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LIVING LIFE CORAM DEO, BEFORE THE FACE OF GOD
By Burk Parsons
As a publication of Ligonier Ministries, Tabletalk exists to equip Christians to articulate what they believe and why they believe it. It is our foremost desire to awaken as many people as possible to the holiness of God by proclaiming, teaching, and defending His holiness in all its fullness. As such, for three decades, Ligonier Ministries has published this Bible-study magazine to equip, encourage, and challenge readers with the Word of God so that they might know God, obey God, and love God with all their hearts. That is what Tabletalk exists to do, and that is no easy task.
With utmost sincerity, we believe our work has eternal consequences. And, as Martin Luther proclaimed before the Diet of Worms in 1522, our consciences are held captive by the Word of God. Every day, as we edit, write, and design every component of Tabletalk, we are humbly and prayerfully concerned with providing God’s people with His unvarnished truth. Just as Paul wrote to Timothy, we earnestly desire to do our best to present ourselves to God as approved workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
Although there are many people behind the scenes involved in the monthly publication of Tabletalk, this article along with the following articles have been written by the six-member team that is responsible for the day-to-day production of Tabletalk. These articles are intended to provide our faithful readers and supporters with a glimpse into the production of this publication.
With an estimated readership of more than 200,000 monthly readers, Tabletalk is one of the most widely circulated, subscriber-based devotionals in the world. And if the Lord should tarry, it is our genuine hope that centuries from now, church historians will be able to look back and recognize Tabletalk as one publication that preached the Word in season and out of season, having stood fast in the historic biblical doctrines of the Christian faith.
WHAT’S IN A WORD? A HERITAGE WORTH SAVING
By Chris Donato
Just about everything that enters our minds—through reading, watching, or hearing—has been edited. It is not simply a matter of adding clarity to garbled syntax or fixing commas. It entails a deliberate decision about what gets in our consciousness, at least through the window of whatever media we are digesting—from television and newspapers to radio and magazines.
Editing is peculiar work, because it is invisible, behind the scenes. Yet the work is forceful, as it shapes (edits) the very media being offered to the public.
No one is fooled any longer that media can exist as a purely objective and unbiased agent. One need only flip through the various cable news networks or major newspapers to see this fact. Ideologies abound, and they are often contending. In a very real sense, then, editors push ideologies. Some push environmentalism, some push feminism, some push compassionate conservatism. Our cause, however, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is in this that we have common cause with one another. We have the privilege of orchestrating the whole sound of the magazine, and we often learn what does and does not work from you. The relationship is reciprocal.
The only way to shape media honestly is to face up to the fact that media is, by definition, advocacy. In other words, it serves to argue for one cause over another. Of course, this is to be done in a principled way, without lies or distortion. But make no mistake: we have an agenda.
You will notice underneath the Tabletalk masthead on the front cover the words: “from Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul.” That is, the magazine itself represents the ideologies of both those entities, and it is the work of its editors to ensure that this is done. Whether it be regarding some doctrine of the church or controversy facing it, what you will find in the magazine is an interpretative presentation. We do not pretend to be offering unbiased facts; we are not concerned with being politically correct as we are with being apostolic, evangelical, and Reformed.
DEALING WITH THE ISSUES—BIBLICAL ORTHODOXY
By Keith A. Mathison
What do the intertestamental period, the image of God, Johann Sebastian Bach, and revivalism have in common? The answer is that at one time or another, each has been the theme of an issue of Tabletalk. Every year, the editors of Tabletalk meet to determine the topics to be covered throughout the following year. Some topics, such as our century-by-century examination of the history of the church, are recurring. The remaining issues are devoted to different biblical, theological, historical, cultural, and practical issues of importance to the church.
In each issue of Tabletalk, four feature articles, the pastor’s perspective article, and three columns are devoted to the main theme of that particular issue. As the editors meet to discuss each individual issue of Tabletalk, one of our first goals is to determine how the feature articles will address the main theme—be it the second century of the church or the second coming of Christ.
The first feature article is R.C. Sproul’s “Right Now Counts Forever.” In this article, R.C. introduces the theme of the issue in his own inimitable style. For the remaining articles, the editors attempt to find conservative evangelical scholars and teachers who are not only able to address the issue competently, but who are also able to write in a clear and comprehensible way (a gift that not all scholars possess). The pastor’s perspective is, as the title indicates, a look at the main theme of the issue from the perspective of a pastor. The authors of these articles apply the topic to the concerns of the local church.
The overarching goal of the feature articles is to provide instruction from a solidly Christian perspective on a wide-ranging variety of topics. The significance of many of the topics will be self-evident to readers. Other topics may cause some to scratch their heads. Some topics will be of interest to one group of readers, while other topics will be of interest to a different group. Whether the importance or relevance of a particular issue is immediately apparent, the editors encourage all of our readers to take a look at the feature articles every month. You may be surprised at what you discover.
DAILY NOURISHMENT FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
By Robert Rothwell
If I had to pick one biblical verse to serve as a theme statement for Tabletalk, I would choose Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Despite the variety of topics we cover in the magazine, it is always our intention to point believers back to the only infallible authority for our faith and life—the Word of God. Every section of the magazine is concerned to help you understand and apply the Scriptures.
The importance of consistent, systematic Bible study cannot be overemphasized. By this Word, the Spirit brings us to new life (1 Peter 1:23–25), and by the same Word He sustains us (2 Tim. 3:16–17). At the end of the day we have not done our job if you are not encouraged to dig more deeply into the Word.
For many years now we have endeavored to accomplish this goal in our daily studies. In the 400 words or so that make up the bulk of the devotional each day, we are not trying to offer new and fanciful interpretations of the biblical text; we only desire to be true to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). We know the church is not born anew in each generation, and so we rely on the work of those who have gone before us. Our historical situation may differ from theirs, but men such as Augustine, Chrysostom, Calvin, Spurgeon, and others were granted such insight into God’s Word that their words still help to reform the church today.
Semper reformanda, or “always reforming” was the motto of the Reformers because they knew the work of bringing all of life into conformity to Christ is never ending. Reading through each book of the Bible, taking its original meaning seriously, looking at other passages that illuminate a specific text, and drawing personal applications is necessary if we are to grow in the likeness of our Savior. Living coram Deo—walking before the face of God in a manner that pleases Him—is impossible without a solid foundation in the Scriptures. Each month we offer tools to help you ground yourself in God’s Word, in the hope that you will continue to study on your own.
STANDING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD’S WORD
By Kevin Struyk
It doesn’t take long to feel overwhelmed in most Christian bookstores these days. So many books, some good, some bad, all competing for your attention and dollar. You may buy a book every so often, only to have it sit next to your other books collecting dust, one of which might be your Bible. It is so easy to bypass the Word of God in our day. Television, phones, and the Internet fill up the “free-time” we have and give us the sense of being “plugged-in” and up-to-speed with our families and current world events. All of this is not a bad thing, but when these things start becoming our only source of truth and guide for how we live our lives, we will become disconnected from God’s will.
As Christians, our lives are built upon the truth that God reveals in His Word. We understand that all Scripture is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). This fact is of utmost importance to the entire Tabletalk staff. The Word of God teaches us that we are to do our best to present ourselves to God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, correctly handling the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
One way we steward this responsibility is through a special round of editing where every Scripture reference listed in Tabletalk is checked for accuracy, clarity, and consistency. For every issue, each verse is looked up and compared with the particular passage in Scripture then read in the context of the surrounding paragraph, and finally approved.
Each article and daily study is specifically written to take principles and truths found in Scripture and explain them in ways that connect to our readership. For those that want to dig deeper into the Word each day, there are additional Scripture references listed at the bottom of each daily study page. Our hope is that readers might take the time to look up and research the Scripture verses referenced throughout Tabletalk, and as a result, understand God’s Word more clearly and live as children of light (Eph. 5:8)—two things that can only happen once the dust is blown off their Bibles.
THE TRUTH ABOUT BEAUTY: GOD AND ART
By Monty Morgan
Dr. R.C. Sproul has said, “Every form is an art form.” Art has always been important in worship. For centuries the church commissioned art as a means to help convey spiritual truths to the community prior to the spread of literacy.
At Ligonier Ministries, the Tabletalk art director is commissioned to locate art to help convey spiritual truths. In particular, the art director is responsible to present appropriate visual images to help express the concept of the written articles found in each issue.
What guidelines do we use in the choice of a piece of art? Why do we choose what we do? Ligonier Ministries is an organization that presents God’s Word as the final authority on how we approach the issues of every day life. The Bible has a time-tested record of being reliable and accurate. Thus, we use a great deal of “time-tested” museum quality fine art that has come to us from classical masters of visual communication. Most of the art we use is an illustration based on a portion of the Bible. These paintings are an attempt to point us to the power and holiness of God. We trust the art you view in Tabletalk has integrity and honors God.
Ligonier chooses art with style. By style we do not mean that which is culturally in vogue, trendy, or popular. The style Ligonier strives for is conservative, stable, and established. We stay away from the abstract and lean on the realistic so little interpretation is needed. The colors are not bright or gaudy but rich and aged. And the subjects most often are biblical due to the subject matter being presented.
Why go to the trouble and expense of using fine art? Art communicates differently than writing. Visual art immediately connects to the emotions. So art sets the mood. It is the use of color, shape, and texture in the art that affects our feelings and sentiment about an article before we even begin reading. Thus, the visual and written images must complement and communicate together the message Ligonier Ministries wants to bring to you, the reader.
Truthfully, illustrating spiritual concepts is nearly impossible. The best men can do is only a contrivance. However, we endeavor to find images that exhibit the monthly theme and enhance Tabletalk for your enjoyment and edification.