Converted by Grace: Conversion’s Relation to Justification – H.Hoeksema

… turn thou me, and I shall be turned.- Jeremiah 31:18

When we speak of the conversion of the sinner by grace, it may be well to consider for a moment the question as to the relation which this particular blessing of salvation sustains to the rest of God’s wonderwork of grace whereby He redeems and delivers us from sin and death and makes us partakers of His eternal glory.

In the chapter on justification we remarked that this is the most fundamental blessing of grace: for God loves the righteous only; and therefore, unless we are justified, declared righteous by Him, we cannot expect any token of His favor. In this sense, that is, as the ground of all other blessings of salvation, justification is first. But this must not be misunderstood. It does not mean that in order of time the sinner first receives the gift of righteousness by faith, and that thereupon he is regenerated, united with Christ, called and converted.

From God’s viewpoint this is certainly true. Before God His people are justified from eternity; and He beholds them forever as perfectly righteous in Christ, and as such He blesses them. Moreover, this sentence of justification, our righteousness in Christ before God, was realized in the cross and resurrection of our Lord. And it is also true before the consciousness of the believer that by faith he first of all takes hold of this righteousness of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, before he dare hope for any other gift of God’s grace.

Yet the fact is, of course, that when the sinner performs that act of faith whereby he lays hold upon the righteousness of Christ, he is already reborn unto new life, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, united with Christ in the Spirit; and he has already received the gifts of faith and conversion. For it is only as a reborn, called, and believing sinner that he can embrace Christ as his righteousness. Even though justification is the ground of conversion, the justified sinner is a converted sinner.


Taken from chapter 9, “Converted by Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace by Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.74-75. This work has now been republished by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

Published in: on September 30, 2020 at 9:34 PM  Comments (1)  
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Keeping the Sabbath: Rest as Exalting in God’s Royal Majesty

But the moral content of the Sabbath law remains in force today. So celebrating that day also involves interrupting our earthly work. We do so not out of obligation or compulsion but out of respect for God’s ways. Then we break with the rhythm of daily work. We quietly take distance from it. And we focus internally on ourselves.

The point is not about doing nothing, then, but about not doing what would impede that change in rhythm.

But we can’t leave it at that. Interrupting the flow of our daily work is not sufficient. Another sort of labor begins at that point. We’re talking about the work of God’s kingdom insofar as that is imaginable only on a day of universal rest. This is work that also continues alongside our daily work on other days but that is only pursued to a greater degree on that day.

And there is still more. The rest we are talking about does not mean that we stop living. It’s not about collapsing in laziness or idleness. Completely to the contrary; it must be resting in God, entering into his tent, finding shelter under his wings, raising him above the flow of whatever is passing and enslaving – rest as exalting in his royal majesty.

This is the kind of resting in his majesty that renders the Devil powerless at his feet because the wings of Christ’s total power completely overshadow a person! In the deepest sense, therefore, this is to rest from one’s evil work and therefore to receive already in this life something of God’s ‘eternal rest.’ It is a rest that will be unsurpassed above and of which we have a foretaste already here below, at least to the extent that we deny ourselves and emphasize Christ’s work for us and in us.

Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), p.415.

This particular meditation (#21 of Volume 2) is titled “Remember the Sabbath Day” and is based on the fourth commandment as given in Exodus 20:8-10, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.”

Published in: on September 26, 2020 at 10:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Gospel-Led Leadership

Books on Christian leadership abound. Many of them mimic the philosophies of ‘successful’ business men or winning managers in the dugout. But, of course, true Christian leadership is principled according to the Word of God and governed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That’s what makes the new book by Paul David Tripp, Lead, so refreshing. It is grounded in Scripture and governed by the gospel. The book is subtitled “Twelve Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church.” In his Preface the author makes it plain why the gospel of God must govern all we think and do as Christians:

I only have one thing to offer: the right-here, right-now truths of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. All I ever do with each book is put on my gospel glasses and look at another topic in the life of a believer or in the culture of the church. I have jokingly said that I have written only one book; I just retitle it every year. Because the gospel is so infinitely deep, I know I could keep digging into it for the next century and never reach the bottom. I also know that applications of the gospel to everyday life are so wide and varied that I would also never run out of new things to examine from a gospel perspective.

You see, the gospel is not just a set of historical facts. It is that, for sure. It is rooted in divine acts of intervention and substitution that if not real and historical would rob the gospel of its reliability, promise, and power. But the gospel is not just a set of historical facts; it is also a collection of present redemptive realities. Certain things are true now, and are true of every believer, because of what God historically did and is presently doing on their behalf. There is more. The gospel is a living identity for all who believe. We have become something in Christ, something that is glorious and new and filled with new potential. Good gospel theology doesn’t just define for you who God is and what he has done; it also redefines who you are as his child.

That the gospel governs how the author approaches the subject of leadership in the church shows itself plainly in the table of contents:

Introduction: Crisis

  1. Achievement
    Principle 1: A ministry community, whose time is controlled by doing the business of the church tends to be spiritually unhealthy.
  2. Gospel
    Principle 2: If your leaders are going to be tools of God’s grace, they need to be committed to nurture that grace in one another’s lives.
  3. Limits
    Principle 3: Recognizing God-ordained limits of gift, time, energy and maturity is essential to leading a ministry community well.
  4. Balance
    Principle 4: Teaching your leaders to recognize and balance the various callings in their life is a vital contribution to their success.
  5. Character
    Principle 5: A spiritually healthy leadership community acknowledges that character is more important than structure or strategies.
  6. War
    Principle 6: It is essential to understand that leadership in any gospel ministry is spiritual warfare.
  7. Servants
    Principle 7: Being called to leadership in the church is a call to a life of willing sacrifice and service.
  8. Candor
    Principle 8: A spiritually healthy leadership community is characterized by the humility of approachability and the courage of loving honesty.
  9. Identity
    Principle 9: Where your leaders look for identity will always determine how they lead.
  10. Restoration
    Principle 10: If a leadership community is formed by the gospel it will always be committed to a lifestyle of fresh starts and new beginnings.
  11. Longevity
    Principle 11: For church leaders, ministry longevity is always the result of gospel community.
  12. Presence
    Principle 12: You will only handle the inevitable weakness, failure, and sin of your leaders when you view them through the lens of the presence, power, promises, and grace of Jesus.

And that same theme of the gospel runs through his Introduction, which Tripp titles “Crisis.” Listen to this section from that chapter:

Jesus, knowing that there was both doubt and belief in the room, was about to commission this group of fearful believers to carry the gospel of resurrection life to the world. Yes, he would commission these men at this cataclysmic moment. I likely would’ve thought, They’re not ready, it’s just too soon. They need to know so much more. They need to come to a deeper understanding of what just happened. They need time to mature. But in the middle of the most amazing, confusing, and gloriously mind-bending moment in history, Jesus did not hesitate; he simply said, “Go.”

I love the words that follow because they tell us why Jesus was confident to draft these men, at that moment, for his worldwide gospel mission. He was confident not because of what was in them and what he knew they would do, but because he knew what was in himself and what he would do. So he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He was saying to these men that there was no situation, no location, or no community outside of his authority and sovereign rule. He wanted them to understand that everything in heaven and on earth was under his command. Con-sider why this was so vital for these men who desperately needed his grace in order to bring his message of grace to the nations.

I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this, but the reliability of God’s promises of grace to us is only as great as the extent of his sovereignty. God can only guarantee the sure delivery of his prom-ises in the places over which he has control. I can guarantee what I promise to you in my house, because I have some authority there, but I cannot make the same promises for my neighbor’s house, over which I have no control. Jesus is saying, “As you go, you can bank on everything I have promised you because I rule every place where you will need those promises to be fulfilled.” God’s promises of grace are sure because his sovereignty is complete.

But Jesus had more to say. He then looked at this room of men, with the mixture of doubt and faith in their hearts, and said, “Be-hold, I am with you always.” These words are much deeper than Jesus saying, “I’ll be there for you.” Jesus is taking one of the names of God: “I Am.” He says, “Know that wherever you go, the I Am will be with you, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one on whom all the covenant promises rest, the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the one who is Alpha and Omega. I am the I Am, and I would never think of sending you without going with you in power, glory, wisdom, and grace.” The disciples would find all they needed for what they were being commissioned to do in the power, presence, and grace of the one sending them.

It is with the same assurance Jesus gave to the disciples that I write this book. Because of the completeness of Christ’s authority, the inescapability of his presence and the surety of his promises, we don’t have to be afraid of examining our weaknesses and failure. The gospel of his presence, power, and grace frees us from the burden of minimizing or denying reality. The gospel of his presence, power, and grace welcomes us to be the most honest community on earth. We are not cemented to our track record. We are not left to our small bag of personal resources. Because he is his best gift to us, our potential is great and change is possible. And so it is the gospel of his presence, power, and grace that gives me the courage and hope to write about a very important place where change needs to take place. May the same grace give you an open heart as you read.

I have read a few chapters into the book now and it is powerful, precisely because it is based on the gospel and is an application of the gospel. This is a review copy that I requested. If you are interested in reviewing it for the Standard Bearer, let me know and the book is yours.

Published in: on September 23, 2020 at 9:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Christ has accomplished everything” – Herman Bavinck


This wonderfully helpful section of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics was posted a little over a month ago on the blog “Tolle Lege.” In it, the noted Reformed theologian carefully distinguishes and relates the twin truths of justification and sanctification. Especially does he emphasize that all of our righteousness and holiness are found in the Savior Jesus Christ alone. Salvation is all – and in every part – of grace alone in Him! Be sure to follow the link to read the entire post.

Tolle Lege

“To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which He is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior.

He does not accomplish His work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing His acquittal in our conscience, He has also imparted full holiness and glory to us.

By His righteousness, accordingly, He does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life.

But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed Himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate Himself to…

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Published in: on September 20, 2020 at 8:06 AM  Leave a Comment  

History Thursday: Constitution Day, the Mayflower, and a Lost Car Ferry Discovered in Lake Michigan

Today we are going to make this a history/archives Thursday! There is so much to report on that we will combine three (3) items into this post.

First, today is Constitution Day, marking the anniversary (233rd!) of the signing of the United States’ Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. Our National Archives has some special programs related to this, and you will find all kinds of valuable items on “display” at their website, including the original signed copy. In fact, you can even become a signer of the Constitution, virtually!

And in these days of calamity and chaos in our land, it is good to be acquainted with this historic document laying out the foundational principles of our republic. (We are not strictly speaking a democracy, but a constitutional republic.)

Image result for Pilgrims Mayflower Ship

The second item of history for today is a rather striking one – a special vessel that will mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, England to America. It is called the “Mayflower Autonomous Ship” because, well, we will let World Mag tell you the rest:

The United States and United Kingdom jointly designed a solar- and wind-powered vessel guided by artificial intelligence to follow the same path across the Atlantic Ocean that pilgrims took from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. The Mayflower Autonomous Ship launched on Wednesday—400 years to the day after its namesake set sail carrying pilgrims in search of religious freedom.

How do the two ships compare? The new unmanned Mayflower is only 50 feet long. It weighs 5 tons and looks more like a futuristic spaceship than a sailing vessel. The original ship was 100 feet long and could carry up to 180 tons of cargo. Almost 150 passengers crammed into the hold for the journey.

An undated postcard showing the Pere Marquette 18 rail car ferry, which sank in 1910 and was discovered in the middle of Lake Michigan this summer by shipwreck hunters Jerry Eliason and Ken Merryman of Minnesota. (Courtesy | Alpena County Public Library Great Lakes Maritime Collection)

And finally, from the MLive news item linked here at the bottom here, we learn that a 1910 ferry that sank in Lake Michigan 110 years ago this month was recently discovered. Here’s the beginning of the story and additional pictures of the vessel – both in its original form and after discovery – are available there too.

LUDINGTON, MI — The wireless operator tapped the same frantic message for hours. “Carferry 18 sinking — help.” By the time help arrived, it was nearly too late.

One hundred and ten years ago this month, the Pere Marquette 18 took 29 souls with her as the iron vessel plunged beneath the dark surface of Lake Michigan.

The big railroad car ferry was surrounded by ships as she sank. However, despite many witnesses to her demise, the wreck evaded discovery until this summer, when a celebrated team of Great Lakes shipwreck hunters from Minnesota finally found her on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Source: Lost car ferry discovered 110 years after sinking in Lake Michigan –

Published in: on September 17, 2020 at 12:09 PM  Leave a Comment  

“…Those who wish to be physicians to heal vices ought not be executioners.” J. Calvin on James 3: 18

…That we may then really glory that we are the children of God, he bids us to act calmly and meekly towards our brethren; otherwise he declares that we are lying in assuming the Christian name.

13 Who is a wise man. As the lust of slandering arises mostly from pride, and as the false conceit of wisdom for the most part generates pride, he therefore speaks here of wisdom. It is usual with hypocrites to exalt and shew off themselves by criminating all others, as the case was formerly with many of the philosophers, who sought glory for themselves by a bitter abuse of all other orders. Such haughtiness as slanderous men swell with and are blinded by, James checked, by denying that the conceit of wisdom, with which men flatter themselves, has in it anything divine; but, on the contrary, he declares that it proceeds from the devil.

Then the meaning is, that supercilious censors, who largely indulge themselves, and at the same time spare none, seem to themselves to be very wise, but are greatly mistaken; for the Lord teaches his people far otherwise, even to be meek, and to be courteous to others. They, then, are alone wise in the sight of God, who connect this meekness with an honest conversation; for they who are severe and inexorable, though they may excel others in many virtues, do not yet follow the right way of wisdom.

l4 But if ye have bitter envying. He points out the fruits which proceed from that extreme austerity which is contrary to meekness; for immoderate rigor necessarily begets mischievous emulations, which presently break forth into contentions. It is, indeed, an improper mode of speaking, to place contentions in the heart; but this affects not the meaning; for the object was to shew that the evil disposition of the heart is the fountain of these evils.

He has called envying, or emulation, bitter; for it prevails not, except when minds are so infected with the poison of malignity, that they turn all things into bitterness.

That we may then really glory that we are the children of God, he bids us to act calmly and meekly towards our brethren; otherwise he declares that we are lying in assuming the Christian name. But it is not without reason that he has added the associate of envying, even strife, or contention, for contests and quarrels ever arise from malignity and envy.

15 This wisdom descendeth not. As hypocrites with difficulty give way, he sharply checked their haughtiness, denying that to be true wisdom with which they were inflated, while they were extremely morose in searching out the vices of others. Conceding to them, however, the term wisdom, he shews by the words he applies to it its true character, and says that it is earthly, sensual, devilish, or demoniac, while true wisdom must be heavenly, spiritual, divine; which three things are directly contrary to the three preceding ones. For James takes it as granted, that we are not wise, except when we are illuminated by God from above through his Spirit. However, then, the mind of man may enlarge itself, all its acuteness will be vanity; and not only so, but being at length entangled in the wiles of Satan, it will become wholly delirious.

16 For where envying is. It is an argument from what is contrary; for envying, by which hypocrites are influenced, produces effects contrary to wisdom. For wisdom requires a state of mind that is calm and composed, but envying disturbs it, so that in itself it becomes in a manner tumultuous, and boils up immoderately against others.

17 But the wisdom which is from above. He now mentions the effects of celestial wisdom which are wholly contrary to the former effects. He says first that it is pure; by which term he excludes hypocrisy and ambition. He, in the second place, calls it peaceable, to intimate that it is not contentious. In the third place, he calls it kind or humane, that we may know that it is far away from that immoderate austerity which tolerates nothing in our brethren. He also calls it gentle or tractable; by which he means that it widely differs from pride and malignity. In the last place, he says that it is full of mercy, etc., while hypocrisy is inhuman and inexorable. By good fruits he generally refers to all those duties which benevolent men perform towards their brethren; as though he had said, it is full of benevolence. It hence follows, that they lie who glory in their cruel austerity.

…But what he says, without discerning (sine dijudicatione,) seems strange; for the Spirit of God does not take away the difference between good and evil; nor does he render us so senseless as to be so void of judgment as to praise vice, and regard it as virtue. To this I reply, that James here, by discerning or distinguishing refers to that overanxious and overscrupulous inquiry, such as is commonly carried on by hypocrites, who too minutely examine the sayings and doings of their brethren, and put on them the worst construction.

18 And the fruit of righteousness. This admits of two meanings, — that fruit is sown by the peaceable, which afterwards they gather, — or, that they themselves, though they meekly tolerate many things in their neighbors, do not yet cease to sow righteousness. It is, however, an anticipation of an objection; for they who are carried away to evil speaking by the lust of slandering, have always this excuse, “What! can we then remove evil by our courteousness?” Hence James says, that those who are wise according to God’s will, are so kind, meek, and merciful, as yet not to cover vices nor favor them; but on the contrary in such a way as to strive to correct them, and yet in a peaceable manner, that is, in moderation, so that union is preserved. And thus he testifies that what he had hitherto said tends in no degree to do away with calm reproofs; but that those who wish to be physicians to heal vices ought not to be executioners.

He therefore adds, by those who make peace; which ought to be thus explained: they who study peace, are nevertheless careful to sow righteousness; nor are they slothful or negligent in promoting and encouraging good works; but they moderate their zeal with the condiment of peace, while hypocrites throw all things into confusion by a blind and furious violence.

Taken from Calvin’s commentary on James, found online here.

Published in: on September 12, 2020 at 9:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Word Wednesday: Where’d All That Greek Come From?

At this time [of the Renaissance – a good French word – remember our last post on this?] there was a huge influx of Greek words into the English language. Greek had always had a sort of back-door influence, anyway, through the Catholic Church and its Latin. During the era of the Roman Empire, Latin was the common tongue of Italy, but Greek was an international trade language. That’s why the Gospel writers picked Greek for their New Testament writings. Latin adopted lots of words from Greek. So, Greek sneaked into our vocabulary from the beginning like a stowaway tucked inside the hull of Latin. But the majority of words in our vocabulary today that are derived from Greek came in at the time of the Renaissance.

The Renaissance created a revolution in every field of human endeavor from physics, biology, and anatomy, to art, geography, and philosophy. Much of the advance in learning was spurred on by all the writings of the ancient Greek scientists and philosophers that were now available. That marvelous new invention, the printing press, was fueling the excitement by making books cheap and available. Greek words became popular. They were used to name all sorts of new things Europeans were learning and inventing. Just as Latin had always been …a back up for labeling newly crystallized English ideas, now Greek words were being used the same way. Reshaping Greek words into modern English lingo became a virtual fad for those on the cutting edge of any endeavor. Anything new was labeled with Greek. In fact, Greek – and Latin, too – were used so much that some English writers accused others of grossly overusing Greek and Latin just in order to sound stylish and educated. Their words were dubbed ‘inkhorn words.’ An inkhorn was  simply a bottle in which ink was kept, but an inkhorn word was a slur, insinuating that the words were being used merely to show off one’s knowledge of Greek and Latin, not for any truly useful purpose. Of course, using foreign words to sound sophisticated was nothing new.

…From video recorder to computer, megabyte to microwave, our own era is still using Greek and Latin words to coin new words for new things and new concepts. In fact, if you want to build your English vocabulary, just memorize the fifty or so most commonly used Greek and Latin root words. You will increase your ability to decipher unfamiliar English words, or at least make an educated guess at what they mean. Basically, because of the Renaissance, you can raise your SAT score by studying Greek and Latin roots. The word for new word itself is a Greek derivative: neologism. Neo means new, and logos means word.

I imagine you can start putting together other such Greek and Latin combinations: theology (the study of God), biology (the study of life), photograph (light writing), autograph (self writing) – and how about arachnophobia (spider fear)!

And here’s another influence of Greek on our English:

The entrance of so much Greek during the Renaissance also explains some of the weirdest of our English spellings. These letter combos are almost always derived from Greek:

ph for the sound of f (photo, physical, philosophy)
ps for the sound of s (psychology, psychosis, psychic)
pn for n (pneumonia, pneumatic)
ch for the sound of k (Christ, charisma, character).

…So, next time you hear someone say how strange it is that we don’t just spell photograph with an f, you can tell them – it’s Greek!

King Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should  Be Glad We Do: White, Laurie J, Mullen, Marika: 9780980187717:  Books
Taken from the chapter “The Invasion of Greek” in the fun and fascinating history of the English language by Laurie J. White, King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do (The Shorter Word Press, 2009, pp.88-90). Her segments on the Reformation and the history of the English Bible are outstanding. Maybe I’ll reference them next time.

Published in: on September 9, 2020 at 9:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Labor Day 2020: A Working Man – Rev. J. Engelsma

Col32324The latest issue of the Standard Bearer – Sept.1, 2020 – includes a valuable and timely article by Rev. Josh Engelsma on work. It is part of a series he is working on for the rubric “Strength of Youth,” in which he is developing the biblical idea of godly manhood. In this installment he writes on the place of labor (work) in the godly man’s life, tracing the concept from the threefold viewpoint of creation, the Fall, and redemption.

On this Labor Day holiday in the U.S., when there are so many distorted voices calling for our attention on the place and value of work in our lives, it is good to reference this article and hear what God’s Word says about it. I can only quote a portion of it, so we will go to the end of the article and quote from his section “work and redemption.”

Thankfully, as Christians we have hope in the face of sin and the curse. That hope is in Jesus Christ and His work. He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh, condescended to dwell in this world under the curse, and came to work. His work was to do the will of His Father and redeem His elect people. His earthly ministry was one of constant work: preaching and teaching and performing countless miracles. In reading the gospel accounts one gets the sense of constant activity and busyness with very little opportunity for rest. Especially did Jesus spend Himself in His work at the end of His life as He suffered the wrath of God at the cross and gave His life to atone for our sins.

As men, our confidence may never be in our own working and busyness. Rather we trust alone in Christ and His perfect work. On the basis of His finished work, we are forgiven of our sins with respect to our work. And by the power of His work in us, we are strengthened to fight against our sins and to work out of thanksgiving for His work. And we look forward in hope to the removal of the curse when in perfected bodies and souls we will serve God forever in the new heavens and earth.

Keeping this always in mind, we seek to determine what work the Lord would have us to do. We take stock of the unique gifts and opportunities God gives us (cf. Rom. 12:3-8). We seek out the wise counsel of parents, friends, teachers, and fellow saints. And through prayer we fill out that job application and strike out on that career path. As Christians we have a vocation, a unique calling from God. The idea of a calling is not just for pastors and teachers, but for electricians and salesmen as well.

In the work we are given to do, we strive to work hard. There are few things worse than a man who will not work hard. It ought to be the case as Christians that we are the best, most-desired employees. We respect our employer, give an honest day’s labor, make the best use of our abilities, are faithful and trustworthy, seek the good of the company, and refuse to cheat and cut corners.

In working hard, we seek to do so with the right motive in our hearts. We are not laboring to be rich. We are not seeking greatness as the world counts it. We labor as grateful servants in God’s heavenly kingdom. God does not need us, but He is pleased to use us as instruments in His hand for the advancement of His kingdom. That means that our labor is not empty and meaningless, as 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Even the lowliest ditch-digger has an honorable, necessary place of service in the kingdom.

The way this kingdom-focus often comes to expression is in our giving. We work hard not for materialistic purposes, but so that we might use the money God gives to support our family, send our children to a Christian school, feed the poor, provide for the ministry of the Word, and promote the various labors of the church (evangelism, missions, seminary instruction, for example).

Finally, we work not for our own glory and the praise of men, but for the glory of God. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).

Let this prayer be yours as you leave for work in the morning, and as you lay your weary body to rest at night:

So let there be on us bestowed
The beauty of the Lord our God;
The work accomplished by our hand
Establish thou, and make it stand;
Yea, let our hopeful labor be
Established evermore by Thee,
Established evermore by Thee (Psalter #246:3).

If you are interested in receiving this Reformed periodical, visit this link to the Standard Bearer website, where you will find subscription information – for both print and digital copies.

Learning from Daniel to Pray the Prayer That God Hears

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.—Dan. 9:3 (Read Daniel 9:1–13)

It is almost seventy years since Daniel came to Babylon. Now a high official in the government, he is reading Scripture one day and discovers in Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Babylonian exile would last seventy years, after which God’s people would “return to this place—Jerusalem” (25:8–11; 29:10–14). It dawns on him that God’s promises are about to be fulfilled! With evident excitement, he turns to “prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (v. 3), and in the process he leaves to us one of the great prayers of recorded history. He prays to claim the promises of God, which can only be claimed in prayer, followed by obedient action. True prayer has five parts to it, two of which we consider today, and the other three tomorrow.

True prayer begins with an apprehending adoration of God (v. 4).  Daniel expresses the privilege and pleasure of a believing relationship with God—who is “the Lord my God.” He apprehends God personally. A. W. Tozer observes that to “most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate; but he remained personally unknown to the individual.” Daniel recognizes three particular facts in his opening address to God:

  • Who God is in himself: the “great and awesome God,” i.e., who is sovereign over all things and to be worshiped from the heart.
  • Who God is to his people: he who “keeps his covenant and mercy,” i.e., who acts in sovereign grace to those who love him.
  • What God requires of us: that we “love Him, and keep his commandments,” knowing that anything less is sheer hypocrisy.

When we pray, we are on holy ground, like Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:5), and, like Moses, we must enter God’s presence reverently.

True prayer continues with confession of sin (vv. 5–13). Daniel emphasizes two essential elements of a sincere and genuine confession:

Daniel confesses sin in specific terms. There is nothing here of the easy, generalized “we all sin in thought, word, and deed” approach so popular today. This confesses nothing and is no better than a means of evading any real facing up to our particular personal sin. Undefined sin is unconfessed sin. And admitting “mistakes” is not repentance, nor is “moving on” reformation. Confession requires self-conviction.

Daniel confesses sin corporately for the whole people of God. This is inevitable when anyone leads a group in prayer, whether in a pulpit at a church meeting or at home in family worship. One person speaks audibly, but all participate: “We have sinned and committed iniquity” (v. 5). Daniel cites three main categories of the church’s sin:

  • Disobedience to God’s specific known commands (vv. 5, 7–9).
  • Disdain for God’s messengers and their messages (vv. 6, 10–11).
  • Denial of God’s warnings and discipline (vv. 12–13).

Daniel is here justifying God’s judgments upon his own people for their turning away from him. In Paul’s words to the Galatians, this says to them and to the world, “God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7).

This is “the sort of prayer that God hears,” says Stuart Olyott. Daniel teaches us how to pray for ourselves and for our church. He teaches us that no one truly prays until he approaches the Lord in believing, heart-felt reverence. No one will truly confess their sin until they are convicted of it in their heart of hearts. Will you look your sins in the face, like Daniel? Cry to Christ, for he will receive you—it is his promise (see Matt. 11:28ff.). May we all pray with such transparent faith, heartfelt devotion, and godly discipleship!

Prayers-Bible-KeddieTaken from Gordon Keddie’s recently published devotional book, The Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life (Crown and Covenant, 2017). I picked up the Kindle version free a few months ago and have been using it at the end of the day. It has been a wonderful blessing and given me instruction in and inspiration for a better prayer life.

This is the devotional for July 8, which is titled “Prayer That God Hears” (divided into two parts, of which this is the first part).

Images from Summer 2020 – Books, Boats, Bullheads, and Bogies

A sunrise with a doe and her fawns at the entrance to seminary last month.

I have been waiting (and wanting!) to do a post with various photos taken this summer. I thought of going with one theme and then decided to make it a variety show. So, tonight is a good time to show you some pictures I have been taking of my little world with all the simple pleasures of summer. I hope you enjoy.

Family fun in one of the waterfall pools we hiked to in the UP of Michigan.

The end of a beautiful night of boating with friends on the big lake and Spring Lake.

When you want the grandkids to help you put the furniture back in place at seminary after the annual carpet cleaning, you bribe them with ice cream and slushies. 🙂

A couple of neighborhood girls have been leaving Bible messages on the path leading into the park at the end of our street. During the “stay-at-home” order, they were very especially meaningful.

What could be better than a Free Little Library at the golf course?! Discovered at Gracewil course a few weeks ago. A few good books, but lots of bogies on that course ):


The cap to an afternoon on Lake Michigan – sailing and picnicking.

Catching bullhead (“suckers”) at Fair Haven Church pond with grandson Trey, my fishing buddy

Grandson Gale trying to throw the ball for Luna, our son’s dog. She’s one patient dog.

20200812_19575720200721_193004 The glory of summer flowers – zinnia and lilies.

And another round of golf with dad, brother, and son – so much weekly fun – bogies and all!


And traces of Fall are in the air – and on the ground.

Hope the end of your summer is great!


Published in: on September 1, 2020 at 10:40 PM  Leave a Comment