31 October, 2007

Happy Reformation Day!

Let us remember God's mighty acts in the history of Redemption. Use today to reflect on God's Word, His Son, and the full sufficiency of the Scriptures to teach what man is to believe concerning God as well as what man is to do to glorify and enjoy God. Join the Reformed faith in praying that God would move again to shake the world and to bring men, women, and children back to God's Word. On this day, be a TRUE LUTHERAN.

One generation shall praise thy works to another,
and shall declare thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.
And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts:
and I will declare thy greatness.
They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness,
and shall sing of thy righteousness.
The LORD is gracious,
and full of compassion;
slow to anger,
and of great mercy.
The LORD is good to all:
and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Psalm 145:4-9

29 October, 2007

First Reformed Presbyterian Church (of Grand Rapids, MI)

Here is a photo of the newly (re)formed, First Reformed Presbyterian Church. Friday we were covenanted into the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Below is the Covenant of Church membership that every member is to covenant to uphold. We look forward to participating in the life and work of the RPCNA.
Covenant of Communicant Membership
1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and life?
2. Do you believe in the one living and true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Scriptures?
3. Do you repent of your sin; confess your guilt and helplessness as a sinner against God; profess Jesus Christ, Son of God, as your Saviour and Lord; and dedicate yourself to His service: Do you promise that you will endeavor to forsake all sin, and to conform your life to His teaching and example?
4. Do you promise to submit in the Lord to the teaching and government of this church as being based upon the Scriptures and described in substance in the Constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America? Do you recognize your responsibility to work with others in the church and do you promise to support and encourage them in their service to the Lord? In case you should need correction in doctrine or life, do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?
5. To the end that you may grow in the Christian life, do you promise that you will diligently read the Bible, engage in private prayer, keep the Lord’s Day, regularly attend the worship services, observe the appointed sacraments, and give to the Lord’s work as He shall prosper you?
6. Do you purpose to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in all the relationships of life, faithfully to perform your whole duty as a true servant of Jesus Christ, and seek to win others to Him?
7. Do you make this profession of faith and purpose in the presence of God, in humble reliance upon His grace, as you desire to give your account with joy at the Last Great Day?

28 October, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Picture of Meekness

The effects of meekness are:

(1) a being congenial, so that it is a pleasant and effortless task to interact with the meek person.

(2) a relinquishing of one's rights. A meek person is a wise person; his wisdom is of a meek nature, and he is neither witless nor insensitive. He can indeed judge what is his right, and he is capable of standing up for his rights. He will do so if this is God's will and he is under obligation to do so. However, he does so with quiet earnestness, freedom, and in a noble manner--always in such a manner that his meekness shines forth. If, however, there are matters in which he may yield, then he would rather do so than to gain that which is his ultimate right by fighting for it.

(3) enduring injustice. A meek person neither wishes to get even nor avenge himself--even if he were able to do so.

(4) a forgiving of the committed injustice. Forgiveness does not merely consist in a refraining from taking vengeance, meanwhile harboring animosity and hatred in the heart. Instead, it consists in not holding the offender accountable and in loving him no less than before. It means that the offender must be treated as if he had not committed the deed.

(5) the rewarding of evil with good. To render evil for evil is carnal, to reward good with evil is devilish, but to reward evil with good is Christian (IV: 83-84).

24 October, 2007

How Do the Redeemed Live?

As we approach the 490th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we need to remember that the heart of the matter was this question: 'How can a man be made right with a holy and just God?" This is a question that we need to be asking ourselves, our families, and those with whom we come into contact. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is as important, and misunderstood, as it was before the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. May the Lord again send Reformation to His Bride.

Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

"The precious and momentous doctrine of justification by faith alone, when biblically preached and rightly balanced, is not a denominational or sectarian peculiarity. It is not a mere species of Christianity. It is the heart of the evangel, the kernel of the glorious gospel of the blessed triune God, and the key to the kingdom of heaven.

"Justification by faith," John Murray writes, " is the jubilee trumpet of the gospel because it proclaims the gospel to the poor and destitute whose only door of hope is to roll themselves in total helplessness upon the grace and power and righteousness of the Redeemer of the lost."
In our decadent and desperate day there is a crying need to reestablish and defend, with prayer and hope, in the power of the Spirit, the scriptural proclamation of this doctrine. The relevance and urgency of this doctrine relate to the identity of the church, the essence of Christian theology, the proclamation of the gospel, as well as to the scriptural-experiential foundations of the Christian faith for every one of us. Not only is justification by faith still, in Luther's words, "the article by which the church stands or falls" (articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae), but by this doctrine each of us shall personally stand of fall before God. Justification by faith alone must be confessed and experienced by you and me; it is a matter of eternal life or eternal death."
-Dr. Joel Beeke.

22 October, 2007

Happy Earth Day!

Whether you like it or not, today may be the real 'Earth Day'. The famous Arch Bishop James Ussher Chronology states that God created the world on the evening before October 23, 4004 BC. This date is followed by many in the Reformed faith as well as many evangelical Christians.

So, if you are a big-time creation science person- happy earth day. Almost all of creation science dating is based on Arch Bishop Ussher's work.

On a personal note, I do not think that we should be too dogmatic about 4004 BC, and definitely not dogmatic about October 23rd... nevertheless, it is fun part of our Christian heritage to note that men have spent substantial time and energy attempting to figure out when God created the world.

Buy Ussher's work here.

20 October, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Need for an Active Presbytery

The propriety of such assemblies is first of all evident when considering the need for such assemblies. It is naturally evident to man that there can be no republic or society without having an assembly of those who have been appointed as rulers. This is particularly true when such republics and societies include various provinces, cities, and villages. It is thus also a requisite in the church that her elders assemble, not only in each individual church, but also in the provinces. In turn, there must be assemblies representing several and/or many provinces. If need be, there must also be assemblies consisting of delegates from all churches throughout the world, for there is but one church. In this manner the unity of doctrine will be preserved, and the church will be delivered from confusion (II:157).

18 October, 2007

First Love

I went through a number of boxes in a closet today. I found a number of old pictures and my old brown leather Bible cover that I was given when I first became a Christian. Looking back in reflection through those old pictures I wonder about the zeal that I had back then. I was not afraid to talk to anyone about the love of Christ, the free offer of grace, and the realities of life without God.

We ebb and flow in our Christian experience, but with the Lord's help we should not lose our zeal for Christ or what the book of Revelation calls 'our first love'. We should all examine ourselves and see where our allegiance lies. At times, for me, the fear of man, holds me back. Other times I feel spiritually empowered to speak of the great things of God. We should strive for perseverance, for growth in grace and knowledge, and above all, a greater dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. As the song we used to sing in the praise circles went- more of you Lord, less of me.

For the sake of Christ and the next generation of believers, do not lose your first love. I have some praying to do.

“The lush green color of springtime in the congregation [at Ephesus] 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

14 October, 2007

First Reformed Presbyterian Church

The Associate Reformed Church of Grand Rapids is one step closer to union with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Today we voted on a name for our congregation and "First RP" was chosen with a majority vote.

It was a good day for our congregation and we look forward to the life of First and with the Lord's help, we will see Second and beyond. Ray Joseph, a late minister in the RPCNA, used to pray for the Lord to raise up a group of Christians in Grand Rapids that would want to be united with the RPCNA. He also prayed that there would be enough congregations in Michigan for a Michigan Presbytery. We will see what the Lord has in store for First. Please celebrate this great name with us and pray that the Lord would get all the glory for First RP!
Below are the top seven choices that we voted from. Rev. Lanning wrote the commentary for each. Each one would have had great significance.

Commentary: Bethel is Hebrew for “House of God.” It was the name which Jacob gave to the place where he slept and dreamed of “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven … and, behold, the LORD stood above it” (Gen. 28:11,12). When Jacob awoke, he declared, “This is none other but the house of God (Hebrew: Beth-El), and this is the gate of heaven” (28:17). Later, Jacob recounts another dream in which God appeared to him, saying, “I am the God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13.)

Commentary: In Scripture, to be first is always to have a place of honor. Firstborn sons, firstlings of the flock, and the first-fruits of the field were all claimed by God as His own, and had to be devoted to Him, or else redeemed, by sacrifice. The “first estate” of men and angels was the state of original righteousness; on the “first day” of the week, God created light, Christ was raised from the dead, and the Spirit was poured out from heaven. God called Israel, “My son, even My firstborn” (Ex. 4:22); Christ is hailed as “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5); Christ’s church is “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23).

Commentary: It was a law in ancient Israel that, “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance” (Dt. 19:14); a curse was pronounced on those who did so (Dt. 27:17). A landmark was an object marking the boundary of one’s inheritance; to remove it was a means of diminishing someone else’s inheritance, in violation of the gift and promise of God. In the same way there are landmarks of sound doctrine and good morals that identify “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). These landmarks of truth and faith should be maintained among Christians today as markers of our great heritage as the church of the living God.

Commentary: The title of “martyr” (Greek: “witness”) first referred to Christian witnesses in general, but early on, to those especially who sealed their witness with their blood, being “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10), beginning with “thy martyr Stephen” (Acts 22:20), and “Antipas, my faithful martyr” (Rev. 2:13). The Reformation produced its own martyrs, perhaps nowhere so many as in The Netherlands and in France; the authors of the Belgic Confession, rather than deny the truth confessed therein, offered “their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire.” Many Reformed Christians were martyred in England during the reign of “bloody Mary,” and in Scotland, the Covenanters died by thousands, among them the first Reformed Presbyterians. This “noble army of martyrs” should be remembered and honored by Christians today, who are the heirs and beneficiaries of their great faith and sacrifice.

Commentary: Jeremiah records this promise: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). These words were addressed to a church and a nation that had forsaken the ways of God and Scripture. Christ’s invitation and promise, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt. 11:29) makes it clear that He is that good Shepherd sent to bring the sheep of God back to those “old paths” of righteousness (Ps. 23) that lead to eternal life and the blessed rest of heaven (cf. John 14:6)

Commentary: The royal Psalmist sings, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133). The apostle Paul commands all Christians to keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3); in building up the church, the aim is that “we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:12,13). The preservation and practice of unity (Latin: “oneness”) is greatly to be prized among Christians, for it is the way we express our love for one another as brethren, or members of the same family; it is the evidence of our common experience of being indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, and our common enjoyment of the peace of God; and it is a validation of our common confession of the one Lord and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

Commentary: Zion (Hebrew: “fortress”) is the SW hill of Jerusalem, the older and higher part of the city, often called the city of David. As a fortress of the Jebusites, it was thought to be impregnable. “Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David” (II Sam. 5:7). In later usage it came to mean of the temple mount in Jerusalem, as the place where God dwells, where His glory is manifested, where His ordinances are dispensed and enjoyed, and from whence His word goes forth to the ends of the earth; and therefore, a perfect metaphor for the Christian church. “The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Ps. 87:2,3).

Sabbath a'Brakel

The godly person…has spiritual life by virtue of his faith in Christ, and having become a partaker of the nature of Christ as a result of that union, he thus engages himself, motivated by love to God and for His will. From this proceeds love for his neighbor, being inclined also to seek his spiritual welfare in order that God may be thanked and glorified by the recipient of such help. It is with such a disposition that the believer helps the needy person. The apostle therefore limits compassion to the elect who are holy and beloved: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies" (Col. 3:12) [IV: 114].

12 October, 2007

Quiz Yourself For Fun: What Kind of Presbyterian Are You?

Go ahead! See what kind of Presbyterian you are. Please record the church and percentages in the comments section. And yeah... I know there are other kinds of Christians- it is just for fun.

What Presbyterian Church would you feel at home in?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Reformed Presbyterian

You are Reformed Presbyterian, or Cameronian. You have a very high view of the Solemn league and Covenant, and of Christ's kingship over nations.

Reformed Presbyterian


Free Presbyterian Church


Disruption Free Church


Auld Kirk


United Presbyterian


18th Century 'Moderate' Auld Kirk


09 October, 2007

The Creation Points Us to Him Who Made Them

The creation is an amazing thing. It is quite easy to see how people will give the creation praise and glory since it is so beautiful and amazing to behold. The Scriptures teach us that part of the purpose of creation is to point us to the one who made it.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. -Psalm 19.1-6

"I asked the earth and it answered me, 'I am not He.' And whatsoever things are in it confirmed the same. I asked the sea and the deeps and the living creeping things, and they answered, 'We are not thy God, seek above us.' I asked the morning air, and the whole air with its inhabitants answered, 'Anaximenes was deceived, we are not thy God.' I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, 'Nor,' say they, 'are we the God whom thou seekest.' And I replied unto all the things which encompass the door of my flesh, 'Ye have told me of my God that ye are not He: tell me something more of Him.' And they cried out with a loud voice, 'He made us.'"

-Saint Augustine, Confessions

08 October, 2007

Politician's Religions

It seems that the media has become quite interested in the religious lives of this country's leaders. I am sure that it is because Americans are quite interested in religion and the media is reflecting that. It always interests me to see how different people view God and His Son, Jesus Christ. It saddens me when people hold error (as I am sure it does for all who love Christ). Here are two stories that I saw in the news today concerning two prominent political leaders:

06 October, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Body and Blood of Christ

When seeing these signs, the communicant must not end in them mentally, but must proceed to the matter signified, that is, to the body and blood of Christ--broken and shed to satisfy God's justice for the sins of believers. Thus, he must unite the sign to the matter signified. One must not do so on the basis of his own imagination, for then he would be able to ascend to the suffering and death of Christ by way of the physical; rather, one ought to do so upon the basis of Christ's institution. It is thus not a union established by way of human imagination, but it is a union in the true sense of the word. However, it is not a local or physical union, but a spiritual union which has its foundation and derives its veracity from Christ's institution. This union therefore does not relate to the substances of bread and wine as they are in the dish and in the cup at that moment, that is, apart from being used in the sacrament. Instead, this union comes about when the communicant, by virtue of Christ's institution, exercises faith, taking note of the instituted relationship between the sign and the matter signified. This is similar to a stone which, taken from a pile and placed as a boundary marker upon the land, is not changed as far as its nature is concerned, but as to how it is viewed (II: 532-533).

Puritan Paperback Study: The Christian's Great Interest

As many of you know, our congregation is reading through the entire Puritan paperback series from Banner of Truth. It has been a great time of fellowship and Christ-centered discussion. We meet that last Lord's Day of every month, following evening worship, for this meeting. Everyone brings a dish to pass and we eat, talk, read, and pray. It is, in Puritan terminology, sweet fellowship.

Our next book is The Christian's Great Interest by William Guthrie. It was written in 1668 and was regarded as one of the most important books of its time.

If you would like to join us for this monthly time of fellowship, please contact me and I will send you a free PDF of the book. The book is also available at Reformation Heritage Books for $7.00.

Here is a taste of what lies ahead in your reading:
Many who have closed with Christ Jesus, as aforesaid, are still complaining of their leanness and fruitlessness, which makes my heart lay the less weight on that duty of believing. If thou be convinced that it is a duty to believe on Christ, you may not neglect it under any pretence. As for the complaints of some who have looked after Him, not admitting every one to be judge of his own fruit, I say-- 1. Many, by their jealousies of God's love, and by their unbelief, after they have so closed with God, do obstruct many precious communications, which otherwise would be let out to them--'And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.' (Matt. 13: 58.) 2. It cannot be that any whose heart is gone out after Christ 'have found Him a wilderness.' (Jer. 2: 31.) Surely they find somewhat in their spirit swaying them towards God in whose two great things, namely, how to be found in Him in that day--'Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him; not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith' (Phil. 3: 8, 9);-- and how to show forth His praise in the land of the living, 'Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep Thy word.' (Psa. 119: 17.) 'Wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the land of the living.' (Psa. 56: 13.) They find these two things existing in the soul, and that is much. Moreover, they shall, on due inquiry, ever find such an emptiness in the creatures, that the utmost abundance of the creature cannot satisfy their souls--all is vanity, only God can fill the empty room in their heart; and when He breathes but a little, there is no room for additional comfort from creatures. This shows that God has captivated the man, and has fixed that saving principle in the understanding and heart--'Who is God but the Lord? Worship Him all ye gods.' (Psa. 97: 7.) Yea, further, those whose hearts have closed with God in Christ as aforesaid, will not deny that there has been seasonable preventing and quickening now and then when the soul was like to fail--'For Thou preventest me with the blessings of Thy goodness.' (Psa. 21: 3.) 'When I said, my foot slippeth, Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul.' (Psa. 94: 18, 19.) Therefore, let none say that there is no fruit following, and let none neglect their duty upon the unjust and groundless complaints of others.

04 October, 2007

Descendit ad Inferna?

In a discussion on the article of faith, "He descended into hell" you will find much confusion. The ancients intended this phrase to mean just what it says- Jesus descended into hell after his burial. Most views say that he preached or proclaimed his triumph over sin and death before demons and/or the damned.

Reformed Christians historically deny this interpretation. We have reinterpreted this phrase in our ancient creed to mean that he either entered the place of the dead or he suffered the pains of hell on the cross. My personal belief (which does not find much support in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition) is that we strike this phrase from our Creed or we place a giant footnote at the bottom of every printing and state that we disagree with the original meaning of the authors of the text.

As far as I see there are three camps in the Reformed tradition here:
1. Those who are revisionists and reinterpret the creed.
2. Those that do not think that it is that important to change or redefine.
3. Those who want to strike the phrase out of our ancient creed.

Of course, all three have consequences. What should be done though? Does a revisionistic interpretation open the door to liberal interpretations of the Scriptures? Does striking the line show disrespect to our ancient heritage?

Three quotes were given in the discussion that shows the confusion that this phrase has made in the evangelical world. These quotes left me astonished that some have gone so far as to redefine Christ's atoning sacrifice to fit into a creedal system. I see these as the bad fruit of not dealing with this early on in the Protestant Reformation (I understand that the Reformers would not have been able to maintain their claim on catholicity if they began disassembling the creeds of the historic Church):

When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne...Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption. -Kenneth Copeland

Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God...Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence. -Fredrick Price

He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? Physical death wouldn’t remove your sins. He’s tasted death for every man. He’s talking about tasting spiritual death. -Kenneth Hagen

01 October, 2007

The Sanctity of the Lord's Day: John Murray

This is from an article by John Murray published in 1941. The whole article is worth reading.

The Sanctity of the Day

First, and most elementally and centrally, it is that one day in seven is distinguished from the other six. That day is to be sanctified, and at the heart of the word “sanctify is the idea of distinction and separation. This one day is set off, it is placed in a distinct category. This import of the word cannot be evaded and it is to be very carefully marked, for on it depends the whole notion of what we may and must call the “sanctity” of the Sabbath.

It is not, however, the bare notion of distinction or separation that is expressed in the commandment. The command to sanctify occurs in a context. “Six days shall thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” And it is not only in the context of the remainder of the commandment, but also in the context of the other commandments. “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” It is separation, therefore, to God, to the specific purpose of contemplation upon Him and specific occupation with His work in contrast with their own work. In this kind of distinction or sanctity the meaning of the fourth commandment resides. Abolish it, and the essence of the commandment is destroyed.

There is no purpose in contending for the moral obligation of the commandment unless this sanctity is recognized and preserved, for it is the core around which all else is formed and without which all else disintegrates. Just as there is an ineradicable distinction between the six days of creation and the day of rest by which they were followed, so it is here. And it is precisely with this reminder that the commandment itself ends, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
Israel truly was a holy people; they were separated unto God Jehovah.

It might, then, be supposed that the sanctification of one day in seven was inconsistent with the totality of their devotion to God. Yet it is an inescapable fact that this kingdom of priests and holy nation was in the most direct way commanded to separate one day from the other six for a specific purpose. And unless our conception of devotion to God, and of time as it is related to Him, can embrace and appreciate this notion, together with the divine wisdom embodied in it, we can have no understanding of the fourth commandment.