The Prayers of J.Calvin (17)

JCalvin1On 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), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his sixteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:16-22, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.22, where God admonishes His backsliding people with these words , ‘For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.”

On this Calvin has this to say by way of application:

There are then two things to be noticed; first, the kind of madness that is here mentioned, – the people did not know God. And we hence learn that then only are we wise when we fear God, and that we are always mad and senseless when we regard him not. This is one thing.

Secondly, we must know that no excuse of ignorance or mistake was allowed to that people, for God has made himself known to them. And this may be applied to us: God will justly upbraid us at the last day, that we have been foolish and mad, if we are without the knowledge of him; for we have the means… of knowing him; and there is no excuse that we can plead for our ignorance, since God has not spoken to us in an obscure manner.

God in these words accused the Jews of ingratitude, and of deliberate wickedness, because they knew him not. But since God has at this day made himself more fully known to us, it is… a heavier condemnation to us, and our punishment will thus be doubled, if we know not God, who is so kind to us, and deals with us so graciously (233-34).

The rest of his lecture is followed by this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast not only once kindled among us the light of celestial truth, but also invitest us daily to partake of the salvation which has been set before us, – O grant, that we may not close our eyes, nor render deaf our ears, nor harden ourselves in our sins, but that as thou ceasest not continually to call us to thyself, so we may earnestly strive to hasten to thee, and to persevere in the course of our holy calling, so that we may draw nearer daily to its end, until thou receivest us at length into that celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. – Amen.

Resting on God – “The Valley of Vision”

ValleyofVisionBookToday is the Lord’s Day, the day we mark the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ by worshiping our great and glorious God in His house with His people. It is the day of rest, as we rest in the finished work of our Savior Who has fulfilled the rest of the OT sabbath and given us perfect peace and rest.

As we begin this day of rest, this Puritan devotional from The Valley of Vision (ed. by A.Bennett,; Banner of Truth, 1975) is certainly appropriate. May it remind us, as Augustine stated long ago, that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

Resting on God

O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace.

Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills.

Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint.

Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee. Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling.

Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy. Abide in me, gracious God.

If you prefer to listen this devotional read, you may find it here on YouTube.

The Flower – George Herbert

george herbertAs we close out the week, I searched for a poem fitting for contemplation during this season of Spring and new life, and this also being National Poetry Month. I love the poems of George Herbert, 1593-1633, and found this one to be fitting for us to mark these events. May it provide good food for your soul, as it did for mine.

How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasures bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.

Who would have thought my shrivl’d heart
Could have recover’d greenness? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
We say amiss,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.

O that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Off’ring at heav’n, growing and groaning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-shower,
My sins and I joining together:

But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?

And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am her
On whom thy tempests fell all night.

These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

Published in: on April 25, 2015 at 10:36 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Envisioning a Colorado Haven for Readers, Nestled Amid Mountains of Books – NYTimes.com

Envisioning a Colorado Haven for Readers, Nestled Amid Mountains of Books – NYTimes.com.

This sounds like my kind of place. One can only dream. Of such a quiet retreat in the Michigan UP. Far away from lights and life (normal, hustling, bustling life). Surrounded by books and beauty (creation’s). With nothing to do but read and walk. Read and hike. Read and fish. Got the picture?

South Park's Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's global collection of books on people and the land -- from the Arctic to the African savannas.Sometimes dreams come true. Read about this neat story that appeared April 16, 2015 on the NY Times website. Here’s the first part; find the rest at the link above. Be sure to visit the link in the article itself too. Never give up on your dreams!

SOUTH PARK, Colo. — The project is striking in its ambition: a sprawling research institution situated on a ranch at 10,000 feet above sea level, outfitted with 32,000 volumes, many of them about the Rocky Mountain region, plus artists’ studios, dormitories and a dining hall — a place for academics, birders, hikers and others to study and savor the West.

It is the sort of endeavor undertaken by a deep-pocketed politician or chief executive, perhaps a Bloomberg or a Buffett. But the project, called the Rocky Mountain Land Library, has instead two booksellers as its founders.

For more than 20 years, Jeff Lee, 60, and Ann Martin, 53, have worked at a Denver bookshop, the Tattered Cover, squirreling away their paychecks in the pursuit of a single dream: a rural, live-in library where visitors will be able to connect with two increasingly endangered elements — the printed word and untamed nature.

PRC Archives: The First PR Theological Journal

Thinking about the publication of the latest issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal (see my previous post), made me think about the initial edition of the PRTJ. When do you think this Seminary periodical began?

If you pay attention to the volume numbers, you will note that the April 2015 issue is part of volume 48. And working backwards in years, that means that the first PRTJ was published in 1967. So, for our PRC archives feature today, Volume 1, No.1 is the item on display!

apr1967_Page_1

You will find this complete issue on the Seminary’s website under the “Journal tab” (r-h side), but I also made the first three pages into images, which I post here. These include the initial cover (above – the entire issue was published in syllabus form – 8.5 x 11 size pages), the introductory note by the editor (below), and the table of contents (Alas, there were no book reviews in that first issue. But many would come in time. :) )

apr1967_Page_2

apr1967_Page_4

I also thought you might like to see the progression in covers and design over the years. There were basically four styles – the one you see here; the one on the previous post (since vol.38, Nov., 2006 this has been the latest look); and then these two styles from the 1980 and 1990s.

PRTJ Covers-1986 & 1998_Page_1

If you are not a subscriber of the PRTJ, and would like to become one (whether the print edition or the digital version), let us know! You may contact the editor (Prof.R.Cammenga) or our Seminary secretary (their email addresses may be found on the Seminary’s website.). The price is right (free, because it is generously supported by the PRC membership!) and the content is always edifying and stimulating. It is truly a unique Reformed Journal in the church world.

The April 2015 Issue of the PR Seminary Journal is Now Available!

PRTJ-April-2015Fresh from the printer (yesterday afternoon!) is the latest issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. The April 2015 issue (vol.48, No.2) is another ‘special” issue in that it contains the text of four speeches given at a PRC officebearers’ conference on preaching held last September (2014) in Illinois (see Prof.R.Cammenga’s editorial notes below). At this conference our three professors gave speeches, as well as missionary-pastor W. Bruinsma (Pittsburgh PR Fellowship) [Click on the image on the right to see all the subjects treated.]

These speeches in print will not only be of interest to and valuable for pastors and elders, but also for Seminary students and for the person “in the pew.” For just as preaching is the chief task of the minister of the Word, so is it the chief means of grace for the people of God (those two points are inseparable). All will benefit from reading these articles.

Besides, there are also two extensive book review articles and five other book reviews in this issue (for more on those, keep reading). I always find these personally edifying.

I include here Prof.R.Cammenga’s “Editor’s Notes” introducing the issue. If you would like to receive this issue, or would like to be added to our mailing list to receive the Journal (free of charge, though donations are always welcome!), contact me here or the Seminary secretary at the information on our Seminary website. Today I will also be posting this issue on our Seminary Journal page (in pdf form – the two other digital versions will appear later).

Here follows Prof.Cammenga’s introduction of the April 2015 issue:

Editor’s Notes

Preaching is fundamental to what the church is called to be and is called to do. It is at the heart of worship. It is the chief means of grace. It is the means for the salvation of the elect, both in the generations of believers and from the nations through missions. It is the means to work faith, to strengthen faith, and to preserve in faith. It is the means for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven and the gathering of her citizens.
Preachers are what we aim to train for the church of Jesus Christ in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. We aim to produce pastors who are preachers—chiefly preachers. As preaching is the chief, from a certain point of view the only task of the minister, so does all the instruction in PRTS have as its goal the development of sound, capable preachers of the gospel.

Classis West of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America sponsored an officebearers’ conference prior to its September 2014 meeting. The speeches presented at this conference make up the main contents of this issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. Domestic missionary of the PRCA, the Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma, gave the keynote address: “The Minister’s Development of His Preaching after Seminary.” In his speech Rev. Bruinsma not only emphasized the need for the minister’s development as a preacher after graduation from seminary and once in the active ministry, but also gave a number of concrete suggestions with a view to this development. The remaining speeches were given by the faculty of PRTS: “The Elders’ Supervision of the Preaching,” “Developing God-Honoring, Faithful, and Effective Preaching,” and “Application in Preaching.” We hope that our readers, especially ministers and seminary students, will find these articles to be worthwhile.

Besides the conference speeches that have been put into print, readers should take note of the two review articles that are included in this issue. Past issues of PRTJ have contained reviews of the individual volumes of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr., as they were published. Recently the fourth and last volume of this very worthwhile set was released. With the completion of the set, Rev. Angus Stewart, minister in the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, Northern Ireland has submitted a review article. You will definitely want to read what he has to say. Another significant book that has recently been published by B & H Publishing Group (formerly Broadman and Holman Publishers) is entitled Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Emeritus Professor of Dogmatics at PRTS, Prof. David Engelsma, offers readers an insightful analysis of this new book. At the same time, his review article is a passionate call to Reformed churches and officebearers to defend the biblical and confessional truth concerning the redemption of the cross of Christ. That cross, an offense and stumbling block to so many today—also in the church—is “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

And then there are the book reviews. Notable among recently published books is the publication of The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible. This new study Bible is the first of its kind—a Reformed King James Version study Bible. Up until now Arminians and Dispensationalists have held the field among KJV study Bibles. At long last a King James Version study Bible whose notes and articles are written from a distinctively Reformed perspective. Reformed believers who treasure the King James Version of the Bible—among them the members of the PRCA and her sister churches—should welcome this new study Bible.
Now read and enjoy.
Soli Deo Gloria!
—RLC

The Gospel of Justification and Our Productivity – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanOver the past weekend I was able to finish chapter seven of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014) – a chapter that in many ways was the most satisfying to me so far. And that because, of all things (that’s how striking it first is), the author takes us to the heart of the gospel to show us how to be productive. Yes, he points us workers to the gospel truth of justification by faith alone! The title of the chapter is “How the Gospel Makes Us Productive”, and it carries the powerful sub-title “The only way to be productive is to realize you don’t have to be productive.” How’s that for motivation for your work today?

As he explains this key thought for chapter seven, Perman gives us the example of William Wilberforce, the British Christian social reformer, who worked to abolish slavery in England, among other things. He informs us that Wilberforce wrote a book in which he sought to influence the moral perspective of the country. But that book was not about motivating people to behave properly by means of humanistic efforts and moral do-goodism. It was rather a book “essentially on doctrine. And, specifically, its focus was on the doctrine of justification by faith alone” (104).

Why would Wilberforce do such a thing? And why would Perman in his own book on being productive (doing good by loving God and the neighbor and serving them from the heart in our lives) motivate us by this gospel truth? Here is his explanation:

It’s because Wilberforce understood that massive practical action for good comes about not first as a result of moral exhortation or appeals to change but rather as a result of understanding and embracing doctrine – most centrally the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In other words, embracing the truth that God accepts us apart from good works is the precise thing that causes us to excel in good works. Or, to put this in the context of productivity (which, as we have seen, is really about living a life of good works – like Wilberforce), the only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be (104).

From there, Perman goes further into an explanation not only of justification by faith alone but also of how that truth properly lies at the foundation of a life of good works. Here is just another small section of text from this part:

The notion that we must obey God in order to be accepted by him results in less moral action, not more, because it results in less love for God. Conversely, realizing that we are wholly and completely accepted by God apart from our works through faith in Christ results in massive and radical action for good because it results in great love and joy for God (109).

And he points us to Jesus’ words in Luke 7:41-43, as well as Titus 3:4-8. We would do well to read and meditate on those passages before heading to work today. And as you head off to the office or the shop or the construction site or stay home to care for the children, ponder your justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Yes, God’s free and amazing grace is our best reason and motivation for serving Him and our neighbor in our labors this day! Go and be productive – because Christ paid your debt and gave you His perfect work as your righteousness before God!

How To Become a Better Reader in 10 Steps – G.Rubin

How To Become a Better Reader in 10 Steps.

Better Than Before - GRubinThis helpful list of steps on improving our reading habits was posted last week (April 17, 2015) at “Publishers Weekly.” It is a summary of some things Gretchen Rubin put together while writing a broader self-improvement book, titled Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Crown, 2015).

This is her brief explanation of the steps:

Reading is an essential part of my work, it’s an important aspect of my social life, and most importantly, it’s my favorite thing to do….

But reading takes time, and most days, I can’t read as much as I’d like. As I was writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, I adopted many new habits to help me get more good reading done. Consider whether these habits might work for you:

And here are a few of the ones that I would highlight for you. To find all of them, use the “PW” link above.

2. Skim. Especially when reading newspapers, magazines, and the internet. Certain kinds of materials don’t need to be read carefully. Also, even if you spend many hours a day reading, you may feel as though you don’t have any time to read. The habit of skimming ensures that low-value reading doesn’t crowd out high-value reading.

3. Set aside time to read demanding books. It’s satisfying to stretch. Try setting aside some time each week to read books that are a bit challenging—a dense biography, a religious work written hundreds of years ago, a scientific book with a lot of unfamiliar terminology. I used the habit-formation Strategy of Scheduling to form the habit of doing “Study Reading” each weekend, to ensure that I make time read books that I may not exactly feel like picking up, but that I’m very glad I read.

4. Always have plenty of reading material on hand. Never go anywhere empty-handed—digital devices are a big help in this respect. Nothing is more terrifying to me than the prospect of finding myself on an airplane, with many hours to read and a book that I don’t like. So much great reading time—wasted! I always have several options, each time I board a plane. And in order to have plenty to read…

5. Keep a reading list, and keep it handy. For years, I kept my library list on a little pad at my desk, but I’ve switched the list to my phone. A handwritten list can be left behind, but a cell- phone list is always available. Whenever I hear about a book I want to read, I add it my library list. It currently contains the names of 194 books, and one day, I plan to read them all
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Calvinism’s “Solas” – Prof.B.Gritters, April 15, 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-April15-2015In the latest issue of The Standard Bearer (April 15, 2015) Prof.Barry Gritters adds another installment to his series on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, a series begun in the February 15, 2015 issue. This new article lays out “Calvinism’s Solas – the great Latin mottos of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone – to be treated in a later editorial), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (to God alone glory).

If you are not familiar with these expressions, or have forgotten why they are important – especially the sola (only or alone) part – then this is a good place to be reminded. For our purposes in this post, we take you to the end of Prof.Gritters’ explanation and defense of these solas. Here he shows why Calvinism’s solas end where they do – with all glory given to God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

     So that we may always say, “To God alone be the glory!”

     To put these four solas together is not difficult:  Christ alone saves through faith alone for the sake of grace alone, in order that all glory may be given to God alone!  If any of salvation—even the tiniest bit—comes from outside of Christ, or if Christ comes to man through any other instrument than His free gift of faith, or on account of any merit in man, then the glory of that tiniest bit of salvation goes to man and not to God.  Against that “gross blasphemy” Reformed believers fight with all their might.

       Canons [of Dordt] I:7 teaches gracious salvation, beginning in salvation’s source—sovereign election:  “for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of His glorious grace….”  The fathers in this ecumenical synod were looking at Scripture’s call to give all glory, in all things, to God and to God alone.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings…in Christ…according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:3-6).  And the book of Romans does nothing if it does not teach that everything revolves around God’s glory.  The heart of the reprobate’s sin is a refusal to give glory to God (1:23).  Sin is a coming “short of the glory of God” (3:23).  Paul teaches that if Abraham’s justification were by works, he would be able to glory in himself (4:2); but Abraham “was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (4:20).   Paul’s conclusion of the doctrinal section of the epistle, where all the doctrines of sovereign grace are taught is, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.” (11:36).  And Paul’s own Spirit-inspired exclamation point of the epistle, his very last words before the final “Amen,” are:  “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (16:27).

     No one else saves but Christ!  Nothing but grace and faith explain our salvation in Christ!  For none but God may receive the glory!

This is exclusive, for false teachings must be excluded.  This is antithetical, for truth must be defended over against the lie.  This is distinctive, for biblical truth must be known and confessed clearly, sharply, distinctly.  There may be no doubt as to Who is worthy of praise.  All of it.  This is Reformed.

For more on this issue, visit this news item on the PRC website. To start receiving the “SB”, visit the subscription page on the RFPA website.

April “Tabletalk”: “Our Shameless World” – Andrew Davis

Our Shameless World by Andrew Davis | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015You will recall from our previous Monday posts this month that the April issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “shame.” The third main featured article on this subject is the one linked above, written by Dr. Andrew David, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, NC.

His article treats the shame that we find in the world about us, due to the fall – a shame we participate in also, but a shame we are also called to respond to properly as Christians. Davis uncovers “three ways our world displays corruption in the matter of shame”. These are “delighting in what is shameful”, “suppressing true shame”, and “seeking to shame the righteous.”

I will pull a few paragraphs from Davis’ article, encouraging you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. There is good reading here for us, relating to how we handle the shame found in the world – and in ourselves.

The world delights in bold sinners who flout God’s Word and expect no punishment whatsoever. Our culture celebrates the skillful cold-blooded assassin, bold thief, self-righteous vigilante, foul-mouthed recording artist, creative rebel, blasphemous stand-up comedian, naked actress, fornicating “glamour couple,” self-worshiping athlete, occultic mystic, and the like. Perhaps the clearest example in our day has been the movement of homosexuality from something almost universally seen as shameful to something that ought to be delighted in. The gay rights movement is seeking not merely tolerance of what God calls sinful, but society-wide celebration.

…Conversely, our world also heaps abuse on those who stand up for righteousness in our corrupt age. Isaiah 5:20 captures the defective moral compass of our age: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness!” So our culture delights in what is shameful and is ashamed of what God finds delightful. I recently saw a T-shirt that proclaimed, “Homosexuality isn’t shameful; homophobia is.” The new term homophobia (c. 1969) implies that biblical conviction on that sin is itself a form of mental illness. When University of Missouri football player Michael Sam declared himself to be gay, his fellow students gave him a standing ovation at a basketball game. Anyone who refused to stand and cheer certainly would have been made to feel ashamed.

…Christians should display humility in the matter of shame and set an example to the world. We should own that our sin is a shameful thing, and that feelings of shame are reasonable responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:21). In our evangelism, it is essential to proclaim the law of God to bring about that conviction and the corresponding feelings of shame in our hearers. But we should also display and proclaim the joy of full forgiveness that the cross of Jesus Christ lavishes on anyone who believes in Him alone. As Romans 10:11 says, “Everyone who believes in him [Christ] will not be put to shame.”

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