31 December, 2007

Monday: The Suffering Servant's Lack of Desirability

For preparation for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, I will be meditating on Isaiah 53. This week will be dedicated to some thoughts on the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53:1-2 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Nothing about Jesus Christ was what the Jews of the day were looking for. They desired a prince to come and rule in Jerusalem and to free them from all of their outward oppression. Little did they know that what they needed above all things was a Christ that would build a spiritual kingdom. I imagine that each one of us, if we were in the same cultural circumstances, would be highly tempted to reject King Jesus, who appeared to be anything than a king. Our king looked more like a pauper.

John Gill said that in Christ there was, "nothing that looks grand and majestic, or like a king; they [unbelieving Israel] not beholding with an eye of faith his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father; only viewing him in his outward circumstances, and so made their estimate of him; they expected the Messiah as a temporal prince, appearing in great pomp and state, to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and restore their nation to its former splendour and glory; and being disappointed herein was the true reason of their unbelief, before complained of, and why they did not desire him, who is the desire of all nations."

29 December, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: An Honest Look at the Mirror Before the Lord's Supper

Many have a wrong perception of themselves; they measure themselves by themselves. They deem themselves to be fit, for they have no disagreement with their neighbor, are baptized, diligently go to hear God's Word, live in such a manner that no one can say anything about them, and believe that Christ is the Savior--one must thus not doubt that one will also be saved and that Christ is also his Savior. Therefore all is truly well--Christ invites and commands us, and I then wish to be obedient to the Lord in this respect. Others add to this the fact that, prior to that time, they refrain from indulging in their bosom sins, read pious books, and pray more frequently. One thus puts himself into a pious mold and peacefully attends, eating and drinking judgment to himself (II: 578).

27 December, 2007

Reformed Presbyterian International Conference

This July Grand Rapids will overflow with Reformed Presbyterians. There will be RPs from the US, Canada, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Cyprus, and other international locations. If you have never been to an international conference it is truly a foretaste of heaven. Imagine over 1500 people singing Psalms acapella in four part harmony. It is great!

Here is the website to check it out... and of course to register! It only happens once every four years!

25 December, 2007

JG Vos on Christian Worship

JG Vos was an interesting theologian. He was called the 'people's theologian' because he believed that theology was for the common man; not for the ivory towers. I whole-heartily agree. He was also Christian Reformed as a child, and later became a Reformed Presbyterian, after his father began teaching at Princeton seminary (back when that meant something).

Here is his article on Christian worship. He deals with some of the objections to Psalm singing and answers them in a very pastoral and humble way. Our position on worship is not a popular one in today's Christian milieu, which makes it all the more important to use care and a pastoral approach to dealing with these differences. If the position is biblical and offensive to some Christians; then the Scriptures should do the offending, not the messenger. I would recommend that you read it before the Lord's Day.

22 December, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: Persecution for Faithfulness

Join yourself to the godly so that it may become manifest that you are one with them in your support for Christ and your opposition to the world. Remain with the true church and be diligent in attending public worship and in partaking of the Lord's Supper. Thereby one confesses the Lord Jesus. To separate yourself from her and to remain on your own is a quiet denial of Christ and His cause. If shame and injury come upon you due to your confession, rejoice in this, for it is a small beginning of martyrdom (III: 376).

What is a Peacemaker?

Martyn Lloyd Jones gives some great insight on what a peacemaker according to the Scriptures looks like. He stresses the fact that these qualities are not natural characteristics, but supernatural ones. These are part of what the converted man or woman look like. He challenges the Christian who does not fit into this description to examine whether he or she is even a true believer. Here is a summary of what he says:

  1. Know when NOT to speak. (James 1.19)
  2. Always view every situation in the light of the Gospel. (Ask these questions: What are the implications of the this? What about the Cause? What about the Church? What about the people who are dependent? What about the people who are right outside?)
  3. Become positive and go out of your way to look for means and methods of making peace. (Romans 12.19-21)
  4. Endeavor to diffuse peace wherever you are. (Be selfless, lovable, approachable, and not standing on your own dignity.) (Phil. 2.1-5)

17 December, 2007

Give a Warm PT Welcome to the New Kid on the Block

Long time friend, college classmate, and fellow RP, Brett Schutt, has started a blog. He has not seen much action so go give him a hearty welcome to the world of theo-blogging.

We all know how discouraging blogging can become without many comments!

God's Covenant of Grace

Brett is a very bright man and will prove to show a lot of insight into God's dealings with man.

15 December, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: True Compassion

The essence of compassion consists in being inwardly moved to sympathy, which, if it is right, will always be accompanied by an inclination and willingness to help. It does not consist in either fully or partially parting with our belongings. "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor...and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). Rather, there must be:

(1) sympathy. Wherever there is love there will also be sympathy when the person being loved is in need.

(2) inner motions of compassion, whereby the veracity and intensity of this sympathy is expressed, this being such that it touches and moves the heart.

(3) an inclination, willingness, and zeal to assist the needy person in accordance with his need: "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath" (2 Cor. 8:12) [IV: 116].

14 December, 2007

The Sufficiency of Scripture in Sola Scriptura

I have finished a paper that I have been working on for 4 months on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. This doctrine is abused in many ways, and has been since the time of the Reformation when the doctrine was fully developed (I say 'fully' because the doctrine is in the Scriptures as early as the Torah.). There are three ways that it is historically abused:
  • A doctrine cannot be required to be believed that is not EXPLICITLY found in Scripture.
  • Nothing can be done without the warrant of Scripture. (We can't sit in chairs during worship- where is that in the Bible?)
  • Traditions and Creeds of the Church are not important because the Bible is all that matters.
This third abuse is discussed by Allister McGrath and he does a good job of showing that sola scriptura does not negate our traditions, as long as they are supported by the Word of God.

“A number of points bring out the importance of the sola scriptura principle. First, the Reformers insisted that the authority of the popes, counsels, and theologians is subordinate to that of Scripture. This is not necessarily to say that they have no authority… the Reformers allowed certain councils and theologians of the patristic era genuine authority in matters of doctrine. It is to say however, that such authority is derived from Scripture, and is thus subordinate to Scripture. Luther tends to defend the sola scriptura principle by emphasizing the confusion and incoherence of medieval theology, whereas Calvin and Melanchthon argue that the best catholic theology supports their view on the priority of Scripture.”

Allister E. McGrath, Reformation Thought, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 145.

08 December, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: True Holiness

True holiness springs forth from true faith. Where true faith is absent, true holiness will likewise be absent. Faith receives Christ as Surety unto justification and sanctification (John 1:12). By faith the soul is truly united with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17). By faith Christ, who is their life, dwells in their hearts (Eph. 3:17). Faith purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). Faith worketh by love (Gal. 5:6), and faith causes them to bring forth good works (James 2:18) [II: 35].

05 December, 2007

Closed Until December 12th

This week is the last week of classes for me at Puritan Seminary for the semester. Next week I have final examinations and some papers to finish up. I am closed until December 12th. (I will reopen about 8am this coming Lord's Day for an a'Brakel post. People seem to enjoy starting their Lord's Day with some a'Brakel.)

See you on the 12th!

03 December, 2007

First Reformed Presbyterian Church Conference on Practical Theology

First Reformed Presbyterian Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, welcomes you to join us for the Conference on Practical Theology, to be held at the Puritan Reformed Seminary, 2965 Leonard Street, Grand Rapids, MI on Sat, Feb. 2 from 8:45am - 3:30pm. This year's theme will be Biblical Evangelism.

Our lecturer will be Dr. David P. Murray, professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary. Dr. Murray comes with much practical experience in biblical evangelism. Dr. Murray also has a depth of biblical knowledge and a mastery of the original languages of Hebrew and Greek.

This conference will prove to challenge your view of evangelism and encourage you to fulfill every Christian's duty to present Jesus Christ to a dying world!

First Reformed Presbyterian Church Conference on Practical Theology

Biblical Evangelism

8:30-9:00 Registration
9:00-9:45 Biblical Evangelism's Motivation
9:45-10:00 Questions and Answers
10:00-10:30 Coffee Break
10:30-11:15 Biblical Evangelism's Message
11:15-11:30 Questions and Answers
11:30-1:00 Lunch Break
1:00-1:45 Biblical Evangelism's Methods
1:45-2:30 Final Questions and Answers
2:30-3:30 Coffee and Fellowship

Join us for this day of great Christian instruction, fellowship, and encouragement!

There will be a nominal fee to cover logistical costs.

If interested, please email Nathan Eshelman at nleshelman@gmail.com to have a flyer mailed. Please encourage friends and family to come!

01 December, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: Spiritual Watchfulness

Spiritual watchfulness consists in watching over our soul in a careful and circumspect manner in order that no evil may befall her. Spiritual life is a precious treasure, desirable to the believer, that far excels the entire world and all that is in it. It has many enemies which lie in wait for it--not to be a partaker of it, but rather to destroy it; they hate it. A Christian must therefore be diligent in preserving this life. "Keep thy heart with all diligence" (Prov. 4:23). The believer knows the value of that life, is acquainted with his enemies and their activities, loves this life, is desirous to preserve and increase it, takes care that it is not injured, and is thus circumspect and always on guard if there is danger approaching from elsewhere. If he becomes aware of something, he is alert and stands ready with his weapons in hand to turn away the enemy, attacking all those who come too close (IV: 11).