Prosperity and the Age of Ingratitude

thanksgiving

Author and teacher Douglas Bond posted several powerful Thanksgiving Day messages on his website last week (Nov.18). Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I would like to post the first one, which is titled “Prosperity and the Age of Ingratitude.” Not only does Bond point to the evil spirit of our age – ingratitude – but he also points to the only cure – God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. And he ends with a powerful little prayer from an English Puritan poet.

May you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving Day, reflecting on and rejoicing in God’s goodness in all things and in all circumstances. Below you will find one of our many reasons for thankfulness – our 15 grandchildren – precious gifts from the Lord!

Prosperity and Ingratitude

Ironically, amidst the prosperity of the modern world—when we might expect people to be thankful for all the good stuff—ingratitude has become like an infectious-disease bacteria, dividing, multiplying, and morphing into some of the ugliest cultural maladies in history. Ingratitude and its companion ailments, pride, boredom, discontentment, swaggering intolerance, suspicion, even abhorrence, of our neighbors, are on conspicuous display in entertainment, media, academia, and politics—alas, and in the church.

Ingratitude feeds voraciously on our inner being, until it has overrun our affections, and spreads like cancer throughout every sinew of our entire system. We have become the thing itself: ingratitude. What are we to do? We must begin by doing what we would do with an infectious disease, a pandemic virus; wash our hands of it; get clear of the source of it.

There is only one sure cure for ingratitude and discontentment for everyday gifts, for extraordinary blessings, and in times of grinding affliction. You and I need to take massive daily dosages of that cure. The cure begins with knowing that we have every reason to put off ingratitude, and put on gratitude. In Christ and all that he has accomplished on our behalf, for our redemption, for our eternal bliss, for our rescue from sin, self, and so-well-deserved death—we have every reason to be overflowing with gratitude. The cure to the disease is seeing and embracing afresh our glorious Savior, and then rendering to God heart-felt, verbal gratitude, actively and daily expressed. We must petition our Heavenly Father for more of that life-giving cure.

A good place to start is by praying along with Puritan poet George Herbert this prayer of holy discontent, “Thou hast given so much to me, Give one thing more–a grateful heart.”

Source: Prosperity and the Age of Ingratitude

[And while you are at his website, check out his great books! I see he has a new one on John Wycliffe.]

Published in: on November 24, 2022 at 7:24 AM  Leave a Comment  

A Fountain Opened for Repentant Sinners

In our Senior Bible Fellowship at Faith PRC, we have been studying some of the post-exilic minor prophets, namely Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. This past Wednesday night we finished the prophecy of Zechariah, which has some marvelous messianic prophecies. Among them are Zech.12:10 and 13:1, where we find these precious covenant promises:

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. …In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

In his commentary on these passages (especially Zech.13:1), John Calvin provides some beautiful gospel thoughts about the meaning and fulfillment for us NT believers. Below are a few of those comments, including his closing prayer to this section. These words are also fitting in light of our commemoration of the atoning sacrifice of Christ for us through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper this morning in my home church.

From this verse we again learn, that Zechariah promised the spirit of repentance to the Jews, so that they would find God still propitious to them, when their circumstances were brought to the verge of despair: for it would not have been enough for them to feel sorrow, except God himself became propitious and merciful to them. He had said indeed that the Spirit of grace and of commiserations would be poured forth; but he had not as yet taught clearly what he now adds respecting remission and pardon. After having then declared that there would be felt by the Jews the bitterest sorrow, because they had as it were pierced God, he now mentions the fruit of this repentance. And hence also appears what Paul means by sorrow not to be repented of; for it generates repentance unto salvation. When then our sorrow is blessed by the Lord, the end is to be regarded; for our hearts are thereby raised up to joy. But the issue of repentance [Calvin means, what repentance issues in – cf. the last paragraph below], as Zechariah declares here, is ablution: and he alludes to the legal rites when he says,

A fountain shall be opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. We know that formerly under the law many washings were prescribed to the Jews; and when any one had become defiled, to wash himself was the remedy. It is certain that water was of no value to cleanse the heart; but the sins of men, we know, are expiated by the death of Christ, so that true ablution is by the blood which he shed for us. Hence the types of the law ought no doubt to be referred to this blood. The meaning is that God would be reconciled to the Jews when they became touched with sincere sorrow, and that reconciliation would be ready for them, for the Lord would cleanse them from every defilement.

He speaks of a fountain opened; and he no doubt intimates here a difference between the law and the gospel. Water was brought daily to the temple; but it was, we know, for private washings. But Zechariah promises here a perpetual stream of cleansing water; as though he had said, “Ablution will be free to all, when God shall again receive his people into favor.” Though remission of sins was formerly offered under the law, yet it is now much more easily obtained by us; not that God grants a license to sin, but that the way in which our filth is cleansed, has become more evident since the coming of Christ. For the fathers under the law were indeed fully assured that God was so propitious as not to impute sins; but where was the pledge of ablution? In the sprinkling of blood, and that blood was the blood of a calf or a lamb. Now since we know that we have been redeemed by Christ, and that our souls are sprinkled with his blood by the hidden power of the Holy Spirit, it is doubtless the same as though God had not only set before our eyes our ablution, but also placed it as it were in our hands, while to the fathers it was more obscure or shown to them at a distance.

…The import of the whole then is — that though the Jews had in various ways defiled themselves, so that they were become filthy before God, and their uncleanness was abominable, yet a fountain would be prepared for them, by which they might cleanse themselves, so as to come before God pure and clean. We hence see that it was the Prophet’s object to show, that the repentance of which he had spoken would not be useless, for there would be a sure issue, when God favored the Jews, and showed himself propitious to them, and already pacified, and even provided for them a cleansing by the blood of his only-begotten Son, so that no filth might prevent them to call on him boldly and in confidence; for instead of the legal rites there would be the reality, as their hearts would be sprinkled by the Spirit, so that they would be purified by faith, and would thus cast away all their filth.

Prayer

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to adopt us as thy people, and from being thine enemies, profane and reprobate, to make us the children of Abraham, that we might be to thee a holy heritage, — O grant, that through the whole course of our life we may so repent as to attain thy mercy, which is daily set before us in thy gospel, and of which thou hast given us a sure pledge in the death of thy only Son, so that we may become more and more humble before thee, and labor to form our life according to the rule of righteousness, and so loathe ourselves, that we may at the same time be allured by the sweetness of thy goodness to call upon thee, and that being thus united to thee, we may be confirmed in the faith, until we shall reach that blessed rest which has been procured for us by the blood of thy Son Jesus Christ. — Amen.

Published in: on November 20, 2022 at 6:59 AM  Leave a Comment  

Understanding [Thomas] Jefferson | WORLD

It’s that wonderful time of the year again. I’m referring to the season of end-of-the-year-best-book lists (look for more references to such lists here before the end of the year!). One such favorite list appears annually in the early December issue of World Magazine. This year it is the December 3 issue, and on their website the publisher has begun to whet our appetite for what this year’s list looks like.

understanding-jefferson-kidd-2022

Their choice for 2022 “book of the year”? Thomas S. Kidd’s Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh (Yale Univ. Press, May 2022). This summary look at the book and its author appears on World’s website (“Understanding Jefferson”). Below you will find a portion of the article; you are encouraged to visit the link below to read all of it.

I have often been intrigued by the men God used to found this country of the United States. Some were Christians, some Deists, and still others secularists, but all had a vision for this new land that included a religious element, both for the good and for the bad. We can better face the issues of our own day by knowing how these ‘fore-fathers’ thought and lived in theirs.

To date, Kidd has filled in such gaps with more than a dozen books on religion in America, publishing with both Christian and prestigious academic presses. He tends to alternate between writing about the Great Awakening and Christianity’s role in America’s founding. Regarding the founding, he says, “I think ­religion made a profound difference, but it’s not easily categorized.” His latest book, Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh (Yale University Press 2022), untangles the spiritual life of one of America’s most important, but also most complicated, Founders. Americans continue to wrestle with our country’s past sins, which is one reason why WORLD chose this ­excellent, timely biography as our Book of the Year.

…It wasn’t until after he’d finished his 2018 book on Benjamin Franklin that Kidd decided he might want to tackle Jefferson. Franklin knew the Bible perhaps better than any of America’s Founders, but his knowledge didn’t lead to orthodox faith. Jefferson occupied a similar space—a highly educated man who knew the Scriptures but also harbored reservations about their truthfulness.

Despite those doubts, Kidd found that Jefferson existed in a world replete with Biblical imagery—literally. In preparation for the book, Kidd took a trip to Jefferson’s home of Monticello because he wanted to get a sense of the space Jefferson inhabited. Kidd says he was struck by the many paintings of Biblical scenes that filled the house. Jefferson lived and worked in a space that offered constant reminders of the Christian faith.

In this biography, Kidd shows us an original thinker attempting to cobble together his own brand of spirituality. Jefferson held unorthodox views long before he wrote the Declaration of Independence, but he wasn’t a Deist who saw God as an uninvolved Creator. He believed in God’s providence, but he saw that providence at work in America’s founding rather than in the saving of souls or the creation of the Church.

Jefferson also pulled much of his personal ethic from Christianity, but he didn’t believe humans to be inherently sinful. He preached a strict moralism, believing individuals could achieve a perfectibility of spirit. But in Jefferson’s life we see a chasm between his principles and his actions.

Source: Understanding Jefferson | WORLD

Published in: on November 18, 2022 at 8:35 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Sin of Tempting God – November 1, 2022 Standard Bearer

In the latest issue of the Standard Bearer (Nov.1, 2022), a Reformed magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association (rfpa.org), Rev. Jon Mahtani, pastor of Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI (Walker), has penned an article with the above title – “The Sin of Tempting God.” And though the article is addressed to the youth of the church (for the rubric “Strength of Youth”), it is applicable to believers of all ages. For the sin of which he writes is not limited to the youth, but is one that plagues all of us, since we all share the same fallen nature, a nature that is prone to hate God. And one of the ways that contempt for God manifests itself is in tempting Him.

In his article, after showing from Scripture how serious a sin this is, pastor Mahtani lays out several ways in which we practice it:

And yet, we tempt God. First, we might tempt God regarding our physical health and safety. Similar to jumping off the temple pinnacle, if we needlessly risk or neglect our bodies, we tempt God. For a name or for a high, Christian young people live “on the edge.” They leap into danger as though they are indestructible. And as the Israelites said, they might say, “Is God among us? He will save me, will He not, even when I put myself in harm’s way?” Likewise, neglecting the care of the body is also a manner of tempting God. Reformed Christians who immoderately smoke, vape, drink, or unreasonably circumvent doctors and medications, may rationalize this neglect with the hyper-spiritual claim that this is to trust God. On the contrary, this is to tempt God. Another example pertains to the physical health of others in the church. When the church knows the real danger of abuse in her midst, and then takes little to no action for the protection of Christ’s lambs, we tempt the Lord. We put His mercy to the test.

Secondly, we might tempt God regarding our spiritual health and safety. To stand on a proverbial precipice and presume upon God’s mercy by throwing ourselves into spiritual danger is to tempt God. Do you struggle with drunkenness? Then don’t hang out with those who encourage the sin. Do you struggle with pornography? Then don’t look at a screen without accountability. Do you struggle with bitterness? Then stop listening to and reading material that is full of slander. To pray, “Lead me not into temptation,” and then to cast yourself into it is not only foolish hypocrisy, but it is to tempt God. Whenever we intentionally cast ourselves into spiritual danger while claiming God’s preserving care, we tempt Him.

Likewise, the neglect of spiritual responsibilities while presuming upon God’s grace is to tempt Him. For example, God has revealed that while prayer is not a condition, He will give His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray. To neglect prayer, presuming that He will give His grace and Holy Spirit no matter what, is to tempt Him. Additionally, God has shown that His gracious covenant promises are to children of believers, yet he fulfills His promises in homes where parents faithfully instruct these children. Parents tempt God when they insist on God’s mercy as they neglect their children’s spiritual care. Another example demands the reminder that while repentance is not a prerequisite for salvation, God shows us that we will enjoy the peace of His forgiveness only in the way of sincere repentance. To insist by doctrine or life that God has already forgiven you while you remain impenitent is to tempt God.

And yet, he does not leave us without hope in the gospel of Jesus, for he adds at the end:

To tempt God is grievous sin deserving destruction. When the Israelites tempted God in the wilderness, He sent fiery snakes to destroy them (Numbers 21:7 & 1 Corinthians 10:9). God’s word threatens: “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (Psalm 95:8-11). Each of us must repent, for each of us is guilty of this sin. While turning from this sin, believe in Jesus Christ. Turn to Him who was cursed for us that we might be blessed. Turn to Him who endured God’s wrath that we might enter His rest. Turn to Him who though tempted, never tempted God, and whose perfect obedience is judged as our own.

For Jesus’ sake alone, He forgives. For Jesus’ sake, He gives repentance and faith to hear that forgiveness. And for Jesus’ sake, He gives His Spirit to resist the devil’s temptation to tempt God. So the child of God cries, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins” (Psalm 19:13a).

Published in: on November 12, 2022 at 9:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

He Is Not Ashamed: The Jesus Who “Delights to Save His Enemies and Welcome Them Into His Family”

At this point in the story, the last thing anyone is rooting for is mercy [writing of Saul the great enemy of Christ and persecutor of the church]. Instead, we naturally want justice. We want Saul to get what’s coming to him. But that’s not what happens. In an unexpected twist, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Making his way along the seven-day journey to Damascus, armed with letters of extradition, he was startled by a noonday light from heaven that was brighter than the sun (Acts 22:6; 26:13). He fell to the ground and a voice from heaven said, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ (26:14. Confused and no doubt greatly unnerved, he answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then came the answer, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (26:15).

Let’s press pause on this scene for a minute and consider a question. In what sense was Saul persecuting Jesus? After all, Jesus had been resurrected and ascended to heaven. The answer lies in Saul’s persecution against his family, the church, the body of Christ. Jesus is the head of the church. He’s closely identified with and connected to his people. If someone attacks the arm, then they attack the head also, for we are one body. John Stott observes, ‘At once Saul must have grasped, from the extraordinary way in which Jesus identified with his followers, so that to persecute them was to persecute him, that Jesus was alive and his claims were true.’ Jesus is the exalted King of kings, but he’s also a compassionate high-priest who sees and sympathizes with us in our weakness (Heb.4:15). Dear Christian, you may feel alone at times, but you never escape the omnipresent eyes of your loving Savior.

In a moment, the wild wolf came face-to-face with the good shepherd of the flock of God. Here we see Jesus’s power as King and his love as Savior. He is the one who delights to save his enemies and welcome them into his family. Here on the road to Damascus, the man intent on arresting Christians was arrested by Christ. The raging rebel and enemy of God was subdued by omnipotence and tamed by mercy. While the light from heaven blinded his eyes, mercy melted his heart. Reflecting on this verse, John Newton writes,

If thou hadst bid thy thunders roll,
And lightnings flash, to blast my soul,
I still had stubborn been:
But mercy has my heart subdu’d,
A bleeding Savior I have view’d
And now I hate my sin.

This experience that Paul had with the resurrected Lord shaped so much of what we read from him in the New Testament. If Jesus rose from the dead, then everything he said is true. It’s that simple. He is God, worthy of unrivaled devotion, honor, and glory. The Prince of Peace is willing to forgive the chief of sinners.

And that leads the author to conclude with this:

Those who oppose God are prospects for grace. We might be tempted to write off certain people as too far from God. But is this true? What does the family photo of Jesus teach us? To paraphrase John Newton, none are so bad that the gospel cannot be their ground for hope, and none are so good as to have any hope without it. Consider Stephen. The crowd responded to his faithful proclamation of the gospel by pelting him with rocks. How did he respond to that? In his last breaths, he prayed for them, ‘And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep’ (Acts 7:60).’ Don’t forget that Saul of Tarsus was a member of that violent mob. The Lord answered Stephen’s dying prayer. Our Lord can cure man’s arrogance. He can lead a man to the knowledge of the evils of his heart. May God help us to pray, preach, and share the gospel like we believe that God delights to save his enemies.

Erik Raymond in He Is Not Ashamed: The Staggering Love of Christ for His People (Crossway, 2022), pp.53-55,57. This is a title I requested for review for the Standard Bearer. If any readers are interested, they may let me know if they would like to have the book for a brief review in this Reformed magazine. In the meantime, I continue to read the book and am blessed by its message.

Published in: on November 5, 2022 at 9:40 PM  Leave a Comment  

9.5 Theses: Suggested Reading on the Reformation – Ligonier

LutheratWorms

Reformation Day 2022. Let’s talk books – Reformation history books. Reformation doctrine books. Reformation spiritual growth books. Books for adults, books for children, books for teenagers.

This fine little article by Barry York highlights in a clever way how we can help Reformation churches and her members grow in their knowledge of and commitment to the principles of our Protestant heritage. Here’s how York puts it:

Returning now to the opening question, what might be some guidelines to help a church grow in its knowledge of the Reformation through some of the best books written on it? In the spirit of Luther, here are 9.5 theses to give congregations a suggested plan. This plan focuses on encouraging (1) quality books rather than a quantity of books; (2) a simple yet comprehensive strategy; and (3) a longer-term, deepening approach to help a congregation mature in its knowledge of the Reformation.

I’ve selected three of his categories (“theses”) for you in this post, but by all means read the complete article. And then, gather up some good books on the Reformation! Like this one – for the children!

MLuther-changed-world-Maier

Thesis 4: Trace the spread of the Reformation through other key figures. Well-written biographies help bring the history and characters of the Reformation alive. By reading these stories, God’s people can see how the fires of the Reformation spread into other countries. Here are just three lives to give a taste of how this happened.

Martin Bucer was on hand for the Heidelberg Disputation in 1518 when Luther defended another set of twenty-eight theses. Bucer was influenced tremendously by Luther. The relatively recent English translation of Martin Greschat’s biography Martin Bucer: A Reformer and His Times captures this Swiss Reformer’s life. Next, John Calvin spent three years in Strasbourg learning from Bucer, and readers will get to know this great Reformer well by reading either the careful treatise John Calvin: A Biography by T.H.L. Parker or Bruce Gordon’s longer and more personal look at his life simply titled Calvin. Finally, John Knox spent time with Calvin in Geneva before returning to Scotland, and Steven Lawson’s John Knox: Fearless Faith is a succinct, approachable summary of his life.

Thesis 5: Don’t forget the little children. Helping families train their children by suggesting or providing books written for their age range, or even reading the stories in church classes, is a great way to encourage the coming generation. Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul L. Maier is a great picture book for young children. Catherine MacKenzie’s Little Lights series has several titles featuring the Reformers above, such as Martin Luther: What Should I Do?John Calvin: What Is the Truth?, and John Knox: Who Will Save You?, for those just learning to read. Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation―from A to Z by Stephen Nichols provides a helpful alphabet-style overview of the Reformation period.

Thesis 6: Engage the young people as well. For elementary and middle school children, When Lightning Struck! by Danika Cooley tells of Luther’s life. The Trailblazers series offers other inspiring biographies such as John Calvin: After Darkness, Light and John Knox: The Sharpened Sword by Catherine MacKenzie. Robert Godfrey’s Reformation Sketches: Insights into Luther, Calvin, and the Confessions will help high school and college students as it provides some brief biographies as well as a look at some of the Reformed confessions, which helps students know why some of their churches are named Westminster or why they use a catechism called Heidelberg.

Source: 9.5 Theses: Suggested Reading on the Reformation | Tabletalk

Published in: on October 31, 2022 at 9:14 PM  Leave a Comment  

It’s by Design That We’ve Never Lived without the Sabbath | Crossway Articles

Today Crossway published a special article (see link below) based on the new book, The Sabbath as Rest and Hope for the People of God by Guy P. Waters. This is the latest in their series “Short Studies in Biblical Theology.”

The Sabbath as Rest and Hope for the People of God

Here’s an excerpt from the close of the article, where Waters concludes his biblical explanation of God’s creation-ordinance sabbath:

In conclusion, by setting aside the seventh day as a time of resting from his work of creating the world, God institutes the weekly Sabbath as an ongoing ordinance for human beings. The Sabbath commandment does not oblige Israel alone; it binds all human beings by virtue of them being made in the image of God. Thus, humanity did not receive the Sabbath commandment at some point far into the course of human history—God gave the Sabbath to humanity at the beginning of history, at the creation of the world.

So how are human beings to keep the Sabbath? And what does God intend to bring about through their Sabbath keeping? Humans are to imitate God by engaging in labor for six days of the week. But they are no less designed to imitate God by resting the seventh day. This means that God wants people, for twenty-four hours, to cease the work that occupies them six days of the week. Yet, that cessation of labor—and the refreshment that comes from that cessation—is a means to a greater end. God wants human beings to worship him. The Sabbath is a day that God has “made . . . holy”—it is set apart to him and to his worship. And it is precisely because the day is directed toward God that it carries blessing for human beings. It is a day that God has “blessed.” In light of the testimony of Genesis 1:1–2:3, that blessing carries potential for fruitfulness and fullness. Thus, as God meets with people who truly worship him on that day, they experience all of these gifts—spiritual blessing, fruitfulness, and fullness.

It is this latter point that brings us to the heart of the Sabbath. God made human beings to worship him, to have fellowship with him, and to find blessing and happiness in that worship and fellowship. We were created to labor, to be sure, but the ultimate goal of human existence is to worship and glorify the God who made us.

In the light of this truth of God’s Word, shall we commit to spending tomorrow imitating our God in His rest and enjoying blessed fellowship with Him as we worship Him as Creator and Redeemer?

Source: It’s by Design That We’ve Never Lived without the Sabbath | Crossway Articles

Published in: on October 29, 2022 at 9:37 PM  Leave a Comment  

Fall Splendor in West Michigan

The fall season is one of the most special times in West Michigan, and this year the colors have been exceptional. So, for this Friday, while I wait to attend Grandparents’ Day at some of our grandchildren’s Christian school, we’ll post a few photos I have taken this month.

And we will work our way backwards in time. These first two photos were taken yesterday morning at the PRC Seminary (down by the sign) on our first hard frost morning. As the sun arose, the landscape was simply stunning.

Of course, with the weather last Saturday back in the 70s, my dad (age 89!) and brother and I had to get ‘one more’ round of golf in. Ironwood course was loaded with color!

Last Friday night my wife and I drove along the Grand River on M21 through Ada and Lowell – beautiful night on the Flat River (and good food at the Flat River Grille!).

We have been enjoying the new patio in the back of seminary, especially now with the woods behind us ablaze in fall colors. These were taken last week Friday, during our Friday brat cookout.

And two weeks ago I took a ride to Holland to check out some books that were available, and this scene filled my soul with wonder. Port Sheldon going west was one gorgeous setting after another.

Well, that will have to do it for now. I hope you will join me in praising the God who is the best Artist in all the world. No one can paint the heavens and earth as He can.

The full moon that began this month.

Published in: on October 28, 2022 at 7:33 AM  Comments (1)  

From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee – Martin Luther

A beautiful hymn by the Reformer Martin Luther, based on Psalm 130. Be sure to listen to the video below for a wonderful presentation of this song.

1 From depths of woe I raise to thee
the voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
and hear my supplication:
if thou iniquities dost mark,
our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before thee?

2 To wash away the crimson stain,
grace, grace alone, availeth;
our works, alas! are all in vain;
in much the best life faileth:
no man can glory in thy sight,
all must alike confess thy might,
and live alone by mercy.

3 Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
and not in mine own merit;
on him my soul shall rest, his Word
upholds my fainting spirit:
his promised mercy is my fort,
my comfort, and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.

4 What though I wait the live-long night,
and ’til the dawn appeareth,
my heart still trusteth in his might;
it doubteth not nor feareth:
do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
ye of the Spirit born indeed;
and wait ’til God appeareth.

5 Though great our sins and sore our woes,
his grace much more aboundeth;
his helping love no limit knows,
our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is he,
who will at last his Israel free
from all their sin and sorrow.

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #503

Published in: on October 26, 2022 at 5:56 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Sacred Call to Normal Work: How the Reformation Renewed Vocation | Desiring God

book binder-16thc
16th-century book binder

Today Desiring God carried this fine article on the way in which the Reformation of the 16th century changed and influenced the Christian’s view of calling and work. In today’s environment with the world’s disparagement of work and the rise of slothfulness, the Reformation’s biblical principles need to be heard and practiced.

I quote a few paragraphs, encouraging you to read the entire article at the link below.

The evangelicals submitted and taught two practical applications from the principle of the sacredness of all work and vocations. First, all Christians were to “walk in” or “answer to their vocation.”1 “Walking in” one’s vocation encompassed faithfulness to one’s employer and attendant duties in the place of employment. Faithful labor was to be done for the Lord’s sake primarily, but the evangelical ministers also reiterated the principle of working for the love of one’s neighbor. They contended that one’s vocation, whatever it was, served and benefitted the commonwealth both socially and economically.2 Additionally, ministers reminded congregants to be content with their vocation and the work that God provided them.3

The evangelicals made another application of the principle “all space is sacred space” in regards to one’s labor and vocation. They argued that since God was deeply concerned about all vocations, and since all work and vocations were sacred, prayer should be made for all people in their respective vocations. Many Reformation prayer books, like Thomas Becon’s A flour of godly praiers (1550), contained prayers for magistrates, soldiers, mariners, travelers by land, lawyers, merchants, landlords, and mothers.

Within his prayer book, Becon offers a general prayer for all Christians to pray, that they all would “walke accordinge to [their] vocacion in thy feare.”4 In these prayer books, the evangelicals gave special attention to mothers. Mothers were encouraged both through sermons and implicitly through the wording of the prayers that their domestic work was “godly.” These evangelical prayer books implicitly taught English society that all spheres were sacred and were worthy of prayer to God. No vocation was too humble to petition his blessing for the work.

And then there was this principle that developed out of the previous one:

The English evangelicals reasoned that since all vocations and activities were holy in God’s sight, it was incumbent on believers to pursue their vocation with diligence. Industriousness, with it is corresponding virtues — self-discipline, self-governance, and perseverance — constituted an indispensable Christian virtue in the English Reformation ethos. There was no space for idleness in the Christian ethic.

One reason why diligence and idleness were addressed so frequently and zealously in evangelical catechisms and sermons was the context of increasing poverty in urban areas in England, particularly in London. The evangelicals observed that much of that poverty was due to idleness among men.

Diligence stood as a prominent theme in English evangelical print, and it was stressed to all audiences, regardless of age or status. Children were taught the value and benefits of diligence from their parents at a young age through catechesis in the household. The earliest evangelical catechisms and manuals of virtue emphatically encouraged youth to pursue diligence, “takynge payne with all thyne industry,” while also fleeing “slouthe and over much sle[e]pe.”9 In his catechism, William Perkins exhorted children and adults alike to “labour and toyle,” but also reminded Christians that diligence was “nothing and availes not, unlesse God still give his blessing.”10

And so the author applies these principles to the modern Christian in these words:

The English Reformation view of work and vocation can serve as a healthy model for us today. Persistent, disciplined, excellent work for the glory of God is noble and virtuous. There is dignity in any vocation and in performing one’s task, no matter how seemingly mundane or menial, while depending upon God to bless the outcome. God calls us to do all things, including our work, with excellence and joy for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Idleness, laziness, and lack of responsibility are sins to be confessed and repented of.

Moses petitioned God on behalf of the congregation of Israel in Psalm 90:17 to “establish the work of our hands.” This statement humbly acknowledges utter dependence on God for any success in work. Unless he blesses and uses our skills, time management, education, and job opportunities, we will not prosper in them (Psalm 127:1). All is futile without God and his blessing. But when God blesses our labor and vocation, it will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). In fact, the work we do for God’s sake will have spiritual and eternal value (Matthew 25:14–30).

As with the evangelicals in Reformation England, we too can cultivate a disposition of doing all things heartily for our Lord (Colossians 3:23), asking him to “make us diligent & happy in the workes of our vocation.”15

 

Source: The Sacred Call to Normal Work: How the Reformation Renewed Vocation | Desiring God

Published in: on October 22, 2022 at 7:11 AM  Leave a Comment