Victory in Christ in This Life

beyeholy-brf-2016From the newly published book Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification (British Reformed Fellowship, 2016) comes these words from the pen of Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus PRC Seminary) on “The Victorious Christian” (Part 1: Chapter 6):

There are other ways in which God works sanctification in us in such a way that we are victorious over sin.

To confess our sins before God brings forgiveness. That too is victory. When, at Calvary, we confess our sins and seek forgiveness through the blood of Christ, these sins are forgiven, and we know that we are righteous and sinless before the eyes of our Father in heaven. Sin cannot rob us of His love and care. Sin confessed cannot keep us from heaven. Sin washed away in the blood of Christ gives us victory over Satan and his hosts, the world, and our own remaining sin.

Thus the victory of the child of God is found in a good conscience. Our conscience condemns us because it shows us our sins. But Scripture speaks of consciences washed in the blood of Christ (Heb.9:14). With freedom from an accusing conscience, we walk in the joy and hope of our salvation. Free from sin in God’s eyes, we are victorious.

That’s one way victory is evident in the Christian’s life. Hanko gives us another way:

The victory of the Christian is evident too in the fact that, although he falls in his path, he never gives up. He may yield to that temptation again and again, and commit the same sin repeatedly. The temptation to give up and fight no longer is strong. But he never does. Fallen, he rises again. Weary in the battle, he presses forward. Wounded and bleeding, he resolves to pursue his calling with renewed strength. He cannot be defeated, no matter how fierce the battle. He is more than a conqueror! (pp.96-97).

In the UK the book may be obtained from the Covenant PRC Bookshop. In the U.S., it may be purchased at the Reformed Book Outlet (Hudsonville, MI).

Book Deals for This Season’s Gift-Giving

BlackFridayToday, of course, is known as “Black Friday”, a day that kicks off the Christmas shopping frenzy. While I have come to despise most of what is associated with this day and weekend (including “Cyber Monday”), I also find it a time when one can pick up some fantastic deals on books, that gift par excellence.

So, as this Friday begins, I will point you to some places where you may find some good deals. If you are signed up for book newsletters, you will already receive notices of some of these. If you are not, now might be a good time to do so.

As always, I direct you to Tim Challies’ website, for he gathers the best Christian Kindle deals each day and especially in this time of year. And he usually assembles a list of other Christian publisher deals as well, so keep your eye on that site.

Ligonier is having a $5 sale on over 60 resources this weekend. Check out for link here for that list.

Christianbook.com is having a good sale, including free shipping. You have to wade through a lot of fluff to get to the good stuff, but it can be worth your while (or go directly to the solid sections).

Grace & Truth Books is participating in Black Friday sales (plus free shipping) and has some very good children’s books especially.

Cumberland Valley Bible and Books Store (CVBBS) is having a special end-of-year sale, including an extra 10% off everything.

The Reformed Free Publishing Association is having a special inventory reduction sale (30-60% off), besides special prices on their brand new books.

Also, don’t forget that Saturday is Small Business Shopping Day, which includes your local book stores. Support Baker Books, Parable (Kregel), Reformed Book Outlet, and Schuler Books in this time of year too. They have things you can’t find on Amazon and the Internet. And you can’t get a good cup of coffee or hot chocolate from cyberspace.🙂

Have fun, get some good deals, be a good steward, and encourage reading this Christmas!

P.S. I nearly forgot, but the PRC Seminary Bookstore also has some great deals (at all times!) on new and used books, including RFPA books. Plus, we have the latest Hope Heralds CD (2016, as well as previous years) and Voices of Victory (quartet) CDs, including their new one (2016, and previous years).

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 7:11 AM  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving Day 2016

PilgrimThanksgivingFrom my wife and myself we extend to all of our readers a blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day greeting!

May we together give deep thanks to our God for every blessing in Christ our Lord, resting in contentment and joy in all of God’s goodness to us this day and throughout the year, and trusting Him for every need for every day.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

For our reflection today we post this prayer/meditation from The Valley of Vision titled “Blessings.” I believe you will find it fitting for this Thanksgiving Day.

Thou great Three-One,
Author of all blessings I enjoy, of all I hope for,

Thou hast taught me
that neither the experience of present evils,
nor the remembrances of former sins,
nor the remonstrances of friends,
will or can affect a sinner’s heart,
except thou vouchsafe to reveal thy grace
and quicken the dead in sin
by the effectual working of thy Spirit’s power.

Thou hast shown me
that the sensible effusions of divine love
in the soul are superior to and distinct from bodily health,
and that oft-times spiritual comforts are  at their highest
when physical well-being is at its lowest.

Thou hast given me the ordinance of song as a means of grace;
Fit me to bear my part in that music ever new,
which elect angels and saints made perfect
now sing before thy throne and before the Lamb.

I bless thee for tempering every distress with joy;
too much of the former might weigh me down,
too much of the latter might puff me up;
Thou art wise to give me a taste of both.

I love thee
for giving me clusters of grapes in the wilderness,
and drops of heavenly wine
that set me longing to have my fill.

Apart from thee I quickly die,
bereft of thee I starve,
far from thee I thirst and droop;

But thou art all I need.
Let me continually grasp the promise,
‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’

And this music video from the PR Psalm Choir is also an appropriate song of thanks for our reflection.

Note to Self: Stop Complaining

Start by reading and meditating on Phil.2:14: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.”

Dear Self,

…You complain because you misunderstand (or just miss altogether) the grace you have received and the purposes of God in your life. You misunderstand the grace you have received by not recognizing it and receiving it with gratitude. Life, breath, and all of God’s provisions for your life are acts of his kindness and are truly wonderful, and yet they all seem to disappear when the small inconveniences of life appear.

In most of your complaining you miss the good purposes of God for your life – purposes he has made clear. ‘God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God’ (Rom.8:28 NASB). This truth should remain a constant meditation, particularly in a world filled with frustration, frailty, and failure. Though we are not always aware of the particular ways in which God causes all things to work out for our good, we have this promise, and it should be enough to challenge and conquer our complaining spirit.

…Perhaps the lesson is that you haven’t driven the gospel deep enough into your heart and mind. Otherwise it would bear fruit precisely where you need it. Are you complaining today? Consider the grace of God in all of life, and in the gospel particularly. Be assured of his purpose in all things inconvenient and tragic, and you will find the cure for complaining.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.35 “Stop Complaining” (found in Part Three, “The Gospel and You”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp. 109-110.

You might also benefit from reading (or re-reading) this “note to self” we posted previously, about giving thanks.

Things That Remain – Mrs. M. Laning

StandardBearerIn the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer (November 15, 2016), Mrs. Margaret Laning contributes to the  regular rubric on the Christian family, “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.”

Her article this time focuses on our need (especially that of the Christian wife and mother) to hold on to the “things that remain” in the midst of life’s trials and temptations.

Here is part of what she has to write on this important and timely subject:

In our trials when pressure and strain builds, when everything around us seems to be collapsing, we seek to hold on to something stable, too. Whether our stress adds up to 10 points or 310, God uses events like this to teach us that He alone is our unshakeable Rock. He teaches us this by the use of illustrations, as well. Earthquakes are for “…the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). We must examine what we are standing on in our afflictions – is it the created or the Creator, the shaken or the unshaken? When we stand on what we thought was dependable but is now crumbling right from under us, we are standing on the wrong thing. Christ is teaching us to hold on to, to trust, that which will remain.

…Christ is coming to remove the shaken in order to reveal that which cannot be shaken! All the sin, wickedness, and haters of God will be destroyed, while Christ and His unmoveable kingdom will be revealed in all of its fullness, glory, and majesty. We long for the birth of this new day.

Until then, we are prone to tremble with fear and doubts when the Lord gives us trials. Our home is destroyed. Our health or the health of our loved one is failing. We have anxious thoughts, fearing the unknown. Will the surgery be successful? Will the chemotherapy work? Our child is wayward. Our husband loses his job and financial worries keep us awake. Our spiritual enemies do not want us to be firmly grounded upon the Lord. They try ways to shake us to stop trusting our heavenly Father. They tempt us to doubt God’s love and inscrutable wisdom in the trials God sends for our good. These are the times, most especially, that God is turning our eyes to look upon the things that remain.

Good thoughts for us today and every day. On this Lord’s Day of our returning Savior may we fix our minds and hearts on the “things that remain.”

 

“They thought deeply as they read deeply.” N. Carr, The Shallows

shallowsbookcover-222x300On vacation this week, I have some extra time for reading, and one of the books I longed to get back to was Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2010).

Chapter four of the book is titled “The Deepening Page,” really a history of how society changed from an oral community to a literate one by the advent of writing and the codex (book). With this “intellectual technology” change came a major transformation of how people thought.

Today I give you a brief section from Carr on how this worked out (there is much more to this fascinating history – and to the main point of the author, and you are greatly encouraged to get this book and read it!):

To read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention to a single, static object [as opposed to the oral-tradition culture in which memory played the dominant role]. It required readers to place themselves at what T.S. Eliot… would call ‘the still point of the turning world.’

And then he further explains the development:

Many people had, of course, cultivated a capacity for sustained attention long before the book or even the alphabet came along. The hunter, the craftsman, the ascetic – all had to train their brains to control and concentrate their attention. What was so remarkable about book reading was that the deep concentration was combined with the highly active and efficient deciphering of text and interpretation of meaning. The reading of a sequence of printed pages was valuable not just for knowledge readers acquired from the author’s words but for the way those words set off intellectual vibrations within their own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the prolonged, undistracted reading of a book, people made their own associations, drew their own inferences and analogies, fostered their own ideas. They thought deeply as they read deeply (pp.64-65).

But then, even on vacation those “quiet spaces” for “prolonged, undistracted” book reading can be easily interrupted by one’s surroundings.🙂

reading-on-deck

Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 11:08 AM  Comments (2)  

Note to Self: Keep Your Heart

Begin by reading and meditating on Proverbs 4:23.

The call to keep your heart is a call to work on your life internally, not merely externally. …God is first and foremost concerned with your heart, for when you are keeping your heart, the rest of life follows.

To keep your heart means that your focus and work is on maintaining communion with God and pursuing the transformation that only God can accomplish in you. It is not performance-based religion, nor the moral improvement of your life, but the ongoing work of cultivating love for God and hatred for sin. It is the unending effort of guarding ourselves against idols while resting in the promises of the gospel.

To keep your heart is your primary business as a Christian, and it cannot be done with passing interest or any small amount of energy. It requires the consistent use of all the means of grace. You must make the most of worship, Scripture, prayer, and the church gathered in all its forms with an aim at keeping your heart and growing in grace. If you are doing anything less than this, you are keeping up appearances, but not your heart. And you know that the heart is what God is primarily interested in (Ps.51:16-17) – hearts that are broken over sin, healed by God’s forgiving grace, and consequently filled with love for our Redeemer God.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.29 “Keep Your Heart” (found in Part Three, “The Gospel and You”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.97-98.

November Tabletalk: Christian Maturity

We are nearly halfway through the month of November and we have not yet called your attention to this month’s issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’s monthly devotional magazine.

tt-nov-2016The November 2016 issue focuses our minds and hearts on the subject of Christian maturity, a trait mirrored in the creation in the Fall season as the crops reach their ripened state and are harvested. So believers in Christ are to develop in Christian graces as we go through life, so that in the harvest of our lives we are ripe for glory, to the praise of the God of all grace.

Burk Parsons introduces this subject with an editorial titled “Mature in Christ.” There he writes in his closing remarks:

Paul said to young Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Even the youngest believers can attain and model emotional and spiritual maturity, for maturity is not a matter of age. Some of the youngest among us are the most mature and some of the oldest are the least mature. Young and old alike, God calls all His people to grow into “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), and this not so people will exalt us but so they will exalt our risen and returning Savior, as we strive to live as mature believers, looking to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

One of the main articles I read yesterday before worship was “Immaturity” by Dr. Dan Demas. Part of his message is to put the finger on the causes of immaturity in the church and among Christians in our day. He points to three causes: apathy, laziness, and ignorance – all serious maladies.

About apathy he writes:

Apathy is a primary maturity killer. When self-focus enters our hearts and consumes us, the hunger for spiritual things exits. The cold hard fact is that some people just don’t care and have been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). Small thoughts of God yield a small view of sanctification.

Little thoughts of God snuff out the necessary zeal for mature Christlikeness. The backslider has said in his heart, “I don’t care.” A cold, apathetic faith is an immature faith. Immaturity as a result of apathy doesn’t animate anything; it only steals, kills, and destroys maturity. Apathy cannot be reasoned with and makes us numb to spiritual realities. All sin makes us stupid, but apathy makes us cold and stupid.

But Demas is not simply negative in his approach to immaturity. At the end of his article he points us to the positive side:

We must have sanctification in our sights. Make maturity a high-value target. Ask God to awaken zeal in you to fight the flesh. Ask Him to ignite your zeal for truth. Maturity is not for a select few but is the goal for all of us. Once you’ve tasted maturity, it’s hard to go back.

…We must exchange apathy, laziness, and ignorance for a zeal for spiritual maturity, an insatiable appetite for the Word, the necessary discipline to consistently walk in the Spirit, and a passion for modeling maturity for the next generation. My prayer is that God will awaken us to our apathy, give us a healthy disdain for immaturity, a right theological perspective regarding sanctification, the necessary discipline to pursue maturity with diligence, and a hunger and thirst for a more mature faith.

Is maturity in our Christian faith and life something we are striving for and praying for?

God is the Lord: Implication #2 – H. Hoeksema

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHAnd here is implication #2 (see previous post) from Herman Hoeksema’s Oct.26, 1941 radio message broadcast on the Reformed Witness Hour, “God is the Lord”, treating the absolute Lordship (sovereignty) of God.

As we live in the conscious faith that God is the Lord, a second practical implication of his lordship is that we will be without fear and terror in the world, because we will live the tranquil assurance that all things must ‘work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom.8:28).

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who manifested his love toward us in  the death of his Son and who surely will give us all things with him, is the Lord of all. He holds the reins. Whatever happens, he will surely save his church. As the church makes her voyage across the seas of the centuries, tempests may rage furiously, and the waves may rise mountain high, but we know that our God is Lord of the tempest and that the waves must do his bidding. In the world we may have to suffer tribulation, but God is the Lord of the tribulation, and we may even glory in it. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

Therefore, we will not be afraid

Though hills amidst the sea be cast,
Though foaming waters roar,
Yea, though the mighty billows shake
The mountains on the shore.
(versification of Psalm 46:2,3 [from PRC Psalter])

Nor will we fear though the nations rage furiously, and though we hear of wars and rumors of wars; yes, though all hell break loose and all the powers of darkness set themselves against us, we will not be afraid but be of good cheer, for we know that we have a covenant with the only potentate and that we are of the party of the living God, who only does wondrous things. The Lord of hosts is his name (p.31-32 in Knowing God & Man, RFPA, 2006)

God is the Lord: Implication #1 – H. Hoeksema

In connection with the 75th anniversary of the Reformed Witness Hour this year (1941-2016), we have been posting some excerpts from various messages delivered on the program in the past, especially from the first series delivered by Herman Hoeksema, when he was pastor of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

The third message to be broadcast on the RWH (“The Protestant Reformed Hour” as it was initially called) was “God is the Lord”, based on Deut.4:35 (“Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.”).

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHBesides being published in individual leaflet form, this early message was later published by the RFPA in book form, along with the other messages in this series on the doctrine of God and another on the doctrine of man that followed it. That book is titled Knowing God & Man (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006).

Today we quote from the end of this radio message, where Hoeksema is giving two practical implications of the absolute Lordship (sovereignty) of God. Here is the first one (slightly edited):

First, if through the grace of the Lord Jesus we have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light, so that we again confess this lordship of the Most High, we will acknowledge him as our Lord in every department of life and have our delight in doing his will. Always and everywhere we will ask, ‘Lord, what will thou have us do?’

Thus by faith we will fight the good fight of faith so that we may be doers of the word. We will acknowledge him as Lord in our personal lives and ask for grace that we may walk as children of light, crucify our old natures, and walk in new and holy paths. We will ask for his will and for grace to do that will in our home life in the relationship of man and wife, of parent and child. We will insist that he be Lord in the schools where our children are instructed, so that they may be thoroughly furnished for every good work. We will confess that God is Lord in the spheres of industry and commerce, over the relationship of employer and employee.

In the church and in society, in the shop and in the office, in the home and on the street, in the city and in the state, always and everywhere, it shall be our earnest desire and endeavor to walk according to the confession that God is the Lord (p.31).