized the best that had been thought and written. Although only six of the eighteen professors held doctorates, all but two of the rest had master’s degrees or their equivalent. The teachers were well acquainted with scholarly habits, and almost all insisted on rigorous work. One of those who did not compensated for it in illumination. Calvin graduates were admirably prepared for university studies beyond Calvin, and many of them enhanced its academic reputation. I think most of the students would have agreed that they were well prepared in their majors, confronted by the deep questions, nurtured in the Reformed faith, and given a genuine liberal education. There were, of course, real or self-appointed geniuses who would dispute that, but I think I state correctly the attitude of the vast majority of students (p.29, in “‘Golden Branch among the Shadows”’).

What’s Your Mission in Life? God Has Already Created It – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanWith chapter eleven of What’s Best Next, Matt Perman begins the third section of his book on “gospel-driven productivity.” This section is the “define” part, where Perman says that if being productive is knowing what’s important and doing it next, we have to define what is most important in life.

And that’s where having a personal mission statement is vital, he says. In the eleventh chapter, “What’s Your Mission? How Not to Waste Your Life”, Perman lays out the details of this concept. At the beginning he sets forth “four principles for creating mission statements that work” (p.153).

I appreciated what he had to say under the second principle, “base your mission on the actual purpose of life.” Here is part of it:

God has stated the purpose of life throughout the Bible in dozens of different ways. The words God uses (and that you can use) to describe it can differ, but the essence is always the same. The purpose of life is to know God, enjoy God, reflect his glory back to him, and do this in community with others through Jesus Christ.

That’s the ultimate purpose of life, both now and forever.

…One of the greatest statements of our mission in the Bible is when Paul says that his aim is always that ‘Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil.1:20-21). When Paul says ‘to me to live is Christ,’ he means, ‘Christ is my main end in life. I belong to him, and everything I do is for him. Nothing else matters without him (cf. Phil.3:8-14)….

Echoing this again in Romans 14:7-8, Paul states his and our purpose this way: ‘For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’

Outside the Bible, perhaps Jonathan Edwards has captured this best: “Christianity requires that we should make God and Christ our main end; and all Christians, so far as they live like Christians, live so that ‘for them to live is Christ.’

Note that your mission is personal, not impersonal. It is not just principle-centered; it is God-centered. God – Jesus- is a person. Your mission is to live unto him – and die unto him. To serve him, love him, know him, reflect him – and do this in community with his people, with an outward focus that seeks to serve the world for its good (pp154-55).

The Prayers of J. Calvin (21)

Praying with calvin- JeremiahOn this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on June 28), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his twentieth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:10-16, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:14, “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.”

Here is part of his application of this passage to the church in his day and to us:

This passage ought to be carefully observed by us, lest by our ingratitude we shall so provoke God’s wrath against us, as that his word, which is destined for our food, shall be turned to a fire to us. For why has God appointed the ministers of his gospel, except to invite us to become partakers of his salvation, and thus sweetly to restore and refresh our souls?

And thus the word of God is to us like water to revive our hearts: it is also a fire, but for our good, a cleansing, and not a consuming fire; but it we obstinately reject this fire, it will surely turn to answer another end, even to devour us, and wholly to consume us (p.284).

And his closing prayer for this lecture is as follows:

Grant, Almighty God, that though thou mightest justly condemn us at this day for the gross and wicked impiety, which thou didst formerly condemn by the mouth of thy Prophet in thine ancient people, – O grant, that we may not proceed in our obstinacy, but learn with pliable minds, and in true docility of heart, to submit to thy word, so that it may not turn to our ruin, but that we may by experience find it to be appointed for our salvation, so that being inflamed with a desire for true religion,and also cleansed from the filth of depraved affections and of carnal lusts, we may devote ourselves wholly to thy service, until having put off the flesh and all its filth, we shall at length attain to that perfect purity, which i set before us in thy gospel, and be made partakers of thy eternal glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen

The Mercy of Hearing God’s Voice – A.Mohler

deuteronomy-6-4-5This morning before our worship today I post some thoughts of Dr. Al Mohler on passages in Deuteronomy emphasizing how Israel heard the voice of God when He delivered the law to them through Moses on Mt.Horeb.

Our men’s Monday night Bible study has started studying the book of Deuteronomy and in looking for a new Journal for our Seminary library, I discovered that the December 2014 issue of the Southern Baptist Theological Journal (the Seminary of which Mohler is president) is entirely devoted to this OT book.

Mohler’s fine article is titled “Has Any People Heard the Voice of God Speaking… And Survived?”, a reference to Deut.4:33. In this first part that I quote, Mohler has referenced verses 11-13 of that chapter. And he writes concerning this:

As will be made clear in the Second Commandment – this is not a God who is seen, but a God who is heard. The contrast with the idols is very clear – the idols are seen, but they do not speak. The one true and living God is not seen, but he is heard. The contrast is intentional, graphic, and clear – we speak because we have heard. And the voice of God is not something Israel deserved, nor do we. It is sheer mercy.

We have no right to hear God speak. We have no call upon his voice. We have no right to demand that he would speak. We are accustomed to pointing to the cross of Christ and glorying in the cross of Christ – as we ought always to do – and saying of the cross, ‘There is mercy!’ But at Mount Horeb, there too was mercy! There is mercy when God speaks. This is the mercy of God allowing us to hear his voice (p.10).

As he further explains this passage, Mohler makes eight (8) points of application, the last of which is “If God has spoken, we must witness.” I appreciated his final comments under this – fitting for us today as we will also hear God’s voice – and the church will proclaim that Word that she has heard.

The difference for the church is that we understand what it means to gather together as the ones who by the grace and mercy of God have heard. Under the authority of the Word we gather. We are not making this up as we go along. Our task is not to go figure out what to teach. Our task is not to figure out where to find meaning in life. It is to be reminded continually that we have heard the voice of God speaking from the fire and have survived, and thus we teach.

This is the mercy of God, to hear and yet survive. It is the mercy by which we live every day and experience every moment and evaluate every truth claim and judge every worldview and preach every sermon. We work and we live under that mercy. I cannot help connecting Deuteronomy 4 with Hebrews 1. The experience of Israel – hearing the Lord God speak from the midst of the fire and yet surviving – ties in so beautifully with the prologue of the book of Hebrews: ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world’ (vv.1-2).

We are here because God has spoken, not only in the fire, but also in the Son – in whose name we gather as the church and in whose name we serve. The voice at Horeb points to its ultimate fulfillment in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate. For beyond the miracle of Israel hearing God’s voice and surviving, we can now know the Word of God made flesh and be saved (p.17).

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

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

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

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

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

Passing Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents:

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

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

True Religion Before God and the Father – H.Hanko

faithmadeperfect-hhanko-2015The Reformed Free Publishing Association has recently published a new commentary on the epistle of James by Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus, PRC Seminary). It carries the title Faith Made Perfect: Commentary on James (RFPA, 2015).

Doing some reading in it this morning led me to these two quotes that are also fitting for us on this Lord’s Day when we are called to practice “true religion and undefiled before God and the Father” (1:27). And that is contrast to a religion that is “vain” because we do not bridle our tongues (1:26).

Here is some of what Prof.Hanko says about these verses in the end of James 1:

The word translated as ‘vain’ [1:26] is not kenos, which means empty, but mataios, which means aimless. It refers to a religion that is without purpose, without fruit, without any goal, when the goal of one’s life ought to be the glory of God and praise to him who is alone worthy of it. Everything he does in the practice of religion is purposeless. His singing in church, his giving alms, and his careful attention to religious practices – all are without purpose, for they are only outward. God is not praised; nothing that man does is of any benefit to himself or to God, all because he does not know how to bridle his tongue. That is a devastating indictment (pp.78-79).

And then on the next verse, v.27, Hanko has this to say:

The addition of ‘Father’ is remarkable. It immediately puts all worship in the context of a father-son relationship. Worship is family fellowship – fellowship between a Father and his children. It is a relationship of love and mutual joy. It is a confession, with all that is implied, that worship is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children. It is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children on earth. Thus true religion before the Father is also religion that preserves the proper ‘space’ between the almighty and eternal God and creatures who are very, very sinful children. True religion is praise to God for his love for us in Christ (pp.79-80)

Prayer in Times of Great Peril – Valley of Vision

Once again the Lord’s sovereign hand has struck some of our families and congregations with the sudden death of a loved one, shaking us to the core, humbling us, teaching us, driving us to Him through Jesus Christ, our only Help and Hope.

In light of this I post this prayer titled “Peril” from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975). You will see that it is a cry for help raised “out of the depths” (Psalm 130:1), and yet a prayer of faith, with the child of God still clinging to the Lord of mercy.

At the end is a video recording of this prayer which may also be listened to and prayed in this way.

Peril – The Valley of Vision

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.
Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali –
    ‘satisfied with favour’ –
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.
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