30 October, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

As Reformed Christians reflect on the goodness of God to His Church, we need to give God thanks for His provisions. On this Reformation Day we should be in meditation about the need for God to move again in a large scale, as He did during the 16th and 17th century in Europe.

During the Reformation we saw God move nations, cultures, cities, churches, families, and individuals. We need to see that movement again- and it begins with you and me. We need to be repentant, we need to seek godliness, we need to search the Scriptures.

On this Reformation Day please join me in praying that God would move us again as the Kingship of Christ is proclaimed to all nations.

As a Reformation Day gift: Here is a Reformation Study Bible in Genuine Leather being offered for any price. What better way to celebrate the Reformation than with a new Bible?

27 October, 2008

Brother's Keepers and the Pursuit of Happiness

In our American, individualistic culture, we do not think of the group or the community very often. We are Americans! We have rights and freedoms! But as Christians, we need to think in terms of community and in terms of covenant obligations. When we enter into covenant with the Church of Christ and declare that we will walk with her in obedience and in faithfulness we saying that we are going to help each other be accountable and responsible for the professions, covenants, and obligations that they have made. All of a sudden, when a brother or sister is in sin or walking in a way contrary to the Word of God- we all have a duty, a holy responsibility to care enough to do something. This was much like in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. When the heinous sin of marrying unbelievers was brought to Ezra's attention, what was his reply? Did he say, to each his own? Did he say that everyone has the right to pursue happiness? No, he was not a self-centered individualist. He was communal. He was covenantal. He saw that he had a responsibility towards his neighbor. He saw that he was his brother's keeper.

Ezra 9:3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.

These verses describe the effect which the news of the infidelity of the Jews had on Ezra… This action showed his distress. A great sin had been committed, a sin which ran contrary to the law of God. Ezra identified himself with this sin, although he and the exiles who had returned with him did not commit it. In a certain sense Ezra accepted his solidarity with his people. He became a mediator for them as Moses did after the golden bull was worshiped at Sinai. In a time like today in which individuality is emphasized people cannot always understand this attitude. For the Israelites… the Lord contracted a covenant with all the people and not only with individuals. All the people were responsible for the acts of every individual or group. -FC Fensham, NICOT.

26 October, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: Singing Unto the Lord!

God is particularly pleased when His children praise Him in song. There where the Lord is sweetly praised in song--there the Lord will come with His blessings. "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel" (Psa. 22:3). It is noteworthy to consider what transpired at the dedication of the temple. "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD...that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God" (2 Chr. 5:13-14). When Jehoshaphat, together with his army, lifted up their voices in joyous exclamation and song (2 Chr. 20:22), the Lord defeated their enemies. When Paul and Silas sang praises unto God in the middle of the night, the doors of the prison were opened and the bands of all the prisoners were loosened (Acts 16:25-26). Therefore, if you are desirous to please the Lord, and delight in having the Lord visit your soul and experience His help, then accustom yourself to singing (IV: 36).

21 October, 2008

The Sufferings of the Scapegoat

Leviticus 16:22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

As the scapegoat was released into the wilderness to suffer and die, we can think of Jesus Christ being sent outside of the camp to suffer and die on behalf of his elect.

Follow the scapegoat, and see its doom. Is there not here a criminal led along? There is something that speaks of the Man of Sorrows, made sin for us. Is there not here a criminal led away to an unknown woe? There is something that speaks of one “made a curse for us”. Why is he left alone, defenseless, trembling, amid a wilderness? There is here enough to remind us of Jesus left to suffer without sympathy… The scapegoat’s solitary cry is re-echoed by the barren rocks, and the howling of beasts of prey terrifies it on all sides; the gloom of night settles down upon it and shrouds it in deeper terror. Perhaps too, it was not uncommon for Jehovah himself to direct His lightning’s stroke toward the victim, and to cause it to perish amid the tempest’s roar. Wounded by beasts of prey, from whom it has scarcely escaped, it is now stretched on the ground by a stroke from that thunder-cloud, its eye glaring with convulsive fear, and its piteous cries echoing through the dismal wilderness. Perhaps it was generally thus that the sin-bearing scapegoat died. ‘Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness’… That victim’s sufferings are my sufferings.

20 October, 2008

Surrendering to the Spirit

There is something awful in the thought of being absolutely surrendered to the Spirit, to be led by him through fire and water, to be lifted up to heaven and cast down again, to be brought into fiercest conflicts and under overwhelming obligations. Few have the courage to surrender to the Spirit in the unreserved consecration of their lives to Jesus.

Stephen surrendered himself, and was led into contention for the truth and to death by stoning. Peter surrendered himself, and was led against the desperate thousands of his Lord's crucifiers, to preach the plain, piercing, terrible truth of their guilt, and proclaim the offer of pardon. Paul surrendered, and he was led into weariness and painfulness, into perils and prisons, into watchings, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold and nakedness. Martin Luther surrendered to the Spirit, and was led into work and warfare that shook his soul with dread, and Europe with battles. Richard Cameron surrendered, and he became a trumpet of the Lord, whose blasts defied the powers of darkness that stained Aird's Moss with his blood. John Howard surrendered, and he was led over the world for the relief of earth's prisoners, and when urged to abandon his work in Egypt, which was then devastated with a plague, replied : "The way to heaven is as near from Cairo as from London." Count Zinzendorf, the Moravian missionary, surrendered himself, and was filled with the Spirit of Christ, till he could say, " I have but one passion, and that is He, only He."

In the face of consequences, who has courage to surrender to the Holy Ghost, in tbe effectual prayer that will give him unlimited and everlasting control over the whole person! However, with all the sacrifices included, the absolute surrender to the Spirit is but the beginning of happiness. Then the soul begins to discover the end of its being, finds its place in the heart of God, realizes its power in Christ, places a right estimate on the invisible world, and moves in the orbit of duty swayed as little by the allurements of earth, as the earth is swayed by the shooting stars. Imperfections' and vexations still exist, but spiritual life and power are mightily in excess.

From a sermon titled, 'The Gift of Spiritual Power and Its Use' by Rev. J. C. McFeeters, Moderator of the Synod of the RP Church. Preached on June 6, 1895.

16 October, 2008

Two Ways To Fall Off a Horse

People are extremists. It is part of our nature. This is true with the Christian's reading habits as well. One side, that is wrong, is to read too much theology, Christian biography, and other 'spiritual' books at the expense of reading the very Word of God. The other extreme is the overly-pious fundamentalist who thinks that the only thing that a Christian should read is the Scriptures. As if God did not equip men with the talents to bring Him glory through writing- as if Jesus Christ's cause and kingdom cannot be advanced through the written words of godly men and women. It is an extremist and un-Reformed position.

So two sides of the horse-
  1. The 'all sorts of Christian books, but very little time in the Scriptures reader'.
  2. The 'no-creed-but- Christ, Bible-only at-all-costs' reader.
Richard Baxter has given us a very helpful guide in balancing these two extremes. He says,
"Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church . . . but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings."

1. As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.

2. The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preaches it to the ear. Vocal preaching has the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it: this way the milk comes warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher when you have but a average one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day. and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the 'Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.

3. You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse: for among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively; and some good, but mediocre, and weak and somewhat dull; and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautious, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak.

11 October, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Martyr and the Priest

If therefore the Lord leads us in difficult ways, and brings us in a situation where we must lose our life for the truth's sake, may we then not love our life and deem it precious, but offer it willingly to the Lord as a sacrifice. Paul said, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim. 4:6). There is no more glorious death imaginable than to die as a martyr for Christ. Oh, how blessed is he who may thus use Christ as Priest, and who himself may be a spiritual priest! (I: 560).

09 October, 2008

What Was Puritanism?

JI Packer gives a great explanation of Puritanism. He says, "Puritanism was an evangelical holiness movement seeking to implement its vision of spiritual renewal, national and personal, in the church, the state, and the home; in education, evangelism, and economics; in individual discipleship and devotion, and in pastoral care and competence."

08 October, 2008

What Do You Think About All Day?

What we think about is what the Bible calls 'our meditation'. Some think primarily of the things of this world: sports and leisure. Some think of the cares of this world: making money and investing wisely. Some think of think of the things of God: how to please him and what his word says. Now truthfully, we are a mixture of all these things if we are Christians, but the call of the Scriptures is meditation on the law all of the day. We have a lot to strive for as Christians.

Meditation does discriminate and characterize a man; by this he may take measure of his heart, whether it to be good or bad; let me allude to that; 'For as he thinks in his heart, so he is' Prov.23.7. As the meditation is, such is the man. Meditation is the touchstone of a Christian; it shows what metal he is made of. It is a spiritual index; the index shows what is in the book, so meditation shows what is in the heart. Thomas Watson, Saint's Spiritual Delight.

So the question remains: What do you think about all day?

06 October, 2008

Happy Birthday Shawn!

Today is my friend's birthday. Shawn and I have been friends for almost 20 years. God has been faithful to both of us through the years. We became Christians within months of each other and both are pursing full-time Gospel ministry as a calling in life. It is good to see God's faithfulness being worked out in his life.

In our circles, we have a custom of reading the 'birthday psalm' and claiming a portion of that for your year's verse. Here is Shawn's birthday psalm:

Psalm 31
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.
Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many-- terror on every side!-- as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!
O LORD, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol.
Let the lying lips be mute, which speak insolently against the righteous in pride and contempt. Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm, "I am cut off from your sight." But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.
Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

03 October, 2008

Book Review: Young, Restless, and Reformed

Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists, Collin Hansen (Crossway, 2008)
Reviewed by Pastor Charles A. Brown

Book review reprinted with permission from C.A. Brown. Originally appeared in the September 2008 RP Witness.

"'Once you start seeing Reformed theology in Scripture, you realize it's all over the place,' he said. 'It's like there's a big revolution in your mind. Stuff that didn't make sense before starts to make sense. It's been an incredible journey, and it's increased my passion for God.'"

This anecdote from the book's epilogue could easily describe my own personal experience with Calvinism. From the conversations I've had with many newer members of the RPCNA, these sentiments would be shared by most of them as well. In recent decades, the evangelical world has witnessed a mini-Reformation, dramatically impacting the hearts of countless men and women. Collin Hansen, an editor for Christianity Today, has recorded dozens of such stories in this little volume about the lives which have been recently and radically changed by Reformed theology.

Surprisingly, though, for a book about "the New Calvinists", very few Presbyterians are mentioned in its pages. Nearly all of the stories come from Baptist and nondenominational folk who have embraced predestination and God's sovereignty in salvation. This fact may help to explain why these young Calvinists are "restless". They are only partial Calvinists, who need to keep reforming. Perhaps they have not yet read what the Genevan Reformer taught concerning the church and the sacraments.

We should keep a watchful eye on this semi-Calvinism, to see where it leads. Youth and restlessness will not last forever. Where will these people settle when they are old? Will they be Reformed or not? Here is an opportunity for the RP Church. An energetic audience waits to hear the doctrines of grace. But will we be ready to help these hungry souls feast on a complete diet of Calvinism?