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).

Divine Laughter (A Meditation on Psalm 2)


This special meditation was prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Divine Laughter

Meditation on Psalm 2: 1-7

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

The Lord reigns! Just as Hurricane Laura came on our shores with howling wind and restless waves of the sea, so do the wicked rage. Psalm 2 describes the terrible opposition that David experienced once he was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. But the opposition against David is only a faint type of the reaction of the wicked against the Lord Jesus. Jesus, the righteous King is contrasted with the world that is filled with those who hate the instruction of the Lord. They are those who walk, stand, and sit in the counsel of the wicked (cf. Psalm 1). When Jesus’ righteousness reveals the wickedness of those in the world, they naturally respond in hatred. This is true not only for Christ, God’s anointed, but also for all those who follow Him. There is a conflict between those who seek shelter in the Christ and those who refuse Him. This is the conflict of the ages between the Lord’s Anointed and the nations.

Think back to the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Hearing of the birth of Jesus, Herod immediately began to plot against him. Later, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes plotted to kill Jesus. Jews and Gentiles (Pilate and the Romans) tried to extinguish the light of the world! In Acts 4: 24-28 the Apostles John and Peter report the evil treatment they received of the religious leaders. They pray to God using Psalm 2 to describe the opposition to Christ’s ministry. But clearly, they point out that the wicked doing this are only carrying out what God’s hand and counsel determined beforehand. The wicked put Jesus to death; the Lord raised and exalted Him.

What is the LORD’s reaction to this rebellion and hatred of his Son? The Psalmist writes, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.” Just as the raging sea could not hurt Jesus and His disciples when out on the Sea of Galilee, so also the plotting of the wicked cannot hold back the reign of Christ Jesus nor His kingdom. God has set His Son on His throne. He did this after Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and death in His death and resurrection. He ascended up into heaven, and His enemies are made his footstool. The Apostle Paul quotes this part of Psalm 2 in Acts. 13:30-33. Paul identified the resurrection of Jesus as His royal enthronement.

What comfort this was to the church in Paul’s day. They underwent persecution from the Jews and the Gentiles. The nations hatched their plots and schemes, yet the Lord “sitteth in the heavens” and laughs. Even though Christ has been installed on Mount Zion, the nations still conspire and rebel against His authority. Do we not still see this today? Think of all the persecution of the church in many nations. Think of the sinful and rebellious counsel of the wicked in our own land. The abortion of little children is seen as essential while the worship of the Lord in His house had been banned. What a rebellious and sinful world we live in. And it will only get worse!

For the rebellion of the wicked, Christ will come with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces. We see God’s judgment in the world today with the violence and upheaval in the streets of our cities. There are the natural disasters: fires, floods, and hurricanes. This is only the beginning. Kingdoms rise and fall. But Christ is coming again in glory, and will bring judgement. Not one of the wicked will escape. They will be broken like a piece of pottery.

The Psalm ends with a call to repentance. Instead of rebelling against the Lord’s Anointed, let people abandon their sinful ways and submit in faith to Christ. “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son…Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (vs. 11,12).

When we find ourselves suffering for the sake of righteousness, we too must seek shelter in the hope of this psalm. Try as they might, the nations and the wicked will not overthrow the reign of the Lord and his Anointed. Christ reigns and will shelter all those who take refuge in Him. Oh, the heathen rage! Many take counsel together against the Lord and His Christ in rebellion. But Christ is already enthroned. Those who take refuge in Him shall also one day reign with Him. Whatever the opposition, no human power can ever nullify or undo God’s divine purpose.

Are you allowing pessimism to affect you, or are you hanging on to the hope that Christ’s kingdom will prevail in every nation? Do you serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling? Have you kissed the Son in submission and love? One day, maybe very soon, Christ will return as Judge.

The Power and Blessing of Jesus’ Intercession for His People

Rome talks about providing an enduring efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice in the mass.

We reject that. And why do we?

In order to preserve nothing more than a cold, bleak emptiness and hollowness?

No, a thousand times over, no! It’s because only the intercession of Christ maintains the efficacy of that sacrifice! It also provides the unceasing effort and all-enabling strength that sustains the souls of the redeemed day and night. It blesses them!

So don’t ever think that the praying that Jesus does happens now and then based on your petition, your request, or your imploring him for his prayer. It’s not like your Savior has to be asked to pray on your behalf before the throne of grace. Look, Jesus doesn’t just pray for you some of the time or only once! He does so ceaselessly. Praying for you is his preoccupation; it’s his purpose for living! He lives for it. His life revolves around praying for you.

…He lives for uttering his supplications on our behalf before his Father’s throne. Such praying is his very breath. It amounts to pouring out his soul on behalf of his people. Such praying reflects the sacred effort of our redeeming Hero on behalf of those struggling here on earth.

That’s why Jesus’ praying is the lifeline tied to your soul that prevents it from sinking.

Jesus is praying for you even while you’re sleeping.

He’s praying for you even when in the busyness of your daily life you are no longer thinking about him.

As your Savior, he’s praying for you even when you cause him sorrow and distress.

Christ imploring God on your behalf is your constantly flowing stream of life. It’s the wind that fills your sails and moves you forward, even when you lie down exhausted in your little boat and give up struggling.

Yes, even when you approach death and hover between heaven and hell, it will be the praying of Jesus that upholds you, offers you support, and ultimately saves you.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.394-95.

This particular meditation (#16 of Volume 2) is titled “He Lives to Make Intercession for Them” and is based on Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Penitent Worshipers

This special meditationhas been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Meditation on Psalm 130: 3,4

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

This is the eleventh psalm of the Songs of Ascent. As we go up to the Lord’s house to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness, immediately there is, should be, the sense of our unworthiness because of our sin. The psalmist begins this psalm with the acknowledgment of depths. This could be the depths of the ocean or sea. It could be the depths of a dungeon or an empty cistern , (like the ones in which Joseph and Jeremiah were thrown by those who hated them. The depths is a position of helplessness and great need. Think of Jonah when he was in the belly of the great fish. The psalmist, aware of the depths of his sin and perversity cried “Out of the depths!”. His iniquities were against God! Surely, he has earned punishment; he is in these depths justly. The depths refer to guilt, the objective result of sin that brings a person under God’s condemnation. He deserves and experiences a sense of God’s wrath.

Affliction and guilt can bring a person very low. But in these depths, one must not give into despair or hopelessness. We must pray with great earnestness to the One who alone can rescue us. Notice, the psalmist cried unto the LORD. God gave him awareness of his sin. Faith makes us aware that we have earned what we received. Our sins bring God’s wrath! Faith cries; it does not whisper. Oh, the loud penetrating voice arises out of the depths. We have no right to be heard. Why should we be brought out? We cry out and supplicate Jehovah, our covenant God to look down in His mercy and hear our cry. Who can stand before the holy God who cannot endure iniquity? But if we do not want God to “mark our iniquities”, what do we wish for Him to do? Do we wish for Him to wink at our sin or pretend it is not there? To mark is literally to “watch over, tally up and keep a record of.” How awful and how long would be such a list! One sin against the holy God would damn us to hell, let alone the pile of sins heaped up. Who will be able to stand up and defend himself? No sinner can be justified before God by his own efforts. It is a cry of supplication, pleading for grace and favor. The guilty must pray for salvation.

Verse four begins with a significant “but”. Faith sees that with God there is forgiveness. This means that God lifts off from us the responsibility to pay for our sins. God also restores to us the right to live before Him. God alone can pardon the guilt of sin. What is the basis of this forgiveness? How can a holy God forgive? The answer is found in verses seven and eight. “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

There is forgiveness by the redemption that God gives. Mercy is God reaching down to us, in our helplessness, and helping. He delivers us from the depths. With God is plenteous redemption. A redeemer was a near kinsman who was willing and able to pay the debts of a person or family, like Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth. Redemption is with God. It is never something that we have earned or merited. God pays the debt that we have accrued. The cost of our redemption was the blood and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the wrath that each and every sin of ours deserves. No, God does not wink at our sin or ignore it. He is holy and just. God provided for our redemption. In I Cor. 1: 30 we read, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” We must acknowledge that we cannot stand before God on our own merits. We in faith look to God as the God who forgives sin through Christ. How gracious is that forgiveness! It is not deserved by us. It is graciously given. Faith focuses its hope and desire upon Jesus Christ. He gave Himself as “a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:6). Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation? If so, then how has your faith evidenced itself in a childlike fear of the Lord?

God forgives us by redeeming us. The purpose is that you and I may always stand in awe of Him and His grace. Oh, the wonder that God loved me! Have you stood in wonder at your redemption? Aware of the great punishment that your sins deserve, are you made speechless that God forgave you? Instead of standing in the rags of your sin, you have been cleansed and clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. O, the wonder of it all! God’s salvation is abundant. Do you rest your hope entirely in Him?

My sin — O the bliss of this glorious thought! — My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. It is well…with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul.” Philip Bliss 1876

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Goodness – G. Keddie on Psalm 31

Prayers-Bible-KeddieI am enjoying ( that is, being edified and encouraged by) 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 month ago and started using it at the end of the day.

Friday’s devotional (April 17) was based on David’s prayer recorded in Psalm 31, and it struck me as so relevant to our current situation. So I cut and pasted it from my Kindle into an email and now post it here for your benefit too. As you read it, I believe it will speak to your need in these times as it did to me. (This is not a disclaimer, but I add that Keddie uses the New KJV for these devotionals.)

A prayer of thanksgiving for God’s goodness
Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You… Ps. 31:19

The goodness of God must be a doctrine believed if it is to be an experience enjoyed. This is most keenly tested when bad things happen to us, because it is not obvious that these are evidence of God’s goodness in our lives. After all, “His judgments are in all the earth” (Ps. 105:7), and at the time even “all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Heb. 12:11). So the upsets, setbacks, disasters, and tragedies of life—“the same event” that “happens to the righteous and the wicked” (Eccl. 9:2)—cause us distress, not joy, and may tempt us to doubt the goodness of God altogether. We naturally cry out in pain and seek relief and resolution. Again, the Lord shows us the way…

To whom are we to turn in our troubles? Answer: the God who saves! David turns to God for deliverance (vv. 1–2), confesses him as his “rock and fortress” (vv. 3–5), and testifies to past mercies from his hand (vv. 6–8). Calvin notes that David “held it as a principle, that the hope which depends upon God cannot possibly be disappointed” and calls us all to act “from a firm persuasion that our safety depends on the power of God.” David worked hard at staying alive—running, hiding, fighting, even feigning madness—but he always depended upon the Lord. It is not an accident that he was given to utter words that Jesus would speak upon the cross: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit” (v. 5; Luke 23:46). As David foreshadows Christ trusting his Father, so we are called to after-shadow Christ our Savior, trusting in him as our surety in a world no less challenging in our time.
Why may we have confidence in the face of troubles? Answer: God is the God of sovereign grace, who delights in “exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 9:24).
David can claim God’s mercy for two basic reasons (vv. 9–13). The first is that God is in himself “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy” (Ps. 103:8). We are alive “because His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22). Even more, we live in “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), when “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). This is true for every human being.
The second reason is that God is absolutely sovereign (vv. 14–18). Only because our “times are in [His] hand” do we have a prayer for deliverance (v. 15). “The people of God in every age,” writes Murdoch Campbell, “have had the same awareness [as David] of being exposed to constant danger; but ‘their life is hid with Christ in God’ [Col. 3:3].” God’s sovereignty is not cold and distant to us, for he is our “hiding place” (Ps. 32:7; 119:114), and we are his “dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff,” safe in the Rock of Ages, Jesus his Son (Song 2:14).
What will believers discover even through their troubles? Answer: that God is good (vv. 19–24). In all your troubles, child of God, both physical and spiritual, from illnesses to insults, from foolishness and sins to injuries by others, have you not found with the psalmist that God has loved you through them all and been your “rock of refuge” in Christ your Savior? Indeed, it is Jesus who was “cut off from before [his Father’s] eyes” (v. 22), but “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear…” and “having been perfected,” became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:7–9).
Dear Christian, you are safe in the arms of Jesus! You have found it so thus far, and will so find it in the glory yet to be revealed. Will you now “love the Lord, all you His saints…for the Lord preserves the faithful” (v. 23)? “Oh, how great is Your goodness!” (v. 19).
Keddie always ends his devotionals by calling the reader to praise God by singing the Psalm. Shall we do that? Here’s a good way to do so (sing along with the piano accompaniment). I include the first three stanzas below.


1. In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
I call upon Thy Name;
O save me in Thy righteousness,
Nor let me suffer shame.

2. Bow down Thy ear to my request,
And swift deliverance send;
Be Thou to me a rock of strength,
A fortress to defend.

3. Since Thou my rock and fortress art,
My leader be, and guide;
From all temptation rescue me,
Thou dost my strength abide.


*Postscript: If you are looking for a good devotional, whether personal or family, this is a fine one. Keddie’s material is not “feel-good fluff,” but Bible-focused, God-centered, and Christ-exalting stuff.

And while I’m recommending this Keddie publication, I highly recommend all his commentaries. I have used them many times over the years and never was disappointed. They are always sound expositions of God’s Word, with principled applications, by a faithful Reformed Presbyterian pastor.

Sovereign Ruler of the Skies – John Ryland

I came across part of this comforting hymn today in a “Grace Gems” devotional, and had to look it up. The first result of my search gave the fullest version of “Sovereign Ruler of the Skies,” though it is also found on hymnary.org. I found this nice summary of the hymn on the Founders website:

“Sovereign Ruler of the Skies” [was written] by the English Baptist pastor and hymn writer John Ryland (1753–1825). The hymn was written in 1777 and included in Rippon’s Selection (1787) #545. It originally had nine verses. Unfortunately, as with many hymns, it is often shortened to four or five verses when included in hymnals.

…The longer composition is worth singing. It reveals Ryland’s intentions in thought and structure. The hymn begins with doctrine that overflows into devotion. As in a well-crafted sermon, he takes time to proclaim truth and then apply truth. In the first six verses he declares what is true about God and about himself. Then in verses 7–9 he responds to that truth. His response is a model for us in how we should respond:

He prays, entrusting himself to God: “In Thy hands my life I trust.”

He examines his heart and motives, wanting nothing to surpass God in his life, asking himself: “Have I somewhat dearer still?”

He commits himself to God’s will, acknowledging that all he has and is belongs to God.

He praises God, desiring to bless Him “at all times”

And he closes the hymn by preaching to his own soul. God is sovereign over all. If I have Him, I have all I need. He will never leave me or forsake me. So how could I ever be orphaned or abandoned?

Take time to read Ryland’s hymn—all nine verses. He has much to teach us about savoring truth and crafting praise.

Here, then, are all nine verses of the original hymn of Rylands:

1.   Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.

2.   His decree, who formed the earth,
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place and time,
All appointed were by Him.

3.   He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb;
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by His wise decree.

4.   Times of sickness, times of health,
Times of penury and wealth;
Times of trial and of grief,
Time of triumph and relief.

5.   Times the tempter’s power to prove,
Times to taste a Savior’s love:
All must come, and last and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.

6.   Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love thinks fit.

7.   O Thou Gracious, Wise and Just,
In Thy hands my life I trust:
Have I somewhat dearer still?
I resign it to Thy will.

8.   May I always own Thy hand
Still to the surrender stand;
Know that Thou art God alone,
I and mine are all Thine own.

9.   Thee, at all times, will I bless;
Having Thee, I all possess;
How can I bereaved be,
Since I cannot part with Thee?

Notice especially that 6th verse in our present calamity:

6.   Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love thinks fit.

Source: Hymns from History | Sovereign Ruler of the Skies

Believing in Jesus: “Always believe! Never do anything else than believe!”

John6-29Last month we quoted from the first part of this meditation of Abraham Kuyper (“Doing God’s Work”), pointing out that he also had some good thoughts on the nature of faith and specifically on the relation between believing and working that are worth considering. So in this post I quote the next part of the meditation, where Kuyper describes how true, saving faith always acts. In a future post, we will return to the final part where he speaks to the relation between believing and working.

And if someone asks whether Jesus hasn’t expressly said: ‘God’s work is all about believing in Jesus!’ then we give the following answer. ‘Definitely, as long as you’re convinced of that and do so in the way he has prescribed.’

Believing …when it comes to knowing the truth. This means that I regard myself as a complete fool in order to honor Jesus as ‘the wisdom of God.’

Believing …with respect to atonement. This means that I cannot bring or offer as much as a grain of sand in payment of my debt, but that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega where the work of atonement is concerned.

Believing …in finding my way forward. This means that I don’t dare to put one foot in front of the other based on my own insight, but that I follow Jesus my faithful Shepherd closely, step by step.

Believing …when the seas are raging and the waves are crashing over my lifeboat. It means knowing with absolute certainty that I’m going to die and sink into oblivion if I have to depend on my own rowing and navigating. It also means depending only on Jesus, who calmly clamps his divine hand on the tiller.

Believing …where life’s struggles are involved. Then it means being convinced that I will fall and be totally defeated before I even know it if the outcome depends on me. It also means being absolutely persuaded that no arrow will pierce me and no spear strike me as long as my Defender leads me and his shield covers me.

So believing always has a different sense depending on the matter at hand, on what you happen to be facing, on what the issue is, and on what the discussion is all about.

Every situation in life poses the same question: ‘What now?’ To it there is always one and the same answer: ‘Believe in Jesus!’ Always believe! Never do anything else than believe!

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.237-238.

This particular meditation (#74 of Volume 1) is titled “Doing God’s Work” and is based on John 6:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

Mindful to Be Grateful: November 2019 Tabletalk

Tis the season to be thankful. Or so we are told. And in this month of November it may seem that our thanksgiving is even scheduled, set for the fourth Thursday. Indeed, we will pause as a nation on that 28th day of this month and express thanks for God’s manifold gifts, for harvest and for home.

But, for the Christian, thankfulness has no season; or perhaps we should better say, thanksgiving is never out of season. We are called to be thankful and to give thanks “always” and “for all things” (Eph.5:20). And the psalmist has to remind himself and exhort himself to thanks and praise in his daily life: “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps.103:1-2).

TT-Nov-2019With this in mind the November 2019 issue of Tabletalk addresses from multiple angles our calling to “gratefulness,” its theme. Burk Parsons has good words to introduce the theme in his editorial “Gratefulness and Entitlement.” Here is part of it:

…I have come to realize that regardless of the age of my friends, one of the characteristics they all have in common is that they are deeply grateful because of the hardships they have all experienced. In God’s providence, life’s hardships train us to be grateful. And while I am thankful to know many young people who are grateful because of the example of gratefulness in their homes and the work of God in their hearts, generally speaking, when I consider younger generations, I am concerned about what seems to be a general lack of gratefulness and a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is the enemy of gratefulness, but the closest friends of gratefulness are humility and contentment. The only way to have abiding gratefulness, through good times and hard times, is to humbly ask our Father to make us grateful and to ask Him daily to make us even more grateful. When we do that, we do well to remember that the road to abiding gratefulness is often paved with hardship that rids our hearts of any sense of entitlement. By the sovereign grace of God, hardship leads to humility, contentment, and gratefulness—not because of what we have, but because of who we have—the One who gives and who takes away to the end that we might forever proclaim, “Blessed be the name of the LORD(Job 1:21).

One of the first featured articles on the theme is William Barcley’s “Ungratefulness as the Root of Sin.” In that article he contrasts gratitude with ingratitude over and over, so that the point is driven home. This is part of what he says:

God created man—then re-created His people—to worship Him. In the classic work The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “Worship is not only doing what pleases God, but also being pleased with what God does.” Worship includes taking delight in and giving thanks for all that God brings into our lives—in all circumstances. The thankful heart is the worshipful heart. The thankless heart is incapable of worshiping God.

In Romans 1:18–3:20, Paul delivers a sweeping and comprehensive detailing of human sin and God’s condemnation. No person is excluded (“all have sinned”). No shade of sin is left out—from covetousness to malice, from envy to murder, from gossip to slander, from hating God to disobeying parents, from the rebellious to the self-righteous, from doing evil to inventing evil, and from committing sin to approving of those who commit sin. At the root of it all, however, is humanity’s failure to honor God as God and give Him thanks (1:21).

In its essence, ingratitude is a rejection of God. It is a rejection of Him as Creator and Ruler of all things. It is a rejection of God as the giver of life, the giver of every blessing, whether expected or unexpected, whether pleasant or painful. Even in prison, Paul rejoiced and exhorted the Philippians to rejoice with him. He exhorted others to give thanks always. Believers have thankful spirits because they recognize that whatever we have, wherever we are, and, indeed, all that we are comes from the hand of God—for His glory and for our good

In this season of the year, let us repent of our own ungratefulness and learn to walk in true gratefulness toward the God of boundless grace to us poor sinners.

For more reading in this issue of “TT,” visit the links provided.

Source: Ungratefulness as the Root of Sin | Tabletalk

Addressing a Generational Crisis: Tabletalk Magazine – October 2019

We are halfway through the month and we ought to introduce the October 2019 issue of Tabletalk, the monthly devotional magazine of Ligonier Ministries.  This month has a striking theme: “From Generation to Generation,” and the featured articles let the old speak to the young and the young to the old. It is a wonderful testimony to the unity of the church of Christ and the continuity of God’s covenant of grace.

Burk Parsons sets the tone and shows the need for this issue with his introduction, “The Divorce of Generations.” Here are some of his opening thoughts:

We are in a crisis, and it is one of the greatest crises we have ever encountered. While the world has always faced this issue in one way or another, the church has only begun to acknowledge the reality of it, and it is growing. This crisis is not merely one involving anti-establishment impulses or anti-tradition feelings that we have observed, off or on, throughout history. Nor is it simply a matter of typical teenage rebellion. Rather, it is a problem that has emerged in some ways in every age bracket.

This crisis, simply put, is the divorce of generations. Younger generations have divorced themselves from older generations, and older generations have all but given up on younger generations. While I am speaking generally, this crisis is the source of numerous other troubles in various contexts—the classroom, the workplace, the home, the state, the church, and the world. For when younger generations seek to sever all ties with older generations, the very fabric of civilization begins to rip apart. When younger men and women reject and repudiate the authority of older men and women, they are walking a path to their own demise.

That is why, in this issue, we have sought to publish articles that speak from generation to generation—from the older generation to the younger generation and from the younger to the older.

And the special articles definitely address this crisis in the church and covenant community. Let me give you a taste from each side, as we hear first from an older saint to a younger, and then the other way around. In Geoff Thomas’ address, he calls the young to “Take Sin Seriously,” pointing out powerfully for our benefit:

See the judgment of sin that fell on the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. What do the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit think of sin? Consider the end of the Son whom God the Father loves. There is no father more loving than the Father and no son more beloved than the Son. Yet, the Son bore our sins in His own body on the cross. The Son of God became the Lamb of God. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. But God the Father did not spare Him. There could not be a gram of compromise as far as sin was concerned. God did not restrain one stroke of His rod of justice in displaying how worthy of condemnation sin is. It pleased the Father to strike Christ dead. The Father lifted up His rod, and Christ took it on Himself—in our place.

All this indicates the seriousness with which God views sin, and how inexpressible is all that God endured in order for pathetic folk like us to be delivered from iniquity. And you can shrug? You can nod and yet carry on sinning in deed and word and attitude and omission?

Unbeliever, Jesus Christ is everything sinners need. He can satisfy all your desires and can snap those mighty chains that attach you to sin. Christian, young and old alike, put to death remaining sin. Strangle it and give it not a breath. Starve it. Refuse to feed it with a single tidbit. Take sin seriously because you take the righteousness and blood of Christ seriously.

And then hear this younger voice from Joe Holland, as he pleads with the older to “be patient with us as we learn”:

But now I come to the hardest part: my request of you.

As the young and old stand on either side of this age gap, one of us must make the first move. I wish I could lay the burden on us both. But the pride, frailty, and instability of youth place us at a woeful disadvantage. Older saint, we need you to make the first move and keep pursuing us. We need you to seek, mentor, disciple, and love the younger Christians in our church. I’m asking you to be patient with younger Christians with a patience such as our Lord Jesus exemplified. When we act in pride, please patiently endure us. When we are slow to listen, please patiently tolerate us. When we are quick to speak, please patiently listen to us with a knowing smile that we’ll one day learn was pity mixed with grace. When we give you the look of resentment and dismissal, please patiently receive that insult and be ready to forgive us. Please patiently correct us, pray for us, and stand with us. If you don’t move first, if you don’t stay near us with a Christlike patience, then this gap will remain between us, to the detriment of us both.

Please, older Christian, be patient with us as we learn.

There is much to profit from in this unique issue. Make a point to read some articles before the month is out. Better yet, seek out an older saint or a younger saint at church and make an effort to listen and to speak. Yes, in that order.

Source: Latest Issue – October 2019

God’s Work Only, God’s Glory Alone – A. Kuyper

So, you who fear the Lord in all righteousness, give him the glory due his name.

Curtail your estimation of your own contribution; cut them down to their actual, trivial size. Peek behind the curtain of external appearance; look at the miraculous, comprehensive, and majestic work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Consider the work of the Son of righteousness in your heart. It is grace that causes the beginning, germinating, and ripening of that work in you. It is to his glory.

That’s when you’ll find peace – peace, because now you’ll be honoring God!

That’s when you’ll be better able to let go of what has been entrusted to you than you’ve been able to do up until now. That’s when you’ll be able to focus much more on what only God can do. That’s when you’ll immediately put far less of a premium on your own work, realizing that when you turned the ground over, you only pushed the spade in halfway. You’ll realize that you sowed bad seed in your child’s heart and did a far from perfect job at weeding. You’ll find peace when you’re converted, perfected, and gripped by God’s power in this way.

Furthermore, you’ll also discover that you’ve been delivered from your fears. It will no longer be the case that when you sow today, you’ll moan and groan tomorrow because you don’t see a stem or blade. Calm and content, you’ll know that the Holy Spirit is busy at work. You’ll know that because he is, things will flourish in an orderly way: ‘first the bud, then the flower, and then the full head of grain.’

That’s because God’s doing the work. He’s the real worker! The blessed, saving work of God belongs to him alone – in its beginning, its progress, and its completion. This is what you first failed to see in your unfaithfulness, but what you now confess to your comfort.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.193-94.

This particular meditation (#61 of Volume 1) is titled “He Himself Does Not know” and is based on Mark 4:26,27, “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.” [And throughout Kuyper also refers to the next verse, “For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”]