When you’re stuck, frustrated, and apathetic, remember these words: Jesus will hold you fast. You can’t do it on your own—none of us can. We weren’t designed to and God doesn’t pretend that we’re supposed to. Hold onto God! Don’t let go! The finish line to true freedom is closer each and every day.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 ESV)
Recently I was in my car and the Norton Hall version of “He Will Hold Me Fast” came through my speakers. Of course, I began listening to it, for it has to be a rare moment to pass that song up.
The lyrics, like usual, struck me. They just hit different. They hit different because I felt different. On this particular day, I felt rather lousy—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Call it what you want, but my head and heart just weren’t there. So as a listened, I broke.
I could never keep my hold — when I sang those words I began to lose it. Though I felt lousy I knew I didn’t have a lousy Savior. Those words rang more true on that day than others. On a day when I could feel my lousiness and apathy, this song struck me in the heart. I could never keep my hold of Jesus, because unfortunately my love is often cold.
But He will hold me fast. Matter fact, according to His promises, He must hold me fast. And thank God for that.
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By Frank J. Smith — 3 months ago
Written by Frank J. Smith |
Monday, September 4, 2023
Dr. David C. Lachman (27 October, 1939 – 27 August, 2023) went to be with the Lord at the age of 83, after a period of slow decline beginning in 2018. He died peacefully in his own bed at his home of 41 years in Wyncote, PA, surrounded by his wife and three children. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, three children, and 12 grandchildren, his sister and brother, and relatives.
David was a gentleman in so many ways—polite, respectful, calm, quiet, peaceful, unflappable, and indeed gentle. At an early age—when he was six years old—he had been conquered by God’s grace, and the resulting Christian character shone through for more than seven decades. His care for those in need was demonstrated when he was a caseworker, walking without fear on streets in dangerous neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
David was also an eminent scholar. He earned five academic degrees from four institutions: B.A. (Houghton College), M.A. (University of Pennsylvania), B.D. and Th.M. (Westminster Theological Seminary), and Ph.D. (University of St. Andrews in Scotland). His dissertation on the Marrow Controversy was published by the Rutherford House. He was one of the general editors of the Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology. And he co-edited Worship in the Presence of God: A Collection of Essays on the Nature, Elements, and Historic Views and Practice of Worship, published in 1992.
Producing that 400-page book took a decade, taken up with recruiting authors, cajoling them into turning in their chapters, and a painstaking, word-by-word and comma-by-comma reviewing of their submissions. I was the other co-editor of that volume. It was my brainchild, but without David’s careful editing work and patient dealing with other authors, coupled with the intellectual respect he commanded, it would never have come to fruition. This book was the first one in the twentieth century that promoted not just certain elements of worship (such as Psalmody) but the whole doctrine of worship from the perspective of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the work’s significance is the fact that a noted writer who has vehemently rejected the regulative principle of worship felt compelled to write a whole book attacking Worship in the Presence of God.
In addition to this collection of essays, David’s other major contribution to the literature of the doctrine of worship was a 2005 article he co-authored for The Confessional Presbyterian, “Reframing Presbyterian Worship: A Critical Survey of the Worship Views of John M. Frame and R. J. Gore.”
David’s academic prowess was put to good use in the classroom, as he taught courses at Westminster Theological Seminary and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. But his church history expertise also came in handily in his chosen profession, which was that of antiquarian bookdealer. For almost half a century, he transported treasures of the British Isles to America, importing tons of tomes—duty free, he would gleefully note, as antiquarian collectibles are not subject to tariffs. What made him particularly successful was his virtually encyclopedic knowledge of books and Bibles.
Another aspect of his scholarship was his writing introductions to various reprint editions of old books. Examples include two works by James Durham, The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland, or, A Treatise Concerning Scandal; and A Commentary upon Revelation; a book by Thomas Murphy, Pastoral Theology: The Pastor in the Various Duties of His Office; and a magisterial volume by George Gillespie, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming; or, the Divine Ordinance of Church Government Vindicated. He wrote three entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and contributed a chapter to The Doctrine of the Church, an audiobook featuring Westminster Seminary faculty members.
David became one of the key suppliers of rare Bibles to multiple prominent displays, private and public. Again, another example of his scholarship being put to practical use.
And there was another dimension where his scholarly ways served a public good, which was his life as a churchman. Ordained as a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), he took his churchly duties seriously. He often attended presbytery and General Assembly meetings. He served as a parliamentarian of Philadelphia Presbytery, and also on the Assembly’s Committee on Constitutional Business.
And he was not afraid to engage in ecclesiastical battle, when such became necessary. Like the founder of Westminster Seminary, J. Gresham Machen, a minister who was known as “Mr. Valiant-for-Truth,” and an academic who was no ivory-tower theologian, David was willing to fight for what he believed. As acknowledged by everyone, he was principled, and not hesitant to do what he thought was right, no matter the cost.
David employed his intellectual and writing talents in ecclesiastical journalism. For several years, as part of a reform movement within the PCA, he edited a magazine called The Presbyterian Advocate. In a way reminiscent of the efforts of the Presbyterian Journal, which had exposed doctrinal decline in the Southern Presbyterian Church, The Presbyterian Advocate tirelessly targeted bureaucratic gibberish. Consideration of his journalistic efforts leads me to note that though he was respected, he was not always loved—in point of fact, many times, he was feared by churchmen, not because he was mean-spirited, but because they instinctively understood that he had a better grasp of the principles at stake.
His going on the offensive theologically speaking should not be viewed as being contradictory to his general genteel nature. David was like a Medieval noble knight who respects women, is kind to children, and can even be compassionate toward his opponents. At the same time, with lance-like accuracy, David punctured pomposity and skewered inconsistency. One memorable editorial, which pointed out the nonsense in a particular denominational publication, ended with words from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.”
That last anecdote illustrates another side to David, which was his sense of humor. He enjoyed a good joke—and he could laugh at himself, too.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that in addition to everything else, David was a friend. I knew him for four decades. He often lent a sympathetic ear to me as I wrestled with various struggles, whether personal or in the ministry. Many a time during the period when we were putting together that book on worship, and even after we had completed it, I would call him at, oh, around midnight, and talk into the wee hours of the morning. I thereupon was anointed by the Lachman children of having attained, along with others, the honorable status of being one of the “lunatic fringe.”
David C. Lachman was a good man and a great man. He may not be known as widely as some of today’s PCA superstars, but his contributions to church history will be celebrated in generations to come. At times, it takes the fog of war to dissipate before we can see clearly who the true heroes and the truly significant figures are. I can think of at least three ways that his work will be seen by historians as impactful.
One, he set a pattern of faithfulness—of commitment to principle—which can encourage others to follow.
Two, he was fundamentally correct on the principles for which he contended.
Three, his actions demonstrate both tactical and strategic positioning. For example, David’s journalistic endeavor was a harbinger of today’s bloggers—largely laymen—who are active in the current reform efforts in the PCA. Also, his writings on worship helped lay the foundation for a rediscovery of historic Presbyterian worship.
A gentleman and a scholar. A churchman and a friend. Dr. David C. Lachman lived a full life. I will miss him. I already miss not being able to pick up the phone and give him a call (even if, in recent years, doing so was at more reasonable hours!). But I look forward to seeing him again, robed with the Redeemer’s righteousness, and engaging with him in perfect worship that will be pure and entire, throughout all eternity.
Sometimes, in reflecting on heaven, David would say that he didn’t know exactly what it would be like, except that it would be far more wonderful than we could imagine. Indeed. May God give all of us that childlike, wonder-filled faith and hope on our pilgrimage toward the Celestial City.
Frank J. Smith is Pastor of Atlanta Reformed Presbyterian Church.
By Bill Muehlenberg — 1 year ago
Governments are not merely a response to sin, but are also affected by sin. Governments can become “beastly”; they can function as objects of idolatrous designs. They can – even when they claim to be maintaining “law and order” – commit themselves to injustice, unrighteousness, and oppression…Since we are already citizens of God’s commonwealth, we must find effective ways of living in political conformity to its norms and patterns. Because we know that all political rulers will someday be called to account for the only true Sovereign, we must not give them more than they are due in the present age. And from the perspective of the New Testament, what is “due” them is not blind obedience or uncritical submission — and it certainly is not worship or idolatrous trust.
There is a connection and a continuation between God’s original creation and what we will find in the new heaven and the new earth. So if we want to know something of the future, we need to know something of the original designs of God as found in the opening chapters of Genesis.
All believers should be intrigued and interested in what life will be like in our future state. And the Bible has much to say about it, and not just in the last book of the Bible – Revelation. The Old Testament prophets often spoke about these matters, often speaking in terms of a glorious future that Israel would one day experience. There are numerous such passages, including Isaiah 60.
Yes, Christians can have different understandings of just how these OT texts are to be understood. For example, do they apply only for Israel, or for all God’s people. Do they refer to some millennial state, or to the eternal state? Indeed, just what exactly does the Bible mean when it speaks about heaven and the like?
Twenty years ago Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary in California released a slim little volume called When the Kings Come Marching In (Eerdmans, 2002). It is based on some lectures he had given a few decades earlier, looking at Isaiah 60.
Before going any further, let me say this: If you like people like Abraham Kuyper and the notions of common grace and the cultural mandate, you will quite like Mouw, since he writes about these matters so very often. If not, well, look away now. But for those still interested, see some of my earlier articles on this:
But here I want to offer a few quotes from his 2002 volume. First let me draw upon his introductory chapter. Not only is there a connection between creation and new creation, but there is to be a connection with how we live NOW – in between these two periods. He writes:
Like the Old Testament saints, we Christians await the appearance of God’s city — we too “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). But while we are to be a “waiting” people, we are not to be passive in our lives of anticipation. The biblical visions of the future are given to us so that we may have the kind of hope that issues forth into lives of active disobedience vis-a-vis contemporary culture.
When I refer to “culture” in these pages I am not using the term in any narrow sense. This is not a book, for example, about “refined tastes” in art or music or literature. My focus here is on the broad patterns of social life, including political, economic, technological, artistic, familial, and educational patterns. It is my contention in these meditations that it is extremely significant that when Isaiah looks to the fulfillment of God’s promises, he envisions a community into which technological artifacts, political rulers, and people from many nations are gathered. God intended from the beginning that human beings would “fill the earth” with the processes, patterns and products of cultural formation.
By Kendall Lankford — 1 year ago
To the disciples, much about Jesus’ coming Kingdom would be learned through these secretive parables (Matthew 11:34-35). They understood that for a period of time, imposters would exist alongside the true followers of Christ, like a field of wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-31). But, by the end, the Kingdom of Christ would tower over all the kingdoms of the earth, like a Mustard tree in the master’s garden (Matthew 13:31-32). And, at the end of the age (As Malachi predicted), all who are in Christ would be separated from the wicked, like good and bad fish caught in a dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52).
From Malachi’s Eden to Matthew’s Jerusalem
As we begin, I want to reinforce two tremendous truths that have revolutionized my study of eschatology. 1) Most of the “end-time” events have already occurred in the past. They truly were future events to the men who described them and wrote them down. But, for us, most of these events have already occurred. 2) Jesus came to earth twice in the first century. The first coming was physical and incarnational. This is where He rescued His people and delivered them from their sins. The second coming was spiritual and covenantal. This is where He rained down judgment upon apostate Judah for her crimes and rebellion.
We know this because Malachi prophecies there will be two specific first-century “comings” of the Lord. His first coming will be a physical coming, where He rescues those who feared the Lord and esteemed His holy name (Malachi 3:16). This includes all those who repented and followed Jesus under the guidance of John, those who repented under the ministry of Jesus, or those that believed in His name in the earliest days of the Church. God saves those men and women by allowing His one and only Son to undergo the punishment they deserve (alluded to in Malachi 3:17) so that He can declare them righteous, and distinguish them from the wicked (Malachi 3:18). This certainly has already occurred and is the very Gospel of our salvation today.
The second first-century “coming” of Christ, described by Malachi, is a spiritual act of judgment against the covenant rebels in Judah. While Jesus’ physical body remained in heaven, seated upon His throne, Malachi tells us that He would bring a fiery judgment that none of that generation could endure. Of that “coming”, Malachi tells us several things:
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? – Malachi 3:2
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment – Malachi 3:5a
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” 2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3 You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts. – Malachi 4:1-3
These final verses from chapter 4 bring the entire theological point together. Jesus is coming in two different ways to deal with two very different kinds of people. For the repentant, He will rise from the dead bringing healing to the broken, and He will endow the joyless with never-ending delight. He will welcome His people into the garden of His presence. He will graft them into His covenantal and life-giving vine, even while cutting off the apostate Jews so that neither root or branch remains. Unto that wicked and adulterous generation, the Lord would not come in peace, but with a flaming sword. He will turn them back into the dust from which He made them and put them, like the serpent, under His people’s feet (c.f. Romans 16:20). That is the picture Malachi is painting.
This is also the eschatological picture the whole Bible is painting. Adam was created to live with God, have a legacy and dominion, feast upon the life-giving tree, and put the enemies of God under his feet. Instead, Adam chose to sin, which meant he lost his relationship with God, he was chased out of the garden with a fiery sword, he was banned from the tree of life, his progeny was put under the curse, and his dominion was turned into slavery, and his body was subjected to sweat, blood, and toil until it returned again to the dust.
This is the subtle Edenic picture Malachi is painting for Jerusalem. Like Adam, the Jews were going to lose their favored status as God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23). The nation would be removed from the garden land of Judah, set ablaze by the sword of His wrath, incapable of consuming the life-giving vine, their legacy finished, their national sovereignty turned to full-on slavery, and their bodies turned to ash so that God’s true people would tread them underfoot.
What Malachi is alluding to is that fallen Jerusalem will fare no better than fallen Adam. But, redeemed Jerusalem, the Israel of God (Galatians 3), who is the church that Jesus would save unto Himself, would be brought back into relationship with their creator by the working of the true and better Adam (1 Corinthians 15). Because of Jesus, the Church will have a lasting legacy that will bless all the families of this world (Genesis 12:1-3) and she will have a never-ending dominion that extends His Kingdom to the ends of the earth (Daniel 2:44-45). Because of Jesus, the Church will be a tree planted beside the fount of living water (Psalm 1; John 7), she will be grafted into the life-giving vine of His love (John 15), to produce all kinds of fruit for His glory (Galatians 5; Revelation 22:1-2), that will also provide healing to the nations. And, instead of returning to the dust in curse, eventually, these people will be given new heavenly bodies (1 Corinthians 15) to live with their true Adam King, forever in a garden city (Revelation 22).
When Malachi speaks of two very specific outcomes, happening to two very different kinds of people, that are brought about by two very different kinds of “comings”, he does two very important things. First, he is simply picking up on the massive Biblical themes that were woven throughout God’s amazing story. The children of the serpent (everyone who rejects God’s messenger), will receive the curses of the covenant (Matthew 23:33; 1 John 3:8-10). The children of God, made alive by the rising Son, will receive every single one of the covenant blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Second, he is rooting the fulfillment and inauguration of all the Old Testament’s eschatology to the two first-century comings of Christ.
Knowing these truths, mentioned above, will help us as we transition from the last book of the Old Testament to the first book of the New Testament. There, we will examine what Jesus, Himself, says about the topic of eschatology, and how that applies to Jerusalem, which will take us several weeks to cover. Today, we will begin with some introductory observations.
From Eschatological Malachi to Jesus as True Israel
The first portion of Matthew’s Gospel details how the coming Christ will bring healing to His people, as Malachi predicted. What Matthew uniquely contributes to this story is that Christ would do that work by replacing Israel. For instance, in Matthew 1, Jesus will come from the prototypical line of David and Abraham, which makes Him not only a candidate for the Jewish throne but the one who will bring the Abrahamic blessing to the nations (Galatians 3:16). This makes Him true Israel, but let us keep going.