31 December, 2009

New Year's Resolutions.... No... New Years' Covenanting

Many people make resolutions on New Years eve concerning what they want to change about their life: eat less, exercise more, save money, be nicer.... and on and on. But what lasting value, what eternal value do these have? Rarely there is any. Of course, there are exceptions. In year's past, I have written on the resolutions of Jonathon Edwards. But for the most people- these are empty promises with yourself that will not be fulfilled.

So, how about something different this year? How about 'personal covenanting' instead of resolving. Our Associate Presbyterian and Reformed Presbyterian forefathers made this a practice and found much lasting benefit for their souls. Covenanting is a much neglected duty in the Church of Christ today; and it can prove to be a beneficial spiritual discipline. Below is a personal covenant that Thomas Boston made with Jesus Christ in 1690. I hope that it can serve as something to meditate on and to consider as we enter 2010.

What would you write in your personal covenant with Christ?

I, Mr. Thomas Boston, preacher of the gospel of Christ, being by nature an apostate from God, an enemy to the great Jehovah and so an heir of hell and wrath, in myself utterly lost and undone, because of my original and actual sins, and misery thereby; and being, in some measure, made sensible of this my lost and undone state, and sensible of my need, my absolute need of a Saviour, without whom I must perish eternally; and believing that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal God, is not only able to save me, by virtue of his death and sufferings, but willing also to have me (though most vile and ugly, and one who has given him many repulses), both from my sins, and from the load of wrath due to me for them, upon condition that I believe, come to him for salvation, and cordially receive him in all his offices; consenting to the terms of the covenant.

Therefore, as I have at several opportunities before given an express and solemn consent to the terms of the covenant, and have entered into a personal covenant with Christ; so now, being called to undertake the great and weighty work of the ministry of the gospel, for which I am altogether insufficient, I do by this declare, That I stand to and own all my former engagements, whether sacramental, or any other way whatsoever; and now again do renew my covenant with God; and hereby, at this present time, do solemnly covenant and engage to be the Lord’s and make a solemn resignation and upgiving of myself, my soul, body, spiritual and temporal concerns, unto the Lord Jesus Christ, without any reservation whatsoever; and do hereby give my voluntary consent to the terms of the covenant laid down in the holy scriptures, the word of truth; and with my heart and soul I take and receive Christ in all his offices, as my prophet to teach me, resolving and engaging in his strength to follow, that is, to endeavour to follow his instructions.

I take him as my priest, to be saved by his death and merits alone; and renouncing my own righteousness as filthy rags and menstruous cloths, I am content to be clothed with his righteousness alone; and live entirely upon free grace; likewise I take him for my advocate and intercessor with the Father: and finally, I take him as my king, to reign in me, and to rule over me, renouncing all other lords, whether sin or self, and in particular my predominant idol; and in the strength of the Lord, do resolve and hereby engage, to cleave to Christ as my Sovereign Lord and King, in death and in life, in prosperity and in adversity, even for ever, and to strive and wrestle in his strength against all known sin; protesting, that whatever sin may be lying hid in my heart out of my view, I disown it, and abhor it, and shall in the Lord’s strength, endeavour the mortification of it, when the Lord shall be pleased to let me see it. And this solemn covenant I make as in the presence of the ever-living, heart-searching God, and subscribe it with my hand, in my chamber, at Dunse, about one o’clock in the afternoon, the fourteenth day of August, one thousand six hundred and ninety-nine years.

T. Boston

30 December, 2009

Why Are Reformed People Such Downers?

I have written on the lack of joy in the Reformed churches before. I think that it is a horrible thing that many in Reformed churches and people lack the joy that accompanies salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of witness is that?

Now there may be many reasons for why Reformed people lack the joy of the Lord; but as people of the Book; we must realize that 'Rejoice in the Lord always', as the Apostle Paul says- is an imperative. That means it is commanded.

We like rules, laws, and regulations in the Reformed Church. Just think of being joyful as a law that we must keep. Will that help us be more joyful?

Pastor Anthony Selvaggio gives his take on Reformed joy over at Ref21. I found my self getting more and more joyful as I read the article; and then when I saw that it was Selvaggio; I was even more joyful!

Let's show the world that we are are people posessed with the Spirit of Christ- and be joyful!

28 December, 2009

Is Pastoring That Important for Christians?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:9-17

Recently Mark Driscoll interviewed RC Sproul and asked him if he has any regrets in his 45 years of ministry. RC has a very humble and important answer here. As Christians we need to think about what it means to be pastored- and what a gift from Christ it is. As pastors and teachers we need to consider the way in which we pastor a flock and lead them biblically.

26 December, 2009

What Are You Thinking About?

People think about all sorts of things. They think about problems, sports games, interests, belief systems, politics, and even what's for dinner. How much time time do you spend thinking about your relationship with Jesus Christ? How much time do you spend thinking about God's Word in comparison with how much time you spend thinking about your favorite sports team, TV show, or hobby? As we make plans for 2010, increasing our time spent in God's Word should be on the top of our list of priorities. William Plumer tells us why we should consider meditation on the Word so important:

The power of reflection chiefly distinguishes a man from a brute. The habit of reflection chiefly distinguishes a wise man from a fool. Pious reflection on God's word greatly distinguishes a saint from a sinner. Without meditation grace never thrives, prayer is languid, praise dull, and religious duties unprofitable. William Plumer, Psalms, 36.

24 December, 2009

Funeral Sermon On Glorification

Today we are going to briefly look at Romans 8:30. The reason that ______ chose this text is that it is a text that B. had been talking about for weeks. B. and I would talk about the text and that final prospect that we call 'glorification'. A few weeks ago I came into B.'s room at ____, with Bible in tow, and said, “B., what do you want me to read today.” And his response was 'nothing, I want to think about that golden chain- I want to think about glorification'.

This had been on B.'s mind for some time. That Golden Chain, and glorification. Now the text reads, “And those whom [God] predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified'. I have mentioned that B. used the term, 'Golden Chain'. That is the name that is given to this string of doctrines that are mentioned in the text. These doctrines hang together as links in a gold necklace. They are all connected.

Let's briefly look at these words, before we focus on that final word, 'glorified'. God predestines according to his grace- and then he calls those who are predestined to be saved. This is done through the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ- that old old story that Jesus Christ came to die on a cross to pay the penalty for sin. This is something that we cannot stress enough. We are called through the hearing of the Gospel preached and through reading the Word of God. The Lord Jesus is calling us to respond to his paid penalty for sin that you or I could never pay.

And then there is 'justified'. This is a legal term for 'not guilty'. When one responds to the Gospel of Jesus Christ then his sins are forgiven and he stands as an innocent man before God- because Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for his sin. And then the text says, “those whom he justified, he also glorified'. This is when the believer is made perfect, taken into heaven, and enjoys that eternal and joyous companionship with God, through Christ, for all eternity.

Now in our text, the word glorified is written in the present tense. The reason that the Apostle Paul does this is because we can be assured that this is our future. It is as good as now. We are promised this glorification- made perfect through the work of the Spirit of God in our lives.

If we are a Christian, that is one who has put their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then we can say NOW that we have this glorification. We have it because it has been promised to us. This is what we saw in the last weeks with B.. We saw a man that was patiently waiting for his savior. Focused on him. Looking to him, and longing for his timing. Knowing that 'glorification' was now his, and waiting patiently for it- B. showed us what it means to live with this hope. This hope that glorification is ours NOW.

So what does this glorification look like? You may be thinking, “You have said that B. was looking forward to it... so what is it?” There are four things that await us as Christians who are looking forward to glorification. Let's look at those:

The first is that 'souls are made perfect in holiness'. 'Made perfect in holiness'. When the Lord Jesus Christ died for sinners, he died so that they could be saved FROM their sins. He justifies them so that they are declared sinless- but then there is this process through-out the whole life of the Christian in which he is being made more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, that we are conformed to his image.

But at glorification- that struggle with sin is no more. The Christian is made perfect in holiness. That means that this process of being made more and more like Jesus Christ comes to end.

No more struggles with sin. No more wrestling against our old nature. No more struggles, no more trials, no more pains of this life. Made perfect in holiness. For those of you that are Christians, you know this struggle against sin, don't you? Do you know that there is an end. The struggles of this life are nothing in comparison with the joy and the perfection that is to come.

No more questions. No more struggles. Holiness. We know the weakness of our own spritual lives. They are gone. Last Lord's Day, as I addressed my congregation with news of B.'s death; I mentioned that this first Lord's Day in heaven would be different than all others- because he was able to worship his savior, his Lord Jesus Christ with purity of heart and mind. All struggles gone. Made perfect in holiness.

That brings us to the second part of this glorification that we are speaking about. The glorified Christian is received into heaven. The soul lives on, friends. Our dear friend, your dad, your grandfather, your great-grandfather, your uncle, your friend- he lives on. And he now has a new home: a home with the Lord Jesus Christ, a home with his dear Mary, that he spoke about so lovingly, a home with the friends and saints that have gone on before him.

The Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples once, “I go and prepare a place for you. My father's house has many rooms- if it were not so, I would have told you.” This prospect of heaven is more than just something that our culture has made up to console those who have lost loved ones. It is a fact. It is as sure of a home, as my home in Los Angeles. And you know what? It is even more sure. The Lord Jesus Christ has made this promise to those that are called, those who are justified, those who are glorified.

When one dies with this hope of eternal salvation- he does so knowing that he goes to another home. A home where he is a guest, an eternal guest with the Lord Jesus Christ as his host. The Puritan writer, John Flavel said, Heaven is the place where God is supremely loved and God is prized above all else. This is what my friend B. longed for. He longed to be with the God that was his from his youth. He longed to be received into his eternal reward. Our dear friend, father, and grandfather, in his glorification, on Dec 19th heard, “Well done, _____. Well done. Enter now into your rest.”

B. has been made perfect in holiness. B. has been received into heaven. But there is more. When one is glorified he also 'beholds the face of God in Christ'. Can you imagine? Standing before the face of God. Faith becomes sight. We live our Christian lives by faith don't we? The Apostle Paul says, in Romans 8 says, 'hope that is seen is not hope'. This is the longing of the Christian, this is the great prospect of the one who has put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

When one dies he does not go off to some cherubic cloud with a harp in hand. He goes face to face with his master, face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot even begin to imagine the worship that wells up when one stands before the one who bore hell so that I may spend eternity with him.

I imagine that some of you have not seen each other in some time. There are people here that have travelled long distances to come and pay final respects. When you see each other there is a sense of gladness. A loved one reunited after months or maybe even years. Now imagine the joy of someone who lived 95 years in communion with someone that they have never seen. The love and the worship that must come when one's faith becomes sight! The glorified Christian will behold the face of the one who suffered and bled and died so that we could have life, eternal life.

The Apostle in another letter, says, “Now we see as through a dark mirror- but then we will see him face to face, as he is.” The glorified Christian will behold Christ's face.

And finally, the last aspect to glorification includes patience. Patiently waiting for something to occur? What do think that is? The glorified Christian, in this last link of the golden chain has their soul made perfect, he has been received into heaven, he has stood face to face with Christ- what else could you ask for? Do you know what it is?

He patiently waits for his redeemed body. Even now, in heaven, there is something that is not complete. Have you ever thought about that? Things are not yet perfect in heaven? The Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem the body as well as the soul. The Gospel of John, among other places, speak about a great day when the Lord Jesus Christ will return with a host of heaven and call forth what belongs to his people.

Joseph- come forth. Nathan- come forth. Sarah- come forth. . And when Jesus Christ calls, in a mysterious way, the bodies of the dead will rise and the Christian will be reunited with his body- a body that is also made perfect in holiness! Come forth!

Part of the job of the glorified Christian is waiting. Waiting for that Great Day when the Lord Jesus Christ will come back and will separate his people from those who are not his people. Those who have put their faith in him will come forth to be reunited with their body, which is made perfect.

But what about those who have not put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? What about those who have refused to bow their knee in worshipful adoration? Psalm 1 says, “But the wicked are not so- they are chaff which the wind drives away.” It is dreadful. An eternity separated from Christ. An eternity not filled with joy; but with sorrow and torment.

And just as the Lord Jesus Christ gave comfort that he goes to prepare a place for those who love; the Lord Jesus Christ also spoke about the eternal sufferings that await those who refuse to love him, those who refuse to trust him.

The Christian longs for the day when his body will be called forth, unto perfection. The book of Job is probably the oldest book in the Scriptures. Job says, “I know that my redeemer lives, and on the last day, I will see him IN THE FLESH”. Resurrection is not a New Testament doctrine. This was always God's design- raised to newness of life.

So the last link in the Golden Chain is 'glorification'. Souls made perfect in holiness. Souls received unto heaven. Souls standing before the face of the one who saved them. Souls patiently waiting for their redeemed bodies.

This was B.'s hope. This is now B.'s reality. “B., what do you want me to read today?” “Nothing Nathan, I want to think about the Golden Chain and glorification.” B. does not have to think about it any more. He does not have to long for it. He is living it. Living in perfect holiness, living in heaven, living before the face of Christ, and waiting for this body- this one right here- waiting for it to be redeemed.

Some of you know that I like to read Reformed Presbyterian history. I read any crusty old manuscript or sermon note or book that I can get my hands on. Recently I was reading part of a funeral service of a Reformed Presbyterian pastor. It was dated October of 1944. As I read this note from a funeral service, I thought, “You know this reminds me of Mr. ____.” I would like to close with this line from that funeral service. The writer wrote, “I am sure his passing will increase my interest in the Kingdom that he was so much interested in, and that my attraction toward the Heavenly Home will also be increased, so that, by the grace of God, I may meet him over there.”

This was B.. He was so interested in Christ's kingdom; and his interest in Christ's kingdom made that kingdom look so much more attractive- and one day, those who have this same hope will meet Bill again, over there in that heavenly home.

That beautiful line was the closing remarks at the funeral of Rev. William Arthur Aikin, (April 3, 1881- October 29, 1944) and I would like to read them again:

“I am sure his passing will increase my interest in the Kingdom he was so much interested in, and that my attraction toward the Heavenly Home will also be increased, so that, by the grace of God, I may meet him over there.”

Glorification. Is this your hope as well? Amen.

17 December, 2009

Life in the Spirit: A Sermon Series on Romans 8

Romans 8 is one of the greatest chapters in the whole Scriptures. I believe that as the Christian meditates on Romans 8, and applies the truths of this chapter of Scripture to their lives- that we will have a greater understanding and appreciation of who we are 'in Christ' and what he came to accomplish on our behalf. It really is such a blessing to be able to read this chapter of Paul's epistle to us. Over the past several weeks I have had the great privilege of bringing this chapter of Scripture to the Los Angeles church. Enjoy!

18 November, 2009

Who Was Wilhelmus a'Brakel?

It does not take too much reading of PRESBYTERIAN THOUGHTS to know that Wilhelmus a'Brakel is one my favorite Dutch theologians. In this brief video the translator of A Christian's Reasonable Service speaks on Brakel as well as the Dutch Second Reformation. Enjoy.

06 November, 2009

Love for God and Worship

Today I was reading in Thomas Watson, and came across this great thought on our love for God in connection with biblical worship:

When Christians make little reckoning of God's worship, duties of religion are done in a dead, formal manner; if they are left undone, yet they are ill done. This is a sad symptom of a spiritual consumption; remissness in duty shows a decay in our first love. The strings of a violin being slack, the violin can never make good music; when men grow slack in duty, they pray as if they prayed not; this can never make any harmonious sound in God's ears. When the spiritual motion is slow and heavy, and the pulse of the soul beats low, it is a sign that Christians have lost their first love.

26 October, 2009

Guilt and Psychiatry

JG Vos, in the 1940s, asked the question, "What mistaken idea about guilt is common today? I believe that his answer is just as relevant 50 years later:

"Today it is very common to confuse the feeling of guilt with the fact of guilt. Popular notions of psychiatry have led many people to suppose that there is nothing to guilt beyond the feeling of guilt, and that if they can manage somehow to get rid of that troublesome feeling of guilt, that they will have nothing to fear.

The legitimate practice of psychiatry deals with neurotic or mentally abnormal individuals only. Such persons may have an abnormal feeling or complex of guilt which destroys their happiness and usefulness, and which is entirely different from their real guilt before God. It may be possible to relieve such an abnormal feeling of guilt by psychiatric methods. But real guilt before God cannot be affected one whit by psychiatry. Guilt remains guilt, regardless of whether we are obsessed by it or unconscious of it.

Real guilt is not a mere subjective feeling, but an objective fact concerning a person's relation to God. A person may be so hardened in sin that he is entirely unconscious of his guilt, and vainly imagines himself to be a righteous person on the road to heaven. By the special work of the Holy Spirit a sinner is brought under conviction of sin and then realizes himself to be guilty before God and deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Imaginary guilt or the mere feeling of guilt may be removed by psychiatry, but real guilt can only be removed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the sinner's substitute."

So feeling guilty? If you are then Jesus is the real answer. He taught us to pray, "forgive us our debts". So many in our culture attempt to medicate away what only the blood of Christ can heal.

21 October, 2009

Why Found a Seminary in the 1800s?

The Reformed Presbyterian Church (in America) was relatively small in the 1800s. (It was less than 1/3 of the size that it is today). There were only four established seminaries in the United States at the time RPTS's Constitution was written (in 1807). The country was young and the Church was getting accustomed to life in the United States- there was a lot going on!

So why would a small Presbyterian denomination see a need for training her pastors in a way other than one-on-one in a pastor-student mentorship? Why take on the financial, ecclesiastical, and time related responsibilities? Besides the obvious reasons of allowing those who excel in languages, biblical studies, systematics, and ethics each train in their area of expertise- there was also another reason. The RPCNA view of the end-times would come into play. Their eschatology required more men for the ministry:

"There was a belief that, because of the power of truth and reason, the denomination could have a genuine impact on society. Most important, perhaps, was the prevailing eschatology of Covenanters, which was Postmillennial- that is they believed that the 'thousand years' of peace and righteousness which precede the return of Jesus Christ was to be ushered in by the efforts of Christians. They also believed that the millennium was near... In this context, it is easy to understand why the church felt not only that a theological seminary could be supported, but also that it was bound to grow and have an influence far beyond the tiny denomination which gave it birth." (R.M. Copeland, Spare No Extertions)

26 September, 2009

Two Covenants, Two Mothers, Two Sons

Luke 1:39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth s was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of w my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And x blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

A Broken Covenant in the Womb.

The New Covenant in the Womb.

Curse Broken.

World Restored.

Elizabeth Spirit Filled.

Mary Blessed Above Women.

For Joy John Leaped.

Jesus has come.

24 September, 2009

Thoughts on Prayer Meeting's Beginning

Last evening we hosted the first Northern Prayer Meeting (there is also a Southern Prayer Meeting which meets in Orange County) in our home. We have been waiting for this time to come for awhile; but through numerous providences we could only start now.

Our Practice

Our prayer meetings will meet every Wednesday at our house from 6:30PM until 8PM (Orange County meets on Thursdays at 7PM). We are focusing on a Bible study that I am calling "Jesus and the Church in the Psalter". We will walk through all of the 150 Psalms one-by-one and see Jesus. We will also sing through the Book of Psalms For Singing, and, of course, pray.

Last night we started with an introduction which included some of these Psalm principles that we take to the Book of Psalms:
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 Even though the Psalter has a number of human composers (at least 6), the true composer is the Spirit of God and he gives us the Psalms for our instruction, correction, reproof, and training in righteousness.
  • 2 Peter 1:20 The Psalter is not open to our private interpretation. We must look at the historical context as well as way that the New Testament interprets the Psalms.
  • Luke 24: 36-49 The Psalms are prophetic and speak of Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 1:20 The Psalms speak of the Church and contain prophecies concerning her as well.
  • Colossians 3:16 The Psalms are the words of Christ. They are to be used for mutual teaching and admonition.
  • James 5:13 We are to sing Psalms when we gather together in happiness.
The Psalms will be a central part of the NPM (Northern Prayer Meeting). We will meditate on them, sing them, and pray portions of them back to God. As Ambrose said, The Psalter deserves to be called the praise of God, the glory of men, the voice of the Church, and the most beneficial confession of faith!


I was encouraged by the outcome of our first prayer meeting. We are a small congregation that is scattered through-out the Southland and the OC; yet we remain faithful to God calling us together for worship and mutual encouragement. Last night we had 15 people here (including the children) which I thought was a good turn out for a first time.

We were able to spend a good amount of time in prayer for each other as well as learn some new psalm tunes. Lord willing, the group will grow, more from the congregation will come, and friends will be invited as well.


We have thought about the purpose of having a weekly prayer meeting quite a bit. We do not do these things because that is what the church does. We need to think through some of our purpose behind having prayer meetings. Here is our purpose:
  1. Prayer. We meet to bear one another's burdens and bring them before the throne of grace. This is always the main purpose of prayer meeting, but it never stands alone. Prayer is never separated from the Word. Hence the next purpose.
  2. Teaching. We want to know the Psalms better and the Lord who calls them his words.
  3. Fellowship. In a congregation that is scattered through-out such a large place as Los Angeles and SoCal, it is important to work on building a sense of community.
  4. Outreach. We want people to be able to invite friends and introduce them to our congregation in a way that is less threatening than formal worship. Having a weekly Bible Study/Psalm sing in our home also gives continuity in the church's backyard to reach out to those that God would want us to meet.

19 September, 2009

Keeping Children in the (Reformed) Church.. Well, At Least One Way

There are many reasons why children leave the Church of Christ when they are at an age to make decisions on their own. Of course, the main reason that children leave the Church is because they do not have converted hearts; but other reasons can drive children out of the Church.

At times children leave the denomination that their parents have chosen and go into other denominations. I have seen many children grow up to leave their Reformed churches and go into evangelical churches of some sort. This too is sad (although not as devistating as the first scenerio).

So what are some reasons that children will leave the Church? One of the main reasons, if not the main reason, is that they do not feel/think that they are a part of the church. They believe that the church is their parent's church, and not THEIR church. They never take ownership of the covenant of communicant membership, the relationships in the church, or the teaching from the pulpit.

One way that the Dutch branches of Reformed Churches have combated this in a small way is by providing children with Psalters that are small enough for their hands- their own personal Psalter. This may sound simplistic, but when a small child has their own Psalter they are more likely to participate in worship and more likely to grow to love the Psalms and the Reformed faith. With this in mind, I am pleased to announce that Crown and Covenant will be producing 4x6 inch Book of Psalms for Worship. I look forward to getting these for our children (and they look forward to having them!). They can be acquired here. If your congregation is using the Book of Psalms for Worship, I would recommend that these are purchased for the children (teens love them too) or parents be encouraged to purchase them.

Even though this is a small step, and essentially will not do anything without the Holy Spirit working in their lives, I would argue that doing 'small things' to make children feel at home in their congregations will prove to be beneficial in the end. We all must take ownership of our vows- and children must learn that at an early age... even if it includes a really great Psalter that is just their size!

20 August, 2009

Want To Go To Seminary?

Below is a recommended reading list from Westminster Seminary California for students who are considering entering seminary. I would concur that it is important for a pre-seminarian to read a number of these books so that the discussions in seminary may be more fruitful.

I also believe that this list is useful for any Christian who is wanting to learn more about God, Christ, the Bible, or any of the topics listed below. So 'pick up and read' as the singing children told Augustine to do long ago!

  • Reformation Study Bible (Ligonier)
  • Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery (P&R)
  • Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton, Let the Reader Understand (Bridge Point)
  • Michael Horton, God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology (Baker)
  • Gerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Banner of Truth)
  • Dennis Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation (P&R)
  • Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms; Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort
  • A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Banner of Truth)
  • Zacharius Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (P&R)
  • Diogenes Allen, Philosophy for Understanding Theology (Westminster John Knox)
  • Cornelius Van Til, Defense of the Faith (P&R)
  • Louis Berkhof, Introduction to Theology (Eerdmans)
  • Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (Baker)
  • Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology (Westminster John Knox)
  • B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation (Wipf and Stock)
  • John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans)
  • Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace (Baker)
  • Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans)
  • Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker)
  • John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols. (Westminster John Knox)
  • W. Robert Godfrey, Reformation Sketches (P&R)
  • Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (Scribner Book Co.)
  • D. G. Hart, Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America (P&R)
  • Bengt Hagglund, History of Theology (Concordia)
  • Philip Benedict, Christ's Church Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism (Yale University Press)
  • W. Robert Godfrey, Unexpected Journey (P&R)
  • J.I. Packer, Knowing God (IVP)
  • Edmund Clowney, Called to the Ministry (P&R)
  • Charles Bridges, Christian Ministry (Banner of Truth)
  • Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Christian Heritage)
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Zondervan)
  • Michael Horton, A Better Way (Baker)
  • D.G. Hart and John Muether, With Reverence and Awe (P&R)
  • Edmund Clowney, The Church (IVP)
  • Samuel Logan, ed., The Preacher and Preaching (P&R)
  • Ernest Reisinger, Today's Evangelism: Its Message and Methods (P&R)
  • J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP)
  • R.B. Kuyper, God-Centered Evangelism (Banner of Truth)
  • John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad (Baker)
  • David Powlison, Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture (P&R)
  • John MacArthur and Wayne Mack, Introduction to Biblical Counseling (W Publishing Group)
  • Paul Vitz, Psychology as Religion (Eerdmans)
  • Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict (Baker)
  • J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Eerdmans)
  • Michael Horton, Where in the World is the Church?
  • D. G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism
  • David Wells, God in the Wasteland (Eerdmans)
  • John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Crossway)
  • William Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (Allyn and Bacon); Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (Simon and Schuster);
  • William Zinsser, On Writing Well (Quill Press) Joseph Williams, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace (University of Chicago)
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Gotham)
  • Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (University of Chicago)

08 August, 2009

Intimacy With God Following the Sacrament

Reflection consists in a continual looking unto and having fellowship with the Lord. "Walk before me and be perfect (Gen. 17.1)" "And Enoch walked with God (Gen. 5.24)". To that end it is necessary that one views God in Christ as a reconciled Father. Even when spiritual light dissipates, if one falls into sin and strife comes, he must nevertheless hold fast to the immovable-ness of the covenant. It is neither your feeling nor your standing or falling which determines the steadfastness or stability of the covenant; rather it is based on the immutability of God. "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you, (Is. 54.10). "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed (Mal 3.6)" Therefore do not succumb so readily, hold fast to what you have, be steadfast in faith, and conduct yourself manfully. If according to your feeling, you cannot conculde to the certainty of your state, then make the conclusion judgementally. Observe this in the following passage: "Likewise reckon also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ our Lord (Rom 6.1); because we thus judge that if one died for all, then we are all dead (2Cor 5.14)." Therefore setthe Lord continually before you and live in a continual dialogue with him- at one time pray, then ask for counsel, then express your dependance upon him, then wait upon Him, then reverently worship Him, and rest in Him, then thank Him, and again, offer yourself to His service. Aquaint yourself with Him.

All salvation, comfort, delight, holiness, and felicity for the soul is to be found in having fellowship with God. Such a soul perceives the righteousness of God as being only light, glorious, and pure- she loves it and rejoices herself in it, doing so all the more, since this righteousness is not against her unto condemnation, but the surety having merited this, it is to her advantage. The soul also perceives the goodness and all sufficiency of of God, and in enjoying their efficacy, she not only is unable to find any desirability in creatures apart from God, but apart from God there is nothing which she desires, since the soul finds everything from God. The soul also perceives the holiness of God. Since she is unable to endure its luster, she covers her countanance and perceives in this luster her own sinfulness; and for shame, she shrivels away, so to speak and becomes nothing. The soul also perceives the love of God and being irridated by this love, she delights herself in a most wonderous way, reciprocal love being ignited with her. She perceives the will of Godas being uppermost and sovereign over all things. Thus she loses her own will in whatever suffering comes her way and in whatever duties are before her. She wishes it to be thus becaue it is the Lord's will. The soul perceives the majesty and glory of God, in comparison with herself deeply before the majesty of God, worships him with deep reverence and gives glory to him. She perceives the omnipotence of God, both within Himself and as its opperatives toward his creatures. Then the power of the creature, which manifests itself either for or against her will, disappears. She sees the wisdom of God as revealing itself in all His works- both in nature as well as in grace. Thus the wisdom of all creatures melts away and she is quieted and well-satisfied with the only wise government of God. The soul also perceives the veracity and faithfulness of God. She is aqauainted with the promises, believes them, and is so confident as far as the certainty of these promises is concerned that it is as if they were already fulfilled.

All this engenders a thoughtful and steadfast spiritual frame, quiet submission in whatever circumstances the soul encounters, a fearless courage in the performance of her duty, and a delighting herself in the task she has for the Lord, leaving the outcome with resignation to the Lord's direction. Such a life is truly a joyful life, and pure holiness issues forth from this. She acknowledges any virtue which is not practiced by having God in Christ in view, as a vice. Such fellowship with God is heaven itself: I Thes. 4.17-18; Ps. 16.11; Ps. 17.15; Jer 33.3.

Behold such is the eminent felicity of fellowhip iwth God. Since you have entered into covenant with God, however, and this covenant has been sealed to you, you thus have the privledge to walk humbly with your God- thus also being your duty. Therefore, aquaint yourself with the Lord, have peace, and let your holiness shine forth. (Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 2; pp.596-8)

03 August, 2009

A New-Old Psalter Conversation

De Regno Christi is having a discussion on the RPCNA's new Psalter. You are free to join in the conversation here. As with anything that is new, there will be those in favor and those who like the old ways better.

This is not how De Regno Christi is dealing with the matter though. They are discussing principles instead of preferences. Join in the conversation.


01 August, 2009

May We Pray to 'The Father' Only? Or Can We Pray to Christ and the Spirit?

A number of years ago I was talking with a saint who was well into his 80s. He was Netherlands Reformed by birth, but had wandered into the Presbyterian camp in his later years. During a conversation on prayer, I remember him saying that he has never prayed to Christ or to the Holy Spirit because the the model of our prayers (the Lord's Prayer) does not allow it.

Thomas Watson answered this pious objection, 308 years before this conversation took place between Mr. W and myself. Watson says,

Though the Father be named in the Lord's Prayer, yet the other two Persons are not excluded. The Father is mentioned because he is the first in order; but the Son and the Holy Ghost are included because they are the same in essence. As all three Persons subsist in one Godhead, so, in our prayers, though we name but one person, we must pray to all. To come more closely to the first words of the preface, 'Our Father.' Princes on earth give themselves titles expressing their greatness, and 'High and Mighty'. God might have done so, and expressed himself as thus, 'Our King of Glory, our Judge'. But he gives us another title, 'Our Father', an expression of love and condescension. That he might encourage us to pray to Him, he represents himself under the sweet notion of a Father. Sweet is the name of the Father. The name Jehovah carries majesty in it: the name of the Father carries mercy. (Lord's Prayer, 3)

So, we see, that we can pray to the Father, the Son, or the Spirit, and when we do so, we are praying to each because they share the same essence. The name 'Father' was not given to exclude prayer to the Son or the Spirit- but instead, was given as an encouragement that we can approach God, through Christ, as a Father, and not merely as a judge.

27 July, 2009

The Theatre of Glory

Many will claim that Calvinists and Puritans were ones to reject the notion of theater. They will cite the Westminster Larger Catechism where it says, "...lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancing, stage plays; all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others..." are a violation of the seventh commandment.

Of course, what is not realized is that the Divines are not rejecting stage plays, but ones that are lascivious. Theater is all around us.

Calvin himself saw the whole world as a place of theater. He saw it as the theater of God in which his glory and wonder was played out before humanity, where the unfolding of the drama of redemption took place for His glory. He said, "Ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze... And since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace. Yet... wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some spark of his glory (1.5.1)." What that means is that his glory is being shone around us in theatric measures!

David Hall, also speaking of the theater of glory says for Calvin, "Every aspect of life, from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God. Creation is depicted as a platform for God's glory or a dazzling theater displaying God's glorious works."

23 July, 2009

Where is God Working Wonderous Deeds? A: In Sudan.

Sometimes as Reformed Christians we get discouraged. Where is God working in mighty ways? Why can't we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we did in Acts, or during the Reformation, or during great times of revival in the past? We ask these questions and we forget that God is always at work, always building his Church, always bringing the number of the elect unto himself.

Here is an update from the RP Mission team to Sudan. We stand in awe of God's outpouring of grace in Sudan. Please remember them in your prayers and if you are so inclined, to remember them with a gift as well. (Financial information for giving can be found here.)

Read what the Lord has done in the past couple of weeks:

This past Lord's Day we experienced a time of tremendous blessing at the Mangar Akuac Mission Church. Forty-four people were baptized in the name of the true and living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was particularly exciting to see elderly men and ladies come forward to consecrate their lives to God through faith in Jesus Christ. I remember surveying the congregation at one point toward the end of the service and catching a sight of glory - beaming faces, glistening heads. The sunlight was streaming into the church through a large gap at the apex of the thatched roof of the country church. It made the residual beads of water from baptism look like studded jewels and diamonds on the ebony black skin of my new brothers and sisters in Christ. Ministry is full of hardships, heartaches and setbacks. There are frustrations and concerns that perpetually burden our hearts. But this sight of God's glory over the lives of His recently redeemed people infused something into my heart, a strangely polarized emotion, something between a sigh of relief and a booster cable jolt. As I think about it now, I believe the Lord was communicating divine truths to my tired heart: "Relax, rest, I will bring to completion the good work I have begun in My people. Andrew, I will cause My name to be glorified in all the earth!" Dear prayer partners, isn't it comforting to know that God will succeed in His kingdom causes, to know that the risen Christ, who is King over all, will bring to pass all of His plans! Following the worship service we marched over to three different compounds to uproot and destroy long-standing family idols.

I'm reminded of Paul's words to the believers at Thessalonica: "They report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." It' hard to describe the step of faith it is for new believers to turn from their idols, to actually yank them out of the ground and toss them into the fire. At the first compound I spoke to the people about the exceedingly great power of our God who cast Satan down and triumphed over him through the cross of His Son. To make things clear, I felt led by the Spirit to do something somewhat Elijah-like. I sat my rump down on the biggest and most obvious of the compound idols (a 5 inch-wide, 30 inch high carved stick with a notched knob at the top). The people were shocked as I addressed them from my perch. I said, "If the god of this stick is stronger than the true God of heaven and earth, let him come and strike me down! Let him come and defend his idol." Well, I waited... and nothing happened! Then in the suspense of the moment it dawned on them: "The God of the Bible is the real God!" The silence erupted into spontaneous clapping and singing and dancing. I must say, I was praising God, too! Then the men of the church (and not a few zealous ladies!) laid their hands on the idol and cast it down. The idols and charms were removed from the compound, including a goat's head and various amulets, and cast into a raging fire, symbolic of Satan's eternal and infernal demise. After more singing and a word of exhortation, we returned to the compound for prayers of consecration and protection. And so it went from compound to compound. By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted, the people tremendously encouraged and, I believe, our Lord and Saviour wonderfully glorified in the expansion of His kingdom.

On behalf of the Team,
Pastor Andrew (Madingdit)

PS. Pray for all the new believers in Mangar Akuac that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; that they would be rooted and grounded in Him who alone can sanctify them entirely and preserve them complete until the day of His return (1 Thess.5:23,24).

03 July, 2009

Culture Wars: Is It Really New?

We hear a lot about the so-called 'culture wars' today and a great deal of us think that this is a relatively new thing. The truth is that since God first pronounced judgment on the serpent of old in the Garden, there has been a culture war. From this time there have been two cultures emerging. The first is the culture of the serpent. His culture is that of this world strives for power, popularity, and fame. The second is the culture of 'the seed'. This is the culture that attempts to live unto the glory of God as we patiently look forward the full redemption of His creation and the consummation of all things.

But there is also a culture war, of sorts, within the 'culture of the seed'. What is role of this culture? Are we retreatists who are called to make Christian communities that are apart from the world? Are we called to create monasteries and live in pious huddles? Or are we called to be transformers of culture and have dominion as God has commanded? Are we salt and light in the midst of darkness or are we something else? Something that God has not commanded?

The 20th century hero amongst Presbyterians, JG Machen, spoke to this issue in 1913 at Princeton Theological Seminary. It illustrates that we are not in a new battle; we just have forgotten those who were fighting before our time. Machen said,

In the first place, Christianity may be subordinate to culture. That solution really, though to some extend unconciously, is being favored in a very large and influential portion of the Church today. For the elimination of the supernatural in Christianity- so tremendously common today- really makes Christianity merely natural. Christianity becomes a mere human product, a mere part of human culture... The second solution goes to the opposite extreme. In its efforts to give religion a clear field, it seeks to destroy culture. This solution is better than the first. Instead of indulging in a shallow optimism or deification of humanity, it recognizes the profound evil of the world, and does not shrink form the most heroic remedy... Therefore, it is argued that the culture of this world must be a matter at least of indifferene to the Christian... Are then Christianity and culture in a conflict to be settled only by the destruction of one or the other of the contending forces? A third solution, fotunately, is possible- namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God.

14 May, 2009

Puritan Reformed Seminary Graduation

Puritan Reformed Seminary will broadcast their graduation LIVE at 7:30 PM Eastern Time on Friday, May 15th.

You can watch it here. Click Students. Then Graduation. You need to wait a moment as it loads.

I will waive to you all!

07 May, 2009

Jesus Builds His Church: PRTS Update, May, 2009

As Reformed Christians, we hold the testimony of a sovereign Redeemer who controls and governs all things by the power of His hand. At the same time, we are often people who are discouraged at the state of our churches and the lack of growth that we see in the Reformed community. We wonder, “What are we doing wrong? What would God have us do in order to see biblical church growth?”

In times of discouragement, as well as in times of great encouragement, it is always important to remember that the church is being built, and that Jesus Christ has promised to build her. In the verse preceding this, Jesus tells Peter that he is blessed for confessing Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. This confession would serve as a basis and foundation for the church being built throughout history. Year after year, throughout all of church history, men and women, boys and girls, have confessed this same confession for the saving of their souls and the building of Christ’s church.

The church is also built through conflict. In our minds, conflict is a bad thing, a divisive problem; but Jesus says that conflict will be part of the building materials of His church. This conflict is between the church and “the gates of hell.” There is an offensive as well as a defensive way to read this portion of the text. The imagery is that the church is on the attack against wickedness and sin. This is done through the preaching of the Word, through evangelism, through the church interacting with the culture around her, and through participation in the public sphere. This aspect of the conflict cannot be won by building walls around ourselves or being in a “holy huddle”; we are in battle, and the church that Christ is building is built through conflict. It is a call to arms! How many times has the church of Christ been attacked, only to blossom, grow, and flourish under satanic persecution? How often have the laws of men and the powers and principalities of darkness attempted to suppress the church, only to make her confess more loudly and more clearly? The church is built through conflict!

We also see in this part of Matthew’s gospel that the church is built through “keys.” Jesus uses the terminology of binding and loosing to show that the church has great power and responsibility in discipling her members. This may sound like a strange way to build — through discipline — but that is the way of Christ. Discipline involves more than admonition and excommunication. These are real and biblical aspects to discipline, but they are hardly the whole picture. Discipline begins with disciples, or those who are followers of Christ, discipled by Him. We are under this great church builder, and He is telling us that the church that He is building is one in which His followers are going to be students of Him. They will study His ways, His Word, and His will, and He will build.

So should we be discouraged as Reformed Christians? There are times when we need to bring our confession before Christ and ask Him to make it clearer. There are times when we need to bring our conflicts before Christ and ask Him to make them victorious. There are times when we need to bring the keys before Christ and ask Him to make us better disciples. But be discouraged? No! Jesus Christ promised to build His church and the evidence over the past two thousand years is abundantly clear: He is a faithful builder!

Original Article found here.

30 April, 2009

The Vomit of the Soul: Christian Confession

Confession is when we confide in a fellow Christian and we share the struggles that have been hindering a greater fellowship with Christ and the Church.

One Puritan said, “Confession is an act of mortification, it is as it were the vomit of the soul; It breeds a dislike of the sweetest morsels when are they are cast up in loathesome ejections. Sin is sweet in commission but bitter in the remembrance. God's children find that their hatred is never more keen and exasperated against sin than in confessing.” (Thomas Manton, 457).

What a vivid description for confession. The vomit of the soul- it is all of the stuff that sin has produced within us and as we confess that to our fellow Christians- we find that we are feeling better and our relationship with Christ is better. As we confess our sins to a confidential and compassionate brother or sister- we are more equipped to hate sin and to fight against sin.

One of Satan's greatest tactics in spiritual warfare is convincing Christians that nobody in all the world shares the same struggles with you. There is this lie that is told that you are in your sin alone and that if you shared it you would be so out of touch with the struggles of everyone else, that it is better to never share it.

This is untrue, of course. Christians struggle with a whole host of sins, and we are called to bring them confidentially and compassionately to a trusted brother, friend, or counselor.

Confess to one another.

14 April, 2009

What Are Preachers Reading?

Today I went into the 'deacon's office' and noticed a pamphlet from a well-known Christian book publisher called 'Pastor's Bargains: Low Prices for Those on the Front Lines'. I decided to paruse it to see what this publisher is recommending for pastor's to read.

Sad mistake. I believe that the books that pastors read is reflective of the health and well-being of the Church. As pastors we should be reading books about the Scripture and books to deepen our knowledge of Theology. The occasional 'issues' book is to be thrown in as well.

The books that this pamphlet suggested for pastors to read included:

1 Book on a deeper prayer life.
1 Book on the Majestic Nature of Jesus Christ.
3 Sports Biographies
11 Self Help Books
2 Books on 'Success'
1 Leadership Book

That is 10% dealing with Christianity (prayer and Jesus) and 90% dealing with pop-psychology, entertainment, or management issues.

Pray for your pastors. Pray that they are reading books that will benefit the Church of Christ and be used to advance Christ's Kingdom in the earth.

09 April, 2009

You Are Not A Christian!?

Boice, commenting on Jesus' words about loving each other as evidence of being in Christ:

If people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative that Jesus gave them. [He then quotes Schaeffer] 'And we must not get angry. If people say you do not love other Christians, we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right. And if they are, then they have a right to have said what they said.'

04 April, 2009

Sabbath a'Brakel: Reflection on the Lord's Supper

'Did you receive peace, quietness, hope, assurance, and joy? Did you sweetly cleave to the Lord, doing so while weeping, without much comfort? Or could you entrust it all to the Lord, and did you in love, lean on the beloved, Did the Lord manifest Himself to you in a special manner with extraordinary revelations, or by granting clear and powerful assurance? Reflect upon these and similar matters. Do not deny what you have received; highly esteem the very least thing. If the soul can thus engage itself in quiet meditation, the Lord's Supper will have a sweet aftertaste. One will perceive his failures and his acknowledge the free grace of God, His goodness, and His benevolence. It will be a renewal of friendship, and be as a wedding dinner, treating Jesus to His own dainties, saying, 'Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat His pleasant fruits'. Yes, you may then receive that blessing during reflection which you missed while partaking of the Lord's Supper. (II. 594)

16 March, 2009

D James Kennedy and Billy Graham?

Coral Ridge PCA in Ft. Lauderdale FL, where D. James Kennedy pastored for 50 years, has called Billy Graham's grandson to be their new pastor.

Read it here.

15 March, 2009

Sabbath a'Brakel: Communion of the Saints

How refreshing it is for God's children, being hated by the world, to have communion with each other, to make their needs known to each other, and in love and familiarity to have communion with each other! They exercise communion with God's church in general (which is dispersed over the entire face of the earth), as being the sole people of God, as being the sole adherents to the truth and the way of salvation, and as confessing Christ alone to be their Head. Since they have the very same Spirit in common, as well as the same interests, they thus rejoice when the church prospers, and likewise grieve when elsewhere the church does not fare well. Their prayers and thanksgiving are for the church in general. They exercise communion with the church within the kingdom or republic in which they are subjects, as well as with the specific congregation of the city or village in which they reside. Yes, their communion is most specifically with the godly, doing so, however, within the context of the church. They may have a special relationship with some, which, however, does not cause them to separate themselves from the church or to cause schism within the church, since they cherish the church above their chief joy upon earth (II: 100).

12 March, 2009

TIME Magazine's Take on The New Calvinists

TIME magazine has an article on the resurgence of Calvinism as generation X's brand of Christianity. It encourages me to see that even the world is acknowledging that God is on the move.

Read it here.

11 March, 2009

Growth in Your Profession

The Hebrew Christians were struggling and were ready to 'throw in the towel'. The persecutions were too much, the slander was too much, the difficulties of maintaining their profession of faith was too much.

The author of Hebrews (lets call him Paul), comes along and he says, 'brothers, sisters, hold fast your profession,' meaning hold it tightly. Do not allow it to be let go of.

Commenting on Paul's words to the Hebrews, John Owen writes, "Their [The Hebrew Christians] faith, their love, their diligence, were decayed; and they performed not the works they had some time been fruitful in. And in all these things are men liable to let go their profession. Again, growth and progress in all these is required of professors. The kingdom of God is a growing thing, and out to be so in all them in whom it is by its grace, and who are in it by the observation of its laws."

02 March, 2009

R Scott Clark ON John Calvin ON Musical Instruments in Worship

Dr. R. Scott Clark (URC ruling elder and professor at Westminster West) is doing a good job defending his one paragraph blog post on Instruments in Worship. Join the fun here. If you don't want to join the fun, at least you could read his book.

28 February, 2009

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Privledges of Sonship

I wanted to let my readers know that I am still here and that I do intend on blogging regularly again. Starting the ministry here in Los Angeles has been very quite time consuming (in a good way). I look forward to being on a more regular schedule and being able to blog again as a part of that schedule. Today, the congregation was together for a planning day (lecture here) and I was encouraged by some in the congregation to take up the 'pen'.

On another, very important note, today marks my and Lydia's 7 year anniversary of marriage.

Sabbath a'Brakel....

(1) God cherishes them as His children with a fatherly love. Oh wondrous love! God, who is love, sets His infinite love in motion to cherish with love such persons who in themselves are hateful, despicable, and condemnable. This love is not generated by the desirability of the object, but it originates within Himself, being desirous to love and to love specific individuals. Observe the following concerning this love: "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3) [II:421].

(2) God has His eye upon them as a Father, to keep them so that no evil will befall them. "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore" (Psa. 121:3-8). How safely may such a child rest and trust under the shadow of His wings! He need neither fear nor be careful, for the Lord cares for him (1 Pet. 5:7) [II:421].

(3) Since He preserves them, He cares for them in all that they need according to body and soul, so that they need not be concerned as to what they shall eat and drink and wherewithal they shall be clothed, for their heavenly Father knows what they stand in need of. He who feeds the fowls of the air and clothes the lilies of the field with more glory than even a Solomon, will He not provide food and clothing for His dear children? The Lord Jesus impresses this upon us in this convincing manner in Matthew 6:25 (II: 422).

(4) God has compassion and pity with them in all their bodily and spiritual ailments. It pleases the Lord to lead His children to heaven through many adversities and tribulations, in order that they may thus learn to know and feel their sins, be kept humble, be weaned from the world, be stirred up to prayer, be motivated to trust in Him, to attentively acknowledge His help and His preceding grace, to give all things into His hands and to be satisfied with His government (II: 422).

(5) Since they are children, God hears and answers them as their loving Father. As children they take refuge to their Father in their perplexity and by reason of this relationship they call Him, "Abba, Father!" In an intimate manner they bring their needs before Him, and with teary eyes they tell Him what their sorrow is. They cry out, "My Father, the cross is so heavy and it is so very painful for me; it lasts so long and I do not see my way through. Thou art able to help me, however, for Thou hast promised it and Thou dost indeed have compassion with me. Therefore, my Father! help me, support me, and deliver me!" The Lord looks upon such children in love, and is pleased with their childlike complaints and their taking refuge to Him. He shall most certainly answer them and deliver them at His time and in His manner. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13); "How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" (Mat. 7:11) [II: 423].

(6) Since they are children, they are free (II: 423). [1] They are free from the covenant of works. [2] They are also free from the old ceremonial administration. [3] They are free from the power of Satan, who will neither have power nor dominion over them as he did prior to their conversion (2 Tim. 2:26). [4] They are free from the dominion of sin. [5] They are free from eternal condemnation (II: 423-424).

(7) Since they are children, they are also heirs of God, that is, of all the temporal, spiritual, and eternal benefits of the covenant of grace. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). What an unspeakable inheritance this is! They may indeed exclaim, "The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psa. 16:5-6); "Oh how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!" (Psa. 31:19) [II: 424).

10 February, 2009

Jesus' Creative Joy

When thinking about Jesus' relationship to the Church we do not often think of his 'creative joy' in creating, sustaining, and loving a church. His relationship to us should also be reflected in our relationship with the Church and with the outside world. The Church is also to be a place of creative joy where we live joyful Christian lives.

The joy of Jesus is the joy that arises from the sense of a finished work. It is a creative joy, like the joy of the artist. It produces a sense of unexausted power for fresh creation. This joy in the heart of Jesus is both the joy of victory , and the sense of having brought His Church into being. It is an inspiring thought that Jesus calls his followers into that joy. The Christian life is not some shallow, insipid, following of a traditional pattern. It is a life characterized by unexausted and inexaustable power for fresh creation. (New International Commentary on the New Testament, John, p.598.)

07 February, 2009

Sabbath a'Brakel: My God, In Christ

It is essential that one considers God to be His God in Christ. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God is to be found in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Outside of Christ, God is a terror, and can only be viewed as terror, and can only be viewed as a consuming fire. In Christ, however, one may have liberty; and God reveals Himself to such who approach unto Him in that way. Then one will be able to better endure the light of God’s countenance, rejoice in it, and therein glorify God. One ought to be cautious, however, of becoming too free and irreverent when considering God as Father in Christ and in the contemplation upon His perfections which are unveiled by the covenant of grace (I: 138).

02 February, 2009

Sermon Audio

The Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church has launched a Sermon Audio site. Sermons will be posted, Lord willing, soon after they have been preached. You can check it out here. You can also see a number of other RPCNA congregations here.

31 January, 2009

Sabbath a'Brakel: How Often Should I Read the Word?

The eunuch read while riding in his chariot (Acts 8:28). The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). How everyone ought to practice this in private, prior to going to work, both by himself alone, and with his family! At noon when one nourishes his body, he ought also to nourish his soul. In the evening after work, one must end the day by seeking some refreshment from the Word of God. In the meantime, while engaged in his occupation, by meditating upon what has been read, the soul will maintain communion with God. He will be enabled to understand the spiritual meaning as well as to experience the power of God's Word. This will cause the soul to grow in grace, protect against vain thoughts, control the tongue, suppress corruptions, and direct man to fear God (I: 77).

12 January, 2009

Prayer For First Reformed Presbyterian Church

Yesterday I preached my last two sermons as the pastoral intern of First Reformed Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids. Today my family and I begin our journey west as we seek to be obedient to the Lord's call for our lives.

Please pray for us as we begin this new phase of life and ministry.

Here is the doxology from last night's evening service. It is a selection from Psalm 122 from the 1912 United Presbyterian Psalter.


I pray the Lord that peace may still
Within thy walls abound,
And ever in thy palaces
Prosperity be found.

Yea, for the sake of friends and kin,
My heart desires thy peace,
And for the house of God the Lord
My care shall never cease.

Thank you people of First Reformed Presbyterian Church for 10 years and 2 months of love and pastoral care. Our friendship will have eternal rewards.

06 January, 2009

True Worship Involves Confidence in God and Reverence For God

John Calvin understood that true religion was one which reverenced God, had confidence in His promises, and resulted in worship according to His Word.

We live in an age where many Christians will say that they have confidence in the promises of God. We live in an age where Christians find the concept of 'fear for God' as something foreign. We hear a lot about the love of God, which is good and biblical, but the Scriptures (even the New Testament Scriptures, mind you) show that we are to fear God because he is a consuming fire. His holiness next to our unholiness should leave us quite humbled. We also live in an age where the 'what does this text mean to you' method of biblical study is supreme. This is foreign to the Scriptures- God has said how we are to worship Him, and God has prescribed what pleases him.

As we care for and reverence God, we should also consider how the Word of God reveals what true piety is. What is true religion? Calvin answered it this way:

Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear - fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.

03 January, 2009

Sabbath a'Brakel: How Satan Plans on Attending the Lord's Supper

The devil knows that the Lord commonly blesses the assembly of believers, the ministry of the Word, and the partaking of the Lord's Supper. Therefore, he goes along to church and will seek to implement his practices upon you there also (IV: 240).