Free John Calvin eBooks for 24 Hours – Reformation Trust

Free John Calvin eBooks for 24 Hours by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

I just received this notice from Ligonier and pass it on to our readers. Two fine books that are FREE in ebook form today:

ExpositoryGennius-SLawson

John Calvin was born on this day in 1509. In honor of his birthday, Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries are making two John Calvin ebooks available free for 24 hours.

John Calvin was a man who died to himself and sought to take up his cross daily so that he might serve the Lord and the flock God had entrusted to him (Luke 9:23).” —Burk Parsons

July 2015 “Tabletalk” – The Eve of the Reformation

The Dawn of Reformation by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July-2015With the July 2015 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries continues it series on the centuries of church history. This issue features and focuses on the fifteenth century, with the appropriate sub-theme, “The Eve of the Reformation.”

For a great overview of this century and to be reminded of how God was preparing the world (especially Europe) for the great Reformation of the 16th century, read Dr. Nicholas Needham’s article, “The Fifteenth Century”, half of which I read yesterday.

For today, we take a few paragraphs from editor Burk Parsons’ introductory article, “The Dawn of Reformation.” Find the entire article at the Ligonier link above.

The brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon, is the morning star. It appears about an hour before dawn. John Wycliffe (c. 1330-84) is often called the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” and for good reason, for his life shone brightly as a forerunner of the Reformation. Jan Hus (c. 1370-1415) worked by the light of this morning star, even as the greater light of the Reformation was about to dawn. Through Wycliffe, God brought light to people who were dwelling in darkness—one of whom was Hus. Hus boldly carried on the controversy that Wycliffe began, the controversy over the final authority of Scripture that would soon engulf the entire continent of Europe in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In fact, Martin Luther (1483-1546), in his debate with Johann Eck, even declared, “I am a Hussite.”

These men were by no means the source of light; they were tarnished mirrors who reflected the one source of light, the Light of the World—Jesus Christ. The living and active Word of God reveals this Light. In His sovereignty, God used these forerunners of the Reformation to direct His people back to His Word. Once Scripture was rediscovered, the light of God’s truth began to shine ever more brightly in the hearts of God’s people, which, in turn, led to the Reformation.

Though Wycliffe died a natural death, his remains were later disinterred, burned, and scattered. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church burned Hus at the stake, even though he was promised safe conduct to and from his trial. It is said that he sang a hymn to Christ as the flames engulfed his body. His remains, like Wycliffe’s, were scattered. Nevertheless, the darkness could not dispel the Light of the World. This light, long obscured but still shining, soon dawned on Europe anew and subsequently throughout the rest of the world.

Honoring the Lord’s Holy Name – Iain Campbell

You Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain by Iain Campbell | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-June 2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine) is devoted to the theme of keeping the law of God (ten commandments – more on this in another post this week).

Last week I read two more of the feature articles on the first four commandments, those which define our relationship of love to our loving, redeeming Father in Christ Jesus. One of these explained the third commandment, where God calls us not to take His glorious name in vain but rather to honor and magnify it.

Here is part of Dr.Iain Campbell’s explanation of it as found in this issue (for the full article, use the link above):

The ethic of Jesus is the ethic of the Ten Commandments. He taught His people to live by that rule, and He did so Himself. He is the very embodiment of obedience to God; nowhere are the Ten Commandments personified and manifested in their fullness as they are in the life of Jesus.

As the law of God requires of us not to take His name in vain, so Jesus teaches us to pray, “Hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). Prayer expresses our desire to keep the third commandment. It also expresses our need for the grace of God to that end. Prayer is a recognition that what God requires of us, He also provides for us.

…John Calvin is correct, therefore, when he comments on the third commandment that “it becomes us to regulate our minds and our tongues, so as never to think or speak of God and his mysteries without reverence and great soberness, and never, in estimating his works, to have any feeling toward him but one of deep veneration” (Institutes 2.8.22). That sense of veneration in connection with God’s name is what characterizes a life of holiness and a worship that is genuine. Both in our service and in our worship, we are to think on the things of God with adoration and reverence, knowing that the fact that God has revealed Himself to us by name is itself a great act of grace.

By naming Himself, God not only discloses who He is, but He does so in such a way that we might know Him personally. To live by the terms of the third commandment is to recognize and confess that God deserves the highest honor; that He has singled us out by putting His name on us; that we would be entirely lost were it not that for the sake of His name He keeps and protects us; and that He calls us to live after the example of Jesus, glorifying God on earth. We are the bearers of the name of God; may all our conduct show it.

Good things for us to ponder on this Lord’s Day, as we come into our Father’s presence and use His Name in our worship. And good things for us to remember as we enter the work-week with that great and gracious Name on us and in us.

Doctrine and the Necessity of Creeds – May “Tabletalk”

TT May 2015Yesterday before worship services I read two more articles in this month’s Tabletalk, which has the theme of “Doctrine for All of Life.”

The first is by Robert Rothwell, an associate editor of Tabletalk. His article is “Where Did I Go Wrong?”, and addresses the importance of Christians standing with the church of all ages when it comes to embracing sound doctrine.

This is how he opens his treatment of this subject:

It’s a thrilling episode—Martin Luther, standing before the Diet of Worms, the only faithful Christian in his day, proclaiming his God-given right to read the Bible however he saw fit: “Unless I am convinced by my self-determined understanding of Scripture, I will not recant. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Obviously, I’ve embellished the account. No historically informed Protestant would say outright that Luther was the only faithful believer in His day. Neither would an informed Protestant confess that Luther’s protest came from his private reading of Scripture apart from the work of his theological forefathers and contemporaries.

Yet I fear that the way many people tell Luther’s story betrays an implicit belief that the German Reformer was a mad individualist for whom the supreme arbiter of truth was his own opinion and who sought to turn the church into a collection of like-minded individuals with no theological authority over its members. But while Luther’s work was driven in large measure by his quest for a personal assurance of salvation, he was not a radical individualist. Luther certainly didn’t endorse the belief that we should have “no creed but the Bible” or that the work of studying and formulating doctrine is left up to the individual.

And later he adds this:

God never meant for us to study doctrine as isolated individuals. The study and formulation of doctrine is first and foremost a communal doctrine. After all, the Lord revealed Himself to a corporate body. The Bible is not written just to me personally but to all the saints of God. Thus, God designed us to plumb the depths of His revelation together as individual congregations and larger church assemblies. There should be no such thing as autonomous doctrinal study, but we should examine doctrine in concert with our forebears and contemporaries. We should read their works, check our reading of Scripture against theirs, and doubt our conclusions if no one else has reached them. In this, the reformers are our model. Though they affirmed the Bible as the sole infallible source of doctrine, they understood the proper role of God’s corporate people in knowing His truth. They charged that the medieval church had abandoned the best of its earlier thinking, but did not say that we should cast off all who studied Scripture before us.

The second article I read is this one by Dr. David W. Hall, titled “Why Creeds and Confessions?” You would do well to read his contribution as well. Here are a few paragraphs to get you  started:

As Christians, we must embrace a mature biblical norm of confessing our faith. Let me offer briefly five reasons why a written confession is helpful:

First, written confessions represent maturity. A confessional communion is more than fly-by-night. It is relatively easy to produce a personal statement of faith or a position paper on a narrow subject. However, only those confessions that are tested by many generations endure. Just as yesterday’s pop music hardly inspires anymore, so a transient confession is slightly embarrassing. But classic creeds, produced by seasoned Christians, stand the test of time. a confession is a mature, proven set of beliefs. Wouldn’t you rather be guided by such a statement than by an ill-defined set of beliefs or an immature statement of faith?

Second, written confessions keep believers from having to reinvent the wheel. Creeds and confessions can put the student at the head of the class in a hurry. If one need not formulate every bit of doctrine himself, that is, if he is humble enough to listen quickly to other saints (James 1:19), he can spare himself considerable time and countless dead ends. He will avoid paths that are “useless to further reconnoiter,” as theologian Abraham Kuyper recognized.

God Is His Own Answer – O.Strachan

TT May 2015This weekend’s Tabletalk devotional contained a fine little article by Dr. Owen Strachan dealing with the only answer that suffering people need. It is the answer of God Himself. You will understand what he means by that as you read on.

Scripture gives us a place to wrestle through the hard things of life. The psalmists in particular ask hard questions of their God (for example, Ps.22). But the Bible has a stronger answer than this. When biblical figures boggle at the realities of the human condition, God frequently directs His struggling people to one theological principle: His ‘Godness.’

We see this in Isaiah 40. The people of God feel abandoned. They do not have clean answers to their vexing queries. In response, the Lord offers point-by-point rebuttal. He leads His people to think afresh about Him [At this point, Strachan quotes Is.40:27-28].

…To a suffering people, Isaiah offers a simple but stunning prescription: God. The people need more of Him, and less of everything else.

…A skeptical age demands that heaven issue a press release when trials come: ‘Explain yourself, God!’ But the Lord does not immediately resolve every dilemma. Rather, He lifts our eyes to the hills. We contemplate His greatness. We consider the depth of love poured out in the death of Christ. We dry our eyes, and we remember afresh that our trials will soon fade, and we will live with this awesome God forever.

Which leads him to conclude with these words:

The human heart asks for precise accounting from God. His common reply is not a flashy sign but a reminder of His presence. In truth, it is not an explanation we need. It is the Godness of God. God, we could say, is His own answer (p.49).

These are good thoughts for us going to our Sunday worship.

The Weight of Shame: April “Tabletalk” – Burk Parsons

The Weight of Shame by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015On this first Monday of April we are able to introduce a new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ fine devotional magazine. The April issue has a simple and rare theme: “Shame.”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue with the above-linked article. He has an excellent summary of the place shame has in the Christian’s life and how the gospel of the cross answers to our need. Here is the opening part of his introduction:

Shame—we all feel it, or at least we should. We are all sinful, and our sin brings shame. Although shame has all but disappeared from our culture’s vocabulary and is largely ignored by many in the church, it exists nonetheless and must be recognized and reckoned with.

If we are honest with ourselves, and more importantly, honest with God, we cannot help but admit that we feel shame as a result of our sin. Whether we sin in private or in public—and whether we perhaps even pretend not to have it—shame is undeniably real. We feel shame because God in His grace created all human beings with the capacity to feel shame as a consequence of their sin. John Calvin wrote, “Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their wretchedness truly understand the Christian gospel.” If we have never truly felt the shame of our sin, we have never truly repented of our sin. For it is only when we recognize what wretches we are that we are able to sing “Amazing Grace” and know what a sweet sound it truly is.

There are five other featured articles on this theme, and they are laid out this way:

  • “Why We Feel Shame” – Jeremy Pierre
  • “What Shame Does” – James Coffield
  • “Our Shameless World” – Andrew D. Davis
  • “Tackling Shame” – W.Duncan Rankin
  • “Comfort My People” – Michael Lawrence

You may also wish to check out the interview feature in this issue – it is with Rosaria Butterfield, well-known converted lesbian and now a Reformed Presbyterian pastor’s wife. Her’s is quite an amazing story and testimony to the grace of God in Christ. I plan to reference this later, but you may read the interview here: “An Unlikely Convert.”

For now, here is also an excerpt from the first featured article – the one linked in the list above, by Dr. Jeremy Pierre – also a good read!

Now wait a second. Did I just say that shame is healthy? Yes, but note this very carefully: shame is a healthy part, but not a healthy end of the Christian experience. Shame is not the final conclusion we make about ourselves. It is a painful awareness that keeps us from resting contentedly in our fallen state. It drives us to seek defense from the accusations, a refuge from the threat of judgment, some shred of grace from a merciful Judge.

And only by being pushed will we find that there’s more than a shred of grace. There are reams of it. Reams of white linen to clothe naked people.

This is the Christian gospel, one that Christians proclaim to themselves over and over as they live under the daily burden of being reminded of the remaining darkness within. In this way, God reverses Satan’s use of shame. Satan wants our shame to drive us away from God and into the bushes. God wants our shame to drive us to Himself for clothing.

Missing the Mark (of Labor & Rest) – Richard Phillips

Missing the Mark by Richard Phillips | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Feb 2015Yesterday before our worship services I had time to read the first two featured articles on the theme of this month’s Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine. That theme is “Labor and rest; Finding the Right Balance.”

Dr. Miles Van Pelt wrote the first featured article on “The Purpose of Labor and Rest”, stressing that our work and our rest were ordained by God for worship of Him as well as service to others. Along with this point, he also stressed that we were originally created in God’s image to be able to carry out this purpose, and that this purpose still stands.

Dr.Richard Phillips penned the next article, titled “Missing the Mark” (linked above). In this piece Phillips sets forth the reality of work and rest after the fall of man into sin, a setting in which we now labor under God’s curse (Gen.3). While what he has to say is hard, it is true and matches our own experience as we struggle in our work for six days and in our rest on one day.

I especially appreciated this section of his article (quoted below), and post it here so that we may not forget the emptiness of work and rest as ends in themselves.

I mentioned earlier that the curse of sin keeps us from finding satisfaction in our work. The reason for this is that God never designed people to find their identities or their ultimate delight in the achievements of their own hands. God intended for our work to be a way of communing with and worshiping Him, not an act of self-actualization and self-glory. This is why one of God’s choicest punishments for sin is not only to make work difficult but to make success empty. The same is true of excessive leisure. To engage in one round of pleasure after another is to experience depreciating returns on your rest. Man was made in covenant communion with God so that He would be our delight. Man was to offer his work to the glory and pleasure of God, and in that pleasure Adam was to find his delight. Since God does not tolerate idolatry, those who worship either work or leisure will find their souls ultimately barren.

Yet Phillips does not leave us in despair. He also gives us this “remedy for the curse”:

The key, now, to a balanced life of work and rest, is to center our lives on our communion with God and His calling through His Word. The way to satisfaction and relief from life under the curse of death is to turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ. With God restored to the center of our lives—with our work directed primarily to His glory and to His service among men, and with our rest devoted to enjoying God and giving Him praise—we may experience joyful redemption from the curse of sin on both our work and rest.

All Things Well – Labor and Rest: February “Tabletalk” – Burk Parsons

All Things Well by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Feb 2015With the start of a new month comes a new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine.

The February 2015 issue is on an interesting subject: “Labor and Rest: Finding the Right Balance.” Besides the editorial by Burk Parsons introducing the theme (linked above), there are five other articles developing this matter of our work and our rest.

Here’s how they are listed at the beginning of the magazine:

  • “The Purpose of Labor and Rest” by Miles V. Van Pelt
  • “Missing the Mark” by Richard D. Phillips
  • “The Right Balance” by John S. Redd
  • “The Rhythm of Life” by Ed Welch
  • “A Well-Spent Sabbath” by David Strain

Yesterday I read the editorial, from which we quote today, and D.Strain’s article under “Pastor’s Perspective.” I think you will find both articles profitable, keeping in mind that we will differ with our Presbyterian brothers on certain matters (Strain speaks of Christ fulfilling the covenant of works, e.g.). Follow the links above to both articles.

And, by the way, the daily devotions are on the wisdom literature of the Bible this year – Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.

For today, here is a section of Parsons’ editorial:

Both labor and rest are creation ordinances given to us by God before the fall. They are given to us for our good and for God’s glory, and God calls us to work hard so that we can rest hard. By God’s design, the most revolutionary thing we could do in our busy, fast-paced society is take one day every week to rest and worship with our family and friends. However, we are living in a generation that doesn’t rest well because it doesn’t know what it really means to work hard, plan well, and say no to various opportunities and activities. And too often, the culprit is the local church that programs its people with so many activities that people have no time left to spend with their families and friends to enjoy life together and rest together—let alone take care of widows and orphans.

In many cases, our inability to rest says more about the busyness of our hearts than the busyness of our schedules. As Christians, we are called to labor well and rest well, and only when we do both as God has directed us will we find the right balance in life.

Bible Reading Plans for 2015 – Ligonier Ministries Blog

Bible Reading Plans for 2015 by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

2 Tim 3-16Many Christians like to begin the new year with a firm resolve to read the inscripturated Word of God all the way through in one year or at least with some daily consistency. To this end, many Bible reading plans have been devised.

Ligonier Ministries recently posted on their blog (Dec.26, 2014) an excellent list of such plans and resources. It would be worth your time to browse this list and pick a plan, whether for your personal devotions or family devotions.

Here’s Ligonier’s short description; visit the link above to find a plan that fits your purpose and needs.

Many Christians take the beginning of a new year to evaluate their Bible reading habits, and then change or begin a Bible reading plan.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of Bible reading plans for you to choose from. Maybe in 2015 you will read more of the Bible each day. Perhaps you’ll slow down your reading and instead spend more time considering what you read. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a reading plan, you should find it below (then follows their list, which see above for the link):

I might also point you to the daily devotional feature on the PRC website, since this also includes at the bottom of each devotional a plan for reading through the Bible in a year.

Also, as an encouragement to spend time in God’s Word each day, I post this recent Grace Gems devotional adapted from a work by the Puritan Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) on the Scriptures as God’s love-letter to His people – a reminder of the value and blessing of the Bible:

The Scripture is God’s love-letter to men.

Here the lamb may wade–and here the elephant may swim!

The blessed Scriptures are of infinite worth and value!
Here you may find . . .
a remedy for every disease,
balm for every wound,
a plaster for every sore,
  milk for babes,
meat for strong men,
comfort for the afflicted,
support for the tempted,
solace for the distressed,
ease for the wearied,
a staff to support the feeble,
a sword to defend the weak.

The holy Scriptures are . . .
the map of God’s mercy–and man’s misery,
the touchstone of truth,
the shop of remedies against all maladies,
the hammer of vices,
the treasury of virtues,
the exposer of all sensual and worldly vanities,
the balance of equity,
the most perfect rule of all justice and honesty.

Ah, friends, no book befits your hands like the Bible!

The Bible is the best preacher.
This book, this preacher will preach to you . . .
in your shops,
in your chambers,
in your closets,
yes, in your own bosoms!
This book will preach to you at home and abroad;
it will preach to you in all companies; and it will
preach to you in all conditions.

By this book you shall be saved–or
by this book you shall be damned!
By this book you must live.
By this book you must die.
By this book you shall be judged in the great day!

Oh, therefore . . .
love this book above all other books,
prize this book above all other books,
read this book before all other books,
study this book more than all other books!
For he who reads much–and understands nothing,
is like him who hunts much–and catches nothing!

December “Tabletalk”: Who Do You Say That I Am?

Which Christ? by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Dec 2014With the outset of a new month comes a new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ fine devotional magazine. The December issue – appropriately for the church season we are in – revolves around the theme “Who Do You Say That I Am? The Person and Work of Christ.”

As is the custom, editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue with an editorial under the title “Which Christ?” And he explains well why the church today must be sure she believes, understands, and defends the truth concerning her Savior, as that truth is summed in the ancient creeds of the church.

As we commemorate Christ’s birth in this time of year, it is timely that we consider carefully Who Christ is. Which Christ will we embrace and worship in faith?

Here are two paragraphs from Parson’s introductory article; find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

Creeds are concise doctrinal summaries of the doctrines of Scripture, and creeds are subordinate to Scripture as our only infallible rule for faith and life. Although we do not by any means believe creeds are infallible, we do believe that creeds are authoritative insofar as they accurately summarize the teachings of Scripture. While we may not know all the creeds by heart, if we are Christians, we will wholeheartedly affirm them, confess them, and teach them to our children. For if we were to reject the church’s ancient creeds, we would be rejecting Christianity; and if we were to deny an essential creedal formulation about the person and work of Christ, we would be denying Christ.

On occasion, however, I have heard people passionately reply, “I don’t need the ancient creeds of the church—my only creed is Christ.” But as soon as I ask the question, “Which Christ?” they are quick to provide me with their personal creed about the person and work of Christ. Their personal creed is often heretical, unbiblical, and out of accord with the church’s ancient creeds. I will then patiently try to explain to them that if they do not believe in the Christ of Scripture but believe in a christ of their own making, they will find themselves among those to whom Christ will say, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” For if it is the Christ of the Bible who saves us, we must affirm the one, true Christ of the Bible in order to truly possess the salvation of the God of the Bible.

I also encourage you to read the first featured article on this month’s theme. That is penned by Dr.Sinclair B. Ferguson and titled “Does Christology Really Matter?” Here’s a few lines from his article to whet your appetite:

Does it really matter if those views are wrong, indeed heretical, so long as we know that Jesus saves and we witness to others about Him? After all, the important thing is that we preach the gospel.

But that is precisely the point—Jesus Christ Himself is the gospel. Like loose threads in a tapestry—pull on any of these views, and the entire gospel will unravel. If the Christ we trust and preach is not qualified to save us, we have a false Christ.