29 September, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Comfort of Election

The assurance of one’s election also affords much liberty and gives much support in prayer. One may approach unto God and say, “My Father! Hast Thou not known me by name and have I not found grace in Thine eyes? Hast Thou not eternally known me to be one of Thy own, chosen me to be Thy child and the object of Thy love, and wondrously to glorify me by Thy grace, mercy, and faithfulness, which manifests itself in the way in which Thou hast led me and wilt lead me? Therefore, oh Father, consider the trials and tribulations which I fear, the troubles which press me down, and my sinfulness which oppresses me. These matters I desire, these are the needs of my body, and these are my spiritual desires. May it therefore please Thee to look down upon Thy chosen one and upon the object of Thy favor. May it please Thee to hear me and to grant my desire.” How this yields liberty, familiarity, faith that my prayer will be answered, and quiet submission! (I: 249-250).

Thank You Mrs. P: More Thoughts on Aliens

For those of you who do not follow comments: hidden under the post with the great Lloyd-Jones quote lies a buzzing comment section concerning the church's duty to illegal immigrants. My position is that the church has a spiritual duty to minister to them and part of that duty is calling them to repentance for their violation of the 10th commandment. Others feel differently.

To give some spiritual widsom to this heated conversation, I would like to ask those interested to read the OPC position paper on illegal immigrants and church membership. I would be interested in reading other's thoughts on this issue as well.

27 September, 2007

Are You Poor In Spirit?

There are many great Scriptures that serve as self-examination to see whether or not you are a follower of Jesus Christ. I can think of no better place (in the New Testament) than the Sermon on the Mount for Christians to perform this holy duty. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has a wonderful statement on this in his book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Here is what he says:

There, then, is the general account of the Christian which is given in the Beatitudes. Do you see how essentially different he is from the non-Christian? The vital questions which we therefore ask ourselves are these. Do we belong to this kingdom? Are we ruled by Christ? Is he our king and our lord? Are we manifesting these qualities in our daily lives? Is it our ambition to do so? Do we see that this is what we are meant to be? Are we truly blessed? Are we happy? Have we been filled? Have we got peace? I ask as we have looked together at the general description. Do we find ourselves to be? It is only the man who is like that who is truly happy, the man who is truly blessed. It is a simple question.

My immediate reaction to these Beatitudes proclaims exactly what I am. If I feel they are harsh and hard, if I feel they are against the grain and depict a character and type of life which I dislike, I am afraid it just means I am not a Christian. If I do not want to be like this, I must be "dead in trespasses and sins"; I can never have received new life, but if I feel that I am unworthy and yet I want to be like that, well, however unworthy I may be, if this is my desire and ambition, there must be a new life in me, I must be a child of God, I must be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and of God's dear son. Let every man examine himself.

25 September, 2007

A Liberal Church is not a 'Liberal' Church

It is interesting how many of us have been influenced by the liberalism of the 1920s. Even in conservative Reformed circles the hope for society is placed in government agencies, political parties, and social programs. (Of course, we need to acknowledge that government is a creation ordinance.)
The church used to be that institution that met the needs of the poor, advanced the betterment of society, and promoted all of the 'social' aspects of the Gospel of Christ. In our day, we have handed those reins over for unconverted men and women to do through social programs.

If the church is to take back her rightful place in society, then she is going to need to set up the programs to meet these needs, in advance of those in need coming to her. I am as guilty as the next guy in not reaching out to the needs of the fatherless, widow, and (illegal) alien within our gates. May we all pour our energies into the body of Christ so that she can do that which she is called to do.

It is upon this brotherhood of [the] twice born sinner , this brotherhood of the redeemed, that the Christian founds the hope of society. He finds no solid hope in the improvement of earthly conditions, or the molding of human institutions under the influence of the Golden Rule... A solid building cannot be constructed when all the materials are faulty; a blessed society cannot be formed out of men who are still under the curse of sin. Human institutions are really to be molded, not by the Christian principles accepted by the unsaved, but by Christian men; the true transformation of society will come by the influence of those who have themselves been redeemed. True Christianity differs from liberalism in the way in which the transformation of society is conceived. But according to Christian belief, as well as according to liberalism, there is really to be a transformation of society; it is not true that the Christian evangelist is interested in the salvation of individuals without being interested in the salvation of the race. And even before salvation of all society has been achieved, there is already a society of those who have been saved. That society is the Church. The Church is the highest Christian answer to the social needs of man. -J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism.

24 September, 2007

The Ethics of Food

I am taking an Ethics class. We have been talking about axiology which is the study of values. Our professor gave this illustration for making value judgments in all that we do (whether conscientiously or un-conscientiously) in the area of food:

"When we eat at McDonald's, do not pray, bless this food to our bodies; pray protect us from what we are about to do." -Dr. James Grier

22 September, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: The 'First' Sin

The eating from this tree was not a minor sin, even though the eating of the fruit itself was a small matter. Rather, it was a dreadful crime in which the breaking of the entire law was comprehended. It was a breach of love, obedience, and the covenant, resulting in the perdition of himself and all his descendants (I: 372).

20 September, 2007

Dear Ephesus

I have begun a Bible study on the seven churches of Asia Minor found in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. There are so many practical applications for the Church today found in those two little chapters.

Wednesday we began with the letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the 'mother kirk' of the other churches in that region, pastored by Timothy with apostolic oversight from John. The session of this congregation was known to have precision doctrinally and could spot heresy from a distance. At the time of the writing to the churches, this congregation had lost much of the zeal that 'first generation' Christians bring to a congregation. The love for Christ had grown cold. Jesus tells them that they are to do these first works again and to repent.

“The lush green color of springtime in the congregation has disappeared, and the fading shades… of Autumn are now prevalent. To put it differently, the church that Jesus addressed no longer consisted of first generation believers but of second and third generation Christians. These people lacked the enthusiasm their parents and grandparents had demonstrated. They functioned not as propagators of the faith but as caretakers and custodians. There was an obvious deficiency in evangelistic outreach as a result of a status quo mode of thought. They loved the Lord, but no longer with heart, mind, and soul.” -Simon Kistemaker

Jesus gives them a great promise though. If they overcome, they will be granted to eat from the Tree of Life. To a city that was full of false worship that was symbolized by the fig-tree, this promise would stand out as such comfort to those that longed to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Jesus’ last words… is not a threat but a promise: the victor will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. In this first letter the painful memory of paradise lost is transformed into hope, as the promise points ahead to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem… The great temple of Artemis at Ephesus was built on the site of an ancient tree-shrine, and the image of the date palm symbolized the goddess and her city, Ephesus. But Jesus excels Artemis, for he promises to those who overcome, through truth expressed in love, access to a tree that yields endless delight and eternal life. –Dennis Johnson.

May we not lose our first love, do those first works of love and worship towards Christ and neighbors, thus also being partakers of that eternal fruit from that Ancient Tree.

17 September, 2007

Enter to Win!

sept Giveaway

A thought on Eve's Creation

I had the privilege of sitting in on a lecture by one of my colleagues entitled, 'The Beginning of Marriage'. He went through the biblical data on prelapsarian marriage including its institution, purpose, and necessity. It was quite good and well researched.

One of his quotes stood out as quite refreshing to me. It amazes me the balance that our Puritan forefathers had on issues that today are confused and misused. Matthew Henry, speaking of Eve's creation said, Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.

What a refreshing thought on Eve's creation. How could a feminist argue with the dignity and high value that God has placed on the woman?

15 September, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: How to Relate to the Unconverted

If you are in the presence of an unconverted person or with people who espouse an erroneous religion, you must (without affectation, pride and nonverbally) by your manner of speech and the subject matter of your conversation convey that every righteous person is more excellent than his neighbor, that the righteous are of a more excellent spirit, and that there is a distance between them as great as there is between light and darkness, life and death, and the children of God and the children of the world. Along with such a disposition one must manifest humility, self-denial, common love, modesty, and be accommodating, so that in parting from them (you must not be there long--it is not safe there) you will leave behind some conviction in their heart. I am not suggesting that you must always speak of spiritual matters; a wise person will know both time and manner. A Christian may also speak of worldly and civil matters; but then he must be on guard not to do so in a vain manner, but all conversation must be moral, dignified, and in moderation (II: 637-638).

10 September, 2007

The Baptism of Watson Truth Eshelman

Watson was baptized this Lord's Day. It was very emotional to reflect on all the promises of God as well as the responsibility of Christian parenthood. The first question to which we answered, I do, was a re-commitment to the Christian faith. I pray that this begins a time of personal reviving for us as we have rededicated our lives to the life of Jesus Christ.

Here is a great article by Professor John Murray on the baptism of infants.

09 September, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel

Contentment is a Christian virtue consisting in a correspondence between the desire of God's children and their present condition--this being true because it is the will of their God in Christ and according to His sovereign determination. In this they rest with delight, in quiet confidence, joyfully, and with gratitude, trusting that the Lord will cause the present and the future to turn out to their advantage. This causes them to utilize their present condition to the advancement of their spiritual life and to the glory of God (III: 379-380).

05 September, 2007

Can People With Really Bad Theology Be Saved?

Today in Prolegomena we discussed the idea of dogma. We defined it according to the uses in Hebrew and Greek and showed the various ways that the Scriptures use the concept.

During the discussion time, one of our new (and insightful) students asked the question, "Can someone who does not hold to the dogma of the Church [which we loosely defined as the Ecumenical Creeds] be saved?"

I immediately thought of a quote from my best-est-est-est friend, Shawn Anderson. Samuel Rutherford, in Against Separation answers this question in his mind blowing way. This is very important as we live in times of great theological confusion- the Lord saves apart from our works (which includes our theological endevors.)

DISTINCTION ONE. One may believe that Christ is the Son of God by a Divine faith, as Peter does (Matt. 16:17), and yet doubt of the necessary fundamental consequences. Ergo, Christ must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, as the same Peter doubted of this. For as one may fall in a grievous sin, though regenerated, and fail in act[ion], and yet remain in grace, in habitu [in condition], the seed of God remaining in him, so may Peter and the apostles doubt of a fundamental point of Christ’s rising from the dead (John 20:8, 9), in an act of weakness, and yet have saving faith in Christ, as it is like[ly] many of the saints at Corinth denied an article of their faith, the rising again of the dead. One act of unbelief makes not an infidel.
DISTINCTION TWO. A simple Papist and a Lutheran, not well educated, believes upon the same former ground, that Christ is true man, and has an habitual faith of this article, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of David, and yet holds transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, that Christ’s body is in many sundry places in heaven, and earth, on this side of the sea, and beyond sea. Yet the connection between Christ’s humanity and this monster of transubstantiation not being possible, all error may be merely philosophic, that the extension of quantitative parts without or beyond part, is not the essence of a quantitative body, while as the rude man believes firmly that Christ is true man, and so believes contradictory things by good consequence. Therefore the quality of the conscience of the believer is to be looked into, since fundamental heresy is essentially in the mind, and pertinency and self-conviction does inseparably follow it.
(1.) There is a conscience simply doubting of fundamental points, this may be with a habit of sound faith. (2.) A scrupulous conscience which from light grounds is brangled about some fundamental points, and this is often in sound believers, who may and do believe, but with scruples. (3.) A conscience believing opinions and conjecturing and guessing, as in atheists; this is damnable, but where obstinacy is, as defending with pertinency transubstantiation, and that it is lawful to adore bread, this pertinacious defending of idolatry does infer necessarily, that the faith of the article of Christ’s humanity is but false and counterfeit, and not saving.
DISTINCTION THREE. There is a certitude of adherence formal, and a certitude of adherence virtual. A certitude of adherence formal is, when one does adhere firmly to the faith of fundamentals. A certitude of adherence virtual is, when with the formal adherence to some fundamental points, there is an ignorance of other fundamental points, and yet withal a gracious disposition and habit to believe other fundamentals, when they shall be clearly revealed out of the Word. So [in] Luke 24, Christ exponed the resurrection, and the articles of Christ’s sufferings and glorification (vs. 25-27), to the disciples who doubted of these before, and yet had saving faith of other fundamental points (Matt. 16-18). (Source)

03 September, 2007

Monday a'Brakel: A Follow-up Post on the Call to the Ministry

This has never happended before, but I am offering a rare Monday a'Brakel. It was requested in the comment section that I follow up with the elements of the external call. I have added some of the really good selections from a'Brakel on the external call.

Let every minister consider and reflect before the Lord, examining himself and answering upon the following questions: Have I been sent of God, or did I run myself? Do I know what pertains to this office? Was I convinced that I had some aptitude for this as far as external knowledge is concerned, and am I likewise spiritually acquainted with the experience of regeneration, faith, hope, love, holiness, God's dealings with the soul, spiritual warfare, and the various conditions of the soul, in order to bring forth old and new things out of the treasure of my heart, to address everyone according to his condition, and particularly to give everyone publicly and privately his portion by way of personal experience, and to speak from heart to heart? Did I have a special love to preach Christ, to be instrumental to the conversion of souls, and to promote the welfare of the church? Was I continually stirred up in my soul to accept this work? Has it been my concern whether or not the Lord has sent me, and have I prayed much in order to know this? Have I at times been desirous not to be engaged in this work, considering the magnitude of this task and my inability? Were those desires to draw back repeatedly conquered by love for this work, or was I frequently put at ease and confirmed in my intention? Have I been troubled by ulterior motives which time and again disappeared by perceiving my sincere motive in the presence of the Lord? Did I perceive a frame of heart by which I was willing to deny myself by parting with material goods, honor, and my life for the Lord Jesus and His church? Or did I only pursue honor and prestige, the acquisition of material goods by which to improve my temporal circumstances, and which, outside of this office, would have been poor and insignificant? Or had I advanced in my studies to such a degree that I of necessity had to proceed? Did I ever really examine myself concerning these matters, or did I merely run without such self-examination?
Concerning the external calling, ask yourself: How did I arrive in this congregation? Did I flatter the elders of the congregation, thereby soliciting their favor? Did I establish friendships in order to control these friends? Did I give gifts? Did I interact with the worldly members of the church in order that they would impose me upon the congregation? Has money been promised and given in order thus to come to this congregation, and if this was done by friends without my knowledge, did I make restitution after this came to my knowledge? (II: 125-126).
He who is convinced of his divine commission must then also view himself as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus. As such, and with that authority, he must perform all his work, such as preaching, catechizing, the administration of the sacraments, visitation, and the use of the keys of God's kingdom. This will make him bold and faithful, and he and his work will receive more approbation. In this manner all ministers must conduct themselves concerning their commission (II: 127).
A proper consideration of the commission, the qualifications, and the authority of ministers (who not only proclaim beneficial truths but who are ambassadors of Christ), as well as the fact that Christ has deemed the congregation and each individual member worthy of having an ambassador sent to them to speak to them in His Name that which He has commanded them will have a powerful effect upon the hearts of the members. The ministers must therefore impress this upon the congregation, and the members must instruct each other concerning this, so that everyone may acknowledge and hear the minister as such (II: 128).

01 September, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: Considering a Call to the Ministry?

This commission is both internal and external. An extraordinary, divine declaration is not an element of this internal commission. God does not do this, or does so only on very rare occasions, and thus one need not wait for this. There are other matters by which one may be assured of his internal calling.

To these belong, first of all, a knowledge of the office. One must know what it means to be a servant of Christ, to be the mouth of the Lord, to proclaim that great gospel, to teach ignorant men the way of salvation, to be instrumental in delivering men from the devil, and to lead them to Christ. One must know that it consists in comforting those who mourn, stirring up the indolent, bringing back those who have strayed, exposing hypocrites and temporal believers to themselves, defending the truth against error, rebuking the ungodly, helping to keep out or expelling from the church those who lead offensive lives, and adorning the church, so that by the holiness of those who profess the truth she would bring glory to Christ. One must know that it consists in being an example and in being able to give an account of the souls entrusted to him. How can he who is neither thoroughly acquainted with these matters, nor perceives the weightiness of it all, nor takes this to heart, have intentions to be faithful? All of this must be known, considered, and experienced in order to be conscious of one's calling.

Secondly, there must be some knowledge of one's aptitude for this work. A fundamental knowledge of divine truths and thus being satisfied with a speculative knowledge of these is not sufficient. Rather, one must experience the power of these truths in his own heart, having been converted thereby. He will thus be able to speak from his own experience. He must also have the aptitude to clearly express his thoughts, and must have a voice which is capable of being heard by others. Even though the most qualified person must say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16), one must nevertheless be conscious of some aptitude. Shortly we shall consider this aptitude more comprehensively.

Thirdly, there must be an extraordinary love a) for Christ and a desire to make Him known; b) for the church to present her as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), and to cause her to shine forth with light and holiness to the honor of God; c) for the souls of the unconverted to snatch them from the fire, as well as of the converted to strengthen, comfort, and continually provide them with spiritual food.

Fourthly, one must be willing to deny all that is of the world, such as honor, material goods, yes and even life itself. If someone is of low social status and wishes to become someone of renown or to acquire material goods by way of the ministry, his objective is entirely wrong. He would be much happier as a shoemaker, for in my opinion there is no man more abominable than an unregenerate minister who uses the holy things of God to his own advantage.

Fifthly, there must be a great desire for this work (1 Tim. 3:1). There must be continual stirrings to give oneself to the Lord by way of this work, and there must be a concern about whether or not one is called. There must be anxiety when ulterior motives are perceived in the heart which in turn causes one to entertain the thought to refrain from this work; or when the heaviness of the task, and a sense of inability causes one to look up against this work, engendering a desire to be relieved from this work, as with Moses and Jeremiah. The stirrings will nevertheless persist and overcome the objections. This in turn will give him more liberty before the Lord and he will find himself more willing than beforehand because by the objections he will have a clearer view of the motives of his heart. Then his heart does not condemn him, but rather convinces him of his sincerity in this matter.

By these and similar arguments one can ascertain his internal calling. We will now proceed to consider the external calling (II: 121-122).