Banner of Truth Tour (Carlisle, PA, Wed. PM)

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Banner of Truth Tour
Carlisle, PA, Wed. PM

One personal highlight from the trip East was a tour of the Banner of Truth warehouse in Carlisle, PA (about 30 minutes from the conference). The tour was pushed back until late Wednesday night. But it was worth the wait.

Steve, who manages the US branch of the Banner of Truth, was gracious enough (at 11:00 PM last night!) to drive me down so I could see the warehouse. It was a great treat.

The Banner of Truth offices and warehouse in Carlisle are sandwiched by condos in what seemed to be a residential area. The Banner building itself is a very long and narrow with two levels of offices in the front and warehouse in the back. The first books you see in the entry are the damaged volumes (most only slightly damaged). These volumes sell at 50-percent off. Also in the entry are a few desks (one of another Banner friend, Beth). Another set of offices is directly upstairs. From the entry you walk back to the packing room. This room holds a handful of copies of each Banner book and a table outfitted for packaging. From this packing room and through an industrial door, you enter in to the large warehouse. The warehouse is mainly a large metal structure where the pallets and bulk stacks of individual volumes are stored. The paperbacks are stored on the second level and the hardcover books on the main level. The warehouse was very tidy. To the far back of the warehouse and along one of the walls were the new arrivals from Edinburgh. Many of these volumes were on crates and simple boxes.

I was greatly surprised at the volume of works warehoused and (by consequence) gratefully surprised at the amount of books the Banner must sell on a regular basis. So having personally seen the impact of authors like John Bunyan in my own life, it was an especially moving experience to see a stack of hundreds of copies of his works. Or to see thousands of copies of Expository Thoughts on John by J.C. Ryle or stacks of boxes of the Works of John Owen or a pile of Spurgeon’s autobiography or to see 10,000 copies of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. Walking through the Banner warehouse was a powerful experience — not merely as a bibliophile – but as a Christian who has experienced the powerful content of these works in drawing me closer to Christ and His Cross.

What will become of this stack of John Bunyan or Jonathan Edwards? This will be left in the hands of our Sovereign God. But we can be sure there will be new readers who, through the work of the Banner staff, will be introduced to a new world of reading, to new authors and new books. And through this introduction these readers will be eternally changed for the glory of God. My personal experience of these volumes and my expectations for a new generation of readers is what made a tour of the Banner warehouse so special. It was a great experience, even if it was midnight before we returned to Grantham.

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A few choice pictures. Here are some books in the packing room.

Stacks of boxes filled with Spurgeon’s autobiography.

The Works of John Bunyan. Isn’t this beautiful?

Two crates filled with Edwards’ Religious Affections (perhaps 10,000 copies).

The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray.

Ryle on John (vol. 3).

The warehouse.

 

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT pictures

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GRANTHAM, PA — Hello again everyone. We have been treated to wonderful messages on holiness by Derek Thomas and Sinclair Ferguson. The overwhelming content in each presentation has made it difficult to get summaries up quickly so they will be coming over time. The photographs from the conference are more speedily available. Here are a few from today.

Sinclair Ferguson

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

Sinclair Ferguson walk through the bookstore

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Sinclair Ferguson walk through the bookstore (Tues. PM)

GRANTHAM, PA — One of the great joys of the conference Tuesday night was experiencing Sinclair Ferguson’s now-famous book recommendations and discounts. After the sessions were over for the day, the men packed into the bookstore and Ferguson walked around highlighting volumes particularly important in his own growth. Each book he held up was then marked down between 60 and 75-percent for the conference. To hear Ferguson rattle of a list of books and why they are important was a great treat. For various reasons, books included the sermons of M’Cheyne, the memoirs of Thomas Boston, Biblical Theology by Vos, The Upper Room by J.C. Ryle (for chapter 3 on preaching), Faith and Life by B.B. Warfield, the first volume of the biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. There were many others. (If you were there and transcribed a list of books recommended please leave them in the comments.) It would have been great to get this recorded in audio. Maybe next time.

Here are the photographs from the Sinclair Ferguson field trip through the BoT conference bookstore last night.

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Sesson 1 > Ben Short

Session 1 – Tuesday PM
“The Antidote to Discouragement”
Ben Short

GRANTHAM, PA — The 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference began with a message directed towards discouragement in the pastorate. Ben Short is a seasoned pastor who recently retired from 40 years of pastoring and is most certainly qualified to minister to those who are discouraged.

His text was built from Philippians 1, and especially verse 21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Ministry is filled with struggles that tend towards discouragement. The minister battles with the influences of worldliness, individualism, extreme subjectivism, anti-authoritarianism and postmodernism. And the church is not immune to this society around us. Ministers preach, but often the hearers quickly forget the sermons, we see backsliding, and people fall into the sins of the culture. Discouragement in the life of the pastor is a powerful tool of Satan.

Often when the rubber of theological idealism (in the mind of the pastor) hits the road of reality there is great discouragement. This discouragement can lead a pastor into depression and this leads to a heartless labor, professionalism of pastoral ministry, neglected prayer, jealousy of the successes of other, cynicism, anger towards congregation, etc.

When it comes to discouragement, pastors are not alone. Paul knew about hardships, Satanic attacks, animosity between him and the Gentile/Jewish communities, stonings, jailing, flogging, suffering at the hands of the enemies of the Gospel, shipwrecks, robbery, and the dangers from false brethren and false teachers. Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) because he lived each day in the possibility of death.

Because Christ is Preached

So why did Paul endure the heartache? Because whatever happened to him, Paul knew that “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (v. 20). “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (vv. 15-18). Paul’s endurance and joyful spirit are explained in these words.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). Paul understood this. Christ is first, last and everything between. Paul met Christ on the Damascus road and everything changed! Paul had a new life, a new understanding, and a new heart. Nothing was the same. When a man sees the risen Christ everything changes. This is a life-revolutionizing encounter and Galatians 6:14 — “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” — becomes more than a mere slogan.

To Live is Christ

The Christian calling is to live in self-denial in the service of Christ. Can you imagine the response of your congregation if you told them this? Would they believe you because you show them it to be true, or would they simply have to believe you based upon your words?

Christ gave Himself to do the will of God (John 17:4, 12:49). Christ was Paul’s example. Paul became a bondslave of Jesus Christ and he breathed Christ-centeredness. Should this not be our example?

What this means is that we are unconcerned with self. We live for Christ’s glory, His Name, His Gospel and His Church. My life is at His disposal. I don’t belong to me, I belong to Him as a living sacrifice, an abandonment to Him! This is Paul’s example. Paul’s own comforts were poured out for the glory of Christ.

Paul also shows us that there is nothing – no pain and no trials — that happens in our lives without purpose. It’s all endured for the glory of Christ. This truth will keep us from despair. But nothing less is demanded from us. We will be tested and we will suffer as Christ’s name spreads.

The proof of how well we boast in the Cross is to see how we respond to suffering. What evidence do we show then? Are we willing to give up our own desires and our own will to live for His will and glory? This is part of the tough demands of Christ. Nothing of our lives is left out here.

This living for Christ focuses our struggles in the ministry. When we endure slander, or close friends turn away from us, we become jealous of others, our hearers quickly forget the content of the sermons, or we become victims of church politics. The antidote is that I am not doing this for me, my own advancement or my own fame. Rather, I do this because of Christ. I live for Christ.

We are not motivated by mere duty. Duty will wane over time. We are motivated by love! Christ loves you! Can you give any reason why? Knowing this love and growing in the knowledge of this love keeps us going. That is what causes us to rejoice. “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). They endured because they loved Christ.

Keep your sights upon Christ and let Him be the motivation for all your ministry labors. If this is not what you have, what do you have? Nothing.

To Die is Gain

Paul could see past the temporal and beyond circumstances. He had a vision of eternity. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).

If Paul were to live that would mean fruitful labor (v. 22). So what would cause Paul to desire to depart? Because Paul is a Christ-obsessed man. Paul knew that one day he would see Christ and be transformed like Him (1 John 3:2). What we see dimly in Scripture, Paul would see face-to-face. Do you personally ponder this promise? Does this give you a desire and longing to behold Him as He is? This is the same Jesus who lived on earth and died to bear the punishment of our sin’s guilt.

But it’s more than physical sight because Paul knew he would see the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Paul would behold the grace, righteousness, purity, compassion of Christ. He would have a pure mind to see Christ in all His splendor! It’s no wonder that Paul considered death to be gain. This encourages the discouraged heart.

But also, to see Him will cause us to be like Him (1 John 3:2). I cannot even conceive of what this must look like. The great purpose of God will be completed in the restoration of the sinner into the image of God. This soul that is sinful and polluted by sin will be restored completely. Presently we see as in a mirror but then face-to-face. There will be full fellowship with God without sin or darkness.

We shall be holy. This is what He chose us to be (Eph. 1:4). Now we know of so little holiness. We struggle with sin. Sin is so much a part of us. We have sinful words, sinful responses to situations, we struggle with the temptations of the world, and we battle sin to our own weariness. But then we shall be holy! No unholy thoughts, desires, speech, no more remorse, shame or guilt. We will have a Christ-like mind and heart. Sin will be impossible. We will no longer love sin. Our whole being will only move in love towards God. We will labor joyfully without sin and glorify God with a sinless love! To die is gain!

Death is not the end but the entrance into full life, a glorious life. The reality of hardships, temptations, disappointments will come, we will be tempted to despair. But Paul’s antidote was this “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v. 21). Live, labor, pastor and preach for Christ not for yourselves or for self-glory. Do all for Christ, the One who gave Himself for you. This will keep you from despair.

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

Book: Sweet Communion by Arie de Reuver

Book Announcement
Sweet Communion by Arie de Reuver

So I was all ready to wind down a bit this weekend, and not push to get another post up. That was all disrupted Saturday when a bubble mailer arrived in my mailbox from Baker Academic. I simply could not wait until next week to announce their new release. The book is Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation by Arie de Reuver. The book was published in Dutch in 2002 and translated into English by James A. De Jong.

To explain the importance of this book, I need to give some background.

We are familiar with the English Puritans (men like John Owen, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, Thomas Brooks, etc.) primarily because their original works were written in English, and easily reprinted over the centuries with little editing necessary. However, in the Netherlands another “Puritan” movement was taking place. Like their English counterparts, men like Willem Teellinck, Herman Witsius and Thodorus and Wilhelmus à Brakel were producing valuable theological and spiritual works in Dutch. But until only recently has the work of Dr. Joel R. Beeke and the Dutch Reformed Translation Committee made these works more accessible. In fact, one of the great highlights of Beeke’s Meet the Puritans is a section entirely devoted to the Dutchmen of the “Further Reformation” (see pages 739-824). Books of the Dutch “Further Reformation” authors (like the recently translated The Path of True Godliness by Willem Teellinck) bear all the marks of brilliance we see in the English Puritans.

One of the most noticeable strengths of these “Dutch Puritans” (as I call them) is their emphasis on Reformed spirituality and their enjoyment of sweet communion with Christ. Theirs was a deep and sincere devotion to Christ where their union with Christ was the means of experiencing vibrant communion with Christ. They defended the doctrines of grace and simultaneously enjoyed a joyful and warm spirituality.

This beautiful Reformed spirituality can be seen in the works of Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711).

Wilhelmus à Brakel is most noted for his four-volume work, The Christian’s Reasonable Service (Reformation Heritage Books; 1993; 4 vols.). While it looks like another Reformed systematic theology it is actually more practical in nature and intended to provide content for small group discussions as Christians gather to encourage one another in the Christian life. It is one of the beautiful works of the “Dutch Puritans.”

I have noticed in the past the “sweet communion” of the believer with Christ is a theme that sparkles from this work. After emphasizing the marriage union between the Groom (Christ) and His Bride (the Church), à Brakel explains the believer’s communion with Christ within this marital union. Once this union between the sinner and his Savior has taken place in conversion “Jesus Himself delights in having communion with you” (2:93). Read that incredible sentence again! This communion produces a “sweetness and overflowing delight … Here they (Christians) find balm for their sick souls, light to clear up their darkness, life for their deadness, food and drink for their hunger and thirst, peace for their troubled heart, blood to atone for their sins, the Spirit for their sanctification, counsel when they are at their wit’s end, strength for their weakness, and a fullness of all for their manifold deficiencies” (2:93,94).

Of this marital union and the communion that follows, à Brakel writes,

“A temporal believer concerns himself only with the benefits and has no interest in Christ Himself. Believers, however, have communion with the Person of Jesus Christ, but many neither meditate upon nor closely heed their exercises concerning Christ Himself. They err in this, which is detrimental to the strength of their faith and impedes its growth. Therefore we wish to exhort them to be more exercised concerning the truth of belonging to each other, and the union and communion with Jesus Himself. They will then better perceive the unsearchable grace and goodness of God that such wretched and sinful men may be so intimately united with the Son of God. Such reflection will most wondrously set the heart aflame with love. It will strengthen their resolve to put their trust in Jesus without fear. It will give them strength and liberty to obtain everything from Him to fulfill the desires of their soul, causing them to grow in Him, which in turn will generate more light and joy. Therefore, faith, hope, and love are mentioned in reference to the Person of Christ. Scripture speaks of receiving Him, believing in Him, trusting in Him, living in Him, loving Him, and hoping in Him” (2:91).

This beautiful passage points the believer back to the Person of Christ to find her joy and strength in the beauty of Jesus Christ. This light and joy is the byproduct of communion with Him and this communion goes back to the believer’s union with Christ in justification.

Later, à Brakel explains that since our union with Christ is absolute, our communion with Christ does not shift with circumstances or emotions. “By faith, hold fast to the fact that you are reconciled to and are a partaker of Him and His benefits, even if you do not perceive and feel this. This belonging to Him is not based on feeling. If the souls may truly believe this and be exercised therewith, this will lead the soul toward communion with Him” (2:96). Communion can never be separated from our union and our union is described by our justification by faith alone and in our election in the Son. So à Brakel and the “Dutch Puritans” remind us that our sweet communion with Christ is inseparably bound to our understanding of our union with Christ in the gospel!

In his conclusion on the teachings of Wilhelmus à Brakel, de Reuver writes that his “spirituality is one that is rooted in Christ through the word believed, even in its most intimate and mystical moments. This foundation protects his mysticism from spiritualism” (258).

Many today are drawn towards Roman Catholic mysticism or a non-theological spirituality by thinking a deep spiritual experience of Christ can be separated from a genuine understanding of the gospel. This, as à Brakel displays, is not the case. Neither does Reformed theology favor a cold orthodoxy. Following the best intentions of the Medieval theologians, the Reformed “Dutch Puritans” always believed that rich biblical doctrine is the vein for the warm blood of spiritual experience of the Son in communion.

So here is the importance of Sweet Communion by de Reuver: The rich spirituality we have received from the “Dutch Puritans” is a spiritual legacy following the spiritual traditions of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471) but is firmly rooted in the precious theology of the Reformation. The final conclusion of de Reuver is that the all-controlling center of the Dutch Further Reformation spirituality rested in the Reformed theology. This is a beautiful and timely book to further dismantle the idea that Reformed theology is cold and stiff intellectualism. Our rich theology actually leads us deeper into true “mysticism” of direct communion with Christ.

Title: Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation.
Series: Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought
Author: Arie de Reuver (Dutch)
Translator: James A. De Jong (English)
Reading level: 4.5/5.0 > academic and some untranslated Dutch quotations
Boards: paper
Pages: 303
Volumes: 1
Dust jacket: no
Binding: glue
Paper: normal
Topical index: no
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Baker Academic
Year: 2007
Price USD: $29.99/23.99 from Baker
ISBNs: 0801031222, 9780801031229

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Related: Communion with God by Kelly Kapic. Another gem from Baker this year on communion with God. Kapic studies English Puritan John Owen’s understanding that communion with God takes place within a balanced Triunity of the Father, Son and Spirit. Highly recommended.

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