Being Productive = Being Fruitful in Good Works – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanAs I read chapter five of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), I found many good thoughts (even if they were not new). Yet, on the whole, I was disappointed – not so much for what was said as for what was left out. Let me explain.

Chapter five is titled “Why the Things You Do Every Day Matter,” and as he continues to apply the gospel to our daily work (being productive, that is, getting the right things done), Perman is answering the question, “What, then, does God want done?” And his answer is “good works. What God wants done are good works” (73). This calling he then ties to Matt.5:16, which Perman states is “the purpose of the Christian summed up for us in one sentence. The entire purpose of our lives – what God wants from us – is to do good for others, to the glory of God” (74). And he concludes by redefining productivity in this way: “Productive things, then, are things that do good. Productivity always has to be understood in relation to a goal, and God’s goal is that we do good works. Hence, we can redefine productivity this way: to be productive is to be fruitful in good works” (74).

From there, Perman emphasizes our calling to be fruitful (abundant) in good works: “We are not to be scant and scarce in our good works, or even nominal and mediocre, but abundant and liberal in doing good” (75). And in answer to the further question, “Where do we do this good?”, he properly emphasizes that the doing of good works is not limited to those “rare, special, extraordinary, or super spiritual things we do,” but to the everyday things we do – our daily work and tasks done in faith – “anything we do in faith” (77).

As such, as I have no issue with this. A bit simplistic, perhaps, but true nonetheless. This is, in fact, how the gospel does transform the way we get things done. BUT, what was missing, to my mind, was the vertical relationship – our relationship to GOD. Over and over Perman defines good works as those which are done for the good of the neighbor. He stresses the fact that being productive is being loving for the neighbor’s good. That is, good works are fulfilling the second table of God’s law. Proper and important, to be sure.

BUT, the first table of the law is, well, first. Good works are those done first and foremost out of love for God and in service to Him. Our lives are to be primarily concerned with doing the good God wants us to do in relation to Him – having no god but Him, worshiping Him alone (and in the right way!), confessing His name always and everywhere, and resting in Him on His day – the first four commandments of God’s law.

If productivity is doing the right things to the best of our ability to the glory of God (being fruitful in good works), then before we can be properly productive in relation to the neighbor, we must be properly productive in relation to God. If I don’t love Him, I cannot love my neighbor. If I don’t worship Him alone, I cannot serve my neighbor rightly. If I don’t confess His name in my daily work, I cannot do any good for my neighbor’s name. If I don’t use my risen Lord’s special day to rest (Sunday), I cannot work for six days and do anything useful for the neighbor.

That, to my mind, is the missing element and emphasis in this chapter. If it’s still coming in the book, I stand to be corrected. But if it’s not coming, then we should get it straight now. God is first, always and ever. That’s the gospel. And that gospel transforms my life – and my work.

WIMTBR: Covenantal – Implications … for Marriage

SB-March15-2015In the latest Standard Bearer issue (March 15, 2015) Prof. Barry Gritters continues his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed” (WIMTBR), in connection with the 90th anniversary of the forming of the PRCA. He is answering this question by organizing the Reformed faith under five (5) “Cs”, the first of which is “Covenantal”.

In the March 1 issue he laid out the meaning of this primary Reformed truth, showing its distinctive unconditional and particular nature, especially as developed, maintained, and defended in the PRC. In this March 15 editorial Gritters draws out four (4) implications of this covenant doctrine. The last one is “The Covenant of Marriage”, and it is from this one that I quote today:

Finally, a Reformed church will be a church that defends the precious institution of marriage. If marriage is the preeminent biblical illustration of God’s covenant with His elect, what better way for the covenant seed to learn about covenant than by observing good marriages! If one were an enemy of God’s church, one of the main bulwarks he would assail – with mortar after mortar and one battering ram after another – would be the bulwark of Christian marriage. Thus, the institution we most earnestly defend is the institution of marriage.

No one can write such words in AD 2015 without feeling a great sense of sadness, and a good deal of righteous anger, that the devil had made such headway in his battle against the covenant by ruining so many marriages.

…Reformed believers must give their entire life and all their energy, working and praying, that God preserve our marriages. We must preach and preach, and teach and teach, and then preach and teach some more, the biblical doctrine of marriage – preach that God ‘hates putting away;’ preach that, even if marriage is only temporal, it is still one of the most important temporal institutions God created in the beginning for the preservation of His covenant people.

…And may our gracious God forgive (and correct) what sins He may be judging in churches where the covenant perhaps is accurately taught but not truly lived, one of the most flagrant ways to offend the covenant God (272).

Why Inerrancy is Essential – Michael Kruger

Why It’s Essential by Michael Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015Yesterday before worship services I finished reading through my March Tabletalk, including the final articles on this month’s theme, “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

The first of these final articles is by Dr. Michael Kruger (professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC) and titled “Why It’s [Inerrancy] Essential.” One of the things he does in his article is answer various objections that have been raised in the Christian academic world against the doctrine of inerrancy. I find this form of apologetics to be most helpful, and include here for  your benefit one such objection that he answers (for the full article, follow the Ligonier link above).

3. Inerrancy is not taught by the Bible itself. Some have suggested that there is no exegetical argument for inerrancy, but only a theological one based on the fact that God is a God of truth and cannot lie. Who are we (so the argument goes) to determine what kind of book God could or could not inspire? But again, this argument proves to be a straw man.

First, there is nothing inappropriate about theological arguments—some doctrines flow naturally from other doctrines that we already believe. For instance, many of our beliefs about the Trinity are not based on simple proof-texting, but are pieced together from a variety of theological considerations (for example, God is one, yet Jesus is God). If we believe the Bible is the very Word of God—that is, when Scripture speaks, God speaks—then it follows that the contents of the Bible are truthful. One need only consider Jesus’ own view of the Old Testament. Time and again, Jesus appeals to Old Testament passages and always receives it as truth, never correcting it, criticizing it, or pointing out inconsistencies. Indeed, He not only refrained from correcting the Scriptures, but He also affirmed the Scriptures “cannot be broken” (John 10:35), and that “[God’s] Word is truth” (John 17:17). It is unthinkable that Jesus would ever have read an Old Testament passage and declared, “Well, this passage is simply wrong.”

A second beneficial article I read on this subject is that which immediately follows Krugers in the magazine, “Just Me and My Bible?” by Rev.Terry Johnson (pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA). In this interesting article Johnson shows that the Reformed faith too has a healthy regard for the church’s tradition (contra Rome, but understood properly), most prominently in her creedal heritage, when it comes to understanding the Bible.

I also leave you with a portion of his article, encouraging you to read the rest at the link above (at his title).

Bible study is meant to take place in an ecclesiastical context, one that stretches back to the Apostles. We read Scripture in light of what properly ordained pastor teach, but also in light of what the creeds and councils, the confessions and theologians—of the catholic (universal) and Reformed tradition—have taught. Too many contemporary Christians barely hide their contempt for “traditional ways of doing things.” By way of contrast, Paul urges the Corinthians to “maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2; see 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). He urges them to maintain not merely the “message,” the “good news,” the “teaching,” the “instruction,” or the “commandment,” but the “tradition.” In the immediate context, Paul is talking about the infallible Apostolic tradition that we know today as the New Testament. Still, there is a secondary application—those who have gone before us could err and have erred, but it is wise for us to give the benefit of the doubt to the great men and women of God who interpreted the Bible before us.

This tradition is the interpretive or exegetical heritage of those who hold to the Reformed faith. I am to read my Bible not in isolation, but in consultation with that heritage, its teachers (both alive and deceased), and its implications for theology, ecclesiology, ethics, worship, and family life. What did our ecclesiastical ancestors say about a given passage of Scripture? What was their consensus on a given doctrinal theme? A given church practice? Humility demands that we go beyond “just me and my Bible” as we seek to be faithful in our generation.

A Spiritually Thriving Christian – J.Owen

The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen  -     By: Ryan M. McGraw<br />
This weekend I started to do some reading in a new title I had received for review from Reformation Heritage Books. The book, edited and introduced by Ryan M McGraw, is a small (in size and length – 150 pgs.) paperback titled The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, part of their series “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality”.

The work, which purposes to introduce the reader to the theology of Puritan John Owen (1616-1683), consists mainly of brief selections (41 in all) from Owen’s writings, tying together the main themes of his theology: the Trinity (communion with God) and public worship (piety).

As I read through some of these brief chapters, I was struck by this one, “A Spiritually Thriving Christian”, taken from Owen’s The Nature and Causes of Apostasy. Keep that broader title in mind as Owen describes how important the church’s means of grace are for the spiritual health and growth of the believer. I believe you will find his thoughts a fitting cap to our Lord’s day in God’s house of fellowship and worship.

Again, there is not anything in the whole course of our obedience wherein the continual exercise of faith and spiritual wisdom, with diligence and watchfulness, is more indispensably required than it is to the due use and improvement of gospel privileges and ordinances, for there is no other part of our duty whereon our giving glory to God and the eternal concern of our own souls more eminently depend.

And he is a spiritually thriving Christian who knows how duly to improve gospel institutions of worship and does so accordingly, for they are the only ordinary outward means whereby the Lord Christ communicates of His grace to us and whereby we immediately return love, praise, thanks, and obedience to Him, in which spiritual intercourse the actings of our spiritual life principally do consist, and whereon, by consequence, its growth depends. It is therefore certain that our growth or decay in holiness, our steadfastness in or apostasy from profession, are greatly influenced by the use or abuse of these privileges (81).

“And so He (Christ, the Son of God) died.” – Rev. H.Hoeksema

After describing all that death is and what it signifies, Rev. Herman Hoeksema applies it to Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died on the cross at Calvary:

And so He died.

O, yes, it was necessary that He, too, should die the physical death. He might not simply suffer the agonies of death on the cross, in order then to be revived or glorified in the sight of the enemies. He must bear the wrath of God to the end. The sentence of God in physical death is that the sinner has absolutely forfeited every right to his existence in the world. This sentence must be executed upon Christ also. God takes away His whole earthly house. His very name perishes. His body, too, collapses, and He gives up the ghost. Also upon Him the sentence is pronounced that He is unworthy to exist on the earth.

Only, as the Head of His people, He agrees with the sentence of God with all His heart. He makes of death an act. His life He lays down even as God takes it. His spirit He commends to God, His body He delivers over into the place of corruption. His name and position He freely offers up to the righteousness of God. And in delivering up His soul unto death He confesses: ‘Thou, Father, art just and righteous, when Thou judgest that the sinner has no right to be, should be utterly destroyed from the earth, and should sink into everlasting desolation. Take my life, my name, my all. Freely I offer it in love to Thee. For even now it is my meat to do Thy will!’

…Only His death, the death of the Son of God Himself in human nature, could be so deep, so precious in the sight of God, that by His obedience many could be made righteous. Only when the death of the cross is the death of the Son of God can we have the assurance that our sins are blotted out for ever, and that in Christ we have the righteousness of God by faith.

Triple Knowledge-10vols-2015Taken from Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s explanation of Lord’s Day XVI (16), Q&As 40-44, of the Heidelberg Catechism, as found in The Death of the Son of God (Vol.3 of “The Triple Knowledge”; originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946 and now being reprinted by the RFPA), p.247-250.

A Thousand Hands Will Grasp You with Warm Desire: On the Persistence of Physical Books – A.Christie

The Millions : A Thousand Hands Will Grasp You with Warm Desire: On the Persistence of Physical Books.

Gutenberg_Bible,_Lenox_Copy,_New_York_Public_Library,_2009._Pic_01bigThis is a great piece of writing on the importance and permanence (humanly speaking) of the classic codex (book). It was posted on the website “The Millions” on March 2, 2015 and is written by Alix Christie, “a writer and journalist whose debut novel Gutenberg’s Apprentice (2014) tells the story of the invention of printing. …She currently lives in London, where she reviews books and arts for The Economist. Visit her at www.gutenbergsapprentice.com.”

I include here the wonderful image of the Gutenberg Bible that was on her post, a reference to which begins her article. To read the entire post, visit this page.

The Gutenberg Bible is a book of extraordinary beauty. One might even say it exudes beauty: its gleaming hand-tooled leather cover beckons to the hands to touch, to open, to reveal what lies inside. The day I saw it, it was sitting on the library table like a fat monarch laid in state, a foot wide by nearly a foot and a half long, light reflecting off the metal cornerpieces a binder had affixed for its protection half a millennium before. I asked Paul Needham, the librarian at Princeton’s Scheide Library, if I should put on gloves. He shook his head. Linen rag is not disturbed by finger oils, while calfskin in fact thanks them. I raised the solid wood-and-leather board. It opened right onto the text: two perfect jet-black columns, the ink still glossy after all this time. I turned one massive page, and then the next, intoxicated by the touch, the smell, the grace of that black block against the broad and creamy margins. To my amazement, I was leafing through the most famous and valuable book in the world, the first major volume made with metal type — the Ur-book of the age of print. Yet beyond all these superlatives, it was simply beautiful.

This volume, one of 48 that survive, was crafted with exquisite care roughly 560 years ago. Its makers — one inventor, one scribe, and one merchant who dealt in books — chose for each page the crispest letterforms, the purest linen, the ideal proportions of the golden section. In short, they selected the finest possible form to clothe the most sacred text of their age, the Christian Scriptures. I studied this book for several years, and have come to think that it has much to tell our age as well. For this Biblia latina, more than any other book, makes one thing clear: the more we value a text, the more we desire to fix it in the world, to grant it permanence. Today, as we rush headlong into the digital age, it seems to me that a similar tendency can be discerned. For against all expectation, we readers maintain our stubborn attachment to physical books, as though what they contained were somehow sacred.

The Arrival of Spring: “This is Aslan’s doing” – C.S. Lewis

The 3 R's Blog:

Front CoverAs the sun of God’s Son crosses the vernal equinox later today (a special happy first day of Spring to my wife, Verna!), marking the outset of Spring in the northern hemisphere, I re-post this wonderful piece of text from C.S. Lewis’ classic book, as first posted by Nick Roark on his fine reading blog “Tolle Lege.” You will understand its significance when you have read it.
Have a wonderful first day of Spring! “For, lo, the winter is past…”, Song of Solomon 2:11.

Originally posted on Tolle Lege:

“Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and breeches and elms.

Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the treetops.

Soon there were more wonderful things happening. Coming suddenly round a corner into a glade of silver birch trees Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers–celandines.

The noise of the water grew louder. Presently they actually crossed a stream. Beyond it they found snowdrops growing.

‘Mind your own business!’ said the dwarf when he saw…

View original 332 more words

PRC Archives: Sovereign Grace Union, H.Atherton, and H.Hoeksema

Recently Prof.R.Dykstra asked me if we had in the Seminary library or PRC denominational archives a special book that Rev. Herman Hoeksema received from Rev. Henry Atherton of Grove Chapel in Camberwell, England.

Prof.Dykstra was covering the modern church history period of Great Britain and had mentioned to his students that Rev.Hoeksema had made friends with Rev.Atherton because of the latter’s strong sovereign grace views. Hoeksema had, in fact, made a trip to London in 1929, preaching in Grove Chapel on July 29, 1929 (see quote and article link below). A little over a year later (Sept.26, 1930) Atherton presented Hoeksema with a signed copy of a bound collection of pamphlets published by the Sovereign Grace Union, of which Atherton was general secretary for many years.

I recalled that we had the book, through a strange set of circumstances (which I will not go into now), and that it was in the archives, not in the library. After locating the book (which has the spine label “S.G.U. Pamphlets, 1929″), I rediscovered the personal note of Rev. Atherton to Rev.Hoeksema. I have scanned it and include it here.

SGU-HH Copy-1929

I then starting doing a Standard Bearer search to see what references “HH” may have made to this trip and book. And I found this: “I prefer to quote from the book that was given to me by Henry Atherton after I preached in Grove Chapel, London, on July 21, 1929″ (Taken from this SB article by HH, April 15, 1964).

I thought you might be interested in learning more about the SGU and its publications, so I scanned out of this bound volume of “HH” a number of the pamphlet covers and advertisements for this organization, and post them here in succession.

SGU-Basis_Page_1

SGU-Ad re Good books

SGU-Book pg_Page_1

SGU-Special Ads_Page_1

SGU-Specials covers_Page_1

SGU-Special covers-2_Page_1

 

 

You may also be interested to know that the SGU continues to publish materials, including a magazine, which we receive in the Seminary library. Here is an image of the latest cover we have:

SGU-Peace&Truth Mag cover_Page_1

In addition, just recently in connection with their 100th anniversary (November 2014) the SGU published and sent to us a collection of Atherton’s addresses under the title The Gospel of Sovereign Grace. This work will be placed in our library, and our readers are more than welcome to read this if they desire. I have scanned a copy of its cover here for your benefit.

SGU-Atherton book cover_Page_1

Finally, I can mention that I also found these additional references to SGU in the “SB”.

From the April 15, 1966 SB (“Book Reviews”):

Several Sovereign Grace Union Tracts by various authors and of various prices. These tracts and a price list of other publications are available from Grace Literature, P.O. Box 879, Gaffney, S.C. 29340.

Many of our older readers will recall that formerly we had some contacts with the Sovereign Grace Union of England, particularly through the friendship between the late Rev. Henry Atherton and my father. Recently several tracts from this organization were sent to me by a U.S. agent whose address I have given above. Among these were “Table Talk About Election,” a very brief tract about election; “An Accomplished Redemption,” a little pamphlet on particular atonement; and “What Is This Calvinism,” a brief exposition of the Five Points of Calvinism.

Although much of what is contained in these tracts is a kind of Calvinism, yet I was frankly rather disappointed in what I read. I get the impression that the Sovereign Grace Union is not putting out the kind of literature that it formerly did; at least, this material does not compare with many former productions which I have in my library. The Calvinism of these tracts is “watered down” Calvinism. “Table Talk About Election” is definitely a failure when it comes to the crucial subject of reprobation. The pamphlet on “An Accomplished Redemption” speaks of common grace fruits of Christ’s death as well as of His atonement for the elect. As to “What Is This Calvinism?” I would have to say that Calvinism is much more than the Five Points of Calvinism. Hence, tracts of this nature are of very limited, and sometimes questionable, value.

I also received the SGU quarterly, “Peace and Truth,” the subscription price of which is $1.05 per year. This little magazine contains some brief articles and sermons and items of interest concerning the SGU.

Perhaps I might add that the SGU does not publish many large books any more. This seems to be done more by the Banner of Truth Trust. However, for those interested in SGU publications, here is some information.

—H.C. Hoeksema

And Rev.R.Harbach quoted Atherton in an SB article on crusade methods in the Sept.1, 1969 issue:

In closing, we can do no better than to quote Henry Atherton, who in 1929 said, “All systems of Theology are reduced to two outstanding principles, called Calvinistism and Arminianism. Arminianism is man’s religion, which can be accomplished by man. Man is the main power: with man it begins, and with man it shall perish. Calvinism is the Divine revelation. It requires the Lord for everything, acknowledging the sovereignty of God; and all its purposes and power must come from God. God elects, God redeems, God ingathers, God keeps, provides, sustains and operates according to His own purpose and wisdom, and all redound to God’s grace and glory.”

Help Yourself Read Slowly and Attentively – A.Jacobs

PleasureofReadingBkThis is a situation… which seems to lend itself to advice, to recommendations [Jacobs is referring here to the distractions our modern technology forces on us daily with regard to good reading.]. But what would be the point? We all already know what we need to do if we want to get back to reading slowly and attentively. Shut down the computer; put aside the cellphone. If the temptation to check email or texts or Twitter is too strong, then take yourself somewhere where the gadgets aren’t. Lock them in the car before you enter the coffee shop with your book; give them to your spouse or partner and request that they be hidden, and then go into a room with a comfortable chair and close the door behind you. It’s not hard to come up with handy-dandy practical suggestions; what’s hard is following them – or rather, even wanting to follow them. What’s hard is imagining, fully and vividly, the good things that happen when we follow through.

Alan Jacobs in The Pleasures of Reading in a Age of Distraction (Oxford, 2011), 84.

(True) St. Patrick’s Day Commemoration!

Indeed, it is St.Patrick’s Day. And we shall not allow the world to grab another day off the church’s calendar (as arbitrary as it is) and rob it of its true significance.

Therefore, in the spirit of remembering God’s work through one of His servant-saints in the fifth century, we shall proceed to note this day with true commemoration of Patrick, missionary to Ireland – the chief thing for which he should be remembered (born c.389; died c.461-493).

We begin with this brief video on St.Patrick from Rose Publishing (“Christian History Made Easy”), which debunks many of the myths associated with him while relating the story of his life and work.

Patrick-Portraits-HHanko_Page_1Second, we point you to an article Prof.Herman Hanko wrote for the Standard Bearer back in 1990, titled “Patrick, Missionary to Ireland.” This article later became a chapter in his book Portraits of Faithful Saints, (cf. image to the left, which is the opening page) published by the RFPA in 1999 (pp.46-50). Here is a part of that article/chapter which introduces us to this zealous man:

The early history of the church of Christ is an exciting and moving history of her missionary enterprise. Scripture itself records for us how the gospel was brought to Judea, Samaria, and the entire Mediterranean world, so that the church was spread throughout the Roman Empire. The early annuls of the church provide us with information of how courageous missionaries moved beyond the Mediterranean world into darkest Europe to bring God’s Word to the many barbarian tribes who had moved into Europe and settled there.

Through the labors of the church the whole of Europe was Christianized, so that it was changed from darkest heathendom and paganism and became the cradle of Christianity. Although the work covered many centuries, it had its lowly beginnings in the lives of men who sacrificed all for the cause of the gospel.

This is the story of one such missionary: Patrick, missionary to Ireland.

To read the rest of this story, follow the link above with the title.

And, finally, we include here this beautiful arrangement of the prayer attributed to Patrick, as composed by John Rutter and sung by the Cambridge Singers.

 

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