How Then Shall We Work? In a God-Centered Way – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanAs we start the new work-week, I thought I would change things up a little and start with some thoughts of Matt Perman in his recent book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014).

Last night I read the next chapter, “Why We Need to Be God-Centered in Our Productivity”, and found some significant statements about how we as Christians ought to go about our daily work. While drawing on the earthly wisdom of secular businessmen, Perman is quick to note the deficiencies in their counsel to workers, especially when it comes to the reality of sin and the curse as it affects our labors in this present world.

In this chapter he notes that there are three “villains” that we confront in our work in this modern age: ambiguity (with so many things coming at me, how do I know what to do?), overload (with so much to do, I feel stressed!), and lack of fulfillment (even after doing so much, my soul and life feel empty). After pointing out that contemporary time management theories have attempted to address this latter “villain” – calling for “principle-centered leadership”, Perman contends that this does not go far enough. What he says we must have is God-centered time management, because only God in Christ can supply the need for that lack of fulfillment.

With this we are in hearty agreement. Here are some of his thoughts on this subject:

The center of your life is your source of guidance, security, and meaning. To be God-centered, then, is to make God the source of your guidance, security, and meaning. It is to put him first in your life, to regard him as more impotant than anything else, to make his glory the chief aim of your life, to do everything you do to please and honor him, and to live your life in relationship with him.

…Consider Ephesians 5:17, the fundamental New Testament passage on time management. This passage speaks of time management as not being chiefly about applying correct principles to our lives but being about understanding ‘the will of the Lord’ and doing it. Productivity is specifically about doing ‘the will of the Lord.’ It’s about specifically orienting our lives and decisions around God’s will. We are to ultimately be Christ-centered, not just principle-centered.

This is life altering. The most important reality in the universe is not a set of principles, but a person. As a result, our aim becomes not simply to value certain truths but to please, honor, and love God. It makes productivity personal in the fullest sense, and makes our whole lives one of fellowship with God, rather than a following of principles [As Reformed Christians, we can see the covenant in that language!] (54-55).

The Prayers of J.Calvin (13)

Praying with calvin- JeremiahWe continue on this Sunday night our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in Jan./Feb.2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his twelfth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 3:12-18, which includes this commentary on God’s gracious word to His backsliding children in v.14 (“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you….):

It is a wonderful forbearance and kindness that God, finding his favour neglected, and as it were rejected through the sloth of men, should yet persevere, and invite them again and again. What man would thus patiently bear the loathing of his favour and kindness? But we see that God does not immediately reject the tardy and the slothful, but adds new stimulants that he might at length move them, though this may seem more than necessary. How great is our torpidity? Were not God daily to urge us, how little attention would any of us give to his admonitions? It is therefore, no wonder that he, pardoning our tardiness, should again and again invite us to repentance; which we find is done continually in the Church (178).

Thereupon follows this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou at this day mercifully sparest us, when yet in various ways we provoke thy displeasure, — O grant, that we may not harden ourselves against thy chastisements, but that thy forbearance may lead us to repentance, and that also thy scourges may do us good, and that we may so truly turn to thee, that our whole life may testify that we are in our hearts changed; and may we also stimulate one another, that we may unite together in rendering obedience to thy word, and each of us strive to glorify thy name, through Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen (184).

Reading God’s Providence Backwards (2) – S.Ferguson

In the thirty-sixth chapter of his book In Christ Alone, Sinclair Ferguson has a wonderful piece on the providence of God (go here for the first post on this).

His starting point is his contact with an long-time Christian friend, for whom God’s providence had led in ways of affliction and pain after an auto accident, and Ferguson’s own struggle to understand God’s ways with this godly man who had had such an influence on him in his youth.

The Mystery of Providence (Puritan Paperbacks)

It is at this point that Ferguson introduces what he calls “Flavel’s Law”, named after the Puritan who wrote a significant book on the providence of God. He pulls a quote from Flavel that goes like this: “The providence of God is like Hebrew words – it can only be read backwards.”

I plan to pull a few quotations from this chapter so that we may all benefit from Ferguson’s thoughts on this “law” concerning God’s providence. I believe that Ferguson’s thoughts will resonate with all of us as believers.

Here is the next part of this chapter from which I quote:

One great reason for this principle [that is, that God’s providence is best read “backward”] is to teach us to ‘Trust in the LORD with all [our] heart, and lean not on [our] own understanding’ (Prov.3:5). So perverse are we that we would use our knowledge of God’s will to substitute for actual daily personal trust in the Lord Himself.

Flavel’s Law… has widespread relevance for Christian living, but is particularly important in four ways:

The Big Decisions

It is true of the big decisions of life. God does guide His people, leading them in the right paths (Ps.23:3). It is a great thing to come to a major decision with the assurance that it is His will. But we would be mistaken to imagine that we therefore know in detail the reasons behind His plan.

Many Christians have discovered that obedience to what they believed to be God’s will led to great personal difficulties. When this happens to us, it is only later that we discover God’s purpose in leading us to a new orientation or situation may have been very different from the extrapolation we made from the first points we saw on the divine graph of or lives.

The Tests

It is true of the tests of life. We struggle to endure them for what they are in themselves. Afterward, we are relieved to have them at our back.

But in fact, earlier testing is often designed to strengthen us for later trials. Only when we have been brought through the later ones do the earlier ones more fully ‘make sense.’

Early CRC Life in Orange City, IA – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn his “semi-autobiographical story” titled Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), John J.Timmerman, long-time professor in the English Department at Calvin College (my alma mater), reflects on his early years in Orange City, IA, where he grew up as an adopted son of a CRC minister (Jan Timmerman).

I found his thoughts on his family and church life in NW Iowa in the early twentieth century to be a fascinating look at the nature of Reformed church life in our “mother church”, so on this archive/history day this is part of our history lesson.

Orange City, Iowa, in 1909 was a little town almost lost in the endless prairies. Most of the members of my father’s church were survivers, sturdy people of great faith and superior intelligence who had refused to be conquered by successive waves of crop-devouring grasshoppers.

…The city, as it called itself, was to a large extent a Dutch town. Dutch was spoken in the stores, on the porches, in sermons and catechism classes; even the horses understood some of it. The city paper, ‘Volksvriend’, was a Dutch paper. It was a very civilized city: I don’t remember if it even had a jail; and I never saw a drunk. The congregation was, as my father often said, well above average in intelligence and reading habits, and some of them read Kuyper and Bavinck instead of merely displaying their works. Religion was at the core.

As a little boy, I has no awareness that our church was a citadel of conservative and exclusivistic religion. From the perspective of a boy, we were, as a church and individuals, in the infallible hands of the Lord, God’s eye was upon us, especially during the three Sunday services, devotions at every meal, and evening prayers – but everywhere else also. I remember my mother saying, when some children were missing in a storm, ‘De Heere Jesus zal de kinderen wel bewaren’ (‘the Lord Jesus will surely care for the children’). Life in those days was often harsh: childhood diseases were less curable; pitiful accidents occurred on the farms; great storms ravaged the land; hail wiped out crops. Tornadoes were eerie and devastating. However, nothing – nothing at all – was outside the pattern of the Lord. Religion was a comfort in life and death, and the grave a resting place before glory (7-8).

The Thanatologist – J.Eppinga

Cabbages&KingsBookFor our “Word Wednesday” selection this week we turn to a chapter (originally an article The Banner) in the second collection of Rev.Jacob Eppinga’s writings for the Banner rubric “Of Cabbages and Kings”, found in the book More Cabbages and Kings.

At the end of the day I have been reading through these clever and interesting little glimpses of church and ministry life, and came on chapter 20 titled “The Thanatologist” last night. That word comes from two Greek words meaning “death” (thanatos) and “study of” (logos), so you can guess what a “thanatologist” does. That’s right, he studies death and dying.

In this piece Eppinga, a former CRC minister, reflects on his years of ministering to the dying and conducting funerals. As always, he has some fine thoughts, including these closing ones:

Another impression that has come home to me repeatedly is the completely unmasked backruptcy of unbelief in the presence of a lifeless human form. In the last few years, a rash of articles have appeared in various publications and journals dealing with the phenomenon of death. An ancient king decreed that the subject was never to be mentioned in his presence.

Today sees an opposite impulse. Modern intelligence is minded to concentrate its full light on the valley of the shadow. Studies entitled ‘on Death and Dying,’ ‘The Power to Die,’ and others, set forth by experts who call themselves thanatologists do have some insights.

In sum, however, their words and thoughts are as empty as tombs and cemeteries on resurrection day. Arnold Toynbee, a giant in the field of history, having authored the renowned twelve-volume Study of History, and whole library shelf of other books, is pure drivel on the subject of man’s last breath. It makes me weep.

My thanatologist is Saint Paul! I can practically quote his I Corinthians 15 from memory. If he is wrong, then, as he says, ‘we are of all men most miserable.’

But he is right. Praise the Lord (p.112)!

Errors of Adding to God’s Word – Rev.J.Laning

SB-Feb15-2015The latest issue of The Standard Bearer is out (February 15, 2015), and in this issue one of the articles to be read for good instruction is the second installment of “Foundational Principles” written by Rev.James Laning (Hull, IA PRC) under the rubric “God’s Wonderful Works.”

In this article titled “Forbidden to Add to God’s Word”,  Rev.Laning addresses seven errors involving adding to God’s Word in Scripture. As he shows, some of these errors are old and some are new, but they all have this in common that they claim to be equal words from God that have authority for the believer. In fact, however, they undermine and contradict the sole authority of holy Scripture.

Here are two popular ones that Rev.Laning lists:

3. Claiming to receive new revelations from God today

Many in our own day claim that God has spoken to them just as He did to the prophets in the days in which the Scriptures were written. Such individuals are false prophets, since the Bible was completed in the days in which the apostles lived. All that we need to know about the great salvation we have in Christ is found in the Scriptures as we have them today:

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:3)

The great salvation was proclaimed by Christ and then confirmed unto us by them that heard him. The Old Testament had been completed before Christ came, and the New Testament had been completed when Christ and “them that heard him” were no longer on earth. It is also worthy of note that the warning in the book of Revelation about adding to or subtracting from the Scriptures is found at the very end of the Bible.

4. Claiming that there have been infallible statements since the Scriptures were finished

The Roman Catholic Church has claimed for many years that there are times in which the pope is guided by God to speak infallibly. According to the Romish church, the pope speaks infallibly:

When, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.2

They claim that an example of such an infallible utterance took place in 1950, when Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith. Any infallibly inspired utterance would have the same authority as Scripture itself. To claim that infallibly inspired statements have been made after the time that Scripture was finished is to be guilty of adding to God’s word.

But Laning ends on this positive note for the believer with his Bible:

One of the passages that warn against adding to God’s word says that the word of God is pure, and that those who receive God’s word as it is will experience God to be their shield.

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

Here we have not only another warning about adding to God’s word, but also a comforting statement about the protection experienced by all who receive what God says. Every addition to God’s word will be found to be false. But every word that God has spoken is pure. The true believer comes to know this quite well. He has experienced in his own life that our Lord always does what He says He will do. Every one of His promises are certainly fulfilled. A shield He is for those who walk in His ways, fully protected from every foe. It is those who trust in the Lord, believing all that He says without additions or subtractions, that walk without fear, perfectly shielded by their God and Father.

For more information on subscribing to this Reformed magazine, visit the “SB” website.

Efficiency Vs. Effectiveness – “What’s Best Next” – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanSince we are on a work-related theme today, we will continue our look at Matt Perman’s new book on “gospel-driven productivity” in the workplace, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014).

I am two chapters into Perman’s first section (“First Things First”), and after describing the unique challenges that face us in the modern workplace – a “knowledge economy” (where defining the work is as big a challenge as getting it done) vs. an “industrial economy” (still around but not as dominant), – he returns to the idea that learning to do things better (more productively) does not equal doing our work more efficiently, i.e., faster, with less time or at less cost. In fact, efficiency in the workplace often costs more in the long haul, Perman argues, along with other business experts.

For today, I leave you with a few of his thoughts on this argument that effectiveness, not efficiency, is the key to proper productivity in our daily callings.

While efficiency is important, it works only when we make it secondary, not primary. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place. More important that efficiency is effectiveness – getting the right things done. In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done.

…The far greater priority than becoming more efficient is learning how to identify what’s most important – that is, what’s best – and then translate that into action. The mistake of superficial efficiency is that it sacrifices people on the altar of tasks. That’s backward. As we will see later, efficiency exists so that you can serve others better, not sacrifice them to efficiency.

One of the best places for efficiency is being efficient with things so that you can be effective with people. If you become more efficient with things (for example, by setting up your computer, desk, workflow system, and files to operate in the most efficient way possible), you will have more time to give to being effective with people without feeling like you are always behind on your tasks (43, 48-49).


Important Questions Relating to Our Daily Work – Edward Welch

The Rhythm of Life by Edward Welch | Reformed Theology Articles at

It’s Monday morning. The start of another work-week. Six (or at least five) days of busy labor. Are you ready for it? Are you eager to start your work, whatever it is? Do you find satisfaction in your earthly labors? Do you experience God’s blessing in your day-to-day efforts?

Or are you dreading the work-week because you hate your job? Has the work-place become a place of seeming futility and wasted effort? Is there constant drudgery and misery in heading off to labor? Do you find your co-workers hard to get along with and yourself often irritable and a poor Christian witness at work?

Let’s face it, reality is, this latter set of questions is often more our experience than the first set of questions. And that needs addressing, spiritually and biblically.

TT - Feb 2015Whatever your experience at present is, the article by Christian counselor Dr. Ed Welch linked above is a must read for you. Today! In this last of the feature articles in this month’s Tabletalk, Welch speaks to the tough issues that face us because of sin (including our own!) in the workplace.

Raising five (5) pointed questions himself – dealing with prayer, complaining, spiritual growth, depression, and relationships, – Welch guides us Christian workers into a proper, biblical mindset when it comes to our attitude toward and effort in our daily work.

Even though I love my work and am thankful to God for it everyday, there are aspects to it that I sometimes do not enjoy, and times when I too experience drudgery and futility. I found Welch’s questions and answers highly valuable in setting my own heart and mind straight. I hope it will yours too.

Here’s his first section dealing with prayer (“Do I talk about this to the Lord?”) – a great place to start this Monday morning. To read the rest, visit this link.

Do I Talk About This To The Lord?

This is a simple yet loaded question. It is so simple that we could be tempted to check it off: “Yes, I prayed about this.” It’s best to slow down, however.

How have I prayed? What have I prayed?

Our natural tendency should haunt us. “They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds” (Hos. 7:14). Prayer is not natural to us, even in the midst of misery. Crying and complaining are natural; prayer is not. And if we pray, we can be brief and perfunctory: “Please give me a job.” “Please give me a better job.” Almost any request is better than silence, but we aim to speak openly from our hearts to the Lord.

The King has called us friends, and friends share their hearts with each other. We could start like this: “Lord, sometimes I hate to go to work. Sometimes I feel like it makes me crazy.” Or, “Father, you know I want to have a job, but every lead seems to fall flat.” As we follow the pattern of prayer in the Psalms, this openness then considers the ways God has been faithful, and we end with declarations of faith and thanks.

Prayerlessness intensifies our isolation and adds to our burdens; prayer shares and lightens our burdens.

Reading God’s Providence Backwards – S.Ferguson

In the thirty-sixth chapter of his book In Christ Alone, Sinclair Ferguson has a wonderful piece on the providence of God.

His starting point is the sight of and conversation with an old Christian friend, for whom God’s providence had led in ways of affliction and pain after an auto accident, and his own struggle (that is, Ferguson’s) to understand God’s ways with this godly man who had had such an influence on him in his youth.

The Mystery of Providence (Puritan Paperbacks)

It is at this point that Ferguson introduces what he calls “Flavel’s Law”, named after the Puritan who wrote a significant book on the providence of God. He pulls a quote from Flavel that goes like this: “The providence of God is like Hebrew words – it can only be read backwards.”

I plan to pull a few quotations from this chapter so that we may all benefit from Ferguson’s thoughts on this “law” concerning God’s providence. I believe that Ferguson’s thoughts will resonate with all of us as believers.

This is from the opening part of the chapter:

Of this [his friend’s sufferings] and other experiences in life, I have sometimes thought, ‘It just does not seem to make sense.’

At such times, Flavel’s words have often comforted me and helped me to readjust my myopic spiritual perspective. They have reminded me to fix my mind and heart on God’s wise, gracious, and sovereign rule, and on the assurance that He works everything together for His children’s good, so that I do not inquire too proudly into why I cannot understand His sovereign purposes.

Of course, one occasionally meets Christians for whom the Lord’s purposes are ‘all sewn up.’ They convey an attitude of knowing exactly what He is doing and why He is doing it. Such comprehensive wisdom is difficult to dislodge, but it is often the precocious wisdom of the immature Christian who has not yet learned that while ‘those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children,’ there are also hidden and secret things that ‘belong to the LORD our God’ (Deut.29:29).

God’s ways and thoughts are not ours. We never have them ‘taped.’ As William Cowper knew well, God ‘plants his footsteps in the sea.’ We can no more read in detail God’s secret purposes for our individual lives than we can see footsteps in water or understand Hebrew if we try to read it from left to right. To imagine we can is to suffer from a form of spiritual dyslexia (Kindle ed.).

Related to this (and providentially, I might say!), the “Grace Gems” devotional for today came into my email box as I was preparing this, and it contains an edifying series of “choice quotes” on God’s providence and our afflictions. I add that to this post for your edification too:

“Affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground!” Job 5:6

“Affliction does not rise out of the dust or come to men by chance; but it is the Lord who sends it, and we should own and reverence His hand in it!” (Thomas Boston)

“Those who dive into the sea of affliction, bring up rare pearls!” (Charles Spurgeon)

“The furnace of affliction is a good place for you, Christian; it benefits you; it helps you to become more like Christ, and it is fitting you for Heaven!” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles–they believe that Sovereignty hasordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Afflictions tend to wean us from the world–and to fix our affections on things above.” (John Angell James)

“Poverty and affliction take away the fuel that feeds pride!” (Richard Sibbes)

“The winter prepares the earth for the spring; so do sanctified afflictions prepare the soul for glory.” (Richard Sibbes)

“When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.” (Samuel Rutherford)

“Whoever brings an affliction, it is God who sends it. It is one heart-quieting consideration in all the afflictions that befall us–that God has a special hand in them: “The Almighty has afflicted me!” Ruth 1:21. Instruments can no more stir until God gives them a commission–than the axe can cut of itself without a hand. Job eyed God in his affliction; therefore, as Augustine observes, Job does not say, “The Lord gave, and the devil took away,” but “the Lord has taken away.” (Thomas Watson)

“Afflictions add to the saints glory. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles; the heavier the saints cross is, the heavier will be their crown.” (Thomas Watson)

Rest Indeed – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Rest Indeed by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT - Feb 2015As we close out this busy week of labor and anticipate our risen Lord’s day of rest tomorrow, R.C.Sproul, Jr. reminds us in the above-linked article from this month’s Tabletalk (on the theme of “Labor and Rest”) that our rest is not only related to our labor but also to the great battle in which we are engaged as God’s soldiers from day to day.

It is good to also be reminded of this spiritual aspect of our labor in this life, so that we may also be refreshed in the knowledge of our Lord’s victory over our spiritual foes. I appreciated what “R.C.” writes here, and I pray it is an encouragement to you too as we get ready to rest in our Savior.

Find the full article at the link above; here is a part of it (keep in mind he takes his thoughts from Psalm 23):

When we turn the Sabbath into a set of rules of what we are allowed and forbidden to do, I fear we miss the whole spirit of the day. The rest to which we are called is less resting from our day-to-day jobs than it is rest from the battle. We are able to rest because we know He has already won. Sabbath is the good cheer to which we are called, knowing He has already overcome the world (John 16:33).

When we enter more fully into our rest, when we sit at His table, untouchable, victorious, are we not overcome with joy? Is it not true that our heads are anointed with oil, that our cups runneth over? Like soldiers who come home for rest and relaxation, we soldiers of the King are invited to go home, so that when we return to battle, we know where we are going. We drink deeply of His goodness so that we know that His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. We go back into the battle knowing, having been to and tasted the end of all things, that we will indeed dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This is rest indeed because for six days a week we are at war indeed. The great irony, however, is that the more we rest, the more we battle. For it is our worship, our rest, our joy, and our peace that are the very weapons of our warfare. By joy, towers are toppled. By peace, ramparts are ruined. By singing forth the glory of His name, by heralding His glory, walls come tumbling down. We fight in peace because the war has already been won. We die in war because the peace has already been won. This is His kingdom that we seek.


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