Thanksgiving Day 2015 Thoughts

PilgrimThanksgivingOn this national day of Thanksgiving 2015 in the U.S, I share a few thanksgiving thoughts – first, from our first President, George Washington, and then from two “Grace Gems” devotionals of this week.

The Heritage Foundation referenced this Thanksgiving Proclamation of Washington in a post on its “Daily Signal’ this week. It includes a link to the text of this proclamation, which I post here.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

And from Grace Gems came this devotional a few days ago (Nov.23) – from James Smith (1802-1862) [Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:18]:

Everything we enjoy, should be viewed as coming from the gracious and liberal hand of our sovereign God.

All was forfeited by our sin.

All that we receive is by His grace.

The providence that supplies us–is the wisdom, benevolence, and power of God in operation for us–as expressive of His infinite love and unmerited grace!

Our talents to provide supplies,
our opportunities to obtain them,
and our abilities to enjoy them,
–are alike from the Lord.

Every mercy increases our obligation–and deepens our debt to free grace!

Thanksgiving is never out of season, for we have always much to be grateful for.

We must view all things as . . .
arranged by His wisdom,
dependent on His will,
sanctified by His blessing,
according with His promises,
and flowing from His love!

“In everything give thanks!” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Grace Gems devotional for today is also very fitting, from the Puritan Thomas Watson:

(Thomas Watson, “All Things for Good”) – [Based on Romans 8:28]

See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving! In this, Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication–yet they are little in thanksgiving. The apostle says, “In everything give thanks!” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Why so? Because God makes everything work together for our good. We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us nauseated–because it is to make us well. We thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God–who makes everything work for good to us?

God loves a thankful Christian! Job thanked God when He took all away: “The Lord has taken away–blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew that God would work good out of it.

We read of saints with harps in their hands–an emblem of praise (Revelation 14:2). Yet we meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths! But there are few with their harps in their hands–who praise God in affliction.

To be thankful in affliction–is a work peculiar to a saint.
Every bird can sing in spring–but few birds will sing in the dead of winter!
Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity–but a true saint can be thankful in adversity!

Well may we, in the worst that befalls us–have a psalm of thankfulness, because God works all things for our good. Oh, be much in giving thanks to God!

A.Mohler on Keeping a Reading Routine

Reading-2This is a follow-up post to yesterday’s, in which we looked at chapter 15 of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014).

In that post mention was made of the fact that one of the six routines we ought to have on our daily schedules is “reading and development.” In that connection, Perman has a special box quote in that section, in which he references Dr. Al Mohler, who is well-known for his reading prowess and routine (one book a day!).

Today I return to that section and post Mohler’s thoughts on reading as Perman records them on p.216.

Q. What is the most important advice you would give to others on reading?

A. I can’t give just one word there. Two or three. Realize that when you read, you are putting investments in a bank form which to draw, even if it doesn’t appear to  have direct relevance. Second, use your books, don’t just read them. Mark in them, keep a conversation in them. Third, don’t build a book collection; build a library and make it work for you. Fourth, realize you’re never going to read everything. We will die with things we wish we had read. But the fact is too many people do not read. The problem for most is not that they are learning too much, but that they aren’t learning enough.

For more on Mohler’s thoughts on reading, visit this blog post of his.

Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers, and to the Sexually Broken – S.Lucas and R.Butterfield

Source: Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-Nov-2015Two excellent back-to-back articles in this month’s Tabletalk address specific aspects of “The Christian Sexual Ethic” – the one linked above, which addresses the church’s calling to minister both to those who have been sexually abused and to those who do the abusing, and a second by Rosaria C. Butterfield, which addresses ministering to the sexually broken, including those involved in homosexuality – a sin in which she herself was once enslaved before God’s grace broke her chains.

I read both articles yesterday and found them very direct, uncompromising, and yet expressive of God’s love and gospel hope in Christ alone. I give you a portion of both today, encouraging you to read the complete articles at the links provided (see title to Butterfield’s article below).

First, here is part of what Dr.Sean M. Lucas has to say in terms of gospel hope for abused and abuser:

Both the perpetrator and the victim of sin need the same thing: the gospel of Jesus. Those who commit sexual sins—whether sexual immorality, adultery, or even sexual abuse—need to hear the gospel. The entire point of discipline is to confront the sinner with the claims of Christ, to call for repentance, but also to seek new patterns of obedience that can come only as the sinner runs daily to Christ.

Often, those who commit messy and heinous sins believe their sins are too great to forgive. They need to be reminded that “there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent” (Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4). Such genuine repentance is drawn out by the “apprehension of [God’s] mercy in Christ to such as are penitent” (WCF 15.2). How great is God’s mercy in Christ? So great that He sent His one and only Son to die for sinners—and that death is sufficient to cover all our sins, even the most heinous ones.

Victims, too, need the gospel of Jesus: that Jesus is a Savior who does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20); that He identifies with the hurt and broken and grants liberty to those oppressed by sin (Luke 4:17– 21); and that He likewise asked, “Why?” when the pain and godforsakenness was overwhelming (Matt. 27:46).

But victims of sin also need to know that Jesus does more than identify with us in our hurts—He actually has done something about them. Through His resurrection, He is able to bring new life and new hope in the present as well as the future. There is power to move forward through the pain they know. In addition, the gospel provides us with the basis for forgiveness, knowing that we, too, have committed heinous sins against God (Eph. 4:32).

And this is how Butterfield opens her article on “Ministering to the Sexually Broken”:

Coming to Christ is the ultimate reality check, as it makes us face the fact that our sin is our biggest problem. Every day, a believer must face the reality that original sin distorts us, actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us. This distortion, distraction, and manipulation create a wedge between us and our God. We are in a war, and the sooner we realize it, the better.

Sexual brokenness comes with boatloads of shame, as sexual sin is itself predatory: it hounds us, traps us, and seduces us to do its bidding. Sexual sin won’t rest until it has captured its object. When our conscience condemns us, we sometimes try to fight. But when shame compels isolation, we hide from the very people and resources that we need. We whiteknuckle it until Satan deceptively promises that sweet relief will come only from embracing that lustful glance, clicking that Internet link, or turning off the lights to our bedrooms and hearts and embracing the fellow divine image-bearer that God forbids us to embrace.

We sexually broken sheep will sacrifice faithful marriages, precious children, fruitful ministries, productive labor, and unsullied reputations for immediate, illicit sexual pleasure.

We may pray sincerely for deliverance from a particular sexual sin, only to be duped when its counterfeit seduces us. When we pray for deliverance from sin by the atoning blood of Christ, this means that I know the true nature of sin, not that I no longer feel its draw. If you want to be strong in your own terms, God will not answer you. God wants you to be strong in the risen Christ.

The Prayers of J. Calvin (24)

Calvin PreachingOn this Lord’s Day we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on Sept.20, 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Today we post a brief section from his twenty-third lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:1-9, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.8, ”Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.”

…It is then the same as though God was stopping in the middle course of his wrath, and saying, ‘What is to be done? Shall I destroy the city which I have chosen?’ He then attributes here to God a paternal feeling….

God is not indeed subject to grief or to repentance; but his ineffable goodness cannot be otherwise expressed to us but by such mode of speaking. So also, in this place, we see that God as it were restrains himself; for he had previously commanded the enemies to ascend quickly the walls, to overturn the towers, and to destroy the whole city; but now, as though he had repented, he says, Be instructed, Jerusalem; that is, ‘Can we not yet be reconciled?’

It is like the conduct of an offended father, who intends to punish his son, and yet desires to moderate his displeasure, and to blend some indulgence with rigour. Be then instructed; that is, ‘There is yet room for reconciliation, if thou wishest; provided thou shewest thyself willing to relinquish that perverseness by which thou hast hitherto provoked me, I will in return prove myself to be a father’ (pp.323-324).

And this is the prayer that concludes this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that since Thou kindly invitest us to repentance, and urgest us also by setting before us examples of thy wrath, – O grant, that we may not continue perversely disobedient, but render ourselves tractable and submissive to Thee, so that we may not meet with that dreadful severity which Thou didst threaten to Thine ancient people, but anticipate the wrath which Thou didst formerly denounce on them; and may we thus with a pious heart return to Thee, that we may find by experience that Thou art ever a propitious Father to sinners, whenever they return to Thee, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen (p.327).

Writers to Read: G.K. Chesterton

Writers2Read-DWilsonIn a previous post I pointed you to two recent books on reading published by Crossway, one of which I have referenced several times since (L.Ryken’s A Christian Guide to the Classics) and one to which I have not yet returned.

Tonight I point you to that second title, Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf, by Douglas Wilson (2015). Once again I give you the publisher’s brief description of the book:

If books are among our friends, we ought to choose them wisely.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. In Writers to Read, Doug Wilson—someone who’s spent a lifetime writing, reading, and teaching others to do the same—introduces us to nine of his favorite authors from the last 150 years, exploring their interesting lives, key works, and enduring legacies. In doing so, Wilson opens our eyes to literary mentors who not only teach us what good writing looks like, but also help us become better readers in the process.

The first writer Wilson directs us to is the Brit G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton (1874-1936), who was baptized Anglican, left the Christian faith while dabbling in free thought, and then returned to Christianity and joined the Roman Catholic Church. In that connection it may be noted with interest that Chesterton also had a deep influence on C.S. Lewis and his return to the Christian faith.

Father-brown-ChestertonI was introduced to Chesterton while in college and began reading his Father Brown mysteries for fun (I still have that first collection found in a used bookstore) until later on I read some of his more serious works – Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, and Brave New Family. Though no friend of Calvinism (he criticizes it severely at certain points in Orthodoxy), Chesterton is an excellent writer and one who ought to be read at some point in one’s life – even if it is only his Father Brown stories. :)

Wilson points us to several reasons why Chesterton ought to be read and studied as a writer. I give you a couple of them in this post.

     Chesterton once said that a paradox is truth standing on its head to get attention. He was a master of paradox in this sense, having an adept way of turning everything upside down so that we might be able to see it right-side up. Chesterton’s great gift is that of seeing, and being able to get others to see it the same way also. In a world gone mad, a dose of bracing sanity is just what many of God’s children need to get them through yet another round of the evening news. He bends what is bent so that we may see it straight.

When Chesterton writes about anything, each thought is like a living cell, containing all the DNA that could, if called upon, reproduce the rest of the body. Everything is somehow contained in anything. This is why you can be reading Chesterton on Dickens and learn something crucial about marriage, or streetlights, or something else.

The world is not made up of disparate parts; the world is an integrated whole. God sees it all together and united. When men see glimpses of it as all together and united, we say they are prophetic. We call them seers and poets. Chesterton was this kind of man. Not one of us can actually see it all, but a handful have been gifted to act as though the ‘all’ is actually present there (pp.17-18).

Published in: on November 21, 2015 at 7:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality – J. Freeman

TT-Nov-2015The November issue of Tabletalk (“The Christian Sexual Ethic”) addresses boldly yet compassionately the major sexual issues of our day.  That includes homosexuality, the burning topic of these times.

John Freeman, president of Harvest USA (, a Reformed ministry aiding individuals affected by sexual sin, has written a fine contribution with his article “The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality.” Speaking forthrightly about the fact that there can be no true gospel remedy for homosexuality unless it is described and understood to be sin, Freeman makes this plain throughout his article.

The full article may be found at the Ligonier link below; I quote a portion of it here to get you started.

Source: The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality by John Freeman | Reformed Theology Articles at

On this side of the fall, sex and sexuality are distorted to lesser or greater degrees. However, today there is controversy about homosexuality raging in evangelical circles and, increasingly, in Reformed churches as well. Not only is homosexuality often presented as good but it is also presented as something to be pursued with God’s blessing. It is alarming that the acceptance of homosexual behavior among professing evangelicals is increasing. We hear from some people that the kind of homosexual relationships we see today (loving, monogamous ones) aren’t addressed in Scripture. Although this trend seems likely to continue, these revisionist views must be rejected by followers of Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is firm in its negative view of homosexuality and same-sex sexual desire. The Bible is the infallible standard by which we must view homosexuality and understand the gospel remedy for it. Unfortunately, the reliability of the Bible in this area has been questioned by many today who claim the Christian faith. Christians who view Scripture as authoritative and inspired must not accept this watered-down view of God’s Word. The Bible reveals God’s assessment regarding the problems of the human heart, homosexuality being one of many.

Christ Made Our Sin; We, His Righteousness

2-Corinthians_5-21This morning we will celebrate the holy Supper of our Lord in our home church. Our bulletin shows that our pastor will be preaching from the familiar passage in 2 Cor.5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

The following is John Calvin’s interpretation (partial) of this text as found in his commentary on this epistle (Baker ed., vol.20, p.242):

     …Righteousness, here, is not taken to denote a quality or habit, but by way of imputation, on the ground of Christ’s righteousness being reckoned to have been received by us. What, on the other hand, is denoted by sin? It is the guilt, on account of which we are arraigned at the bar of God. As, however, the curse of the individual was of old cast upon the victim, so Christ’s condemnation was our absolution, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah liii, 5).

…The righteousness of God is taken here to denote – not that which is given us by God, but that which is approved by him…. Farther, in Romans iii. 23, when he says, that we have come short of the glory of God, he means, that there is nothing that we can glory in before God, for it is no very difficult matter to appear righteous before men, but it is mere delusive appearance of righteousness, which becomes at last the ground of perdition. Hence, that is the only true righteousness, which is acceptable to God.

Let us now return to the contrast between righteousness and sin. How are we righteous in the sight of God? It is assuredly in the same respect in which Christ was a sinner. For he assumed in a manner our place, that he might be a criminal in our room, and might be dealt with as a sinner, not for his own offenses, but for those of others, inasmuch as he was pure and exempt from every fault, and might endure the punishment that was due to us – not to himself. It is in the same manner, assuredly, that we are now righteous in him – not in respect of our rendering satisfaction to the justice of God by our own works, but because we are judged of in connection with Christ’s righteousness, which we have put on us by faith, that it might become ours.

“What’s Best Next?” – Working from a Basic Schedule – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanAs we continue to make our way through Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), we move into the fourth third main section of the book, called “Architect,” which treats the concept of creating “a flexible structure” in which to do our best work and be most productive.

Chapter 14 – “Setting Up Your Week” – begins this section and deals with the importance of working with a schedule. Once we have determined what things are most important to do in our lives, we need to work those things into the fabric of our lives “though simple structures and systems. This is the area of personal management – that is, the practice of putting the most important things first in your life” (p.193).

As he enters this subject, Perman emphasizes the importance of working from a “basic schedule” as opposed to drawing up lists. He provides four reasons for this:

  1. People work best from routines, not lists (or, be like George Washington).
  2. A basic schedule helps keep you from massive overload….
  3. A basic schedule enables you to integrate all of our roles.
  4. A basic schedule enables (rather than hinders) creative thinking.

Under #3 Perman has some good points about making time for family even with a very busy schedule. Here are his thoughts:

     One of the best examples is the responsibility of spending time with your family. It might be tempting to say, ‘That is so obvious; it comes naturally and will happen on its own.’ In our generations past, this might have been so. But today, with our always-on society and our ability to work anywhere, anytime, it is easy for family routines to disappear. They are often crowded out by other demands despite our best intentions.

Hence, one important routine is to define specific, focused time in the week to be with your family. For me, this normally happens from 5:30 p.m. until bedtime every night. While I’m often with my family at other times as well, this gives me a mechanism to protect that time even when my action lists are spilling over.

Without a basic schedule in place, it is easy for certain roles and responsibilities to be crowded out of your week. Again, good intentions aren’t enough. As you begin to schedule your time, you’ll find that you can’t schedule a specific time for everything. You’ll also need to leave some room for spontaneity. But you will want to make sure your core responsibilities actually happen, and to do that you need to create time for them every week (pp.198-99).

Thomas Bradwardine: Defender of God’s Sovereignty – Rev. C.Griess

SB-Reform-Nov-2015Back on Reformation Day 2015 (Oct.31), I called attention to the latest special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer. This issue focuses on the period of the Middle Ages and the pre-Reformers the Lord raised up to give light to His people who sat in darkness.

Today I call your attention to one of the special articles in this issue – an article that introduces us to a man I would guess few of us know or at least know very well; Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349). In his fine piece on this godly man, Rev. Cory Griess calls him the “defender of God’s Sovereignty”.

This is how Rev.Griess opens his article and explains his significance in the history of the church in the Middle Ages:

     It is always a wonderful thing to find another who loves the sovereignty of God as the truth of God revealed in scripture. It is especially wonderful to find such in the Middle Ages. Thomas Bradwardine, though little known, is such a man. If Gottschalk is rightly remembered in particular for His defense of sovereign predestination in the Middle Ages, Bradwardine ought to be remembered for His defense of the absolute sovereignty of God during the same era.
Bradwardine was born in England sometime around 1290 AD. He was a brilliant man earning him the nickname, “The Profound Doctor.” He produced accomplished works in many areas of study, including logic, geometry, and physics, and some of his works are still required reading for advanced research in math and science today.

But his main contribution was in theology which he studied and later taught at Oxford. His great work as a theologian is De Causa Dei (The Cause of God), which was written against the Pelagians who were prevalent in his time. The title helps up know not only the content of the book, but Bradwardine’s own view of his role in God’s kingdom in in the 13th and 14th centuries. Bradwardine rightly viewed himself as a defender of the sovereignty and supremacy of God in the midst of a philosophical climate that exalted man and dethroned God. Gordon Leff describes Bradwardine’s purpose with the book and his life, He was “concerned to cut, root and branch, at that outlook which started from men, not from God…to rebut the consequences which flowed from such a wrong attitude and to win back all attention to God.”

TBradwardineTo read all of this article and the other special ones in this “SB” Reformation issue, visit the home page to receive a copy and/or to subscribe.

Prayers of the Reformers (9): Protection of God’s Cause and Preservation of His Church

prayersofreformers-manschreckFrom the little treasure of collected Prayers of the Reformers compiled by Clyde Manschreck (Muhlenberg Press, 1958) come these two from John Knox (dated 1554) and Philip Melanchthon (also dated 1554) respectively.

Place yourself in the context of the fresh age of reformation in the church in the 16th century, and then fast-forward to our own time, and see the relevancy of these prayers then and now.

That God may protect His cause

Ah, Lord, most strong and mighty God, Thou destroyest the counsels of the ungodly, and riddest this world of tyrants, so that no counsel or force can resist Thine eternal counsel and everlasting determination. We Thy poor creatures and humble servants do most earnestly desire Thee, for the love that Thou hast to Thy well-beloved and only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that Thou wilt look upon Thy cause, for it is Thine, O Lord; and bring to nought all those things that are… against Thee and Thy holy word.

Let not the enemies of Thy truth oppress Thy Word and Thy servants which seek Thy glory…. Give unto the mouth of Thy people truth and wisdom which no man may resist. And although we may have most justly deserved this plague and famine of Thy Word, yet, upon our true repentance, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be thereof released.

And here we promise, before Thy divine Majesty, better to use Thy gifts than we have done, and more straitly to order our lives, according to Thy holy will and pleasure; and we will ever sing praises to Thy most blessed name, world without end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Knox, 1554)

For preservation of the church

To Thee, almighty God, eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of all things, including Thy church, and to Thy Son, and to the Holy Spirit: O God of wisdom and goodness, justice and mercy, we give thanks to Thee, because Thou hast preserved Thy church; and we ask Thee for the sake of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to continue to watch over the church. Put upon her lips Thy gospel, that many hearts may turn to Thee, obey Thee, and be members of Thy church everlasting. Grant peace in these lands, O God, and unity among those who govern. Amen. (Melanchthon, 1554)


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