God’s Covenant

Series of comprehensive messages on this central, sublimely comforting doctrine in all of Scripture: Speaker Rev. Martyn McGeown, Missionary pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship.

  1. The Meaning and Essential Nature of the Covenant.

2. TBC


Mortification of Sin (5)

  • A man who does not mortify sin is someone who thinks lightly of sin and is a professor characterized as in 2 Peter 2:10 and likely to apostatize.

“All those who truly belong to the covenant of God hate their sin. This is because sin dishonors and offends the God whom they love. This is the emphasis of the word “sin,” which means to “miss the mark.” In keeping with this, the psalmist speaks of sinning against Jehovah. Sin does this too: it disrupts the fellowship and friendship he had with God in the covenant.”*

  • Witnessing this hardens others and deceives them into thinking they can do the same.

* Rev. James Slopsema  Standard Bearer of P.R.C.A. March 1st 2018

Good is good to Israel (all his elect believing people)

God is good all the time!

There are a lot of hard things in life. A lot of bad things. When weathering the unexpected storms that are a staple of living in this world, it’s so comforting and encouraging to know, without a doubt, that God is always good! And because of His goodness, we know that everything He does is good, too.

Take a few moments today to listen to and consider the following verses that speak to the goodness of God. We hope you are encouraged by them. You can find them in the Bible.is app or on the Bible.is website!

Psalm 31:19 – “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!”

James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that  all things work together for good, for those  who love God, those who are called according to his purpose.”

Psalm 34:8 – “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

1 Timothy 4:4a – “For everything created by God is good.”

We hope you have a great day, and remember: God is always good to Israel!



Brother Lawrence and “Practicing the Presence of God.”


In the February 2018 copy of Beacon Lights, the magazine of the Protestant Reformed Youth (PRCA), Brenda Hoekstra severely criticised Brother Lawrence a 17th century Roman Catholic monk and mystic on his approach to covenant fellowship with God. Please read the article first if you can, and then read my response:

Response to “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brenda Hoekstra, Beacon Lights, February 2018

Firstly I want to thank Brenda for writing her provocative article and straightaway state that people who say they glorify God and worship him in washing dishes or taking a walk are not necessarily influenced by Brother Lawrence; indeed I doubt if most believers have heard of him. These folk who include myself, are only echoing what Col.3:23 states (and Brenda quoted) along with Rom.12:1 and I Cor.6:13-20 where it seems to me that ALL we do in the body is part of our spiritual worship.  Every part of our lives, including work, leisure, public worship, private devotions and our thoughts and prayers uttered verbally or silently, is meant to glorify our Saviour.

It is true that what must and does underpin true Christian religion is INTERNAL. We cannot please God without a new heart (mind). The battle within is between the old man of flesh and the new mind of Christ. We are to renew our minds by not conforming to the world but by being transformed in the renewal of our minds principally by the word of God preached and in its other forms. Hence our thought life is the battleground,  for “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Our thoughts are known to God and are as important as our words and deeds. To lust is to commit adultery and to covet is to be guilty of idolatry! So when Brenda asserts that, “God does not encourage us to find him in such an inward, secret manner.” I object. How about David’s example in various Psalms e.g. Ps. 63:5,6, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.” Psalm 94:19, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 19:14,” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” I contend that such meditation on our God must inevitably issue in praise, either spoken, sung, or quietly raised heavenwards. This whole aspect of our lives and experience are where we practice the presence of God, which then come to expression in our behaviour.

Is Lawrence alone in claiming a “continual conversation with God”? I think not. Didn’t Paul say, “Pray without ceasing” and “In everything give thanks” (I Thess. 5:17,18)? This can only be done when much of it is internalized, for we don’t go around thanking and praising God or petitioning him out loud.  Didn’t Abraham’s servant worship at the well when his INTERNAL prayer was answered and didn’t Nehemiah also get a positive response after his “arrow prayer” was shot to heaven INTERNALLY before speaking to King Artaxerxes? These men were about the duties of their masters (Gen.24:26; Neh.2:4). These examples are not to be divorced from time set aside for private devotion, which I am sure both these godly men practiced. Brenda states, “Internal thoughts to ourselves or to God about how much we love him as we walk in the woods or wash dishes may fix our minds on God but is not true prayer.”  As I already stated, to God, our thoughts, and some of them will be silent prayers, are as our actions, all known to him and heard by him and should be lumped together. She mentions the Lord’s Prayer as true prayer. Of course it is! BUT true prayer may not always include all the various components of the Lord’s Prayer, which is a compendium of praise, thanks and petition. Our prayer expressed or internally spoken may just be on one aspect of A.C.T.S.* It is also worth remembering that the silent cry of the Spirit within us is heard by God. Thus we must never underestimate or discount our internal thoughts and prayer life!

Who would disagree that we only come to God through Christ. Nevertheless, we need not state this in every prayer or end our prayers “in Jesus name” for them to be heard! We can be reverentially informal with the Lord our only Mediator who lives in us by his Spirit; and because we are united to him by faith this means we can and do enjoy constant fellowship with him.

With Brenda I concur that our prayer life “must be informed and guided by the Scriptures” and I would say for most mature and Reformed believers it is. This vitally important aspect is missing from Brother Lawrence’s writings and must weaken his assertions. Nevertheless, I cannot from Scripture fault his experience.  If Lawrence was guilty of underplaying the means of grace, then I agree Brenda has a point. Never ought we to hold that practicing the presence of God is a substitute for being in the Scriptures, for they are symbiotic (live off each other)! The likelihood was that those means including preaching, Bible study, prayer and fellowship would be dead orthodoxy (or heterodoxy!) in that monastery, whereas in our Reformed churches they are alive by the Spirit. We all agree these are the pre-eminent means of sanctification, but they are not to be divorced from everyday life but rather to influence them where the knowledge we gain is to be lived out (James 3:13). It is true that if we go by our feelings we are being deceived, and I would judge closeness to God as depending on whether we “walk in the Spirit” or “after the flesh” which grieves him (Rom.8:12-14, Eph. 4:30).

Lawrence was correct in saying that the smallest deed done out of love for Christ and fellow man pleases God (Mark 9:41) and saying he experienced God’s love and presence in the act: why not? In contrast he rightly criticised much done by those in “holy orders” in the monastery because God knew most, if not all, was done self-righteously for selfish motives. Benda states that, “Loving God is more than loving him in every activity…. We love Jesus Christ by sacrificially loving and serving others” but is that not a part of “every activity”? She goes on to say that our relationship with God by the Spirit depends on God’s sustaining (grace) and renewing activity. I agree entirely, but that water “bubbling up in us” (John 7:38) affects all we do whether the activities are “spiritual” or “menial and secular”. We are mistaken to compartmentalize life like that, for it hankers back to the sacred-secular divide of priest and people, tabernacle or temple as opposed to camp or city. God now dwells in all of us.

Is Lawrence not just speaking about our daily experience as believers, nothing smacking of elitism or mysticism?  This rich life does serve to unify us and enable us to reach out to others with the gospel as we share our lives of communion with God, which includes answered prayer and his grace to cope in adversity. I believe that answered prayer in the little things and giving thanks continually are an integral part of growing in grace and the knowledge of our Saviour (Phil.4:6,7). I write having read Lawrence’s letters which comprise the “Practice” and from personal conviction.  I do agree with Brenda that if Lawrence does not distinguish time in the word from other daily activities he is mistaken, but there are times to be like Mary AND times to be like Martha! We cannot be at spiritual activities all the time! We only deliberately skip the means of grace if we are backsliding. The challenge to all of us Reformed is to be present at all the means of grace organised in our churches and to practice daily personal devotions. If we do this alongside enjoying continual fellowship with the Lord, I do believe we are rightly “practicing the presence of God”. Let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by denying Lawrence has anything to teach us.

  • The acronym for adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication, which encompasses all the aspects of prayer.

Dr Julian Kennedy.





These are visible appearances of God in the Old Testament often in human form. Most believe they are pre-incarnate appearances of the Son of God, Jesus Christ who is an eternal being (John 1 and 8:58) but was only incarnated in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago (Matthew 1:23).

Genesis 12:7-9 ─ the Lord appeared to Abraham on his arrival in the land promised to him and his descendants (Covenant blessing)

Genesis 18:1-33 ─ two angels and God himself in human form visit Abraham and Sarai who entertain them before they give them the message they will have a son in their old age and that Sodom and Gomorrha are going to be destroyed (Covenant blessing)

Genesis 32:22-30 Jacob wrestles with what appears to be a man but was God in human form (Covenant discipline)

Exodus 3:2-4:17 ─God appears to Moses in the burning bush, which many believe is a picture of the church (at that time Israel in Egypt) who are persecuted but not consumed. (Covenant call)


Exodus 24:9-11 ─ God appears, again in human form to Moses, Aaron, his sons and seventy elders.(Old Covenant institution)

Deuteronomy 31:14-15 ─ God appears to Moses and Joshua as the leadership passes from one to the other. ( Both types of the covenant head)

Joshua 1:13-15 ─ God appears as a soldier who proclaims himself to be captain of the Lord’s hosts. (Covenant conquest)

Since Christ is the covenant head and mediator it is fitting he appears at key times in covenant history.

Many accept that the Angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate Christ. Genesis 16: 7-14, Genesis 22:11-18, Exodus 23:20-23, 32:34, Judges 5:23, Daniel 3:25 and 6:22, although in the majority of other cases it was probably a created angel. The fact is that Christ was portrayed in the Old Testament in many types and shadows and is specifically mentioned as present in the wilderness as the rock that Moses smote to bring out water (I Corinthians 10:4).


Why do the wicked appear to prosper? Do they really?

“True it is that wicked men do usually prosper in their outward worldly condition: Yet there is what may abundantly vindicate and clear the justice of God in this matter. For, 1. There are other judgments and punishments besides outward afflictions. Even the very prosperity of wicked men is their judgment: It destroys them.† It is but a seeming prosperity, and not such truly. It is a curse to them: They are thereby prepared for the day of slaughter (g). All their enjoyments are salted with a curse: cursed is their basket and their store (h): Their very blessings are curses. Their table proves a snare to them, God gives them riches to their hurt (i); to be fuel for their pride, prodigality, luxury, intemperance, and other evils; so that they are thereby blinded, and hardened, and strengthened in their wickedness: and these are the sorest judgments (k). 2. The execution of visible judgments is only suspended for a time. As some are God’s elect:, and therefore not to be cut off in their unregenerate state: So he endures also with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction (l). They are like malefactors condemned to death, only reprieved for a time. And God suspends the execution for just and wife reasons: Either because he hath some belonging to the election of grace to bring out of their loins; or, because he hath service for them in the way of his providence about his church and people; or because his people are sheltered under their wings. 3. Judgment, though delayed, will at last be executed. Tho’ it be not suddenly executed, yet it is surely executed: As a chimney long foul will be fired at length. God will at length shew himself a just and righteous God. And the longer judgment be delayed, it will be the more severe when executed. Justice may, like a lion, seem to be asleep; but at last it will awake, and roar on the sinner. Hence the Lord threatens, I have long time holden my peace, I have been still and refrained myself, now will I cry like a travailling woman, I will destroy and and devour at once (m). God hath an eternity wherein to punish impenitent sinners. Hence Abraham is brought in speaking to the rich glutton, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: But now he is conforted, and thou art tormented (n). 4. The greater their outward prosperity be, their judgment will be the more terrible for their manifold abuse of it. They are lifted up on high, that their fall may be the greater. Their ingratitude for, and manifold abuse of his mercies, will furnish a severe indictment against them. While wicked sinners abuse God’s patience toward them, they treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (o). ”

† Improbo bene esse non potest – Cicero, Parad. 2
f) Ecc. 8:10
g) Prov. 1:32
h) Jer. 12:3
I) James 5:5; Det. 28:37
k) Mal. 2:2; Ps. 69:22; Ecc. 5:13
l) Rom. 9:22
m) Isa. 42:10
n) Luke 6:25
o) Rom. 2:5

William Wishart, Theologia, or Discourses on God, delivered in 120 Sermons (1787), Volume 1, Sermon 42

Thanks again Andy Underhile.


Communion with God (66)

Particular directions for communion with the Holy Ghost.

We worship the Triune God-father, Son and Holy Spirit-why?
1. The divine nature is the reason and cause of all worship;  all the works of the Trinity are indivisible, the proper and peculiar object of divine worship and invocation is the essence of God, in its infinite excellency, dignity, majesty, and its causality, as the first sovereign cause of all things; so that in each act of adoration and worship, all are adored and worshipped. The creatures worship their Creator;

2. When we begin our prayers to God the Father, and end them in the name of Jesus
Christ, yet the Son is no less invocated and worshipped in the beginning than the Father, though he be peculiarly mentioned as mediator in the close, — not as Son to himself, but as Mediator to the whole Trinity, or God in Trinity. But in the invocation of God the Father we invocate every person; because we invocate the Father as God, every person being so.

3. In that heavenly directory which we have, Eph. 2:18, this whole business is declared.
Our access in our worship is said to be “to the Father;” and this “through Christ,” or his mediation;“by the Spirit,” or his assistance. Here is a distinction of the persons, as to their operations, but not at all as to their being the object of our worship. For the Son and the Holy Ghost are no less worshipped in our access to God than the Father himself; only, the grace of the Father, which we obtain by the mediation of the Son and the assistance of the Spirit, is that which we draw nigh to God for.

4. These cautions being premised, I say that we are distinctly to worship the Holy Ghost.
As it is in the case of faith in respect of the Father and the Son, John 14:1, “Believe in God, believe also in me,” this extends itself no less to the Holy Ghost. Christ called the disciples for the acting of faith on him, he being upon the accomplishment of the great work of his mediation; and the Holy Ghost, now carrying on the work of his delegation, requireth the same. And to the same purpose are their distinct operations mentioned: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Now, as the formal reason of the worship of the Son is not his mediation, but his being God (his mediation being a powerful motive thereto), so the formal reason of our worshipping the Holy Ghost is not his being our comforter, but his being God; yet his being our comforter is a powerful motive thereunto.

From Owen’s Communion with God.

This is the last blog on the book.



Communion with Christ (65)


We looked at grieving the person of the Spirit by sin, at quenching him by ignoring or stifling his motions and walking in the flesh, now we come to resisting him.

This caution concerns him and his work, and that is through sinful response to the (preached) word.  Stephen tells the Jews, Acts 7:51, that they “resisted the Holy Ghost.” How did they do it? Why, as their fathers did it: “As your fathers did, so do ye.” How did their fathers resist the Holy Ghost? Verse 52, “They persecuted the prophets, and slew them;” their opposition to the
prophets in preaching the gospel, or their showing of the coming of the Just One, was their resisting of the Holy Ghost. Now, the Holy Ghost is said to be resisted in the contempt of the preaching of the word; because the gift of preaching of it is from him. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to profit.” Hence, when our Saviour promiseth the Spirit to his disciples, to be present with them for the conviction of the world, he tells them he will give them a mouth and wisdom, which their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist, Luke 21:15; concerning which, in the accomplishment of it in Stephen, it is said that they “were not able to resist the Spirit by which he spake,” Acts 6:10. The Holy Ghost then setting up a ministry in the church, separating men thereto, furnishing them with gifts and abilities for the dispensation of the word; the not obeying of that word, opposing of it, not falling down before it, is called resisting of the Holy Ghost. This is the wickedness of others that we are cautioned against. The
authority, wisdom, and goodness of the Holy Ghost, in furnishing men with gifts for that end and purpose, and his presence with them, as to the virtue thereof, is to be eyed, and subjection given unto it on that account.

Adapted from John Owen’s “Communion with God”.


Communion with God (64)

Quench not the Spirit.

“Quench not the Spirit.” 1 Thess. 5:19. This is in respect of his operations. The Holy Ghost was typified by the fire that was always kept alive on the altar. He is also called a “Spirit of burning.” Clearly opposition that is made to fire in its acting, is by quenching. Hence the opposition made to the acting of the Holy Ghost are called “quenching of the Spirit,” as some kind of wet wood will do, when it is cast into the fire.  He  stirs up the grace we have received; partly by new supplies of grace from Jesus Christ, falling in with occasions for their exercise, raising good motions  within us; — all tending to our furtherance in obedience and walking with God. All these are we carefully to heed. (I take this to mean desires to read Scripture, or good Reformed material, pray, attend church, visit a sick person, set aside offering for the Lord’s Day, along with every kind action, being led by the Spirit (Rom.8:14) etc-JK)

Adapted from Communion with God by John Owen.


Communion with God (63)


To recap, in relation to the blessed Spirit in us we are cautioned:

1. Not to grieve him, in respect of his person dwelling in us.

2. Not to quench him, in respect of the acting and motions of his grace.

3. Not to resist him, in respect of the ordinances of Christ, and his gifts for their administration.

1. The first caution concerns his person immediately, as dwelling in us. It is given, Eph. 4:30,
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” There is a complaint, Isa. 63: 10, of them who vexed or grieved the Spirit of God; and from thence does this caution seem to be taken. This relates to Holy Ghost because he it is that seals us to the day of redemption;

The term of “grieving,” could mean either we grieve Him or he grieves but the Spirit cannot be grieved, or affected with sorrow; which infers alteration, disappointment, weakness, — all incompatible with his infinite perfections; yet men may actively  grieve him. So this means first, that the Holy Ghost is towards us as one that is loving, careful, tender, concerned in our good and well-doing; and therefore upon our miscarriages is said to be grieved: as a good friend of a kind and loving nature is apt to be on the miscarriage of him whom he does affect. And this is that we are principally to regard in this caution, as the ground and foundation of it, — the love, kindness, and tenderness of the Holy Ghost unto us. “Grieve him not.” Secondly, That we may do those things that are proper to grieve him, the apostle declareth the reason in the context of what follows namely that he is responsible for our progress in sanctification, and all the fruits of regeneration. So we grieve him when we come short of that universal sanctification which our planting into Christ does require. The positive duty
included in this caution, of not grieving the Holy Spirit, is this, — that we pursue universal holiness with regard unto, and upon the account of, the love, kindness, and tenderness, of the Holy Ghost— this is to have communion with him. This consideration, that the Holy Ghost, who is our comforter, is delighted with our obedience, grieved at our evils and follies, being made a continual motive to, and reason of, our close walking with God in all holiness. We lose both the power and pleasure of our obedience for want of this consideration. What an unworthy thing it is to grieve him,who comes to us on purpose to give us consolation! Let the soul, in the whole course of its obedience, exercise itself by faith to thoughts hereof, and lay due weight upon it: “The Holy Ghost, in his infinite love and kindness towards me, has condescended to be my comforter; he does it willingly, freely, powerfully. What have I received from him! In the multitude of my perplexities how has he refreshed my soul! Can I live one day without his consolations? And shall I be regardless of him in that wherein he is concerned? Shall I grieve him by negligence, sin, and folly? Shall not his love constrain me to walk before him to all well-pleasing?” So have we in general fellowship with him.

Adapted from Communion with God by John Owen.