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).

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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!

PRC Seminary Reformation 500 Conference This Weekend! Come and Join Us! *(Updated!)

ref-500-1The PRC Seminary, with help from Faith PRC’s Evangelism Committee, is holding a special two-day 500th anniversary Reformation conference for this weekend, October 27-28 at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI.

The details of the event may be found on the poster below. A special website has also been created for the conference, which you may find at www.500thReformation.com .

Here’s the latest bulletin announcement that was sent out:

HERE WE STAND, the seminary sponsored weekend conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is now at hand. The first speech is at 4:00 on Friday, October 27 with additional speeches at 7:00 and 8:15. The conference will continue on Saturday morning. The speeches will be delivered by our three professors [Profs. R. Cammenga, R. Dykstra, and B. Gritters] and Rev. M. McGeown [missionary-pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Ireland], Rev. David Torlach [pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Australia], and Rev. S. Key [PRC pastor in Loveland, CO].

Talk to your neighbors and friends and join us at Faith PRC for this important event. The conference will be live-streamed on the Internet for those who are not able to attend in person.

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At the conference there will also be books for sale by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and Gary Vander Schaaf (lots of great deals on books!) and special displays of Seminary library books – new and rare – on the Reformation (There may also be a special PRC archive item on display!). In addition, the Reformed Witness Hour will have a special table featuring its ministry.

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We hope you make plans to attend this significant event! Set aside time this weekend to join us as we celebrate God’s great work in the sixteenth century of reforming His church according to His Word.

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It’s been a great conference so far! Come out this Saturday morning for more edifying and inspiring messages, good books, and blessed fellowship!

Another Look at the Special Reformation Issue of the “Standard Bearer” – October 15, 2017

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and has been mailed out, and it is the first installment of our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

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The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

Last week we looked at one of the articles; today let’s do that with another today. Part of the wonderful heritage of the Reformation is the body of confessions, creeds, and catechisms that were composed during this period of church history. In his article “In Praise of a Well-Built Confessional House,” Rev. Brian Huizinga treats the beauty and benefits of this confessional heritage.

Here are a few paragraphs from his contribution:

A Well-Built House

The Reformation gave us an incredibly well-built house. The Reformation did not merely give us an attractive front façade (justification by faith alone or creation), a load-bearing interior wall (original sin or the necessity of divine satisfaction), roof trusses and a roof over us (Scripture or double predestination), a cozy fire place (providence or prayer), a spacious utilitarian kitchen (the means of grace or good works), or a private bedroom (assurance of our election or hope for the second coming). The Reformation era gave us a complete house of all the essential doctrines of Scripture.

Evidence of the indispensable work of the Spirit of truth is the fact that our house sits perfectly on the basement foundation that had been laid a millennium prior. The house of the Three Forms of Unity not only sits squarely on the foundation of the Ecumenical creeds, but, to employ another figure, it is the massive oak arising out of the acorn “Jesus Christ is Lord” and the little sapling of the Ecumenical creeds. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. Therefore, if we take the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” and open up each one of those words and the whole statement in the light of Scripture, we not only arrive at the narrower theology of the Ecumenical creeds, but the broader and more comprehensive theology of our Reformed creeds.

For example, “Jesus” means “Jehovah salvation” or “He shall save His people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21). To understand that one word “Jesus” we must ask the Bible: What is sin? What is the origin of sin? Who is a sinner? What is salvation? Who is Jesus? How does Jesus save? Whom does Jesus save? Why does Jesus save? Unto what does Jesus save? Work it all out according to Scripture and you end up with something like the Canons of Dordt with its five heads of doctrine. The same can be said of “Christ,” that is, “God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King” and “Lord.” Some professing Christians denounce creeds in opposition to the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord,” but creeds only take that simple confession and reveal the comprehensive theology contained in it. What a massive, structurally sound, tidy, spacious, comfortable and even luxurious house is our confessional house, covering all the doctrines from theology to eschatology

The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!

The Calvinistic (Biblical) Way to View and Handle Afflictions – J. Calvin

…But the believer must in these same circumstances [of calamity and loss] consider the mercy and fatherly kindness of God. If the believer, then, should see his house made lonely by the loss of those nearest to him, even then he must not stop praising the Lord. Rather, he must turn himself to this thought: ‘The Lord’s grace continues to dwell in my home and will not leave it desolate.’ If the believer should see his crop consumed by drought, disease, or frost, or trampled down by hail and famine threaten him, even then he must not despair within his soul, nor should he become angry toward God. Rather, he must persist with confidence in this truth: ‘But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever.’ (Ps.79:13). God, then, will provide for us, however barren the land. If the believer should be afflicted by illness, he must not be so stung by the severity of his hardship that he erupts in impatience and demands from God an explanation. Rather, he must, considering the justice and gentleness of God’s discipline, recall himself to patience.

Indeed, the believer should accept whatever comes with a gentle and thankful heart, because he knows that it is ordained by the Lord. Moreover, he must not stubbornly resist the rule of God into whose power he has placed himself and all his affairs. So let the Christian make it his priority to drive from his breast that foolish and unfortunate comfort of pagans, who, in order to bolster their spirits against all adverse events, credit those events to fortune. They think it’s silly to be angry at fortune, since she is reckless, aimless, and blind – inflicting her wounds equally on the deserving and the undeserving. In contrast, the rule of godliness is to recognize that God’s hand is the sole judge and governor of every fortune, and because His hand is not recklessly driven to fury, it distributes to us both good and ill according to His orderly righteousness.

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 the end of chapter 2, “Self-Denial in the Christian Life”, pp.52-54.

First 2017 “Standard Bearer” Special Reformation Issue

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and being mailed, and it is our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

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The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

From the front cover of the issue you can see some of the topics treated. And from the table of contents posted below, you can see the rest of the important subjects covered in this issue.

You may have noted that I wrote “first” special issue in my heading. That is because we have also planned and will publish a second special issue on the Reformation this year. The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!

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For today, we take a quotation from Prof. D. Engelsma’s article on the controversy over the bondage of the will, a subject of vital concern to the Reformers. Lord willing, we hope to feature another article from this issue as well.

The truth of the bondage of the will, including its being fundamental to the gospel of grace, has its urgent application to churches and professing Christians in AD 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of 1517. The doctrine is not a petrified mummy safely sealed up in an ancient ecclesiastical museum. It is not a truth to which hypocritical ministers and church members can pay lip service when this is convenient for them (as in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, although even then the bondage is usually not one of the topics of their celebrations), while effectively denying it in their synodical decisions, in their preaching, in their writings, by their church membership, and by their ostracism and slander of churches and theologians whose only offence is an uncompromising confession of the bondage of the will.

First, applied to the heart of the elect believer, this truth assures him of his salvation in that his willing of God and the good by a true faith carries with itself the assurance that he is saved. His will is free, and it is free because it has been freed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will glorify God on account of his salvation.

Second, confession of the bondage of the will is a fundamental mark of a true church. Confession of the bondage of the will is an essential element of the proclamation of the gospel of grace, and the true church proclaims, confesses, and defends the gospel of grace—the gospel of salvation by grace alone, without the will and works of the saved sinner.

Third, confession and defense of the alleged free will of the natural, unsaved, man, which purportedly cooperates with grace and upon which grace depends, are the mark of an apostate, false church. In our ecumenical age, God’s people need to know this, and to act accordingly.

Why the Reformation Still Matters: Because of the Sacraments

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016One of the books I continue to read this year of remembering the Reformation (500th anniversary!) is Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016).

Each chapter touches on a significant doctrine rediscovered by the Reformers, showing why the return to that particular truth was important for that time and why it is still important for the church today. I have been informed and inspired by what the authors have written. While repeating the great truths God restored to His church during the 16th century, Reeves and Chester present them in a fresh and lively manner, calling us to be true Protestants and Evangelicals in this hour of history.

The next chapter I read this evening is Chapter 8, “The Sacraments,” to which they add the subtitle “Why Do We Take Bread and Wine.  The authors do not hide the fact that this was the most contentious of the Reformers’ doctrine, as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin differed significantly, even vehemently. But they also point out the great progress these men made – each with a particular contribution – in returning the church to the biblical doctrine.

At the end of the chapter, the authors make some good applications based on the heart of the Reformation doctrine on the sacraments:

We live in a culture where everything is about response and feeling. And our contemporary evangelical culture is deeply imbued with this subjectivism. We need to understand that the gospel is entirely outside us. The gospel is not my response. The gospel describes the objective reality to which I am to respond.

This is why the link made in the Reformation between Word and sacrament is important for us today. Calvin said, ‘Let it be regarded as a settled principle that the sacraments have the same office [that is, function] as the Word of God: to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace.’

And from there they go on to say,

So it is helpful to think of the sacraments as embodied promises. Their validity lies in the One who makes the promises.

…When Luther was struggling, he would go into the courtyard and shout (in Latin), ‘I am a baptized man.’ There is an objective reality when the sacraments are celebrated in the church. Their meaning is not in my response or feeling. The meaning is the gospel embodied in the sign. But the sign is designed to evoke my response and feeling. So we receive it as a promise from God – as a pledge of his intentions. So baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not primarily signs of our subjective experience or faith or response. They are signs that point us to the gospel [pp.157-59].

Why the Reformation Still Matters

The October 2017 issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly magazine), without surprise or embarrassment, features a tribute to the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017). And we are glad they did.

The issue is packed with informative and inspiring articles on this indispensable movement, and you are encouraged to read them for your personal benefit this month and beyond. Here is a sampling of the main articles:

  1. The Power of the Gospel – Editor Burk Parsons
  2. Luther and His Significance – Stephen J. Nichols
  3.  Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide – Guy P. Waters
  4. The Geography of the Reformation – Ryan Reeves
  5. The Women of the Reformation – Rececca VanDoodewaard
  6. Continuing the Reformation – W. Robert Godfrey
  7. The Ninety-Five Theses (the final article has all 95 as set down by Luther himself)

For today, I reference the first main article, “Why the Reformation Still Matters” by Michael Reeves. I post a few sections from the beginning and the end of his article, for these give answer to his own implied question. Find the rest at the link below, where you will also find the other articles.

Last year, on October 31, Pope Francis announced that after five hundred years, Protestants and Catholics now “have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.” From that, it sounds as if the Reformation was an unfortunate and unnecessary squabble over trifles, a childish outburst that we can all put behind us now that we have grown up.

But tell that to Martin Luther, who felt such liberation and joy at his rediscovery of justification by faith alone that he wrote, “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” Tell that to William Tyndale, who found it such “merry, glad and joyful tidings” that it made him “sing, dance, and leap for joy.” Tell it to Thomas Bilney, who found it gave him “a marvellous comfort and quietness, insomuch that my bruised bones leaped for joy.” Clearly, those first Reformers didn’t think they were picking a juvenile fight; as they saw it, they had discovered glad tidings of great joy.

And this is the end of Reeves’ thoughts:

Now is not a time to be shy about justification or the supreme authority of the Scriptures that proclaim it. Justification by faith alone is no relic of the history books; it remains today as the only message of ultimate liberation, the message with the deepest power to make humans unfurl and flourish. It gives assurance before our holy God and turns sinners who attempt to buy God off into saints who love and fear Him.

And oh what opportunities we have today for spreading this good news! Five hundred years ago, Gutenberg’s recent invention of the printing press meant that the light of the gospel could spread at a speed never before witnessed. Tyndale’s Bibles and Luther’s tracts could go out by the thousands. Today, digital technology has given us another Gutenberg moment, and the same message can now be spread at speeds Luther could never have imagined.

Both the needs and the opportunities are as great as they were five hundred years ago—in fact, they are greater. Let us then take courage from the faithfulness of the Reformers and hold the same wonderful gospel high, for it has lost none of its glory or its power to dispel our darkness.

Source: Why the Reformation Still Matters

How Do We See and Savor the Glory of the Lord in the NT? By Reading (the Word)!

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017So Paul has shifted our focus from the old covenant to the new – from the law of Moses to the gospel of Christ. From the veiled, temporary glory, to the unveiled, permanent glory. And his central point is that when the veil is lifted  – when the hardening and blindness are removed – we see the glory of the Lord. ‘We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed’ (2 Cor.3:18). …Seeing the glory of God was, and is, preeminent.

Recall [from the author’s previous points] that the point of contact with the glory of God was, at one time, supposed to be the reading of Moses (2 Cor.3:14-15). Reading! This was supposed to be the way the glory of God was seen. Has that changed? No. there has been no criticism or abandonment of this window we call ‘reading.’ So we may assume that the value of this window remains.

The difference is that once there was reading with a veil. Now there is reading with no veil. Once there was a window with a curtain, and now that curtain has been pulled aside. But the window of reading remains, as we saw in Ephesians 3:4. It remains God’s plan for the revelation of his glory. …’Beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled face’ (2 Cor.3:18) happens through reading. This is true both for the Spirit-illumined reading of the old covenant as well as a reading (or hearing) of the gospel of Christ.

Quotation from Chapter 4, “Reading to See Supreme Worth and Beauty, Part 2” of John Piper’s new book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). In this chapter he is emphasizing and explaining this part of his “proposal,” ‘that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty.”

 RFPA Annual Meeting, Sept.28, 2017 : Important Speech and Ministry Updates

Thursday night, Sept.28, 2017, is a special night for the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA). This is the date of their annual meeting, which involves reports on the business aspect of their work, including both the book publishing side and the Standard Bearer magazine side.

But far more is planned than just this. A special speech will be given by Prof. David J. Engelsma – a speech related to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and to his recent book on justification by faith alone, one of the cardinal gospel truths recovered during the Reformation.

Below are some of the details; find more at the RFPA link below, including a link to that significant new book on justification. You are strongly encouraged to attend this meeting and speech.

But if you cannot, the RFPA has made it known that “the meeting will be live-streamed for those of you who are not able to attend or who live out of state. Visit http://www.southwestprc.org/ to listen in!”

*UPDATE: The RFPA has now released the video recording of the meeting, which you may watch below.

RFPA annual meeting –
“After 500 Years: What about James on Justification?”

Plan to attend the RFPA annual meeting THIS WEEK!

At the annual meeting of the Reformed Free Publishing Association this coming Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm, Prof. David J. Engelsma will speak on “After 500 Years: What about James on Justification?” He will not only show the harmony of James 2 on the one hand and of Romans 3-5 and Galatians on the other hand, but he will also demonstrate that James 2 itself convincingly proves that it does not compromise the Reformation’s gospel truth of justification by faith alone.

The lecture will develop the truth of justification set forth in the speaker’s recent book commemorating and defending the Reformation of the church in this, the 500th anniversary of that glorious event, Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2017).

We hope to see you there for this timely speech!

Location details:
Southwest Protestant Reformed Church
4875 Ivanrest Ave SW
Wyoming MI 49418

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — This week is the RFPA annual meeting – “After 500 Years: What about Ja