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.

How Do We Value the Kingdom of our Lord? February 2020 Tabletalk

These two parables are arguably Jesus’ simplest and certainly among His shortest, and yet the punch they pack far exceeds their word count. Why have they proven so memorable? Because they tap into our God-given imagination. You don’t need an advanced degree in theology to understand what’s going on here. On the contrary, if you have ever searched for Narnia in your backyard, or dusted off a forsaken corner of your attic in hopes of discovering a long-lost antique, or simply thought to yourself, “Is there a better way we could do this?” then you are well equipped to hear what Jesus has to say. Jesus wants our minds to wonder, “What would I do if I found the impossible?” Then He reminds us that we have found it: the kingdom of heaven.

…These parables thus call us to consider our love for the kingdom. With the treasure, Jesus asks us to reimagine what we value. Are we accounting rightly when it comes to the things of this world and the next? Would we sacrifice all worldly good to obtain something infinitely better? Then, with the pearl, He asks an even harder question: Is that sacrifice truly for the pure love of the kingdom? The treasure probes our vision and values: Do we see that the kingdom is more? But the pearl probes deeper still into our heart and will: Do we see that the kingdom is all?

The above paragraphs are the opening and closing ones to the article linked below, one of the featured articles on Jesus’ parables that make up the theme of the February issue of Tabletalk. Since we have not referenced this month’s issue yet, we do so tonight.

Editor Burk Parsons also reminds us of why Jesus, the Master Storyteller, spoke in parables:

Jesus was the master storyteller who, as prophesied in Psalm 78 (see Matt. 13:35), often taught using parables to illustrate His overarching message. He did this for at least two reasons: to confound those who rejected Him and to enlighten those who received Him (Mark 4:11–12). If someone finds all of Jesus’ stories confounding, it is because our sovereign God has not given him the eyes to see, the ears to hear, or the heart to perceive the saving truth of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, we as believers love Jesus’ parables not simply because they are good stories well told but because the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes, ears, and hearts to understand their message. We identify with the characters in His parables, and we want to hear them time and time again as we forever rest in our Father’s prodigal love for us.

To finish reading this featured article or to read more on other of our Lord’s parables, visit the Tabletalk page.

Source: The Parables of the Treasure in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price | Tabletalk

Doing God’s Work: “…the church of Jesus Christ needs to be like a beehive.’ – A. Kuyper

Larvae of bees in the combs illustration .

Are working and believing contradictory? Is not working something to be celebrated by Christians? Is doing nothing honorable for them? Will idleness be their crown of glory?

If not, what does it mean to be working? Isn’t it simply an expression of life? Doesn’t it indicate that they are alive? That they are living, breathing people?

Someone who’s dead doesn’t work. People don’t work during the night. Someone who is stretched out unconscious isn’t working. But the voice of the Great Shepherd calls to whomever has any life in them at all. He appeals to all for whom the light shines, to every individual who knows that they exist, who is living, and who is standing before the face of God. He says: ‘Work while it is still day, for the night is coming in which no one can work!’

No, it’s not working that we need to avoid, but working for selfish reasons. We’re not like ants that gather in order to enjoy what they’ve gathered. We’re not even less like spiders that store up in order to produce a toxin. But we work like the honeybee that produces honey in the hive not for itself but for the the beekeeper who sells it.

Well then, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be like a beehive. There everyone strives to contribute their very best. They use their gifts without letup in order to pour our the purest honey from the honeycomb. They do this not to consume that precious, virgin honey themselves, but to offer it in honor of him to whom the entire church belongs.

Taken 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.” I plan to return to this meditation again, because Kuyper has some good thoughts on the relation between believing and working that are worth our time and consideration.

What would you do today if you knew Jesus was coming tomorrow? Luther: Plant an apple tree!

What if you knew that Jesus would return tomorrow morning? That question was asked often in church as I was growing up. In case we didn’t have a ready answer, we were usually told what we should be found doing. The question was meant to light the fire underneath us for extraordinary undertakings. Who would want to be found grocery shopping or driving home from work? However, wiser Christians remind us that being found at our daily callings, glorifying and enjoying God in ordinary ways, is a better answer. Taking in the April scent and clucking chickens from his window, Luther is reported to have said, ‘Even if I knew the world was going to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.’

Even if this is one of the many spurious Luther quotes, it still expresses a biblical wisdom he often shared. After all, the apostle Paul answered this question directly in 1 Thessalonians 4. As the day of the Lord approaches, he says, believers; are ‘aspire to live quietly, and to mind [their] own affairs, and to work with [their] hands’ (4:11). It doesn’t sound very world-transforming. Yet it is precisely in the habits that make up a life like this that believers live ‘properly before outsiders and [are] dependent on no one’ (v.12).

…What did you do for the kingdom today? How did you impact the world for Christ? Our tendency might be to hesitate at that point, trying desperately to recall something worth reporting. Yet every day, in all sorts of ways we’re not even aware of, the kingdom is growing and our neighbors are being served. …Don’t lose the focus. Jesus has bound Satan (Mark 3:27; Luke 10:17). Now we are free to do the little things that matter, without anxiety about how it all turns out in the end. ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart: I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 11,  “After Ordinary: Anticipating the Revolution” (p.207-08) of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014).

This last chapter deals with our Christian hope in connection with that ‘ordinary’ life the author has been at pains to explain in this book. But, as this final chapter shows once again, the believer’s ‘ordinary’ life is anything but, in view of what is to come when Jesus returns. Living the “already/not-yet” paradox of our glorification, we learn that our life in Christ now and in the future truly is ‘extra-ordinary.’

Servants of the Lord in Our Daily Occupation

On this Monday evening of Labor Day 2018, we consider some pertinent thoughts of PRC pastor (now emeritus) Rev. Arie denHartog, who, writing in the Sept.1, 1984 issue of the Standard Bearer(Vol.60, #20), expressed himself on the idea of serving the Lord in our daily occupations this way:

Even as we must serve the Lord in all areas of our life so also we must serve Him in our daily occupations. In fact, of course, for most of us our daily occupation takes up most of the time and energies of our life. We must not imagine that we need to serve the Lord only in church. Our service in the church is of supreme importance. Without serving the Lord in church we cannot serve Him in any other area of our life. That we are servants of the Lord must have a tremendous effect on how we conduct ourselves in our daily occupation. The apostle Paul speaks of this most beautifully in Ephesians 6:5-10.

Servants be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing that any man doeth, the same shall receive of the Lord whether he be bond or free. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your master also is in heaven; neither is respect of persons with Him.

As long as we are on this earth we have a calling to labor in an earthly occupation. Our Lord despises the sluggard and the man who refuses to work. It is through laboring with our hands the thing that is good that the Lord blesses us with material things. Through these things we are enabled of the Lord to raise up a Christian family and to provide a home and provisions for such a family. But our earthly occupation is secondary. It is only temporary. Above this we are called to be the servants of the Lord in His everlasting kingdom which is manifest here already on this earth. We must use our earthly occupation even for the purpose of seeking the kingdom of our God and the glory and righteousness of that kingdom. We must in our earthly occupation live righteously and holily before the Lord, for this is our highest calling.

Good thoughts to keep in mind as we start or continue this work week – with our eye on our heavenly Redeemer-Master.

To read the rest of his article, visit the PRC website link below, or the SB one above.

Source: Servants of the Lord in Our Daily Occupation

Does God Call You to Be a Teacher or a Minister? ~ Prof. R. Dykstra, April 15, 2018 Standard Bearer

sb-logo-rfpaThe latest issue of the Reformed magazine, the Standard Bearer, is now out (April 15, 2018), and once again it is packed with edifying content.

In this issue are articles by Rev. M. DeVries on Ps.61:2 (a meditation), by D. Doezema on the vision of Ezekiel in chapter 16, by Prof. R. Cammenga on the sufficiency of Scripture, by Rev. R. Kleyn on remembering the Lord’s Day (the 4th commandment as taught by the Heidelberg Catechism), by Rev. J. Laning on the believer’s heavenly life in Christ alone, and by Rev. J. Mahtani on our calling to relate to other Christians who belong to the universal (catholic) church of Christ.

There is also an editorial by Prof. R. Dykstra, part of a mini-series he is doing on the idea of Christian vocation. This particular article hones in on two very special callings God gives to some of His people – that of Christian school teacher and that of gospel minister. In addressing the need for young people to face the questions, “Does God call me to teach in a Christian school? Does God call me to preach the gospel?” Prof. Dykstra points them to four spiritual qualifications and to three natural abilities they ought to find in themselves as they face God’s call.

Tonight we post a portion of his editorial, focusing in on two of the four spiritual qualifications he mentions. It is our prayer that this editorial will stir up serious consideration of these gifts and of God’s call to these special labors in His church and kingdom.

Second, prospective teachers and preacher must find in themselves a genuine love for God’s people, particularly the youth. This brotherly love enjoined on all Christians truly desires the good of God’s people, and truly desires to help them as he is able. Do you have this yearning to give your time, abilities, and heart – to give yourself –  for the good of sinful saints? Then perhaps you have the call to be a teacher or a minister.

Closely related, since both teaching and ministry are positions of service, the desire to serve must also be part of your spiritual makeup. Self-promotion has no place in these vocations. The proud must stay far away. Despite what you might imagine, God does not need you, no matter how gifted you may be. Ultimately, under God’s judgment, the proud will fail, for God’s people cannot abide such pride, and God will not tolerate it. A desire to serve, coupled with humility and meekness, these are the spiritual virtues found in godly, effective, beloved teachers and ministers.

Labor for the Rest – H. Hoeksema

Yea, let us labor.

Oh, to be sure, the realization of that rest is certain and depends not on our labor, but solely on the amazing toil of the restgiver, who shed his lifeblood for us. Never vainly and proudly imagine that your labor adds at all to his merit and to the infinite value of his toil.

But has it not been given us in the cause of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to battle and to suffer with him?

Is it not his own good pleasure that for a short time we should be in the world to the praise of his glory?

The way to the final rest for all the children of God must be a way of struggle and labor, of toil even unto death.

It cannot be otherwise.

For as we enter into God’s rest by faith and partake of his liberty, we become estranged from the world, cease from its evil works, and are children of light. These things are inseparably connected. No one is able to profess that he has entered into God’s rest unless he is also actually translated out of darkness into God’s marvelous light and begins to show forth the praises of him who called him. For no one can serve two masters, God and mammon, and no one can consistently seek two cities, the earthly and the heavenly. If we have become partakers of the rest of God in Christ Jesus and have been made citizens of the heavenly city, we have also become strangers in the world and condemn its evil works. For that reason the prince of this world and all his host are opposed to us. They will impede our progress to the heavenly city. They will attempt to seduce us from the way. And they are powerful masters of many means. Now they sow doubt and unbelief by vain philosophy; now they blind the eyes and captivate the heart by the glitters of treasures and the attraction of pleasures; now they intimidate by threats and menaces of sufferings and persecutions.

And a powerful ally they have in our own evil hearts, so easily induced to believe the lie, to seek the pleasures and avoid the sufferings and persecutions of the world.

Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest.

Let us diligently endeavor, let us put forth all our effort, let us faithfully struggle, that we may attain to the heavenly city.

How necessary is the admonition!

PeaceForTheTroubledHeartHHTaken from the meditation of Herman Hoeksema, “Labor for the Rest” based on Heb.4:11, originally written for the Standard Bearer, then republished in Peace for the Troubled Heart, edited by David J. Engelsma (Reformed Free Publishing Association –, 2010), pp.251-52.

Working out of Love for God – J. Hamilton, Jr.

Work-Hamilton-2017On this Labor Day holiday in the U.S., we reference a new book published by Crossway this year titled  Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton, Jr. (paper, 123 pp.).

Part of a new series, “Short Studies in Biblical Theology,” this title along with the others (so far on Jesus the Son of God, marriage, and the covenant) are designed “to serve as bite-sized  introductions to major subjects in biblical theology.”

I introduced this review book (still available!) a few months ago, and after reading a few more chapters last night with a view to the holiday today, I decided to post a nice section from chapter 3, where Hamilton treats work from the viewpoint of “Redemption,” that is, “Work Now That Christ Has Risen.”

Under the section “Work as an Expression of Love for God” the author gives these four (4) profitable summary points based on NT passages:

  1. Work to please God: the parable of the talents (Matt.25:14-30). In the parable of the talents Matthew presents Jesus commending initiative, diligence, and even savvy attempts to earn interest on one’s money (Matt.25:20-23, 27). He likewise discourages a slothful, fearful failure to be fruitful (25:26-30).

  2. Do all for God’s glory (1 Cor.10:31). First Corinthians 10:31 communicates Paul’s view that all things should be done for God’s glory. God created the world to fill it with his glory, and those who would make God’s character known should join him by pursuing his renown whether eating, drinking, or doing anything else.

  3. Do all in Christ’s name (Col.3:17). The name of Jesus is about the character and mission of Jesus. To work in the name of the Lord Jesus, then, is to work in a way that reflects his character and joins his mission. To  put the character of Jesus on display is to be transformed into the image of the invisible God (2 Cor.3:18; Col.1:15). This means that for Paul to speak of working in Christ’s name is another way for him to urge working for God’s glory.

  4. Work from your soul for the Lord (Col.3:23). In addition to working for God’s glory, Paul instructs the Colossians to work from the soul (ek psukes [my transliteration of the Greek]) for the Lord. This appears to mean that they should put all they are into their work rather than merely doing things to preserve appearances before men. Christians should employ their creative capacities and soul-deep energies as they seek to serve God in their work. With God’s glory as our aim, nothing less will suffice [pp.84-85].

So you see again that the Christian perspective on work – according to God’s Word, our only standard and guide also for our earthly labors – is fundamentally different from that of the world about us. May we so work, today and every day, according to God’s principles.

Time to “Reset” (The Grace-Cure for Burnout) – David Murray

Reset-DMurray-2017A brand new title of interest to our readers is Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017). The author is David Murray, pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI and professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, also in Grand Rapids, MI.

I received my review copy last Friday and over the weekend started to dig into it by reading the introduction and browsing its contents. As the publisher’s description tells us, this book confronts head on a common problem, especially among men:

“How did I get here?”

These are the words of many Christian men on the brink of burnout or in the midst of breakdown. They are exhausted, depressed, anxious, stressed, and joyless. Their time is spent doing many good things, but their pace is unsustainable— lacking the regular rest, readjustment, and recalibration they need.

But there is good news: God has graciously provided a way for men to reset their lives to a more sustainable pace. Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary men hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.

The Table of contents reveal the specific ways in which Murray addresses the issue of burnout (and you will immediately sense how practical this book is):


Repair Bay 1: Reality Check
Repair Bay 2: Review
Repair Bay 3: Rest
Repair Bay 4: Re-Create
Repair Bay 5: Relax
Repair Bay 6: Rethink
Repair Bay 7: Reduce
Repair Bay 8: Refuel
Repair Bay 9: Relate
Repair Bay 10: Resurrection

Want a taste of what Murray says is the “grace-cure” for the press and stress of life? Listen to these words from the introduction, where the author points to five “deficits of grace” that cause us to burnout. The first two are a lack of motivating grace and a lack of moderating grace. He brings the two together in this paragraph:

Without motivating grace, we just rest in Christ. Without moderating grace, we just run and run – until we run out. We need the first grace to fire us up when we’re dangerously cold; we need the second to cool us down when we’re dangerously hot. The first gets us out of bed; the second gets us to bed on time. The first recognizes Christ’s fair demands upon us; the second receives Christ’s full provision for us. The first says, ‘Present your bodies a living sacrifice’; the second says, ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.’ The first overcomes the resistance of the ‘flesh’; the second respects the limitations of our humanity. The first speeds us up; the second slows us down. The first says, ‘My son, give me your hands’; the second says, ‘My son, give me your heart.’ (p.13).

Sound like something you would like to read and review for the Standard Bearer? If so, let me know.

And if you simply want to read it, the Seminary library has a copy and the Seminary bookstore has a few for sale. I know I will be reading it all the way through this year. I believe the author’s message is one I need – and I don’t think I am alone.

Teaching Our Children About Work – Rev. A. denHartog

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (March 1, 2017) is once again filled with interesting, instructive, and challenging articles. And one of them provides a good follow up to yesterday’s post about a new book on the Bible’s teaching about work.


As you will see from the table of contents on the cover, under the rubric “When Thou Sittest in Thine House” (taken from the title of a devotional work on the Christian family by Abraham Kuyper), Rev. Arie denHartog writes a second installment on “Teaching Our Covenant Children about Work.” In it he touches on a number of aspects that this instruction ought to take, from the example of our own work as parents to giving our children responsibilities and chores to do in the home to helping them do their homework well.

I also appreciated the emphasis in this section of his article:

Training in the home must encourage our children to develop their God-given skills and talents in the days of their youth. This will enrich the lives of our children and also prepare them for their broader calling in life in the church and in Christian society. A significant example of this is training our children in musical skills, perhaps in playing a musical instrument or developing the gift of singing. What a blessing it is for the Christian home when children have been trained to accompany and support singing at the piano or organ or with other musical instrument! Such training will manifest the Christian joy of the home mentioned by Paul in Colossians 3: 16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

And, as you might guess, I also support the encouragement about reading in this paragraph:

Foundational to such a broader perspective on life is reading. Parents do well for their children’s future when they instill an eager interest in reading at a young age. This too, of course, must always have spiritual perspective. Guiding our children to read good books including directly Christian books, is so very important. In most cases the leaders in the church among us must be well read in sound doctrinal books. That begins in our homes. We must train the future church leaders in our covenant homes. Theological study and discussion helps greatly to accomplish this purpose.

Are you and I teaching our children (and grandchildren) about work in these ways?