Our newest bible story book is now available for purchase!

JEHOVAH'S MIGHTY ACTS

Bible Stories by Nathan J. Langerak
Illustrated by Michael Welply

NOW AVAILABLE!

Stories of salvation and might: The creation of the world, God’s word to Adam and Eve after the fall, the worldwide flood, God raising up Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, God’s provision of manna in the wilderness, and the Jews’ return home after seventy years of captivity—these are all saving acts of Jehovah towards his covenant people in the Old Testament. And they all show one of God’s most important perfections: though his people often sin against him and are unfaithful, God is always faithful to his covenant promises he makes with his people in Jesus Christ.

The first book in the Tell His Wonders series of Bible stories, the stories and accompanying illustrations in Jehovah’s Mighty Acts are a tool for parents of the church to use in the instruction of their children about the theme and truth of Jehovah’s mighty acts of salvation in the Old Testament, mighty acts which pointed to the mightiest act of all—salvation in Jesus Christ.

96 pages
hardcover
Retail: $24.95
Book club: $21.21
(NOTE: This book is being sent automatically to book club members. A notice had gone out prior to this book's release about the option of opting out of receiving this title).
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NATHAN J. LANGERAK is a minster in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. He is the author of Walking in the Way of Love, a two-volume commentary on the book of 1 Corinthians. He and his wife and their six children live in Crete, Illinois.

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Thankfulness

This article was written by Rev. G. VandenBerg in the December 1, 1965 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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Our communion form delineates the walk of gratitude of the Christian as the laying aside unfeignedly of all enmity, hatred, and envy and a firm resolution to walk in true love and peace with the neighbor. Such conduct evidences true thankfulness to God because it is only the regenerated child of God who can and will do these things and in the practice of them he is deeply conscious that "by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:10). Human nature cannot and will not submit to God's ordinance of love for "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). All the works of the flesh are characterized by "enmity, hatred, and envy", the very things which the child of God strives by grace to put off. Thankfulness, which is the fruit of regeneration, springs to manifestation in a life of uprightness before God. 

The essence of that life is love and in the concrete manifestation of the love of God in our walk therefore lies the proof that we are born of God and are made partakers of his communion and that of his saints. In the living experience of that love lies the conscious enjoyment of all the blessings of salvation while the absence of that love creates total spiritual vacuum in the consciousness of man. 

It is not particularly striking then that the word of God in countless places emphasizes the importance of love in the conversation of the saints. Jesus tells us that it constitutes the core of the entire law of God in that well known summary: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40).

The elect of God are enjoined in Colossians 3:12–14 to "put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." But this is not enough for to this large order is added "And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness." Love supersedes all the rest. There can be no kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, or any spiritual practice without love. 

In this light we would also consider that classic passage on love that is found in first Corinthians 13. Though we speak with the tongue of men and of angels, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, have all knowledge and faith, give our goods to the poor and our bodies to be burned; if we lack LOVE we are nothing and all these things profit us nothing. 

This is basically because without love we do not have God. GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16). We note this text because in the present connection it is especially significant for there is added: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him." And although this is certainly true as applied to our entire life in the midst of the present world, it is especially true in application to the Lord's Supper. God communes at his table with his people in love and there he bestows upon them the riches of his grace as they dwell in him and he in them. That is exactly why it is so important that in our self-examination we discover within ourselves that spiritual desire and determination to walk in love with our neighbor. This love is the proper expression of our thankfulness to God for the apostle John also writes: "Beloved, if God so loved us, (so as to send his Son to be the propitiation for our sins) we ought also to love one another. . . . .If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is made perfect in us" (1 John 4:11–12).

We cannot walk in enmity and hate of the brother, refuse to seek reconciliation with the brother, bear a grudge in our soul against the brother and refuse to see him about it and expect to have fellowship with God. Love, which is the emulation of the virtue of God himself, demands another way. Love is "kind, it envieth not, it vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:4–6). Love admonishes and seeks to save always. It is reflected practically in the attitude of which James speaks: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:19–20).

Do we so love? 

That is the criterion by which the genuineness of our professed gratitude is to be gauged. Without love our gratitude is carnality. Verbal expressions of thanksgiving without love are but so many empty sounds. That is love that responds to the commandments of God in the whole of life and out of the doing of his word comes forth a true expression of thanksgiving. 

The Application of the Keys of the Kingdom 

"All those, then, who are thus disposed, God will certainly receive in mercy, and count them worthy partakers of the table of his Son Jesus Christ." With this statement the communion form continues to explain how the keys of the kingdom of God are applied to the participants at the communion table. The statement itself is positive and assures the true believers that God will certainly dwell with them in the communion of his Son Jesus Christ. They will receive the benefits of this holy institution and they may eat and drink by faith in the assurance that God has given unto them eternal life. The phrase, "who are thus disposed," does not refer alone to the part of the self-examination that deals with the matter of gratitude but it includes all of the foregoing. Those who know their sin and misery, are conscious of their own worthlessness; those who believe that Christ Jesus has unconditionally merited perfect righteousness for them and who, therefore, in the experience of that salvation are truly thankful unto God, God will receive in mercy at his table. Of course he will, for it is God himself who draws such in the way of that salvation unto his table where he feeds and nourishes them unto eternal life. 

But there is more. There is an opposite side to this picture. "On the contrary," states our Form, "those who do not feel this testimony in their hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves." The sacraments are subsidiaries of the preaching of the word and the effect of both is the same. Even as in the preaching of the word there is always a two-fold effect upon the hearers, so is there a two-fold working of God through the sacraments. The word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. At the table of the Lord we either eat and drink by faith unto the enjoyment of our salvation in Christ, or we eat and drink judgment unto ourselves. The sacrament never leaves us totally unaffected. It is not so that we can come away from the Lord's table as though we had not been there. The word of God speaks to us through the holy sacrament and it says one of two things: it proclaims either the truth of justification by faith which affords us conscious peace with God, or it declares to us that we are the objects of God's holy wrath and disfavor. Such is the implication of the term "judgment" here. It contains the idea of "condemnation" and, consequently, it is a judgment of God in which he finds and declares us to be guilty according to his law of love. 

Therefore it is necessary to warn and admonish those who are defiled with sin "to keep themselves from the table of the Lord, and declare to them that they have no part in the kingdom of Christ." 

Concerning this paragraph of the communion form we wish to make the following observations: 

First, the admonition to abstain from the Lord's Supper is not directed to all who at some time or another have defiled themselves with the sins here enumerated. Rather, it speaks of those who live in these sins, refuse to part with them and in whom therefore there are no marks of conversion. Those who have sinned and repented of their sins are spoken of a bit later.

Secondly, the list of sins given here is not intended as a complete list of censurable sins or sins for which one will be excommunicated from the fellowship of the church. Neither is it simply a catalog of sins that happened to be common in the days when this communion form was written. One would miss the point altogether who would attempt to clear himself for admission to the table of the Lord by attempting to show that he is not guilty of the specific sins mentioned. We do well to observe that in general this list of sins follows the order of and covers the ten commandments of the law of God and in that light we may conclude that the thrust of the admonition here is that all those who walk in defiance of God's word are warned to abstain from the holy supper. This is further indicated by the last thing mentioned in this series, namely, "and all who lead offensive lives." This cannot be taken in general as though the meaning is that all offense is sin. It is unavoidable that the walk of the Christian in the midst of the world will and does give offense to those who love iniquity but this is not meant. The offense is that which results from violating God's word. God is the offended one. The life of the sinner is offensive to him. He never looks upon such lives with a "little favor" but he abhors it utterly. And, thus, also all the sins previously enumerated are those that cause such offense. The list could without difficulty be greatly enlarged but this is not necessary. It is sufficient to show from these examples that those who in their walk of life act contrary to the commands of God, thereby demonstrate that they have no part in the kingdom of Christ and therefore cannot be received at his table. To allow this is to desecrate the Lord's table and thereby bring the wrath of God upon the entire congregation (Lord’s Day 30, Heidelberg Catechism). 

In the fourth place, the form explicitly states that they shall abstain from the Lord's table "while they continue in such sins". The way is open for repentance and a turning from sin but as long as one walks willfully in sin and then seeks place at the table of the Lord, he can do so only to the aggravation of his own judgment. His condemnation becomes heavier. 

Fifthly, this warning and admonition is not designed to instill fear or terror into the hearts of those that would seek admission to the table of the Lord. Among some people you find the notion quite prevalent that the table of the Lord is only for people of God who are virtually perfect. This is a serious mistake and, if the self-examination were then properly conducted, it would lead to the practical conclusion that no one could ever come to the table of the Lord. It is well to be cautious, and in our preparation for the celebration of the Lord's Supper we cannot be too careful that there remains willful sin in us; but the fact that sin is still present in us may not deject our hearts. We exactly come to the supper as sinners, as redeemed sinners, as thankful sinners. 

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Announcing a new book for teens on Christian dating!

DATING DIFFERENTLY
A Guide to Reformed Dating

by Joshua Engelsma

Coming October 2019!

We’re bombarded with antichristian messages everywhere in life, and from casual hookups to casual sex, our culture’s messages on dating are no different.

But Christians don’t have to follow these norms. The Bible gives us a better way.

It’s a way of chastity and wisdom. A way that understands that marriage—the end goal of dating—is for life. The person you marry will shape who you become spiritually. And that person will also be the father or mother to the children God is pleased to give you some day.

Pastorally and accessibly, Joshua Engelsma answers the practical questions of Reformed, Christian dating based on the truth that we must date differently—with marriage as the goal and scripture as the guide.

 

Joshua Engelsma is a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. He lives in Doon, Iowa, with his wife, Courtney, and five children. He has served as pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church since 2014.

 

Approx. 160 pages
Softcover
Retail: $16.95 
Book Club: $14.41

 

***This book will NOT be sent to all book club members. You must order this book to receive it.

Gold Star members will receive this title.

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Gone to Prepare a Place

 

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also." John 14:2, 3

Saying good-bye is always hard. 

That's especially true for those who love each other. 

It's part of dying, it's separation. 

The bleakness of such a moment is felt when you leave loved ones behind and move away. A congregation and minister encounter that pain when it's time for farewell. Parents stand helplessly silent as their son boards the plane for battle. The tension is most acute at the bedside of our dying loved ones. 

It's hard to say goodbye. We desire the presence of the person whom we love. We're afraid that we may never see them on earth again. 

Our text could be called a lover's farewell. 

Jesus was saying goodbye to his bride. That little band of eleven represented his church. Since he knew the pains of farewell, Jesus also knew that only one promise would console her, "I go…I will come again." To make certain that she understood, he sent angels at the triumphant moment of his ascension to re-affirm his promise, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." 

The Bridegroom was saying goodbye to his bride. 

He was about to leave her to get everything ready for the wedding. 

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The Ark's Return from Philistia

And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home: And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods, And the kine took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Bethshemesh. 1 Samuel 6:10-12

For seven months the ark of Israel's God had been in the land of the Philistines, and there was no longer any question with the Philistines that he was not under their power but that they were under his. The God of Israel had smitten them with the pestilence much in the same way he had smitten the Egyptians many years before. Everyone was covered with boils, open, sore and draining; many had died. It happened wherever the ark was brought, whether Ashdod, Gath or Ekron. No one could escape it. With swift destruction the hand of the God of Israel descended upon them. No incantation could drive it away. No form of medicine was able to heal. The invasion of mice which had gone before seemed bad at the time; but this was far worse. The damage done to Dagon in his temple was now all but forgotten because of the suffering that filled the land. The people cowered in fear. 

At last the priests and diviners, the wise men of the Philistines, were called together to do something to save the nation. There was no longer any question what the trouble was. Everyone knew and took it for granted, as much as they disliked the thought. The ark of Israel's God had proved to be for them, not a great victory as they had first expected, but their curse. The only question for these learned men was, "What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place." The ark of Jehovah had to be sent away. The only thing they feared was that they might not do it in the right way so that still greater judgments might descend upon them. 

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Faith Working by Love (2)

Powerless Alternatives

Two other things mentioned in verse 6 do not avail.

According to verse 6 there are two kinds of people “in Jesus Christ.” There are two kinds of Christians, two kinds of believers or two kinds of church members: the circumcision, believing Christians of a Jewish background; and the uncircumcision, believing Christians of a Gentile or pagan background.

In the New Testament “circumcision” is almost synonymous with “Jew.” Circumcision was the Jewish ceremony of initiation or the Old Testament sign of the covenant. In Paul’s day it was still the sign that distinguished the Jews from the other nations and the Jews boasted in their circumcision. The Judaizers thought that circumcision was so important that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved and justified before God (Acts 15:1). Moreover, circumcision signifies and represents the whole law, which is clear from the context: “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing; for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:2–4).

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Faith Working by Love

The issue in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is justification. How is a guilty sinner declared righteous before God? The answer: a sinner is justified before God on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ received by or through the instrument of faith alone without works.

Paul preached that gospel in Galatia. The saints in Galatia had received and believed that gospel. But false teachers infiltrated the churches. They brought a different message, the message that the sinner is justified on the basis of his obedience to the law of God; or that he is justified on the basis of good works; or that he justified on the basis of faith and good works.

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The Church and the Sacraments (Early Views of the Church)

Continuing with the early views of the organiza­tion of the church as entertained by the early church fathers, we now call attention to Irenaeus. In our preceding article we called attention to the views as expressed by Ignatius, one of the apostolic fathers and bishop of the church at Antioch. The great esteem in which he held the office of bishop appears from all his writings, although we also called attention to the fact that Ignatius also held the office of the presbyter or elder in high regard. Later the office of bishop was held in much higher esteem.

Irenaeus is reputed to have been the first to have advocated the institution of bishop as a diocesan of­fice and as the continuation of the apostolate. From him we quote the following quotation:

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tra­dition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the churches, and to demonstrate the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these heretics rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the “perfect” apart and privily from the rest, they would have de­livered them especially to those to whom they were committing the churches themselves. 

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The Belgic: "A Confession of the Gospel in all its riches"

The Belgic Confession: A Commentary, Volumes I–II by David J. Engelsma. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2018–19. 348 and 382 pages. Reviewed by Dr. H. David Schuringa, a reformed theologian living in West Michigan (as reviewed in the July 24, 2019 issue of Christian Renewal).

The publishing of Dr. David Engelsma’s two-volume commentary on the Belgic Confession is a welcome event due not only to its meaty content but also to meager current resources. The historic confession comprises a complete dogmatics in its own right as it follows the usual outline of the loci with the doctrines of the Word, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Ecclesiology and Eschatology.

Engelsma maintains, however, that though the con­fession is doctrinal and systematic, it is not a sys­tematic theology as such but rather, “the confession of the gospel in all its riches as this gospel is known by every illumined mind and embraced by every regenerated heart” (II:366f.). That is certainly true in large measure, which in turn makes these two volumes Engelsma’s own dogmatics of sorts. What Berkhof did for Bavinck, he does for Hoeksema.

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Remember Me!

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Luke 23:42

Everyone mocked the Christ when he hung on the cross.

The people stood beholding.

The rulers derided him, but also with them, that is, the people.

The soldiers mocked him.

Even the written word meant to deride him. The superscription on the cross was meant as a taunt of the ruler, the governor: This is the King of the Jews! Imagine: a King on a cross??!!

Yes, and even a man who was in the same judg­ment with Jesus mocked him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us!

Everyone derided and mocked Jesus.

But wait! There is one solitary exception: the other murderer.

He turns his tortured body toward the other mur­derer and after chiding him for mocking Jesus, he turns to Jesus and says: Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!

Marvel of marvels!

There is one in the whole universe that believes in the crucified one!

And he is a murderer.

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